Monday, June 14, 2010

The Rivalry of Saul for David

Rivalry. What does it mean? The dictionary says it is the act of competing or emulating. A second definition indicates it is the state or condition of being a rival. A rival is one who attempts to equal or surpass another, or who pursues the same object as another. We would say, a competitor. Can rivalry get us into trouble?

Do you remember David, from the Bible, the guy who killed Goliath with his sling shot? Would it be difficult for you or for any of us today to have envied David, to have jealousy for what he did?

Well, let me talk about somebody who did for a moment. After David has this great victory and receives all these great accolades for taking care of the fearsome, loathsome Goliath, Saul, who is the king, brings David to court, figuring he could honor David, probably thinking he could utilize David some way to make life better there for himself and the inhabitants who lived there with him. In fact, the invitation from Saul to David is somewhat of an honor for David, but at the same time David was just a boy and his place of honor was inferior, or should have been, to the place of a king's.

However, the news of David's victory over Goliath apparently spreads, possibly gets amplified and exaggerated, maybe, and David receives the attention, fully deserved or not, of the masses --- well, possibly not the masses, but whatever. He soon becomes, it appears, more popular than even the king, Saul. This can all be read in 1 Samuel 18:5-16. So Saul has to contend with this circumstance, with David receiving greater attention and a greater following of the people than he himself. That had to be galling and incite jealousy and envy within Saul. And the Old Testament narrative indicates the same. Saul wavers between a type of submission to David because of David's popularity and a desire to kill the boy. Saul blames his son, Jonathan, saying the boy is unfaithful to his father, and that he is supporting his arrival, David. Saul massacres the priests at Nob just for honoring David. They become victims for merely honoring David for helping the people defeat an enemy.

So instead of killing David, who was still so popular, Saul has had these priests all killed, substituting them for David. I guess he thought nobody would care about the priests but they would about him killing David. Nonetheless, the killing doesn't solve this problem of Saul's of David getting more attention than him, and David continues to receive accolades and praise of the people, all to Saul's chagrin.

Next Saul sends his soldiers into battle with the Philistines, hoping to regain the attention of his people and receive their praise. But before the battle, he consults with a medium in Endor and lapses into a kind of insanity, receiving a chastisement from the dead prophet, Samuel. Saul loses the battle and kills himself.

What is interesting in this situation for me is that Saul, who held a more powerful position and place, becomes the rival the rival of David, a mere youth. Powerful people can become rivals of people generally seen as weaker than them.

No comments: