Saturday, August 17, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 1 Samuel 25, Proverbs 28-29 and Augustine's Confessions 30

1 Samuel 25 – Samuel dies and all Israel mourns his passing. 
David, still in the wilderness of Paran, sends 10 young men of his to a rich man, Nabal, who lives in Carmel.  He and his men have been providing protection to Nabal’s flocks and shepherds for a while. Nabal was “surly and mean,” but his wife, Abigail, was “clever and beautiful” (25:3). The men ask Nabal to provide food for David and his men.  Nabal says, “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants today who are breaking away from their masters” (25:10).

A Jerusalem Bible note says that the shearing of sheep was a festive occasion on which the sheep owner was expected to display generosity.  David takes advantage to demand a sum that nomads typically levied on nearby villages in return for ‘protection’—abstaining from pillage and keeping other marauders away.  This was called the ‘law of brotherhood’. That’s why David’s messengers address Nabal as brother in 25:6.

When David hears of Nabal’s lack of generosity, he goes after him with 400 men. 200 are left to watch their baggage. One of Nabal’s men tells Abigail of her husband’s rebuff to David and of the generally good service his men have given them.  So Abigail takes 200 loaves and some wine, five sheep and other food and loads it on donkeys to give to David and his men.  She meets David and begs him to disregard the insult her husband has offered. 

She addresses him as one who has knowledge of the promises the Lord has made concerning him and says, “When the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you prince over Israel, my lord shall have no cause of grief, or pangs of conscience, for having shed blood without cause or for having saved himself” (25:30-31).
David thanks God for having sent Abigail out to him, for having “kept [him] from bloodguilt and from avenging myself by my own hand!” (25:34) He accepts her offering and sends her off in peace.  The next morning, when Abigail tells Nabal of what she did, “his heart died within him; he became like a stone” (25:37). Ten days later, he dies.

When David hears of it, he sends and woos Abigail, to make her his wife.  She accepts.  David also marries Ahinoam of Jezreel during this time.  His wife Michal, back with her father, has been given to Palti, son of Laish.

Proverbs 28 – Selections:

“When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability” (28:2).

“He who conceals his faults will not prosper, he who confesses and renounces them will find mercy.” (28:13)

“In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery” (28:23).

Proverbs 29 – Selections:
“The king who judges the poor with equity sees his throne set firm for ever.” (29:14)

Augustine (354-439)
30 - These were the customs in the midst of which I, unhappy boy, was cast, and on that arena it was that I was more fearful of perpetrating a barbarism than, having done so, of envying those who had not. These things I declare and confess unto you, my God, for which I was applauded by them whom I then thought it my whole duty to please, for I did not perceive the gulf of infamy wherein I was cast away from your eyes. For in your eyes what was more infamous than I was already, displeasing even those like myself, deceiving with innumerable lies both tutor, and masters, and parents, from love of play, a desire to see frivolous spectacles, and a stage-stuck restlessness, to imitate them? Pilferings I committed from my parents' cellar and table, either enslaved by gluttony, or that I might have something to give to boys who sold me their play, who, though they sold it, liked it as well as I In this play, likewise, I often sought dishonest victories, I myself being conquered by the vain desire of pre-eminence. And what could I so little endure, or, if I detected it, censured I so violently, as the very things I did to others, and, when myself detected I was censured, preferred rather to quarrel than to yield? Is this the innocence of childhood? Nay, Lord, nay, Lord; I entreat your mercy, O my God. For these same sins, as we grow older, are transferred from governors and masters, from nuts, and balls, and sparrows, to magistrates and kings, to gold, and lands, and slaves, just as the rod is succeeded by more severe chastisements. It was, then, the stature of childhood that you, O our King, approved of as an emblem of humility when you said: "Of such is the kingdom of heaven."

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