Jonathan and David: The Case for Icky, Heathen, Gay Relationship

Your love for me was wonderful,
    more wonderful than that of women.

2 Samuel 1:26b (NIV)

Hidden sexual relationships are often viewed upon as shameful. I was personally blown away when friends of mine began to have sex in high school, because it all just felt way too soon. I could not help but feel that these friends of mine, these kids (read: 16-year-olds) were now dirtied in some irreparable way. The looked different to me – like their appearance seemed to morph into something much more defined. Suddenly, I took in their curves, the droops of their skin, the exact ovalness of their eyes. They were no longer a general whole, but rather, a collection of pieces – parts that were touched and utilized and dirtied.

I now know this reaction to have been completely internalized in Jesse-land, because I often did not discover my friends’ affairs until well after they had occurred. The “transformation” in their physical appearance happened only when I had found out. So when I say, it was not them but me, you know I am being completely earnest.

I think this is the most important question: If we consider the possibility that David and Jonathan had a romantic (and perhaps sexual) relationship, does that alter our view of them? So far, the two mentions of practical homosexuality occur in tandem with stories of gang rape and then punitive destruction (Sodom & Gomorrah and then again with the Danites). Two further theoretical references occur in the Law, where we are told male-to-male sexual contact is reprehensible. But let’s remember the exceptions we have found to the rules, most recently in Ruth – where a marriage between two forbidden peoples occurred without retribution. This passage in 1 Samuel is the first time we hear about affectionate male interaction of any form, and there is absolutely no judgment laid upon either of them for their relationship. That much we know to be true. But everything else? We do not know. We just don’t. Who among us can claim to have witnessed this relationship, the ins and outs, the length and passion of their kisses, the existence of sex or not? I cannot. You cannot.

But I think the possibility of homosexuality sullies the reverence that most religious people hold for David. And on what basis? Is it because the Law says no to it? But the Law says no to things that good, Godly, Old Testament people ignore without punishment. So why is this different?

Because gay people are gross. Boys kissing boys is icky and different and makes people feel like their love is less realm, and I mean it. If there is no biblical basis (at this time) for reviling homosexuals, why does the possibility of it disgust certain people in such an unbelievable way? Ruth entered into an interracial marriage against the law, and no one cared. So here it is: We as a culture just think it’s revolting and weird. Welcome to the basis of homophobia.

I invited another friend to provide her thoughts on this issue, and I found her response quite succinct and beautiful. This is from Liane LeMaster, a compassionate scholar, writer, and friend:

My clearest, most visceral memory of King David, I’m sorry to admit, is the 1985 movie poster starring Richard Gere. His bearded American Gigolo head floats in the clouds above a faceless army with three spears and a vague Middle Eastern plateau. There’s a woman on the poster, smaller and in the background, yet a bright halo of light blooms between them. I wish this woman was Jonathan. Sorry, Micah. While the passages from Samuel reflect the complex, political machinations of serving God’s choice, what I want to see is not the rock star David, nor the manipulator, Saul: the story I’m interested in is Jonathan’s. He cedes his throne and warns David of danger multiple times. He’s the ultimate wing man. And his love is pure. Why can’t he be gay? I would hold Jonathan up as an example of real love. Real gay love. In all its purity and Biblical acceptance.

So let’s take a step back. Here we have a story of pure connection, a love without bounds. David and Jonathan acted to one another in a way that is uncommon today. Let’s learn something from that unbelievable loyalty. And don’t let the fact that it may have been more ruin your image of that love. As a friendship, it is astounding. As a relationship, it is equally astounding.

It is love. Either way.

Jonathan and David: The Case for Friendship

I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
    you were very dear to me.

2 Samuel 1:26a (NIV)

Let’s start this kerfuffle by digging into the exact interactions between David and Jonathan, and what this English version* literally states. There are four interactions between Jonathan and David to clue us into the nature of their relationship:

  1. After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.” (1 Samuel 18:1) We do not know why, but David immediately feels a pull towards Jonathan. Briefly after meeting, Jonathan makes a covenant with David and then gifts him his robe, tunic, sword, bow, and belt. This behavior is certainly meant to prove to the reader the level of bond between these two gentlemen, however unjustified it may be. But nothing specifically indicates the nature of their bond. Here, we merely learn that they are very, very close.
  1. Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan had taken a great liking to David and warned him…” (1 Samuel 19: 1-2a) The acts of kindness heat up when Jonathan jumps in to protect David from his father. At this point, Saul begins to feel extreme jealousy towards David, particularly in the praise he received for defeating Goliath. But Jonathan reminds his father of the good of this man, how he has done nothing worthy of death, and reestablishes David’s servant-like nature. Saul agrees to spare his life, though quickly reneges and attempts murder. The act of defending an outsider to your father is certainly a potent one – one that further exemplifies the extreme fondness Jonathan holds for David. This may be fairly normal in a modern setting, but in ancient Israel, with bloodlines and inheritors at stake, this raises an eyebrow. But still, nothing romantic or sexual directly implied. They could just be best buds.
  1. Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, ‘You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you?’” (1 Samuel 20:30) David fears for his life and confides in his friend. Having just protected David, Jonathan now appears to come to the defense of his father – he says that he knows David will not die, because Saul has made no indication that he will actually go through with the act. So they devise a test… David will hide and Jonathan will explain away his absence accordingly – if Saul becomes angry, he will try to kill, and if not, all is clear. But when told, Saul throws a completely irrational fit, throwing a spear at his own flesh and blood son, shouting about his perverse and rebellious nature. Many liberal commentators point to this argument as a clincher… Why would Saul exhibit such rage, and then refer to his son as “perverse?” At first glance, this does appear strange, and even reminiscent of many parents’ reactions to their children coming out of the closet. But let’s remember that in this time period, the mere act of a son betraying his father for an outsider is “rebellious” and “perverse.” They do not need to be lovers to elicit such a negative reaction. This could be mere disappointment over his son’s new loyalties.
  1. “…Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most.” (1 Samuel 20:41b) The tearful goodbye is certainly the most powerful evidence for a “more-than-friends” argument, particularly in the description that “they kissed each other and wept together.” From this, we can certainly glean that this is a profoundly sad moment between David and Jonathan (and not-so-incidentally, the last time they will ever see one another), but I am not ready to definitively say it is sexual. I have friends that kiss me, even on the lips, when we say goodbye to one another, and no one looks weirdly upon this – particularly because they assume I am gay, and that it is completely nonsexual. In our culture, two men who would kiss goodbye would immediately be labeled GAAAAY, even if there is no sexual interest. Some assume I have no attraction to women, and thus I can kiss women whenever I want without repercussion (noooot true). So then, by the same token, why can’t two men kiss goodbye who have no sexual attraction to one another? I argue that they could, while acknowledging that it may not be true in this particular case.

So I can certainly understand the pro-friendship argument, particularly in the English reading of the text. I asked a friend of mine (and reader of this blog) to comment on it. Her name is Bri Dupree, and she is a revolutionary blogger (Echoes of Grey), pastor, and friend. She told me this story to exemplify her viewpoint.

I met with a friend of mine to catch up. We’ll call him Dave. Dave and I had started working in churches and wanted to talk life and ministry. I’ll fast forward to about 20 minutes into our conversation when he told me that he was gay. He had experimented in college and chosen celibacy (it is his belief that this is the only way to please God). But he went on to tell me that all he really wanted was intimacy. Not even sex, really, just a close friendship with another guy. If you’re not familiar with the Christian college scene, it is not uncommon to walk into a room and see girls cuddling watching a movie together or see two girls holding hands skipping down the sidewalk. And they’re straight (well, some of them). Dave expressed that he longed for this type of intimacy with a guy without being labeled ‘gay’ or ‘queer’. He didn’t want the label, he wanted the relationship. This desire is what caused him to pursue other guys.

He brought up David and Jonathan and how close they were. Dave was looking for that type of friendship. I hadn’t read the story in a while, so I went back and read about David and Jonathan’s relationship. I was surprised by the strong language used to describe their affection for one another. 1 Samuel 20:17 says, “And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own soul.” He loved him as he loved his own soul. That is beautiful. Simply beautiful. So what does this mean? Were Jonathan and David more than friends? I don’t think so. But then again, I don’t know.

I forgot to mention something…I’m a pastor. I’m currently in seminary. I graduated from a Christian college. And church has been apart of my life from day one. So I know how to explain away the perceived intimacy between Jonathan and David. Type their names into Google and you’ll find folks on ‘both sides’ of this issue who are way smarter than me who can give you a more effective explanation.

But I want to focus on Dave’s story. Perhaps we’re all just trying to find intimacy. And you can’t explain that feeling away. I believe the Bible (most of the time). So I guess we’ll have to keep wrestling as we continue to read. Let’s not forget our humanity in the process. Jonathan and David didn’t.

I just love this story. So here we have Dave, a guy who struggles with the moralistic nature of homosexuality while still admitting his desire for intimacy. Yes, David and Jonathan had an intimate, passionate relationship. Who cares if it was physical? And why does the mere thought of it being sexual somehow sully our image of them?

Because – ! Wait. I’ll save that discussion for…

Tomorrow, let’s take the opposite viewpoint, and argue why David and Jonathan had an icky, heathen, gay relationship.

And be sure to check out Bri Dupree’s blog Echoes of Grey for more thoughtful reflections on tough biblical issues.


*Important Note: As I have stated before, I am reading these from a surface level, meaning that I do not look into the original languages that these passages were composed in. Having said that, there is a great deal written about the original texts and how they may indicate the nature of David and Jonathan’s relationship. That is not my expertise, however, so I will leave those arguments to others.

One in Spirit: 1 Samuel 18 – 31

A Generous Gift. A Life-Affirming Pledge. An Attempt at Peace. Farewell.

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.

1 Samuel 18:1 (NIV)

I desired a strong male friendship for the majority of my youth. Do not think that I had no guy friends; I just naturally got along with girls. It was my sensitivity, or rather my over sensitivity. Until age thirteen, anything and everything made me cry – being reprimanded, getting made fun of, sentimental commercials, Drew Barrymore’s performance in Never Been Kissed. Everything I experienced instantly became internalized. Now the girls in my life tended to find this romanticized view of the world refreshing from a boy, and most of the guys felt indifferent – it neither repelled nor attracted them. But it did keep me from ever getting “to the next level” with a male friend – that is, becoming best friends. I was always one step away from that.

This desire grew as I moved into high school. My class size went from 14 to 300, and now, I encountered hundreds of paired up guys and girls, waving their fantastic bonds in my face. In my immediate circle, there was Jack and Will. Jack was a year older than me and Will a year younger, but during my sophomore year, they hit it off and never looked back. I did not know the basis of their friendship, but I certainly could sense the result. They met during our spring production of Sweet Charity, so I knew they both loved performing and singing. They had no classes together, but still found each other in the hall. Weekends were typically spent together; we all knew that Will basically moved into Jacks house, taking up a sleeping bag on the floor as his bed. Our town had a movie theater and a mall, and I occasionally would run into them together, either hanging out alone or within a larger group of the “theater crowd.” I envied them, because I had no understanding of it. What made them so close, and how could I get that?


 

In the midst of Saul’s angry pursuit, an uncommon bond forms between his son Jonathan and his adversary David. During their first meeting, Jonathan strips off his tunic, weapons, and accessories and gifts them to David as a sign of both respect and love. Then, after learning of his father’s plans to harm David, Jonathan begins to play the role of the middleman. He convinces his father to back down, and Saul agrees. But moments later, Saul’s anger flares, and he hurls a spear at David’s head. So Jonathan goes in for a second try and ends up angering his father even further.

Seeing no way around it, Jonathan and David end their friendship and say goodbye to one another. It is a bleak affair. Both men weep, and David prostrates him before Jonathan three times. Jonathan commands David to go in peace. Then, we are told that they kiss each other.

The rumors began my junior year. Duh, Will and Jack are so gay together. No, no, I thought, they are just really good friends. I had more than just an opinion about it – the rumors made me angry. Why did everything male-to-male have to be gay? Can’t two men just be really close friends without sullying it up with sexual energy? Why can’t it be innocent?

There is intense disagreement among Bible-readers about the nature of Jonathan and David’s relationship. Some argue that they are merely close friends, best buds, bros-in-brohood. Others think it’s downright gay – and obviously so at that.

So let’s look at it from both ways. Over the next two days, we will wrestle with this story and hear some arguments from both sides. Let’s see where we end up.

Saul’s Spiral: 1 Samuel 18 – 31

The Spiraling Fear into Rage into Death.

Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had departed from Saul.

1 Samuel 18:12 (NIV)

(This is the sort-of second part of a sort-of two-part entry. Check out the kind-of first part here)

Saul began his Spiral all the way back in Chapter 13, when Samuel rebuked him for improperly sacrificing animals to the Lord. The punishment? “Your kingdom will not endure,” said Samuel, and while set aback, Saul did not let this get him down (13: 14). He then went on to rout the Philistines in battle, a successful tour of duty. The Spiral slowed.

Then, He disobeyed again with much more devastating consequences. He failed to complete a genocide of the Amalekites, sparing some choice cattle and the king. Finished – God rejected him as king. The Spiral started up again, but now at a much quicker pace.

So we meet Saul as he starts to hone in on his true self, the king Samuel predicted him to be, the monster God destined him to become. David has just defeated Goliath, and the people in the street sing his praises:

 Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands. (18:7)

Saul’s anger grows at the thought of someone above him, and God hardens his heart and sends an evil spirit into him, to spiral his anger ‘round and ‘round. His feelings do fluctuate; sometimes, Saul possesses an extreme fondness for David. But it never lasts.

David spends an evening playing the lyre for Saul, but the evil spirit pounces. Saul drives a spear towards his head, but David escapes by a sullen breath. Deeper and down…

Saul’s son Jonathan shows affection and pity for David, protecting him from his father. Saul catches wind, and the rage swells. Faster and faster…

David flees for fear of his life and takes refuge with Ahimeleck, one of the priests of Nob. Saul arrives and strikes them down as retribution.

But then, while lying-in-wait, an unsuspecting Saul uses the restroom just inches from David’s hiding place. David spares Saul’s life and rushes out to announce his benevolence. But Saul pursues. Later, David sneaks into Saul’s camp and refuses to kill again. But no truce. The hunt continues.

The pursuit begins to run thin, and Saul’s faith in the mission wanes. So he calls upon a medium to bring up the spirit of Samuel, who voice echoes before him. His prediction is grim. “For you sins,” he says, “You and your sons will be with me tomorrow.” A staggering blow – Saul falls to his knees in agony. The prophecy comes to pass – his sons, including David’s beloved friend Jonathan, are killed swiftly in battle. And in despair, Saul impales himself on his sword, killing himself. His Spiral converges in the center – Saul becomes his true self – in death, so ends the life of an angry, angry man.

The Spiral I refer to is neither downward nor upward, as we typically think about burgeoning behavior of any sort. But rather, it is on a flat plane, a line moving around a fixed point, inching closer and closer with each swing. The center is the true self, and the line is time. It is not a pretty line, not clean like a well-drawn spiral that tracks a linear path inward. It wobbles, going in and out, slowing to a halt sometimes. There is a process.

Saul is an angry man. In the beginning, he is handsome… he begins far from his true self, and his Spiral indicates that. But soon, off he goes around, an attractor with strange properties, unpredictable turns. And in the end, he falls on his sword; he is an angry man.

I am a queer man. I have spent years in my own Spiral, but it is not downward. It isn’t even upward. It is just around and closer and farther and whatever. I am inching bit by bit to the center, to my true self. And the result, whatever that may be, is unstoppable.

The Spiral: 1 Samuel 18 – 31

The Spiral began the morning after.

The light in the room felt unusually bright, and then I remembered – the blizzard that had holed us up. I rolled out of the guest room bed and approached the frosty window. The streets were clear – the blizzard turned out to be merely a dusting, so my parents would not be stuck in Boston for much longer. It needed to end anyhow, like these things do. Time to return to the normal swing of things, to enter my room and get Dan to leave, to let things be silent for a suitable amount of time, and then finally, to tell him I am just not interested in guys. The plan would work if I stuck to the script. The snow began melting as the heat cranked up from the day’s sun, and soon it would be gone completely.

Time to go Dan. And let’s never discuss this again.

It took less than a day for Dan to ask to discuss it. He messaged me that night on AOL Instant Messenger well into the evening, almost 24 hours from the initiation. I gave him the updates – slept most of the day, parents got back, hid any evidence – but he cut straight to the chase. This shouldn’t be the last time we hang out like this. I let the comment stand before he said We could be boyfriends.

I said No. The exact words… I cannot remember. There was some dancing around, some sidestepping. I know I told him I was straight (or perhaps I said, I am not gay). Whatever I said, he got the point. Our friendship ended that night, despite the promises to “stay friends,” to “stay normal.” Closet cases cannot recover from such experiences. We cannot face ourselves much less anyone else. And those with our secret… they need to go. It is self-preservation, as primal as the fight-or-flight instinct. Because make no mistake, to be gay is death.

It took a year before I took a second lap around the Spiral. My theater club in college, aptly named No Refund Theatre because all our shows were free, hosted a party every weekend to coincide with our weekly performances. When I joined the club my second day of Freshman year, I believed whole heartedly that I had met a group of people passionate about theater. In fact, they were most interested in drinking, and theater was the excuse. I had not drank since that night with Dan a year earlier, but that did not stop me from going to the cast parties to watch everyone drink.

I did not know Oliver, but I knew of him through a fellow No Refund Thespian. Oliver partook in the booze provided at the parties and insinuated himself around, gliding on sure feet and a swimmer’s demeanor. His voice hovered in a register between distinguishable ages, and his eyes changed color on a daily basis from varied contact lenses. I did not like him right away, and that was his intention. This was Freshman year at a college 50,000 students deep – he did not need to make the life-long friends yet, just the acquaintances to keep him entertained. He had a way of talking to someone just long enough to make an impression and escaping before the real connection was made. And his strategy seemed clear to me from the get go: clipped, broad conversation and repeated physical touch.I think he enjoyed keeping people at arm’s length. Be a myth, not a man. And it worked: Everyone knew of him, but no one knew him.

The party thinned until Oliver and I could not be separated any longer. We waited in line for the bathroom when he told me that he was glad to have met me.

But we didn’t really meet. I said. His eyes were blue that night.

“Well we’re meeting now!” He exclaimed, throwing his voice up a notch and back a few years. We talked for a few minutes while waiting for the bathroom, about theater and friends, college and change. He told me he danced, and I said I had no interest, but I admired it. He leaned against the wall and slid down it to the floor – drunk. He told me to join him down there, but I helped him back to his feet instead. He called me a gentleman and continued to hold my hand even after regaining his footing.

And then he hugged me. He hugged me for about three seconds too long.

Two weeks later while eating brunch – the gayest meal of the day – I sat across from Oliver and stared into his eyes, freshly turned hazel. I told him simply, We could be boyfriends.

And he said No.

Intuitively, you think a rejection might stop the Spiral, but actually it does the opposite. It launches you around at twice the pace as before.

And the moment he said no, off I went for another loop.

The Underdog: 1 Samuel 16 – 17

The Youngest. The Strongest. David Defeats Goliath.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

The third choice is working out much better.

After Samuel abandons Saul, God sends him out to the camp of Jesse in Bethlehem in order to anoint the new king of Israel. Jesse presents his sons, starting with the oldest and most fit to be king, but God rejects each of them until landing on the youngest – a lad, a shepherd named David. God tells Samuel that he looks at people’s hearts, and David is a man after His own heart.

Soon thereafter, the Israelites go to battle the Philistines, who have adopted a most fearsome foe – a ten-foot behemoth named Goliath. Everyday, the Philistines send out this monster to taunt the Israelites into submission. He stands and shouts and demands, “Send me your best fighter to battle, and whoever wins takes it all.” But no one will dare do it… until David comes to visit his brothers on the front lines. He sees Goliath and fears nothing about him.

So then, Goliath rushes over to David, lifts him up into the air, and cracks him in half, and the Philistines storm the rest of the army, tearing limb from limb in absolute carnage until God’s chosen people are wiped from the land!

No no no, of course that is not right; we all know the end to this story. David easily defeats Goliath with a single rock to the forehead, and the Philistines are defeated. I know that every person reading this knows at least the grayest details of this story, because it is perhaps the most relatable story in the entire Bible. The little guy has courage and defeats the big ogre. Perfect for kids (just leave off the whole decapitation at the end). Easy to remember. Clear heroes and villains. It is just perfect.

I am David. I have never thrown a punch in my life and do not own a slingshot. No one considers me to be a notable underdog or a heavy favorite. I do not tend sheep; I am not destined for kingship. My brother is not on a battlefield defending his country but rather works from home in a trendy two-bedroom LA flat that has its own Instagram hashtag. I bear more resemblance to Goliath, towering at 6’ 5” with a penchant for pacing around small (read: normal-sized) people. But I don’t care about that stuff. I am David, because I want to be David. Because we all want to be David – that is why this story has endured.

Maybe I am honing in on a specific personality type, but I think everyone considers themselves a “David.” The desire to defy expectations must be a universal condition, because it keeps us motivated. Not everyone is a busy bee looking to make a mark, but we all want a little something extra up our sleeves – a special skill that enables us to slay a giant, if need be. Because if the Bible teaches us anything, it is that the boy who overcomes the giant will be promoted to king. And who doesn’t want to be king?

Or queen – everyone likes a good queen.

Second Choice: 1 Samuel 8 – 15

A King Demanded. A Prophecy Delivered. Saul Emerges. War Grows. A Regrettable Sacrifice. Jonathan Eats Honey. A Regrettable Pardon. Saul Rejected as King.

But when [the elders of Israel] said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.

1 Samuel 8:6-7 (NIV)

I had an anxiety dream about high school a few days ago. These occur fairly frequently, usually involving a plot about a missed important deadline or a lack of proper clothing in a social setting. This one followed a similar trajectory. I was named salutatorian of my graduating class and was told to give a speech, but I totally forgot about it. So as I donned my gown hurriedly in the wings of the auditorium, I began furiously scribbling notes on a pad, trying to create some semblance of a plan. They called my name, and I trotted up onto stage. I don’t remember much of the content of what I said, but I know it began with, “I’m not sure what to say…” The rest was a rambling mess, and the audience received it as such. When I finished, there was no applause.

So in my wildest dreams, I come in second place and improvise a crappy speech.

This dream was inspired by an actual life event. In my graduating middle school class of 14 students, I was ranked second in grade point average. Now, you may think that it is sadistic to rank students’ performances in such a small setting (and you would be correct), but I took this honor very seriously. I knew I would not come in first place, because this perfect Ms. So-and-So never got a damn “B” in her entire life. So, I set my sights on second place, which would be good enough for me. Only first and second got a speech, and I wanted that speech.

So when our principal announced that I was salutatorian, I immediately began writing a masterful graduation speech, complete with sorrowful recollections with my one friend (it was a small school) and a list of “thank yous” a mile long. I didn’t cry as I delivered it, but damn it, I quavered my voice to make it sound as if I cried. I was a master of emotional manipulation. And unlike my recent dream, the audience applauded for me.

And then Ms. So-and-So got up there to deliver her speech. Hers had no recollections about friends or long-winded acknowledgements. No, she told a story about her grandmother – her dead grandmother who died fighting leukemia. And on her death bed, her tragically inspirational grandmamma recited Dr. Seuss’ Oh The Places You Will Go, amidst tears, as one final moment of encouragement.

She got a standing ovation.


 

Israel wants a king, despite Samuel’s prophetic announcements against it. He predicts that they will despise this leader, that he will raise taxes and lord his power over them, but they do not listen. God tells Samuel that, simply, their desire for a king is a rejection of Him. So Samuel anoints a second choice – Saul.

And things do not go well for Saul. Despite being tall, handsome, and humble, he tends to wander from God’s commandments. For instance, he performs a sacrificial offering to the Lord, but as a Benjamite, he is not allowed to do that (God made that super clear in Leviticus, remember? …No? Well He did). And then God commands Saul to perform a complete genocide of Amalekites – to kill every man, woman, child, and animal with no exceptions. But when Saul routs them, he spares their king Agag as well as the best selections of the cattle for sacrifice. Samuel hears of this and lets him have it. He tells Saul to pack his bags and get out; a new king will be crowned. But something tells me Saul won’t go quietly… (Okay, I actually remember this part of the Bible)

Second may as well be last for God. He wants His followers to behave in a completely pure way which leaves little room for the fault. But these people of His, they are imperfect. If the Bible has made one point so far, it is this:

No one is first.

The Voice of God: 1 Samuel 2 – 7

Hannah’s Song. God Calls Samuel. The Ark Falls. Curse to the Philistines. Ark Returned. The Curse Continues

The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.

1 Samuel 3:1 (NIV)

I had a ton of problems with Ms. Lynda. First of all, she smiled too much, and my brain couldn’t handle it. Even at four years old, I sensed something off about such never-ending cheer, and I complained often to my mother about it, in an attempt to get Ms. Lynda replaced. She was also always hanging around inside the boys’ bathroom. Nothing nefarious, don’t go there in your brain; she was a pre-school teacher after all. But still, I was no allowed in the girls’ room, and so I did not get why a girl, even a big, big girl, was allowed inside. She also wore too many cardigans.

The worst though was her apparent one-on-one connection to God. She would tell us about how the Lord “spoke” to her – to tell her to move to a new house, to have children, to become a preschool teacher. God did not speak to me – I had never heard His voice, had no proof He was even a “he.” So what made Ms. Lynda so special? She was annoyingly happy and had no fashion sense. Why was God so interested in her?

But I was naïve. God did not speak to her in a literal way, but rather, she prayed and felt nudged in certain directions. I learned later that the Holy Spirit was responsible for this type of interaction – but no one could really define exactly what that meant. It was based on a feeling, a rush of energy, a gentle prodding. To me, that just felt like self-absorption, adrenaline, and a breeze. I never really understood it.

Samuel has grown from that small boy dedicated to God. While staying with Eli, he hears a voice calling out to him assumes it is his priest. But it is the Lord reaching out to him in the most obvious of ways. So Eli tells Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:9) Samuel does, and God delivers a powerful vision. Eli will fall along due his wickedness, and Samuel will rise to replace him as a wunderkind prophet.

Then everything goes to Hell. Eli dies, and the Philistines attack and defeat the Israelites. The remaining few huddle around the Ark of the Covenant, but the enemy manages to steal it. This leaves God’s people in absolute despair, and they cry out, “Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today before the Philistines?” (1 Samuel 4:3) Seems that God’s sudden lack of communication is devastating (and deadly) to His followers.

But it is all part of the plan, as God swiftly uses this as an opportunity to punish the Philistines. Plagues befall them in the form of tumors and sickness, and so they decide to return the Ark to head off further punishment.

Nonverbal communication between God and man did not suffice for the Israelites, and yet it is truly all we have to go on today. It is a common understanding that the “Lord works in mysterious ways.” This is practically synonymous with the “Lord works invisibly.” We do not get the benefit of a booming voice from the sky, but the Israelites had the opposite problem. Unless God spoke out loud, He did not speak. And the silence could last for decades.

We would never last for that long. Christians rely on the constant pseudo-communication from God to remain faithful, for they feel their belief is rewarded. But it’s a feeling – that’s what it is. Divinely inspired or not, it is a feeling. I have been accused of acting on my feelings, of allowing homosexual feelings to take over my life. A feeling. Just a feeling.

Dedication to God: 1 Samuel 1

I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.

1 Samuel 1:27-28 (NIV)

A man named Elkanah has two wives, but he loves one more than the other. There is Penninah with lots of children, and Hannah with none. Can you guess which one he loves more than the other?

Hannah the beloved cries out in such anguish that Eli, a priest, believes she is drunk and chastises her. But then she explains her plight – no children – and hence the tears.

Eli releases her from her curse and asks God to open her womb. And so God does, and she bears Samuel. And she is so overcome with joy that she delivers the baby boy over to the Lord. His path is set. He will be the Lord’s servant all of his life. And since the names of the next two books of the Bible refer to him, I figure that he will fulfill that destiny.

I am named Jesse after the father of David, and soon, the Bible will introduce my namesake. I do not know much about the process of how my parents settled upon my name, but it must have been a dedication of sorts.

So there it is. I was meant to be holy, and my soul was dedicated at a young age. Don’t forget about the choice though. I chose at the age of five to become a Christian. I don’t recall the experience, but my mother told me that I asked to “pray the prayer” and make the choice. That was when my dedication became fulfilled; my prophecy became complete.

Let’s see how Samuel does with his dedication.