Romans, Part 55

I am continuing my attempt to view—Do not lag in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord[1]—as a definition of love (ἀγάπη) rather than as rules.  This particular essay is focused on the story of Jesus feeding five thousand plus people in the light of his assessment of the Jewish authorities (Ἰουδαῖοι) as an answer to how the Father seeking his own is not self-seeking.  I don’t know the official status of the “Jewish authorities.”

The  Ἰουδαῖοι (translated, Jewish leaders) sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask [John the Baptist], “Who are you?”[2]  I’ve assumed that the Ἰουδαῖοι called out the big guns (though they may have sent their servants to do their bidding).  In the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman John explained, For Jews ( Ἰουδαῖοι) use nothing in common with Samaritans.[3]  This sounds like a description of “Jewishness.”  The  Ἰουδαῖοι (translated, Jewish leaders) said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and you are not permitted to carry your mat.”[4]  The healed man didn’t immediately drop his mat, but he didn’t blow off the Ἰουδαῖοι completely either.  He felt obliged to answer their charges in some fashion, at least to turn their gaze (and wrath) toward Jesus.

I certainly think of the Jewishness of the moment as the true adversary in this story (and perhaps all of John’s gospel narrative).  I might be more accurate to call these “authorities” accepted exemplars of then current Jewishness, but I’ll probably stick with  Ἰουδαῖοι for now.

It’s getting pretty deep here.  I need to remind myself what is at stake just to follow through with this level of detail.  First is my own issue:  Rules leap off the page and dance lewdly before my eyes.  Love and grace have always been more difficult for me to see in the Bible.  I’ve already written about how 1 Corinthians served to undo almost everything I thought I had learned in Romans.  Perceiving Romans 12:9-21 as rules to be obeyed clearly began that process.

My reason these days almost shouts, “Of course these are definitions of love.  How could the one who said of God’s law— no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law[5]—turn back, institute his own rules and expect any sane person to take him seriously?”  My experience of human nature, however, argues that we perceive that fault in others of which we are most guilty.  It makes perfect sense then that one who accused others of ignoring the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking instead to establish their own righteousness[6] would deny the efficacy of God’s law vis-a-vis righteousness only to establish his own rules of righteousness.  These arguments are mutually canceling.  I need to do the work studying the words to find the love and grace embedded in these apparent rules.

Here I want to recount what Jesus said about the  Ἰουδαῖοι of the only God-ordained religion on the planet[7]:

1) You people have never heard [the Father’s] voice nor seen his form at any time, nor do you have his word residing in you, because you do not believe the one whom he sent.[8]

2) You study the scriptures thoroughlyit is these same scriptures that testify about me, but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life.[9]

3) If you believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me.[10]

On point number 3 I want to clarify my own thinking.  The Bible begins: In the beginning ʼĕlôhı̂ym created the heavens and the earth.[11]  Then in chapter 2 one of the ʼĕlôhı̂ym is specified: This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created – when the yehôvâh ʼĕlôhı̂ym made the earth and heavens.[12]  From this point on the Bible becomes his story.  If you believe (as I did) that yehôvâh ʼĕlôhı̂ym corresponds to the Father in the New Testament, Eric Chabot has an article online detailing the few times Moses wrote about Jesus.

These days I am thinking that yehôvâh ʼĕlôhı̂ym corresponds to the Son in the New Testament.  I think that was Jesus’ point when He said, I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am![13]  God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym) said to Moses, “I am (hâyâh) that I am.”  And he said, “You must say this to the Israelites, ‘I am (hâyâh) has sent me to you.’”  God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym) also said to Moses, “You must say this to the Israelites, ‘The Lord (yehôvâh)– the God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym) of your fathers, the God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym) of Abraham, the God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym) of Isaac, and the God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym) of Jacob – has sent me to you.  This is my name forever, and this is my memorial from generation to generation.’”[14]

I think this was John’s point when he penned: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God.  The Word was with God in the beginning.  All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.[15]  Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us.  We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.[16]

And I think this was Paul’s point when he prophesied of Jesus: who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.  He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!  As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.[17]

What this means to me here is that I take Eric Chabot’s list and add virtually everything else Moses wrote to it.  In this light I’ll continue to look into the feeding of the five thousand men plus women and children.

Jesus and his disciples left by boat for an isolated place outside of BethsaidaBut when the crowd heard about it, they followed him on foot from the towns, and arrived there ahead of them.  John added the reason they followed Him: they were observing (ἐθεώρουν, a form of θεωρέω) the miraculous signs (σημεῖα, a form of σημεῖον) he was performing on the sick.

Matthew Mark Luke


Now when Jesus heard this he went away from there privately in a boat to an isolated place.

Matthew 14:13a (NET)

Then the apostles gathered around Jesus and told him everything they had done and taught.  He said to them, “Come with me privately to an isolated place and rest a while” (for many were coming and going, and there was no time to eat).  So they went away by themselves in a boat to some remote place.

Mark 6:30-32 (NET)

When the apostles returned, they told Jesus everything they had done.  Then he took them with him and they withdrew privately to a town called Bethsaida.

Luke 9:10 (NET)

After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (also called the Sea of Tiberias).

John 6:1 (NET)

But when the crowd heard about it, they followed him on foot from the towns.

 Matthew 14:13b (NET)

But many saw them leaving and recognized them, and they hurried on foot from all the towns and arrived there ahead of them.

Mark 6:33 (NET)

But when the crowds found out, they followed him.

Luke 9:11a (NET)

A large crowd was following him because they were observing the miraculous signs he was performing on the sick.

John 6:2 (NET)

Though Jesus had gone away with his disciples for rest and perhaps an opportunity to grieve,[18] when He got out of the boat he saw the large crowd, and he had compassion on themHe welcomed them, spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and cured those who needed healing.  He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd (ποιμένα, a form of ποιμήν).




As he got out he saw the large crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Matthew 14:14 (NET)

As Jesus came ashore he saw the large crowd and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  So he taught them many things.

Mark 6:34 (NET)

He welcomed them, spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and cured those who needed healing.

Luke 9:11b (NET)

The people had many  Ἰουδαῖοι who did not have God’s word residing in them,  though the  Ἰουδαῖοι studied the Old Testament scriptures thoroughly, because they thought in them they possessed eternal life.  The  Ἰουδαῖοι functioned as thought police not as shepherds of the people.  Thought police exert their influence from the outside.  Shepherds feed the sheep.

I didn’t always recognize this distinction.  I remembered that the good shepherd breaks the legs of lambs that wander away from the flock.  I had to decide whether I would believe the shepherd lore I was taught as a child or the Word of God, as shepherds must decide whether they will feed the lambs shepherd lore or the Word of God (John 21:15-17 NET).

Then when they had finished breakfast [that Jesus had prepared for them], Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love (ἀγαπᾷς, a form of ἀγαπάω) me more than these do?”  He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love (φιλῶ, a form of φιλέω) you.”  Jesus told him, “Feed (βόσκε, a form of βόσκω) my lambs.”  Jesus said a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (ἀγαπᾷς, a form of ἀγαπάω) me?”  He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love (φιλῶ, a form of φιλέω) you.”  Jesus told him, “Shepherd (ποίμαινε, a form of ποιμαίνω) my sheep.”  Jesus said a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (φιλεῖς, another form of φιλέω) me?”  Peter was distressed that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love (φιλεῖς, another form of φιλέω) me?” and said, “Lord, you know everything.  You know that I love (φιλῶ, a form of φιλέω) you.”  Jesus replied, “Feed (βόσκε, a form of βόσκω) my sheep.

The Word of God does its work from the inside, unleashing the power of God (Hebrews 13:20, 21 NET):

Now may the God of peace who by the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead the great shepherd (ποιμένα, a form of ποιμήν) of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ, equip (καταρτίσαι, a form of καταρτίζω) you with every good thing (ἀγαθῷ, a form of ἀγαθός) to do (ποιῆσαι, a form of ποιέω) his will, working (ποιῶν, another form of ποιέω; in other words doing) in us what is pleasing before him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever.  Amen.

And, of course, every shepherd must decide for himself whether he trusts God’s power enough to forego leg-breaking and thought police (Hebrews 13:20, 21 CEV).

God gives peace, and he raised our Lord Jesus Christ from death.  Now Jesus is like a Great Shepherd whose blood was used to make God’s eternal agreement with his flock.  I pray that God will make you ready to obey him and that you will always be eager to do right.  May Jesus help you do what pleases God.  To Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever!  Amen.

Here, I think, is a prime example of Bible translation as interpretation tailored to fit a lesser[19] confidence in God’s power.  My obedience is the real key.  And I think it entirely fair to ask why Jesus, who only mayhelp, should rob me of my glory for my obedience.  This is the second-chance-gospel I grew up believing, a second chance to keep the law.  It is not God Himself doing in us what is pleasing before Him.

When evening arrived, [Jesus’] disciples came to him saying, “This is an isolated place and the hour is already late.  Send the crowds away so that they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”  But he replied, “They don’t need to go.  You give them something to eat.”  On this Matthew, Mark and Luke agree.

Matthew Mark


When evening arrived, his disciples came to him saying, “This is an isolated place and the hour is already late.  Send the crowds away so that they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”  But he replied, “They don’t need to go.  You give them something to eat.”

Matthew 14:15, 16 (NET)

When it was already late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is an isolated place and it is already very late.  Send them away so that they can go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.”  But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.”

Mark 6:35-37a (NET)

Now the day began to draw to a close, so the twelve came and said to Jesus, “Send the crowd away, so they can go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and food, because we are in an isolated place.”  But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.”

Luke 9:12, 13a (NET)

It left me with the impression that after Jesus spent a long day doing the will of the one who sent[20] Him, having food to eat that they knew nothing about,[21] it fell to his disciples to consider the practical matter of feeding so many hungry people.  But as I turn to John’s Gospel narrative I think this is precisely the false impression he wrote to correct.

John didn’t reiterate that Jesus healed the sick or taught the people many things about the kingdom of God.  That had been written already.  He wrote that Jesus went on up the mountainside and sat down there with his disciples.[22]  Then Jesus, when he looked up and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread so that these people may eat?”  (Now Jesus said this to test him, for he knew what he was going to do.)[23]

Jesus was concerned about feeding the people from the very moment he saw them following him because they were observing the miraculous signs he was performing on the sick.  It is exactly what He had promised them in the name of his Father (Matthew 6:25-33 NET):

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.  Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing?  Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Aren’t you more valuable than they are?  And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life?  Why do you worry about clothing?  Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these!  And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith (ὀλιγόπιστοι, a form of ὀλιγόπιστος)?  So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

I’ll take this up again in the next essay.

Jesus the Leg-breaker, Part 1

Romans, Part 56

Back to Romans, Part 57

Back to Romans, Part 58

Back to Romans, Part 60

Back to Romans, Part 70

Back to Romans, Part 73

Back to Romans, Part 78

Back to Paul’s Religious Mind Revisited – Part 1

Back to Romans, Part 85

Back to To Make Holy, Part 2

Back to Who Am I? Part 7

Back to Romans, Part 88

[1] Romans 12:11 (NET)

[2] John 1:19 (NET)

[3] John 4:9b (NET)

[4] John 5:10  (NET)

[5] Romans 3:20a (NET)

[6] Romans 10:3a (NET)

[7] I am beginning to think that might be overstated.  Don Richardson, for instance, might argue that with me.  I would listen to him, but for now I will stick with this understanding of the Old Testament.

[8] John 5:37b, 38 (NET)

[9] John 5:39, 40 (NET)

[10] John 5:46 (NET)

[11] Genesis 1:1 (NET)

[12] Genesis 2:4 (NET)

[13] John 8:58 (NET)

[14] Exodus 3:14, 15 (NET)

[15] John 1:1-3 (NET)

[16] John 1:14 (NET)

[17] Philippians 2:6-11 (NET)

[18] John 14:10-13 (NET)

[19] 2 Timothy 3:5 (NET)

[20] John 4:34 (NET)

[21] John 4:32 (NET)

[22] John 6:3 (NET)

[23] John 6:5, 6 (NET)

My Reasons and My Reason, Part 6

There is another way I might view the wrath of Godrevealed from heaven against [my] ungodliness and unrighteousness,[1] a way more in keeping with my normal method of Bible study—superficially more in keeping with it.  I confess that, Although [I] claimed to be wise, [I] became [a fool] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings[2]  I am one of them of which Paul wrote: Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.[3]

The Greek word translated dishonor above is ἀτιμάζεσθαι (a form of ἀτιμάζω).  Jesus told a parable about a man who planted a vineyard and leased it out to tenant farmers (Mark 12:2-5 NET):

At harvest time he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his portion of the crop.  But those tenants seized his slave, beat (ἔδειραν, a form of δέρω) him, and sent him away empty-handed.  So he sent another slave to them again.  This one they struck on the head and treated outrageously (ἠτίμασαν, another form of ἀτιμάζω).  He sent another, and that one they killed.  This happened to many others, some of whom were beaten (δέροντες, another form of δέρω), others killed.

They beat (δείραντες, another form of δέρω) this one too, Luke’s Gospel narrative reads, treated him outrageously (ἀτιμάσαντες, another form of ἀτιμάζω), and sent him away empty-handed.[4]  So the word translated dishonor in Romans 1:24 was associated here with a beating.  This association is explicit in Acts.  The highest legal court in Jerusalem summoned the apostles and had them beaten (δείραντες, another form of δέρω).  Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them.  So they left the council rejoicing because they had been considered worthy to suffer dishonor (ἀτιμασθῆναι, another form of ἀτιμάζω) for the sake of the name.[5]

I’ve considered that my masochism is one of the potential meanings of the wrath of God revealed from heaven.  It is a desire of my heart.  It could be considered impurity.  It isn’t hard to find people online who propose that sexual desire, especially desire the author considers deviant, is demon inspired if not a symptom of demon possession.  But if I plug that interpretation into Paul’s statement—Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to masochism, to beat their bodies among themselves—I am not convinced or convicted of sin.  I am excited—sexually.  The implication then, if this interpretation were true and I so blindly given over to the desire of my heart, is that I remain under the wrath of God.

Such a conclusion, though disheartening, isn’t rationally problematic if I believe that my salvation is partially, if not largely, predicated upon my desire and effort.  I’ve followed this line of reasoning before, and it led inexorably to my taking charge again of my righteousness without altering my natural responses at all.  If I believe however that it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy,[6] this conclusion functions something like a reductio ad absurdum.  It gives me pause to examine the Scriptures in more detail.

Jesus had an interesting exchange with some in the temple courts (John 8:46-49 NET):

Who among you can prove me guilty of any sin?  If I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me?  The one who belongs to God listens and responds to God’s words.  You don’t listen and respond, because you don’t belong to God.”

The Judeans replied, “Aren’t we correct in saying that you are a Samaritan (Σαμαρίτης, a form of Σαμαρείτης) and are possessed by a demon?”  Jesus answered, “I am not possessed by a demon, but I honor my Father – and yet you dishonor (ἀτιμάζετε, another form of ἀτιμάζω) me.

Here dishonor (ἀτιμάζετε, another form of ἀτιμάζω) meant name-calling and an accusation that Jesus was possessed by a demon.  Jesus took issue most directly with the latter: I am not possessed by a demon, He said.  As it pertains to impurity then, I have an instance where people with religious minds accused Jesus—for being, doing and speaking the word of God—of being possessed by a demon because they disagreed with Him.  He didn’t comment about being called a “Samaritan” but I think even that is worth some consideration here.

Jesus asked a Samaritan (Σαμαρείας, a form of Σαμάρεια) woman for some water to drink, though that may be difficult to discern in translation: Jesus said to her, “Give me some water to drink.”[7]  Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink (ASV, KJV).  Jesus says to her, Give me to drink (DNT).  Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink of water” (GWT, TEV).  Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink” (NKJV, NAB).  Jesus saith to her, ‘Give me to drink’ (YLT).  Where I hear this as a request is in the woman’s response.

So the Samaritan (Σαμαρῖτις, a form of Σαμαρεῖτις) woman said to him, “How can you – a Jew – ask (αἰτεῖς, a form of αἰτέω) me, a Samaritan (Σαμαρίτιδος, another form of Σαμαρεῖτις) woman, for water to drink?”[8]  The Greek word αἰτεῖς might have been translated beg.  Jesus’ actual tone didn’t convey the gruff and imperious command that many English translations of his request imply.  “Will you give me a drink?” (NIV) and “Would you please give me a drink of water?” (CEV) and “Would you give me a drink of water?” (TMSG) and “Please give me a drink,” (ISVNT) are truer to his tone in this particular case despite the fact that the statement was transmuted into a question or please was added to text.

Jesus asked her to give Him some water (MSNT) strayed even further from a word-for-word translation yet also carries the more accurate tone.  Give me to drink (δός μοι πεῖν) is the same basic construction in Greek as Give us today (δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον) in our plaintive cry for our daily ration of God, the bread of life[9]Give us today our daily bread[10]—a sinner’s only hope for righteousness.  I don’t think anyone who prays thus with even the slightest understanding thinks it a gruff and imperious command.

Jesus’ request surprised the Samaritan woman.  John, wanting his readers to understand her surprise, added: For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans;[11] or, For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.[12]  The note in the NET explains: “The background to the statement use nothing in common is the general assumption among Jews that the Samaritans were ritually impure or unclean.  Thus a Jew who used a drinking vessel after a Samaritan had touched it would become ceremonially unclean.”  This sounds as if the Jews were prejudiced against the Samaritans.  And, ultimately, I want to assert that they were.  But I need to take the long way around.

The common assumption, if I say that Jews were prejudiced against the Samaritans, is that they misjudged the Samaritans.  But they were fairly accurate in their judgment of Samaritans according to Scripture (2 Kings 17:6a, 24-29, 32, 33 NET).

In the ninth year of Hoshea’s reign, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the people of Israel to Assyria…The king of Assyria brought foreigners from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the Israelites.  They took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities.  When they first moved in, they did not worship the Lord.  So the Lord sent lions among them and the lions were killing them.  The king of Assyria was told, “The nations whom you deported and settled in the cities of Samaria do not know the requirements of the God of the land, so he has sent lions among them.  They are killing the people because they do not know the requirements of the God of the land.”  So the king of Assyria ordered, “Take back one of the priests whom you deported from there.  He must settle there and teach them the requirements of the God of the land.”  So one of the priests whom they had deported from Samaria went back and settled in Bethel.  He taught them how to worship the Lord.

But each of these nations made its own gods and put them in the shrines on the high places that the people of Samaria had made.  Each nation did this in the cities where they lived….At the same time they worshiped the Lord.  They appointed some of their own people to serve as priests in the shrines on the high places.  They were worshiping the Lord and at the same time serving their own gods in accordance with the practices of the nations from which they had been deported.

You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is on the earth beneath or that is in the water below, the Lord commanded Israel.  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God[13]  The Jews’ judgment qualifies as prejudice, I think, because they misjudged themselves and the righteousness of God.  Jesus addressed their prejudice obliquely yet forcefully.

If you had known the gift of God, He said to a descendant of foreign idolaters, and who it is who said to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would have asked (ᾔτησας, another form of αἰτέω) him, and he would have given you living water.[14]  So, without reproach, while the Samaritan woman was ignorant of the gift of God and who Jesus is, the implication is fairly clear that this living water was hers for the asking.  And as we’ll discover momentarily the gift of God did not merely belong to God, the gift is God in the person of the Holy Spirit.

This is scandalous to a religious mind.  I feel like I’m back in the garden, but instead of a serpent offering a lying promise to be like God, Jesus offered God Himself—not to Eve the innocent or a pious Jewish woman—to a Samaritan—not as a reward for good behavior but as the only source of goodness:  Now as Jesus was starting out on his way, someone ran up to him, fell on his knees, and said, “Good (ἀγαθέ, a form of ἀγαθός) teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good (ἀγαθόν, another form of ἀγαθός)?  No one is good (ἀγαθὸς) except God alone.[15].

“Sir,” the woman said to him, “you have no bucket and the well is deep; where then do you get this living water?  Surely you’re not greater than our ancestor Jacob, are you?[16]  At first I thought she was either not particularly clever or deliberately obtuse, not unlike Jesus’ disciples when he told them to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.[17]

They had forgotten to bring bread on their journey.[18]  So they began to discuss this among themselves, saying, “It is because we brought no bread.”[19]  When Jesus overheard their discussion, He chided them humorously (Matthew 16:8-12 NET).

You who have such little faith (ὀλιγόπιστοι, a form of ὀλιγόπιστος)!  Why are you arguing among yourselves about having no bread?  Do you still not understand?  Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up?  Or the seven loaves for the four thousand and how many baskets you took up?  How could you not understand that I was not speaking to you about bread?  But beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!”  Then they understood that he had not told them to be on guard against the yeast in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Why didn’t He say teaching in the first place?  I assume He wanted to reinforce his own teaching on the social construction of reality: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour until all the dough had risen.”[20]  But Jesus didn’t chide the Samaritan woman.

So I began to consider that she was cagey with this Jew who shouldn’t be drinking from her bucket, probably shouldn’t be speaking with her at all, much less about a gift of God.  Besides, she was educated enough to know that they spoke together at Jacob’s well,[21] and indoctrinated enough to have adopted him as her ancestor (πατρὸς, literally father).  So Jesus continued by contrasting living water (ὕδωρ ζῶν) to the water from Jacob’s well.

Everyone who drinks some of this water will be thirsty again.  But whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain (πηγὴ) of water springing up to eternal life.[22]  My people have committed a double wrong, the Lord spoke through Jeremiah, they have rejected me, the fountain of life-giving water (Septuagint: πηγὴν ὕδατος ζωῆς), and they have dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns which cannot even hold water.[23]  You are the one in whom Israel may find hope, Jeremiah prayed.  All who leave you will suffer shame.  Those who turn away from you will be consigned to the nether world.  For they have rejected you, the Lord (Hebrew: yehôvâh), the fountain of life (Septuagint: πηγὴν ζωῆς).[24]

Sir, give me this water, the Samaritan woman said, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.[25]  Surely this time, I thought, Jesus should have said something to her like, Do not work for the food that disappears, but for the food that remains to eternal life – the food which the Son of Man will give to you.[26]  But Jesus disagreed.  Go call your husband and come back here,[27] He said instead.

What?  Where did that come from?

I have no husband,[28] the woman said.  The Greek is actually ἀπεκρίθη ἡ γυνὴ καὶ εἶπεν, The woman answered and said (NKJV).  But even that translation isn’t quite sufficient.  As I stare at the Greek I begin to think that John or the Holy Spirit has tried to communicate something of the dynamic of this conversation between a man and a woman.

Reference NET Greek
John 4:7 Jesus said to her λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς
John 4:9 So the Samaritan woman said to him λέγει οὖν αὐτῷ ἡ γυνὴ ἡ Σαμαρῖτις
John 4:10 Jesus answered her ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ
John 4:11 the woman said to him λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ γυνή
John 4:13 Jesus replied ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ
John 4:15 The woman said to him λέγει πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡ γυνή
John 4:16 He said to her λέγει αὐτῇ
John 4:17 The woman replied ἀπεκρίθη ἡ γυνὴ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ

I take λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς (Jesus said to her) as my point of departure for normal conversation.  The Samaritan woman (ἡ γυνὴ ἡ Σαμαρῖτις) responded in kind, λέγει οὖν αὐτῷ (literally, “said then to him”).  But Jesus opened up to her, ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ (literally, “answered Jesus and said to her”).  I say He “opened up” because εἶπεν (a form of ῥέω), though legitimately translated said, means to pour forth.  The woman however remained guarded, λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ γυνή.  Undeterred, Jesus remained open, ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ.  The woman began to open up, λέγει πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡ γυνή.  Perhaps I’m reaching here, but πρὸς αὐτὸν rather than simply αὐτῷ seems to accentuate the fact that she spoke to him.  Abruptly, Jesus closed up again, λέγει αὐτῇ, back to normal conversation, and the woman opened up to Him, ἀπεκρίθη ἡ γυνὴ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, and said, I have no husband.

Then Jesus commended her.  Again, this may be difficult to hear in English translations: Thou saidst well, I have no husband (ASV); That’s right (CEV), Thou hast well said, I have not a husband (DNT); You’re right when you say that you don’t have a husband (GWT); You are quite right in saying, ‘I don’t have a husband’ (ISVNT); Thou hast well said, I have no husband (KJV); You rightly say that you have no husband (MSNT); You have well said, ‘I have no husband’ (NKJV); You are right when you say you don’t have a husband (TEV); That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband’ (TMSG); Well didst thou say—A husband I have not (YLT); You are right when you say you have no husband (NIV); You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband’ (NAB); Right you are when you said, ‘I have no husband.’[29]

The Greek is καλῶς εἶπας ὅτι ἄνδρα οὐκ ἔχω (literally, “beautifully you poured forth that husband you not have”).  Traditionally καλῶς is translated as the adverbial form (well) of ἀγαθός (good), even καλός (beautiful) is translated as if it were ἀγαθός (good).  Traditions have origins.  J.A. McGuckin[30] credits Maximos[31] with the insight: “The Beautiful is identical with The Good, for all things seek the beautiful and the good at every opportunity, and there is no being that does not participate in them.”  Maximos lived half a millennium after John and the Holy Spirit chose καλῶς.  I want to experiment with a pre-traditional reading of some Scriptures.

Even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce beautiful (καλὸν, a form of καλός) fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.[32]  In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your beautiful (καλὰ, another form of καλός) deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.[33]  In the same way, every good (ἀγαθὸν, a form of ἀγαθός) tree bears beautiful (καλοὺς, another form of καλός) fruit, but the bad (σαπρὸν, a form of σαπρός) tree bears bad (πονηροὺς, a form of πονηρός) fruit.  A good (ἀγαθὸν, a form of ἀγαθός) tree is not able to bear bad (πονηροὺς, a form of πονηρός) fruit, nor a bad (σαπρὸν, a form of σαπρός) tree to bear beautiful (καλοὺς, another form of καλός) fruit.  Every tree that does not bear beautiful (καλὸν, a form of καλός) fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.[34]

Rather than a metaphor about bad fruit (καρποὺς πονηροὺς) what follows is a vivid contrast of Jesus’ beautiful good with the Pharisees’ pious good (Matthew 12:10-14 NET):

A man was there [in the Synagogue] who had a withered hand.  And they asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” so that they could accuse him.  He said to them, “Would not any one of you, if he had one sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, take hold of it and lift it out?  How much more valuable is a person than a sheep!  So it is lawful to do beautifully (καλῶς) on the Sabbath.”  Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”  He stretched it out and it was restored, as healthy as the other.  But the Pharisees went out and plotted against him, as to how they could assassinate him.

Some explanation why I called—the Pharisees went out and plotted (or, counseled) against him, as to how they could assassinate (or, destroy) him—a pious good rather than evil is in order.  Jesus came to make atonement for sin but had not yet accomplished it in this period of transition.  There is nothing beautiful about plotting to kill or destroy a man as there is nothing beautiful about running a man and woman through with a javelin.[35]  But Phinehas was commended for the latter (Numbers 25:11-13 NET):

“Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites, when he manifested such zeal for my sake among them, so that I did not consume the Israelites in my zeal.  Therefore, announce: ‘I am going to give to him my covenant of peace.  So it will be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of a permanent priesthood, because he has been zealous for his God, and has made atonement for the Israelites.’”

The Pharisees had this Scriptural precedent when faced with Jesus’ willful and recalcitrant desecration of the Sabbath (as they perceived it).  I could go on and on about the beautiful good but will entertain only a few more examples here (Luke 6:26-31 NET):

“Woe to you when all people speak (εἴπωσιν, another form of ῥέω) beautifully (καλῶς) of you, for their ancestors did the same things to the false prophets.

“But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do beautifully (καλῶς) to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either.  Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away.  Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.

I am the beautiful (καλός) shepherd, Jesus said.  The beautiful (καλός) shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.[36]  And Paul’s words make so much more sense if I recognize that he desired Jesus’ beautiful good rather than the Pharisees’ pious good,[37] of which he was already a master (Romans 7:15-21 NET):

For I don’t understand what I am doing.  For I do not do what I want – instead, I do what I hate.  But if I do what I don’t want, I agree that the law is beautiful (καλός).  But now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me.  For I know that nothing good (ἀγαθόν, a form of ἀγαθός) lives in me, that is, in my flesh.  For I want to do the beautiful (καλὸν, a form of καλός), but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good (ἀγαθόν, a form of ἀγαθός) I want, but I do the very evil (κακὸν, a form of κακός) I do not want!  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me.  So, I find the law that when I want to do the beautiful (καλὸν, a form of καλός), evil (κακὸν, a form of κακός) is present with me.

I’m not advocating for a new translation of καλός and καλῶς.  As words go beautiful is as slippery as good.  I’m not likely to heal a withered hand in a synagogue or church any Saturday or Sunday soon, something I would wholeheartedly consider a beautiful good.  And it is a fair question how beautiful I feel blessing those who curse me, praying for those who mistreat me, with both cheeks red and stinging, missing my coat and my shirt.  But when the One who commended Phinehas made atonement Himself and told us to live this way instead, I think it is important to see it as a beautiful good.

I had to go this roundabout way to get over my tendency to hear sarcasm and ridicule in Jesus’ voice.  Now I believe He took his roundabout course to find a reason to commend the Samaritan woman: This you said truthfully[38] (τοῦτο ἀληθὲς εἴρηκας).  And then He added that she in her beautiful truthfulness was exactly the kind of worshipper his Father is seeking: a time is coming – and now is here – when the true (ἀληθινοὶ, a form of ἀληθινός) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit (πνεύματι, a form of πνεῦμα) and truth (ἀληθείᾳ, a form of ἀλήθεια), for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers.  God is spirit (πνεῦμα), and the people who worship him must worship in spirit (πνεύματι, a form of πνεῦμα) and truth[39] (ἀληθείᾳ, a form of ἀλήθεια).

Now I can back up and hear Jesus’ other statements for what they are.  “Right you are when you said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the man you are living with now is not your husband.  This you said truthfully!”[40]  I would have no way of knowing this about the woman if Jesus hadn’t said it.  More to the point, He demonstrated something important for her.

“Sir, I see that you are a prophet,”[41] she said.  Taking Jesus at face value allows me to take this woman at face value as well.  Recognizing a prophet before her, she broached the single most pressing religious issue on her mind: Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you people say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.[42]  I have no idea how she was treated when she climbed the mountain in Samaria to worship God.  I can only imagine how she might have been treated if this Samaritan woman had dared to journey to Jerusalem to worship God.

The priest sent back to teach her ancestors was from the northern kingdom of divided Israel.  From its very beginning Jeroboam, the first king, had changed the Lord’s decrees (1 Kings 12:26-32 NET):

Jeroboam then thought to himself: “Now the Davidic dynasty could regain the kingdom.  If these people go up to offer sacrifices in the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem, their loyalty could shift to their former master, King Rehoboam of Judah.  They might kill me and return to King Rehoboam of Judah.”  After the king had consulted with his advisers, he made two golden calves.  Then he said to the people, “It is too much trouble for you to go up to Jerusalem.  Look, Israel, here are your gods who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”  He put one in Bethel and the other in Dan.  This caused Israel to sin; the people went to Bethel and Dan to worship the calves.

He built temples on the high places and appointed as priests people who were not Levites.  Jeroboam inaugurated a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival celebrated in Judah.  On the altar in Bethel he offered sacrifices to the calves he had made.  In Bethel he also appointed priests for the high places he had made.

I could have pummeled this woman with chapter and verse after chapter and verse of Scripture proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jerusalem was the place where people must worship God.  Jesus did not.  All He said on the subject was: Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You people worship what () you do not know.  We worship what (ὃ) we know, because salvation is from the Jews.[43]

I don’t know why ὃ was translated what rather than who or whom.  I hope it’s a subtlety of the Greek language, for Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship[44] is very near the beginning of the translation of Scripture into English.  I would hate to think that the translators made a conscious decision to turn the eyes of the English-speaking world to doctrine and dogma at the very moment when Jesus turned his away.  You Samaritans don’t really know the one you worship.  But we Jews do know the God we worship… (CEV)  You worship One of whom you know nothing.  We worship One whom we know… (MSNT)  You Samaritans do not really know whom you worship; but we Jews know whom we worship… (TEV)

Crouching furtively in the Samaritan woman’s conundrum was a desire to worship God and a concern to do it as He desired.  Jesus heard that desire and concern, and responded to it: But a time is coming – and now is here – when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers.  God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”[45]

I don’t get the impression that she understood Him.  Then, I’ve spent my adult life trying everything from obeying the law to faith alone.  I suppose my current understanding of worshipping the Father in spirit and truth is living honestly by the Holy Spirit.  The Samaritan woman did reveal a profound and faithful hope: “I know that Messiah is coming” (the one called Christ); “whenever he comes, he will tell us everything.”  Jesus said to her, “I, the one speaking to you, am he.” [46]

Fresh from this knowledge of God I can look at the original Scriptures with fresh eyes.  In Jesus’ parable about the owner of the vineyard ἠτίμασαν and ἀτιμάσαντες (forms of ἀτιμάζω) associated with forms of δέρω described slaves who were beaten up.  I have been beaten up before.  I felt pain, anger and humiliation but no sexual excitement whatsoever.  I can’t dismiss the judicial beating associated with ἀτιμάζω in Acts 5:40 and 41 quite so easily.

I typed “judicial whipping fantasy” into Google and “Maragana Girl, Chapter 12 – The Punishment in the School Auditorium”[47] by caligula97236 came up (second, actually, scanning the titles quickly I mistook “Judicial Spanking in Taiwan” for actual rather than fantasy punishment).  It is a tale about twenty naked male criminals humiliated and switched by female medical students and police officers as an educational spectacle for teenage girls.  It is couched in terms of how wrong this was and in need of reform.

There is no denying that the judicial or punishment whipping fantasy is part of sado-masochistic lore.  It is part of the reason I attempted to distinguish sadism from masochism in the first essay of this series.  I recall my own state of mind whenever I was the dominant masochist, as I call it:

First, and not incidentally, was the sight of a beloved woman’s body laid out for my enjoyment.  I measured each stroke of the whip by the sound it made, the mark it left on her beautiful flesh, how she flinched, and the whimpers or gasps she vocalized as a result.  My goal was to whip her in tempo (both velocity and frequency) with her own growing euphoria, the same euphoria I had known at her hand as a submissive masochist.  But beyond any goal or thought of the future was the sheer pleasure of the moment, sharing that extreme intimacy with her.

I have no access to the mind of the judicial torturer who beat Jesus’ disciples.  I suspect that it was not what I have just described.  As I perceive it a judicial torturer is the business end of an institutional belief that certain actions, words or thoughts deserve, or may be modified for the good through, the application of physical pain and social humiliation (though I suppose the hope is that the fear of physical pain and social humiliation will achieve the latter end more often than not).

Fiery hell seems to be presented in terms of physical pain.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable…For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.[48]  The prospect, that so offended Ingmar Bergman, of the dead being raised and given new imperishable, immortal bodies only to suffer for an eternity in hell lends credence in my mind to the deservedness of physical pain.  Though I admit, I tend to abstract fiery hell as a metaphor for knowing, face to face beyond any doubt, that God is Love and then being cast out from his omnipresence forever.  In that sense I can see physical pain as salutary, a welcome distraction from the actual horror of the situation.

The application or the fear of the application of physical pain and social humiliation inspires many to a hypocritical compliance with many kinds of social norms.  It will never produce goodness: No one is good (ἀγαθὸς) except God alone.[49]  The Holy Spirit mocked a faith in physical pain and social humiliation when Jesus’ disciples were beaten to conform their behavior to Jewish social norms.  He filled them with his joy[50] (χαρά) instead so they walked away from their beatings rejoicing (χαίροντες, a form of χαίρω) because they had been considered worthy to suffer dishonor (ἀτιμασθῆναι, another form of ἀτιμάζω) for the sake of the name.[51]  Viewed this way, my concern that my masochism, dominant or submissive, is the wrath of God revealed from heaven seems as absurd as Jesus’ disciples fretting because they had brought no bread.[52]

[1] Romans 1:18 (NET)

[2] Romans 1:22, 23 (NET)

[3] Romans 1:24 (NET)

[4] Luke 20:11b (NET)

[5] Acts 5:40, 41 (NET)

[6] Romans 9:16 (NET)

[7] John 4:7b (NET)

[8] John 4:9a (NET)

[9] John 6:25-71 (NET)

[10] Matthew 6:11 (NET)

[11] John 4:9b (NET)

[12] John 4:9b (NET)

[13] Exodus 20:4, 5a (NET)

[14] John 4:10 (NET)

[15] Mark 10:17, 18 (NET) also Luke 18:18, 19 (NET)

[16] John 4:11, 12a (NET)

[17] Matthew 16:6 (NET)

[18] Matthew 16:5 (NET)

[19] Matthew 16:7 (NET)

[20] Matthew 13:33 (NET)

[21] John 4:6, 12b

[22] John 4:13, 14 (NET)

[23] Jeremiah 2:13 (NET)

[24] Jeremiah 17:13 (NET)

[25] John 4:15 (NET)

[26] John 6:27a (NET)

[27] John 4:16 (NET)

[28] John 4:17a (NET)

[29] John 4:17b (NET)



[32] Matthew 3:10 (NET)

[33] Matthew 5:16 (NET)

[34] Matthew 7:17-20 (NET)

[35] Numbers 25:1-9 (NET)

[36] John 10:11 (NET)

[37] Philippians 3:1-11 (NET)

[38] John 4:18b (NET)

[39] John 4:23, 24 (NET)

[40] John 4:17b, 18 (NET)

[41] John 4:19 (NET)

[42] John 4:20 (NET)

[43] John 4:21, 22 (NET)

[44] John 4:22 (KJV)

[45] John 4:23, 24 (NET)

[46] John 4:25, 26 (NET)


[48] 1 Corinthians 15:52, 53 (NET)

[49] Luke 18:19b (NET)

[50] Galatians 5:22 (NET)

[51] Acts 5:41 (NET)

[52] Matthew 16:7 (NET)

David’s Forgiveness, Part 10

David’s friend Hushai arrived in the city, just as Absalom was entering Jerusalem.[1]  Absalom was suspicious of Hushai at first, Do you call this loyalty to your friend?  Why didn’t you go with your friend?[2]  Hushai lied or told such a cleverly concealed truth that Absalom failed to unravel the riddle.  No, I will be loyal to the one whom the Lord, these people, and all the men of Israel have chosen. Moreover, whom should I serve?  Should it not be his son?  Just as I served your father, so I will serve you.[3]  And so Hushai was established as both a spy and false counselor.

Absalom turned to Ahithophel for advice, What should we do?[4] In those days Ahithophel’s advice was considered as valuable as a prophetic revelation.  Both David and Absalom highly regarded the advice of Ahithophel.[5]  But when he learned that his trusted adviser had defected to Absalom, David had prayed, Make the advice of Ahithophel foolish (sâkal),[6] O Lord![7]  Samuel defined the word foolish (sâkal) for Saul: Then Samuel said to Saul, “You have made a foolish (sâkal) choice! You have not obeyed the commandment that the Lord your God gave you. Had you done that, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever!”[8]

Ahithophel replied to Absalom, “Have sex with your father’s concubines whom he left to care for the palace.  All Israel will hear that you have made yourself repulsive to your father.  Then your followers will be motivated to support you.”[9]  I turned to the Jewish Virtual Library online to see if I could gain some insight how David might have felt about these women.  I still don’t know if they were mistresses or chambermaids he bed a time or two.  But I did find out something about Ahithophel’s advice.

“To lie with a monarch’s concubine was tantamount to usurpation of the throne (II Sam. 3:7; 16:21–22). For this reason Abner took Rizpah (II Sam. 3:7). The same concept stands behind Ahitophel’s advice to Absalom, to ‘go into his father’s concubines’ (16:21)…”[10]  So Ahithophel’s advice may or may not have been advantageous on the horizontal plane.  Personally, I think it is sort of an open question how Absalom’s followers might have responded.  On the vertical plane, however, Ahithophel advised a usurper of the throne, one not anointed nor chosen by God, to do a foolish thing and disobey one of his commandments[11] publicly as his first royal act.

So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and Absalom had sex with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.[12]  The Jewish Virtual Library article I quoted disagrees that this was a violation of God’s law regarding a father’s wife (a capital offence, by the way).  “Nor does living with a man as his concubine create a kinship as an impediment to marriage between herself and any of the man’s relatives, or between the man and her relatives, as would be the case if she would be considered to be his wife (Rosh, Resp. no. 32:1; Oẓar ha-Posekim, EH26, n. 3).”[13]  The problem I see with this analysis is that there is no legislation concerning concubines in the Bible.  The only way to know what a concubine was and what rights or obligations she had was from foreign law.  Both the Assyrian Code and the Code of Hammurapi are referenced as sources for determining the legal status of a concubine in the above mentioned article.

God prophesied to David, I will take your wives (Septuagint: γυναῖκάς, a form of γυνή) and hand them over to your companion.  He will have sexual relations with your wives (Septuagint: γυναικῶν, another form of γυνή) in broad daylight!  Although you have acted in secret, I will do this thing before all Israel, and in broad daylight.[14]  I am using the Greek here simply because I recognize the Greek alphabet better than the Hebrew.  (In other words, I don’t know Greek a whole lot less than I don’t know Hebrew.)  Both γυναῖκάς and γυναικῶν are plural forms of γυνή.[15]  Both instances are the same Hebrew word, too, according to the concordance.  Both words can be translated wives or women.

In Ephesians 5:28 (NET) γυναικας was translated wives, In the same way husbands ought to love their wives (γυναικας) as their own bodies.  In Matthew 14:21 (NET) γυναικων was translated women, Not counting women (γυναικων) and children, there were about five thousand men who ate.  I won’t make an issue of whether 2 Samuel 12:11 should have been translated wives or women, because γυναικὸς in Leviticus 18:8 (NET) was translated wife, You must not have sexual intercourse with your father’s wife (Septuagint: γυναικὸς); she is your father’s nakedness, and in Leviticus 20:11, If a man has sexual intercourse with his father’s wife (Septuagint: γυναικὸς), he has exposed his father’s nakedness.  Both of them must be put to death; their blood guilt is on themselves.

Again, γυναικὸς is a singular form of gunē (γυνή), and the Hebrew word is also the same according to the concordance.  In Matthew 19:10 (NET) γυναικος was translated wife, The disciples said to him, “If this is the case of a husband with a wife (γυναικος), it is better not to marry!”  In John 4:9 (NET) γυνη and γυναικος were both translated woman, So the Samaritan woman (γυνη) said to him, “How can you – a Jew – ask me, a Samaritan woman (γυναικος), for water to drink?”

So whether 2 Samuel 12:11 should have been translated David’s wives or women is immaterial, since the same word, both in Greek and Hebrew, was used in Leviticus 18:8 and 20:11.  Since God was apparently satisfied when Absalom had sex with David’s concubines that Nathan’s prophesy about David’s wives or women was fulfilled, and since the only other way to distinguish David’s concubines from his wives or his women was by foreign law, I am going to assume that the category called concubine referred to a traditional practice that probably should not have been part of the thought of the kingdom of Israel.

That being said, however, it seems very likely that what God called Saul’s wives through Nathan the prophet were perceived by many in Israel as the concubines of David’s father-in-law:[16]  I gave you your master’s house, and put your master’s wives (Septuagint: γυναῖκάς) into your arms,[17] when Nathan confronted David on God’s behalf.  It puts some perspective on Absalom’s willingness to fall in with Ahithophel’s advice.  He wanted his father’s concubines just like his father got his father-in-law’s concubines when David received the kingdom after Saul’s death.  It makes me wonder what Absalom heard of his father’s life.

I assume Absalom was told all the stories about David.  But what he heard seems to have been something less than the sum total of what he was told.  He did not hear for instance that David was chosen (anointed) by God when Saul was rejected for his disobedience to God.  Oh, perhaps he heard it in part.  Maybe he assumed that David was, or should have been, rejected by God when he took Bathsheba and murdered Uriah, or if not then, perhaps when he failed to avenge Tamar, as Absalom himself had done.  He certainly heard that Samuel used sacrifices to God as the cover to anoint David as king while Saul yet lived.  He imitated that scene faithfully, minus of course the sanction of God or the presence of his prophet.  He did not hear how his father David respected the Lord’s chosen or anointed one even after he was rejected by God, or he would have behaved differently toward his father.  In fact, if he had any faith whatsoever in God or his choice, Absalom would not have challenged David at all.

The irony here was, though he was born a son of David, though he did everything he could to imitate David’s career outwardly, Absalom proved to be a man after Saul’s own heart:  So Saul feared David, because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul.[18]  And Absalom, like Saul before him, set himself to the task of finding a way to kill David.

David’s Forgiveness, Part 11

[1] 2 Samuel 15:37 (NET)

[2] 2 Samuel 16:17 (NET)

[3] 2 Samuel 16:18, 19 (NET)  See: David’s command to Hushai, 2 Samuel 15:34 (NET).

[4] 2 Samuel 16:20b (NET)

[5] 2 Samuel 16:23 (NET)

[7] 2 Samuel 15:31 (NET)

[8] 1 Samuel 13:13 (NET)

[9] 2 Samuel 16:21 (NET)

[12] 2 Samuel 16:22 (NET)

[14] 2 Samuel 12:11 (NET)

[17] 2 Samuel 12:8 (NET)

[18] 1 Samuel 18:12 (NET)