1 Samuel 14:36-45

Oy. Here we go again.

The lectionary readings for this coming Sunday include 1 Samuel 14:35-45, the story of Saul, a man so obsessed with purity that he would kill his own son for a minor offense: licking a bit of honey off the tip of a staff in his hand.

Ahem.

And, yes, this son is Jonathan, whom David would later mourn, saying “Oh, how much I loved you! And your love for me was deep, deeper than the love of women!”

Ahem.

So is Jonathan’s offense in this story really about sexual purity, or is that lick of honey off the staff in his hand truly just innocent bee vomit? I don’t know. But Saul seems determined to turn it into an honor killing. Fortunately, his soldiers rebel against him briefly and rescue Jonathan.

But then in the following chapter, when Saul receives orders from God to slaughter every living thing in the next valley, he captures the king alive. Saul is more eager to kill his own kid than he is to kill an enemy leader, and Samuel chews him out for it. Oh, not for being willing to kill his son… Samuel tears him a new one for failing to kill the livestock and the king of Amalek. Saul wasn’t bloodthirsty enough.

At this point, I don’t think Samuel was speaking for God. I think Samuel was very personally offended that Saul hadn’t done exactly as he was told. This is probably not an orthodox belief—but it’s the best I can believe of Samuel.

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