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Tragedy of Saul

22 April, 2004 5:47 PM

Posting is light at the moment because I'm in the books researching an Old Testament essay. The topic is 'In what sense is the story of Saul a tragedy?'

It is calling for an literary critical examination of the genre of Tragedy.

I've always felt uncomfortable with the story of Saul in 1 Samuel. The story of a guy who doesn't want to be king, yet he's thrust into the lime light, chosen and anointed by God to do the job. Then he makes a blunder or two (that almost seems where he's caught out on technicalities). As a result he's told that he's going to lose his position as King to someone who is better than him. He seeks to repent, approaches God on numerous times, but God is silent except for the evil spirit he sends to afflict Saul with....

He spends the rest of his time seemingly struggling with himself - its a bit of a no win situation really - chasing the guy who is supposed to replace him, even though you get the feeling he knows he's doomed to fail and is doing the wrong thing.

He ends up alone, afraid and isolated on a battlefield where even his servant isn't even willing to help him out of his misery and he has to take his own life. His body is captured and mutilated and carted around by his enemies....

In contrast we have his successor (the 'better' one) who ends up a murderer and adulterer (to name a few of his sins) being glorified as one of the great kings!

I've never really quite known what to make of a story like that. In fact I'm beginning to wonder if I'm actually supposed to do anything with it! Previously I've always wanted to find the 'point' of biblical narratives. What does it mean? How can I explain it?

Stories like these are more complex than that - I wonder if in our attempt to 'explain' them whether we somehow gloss over something deeper and more profound in the story itself.

I'm still not sure 'what to do with it' (maybe the next book or article I read will tell me!) but I'm beginning to see that Saul's story is actually a story of life that many of us see aspects of our own stories in. For me it touches on some of those deeper, nagging, incomprehensible and usually unspoken questions that float around in many of our minds like - Why is their 'evil' in the world? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is God sometimes (often?) silent?

I've got more reading to do...



i've always thought of the waste that Saul's life was and what he could have been.
As leaders we are all sent trying situations, and it is how we overcome them that is the way we grow.
Saul never seemed to overcome his problems of anger, jealousy and rage, poor attributes for a leader - even if reluctant.
Maybe the example for us is to to see what is holding us back and see how we can overcome it.
For in every tempatation there is always a way out.

tim » 22 April, 2004 10:30 PM

Hi Darren

Absolutely - I'm convinced that the Old Testament has so much more we can learn from it than we tend to allow ourselves - instead searching for the simple or traditional moral, like the end of a Jerry Springer show!

I'd love to hear more as you read and think over this further


Steve » 22 April, 2004 11:34 PM

I've always looked at it as a matter of the heart. I think that God saw the heart of Saul and the heart of David, and the differences between them, rather than just the sin in their lives. There is a reason that David was called "a man after God's own heart", and Saul was not...

Michaela » 23 April, 2004 6:30 AM

You will be interested to know that the apocrypha (the texts deliberately left out of the bible by the founders of the Roman Catholic church - these are actually the gospels of the true apostles like Mary, Philip, Thomas and Peter - Paul came later he was only an apostle of an apostle) actually mirror your sentiments on David. These texts actually say that there is a true God and a false god. The false god funnily enough is called Samuel or "Blind one" or Ignorance. According to the apocrypha David followed the false god. Saul was mislead by this false god (Samuel), but he was still the rightful king of the Jews. David's only real claim to the throne, you may remember, is through Michal - Saul's daughter, whom he left for heathen brides. This, according to Judaic law, actually makes his children not Jewish as Judiasm is passed down maternally. It seems funny to me that people of the Jewish faith are waiting for a non-Jewish messiah who will, stragely enough, be called Michal! Also, nowhere in the bible does it say that the messiah will come from David! It says most clearly in Isiah that the messiah will come from the line of Jesse! Well guess what! Jesse had seven other sons and two daughters! Three of whom went off to follow Saul. David was a murderer and an adulterer. So where was he when Moses came down from the mountain? Saul was just confused and misguided by his "judge". Interesting also that many places in the bible refer to the next Messiah as being a woman. The woman clothed with the sun, the maiden of light who will be given to the fallen king. Perhaps it speaks of a reunification between Saul's bloodline-daughter and the bloodline of David, or of one of Jesse's other children, at least that's my guess.

» 6 October, 2004 6:53 PM

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