They attest that Yahweh is not a consistent God of command and sanction or, alternatively, of deed and consequence. Conversely, they attest that Yahweh is not a God who consistently forgives. There is slippage about sanctions on occasion, but the slippage always seems to work toward the advantage of David and against Saul. Indeed, we may imagine that “the evil spirit” that came upon Saul (1 Sam 18: 10) is not unlike the deceiving agent dispatched by the government of Yahweh against King Ahab in 1 Kings 22. What is clear to us, and to the narrative before us, is that the lived experience of Israel has to come to terms with this inexplicable, inscrutable “tilt” that does not act morally or reasonably or honorably or consistently, and that things work out oddly, even though Israel credits the oddity to Yahweh. It is possible to speak of the hidden intentionality of Yahweh, or even of Yahweh’s providential care— in this case, of David. What puzzles us about such a conclusion is that even while the text is pro-David in its outcomes, the witness of Israel presents for us the illicit nature of Yahweh’s activity as pertains to Saul. In fact, Saul is treated unfairly by Yahweh, and he is assigned a role in the memory of Israel that shows him to be in a position where he can only lose. Saul will lose partly because David is bold, lucky, attractive, and “destined.” Saul will lose because “forces” conspire against him. Israel, moreover, does not hesitate to assign those conspiring forces exactly to Yahweh. Thus:
• Yahweh will deceive in order to advance David (1 Sam 16: 1);
• Yahweh will counsel Samuel to listen to the people (8: 7, 9, 22), and crush Saul for the same action (1 Sam 15: 24);
• Yahweh will eliminate Saul for taking Amalekite spoil (15: 18– 21), but will disregard David’s like action (30: 19– 20);
• Yahweh will forgive David (2 Sam 12: 13), but refuse Saul’s confession (1 Sam 15: 24).
Yahweh will be arbitrary in David’s favor and need justify it to none, certainly not to Saul or to Saul’s readers. 17 What then are we to make of 2 Samuel 24, the
Brueggemann, Walter. Theology of the Old Testament (p. 371). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.
my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways are not your ways