King David as a Romantic Figure – Disempowering the Word of God

Hemingway's_writing_desk_in_Key_WestThe Old Testament is a tough book to study. There are details missing, we don’t always understand the culture and it’s hard to get the hang of what its all about. So sometimes it’s easier to turn to movies or books which explain the story in a way we relate to. One option is to read novels, and I have read a few on David which have concerned me. As both a fiction writer and a student of David’s life, I would like to share how novels can negatively influence our understanding of the Word of God.

We’re not specifically told in the Bible that novelising the Word of God is wrong, but it creates practical problems by the power of suggestion. When we read fiction, as we become engrossed in the story which is presented to us, it gets harder to identify what facts are real, and which are embellished. Studies have now shown that memories are altered each time we recall them and that adds to the problem. If we remember what we’ve learned about King David as we read a novel about him, those memories of what the Scriptures actually say can easily be changed by the text we’re been exposed to, and we may not realise it.

When an author works on a historical novel, they have to deal with masses of details being missing and unobtainable. To counter that problem, they devise character traits, motivations, scenes and most of the aspects needed to turn what, in David’s case, is a summary of selected facts, into a story which flows. This is where the main danger comes in. When you assign emotions, thoughts and motivations to someone, you can unintentionally, completely misrepresent them. If, like David, their story comes from the Old Testament, you are also grappling with a radically different moral and cultural mindset, which is extremely hard for a Westerner to understand, (even with extensive research.) This hampers the work, and can easily result in an incorrect analysis of why and how David acted, which can then affect the benefit his life gives us through the Bible, as we’re less willing to listen to his words.

I have seen book and movie authors try and make David a combined romantic figure and power crazed villain as they simply don’t understand his culture. We expect people in the Old Testament to think like us, hold exactly the same values and live much the same way. Nothing could be further from the truth.

One series of books I read quoted the Psalms and make King David a God-fearing good guy, then added fictional circumstances and motivations to known facts, to create scenarios to move her storyline and it’s themes along. While the work is sold as fiction and should only be taken as such, the problem is that her own thoughts and biases against polygamy, plus her misunderstanding of the laws handed down through Moses, dominated her storyline and in the end, David came out looking evil in a manner which contradicts Scripture. (Please see my article on polygamy.)

“For David had done what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and had obeyed the Lord’s commands throughout his life, except in the affair concerning Uriah the Hittite.” 1 Kings 15:5 David wasn’t an angel and if he had been, few could relate to him. However, to villainise someone because issues such as polygamy, the role of an ancient Israeli King and the status of women aren’t well understood by our Western culture, isn’t to do the Word of God justice. David’s actions appeared as sin or made no sense. It extended to more than David. His wives were all treated as powerless victims, as life in David’s time was approached from a modern viewpoint, which has no relevance on a culture which existed nearly three thousand years ago. There were masses of negative comments online which reflected my own feelings about this author, and I approached the Publisher, defending God’s Word. Sadly, they did not want to listen.

1280px-Buchblätter_001For me, reading this series illustrated the pitfalls of embellishing a partial storyline, and thankfully, has made me very cautious about what I read, and especially, what I write, regardless of whether it’s fiction or not. Incidents such as David’s sin with Bathsheba are there to teach us the consequences of our actions. They are not meant to be romanticised and to do so, is to disrespect the intention the Word of God has in telling us about Bathsheba.

The book of Revelation gives a stern warning that anyone who adds to that book will be punished. Perhaps that should make us pause and consider how we handle all of God’s Word? “And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.” Revelation 22:19 In Deuteronomy 4:2, Moses tells Isra’el: “Do not add to or subtract from these commands I am giving you. Just obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you.”

The Word is the inspired truth, written by many authors, but compiled as God the Father has determined it should be. There are historical writings and Psalms that were never included in our Scriptures. Why not? They are not writings that the Lord wishes to include. We need to be careful about what we do. Paul tells us that teachers of the Word are subject to more severe judgement as they can lead so many astray. [Ref. James 3:1] If you novelise, whether it is intentional or not, you are teaching, as you are planting ideas in people’s heads. Caution has to be taken.

If you are going to read a novel based on the Bible or watch a movie, please approach it with your Bible open beside you, and take the time to ask the Lord if He wants you to read it (and wait for an answer.) I love novels, I love movies which make the Word of God come alive, but I don’t want to approach Bible study with an attitude which may shut out what the Lord wants to teach me.

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Additional Helpful Reading


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Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you. The images in this post are CC4.0 from Wikimedia Commons.

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Tishah B’av: Fast for the Destruction of the Temples

One of the gates of the city of Jerusalem, pock marked by mortar shells.

One of the gates of the city of Jerusalem, pock marked by mortar shells.

Tishah B’av is a day of communal mourning for Isra’el as it commemorates the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem, and may also include other events which have left the Jewish nation scarred. Tishah appears to have multiple spellings, depending on where you look. I have found three.

During the day, the book of Lamentations is read, accompanied by a traditional song only used on this day. “Traditional Jews do not eat meat, cut their hair, or wash their clothes unless they are to be worn again during the nine days. All these actions are considered signs of joy or luxury inappropriate for this time of mourning. Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative Jews adopt a varied range of these practices.” Source link. They are also encouraged to visit cemeteries to heighten the mourning.

“The meal ending the fast traditionally omits meat and wine, in acknowledgment of the fact that the burning of the Temple continued until the next day. Finally, the sorrow that began on the 17th of Tammuz comes to a halt and the Shabbat immediately following Tishah B’Av is called Shabbat Nahamu (Shabbat of comfort) because the Haftarah begins with the words “nahamu nahamu ami” (“comfort, comfort my people”). This begins a period of consolation and comfort leading up to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.” For more information, please read the page these quotes come from. The dating and practices around Tishah B’Av get complex. (Page link.)

Other related articles:

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All copyright and ownership of the text and logo images for the quoted websites belong to them. However, while some images are made by me, Creative Commons or Public Domain, many are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you. If you need to check the origin of an image, please use the free service at Tineye.com

Got Torah? Celebrating Shavuot 2019

shavuot
“Shavuot, which means “Festival of Weeks,” is just one name for the holiday. It also goes by Harvest Festival (Chag HaKatzir), Day of the First Fruits (Yom Habikurim), The Stoppage/Restrain (Atzeret – a reference the sages use to highlight the prohibition against work on this day), and Time of the Giving of the Torah (Z’man Matan Torah).”

It is celebrated 50 days after the second day of Passover (Pesach) and it “commemorates the day when the Israelites received the Torah during their desert wanderings. The rabbis say that Passover and Shavuot are really one holiday – the Exodus from Egypt was only complete with the giving of the Torah.”

Source: Israel21c.org Fun Facts About Shavuot in Isra’el. It’s an interesting article and well worth reading.


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All copyright and ownership of the text and logo images for the quoted websites belong to them. However, while some images are made by me, Creative Commons or Public Domain, many are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you. If you need to check the origin of an image, please use the free service at Tineye.com

Judging Bathsheba: Reading the Bible Righteously

cibo00-Water-DoveI have never heard a good word spoken about BathSheba, except by some Rabbis, who declare David and BathSheba’s association as the greatest love story in the Bible. That may be because King Solomon came from their union.

When pressed to answer what I think about her, the only response I have is, “I don’t know the lady. I have no idea what she was like, so I really don’t think it’s my place to judge her. She is someone’s wife and someone’s mother: so she was loved.” I honestly cannot say more than that. I try and relate to her as a fellow human, rather than a good or bad person.

David and BathSheba is the story of what happens when things get way out of hand… when you can no longer control the circumstances, then fall into shame and block out the need to repent. Both David and BathSheba could have lost their lives over their adultery. It’s a serious matter, but while I can learn a great deal from their mistakes, there is still no need for me to slide into any judgement of what they did. That’s only the Lord’s job.

There is a tendency to condemn and vilify those whose stories grace the pages of our Bibles. We have blurred the line between discerning a lesson and personal criticism, based on our own opinions. Jacob is another example of someone who is pulled to pieces. He is a controversial figure and we tend to remember the bad. We remember that Samson was strong… but weak when it came to women. Rahab is a heroine, despite that she was a prostitute, because she helped God’s chosen people. We look at small snapshots of long, complex lives, then we make a decision on whether that person was predominantly good or bad. As most of us fall prey to negativity biases, often the decision is damning.

Yet the Bible clearly labels Jacob and Samson as righteous and servants of the Lord. So why are we sticking the knife into their backs?

Another sobering question I was confronted by, when I was writing my Christian novels, was if I speak badly of these people or misrepresent them, when I get to heaven and actually meet them face to face, then what am I going to say? How am I going to feel when they stand there clean and forgiven, and I’ve previously assaulted them?

That issue made me think long and hard. If I behave in an insensitive and inhumane way towards BathSheba, what will I say to my beloved David when I see him, and hear how much he did love his wife; or that he wishes people had been willing to consider that perhaps the situation was much more complex and from this a brief account, we haven’t understood it?

What if I went up to him and said, “Absalom was such a rat! I don’t know how you put up with that kid, he must have driven you nuts!” Then I could be confronted with a father’s sadness over a lost son.

That would hurt. I never want to be in that situation.

45594452_sMaybe we all need to reconsider the way we teach the Scriptures and talk about ‘dead’ people? As they are names on pages, we feel no connection to, or responsibility towards them. That is the exact same psychological phenomenon that drives bullying and trolls on the internet. We can’t see the faces of the real people, so what we do just doesn’t matter. Yet it does. The Bible says, don’t judge. It doesn’t make any distinction on whether or not that responsibility stops with someone’s death. Orthodox Jews call people who have died, “… of blessed memory.” The person, regardless of whether they are family or not, are treated with respect. That is excellent role modelling.
People who died in right relationship with the Lord are not with us, but it doesn’t mean they have been deleted from existence. It doesn’t mean we will never squirm when we realise how badly we treated them. It doesn’t mean the Lord won’t rebuke us for our unrighteousness, for wielding swords of justice which are only, rightfully His.

So I have striven to err on the side of mercy and fairness when studying and writing about David, and that is, at times, quite a challenge. I have no respect for Saul, Joab or Absalom, but I do not want to stand before the Lord and have to explain why I acted with such harshness when the Father has been so merciful and tender with me. So I try and state the facts about them without including my personal opinion, name calling, or other derogatory low blows.

I have found, that another benefit has sprung up from me being more aware of how I treat David and his family. Amending my attitude has led to a greater awareness of how I judge and speak about the people in my immediate, real life, vicinity. That involves my family, my problematic neighbours and the people I meet in every day life, some of who annoy me.

Learning not to judge is a life skill that is necessary. Scripture tells us directly not to do it. We know we should act with the fruit of the Spirit, we know the standards. Even if we see others pulling apart people, we must resist the impulse to do the same. Judging others in teaching been done through many generations, and it will take some serious work to change our habits. However, for the sake of our character, it’s worth doing.

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Footnotes:
a) Scriptures on Judging: Luke 6:37, Matthew 7:2, Hebrews 10:30
b) Did David Rape BathSheba?
No, he didn’t. Why? Well, the Bible calls rape, rape and that is not what we see here. It is more likely that as he was a king, she was flattered or awed by him and he may have offered her an incentive such as wealth, land, a promotion for her husband: anything that would enable him to fulfil his desire. Who wouldn’t want to be more popular with the King and attain a higher position in life? Many people would take an opportunity like that and she may have seen it as an honour. [Ref. 2 Samuel 11-12]

Why do I think that?
1. As I said above, the Bible calls rape, rape. It pulls no punches about where David went wrong, so why would it here?
2. When David and BathSheba’s first child dies, David is able to comfort her. There is no indication of a fractured relationship, such as the one he had with Michal. A raped woman would be traumatised. David and BathSheba went on to have four other sons together and she became Queen, which we know as the succession of all her sons is listed.
3. David is such an overtly honest person, he would have confessed it in the Psalms.
4. David was so guilt-ridden over what he had done, had he raped her, it is possible he would have arranged for her to live, well cared for and safe somewhere.
5. It did not appear to be within David’s nature to be so violent outside of war. One example is the number of times the head of his army, Joab, wanted to assassinate a direct threat to his life and kingship. Each time, David said no, even though his refusal flew in the face of common sense. Violence was not his first choice. He looked to the Lord for deliverance. [Ref. 2 Samuel 2 Samuel 15-18]


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Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

You Can Study The Bible With These 5 Easy and Effective Acronyms — The Crafty Afro

This is a really useful post. I have heard of the SOAP method of Bible Study, but I hadn’t heard of the others.

If you try some of these methods, please let me know what works best for you, I would be interested to find out.

Only 14% of adults in the US read their Bible daily. American Bible Society, March 2018 In a recent study performed by the American Bible Society, it was reported that only 14% of adults in the US read their Bible daily (March 2018). As a Christian I find this number to be quite alarming. It […]

via You Can Study The Bible With These 5 Easy and Effective Acronyms — The Crafty Afro

Beyond the Sparrow: The Depth of God’s Compassion

In verse 5 of Matthew 10, “Jesus sent out the twelve apostles
with these instructions…

But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”
Matthew 10:29b-31

I am a frequent viewer of Safari Live on Youtube which is pure educational, conservation-based safari drives in Kenya and South Africa. – It has sad parts, but everywhere I look, I can see how the Lord has built many defences into animal biology so that animals can take care of themselves, even amidst savage competition for food. I can see His loving, providing Hand everywhere.

Screen shot of Silver Clusterleaf

Screen shot of Silver Cluster Leaf under a microscope, from Safari Live Youtube Channel.

It goes way deeper than the animals too; for example: in Africa they have a tree called a Silver Cluster Leaf, and all the leaves are covered with fine hairs. They way the leaves taste puts off a lot of insects that would like to chow down on the plant – so even the trees have defences!

The function of the hairs is to stop the leaves from losing moisture. The thought and detail The Lord has put into designing this gorgeous world is so beautiful. I see love everywhere. God cares for all the plants and animals just as He cares for us, because He adores all of His creation.

This new revelation has profoundly impacted me a few times over the last year, and has expanded my view of the depth and detail in God’s passion for His creation.  We frequently quote the Scripture above and sing, “His Eye is on the sparrow and His Hand it comforts me…,” but less often do we stop to mediate on how much love He has put into the design and care of these creatures: all creatures, all plants, even down to mosquitos and leeches.

God… loves… leeches…

Well, that proves beyond doubt that He loves the unlovable. My new view of God’s devotion and protection has been a valuable, faith-strengthening revelation for me. It is helpful to see that everything natural we are surrounded by is so full of His love and care, and nothing goes defenceless, even in the harshest environment. It’s a message of hope for us all.


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Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. While some images are made by me, Creative Commons or Public Domain, many are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.If you need to check the origin of an image, please use the free service at Tineye.com