The Deep Ancient Roots the Psalms Sprang From

tltnpmRegardless of what age or nationality you are, the culture around you will affect how you worship. Old Western hymns were set to popular tunes of the day so that people would relate to them, and edifying Christian hip hop and rap music is popular with Christian youth in our current time.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Jesus communicated His message in a form which people understood and could relate to. It makes perfect sense. However, when studying the ancient history of the Near East (pre-Abraham), I was surprised at how much some of the cultic hymns sounded like David’s Psalms.

Compare these two:

“Mighty, majestic, and radiant,
You shine brilliantly in the evening,
You brighten the day at dawn,
You stand in the heavens like the sun and the moon,
Your wonders are known both above and below…”

“The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy.”

Who wrote what? The first one is a Sumerian hymn about Inanna (Ishtar,) the pagan ‘Queen of Heaven;’ the second is part of David’s Psalm 65. Did that leave you with an awful feeling in the pit of your stomach? I was startled, then realised that this point of time is so far back, both David and the writer of the hymn had the same roots: they both originally came from the one God, YHWH. Psalms by the Sons of Korah and Ethan the Ezrahite (Psalm 89) have the same features. It’s simply a cultural way of song writing.

The key elements of worship that appear in most religions are instituted in the first few chapters of Genesis. God places Adam and Eve in his sanctuary as priests who serve him and commune with him. After they disobey him, God institutes the idea of substitutionary sacrifice and atonement, establishing a covenant with them. Each of these elements characterises the worship of all religions since they are part of the religious heritage of all children of Adam. As Rodríguez notes, “those religious expressions belong to the common human experience of God” (Rodríguez 2001, 47). Romans 1:19–20 testifies to this when it says that God has revealed himself to all people through “the things that have been made.”  [Source: Worldview Bias and the Origin of Hebrew Worship by Scott Aniol, source link below.]

There is a major difference between the way that David approaches his God and the way the worshippers of the pagan god, Inanna worshipped: David has confidence!

“Be merciful to me, O Lord; for I cry to You daily.
Give joy to the soul of Your servant; for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For You, Lord, are good and ready to forgive, and rich in mercy to all those who call on You.
Give ear, O Jehovah, to my prayer; and attend to the voice of my prayers.
In the day of my trouble I will call on You; for You will answer me.” Psalm 86:3-7

You don’t find that kind of confidence in hymns for the pagan gods. From the ones I read, some of them don’t even make any kind of sense, but David had two things in his favour: the indwelling Spirit of God which gave him a direct link to the one true God, and a righteous boldness. He knew that God was with him and that YHWH was his source of comfort, deliverance, healing, joy and salvation. David was welcome to “boldly approach the throne of grace,” long before those words appeared in our New Testament. [Ref. Hebrews 4:16 and Ephesians 3:12]

“The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out,
“Yahweh! The LORD!
The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty.” Exodus 34:6-7a

Inanna had to be appeased, tip toed around. The pagan gods were the scapegoats that man made to explain the mysteries of why bad things happen and how the natural elements of the world functioned. They created jealous, angry gods with human frailties, who you bribed into happiness so nothing went wrong.

2016-12-11_15-55-07_01Looking at hymns which came from a different part of the Near East, Scott Aniol goes on to say: “When comparing the psalms of Israel with those of Ugarit people, important distinctions emerge as well. According to Walton, “the category of declarative praise is unique to Israel”… Biblical history and pagan myth have very different purposes, functions, and literary forms and therefore must not be interpreted in the same manner.”

The same applies to cultic observations about a flood and a baby sent down a river in a basket who was rescued by a princess and bought up in a royal court. The events were written about long after they happened, with the then current pagan interpretations added.

So if you ever come across strange similarities between paganism and the Bible, don’t take them as evidence that your faith isn’t based on a faithful, genuine God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:1-5
29200701_mr3x3xrrr
Notes:

https://answersingenesis.org/presuppositions/bias-and-origin-of-hebrew-worship/ This is a great article, please take the time to read it.

“Inanna was associated with the planet Venus, which at that time was regarded as two stars, the “morning star” and the “evening star. The discontinuous movements of Venus relate to both mythology as well as Inanna’s dual nature. Inanna is related like Venus to the principle of connectedness, but this has a dual nature and could seem unpredictable. Yet as both the goddess of love and war, with both masculine and feminine qualities, Inanna is poised to respond, and occasionally to respond with outbursts of temper. Mesopotamian literature takes this one step further, explaining Inanna’s physical movements in mythology as corresponding to the astronomical movements of Venus in the sky.” There are hymns to Inanna as her astral manifestation.”  [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inanna]


kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

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.

Advertisements

How YHWH is Unique: Differences Between Him and Mesopotamian Gods

high_priest_offering_incense_on_the_altarOver the last few months I have been studying the ancient history of the Near East to get a handle on how the surrounding nations impacted King David’s life. This is impossible to do without running into dozens and dozens and dozens of pagan deities, who went on to become the gods of Canaan, Babylon and Assyria. One thing that has struck me time and time again, is how radically different our God, YHWH, is compared to the other gods. Moses agrees with me: “For what great nation has a god as near to them as the LORD our God is near to us whenever we call on Him? And what great nation has decrees and regulations as righteous and fair as this body of instructions that I am giving you today?” Deuteronomy 4:7-8

Studying ancient history has shown me similarities between Biblical stories (*the flood) and how YHWH was worshipped, so how do I know that YHWH is the one true god? Because He is so distinctively unique.

Firstly, how do I account for the similarities in worship between Mesopotamia and Israel, which include blood sacrifice, the system for supporting priests; incense, music used in worship, the altars having horns, and the similarities in spiritual language? Scott Aniol from Answers in Genesis sums up what I was thinking beautifully: “All nations had a common ancestry in Adam, and God’s self-revelation was part of their heritage, thus accounting for any similarities in worship practice that exist.” Worship stemmed from one God and one original system which was corrupted for man-made divinities. This form of corrupted worship in the Mesopotamian world remained in vogue for over four thousand years, and some practices (such as the fear of the number 13) still affect many world cultures today.

“When comparing the psalms of Israel with those of Ugarit people, important distinctions emerge as well. According to Walton, “the category of declarative praise is unique to Israel”. Oswalt argues that although Psalm 29 may resemble Ugarit references to Baal as god of thunderstorms, “nowhere in the psalm is Yahweh identified with the thunderstorm. . . . Yahweh sits above the flood” (Oswalt 2009, 105–06. Emphasis original). Likewise, Currid observes that even “the style of writing of the cosmological texts from the ancient Near East is best described as ‘mythic narrative,’” while the biblical record “bears all the markings of Hebrew historical narrative.” (Currid 2013, 43)… Biblical history and pagan myth have very different purposes, functions, and literary forms and therefore must not be interpreted in the same manner.

The key elements of worship that appear in most religions are instituted in the first few chapters of Genesis. God places Adam and Eve in his sanctuary as priests who serve him and commune with him. After they disobey him, God institutes the idea of substitutionary sacrifice and atonement, establishing a covenant with them. Each of these elements characterises the worship of all religions since they are part of the religious heritage of all children of Adam. As Rodríguez notes, “those religious expressions belong to the common human experience of God” (Rodríguez 2001, 47). Romans 1:19–20 testifies to this when it says that God has revealed himself to all people through “the things that have been made.” 
[Source: Worldview Bias and the Origin of Hebrew Worship by Scott Aniol https://answersingenesis.org/presuppositions/bias-and-origin-of-hebrew-worship/]

What is also interesting, is how the Laws that God gave through Moses seem to be put in place to stop the Israelites from copying many of the pagan practices of other religions. For example, the Israelites were told: “A woman must not put on men’s clothing, and a man must not wear women’s clothing. Anyone who does this is detestable in the sight of the LORD your God.” Deuteronomy 22:5 In some Mesopotamian ritual processions, the participants dressed half as men, half as women to worship their god. The more I study, the more I realise how much cultural information is lost to us, which sheds an entirely new light on Biblical precepts.
29200701_mr3x3xrrr

foster_bible_pictures_0073-1_offering_up_a_burnt_sacrifice_to_godI could write a book on everything I have learned, but the main point I want to leave you with is how YHWH is a distinctive deity:

1. The Israelites could only have one religious relic/artefact, which was the Ark of the Covenant which had the manifest Presence of God upon it. Unlike polytheism, where there are many statues of a god made for every temple and need, there was no limit to the number. YHWH specifically banned the making of such images to represent Him. [Ref. Exodus 34:17]
29200701_mr3x3xrrr

2. YHWH is way above the average intelligence of other gods
Some Mesopotamians created statues of themselves praying that they could place in their temples to make theirs gods think they were being prayed to all the time, and the gods knew no difference. According to the Jewish Virtual Library: “An idol, in the pagan mind, was a living and feeling being… The god’s spirit dwelt within the idol and was identified with it. The god was not confined to a single idol or a single shape; rather his spirit dwelt within many idols of varied shapes. The god perceived and sensed whatever happened to its idol…  The argument offered by the Psalmist (Ps. 106:36; 115:9), “they have eyes but they do not see” should be taken literally… The Biblical description of idolatry as “sacrifices to the dead,” (Ps. 106:28) and of idols as “wood and stone,” (Deut. 28:36, 64), and similar descriptions, challenge the pagan claim that the images they worshiped were in fact “living idols.”” 
[Source: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0009_0_09475.html]
29200701_mr3x3xrrr
3. YHWH has exceptional moral character
“And Jehovah (YHWH) came down in the cloud. And he placed himself there with Him, and he called on the name of Jehovah. And Jehovah passed by before his face and called out: Jehovah! Jehovah God! Merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and great in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and not leaving entirely unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on sons, and on sons of sons, to the third and to the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:5-7

God’s were prone to the human traits of bitterness, revenge, theft, deception and basically, behaviour which is “fleshly.” [Ref. Galatians 5:16-25] Pagan gods are recorded as viciously punishing their followers over hurt feelings, regardless of who was responsible. This was a way to account for the tragedies and baffling ups and downs of life.

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, King Gilgamesh refuses to marry the goddess Ishtar and reminds her of how she has abused the affection of her past lovers. In vengeance, she complains to her father, who at first says, “serves you right,” but then: “Ishtar opened her mouth and said again, ‘My father, give me the Bull of Heaven to destroy Gilgamesh. Fill Gilgamesh, I say, with arrogance to his destruction; but if you refuse to give me the Bull of Heaven I will break in the doors of hell and smash the bolts; there will be confusion of people, those above with those from the lower depths. I shall bring up the dead to eat food like the living; and the hosts of dead will outnumber the living.’ Anusa said to great Ishtar, ‘If I do what you desire there will be seven years of drought throughout Uruk when corn will be seedless husks. Have you saved grain enough for the people and grass for the cattle? Ishtar replied. ‘I have saved grain for the people, grass for the cattle; for seven years of seedless husks, there is grain and there is grass enough.’ “ 

“She stirs confusion and chaos against those who are disobedient to her, speeding carnage and inciting the devastating flood, clothed in terrifying radiance. It is her game to speed conflict and battle, untiring, strapping on her sandals.” Battle itself is sometimes referred to as “the dance of Inanna.” [Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inanna]

YHWH is not prone to such human faults and appalling acts of retribution. As we read in Exodus 34:5-7, He is open to reconciliation rather than murder. His people have to completely turn their back on Him before they are cursed.
29200701_mr3x3xrrr
4. YHWH is not dependent upon us to provide any of His needs According to Mesopotamian mythology, human beings were created so the gods would have servants. “Man shall be charged with the service of the gods, that they might be at ease.” Babylonian Creation myth.

While the Hebrews (later Israel,) served YHWH, it was by obedience and through worship, they didn’t provide for His physical needs or were used and abused for His pleasure. To please Anu, you had to do the following (plus meet all the other requirements): “Several times a day in an elaborate ritual the god was served a sumptuous meal. The courses were set out before the statue of the god or goddess, music was played, and incense was sprinkled. Here is a daily menu for the god Anu at Uruk: 12 vessels of wine 2 vessels of milk, 108 vessels of beer, 243 loaves of bread, 29 bushels of dates, 21 rams, 2 bulls, 1 bullock, 8 lambs, 60 birds, 3 cranes, 7 ducks, 4 wild boars, 3 ostrich eggs, 3 duck eggs.”
[Source: http://www.dl.ket.org/humanities/connections/class/ancient/mesopreligion.htm]

Instead, He meets ours! “And He will love you, and bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your body, and the fruit of your land, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your oxen and the wealth of your flock, in the land which He has sworn to your fathers, to give it to you. You shall be blessed above all people; there shall not be a barren man or a barren woman among you, nor among your livestock. And Jehovah shall turn aside every sickness from you; and He will not put on you any of the evil diseases of Egypt, which you have known, but He will put them on all who hate you.” Deuteronomy 7:13-15 Literal Translation of the Holy Bible
29200701_mr3x3xrrr
557px-the_ark_of_the_covenant5. YHWH is accessible to all of His followers, not just the elite or the priests. “The higher-echelon did all the preparation, and private individuals only came into contact with the gods when statues of deities were brought out of the temple and carried through the streets.” [Source: http://www.dl.ket.org/humanities/connections/class/ancient/mesopreligion.htm]
29200701_mr3x3xrrr
6. YHWH cannot be controlled by man
Since the god fully identified with its idol, whoever controlled the idol also controlled the god. When the king of Elam saw that he was about to be defeated by Sennacherib, he took his idols and fled in order that they [the idols] should not fall captive… The custom of taking captive the idols of the vanquished was ancient and widespread… Rab-Shakeh wanted to impress upon the people of Judah the fact that the gods of the neighbouring nations failed to protect them from the armies of Sennacherib .(Isa. 36:18–20; 37:10–12) [Source:
https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0009_0_09475.html]

It was believed that once you had the idol, you controlled the god who would do your bidding if you appeased them. From there, any success would be possible. YHWH is completely resistant to manipulation. This is shown in Numbers 22 with Balaam who was ordered by the Moabite King, Balak, to curse the Israelites. “But Balaam responded to Balak’s messengers, “Even if Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the LORD [YHWH] my God.”
29200701_mr3x3xrrr
7. YHWH is not a God who has to retreat
When in enemies’ hands, the power of the idol vanished. The vanquished kings would come and beg for the return of the idols; to return an idol to his temple was considered an act of mercy. Because of his fear of the enemy, the god would leave the idol “and fly to the heavens” Jeremiah 50:1–3 makes reference to this belief). [Source: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0009_0_09475.html]

Our God rules over all and has no need of retreat, and no fear of man as He showed when He delivered His people from Pharaoh in Exodus, which David acknowledged when he said: “O LORD, there is no one like You. We have never even heard of another God like You! What other nation on earth is like Your people Israel? What other nation, O God, have You redeemed from slavery to be Your own people? You made a great name for Yourself when You redeemed Your people from Egypt. You performed awesome miracles and drove out the nations that stood in their way. You chose Israel to be Your very own people forever, and You, O LORD, became their God.” 1 Chronicles 17:20-22

Conclusion: “For who in all of heaven can compare with the LORD? What mightiest angel is anything like the LORD?” Psalm 89:6 How blessed we are.

29200701_mr3x3xrrr
Notes:
*Flood stories were recorded well after the event, so pagan cultures associated what occurred with their cultural beliefs at the time.


kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

The images in this post come from Wikimedia Commons and are CC BY-SA 4.0

When Kings Normally Go To War: Addressing A Potentially Unjustified Criticism of David

alba_bible_224v-sThis article used to be in included in Did King David Have Diabetes? It is a connected issue, but it has become sensible to split the topics, as my study is constantly leading me to enlarge on this area.

2 Samuel 11:1 says: ”In the spring of the year, a when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites.” This is typically taken as a criticism of David, and used as a means to warn us that idle hands make the Devil’s work. However, there is also a strong possibility that this verse is a time marker, rather than a criticism.

While we look back on life in David’s time as being far simpler, we know that the work of a King was as demanding as it is in modern times. 1000 BC was not the stone age. Kings didn’t only look after the security of their country, striding into war to fight heroic battles. Archaeology tells us that from at the very least, 1500 years before David, administration, record keeping, civil works and diplomatic activity was well established in David’s area of the world. He did not have the luxury of being an idle King, and if the records of the Kings of Judah were still in existence, there would be mountains of ‘paperwork’ to back that up.

It was not King David’s custom to attend to smaller battles and as a king, it was his right to choose not to at his discretion. Delegation is considered a wise leadership strategy and handing smaller military actions off to Joab, does not immediately make David’s actions erroneous. Unless he was needed for morale or strategy, his time may have been better used in Jerusalem; David may have been more derelict of duty to go to war than keep the country in order, depending on what was happening in Isra’el at that time.

ftufuygfuThere are also other possibilities. We do not have the full details of how his army was ordered. Was he waiting to be called in with a reinforcement division? Was he needed for security within the Jerusalem area? Or could David staying home have been because because he was ill and thus, too greater liability on the battlefield at that time? [Several years later, his men force him off the battlefield permanently, as he is weak and tired. Ref: 2 Samuel 21:15-17]

A realistic view of David’s involvements in battle is presented in the introduction to Psalm 60. At times, Joab and the army went out without David to begin or finish a battle, and this was normal and acceptable. “…and Joab returned and killed 12,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt.” Again, in 2 Samuel 2:12-17, Joab takes the army of Judah (David’s forces) into battle against northern Isra’el without David. I have not found any Biblical criticism of these actions.

The battle which the text is focussed on, had started in 2 Samuel 10. Joab took command of the first part, then in 10:6,7 when the Ammonites called in more reinforcements, David left for battle with more of his men. Cleaning up the entire mess took some time.

From Albert Barne’s commentary: “The language in the title “when Joab returned,” would seem to imply that these conquests were achieved not by David in person, but by Joab – a circumstance not at all improbable, as he was the leader of the armies of David; 2 Samuel 20:23, “Now Joab was over all the host of Israel.” …in the title to the psalm where it is ascribed to Joab, for though the battle may have been fought by Joab, yet it was really one of the victories of David, as Joab acted under him and by his orders – as we speak of the conquests of Napoleon, attributing to him the conquests which were secured by the armies under his command.”

12988ebNelsons New Illustrated Bible Manners and Customs: “Critics sometimes charge that David’s remaining in Jerusalem during the Ammonite war constituted a dereliction of duty. And he got into trouble with Bathsheba for shirking that duty. But that is not necessarily true. Kings did not always lead their forces into war… Moreover, the autocratic kings of the ancient Near East had so much administrative detail to attend to at home that they could not always handle both military and domestic affairs adequately.”

The biggest problem in understanding King David’s life is that there is so much detail and not enough detail! Explanations are housed in words which are easily missed in the text; plus as chapters sit end to end, timing is lost. The initial main purpose of writing this article was to encourage you to think outside the box on what circumstances and influences affected David. Human behaviour is complex, and from observing the events in our own life, we know that nothing is ever as cut and dried as it seems. One innocent incident can lead us into trouble, or we can cut a hard path to sin for ourselves by making poor choices. In the same way that we would want to be given the benefit of the doubt in regards to what led to our mistakes, David deserves the same open-minded treatment.

Notes:
– King David’s Health: Diabetes, VD and his Probable Cause of Death
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32037
– Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes, © 1834
– Nelsons New Illustrated Bible Manners and Customs, Dr Howard E Vos, © 1999


kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

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.

David, His Enemies and Vengeance: Psalm 109 “The Iscariot Psalm”

vending machineThis article is going to take an interesting look at how interpretations of Scripture can vary wildly; and suggest with respect, that if you wish to understand any part of the word of God: read, read, read and don’t just accept the first explanation placed in front of you. In this case, don’t just accept the second either!

The psalm in question is Psalm 109.

“To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.
O God of my praise, do not be silent;
for the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me; they spoke against me with a lying tongue.
And they surrounded me with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause.
For my love they are my foes; but I am in prayer.
And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
Set a wicked man over him; and let an adversary stand at his right hand,
when he is judged, let him be condemned; and let his prayer become sin.
Let his days be few; let another take his office.
Let his sons be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
Let his sons always beg and be vagabonds, and seek food out of their ruins.
Let the money-lender lay a snare for all that is his; and let strangers take the fruit of his labor.
Let there be none to give mercy to him; nor any to favour his fatherless children.
Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.
Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered to Jehovah; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.
Let them be always before Jehovah, that He may cut off their memory from the earth,
because he did not remember to do mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, and sought to kill the broken-hearted.
Yea, he loved cursing, so let it come to him; he delighted not in blessing, and it was far from him.
As he clothed himself with cursing, as with his robe, so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones.
Let it be to him as the robe which covers him, and for a girdle with which he is always clothed.
This is the reward of my foes from Jehovah, and of them who speak evil against my soul.
But You, Lord Jehovah, deal kindly with me for Your name’s sake; because Your mercy is good, deliver me.
For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
As a shadow when it is stretched out, I am gone; I am shaken off like the locust.
My knees stumble from fasting; and my flesh is losing its fatness.
And I became a shame to them; they looked on me; they shook their heads.
Help me, O Jehovah my God; save me according to Your mercy;
and they will know that this is Your hand; that You, Jehovah, have done it.
They will curse, but You will bless; they arise, and are ashamed; but let Your servant rejoice.
Let my foes be clothed with shame, and let them cover themselves with their own shame, as with a cloak.
will greatly praise Jehovah with my mouth; yea, I will praise Him among the multitude.
For He shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those who condemn his soul.”     [Modern King James Version]

2015-01-20_13-53-02_01My first introduction to the Psalm came from Charles Spurgeon’s “A Treasury of David,” which shows not only Spurgeon’s thoughts, but interpretations from other commentators. This is what Spurgeon had to say: “Not the ravings of a vicious misanthrope, or the execrations of a hot, revengeful spirit, David would not smite the man who sought his blood, he frequently forgave those who treated him shamefully; and therefore these words cannot be read in a bitter revengeful sense, for that would be foreign to the character of the son of Jesse. The imprecatory sentences before us were penned by one who with all his courage in battle was a man of music and tender heart, and they were meant to be addressed to God in the form of a Psalm, and therefore they cannot possibly have been meant to be mere angry cursing… one author has ventured to call [it] “a pitiless hate, a refined and insatiable malignity.” To such a suggestion we cannot give place… Truly this is one of the hard places of Scripture, a passage which the soul trembles to read; yet as it is a Psalm unto God, and given by inspiration, it is not ours to sit in judgement upon it, but to bow our ear to what God the Lord would speak to us therein…”

From there, things went in a few different directions which baffled me.

J.J. Stewart: “The language has been justified, not as the language of David, but as the language of Christ, exercising His office of Judge… It has been alleged that this is the prophetic foreshadowing of the words, “Woe unto that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born.” [Ref: Matthew 26:24]

There were a number of commentaries which spoke along those lines, of David penning the holy, zealous, powerful words of a prophet, which absolutely had to be about Judas Iscariot betraying Jesus. I was wondering whether or not I should believe them, as while David did pen several Messianic, prophetic Psalms, this didn’t sound like one of them. To me, this sounded too much like the other Psalms where David was facing a very steep challenge. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary helped me think clearly again.

“The combination of devout meekness and trust with the fiery imprecations in the core of the psalm is startling to Christian consciousness, and calls for an effort of “historical imagination” to deal with it fairly. The attempts to attenuate the difficulty, either by making out that the wishes are not wishes, but prophecies of the fate of evildoers, or that Psa 109:6-20 are the psalmist’s quotation of his enemies’ wishes about him, or that the whole is Messianic prediction of the fate of Judas or of the enemies of the Christ, are too obviously makeshifts. It is far better to recognise the discordance between the temper of the psalmist and that enjoined by Christ than to try to cover it over. Our Lord Himself has signalised the difference between His teaching and that addressed to “them of old time” on the very point of forgiveness of enemies, and we are but following His guidance when we recognise that the psalmist’s mood is distinctly inferior to that which has now become the law for devout men.”

That, I agreed with wholeheartedly! It seems it is easy to try and smother parts of Scripture which make us squirm, by falling into analysis paralysis. We add in a sweeter meaning, to dodge the hard realities of human emotion. Psychology is often criticised for going too deep, making mountains out of mole hills and over analysing things to depth. As theology is based on human nature (like it or not,) it can readily fall into the same trap.

As for me, I think this comes from righteous anger when an injustice has been done to an exhausted man, who has had a hard life. David has just had enough and has reacted in a very human manner; not a perfect one, but a genuine one and we’ve all done the same.

Ashalim_stream_(Nahal_Ashalim),_Judean_Desert,_Israel_(1)F.B. Meyer: “This psalm is like a patch of the Sahara amid a smiling Eden. But, terrible as the words are, remember that they were written by the man who, on two occasions, spared the life of his persecutor, and who, when the field of Gilboa was wet with Saul’s life-blood, sang the loveliest of elegiacs to his memory. These maledictions do not express personal vindictiveness. Probably they should be read as depicting the doom of the wrong-doer.”

From all the study I have done on David and his culture over the past few hears, what I read in this Psalm is in line with the beliefs that David had: that enemies receive their judgement when alive, as there was no concept of a final judgement, so he had every right under the Torah to call for such extreme actions to be taken against them. It makes far more logical sense to interpret it in line with the mindset of David’s time, than to jump to a sophisticated, theological conclusion.

This Psalm is also very much in line with what we know of the culture of the day, in that as long as prayer was accompanied by praise, you could be brutally honest with God and it was far more than acceptable to do so. It was an act of supreme faith.

I ‘d like to finish with Matthew Henry’s conclusion, which gives us something beautiful to take away from this Psalm: “It is the unspeakable comfort of all good people that, whoever is against them, God is for them.”
29200701_mr3x3xrrr
See also:
~ How Gentle Kings Become Killers: David as a Warrior and Psalmist
~ Boldly Approaching God: The Example of David


kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

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.

Boldly Approaching God: The Example of David

baldhonestfaithWe are familiar with Hebrews 4:16: “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most;” and Ephesians 3:12: “Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence;” but what you may not know, is that boldness before God isn’t a New Testament privilege that arrived with Jesus.

This confident attitude in approaching God is evident in how David communicates with the Lord, and was also seen in Moses, Job and other Psalmists. It may look a little disrespectful sometimes, but it is a hallmark of a dynamic, covenant relationship with God.

“I cried out to you, O LORD.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
“What will You gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise You?
Can it tell of Your faithfulness?
Hear me, LORD, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O LORD.” Psalm 30:8-10 (See also Psalm 44 by the Sons of Korah)

I didn’t know about these ancient roots of boldness, until I read “Worship in Ancient Israel,” by Walter Brueggemann. On page 46-47 he writes: “Isra’el also engaged in truth telling about its life with YHWH in confession, lament and protest… Isra’el was not a submissive, second-rate player, but was a full, vigorous partner to YHWH with an unapologetic presence and an unembarrassed voice that refused to be silenced or cowed… Isra’el refuses to submit too readily to YHWH’s sovereignty when that sovereignty was seen to be unfaithful; in such circumstances, Isra’el instead of submitting, made a claim for itself against YHWH.”

Page 49: “Such speech, in its rawness, is in fact an expression of great faith; it expresses deep conviction that when YHWH is mobilised in order to honour YHWH’s covenantal commitments to Isra’el, YHWH has full capacity and power to right any situation or wrong. Thus the voice of protest and rage is characteristically in the service of plea and partition to YHWH.”

705424

I agree with Professor Brueggemann that calling God to action like this can seem irreverent. However, David is never rebuked by God for being too direct. God could destroy him for speaking out, but as David’s boldness is coupled with praise and dependence on God for help, He doesn’t. It seems that those without the faith to get in God’s face and speak their mind lose, and those with the faith to be bold, win. Honesty with God obviously pays off.

“Protect me! Rescue my life from them!
Do not let me be disgraced, for in You I take refuge.
May integrity and honesty protect me,
for I put my hope in You.” Psalm 25:20-21

Calling on God is submissive, rather than subversive. David could have taken his problems into his own hands and dealt with his enemies by the sword. Instead, he persisted in knocking on God’s door, and his perseverance got him a better answer.

If you study the Psalms, you will find that his entreaties to God are also tempered by praise and a promise to make an offering to God when deliverance has been granted. God gets His due recognition, gratitude and with David, the testimony of what God had done is also shared among the people via a Psalm, to encourage them as well. David’s brave, bold faith benefitted many people, including us today.

“Declare me innocent, O God!
Defend me against these ungodly people.
Rescue me from these unjust liars…”
verse 4: “Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God—the source of all my joy.
I will praise You with my harp,
O God, my God!
Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise Him again—
my Saviour and my God!” Psalm 43:1 and 4-5 (Also see Psalm 66:13-15)

So are there limits to how bold we can be? Yes; the limits begin if we abuse the Lord, blame Him for our problems, or in short, cease to address Him with any attitude that doesn’t demonstrate the *fruit of the Spirit. He is merciful and patient, but He is neither a scapegoat, nor a punching bag. Respect is absolutely always called for, in every situation and praise absolutely must accompany these kinds of prayers. Submission is always a requirement.

There are times when like David, regardless of the trouble we are in and how urgent it is, we just have to wait patiently for an answer and keep hoping in the Lord. There are other times when due to complications, such as the effect of other’s free will on our circumstances, God can’t do as we ask, and we have to submit to His authority and wisdom, like it or not. Plus there are times when we’re wrong. Our ‘fix it’ answer was a poor one. In all these conditions we need to adopt the humble attitude Job had when he said:
“I know that You can do anything,
and no one can stop You.
You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’
It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,
things far too wonderful for me.” Job 42:2-3
Despite how humbled he is, Job still has the courage to front up and reply to the Lord.

So the next time you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to be honest with God. He already knows every detail of your circumstances and feelings. so hiding what is really going on is impossible. The Lord has promised to **bless us with every spiritual blessing. We are ***beloved, treasured heirs with Christ, and He will always ****be on our side to help us through every trial and battle. Tell Him how you feel and ask for help… And don’t stop asking and seeking Him. You’re not crossing a line, you’re building your faith and a better, active relationship with Him.

29200701_mr3x3xrrr

References:
Worship in Ancient Israel: An Essential Guide,” by Walter Brueggemann, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005.  ISBN: 0-687-34336-4. (Academically, theologically worded and not easy to read for the average person, but if you can get through the wording it is a massive blessing. I learned so much which reflected on my relationship with the Lord and encouraged me.)

*The fruit of the Spirit: Galatians 5:22-23
**Every spiritual blessing: Ephesians 1:3
***Beloved joint heirs: Romans 8:15-17
****By our side: Deuteronomy 31:8 and Hebrews 13:5

Re: Psalm 43:4: “Then I will go to the altar of God…” This may refer to David planning to go to the tabernacle to give a peace offering as thanks, as per Leviticus 7:11-15.

Moses’ honesty with God can be seen here: “Moses heard all the families standing in the doorways of their tents whining, and the LORD became extremely angry. Moses was also very aggravated. And Moses said to the LORD, “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people? Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favour and spare me this misery!” Numbers 11:10-15


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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.

King David’s Diplomacy: Manipulative or Spirit Driven?

donotjudgeLearning about King David has been a continual reminder to never judge, especially as no matter how much I have studied, because David’s life is presented as a series of anecdotes, I will never have all the facts. I look at some of David’s actions as a leader and I honestly don’t know whether to trust him, call him a schemer, or give him the benefit of the doubt, as maybe he was doing the right thing? In some cases it did seem like David was doing the only right thing that could be done; the problem is, as he lied in some incidents leading up to pivotal events, he’s given me reason to doubt his character. Without knowing what he was thinking, his motives can look suspicious.

The text which makes me doubt him the *most is at the beginning of 2 Samuel. King Ishbosheth’s Captain, Abner, is murdered by Joab, the Philistines have killed Saul and Jonathan and Isra’el is divided by civil war. Ishbosheth rules the north and David, Judah, in the south. Both kingdoms must come together, and angered by Ishbosheth, Abner decides he will make David King of all.

“Meanwhile, Abner had consulted with the elders of Israel. “For some time now,” he told them, “you have wanted to make David your king. Now is the time! For the LORD has said, ‘I have chosen David to save my people Israel from the hands of the Philistines and from all their other enemies.’” Abner also spoke with the men of Benjamin. Then he went to Hebron to tell David that all the people of Israel and Benjamin had agreed to support him.” 2 Samuel 3:17-19

Abner is not the kind of man you want to trust, but David had to, and did. However, dirty business had gone on in the background between Joab’s brothers and Abner, and at a critical point, Joab murdered Abner in cold blood, in revenge for killing his brother Asahel. [Ref. 1 Samuel 2 and 3]

Quite rightly, David was angry. That murder opened the way for David to be made King of all of Isra’el and he could easily have been blamed for the murder. So he makes a smart move:
“Then David said to Joab and all those who were with him, “Tear your clothes and put on burlap. Mourn for Abner.” And King David himself walked behind the procession to the grave. They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king and all the people wept at his graveside. Then the king sang this funeral song for Abner:
“Should Abner have died as fools die?
Your hands were not bound;
your feet were not chained.
No, you were murdered—
the victim of a wicked plot.”
All the people wept again for Abner. David had refused to eat anything on the day of the funeral, and now everyone begged him to eat. But David had made a vow, saying, “May God strike me and even kill me if I eat anything before sundown.”
This pleased the people very much. In fact, everything the king did pleased them! So everyone in Judah and all Israel understood that David was not responsible for Abner’s murder.
Then King David said to his officials, “Don’t you realize that a great commander has fallen today in Israel? And even though I am the anointed king, these two sons of Zeruiah—Joab and Abishai—are too strong for me to control. So may the LORD repay these evil men for their evil deeds.” 2 Samuel 3:31-39

So, how genuine do you think David’s grief was? It does appear that it could have been wholly politically motivated. However, remember that most of the story is missing.

  1. Could David have fought alongside Abner when they were both in Saul’s army? Battlefields make for deep bonds and who knows, one of them could have saved the other’s life. Their relationship is completely unknown other than a few brief conversations.
  2. There is an old tradition within military circles which goes back to ancient times: even if you don’t like someone in authority, you salute them as you respect their rank, regardless of what you think of the man. This could have applied and would reflect well on David’s character.
  3. We don’t know what Abner’s military service record was. He could have been a great hero of the nation, deserving the utmost respect. To be a commander in Saul’s army he would have been a brave man and an excellent warrior. David may be rightfully honouring that.
  4. Showing kindness to someone by respecting their reputation is always an excellent move.

yhryhrDavid did what was culturally right, what was politically right, what was Scripturally right and what also saved his hide. Whichever way your opinion of David’s actions sways, his actions were a win and were overwhelmingly approved by the people. He was God’s choice for the throne and this event soon after enabled the Lord’s Will to be put in place.

Shortly after, Ishbosheth was murdered in his bed, a cowardly act which also enraged David. That was a dishonourable way to dethrone a king, especially as his murderers then went to David wanting favour for handing him the northern kingdom. David correctly had these traitors immediately put to death. [Ref: 2 Samuel 4]

Whatever you think of David, he was an excellent leader who was congenial, righteous and popular with the people; and when the scales were balanced, “the LORD made David victorious wherever he went….David reigned over all Israel and did what was just and right for all his people.” 2 Samuel 8:14b-15 Unless his heart was in the right place and he was acting correctly under God’s favour, that would not have been the case.

29200701_mr3x3xrrr

*David mourned Saul and Jonathan in a similar, appropriate manner (regardless of what he must have thought of Saul,) in the Song of the Bow. [2 Samuel 1] This is the other act of diplomacy which has me wondering exactly what motivated David to say words like these:
“O women of Israel, weep for Saul,
for he dressed you in luxurious scarlet clothing,
in garments decorated with gold.
Oh, how the mighty heroes have fallen in battle!
Jonathan lies dead on the hills.” 1 Samuel 1:24-25


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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.

Why So Many Wives? King David and Polygamy

legitsonsThroughout many cultures and time periods, the acceptable marriage standards have changed due to the necessity of providing for the children, the rights of women and to ensure the maintenance of the family line. Why the Bible allows polygamy is a common question I see asked around the Internet. That question is closely followed by why did King David get away with having so many wives and concubines? This page answers those questions from an objective, sociological and psychological viewpoint.

Polygamy is currently considered unacceptable throughout the western world, even though our ancestors relied on it for survival. It is criticised as through the eyes of our first world culture because we see it as:

– a means of increasing gender inequality;
– patriarchal behaviour which may involve favouritism and children being given less nurturing than they deserve due to their numbers;
– narcissistic, sexual greed;
– an impractical lifestyle placing too great an economic burden on the welfare State or the family, due to the high cost of raising families in cities and towns;
– a source of conflict, jealousy and unhappiness to the wives and
– open to abuse by a dominant, head wife who controls all lesser wives under her.

For a man to take multiple wives in our modern nations, the above indeed, could be considered a serious problem, plus you have demographic issues arising from women gravitating towards high status males with secure economic standing, or being monopolised by those males, which leaves the ‘lesser’ men unable to find life partners. That leads to complex social problems.

It is also worth noting that polygamy was not bigamy in Biblical times. Bigamy only occurs when current, western marriage laws are broken. The godly, Biblical patriarchs were polygamists and the Lord blessed them with the command to be fruitful and multiply.

However, in a great many parts of the world, polygamy is still the norm, especially where cultures rely on agriculture and having many children and many wives, enhances the ability of all members of the family to survive famine, drought, natural disasters, maternal, infant and child mortality rates, disease, war and misfortune. The strength of an extended family also means that regardless of health or disaster, there will always be someone else to shoulder a wife’s household tasks, care for her children (particularly if the parent is ill or deceased) and be there as part of a loving family community. In everyday life, that can be a great asset which would reduce our cultural epidemic of loneliness.

Studying at the survival statistics in Africa, an example of what the health and living conditions in King David’s time would have been like, the results are harsh and heart breaking. Roughly speaking, one in forty-eight women had a chance of dying in childbirth. The younger the woman was (under fifteen years of age), the greater chance of that happening. Women who had child, after child with little break could also suffer maternal depletion syndrome, as their bodies did not have the diet or recovery time to rejuvenate after pregnancies. Again, this leads to serious health problems and often, death. In addition, it was very common for women to suffer illness or injury because of childbirth, even if they survived the process, so again, there is loss of life and the need for other members of a strong, extended family to be able to step in and assist with bringing up existing children.

One in seven women would have also suffered complications in childbirth. Common complications include bleeding, infection (remember, there were no antibiotics, so simple issues had dire consequences), and obstructions such as breech deliveries. It is without doubt that King David would have lost multiple wives to problems arising from childbirth, so when looking at his family tree, keep it in mind that not all of these women would have lived.

If a child successfully made it’s way into the world, they are a great risk of dying within the first forty-eight hours. Depending on what statistics you read, at a conservative estimate, 30% – 40% or more of children would not make it to adolescence. This could be because of birth defects, malnutrition, malaria, smallpox and other childhood diseases, accidents etc. In short, it is obvious that for any family to survive, the best option is to reproduce in high numbers. One psychological study likened it to the animal kingdom, where most species have multiple mates as higher numbers mean greater success.

16790356_sSo this brings us then to the Biblical question, did David have too many wives? The prophet Nathan had indicated that the number of wives David had, were not a problem to the Lord. [2 Samuel 12:80] They had never turned his heart away from God, as happened with Solomon. However, there were consequences of taking that many wives and concubines. Whilst marrying the wives and concubines (secondary, lower status wives) gave all the women and children a secure economically sound home, we do see the example of how the demands of Kingship and fatherhood led to less than perfect parenting by King David.

1 Kings 1:5-6 tells us: “About that time David’s son Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, began boasting, “I will make myself king.” So he provided himself with chariots and charioteers and recruited fifty men to run in front of him. Now his father, King David, had never disciplined him at any time, even by asking, “Why are you doing that?” Adonijah had been born next after Absalom, and he was very handsome.” This illustrates the potential problems.

Within any relationship there are conflicts and joys. The greater the number of wives and children, the more room there is to smother, or hide from the need for problem resolution. The addition of each new wife and concubine would also alter the ‘pecking order’ and security of current wives, which could create a slew of problems. I cannot see it as a perfect system, but then, neither is monogamy. Jealousy, extramarital affairs, conflicts and child rearing issues are massive complications within both systems. For any family to work, a solid set of faith-based, moral values and behaviour which is firmly grounded in the *fruit of the Spirit is critical for any form of success.

*Galatians 5:22-23

29200701_mr3x3xrrr

Recommended Reading:

– Childbirth in Developing Countries: http://www.worldpress.org/africa/3834.cfm
– Mortality, Childbirth from the Encyclopaedia of Death and Dying: http://www.deathreference.com/Me-Nu/Mortality-Childbirth.html
– Infant Mortality in The Land of Israel in Late Antiquity: https://faculty.biu.ac.il/~barilm/infant.html
– Wedding and Marriage Customs in the Bible: http://www.bible.ca/marriage/ancient-jewish-three-stage-weddings-and-marriage-customs-ceremony-in-the-bible.htm
– Ancient Jewish Marriage from My Jewish Learning: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/ancient-jewish-marriage/
– Why Did the Lord Allow Men to Have Concubines? http://www.ukapologetics.net/concubine.html
– Concubine: Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary: http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/concubine.html
– World Health Organisation, Maternal Mortality: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs348/en/
– World Health Organisation, Child Mortality: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs178/en/
– Psychology Today on Polygamy: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-human-beast/201210/the-three-reasons-polygamy


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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.