100 Days of Royal Intrigue: The Good Book Club, Summer 2021
From May 24 to Aug. 31, our Good Book Club will read 1 and 2 Samuel to learn about the rise of kingship in ancient Israel and hear the story of King David, who set the bar for all later Jewish kings. In telling this history, these books include several famous stories we may have heard outside their broader context, such as the call of Samuel the prophet, David fighting the giant Goliath, David and Bathsheba, and Absalom’s rebellion against David, his father. But uniting those episodes is a narrative that asks what faithful political leadership looks like and shows how God uses misguided desires and imperfect people to help bring about God’s purposes. Each day, you’ll get a text or email with a brief summary of the daily reading, along with a link to that day’s verses. To sign up, just email Fr. John.
Here’s a complete list of the daily readings with links to the text.
It helps to set this story is its larger history. Somewhere around 1300 BCE, Moses brought the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt to a new land God would provide for them, as told in the Book of Exodus. They wandered in the desert wilderness for about 40 years before arriving at the edge of this promised land of Canaan. Moses died before the people entered the land, but the Book of Deuteronomy offers his final teaching about being faithful to Yahweh in this new setting. The Book of Joshua tells of the Israelites taking the land of Canaan from its inhabitants, setting the stage for generations of warfare, down to the present day. Once in the land, the 12 tribes of the Israelites were led and governed by a series of military and political leaders known as judges (those 200 years are described in the Book of Judges). In that period, the people understood themselves to be led differently than most nations. For the Israelites, Yahweh was king, ruling directly through the judges; and that model of leadership was part of what set the Israelites apart as God’s holy people. In the Book First Book of Samuel, we see the people turning away from this model (around 1025 BCE) and seeking to be like the other nations, governed by kings. God warns against it, but the people insist. Thus the die is cast for Israel’s political history – from the unity of David and the glory of Solomon to the progressive decline in righteousness (from the perspective of the writers) that leads to the nation’s division, as well as its destruction and exile in the 700s and 500s BCE.
The two books of Samuel were once a single work and are intended to be read that way. They tell of the period of transition between the rule of the judges to a monarchy; the rise and reign of Saul, Israel’s first (and troubled) king; the rise of David from shepherd to giant killer to monarch; David’s reign and unification of the northern and southern regions (Israel and Judah) into a kingdom centered in Jerusalem; David’s wars and abuses of power; and his conflicts with his sons, especially Absalom, who leads a rebellion against him. The story moves back and forth from close up to wide angle, using the brokenness of the main actors to illustrate the struggle of God’s people to be faithful to Yahweh’s purposes rather than their own.