There’s a curious double killing in 1 Samuel 17:50-51.
50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.
1 Samuel 17:50-51
At first this looks like clumsy editing (the ignorant refactor blunders again, in his obsessive need to keep sources he wrecks the narrative flow, once again – fortunately Altar and others have taught us to credit the reactor with a little more sense).
Instead, the careful reader is faced with a question – why did Goliath get killed twice? Surely once is enough.
There are a few theories. The first is that the blow from the stone merely stunned Goliath, the second blow was the one that really killed him. That seems to be the sense of verse 49. The the first blow caused him to fall. But verse 50 seems to stop us going down this route. It’s there to say “no, that one stone was enough; that was all he needed to prevail, and by the way he didn’t need a sword.” There is a whole anti-sword thing going on in this chapter – it’s most prominent in verse 38, where David refuses Saul’s sword. The whole point of the chapter is that the world of armies, and kingly posturing, and armour isn’t going to work for Israel. She’s already tried this with Saul and it’s not been going well. If Israel wants to play the human power game, the game of militarism and weapon acquisition then it’s going to fail. It will fail because it will always meet a Goliath, and it will fail because an over-reliance on technology creates an army of cowards, who don’t know how to trust in God because all they know is the power of technology. There is a quote from a French General which I can’t source who I am sure said of the Americans during the Bosnian war (when the Americans could kill from a distance through their technology) “what kind of soldiers are these who no longer look upon the eyes of their enemy” (similar points are made here).
I got this off a Facebook thread which had degenerated into irritating and patronising jibes between believers and atheists (it hadn’t started there, it was a really moving post from a pastor who had lost their faith). This was a quote about an atheist at a funeral.
It struck me because it thinks it’s moving and beautiful. The death in universe where energy is conserved is rather beautiful. It’s not, it’s awful, too often dreadful. I don’t care about the photons and the laws of thermodynamics. I want them back. I care that they are less orderly, that’s the bit I liked, that’s the bit I mourn.
It’s one of these posts that defeats itself, because all the time you know you don’t want any physicist showing up at a funeral and saying these things. You realise how utterly crass that would be.
And there is another subtle thing there. It has to be the physicist who says this. This is the creeping elitism of so much of the new atheism, that you have to be really clever to get it, that the clever people are the ones who get it and everyone else really ought to just bow the knee at their superior intelligence, it’s a Church which worships IQ. I am reminded that I would rather have the country run by the first 2000 names in the Boston telephone directory than by Harvard faculty. Those guys are the new priests.
Here’s the quote:
You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.
Spiritual But Not Religious
This is Tom Shakespeare – interesting things on the benefits of religion, and that spirituality without religion can be fairly harmful. We need discipline and we need community, which kind of flies in the face of the culture I highlighted in the Scotsman.
Letters to a dying Church
This is from Sojourners, “to a dying Church”. Which kind of reads like “you are dying, so could you just do the things I would like you to do”, but it could also be “you are dying, so give up on the self preservation.
I liked the things that alternatives you have – denial, shoot the messenger, curl up in a ball – are the ones that we often go for.
Censoring The Genocide
We will probably no be saying a whole lot about the Herod and the massacare of the infants on Sunday. Children will be present and recounting the story will be too painful. Having children of my own I now realise that the pain is not because the children can’t take it. Our conversations are full of death and massacare, swords, murder and occasionally even infanticide. A regular conclusion in argument is that the baddies need to be killed.
We were with friends from Germany yesterday who were explaining that our Teutonic cousins are not so enthralled with the cult of celebrity (“celebrity” is the new “class” said Stephen Merchant in a recent interview). Christmas viewing for them was a three hour quiz in which children and parents answered questions relating to the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm. Their fairy stories are apparantly more macabre in the original. English translations of Cinderella omit the cosmetic surgery (toes and heels are cut off as the ugly sisters attempt to fit into the glass slipper) that is enjoyed at German bedtime.
It seems we have performed similar amputations on the Christmas narrative.
However I do not think that the censorship of Bethlehem massacares is about protecting children; it’s about the squeamishness of adults hearing such things in their children’s presence (like watching romance with your parents in the room).
So for reasons of adult embarassment we will make much of camels, myrrh and franckincense and Rachel will weep for her children alone.