1 Samuel 26:2, 7 – 9, 12 – 13, 22 – 23
We hear from the First Book of Samuel this Sunday. It is one of the Historical Books. We haven’t heard from it for a long time, so let’s review it a little. It is the first of the Historical Books, which present the history of Israel from the time of Samuel to the Maccabees, from approximately 1000 to 100BC. Of course, it is important to remember that histories in those days did not serve the same purpose as our history books today do. Today, we expect a history book to report, with some objectivity, the important events of the period the book purports to cover. In the ancient Near East, however, these books were written to glorify the king. In the Bible, we find that these books glorify God. The book, in its present form, is the result of a great deal of redaction over the years from the time the events occurred to the time it was presented in its final form. Anyone who would attribute the books to Samuel need merely read 25:1 to see that this is hardly possible.
1 + 2 Samuel originally formed a single book. The LXX apparently divided them into two books, labeling them 1 + 2 Kingdoms; the present-day 1 + 2 Kings were labelled 3 + 4 Kingdoms. The Vulgate translated the continued this division, but slowly the word “Kingdoms” was abbreviated to “Kings.” Since the 15th century, however, the present division into 1 + 2 Samuel and 1 + 2 Kingdoms has prevailed.
The section we will hear on Sunday is again selected in preparation for the Gospel. To fully understand it, however, we do well to read 1 Sm 18; this will let us understand the origin of the animosity that Saul had toward David. Before reading Sunday’s passage, let’s read chapter 24; clearly, the chapter we will hear on Sunday is a doublet, possibly from another oral tradition (cf. map 4 for location of Engedi on the western border of the Salt Sea, Ziph on the southwestern edge of the map and Gibeah a little northwest of Jerusalem; Hachilah is not shown but is believed to be a little east of Ziph).
Let’s read the entire passage for a fuller understanding of the event:
1 Men from Ziph came to Saul in Gibeah, reporting that David was hiding on the hill of Hachilah at the edge of the wasteland.
2 So Saul went off down to the desert of Ziph with three thousand picked men of Israel, to search for David in the desert of Ziph.
3 Saul camped beside the road on the hill of Hachilah, at the edge of the wasteland. David, who was living in the desert, saw that Saul had come into the desert after him
4 and sent out scouts, who confirmed Saul’s arrival.
5 David himself then went to the place where Saul was encamped and examined the spot where Saul and Abner, son of Ner, the general, had their sleeping quarters. Saul’s were within the barricade, and all his soldiers were camped around him.
6 David asked Ahimelech the Hittite, and Abishai, son of Zeruiah and brother of Joab, “Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?” Abishai replied, “I will.”
7 So David and Abishai went among Saul’s soldiers by night and found Saul lying asleep within the barricade, with his spear thrust into the ground at his head and Abner and his men sleeping around him.
8 Abishai whispered to David: “God has delivered your enemy into your grasp this day. Let me nail him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I will not need a second thrust!”
9 But David said to Abishai, “Do not harm him, for who can lay hands on the LORD’S anointed and remain unpunished?
10 As the LORD lives,” David continued, “it must be the LORD himself who will strike him, whether the time comes for him to die, or he goes out and perishes in battle.
11 But the LORD forbid that I touch his anointed! Now take the spear which is at his head and the water jug, and let us be on our way.”
12 So David took the spear and the water jug from their place at Saul’s head, and they got away without anyone’s seeing or knowing or awakening. All remained asleep, because the LORD had put them into a deep slumber.
13 Going across to an opposite slope, David stood on a remote hilltop at a great distance from Abner, son of Ner, and the troops.
14 He then shouted, “Will you not answer, Abner?” And Abner answered, “Who is it that calls me?”
15 David said to Abner: “Are you not a man whose like does not exist in Israel? Why, then, have you not guarded your lord the king when one of his subjects went to kill the king, your lord?
16 This is no creditable service you have performed. As the LORD lives, you people deserve death because you have not guarded your lord, the LORD’S anointed. Go, look: where are the king’s spear and the water jug that was at his head?”
17 Saul recognized David’s voice and asked, “Is that your voice, my son David?” David answered, “Yes, my lord the king.”
18 He continued: “Why does my lord pursue his servant? What have I done? What evil do I plan?
19 Please, now, let my lord the king listen to the words of his servant. If the LORD has incited you against me, let an offering appease him; but if men, may they be cursed before the LORD, because they have exiled me so that this day I have no share in the LORD’S inheritance, but am told: ‘Go serve other gods!’
The Lord’s inheritance: the land of Israel (Deut 32:8-9) under the Lord’s special protection, where he could be freely worshiped. David interprets his exile from Israel as forced exile from Yahweh, equivalent to “serve other gods.”
20 Do not let my blood flow to the ground far from the presence of the LORD. For the king of Israel has come out to seek a single flea as if he were hunting partridge in the mountains.”
21 Then Saul said: “I have done wrong. Come back, my son David, I will not harm you again, because you have held my life precious today. Indeed, I have been a fool and have made a serious mistake.”
22 But David answered: “Here is the king’s spear. Let an attendant come over to get it.
23 The LORD will reward each man for his justice and faithfulness. Today, though the LORD delivered you into my grasp, I would not harm the LORD’S anointed.
24 As I valued your life highly today, so may the LORD value my life highly and deliver me from all difficulties.”
25 Then Saul said to David: “Blessed are you, my son David! You shall certainly succeed in whatever you undertake.” David went his way, and Saul returned to his home.
Here, we read a very powerful account of forgiveness. Saul has been trying to kill David but, rather than killing Saul in self-defense, he forgives him. Clearly, this passage prepares us for Jesus’ very challenging teaching in Sunday’s gospel passage.
Luke 6:27 – 38
We continue to hear from the Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel of Luke, picking up exactly where we left off last week. Here, we hear Jesus extol the virtue that David lived in not killing his mortal enemy, Saul. Before reading this Sunday’s reading, let’s read its companion verses in Matthew: 5:43 – 48; 7:1 – 5, 12, and the accompanying footnotes.
27 “But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
But to you who hear I say: Luke has Jesus return his attention to his disciples after hurling his woes at those who were persecuting them in vss. 24 -26. He now gives clear examples of how to receive the blessings he first presented in vss. 20 -23.
28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
29 To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.
30 Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.
love your enemies: cf. Rom 12:9-14, 20-21; 1 Cor 4:9-12; 1 Pt 3:8-12; 1 Jn 3:11-18. It is clear that the early Christian community grasped the importance of this teaching.
31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Do to others: The Golden Rule is found in a negative form in Tob 4:15, as well as in Greek authors such as Philo and Confusius. Both Mark and Matthew make it a more powerful, positive statement.
32 For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.
Sinners: compare to Matthew’s publicans and Gentiles. Luke is more tactful than Matthew, whose Jewish Christian audience would have looked down on the publicans and Gentiles.
33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.
34 If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit (is) that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount.
35 But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
36 Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful.
Be merciful: compare Matthew’s “be perfect.” In the Old Testament, mercy is attributed to God, rarely to men, while perfection is a goal to be sought by men.
37 “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Stop judging: cf. Mt 7:1 – 5, 15:14.
38 Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
Measure: the word that Luke uses is the capacity of one’s generosity, whereas Matthew uses it as a standard of judgment.
into your lap: that is, the fold of a garment that hangs over the belt. This speaks of the abundance to kindness that God will show those who are merciful.
It is easy to see the link between the first reading and the Gospel. David was merciful to his archenemy, Saul, sparing his life. Of course, David killed thousands of other enemies, and he spared Saul because he believed him to be a sacred person, anointed king of Israel. We are called to see all people – including our enemies – as sacred people, for we are all created in the image and likeness of God.
1 Corinthians 15:45 – 49
We continue to hear from Paul’s letter to the Christian community in Corinth. We heard him last week speak of the resurrection of the dead. Next, he makes a distinction between the physical body – ψιχέ – and the spiritual body – πνευμα. Finally, he compares Adam with Jesus, the source of physical life with the source of spiritual life.
45 So, too, it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being,” the last Adam a life-giving spirit.
Adam, became a living being: The analogy of the first man, Adam, is introduced by a citation from Genesis 2:7. Paul alters the text slightly, adding the adjective first, and translating the Hebrew adam twice, so as to give it its value both as a common noun (man) and as a proper name (Adam). 1 Cor 15:45b then specifies similarities and differences between the two Adams. The last Adam, Christ (cf 1 Cor 15:21-22) has become a . . . spirit (pneuma), a life-principle transcendent with respect to the natural soul (psyche) of the first Adam (on the terminology here, cf the note on 1 Cor 3:1). Further, he is not just alive, but life-giving, a source of life for others.
46 But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritual.
47 The first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven.
48 As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly.
earthly one… heavenly one: from the first man – Adam – humanity inherited a mortal and corruptible body; from the heavenly man – the glorified Christ – the baptized inherit his an incorruptible body.
49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.
We shall also bear the image: although it has less manuscript support, this reading better fits the context’s emphasis on futurity and the transforming action of God; on future transformation as conformity to the image of the Son, cf Romans 8:29; Phil 3:21. The majority reading, “let us bear the image,” suggests that the image of the heavenly man is already present and exhorts us to conform to it.
Again, we see the close connection between the first reading and the Gospel – the forgiveness of one’s enemy. But, we can also see the connection with the second reading. If we follow Christ’s example of forgiveness, then we, too, will be raised from the dead and our mortal bodies will be like his.
People often complain that the readings at Mass don’t give us very practical advice. This Sunday, we hear some very practical advice. It is very challenging, indeed, but it reminds us that, just as God loves everyone, we are called to do the same.