So Nimm Denn Meine Hande...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Questions about wives and kings...

Well, a good friend e-mailed a question regarding Saul's and David's wives, and whether or not they are the same person (and whether or not David made a shot at Saul's kingship in possibly marrying Saul's wife). I spent around an hour hammering out a response...and then I thought "well, why not post it?" It's always interesting to shoot through some exegetical problems and share the results. All the names and incriminating information have been removed to protect national security. This may or may not interest anyone, but IT'S MY BLOG! HAHA! Here's my response:

Okay. It's 6 minutes past my bedtime, but I'll chunk into this question quickly for you. Admittedly, I've only spent a few minutes on this, but if what I offer pacifies you, cool. If not, then we can really dig through this.

Now as I see it, we have two questions:

1. Are "Ahinoam daughter of Ahimaaz" and "Ahinoam of Jezreel" the same person?

2. What does "
and your master's wives into your arms" mean in 2 Samuel 12:7-8?

SO...Let's get some answers:

Are "Ahinoam daughter of Ahimaaz" and "Ahinoam of Jezreel" the same person? Well, let's look at the biblical data... The name "Ahinoam" appears in the Bible in two ways only. First, it's in the "Ahinoam daughter of Ahimaaz" structure and second, it's in the "Ahinoam of Jezreel" structure. Interestingly, when Ahinoam is spoken of as Saul's wife in 1 Samual 14:50 and that structure is "Ahinoam daughter of Ahimaaz". When David's wife is spoken of, she is called "Ahinoam of Jezreel", and 6 times at that. I would definitely take a stab in the dark and suggest that it is very likely that this repitition of "Ahinoam of Jezreel" is meant to differentiate between the other Ahinoam. If it were the same person, it would be reasonable to believe that Ahinoam would then be called "Ahinoam daughter of Ahimaaz" in order to make it clear, for back then people didn't use last names like we do now. Part of how ancient near easter people differentiated between like-named others was done by reference to parentage or hometown or tribe/race. In the ancient near east, instead of saying "Bob Friesen" one could say "Bob son of John son of Peter" or "Bob of Osler" or "Bob the Mennonite". I would not argue tooth and nail that it is impossible for it to be the same person, but from the biblical evidence I would say that it's most likely that they are not the same person.

2. Now for some good old fashioned favorite!

2 Samuel 12:1-12 is Nathan speaking out against David for the murder of Uriah the Hittite. In verses 1-5 Nathan tells the parable of the rich man with plenty of sheep and the poor man with none. Then, in verse 6, David boils over in anger against the man in the parable. Verses 7-10 are God's words to David:

Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.'

So, let's tackle this little passage. God says he gave David 5 things:

a. Kingship.
b. Deliverance from Saul.
c. Saul's house.
d. Saul's wives.
e. The house of Israel and Judah.

So, in the context, it seems that God is talking about all the blessings that he gave David. The kingship and deliverance are easy to get...we see those obviously in the earlier parts of the book. But what does 'house' and 'wives' mean? Well, verse 8 says "your master's house" and then says "the house of Israel and Judah". Now Israel and Judah's 'house' wasn't a building... you don't see the Old Testament using the noun 'house' in reference with a country to ever refer to a single, physical building. The term 'house' here is synonymous with 'kingship', or 'rule'. Israel's 'house' was the rule over Israel. Saul's house, in the context of this passage, is likely talking about his rule over Israel and Judah...i.e. his power.

I would then go on to suggest if 'house' would be power, 'wives' would be talking about posessions. For God is commenting on how he has given David everything that Saul had, and 'house' and 'wives' would essentially be a way of saying that, especially in a near eastern mindset. One's 'house' was where they ruled and one's prized posession, or the earthly thing that was the most valuable was the wife (or wives). This is not to say that David didn't live in Saul's palace or didn't actually take his harem. Both were extraordinarily likely. But, in the context of this passage, I would argue that God isn't strictly talking about real estate or a harem (or possibly "Ahinoam daughter of Ahimaaz") I'd suggest that God is using a figure of speech known as synecdoche...using the part to represent the whole. By saying 'house', God is actually saying 'all that the house represents and controls'. By saying 'wives', God is actually saying 'all that wives represent' (which is essentially the physical household, not the authority but the, children, produce, livestock, etc.)

3. I have another reason for thinking that David would never have married his mother-in-law; he was righteous. In as much as he murdered Uraiah later in life, I suspect that earlier in life David would never have married his mother-in-law for it is explicitly forbidden in the Law:

- "Do not have sexual relations with your father's wife; that would dishonor your father." - Lev. 18:8

- "Do not have sexual relations with your father's wife; that would dishonor your father." - Lev. 20:11

- "Do not have sexual relations with your father's wife; that would dishonor your father." - Deut 22:30

- "Cursed is the man who sleeps with his father's wife, for he dishonors his father's bed." - Deut 27:20

Now I know that these verses don't say 'mother' and don't say 'mother-in-law', but I'd suggest that they still apply. You're father's wife is not your mother. It's your step-mother. She's of no blood relation to you and what makes the defilement a sin is that it dishonors your father, not that it's incestual. I'll take a jump off the cliff and suggest that the same rules of honor that apply to your father would apply to your father-in-law.

Plus, David deeply respected and honored Saul. I'd suggest reading 2 Samuel chapter 1 to see what David really thought about Saul. I'd dare suggest that with David regarding Saul in such a way, it would be a difficult argument to suggest that David treated Saul in the same way that Absalom treated David in 2 Samuel 16:21-22. David never made a move on Saul's kingship like Absalom did on David's. David supported Saul until the very end and the suggestion that David sought to dishonor Saul and make a move on the throne by marrying his wife would require a significant amount of textual evidence to sustain. To suggest such on a single passage is a very risky exegetical decision. Therefore, I would suggest that the arguments suggesting two different Ahinoam's far outweigh the arguments for them being the same person and David taking a very out of character stab at king Saul. At least that's where I sit now. Okay. Have a good night dudes! Hmmm. Looking at the amount of typing here, I might throw this on the's basically a free post! Ha! Thanks for the question though and shoot back with any responses or whatever,

The Armchair Theologian

Hope this answers a questions you've never had...HA! Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read with great interest your analysis of the story of Ahinoam , David, Saul? I am very interested in having a discussion with you about your views.

1:06 PM


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