King Saul

Of Kings and Prophets: Canceled

of_kings_and_prophets_abcLike the dynasty of Saul it portrayed, the ABC TV show based on the books of 1, 2 Samuel Of Kings and Prophets was cut short, canceled after only two episodes due to low ratings and bad reviews.  (Here’s my initial blog.)

I discovered the cancellation after watching episode #2 this morning while on my exercise bike.  I searched for the third, which should have already been recorded, but it was nowhere to be found. For more explanation, check out this USA Today article.

Why didn’t people watch it?  Who knows, but here are some possible reasons.

  1. It was confusing.  The two episodes I watched were a bit hard to follow, and I’m pretty familiar with the subject matter.  Most ABC watchers won’t have read or written as much about David as I have (including this article on David’s Trash Talking).
  2. Bible Overload.  Perhaps watchers think there’s too much Bible to watch lately, between The History Channel’s The Bible, Noah, Exodus: Gods and Kings, and other things.  Even though I had problems with this portrayal of the lives of Saul, David, and Samuel, I am always happy to watch the Bible’s story, and see how people interpret it.
  3. Too much sex.  (Don’t they say, “Sex sells”?) While I think we need to talk about the scandalous sex stories in Scripture, perhaps Christians feel uncomfortable watching it come from the Bible.  The scandalous stuff in episodes #1 and #2 were all extrapolations, not based on the biblical text.
  4. No familiar faces.   Apart from Roy Winstone (who isn’t that well known in the US), most of the faces are unfamiliar to most American viewers.  The fact that this series had a higher percentage of people of color than many other biblical TV and film dramas is a very good thing and a welcome change.
  5. No drama.  People already know that David will defeat Goliath and become king, and Saul will die, so there aren’t really any shockers there.  I still enjoyed watching The Martian, even though I had read the book beforehand, but some of the drama was gone because I knew what would happen to Mark Watney.

You can still watch the first two episode on the ABC website, but no decisions have been made about when other episodes might air.

Did you see it? What did you think?

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Coming soon…Of Kings and Prophets

First there was The Bible (2013), then Noah (2014), and Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), now…

Of Kings and Prophets, about the life of Saul and David based on the books of 1, 2 Samuel. See trailer below.

The show is scheduled to air on ABC in the middle of the 2015-2016 season. Before you show it to your kids, it looks PG-ish (I’d say much of the Bible is R-rated, see my next book).  (Thanks for Jeremy Chen for bringing this trailer to my attention.)

All I know about Of Kings and Prophets is what I’ve seen from this 2 minute trailer, but it does appear like some aspects of the story have been changed.  Some Christians want their video versions of the Bible to be as accurate as possible to the text, and when Hollywood deviates from the story as they understand it, they find it highly offensive.

While I understand this concern, I just appreciate the fact that film and TV producers want to retell the biblical story and I will cut them slack as they express their creativity.  In fact, contemporary preachers and even the writers of Scriptures often exercise creative license as they retell and summarize stories from the Bible.

Why are we shocked or offended when the artists who create these video portrayals do the same?  

For any of these video biblical retellings I ask, “How did they follow the text? How did they deviate from the text? Did I like it? Why or why not?”  We’ll have to wait a few months to see how these questions are answered, but I’m happy more Bible is coming. Hopefully, it will get people to think about and discuss the biblical text.

What do you think?  

Why was God so mean to Saul (1 Samuel 13, 15)? Part 3

David committed murder and adultery and he was allowed to remain as king, but Saul performed a premature sacrifice and he lost the throne.  What’s up with that?  Why was God so mean to Saul?

Here are the earlier two posts where I discuss why God judged Saul so severely.  Part 1.  Part 2.

But perhaps the most troubling aspect of Saul’s narrative involves God’s command to Saul through the prophet Samuel to destroy the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15).

Thus says YHWH of armies, “I will punish the Amalekites for what he did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt.  No go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spore them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” (1 Sam. 15:2-3).

There are two problems associated with this incident.

1) Why does God command Saul to wipe out, including women and children, all of the Amalekites?
2) Why does God condemn Saul for not completing the slaughter? 

I addressed the first problem of God commanding the slaughter in my blog interview with Frank Viola recently, so I’ll just include the link to that here.  Here is the related link to my Relevant Magazine article on the Canaanite genocide (pages 108-111).

But what about the 2nd problem–why does God condemn Saul for not completely destroying the Amalekites?  Shouldn’t God affirm Saul for showing mercy?

There are three points to make here in response to this problem.

First, Saul wasn’t showing mercy to the Amalekites.  He didn’t save the women and children.  He saved the king and the livestock.  He saved the king probably to not set a precedent for regicide (that can come back to haunt a king later on).  He said he saved the cattle to sacrifice them to YHWH, but that doesn’t make any sense because YHWH already told him to sacrifice them.  He was probably saving them to enrich his own flocks and herds.  (Although, Saul does show mercy to the Kenites.)  Saul was showing mercy to Saul.

Second, Saul was condemned for blatant disobedience.  God had told him what he wanted to do and since the execution of this command was performed by the army, the nation was aware of the command.  Saul’s disobedience was public and obvious.  He was modeling disobedience for the nation.  For a nation who struggled to trust God and obey, it was intolerable to have a ruler who could follow God’s commands.

Third, Saul had disobeyed before and hadn’t learned from it.  This was Saul’s second offense (so, two strikes and you’re out).  Even in our legal system, repeat offenders are punished more severely.  It makes sense Saul was punished for his incomplete slaughter.

Remember, God didn’t remove Saul from the throne instantly (but he did send an evil spirit: 1 Sam. 16:14–huh?), but the main punishment for Saul was that his son Jonathan was not able to rule after him.

What do you think about God sending an evil spirit to Saul?  Has God ever done that to you? 

Why was God so mean to Saul? (1 Samuel 13, 15) Part 1

Why was God so mean to King Saul?  A premature sacrifice (1 Sam. 13) and an incomplete slaughter (1 Sam. 15).  As sins go, those seem mild.  David, “a man after God’s own heart”, committed adultery and murder, and he got off lightly compared to the judgment that fell upon Saul.  Why was God so mean to Saul?

Let’s look at 1 Samuel 13.  Saul had already defeated the Ammonites (1 Sam. 11), and a Philistine garrison.  Now he’s getting ready to fight the Philistine army.  The prophet Samuel told Saul to wait for seven days at Gilgal, then he would come and make a sacrifice before the battle.  Saul is outnumbered.  According to the text, Saul has about 3000 troops and the Philistines have about 30,000 chariots and 6000 horsemen.  Saul is seriously outnumbered.  The Philistine forces are “like sand on the seashore” (1 Sam. 13:5).

To make things worse, Saul’s forces are starting to panic and desert.  Saul realizes he needs to act fast, and he can’t wait for Samuel any longer.  It’s been seven days.  He needs to take matters into his own hands.  He offers the sacrifice to ensure that they have God’s favor for their military efforts.

The moment Saul’s sacrifice is over, Samuel shows up.  Was he watching Saul all this time?  Samuel blasts Saul, “What have you done?!?”  Then Samuel tells Saul that God would have given him an eternal dynastic promise (David got one of those: 2 Samuel 7), and his kingdom is going to be cut off.

Seems harsh, don’t you think?

Why do you think Samuel and God were so harsh toward Saul?  (to be continued…)

Image from http://www.thebricktestament.com/king_saul/saul_rejected_for_seeking_gods_favor/1s13_14-15.html