Essay: Bible: 1 Samuel 17

Pages: 10 (2915 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: History - Israel  ·  Buy This Paper

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] "Israel! I say again, on this the morning of the 41st day of a war without with battle, COME AT ME! SEND ME A CHAMPION!!" Quiet. Stillness. A thousand implacable faces staring back at me. "Israel, I defy you! SEND ME A -- "

A ripple in the crowd began to part the Israeli forces. One by one, Israeli soldiers turned and made way for some as yet unseen force . . . until standing before me, all alight with an answering defiance, was a skinny little boy no more progressed in years than my own murderous offspring. At the sight of him, I felt my throat close and heart beat faster, so akin to that offspring he appeared to me. Could it be that a God I didn't believe in had somehow heard and answered my unsaid prayers, and that now, standing before me, was the son I had spared and been haunted by ever since? Had he finally come to offer himself? To take responsibility for his sin against the only woman I'd ever loved? To finally pay for that sin?

The moment passed, and I knew it was not him. This boy was no murderer, and he was certainly not a champion. He was only a boy, a boy still young and foolish enough not to fear me. "Go home, boy. I am telling you, walk away now or I will cut you down."

"You seek to cut down that which cannot fall," his steadiness of speech surprised me. "You come at me with sword, spear and javelin, but I come at you with the power of the Lord Almighty that makes me great."

"Great?" I laughed at him. "You think you know anything of what it means to be great?"

"I know more than you, giant. I know you will fall all the harder for your size, which will indeed be a great sight."

Fire burned in my belly. I had offered him leniency and he had spat insults in my face, and for that he must die. I raised my sword even as a little fool ran at me, his arm swinging madly in motion unfamiliar to me, and a sting in my forehead causing me pause. The sting spread to a violent pain as stars swam before me and darkness ravenously enveloped the stars. The last thing I a saw, and the very last thing I can remember, was a single drop of blood striking the earth before me.

Reflective Narrative

As I chose rewrite the story as a first-person narrative, I found the dialogue in the text particularly helpful in accessing the thoughts an inner-workings of the characters minds, to include the mind of my tragic protagonist Goliath. For example, in the sentences "This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other," the arrogant, embittered, spiteful and blood-desiring essence of Goliath is made clear (1 Sam. 17.10). This clarity gave rise to questions of why he is arrogant, why he is embittered, spiteful and thirsty for blood, which in turn led me to create a fictional history for him that served to explain these character traits. Meanwhile, the divinely inspired self-confidence of David is made palpable in the following verses of dialogue:

"Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; the uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." (1 Sam. 17.34-37)

While some of the dialogue allowed me access to the characters minds, other dialogue transferred well from the ancient text to the rewritten text, such as "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied" (1 Sam. 17.45). I found that changing and/or rearranging the words only slightly allowed the same meaning to remain but also allowed for enhanced clarity of speech. For example, the verse I just quoted became "You come at me with sword, spear and javelin, but I come at you with the power of the Lord Almighty that makes me great," which I believe is more concise and also keeps with the theme of greatness as a paradox.

In addition to rearranging the language, I changed the voice from third-person omniscient to first-person reflective -- Goliath's voice -- which had advantages as well as disadvantages. While it was advantageous insofar as it allowed me to tell the story from Goliath's perspective and to gain an intimate understanding of what informs this perspective, it was also a disadvantage insofar as I had to omit any information Goliath would not have known, such as David's family history and his proven ability to kill without malice. Nevertheless, I believe it was more of an advantage to tell the story from Goliath's point-of-view, as I believe him to be as equally complex a character as David -- the story's traditional protagonist -- if not more so. The fictional history I created for Goliath presents him not as a mindless brute set on killing for killing's sake, but as a fiercely passionate man still morning the loss of his wife and child -- his wife to childbirth and the child she bore to Goliath's inability to forgive him. In the end, it is not a boy's rock that finally defeats Goliath; rather, it is the crippling weight of his own ego paired with a paradoxical self-and-other loathing and the inability to forgive that brings about his downfall. My decision to tell the story from the giant's perspective is what allowed me to convey this message.

My rewrite is similar to the rewrites of the ancient Jewish interpreters in that the original message -- that all things are possible through the Lord Almighty -- remained intact, though the method of conveying this message dramatically changed. Also similar is the extrapolation of a parallel secondary meaning -- the fatal nature of bitterness and conceit -- that was only hinted at in the original text. Goliath did not fall simply because he underestimated David's skill and held grandiose notions of his own skill, but because he was driven by forces not designed to withstand hardship or to support victory for long. My rewrite differs somewhat from the rewrites of the ancients insofar the it isn't written within the traditional biblical context of verses, but rather in a historic-fictional vein that I believe better resonates with modern audiences.

This exercise has enhanced by conviction that the bible is not to be taken literally, but as a metaphoric, highly-interpretable text designed to teach parables as opposed to historic details. It is not the details of a particular story that matters -- the 'when,' 'where,' 'who' components -- but rather the central message of the story to the extent that it is applicable to the modern world. The crippling nature of conceit and the transcending nature of faith are just as applicable now as they were 1000 years ago, which is why we still tell stories such as David and Goliath, the calling of Abraham and Noah's Ark.

Regarding Judaism as an interpretable tradition, it is not the historical details of Judaism that matter most, but rather the meaning of the trials, tribulations and transcendences recorded in history. For this reason, it is imperative to know Judaism's history, as you must first become familiar with the history before you can interpret its meaning effectively. Regarding the interpretive aspect, specifically, I would encourage anyone who wishes to expand his understanding of Judaism to engage in an interpretive exercise such as the one I have just completed, as to interpret a passage one must consider other contexts in which the same meaning holds true, to include but not limited to contextual circumstances in our own lives. In this way, we can come to appreciate Judaism not only as an ancient religious tradition, but as an applicable paradigm of personal morality… [END OF PREVIEW]

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