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David, Saul, and God: Rediscovering an Ancient Story [Kindle Edition]

Paul Borgman
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

The biblical story of King David and his conflict with King Saul (1 and 2 Samuel) is one of the most colorful and perennially popular in the Hebrew Bible. In recent years, this story has attracted a great deal of scholarly attention, much of it devoted to showing that David was a far less heroic character than appears on the surface. Indeed, more than one has painted David as a despicable tyrant. Paul Borgman provides a counter-reading to these studies, through an attentive reading of the narrative patterns of the text. He focuses on one of the key features of ancient Hebrew narrative poetics -- repeated patterns -- taking special note of even the small variations each time a pattern recurs. He argues that such "hearing cues" would have alerted an ancient audience to the answers to such questions as "Who is David?" and "What is so wrong with Saul?" The narrative insists on such questions, says Borgman, slowly disclosing answers through patterns of repeated scenarios and dominant motifs that yield, finally, the supreme work of storytelling in ancient literature. Borgman concludes with a comparison with Homer's storytelling technique, demontrating that the David story is indeed a masterpiece and David (as Baruch Halpern has said) "the first truly modern human."

Product Description

Review

Offers a new way of understanding ambiguous or seemingly contradictory texts which is a welcome contribution to this field of study. (J. E. Tollington, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 33.5)

Borgman explores the literary text as we have it, and determines the narrator's meanings on the basis of eleven patterns of repetition that give the account its distinctive narrative structure. (International Review of Biblical Studies)

About the Author

Professor of English, Gordon College

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3079 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (16 April 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001E5W2FG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,132,363 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Food for Thought 22 Jan. 2015
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
After reading Paul Borgman’s David, Saul, & God, I felt like I often do after devouring a satisfying meal. It is definitely one of the best books that I have read on 1&2 Samuel. Borgman’s careful attentiveness to the repetitive patterns in the books of Samuel, as a way of unlocking its understanding of David, Saul, & God, is refreshing and insightful. Borgman contends that uncovering and solving the questions posed by the story of 1&2 Samuel “depends on close attention to the dozen or so broad patterns (he actually enumerates 11) of repetition governing the narrative’s progress” (p. 3). Borgman makes the helpful suggestion that, “The story’s modern audience often misses answers to the central questions driving the drama of David’s story because the text is read in a straightforward manner, rather than in the circular way demanded by the ancient text’s dependence on patterns of repetition. That is, recognizing a developing pattern requires a remembering of what has gone before, a circling-back action of the mind” (p. 4, emphasis mine). Readers would do well to heed Borgman on this point, not only regarding David’s story, but Old Testament narrative in general.
David, Saul, & God: The Main Course
David, Saul, & God consists of 9 chapters plus an introduction and conclusion. Among the 11 repetitive patterns discussed such as “David’s Multiple Introductions” (pattern 3), “Saul’s fear” (pattern 4), “Sword and Spear” (pattern 5) and “News of Death–Public and Private Davids” (pattern 9), I would like to note two that I found particularly insightful.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant expose of the mystery of King David 29 May 2008
By T. A. Hildebrandt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This fascinating study captures the mysteries of the biblical King David by placing him in the context of Saul and God's responses in a way that enlightens all three characters via a brilliant elucidation of the repeated literary patterns of 1 and 2 Samuel. Borgman applies theories of orality of Walter Ong and Gerhardsson capturing a dozen literary patterns which expose the inner structure of the original oral biblical story-teller. In comparing and contrasting the patterns he exposes the fatal flaws of Saul in his triad of anointings and the mysteriousness of David who is introduced several times to Saul and the reader in response to the question "Who is David?" With each introduction a different aspect of this truly complex and multi-dimensional king is exposed. Often the modern reader with a superficial knowledge of the stories sees a flat character in David. Borgman demonstrates and pushes the character into three dimensions by exposing his mysteriousness and nuances of character as David struggles with his role as an indulgent father and how this parental flaw unravels in his role as king.

Because Borgman is sensitive to the oral reading of text he sees/hears connections that have been missed by commentators before him. His careful listening to the text allows him to connect the pattern of the sparing of Saul in the cave and at night with the Nabal/Abigail "sparing" revealing how these patterns reveal various facets of the character of David. By comparing the responses to flaws of Saul and David, Borgman puts his finger on exactly how David was shown to be a "person after God's own heart" while Saul is rejected after having been chosen (another of his insights often overlooked or tersely dismissed by many with text-ignoring theological agendas).

This book will open new horizons for anyone attempting to understand David, study 1 and 2 Samuel or understand the divine/human interaction narrated in the David stories. One of the spin-off benefits of Borgman's insights is a solution for understanding the "Psalms of Innocence" which have puzzled those studying Psalms. His work on David provides a rich background for understanding the sitz im leben of the Davidic psalms in general. One should not miss Borgman's own master craftsmanship as he is a brilliant biblical commentator and a careful word-smith full of wit and keenly aware of the value of a well crafted phrase. One final note. Don't skip the end notes as there Borgman carries on a delightful conversation with others who have sought to plumb the depths of this mysterious king of Israel.

In short, this book is a great read!
A must have for anyone seeking to understand King David or read his Psalms.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Framework for the Art of Biblical Narrative 19 Nov. 2008
By Brian G. Morgan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Back in the early nineties I was eager to translate and expound 1 and 2 Samuel, but found very little help in commentaries until I happened across Jan Fokkelman's masterful work in four massive volumes [ASIN:9023227387 Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel: Vow and Desire : (Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel) (Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel)]. They enriched my studies and teaching for the next three years. Now, fifteen years later, I wanted to plow through Samuel again and I happened to come across Borgman's book, David, Saul, & God, and was thrilled by this discovery. His work is a rare gem that treats the entire text with sensitivity and integrity and gives superb controls in the largest sense to evaluate one's interpretive grid. His method of comparison and contrast of major themes sheds such convincing light on issues of "character" and coherence of the entire work of Samuel, that I hope it does much to silence those who feel they must deconstruct the text to accommodate their interpretations. I found his work so helpful I ordered ten more copies for our men's Bible study leaders to aid their study in their discipleship groups. I pastor in a church dominated by Silicon Valley engineers and have found the art of story and poem in the Old Testament not only invaluable in preaching and teaching, but going a step further, I've found that training our people in becoming adept at God's ways of speaking (i.e. in story and poem) has been a valuable tool for creating honest and intimate community life. Borgman's work has been a great aid to help us in our journey.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very insightful 22 Jan. 2013
By Heidi J - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I am only half way through this book and am enjoying the way the author brings together what I thought were disjointed narratives into a whole literary masterpiece. So many mysteries I have puzzled over through the years are being answered. As usual the kindle edition charts are ridiculously small and, as they are key to understanding the text, I am frustrated. As this is not the authors fault, I still gave it 5 stars.
5.0 out of 5 stars Food For Thought 15 Jan. 2015
By Randy McCracken - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
After reading Paul Borgman's David, Saul, & God, I felt like I often do after devouring a satisfying meal. It is definitely one of the best books that I have read on 1&2 Samuel. Borgman's careful attentiveness to the repetitive patterns in the books of Samuel, as a way of unlocking its understanding of David, Saul, & God, is refreshing and insightful. Borgman contends that uncovering and solving the questions posed by the story of 1&2 Samuel "depends on close attention to the dozen or so broad patterns (he actually enumerates 11) of repetition governing the narrative's progress" (p. 3). Borgman makes the helpful suggestion that, "The story's modern audience often misses answers to the central questions driving the drama of David's story because the text is read in a straightforward manner, rather than in the circular way demanded by the ancient text's dependence on patterns of repetition. That is, recognizing a developing pattern requires a remembering of what has gone before, a circling-back action of the mind" (p. 4, emphasis mine). Readers would do well to heed Borgman on this point, not only regarding David's story, but Old Testament narrative in general.
David, Saul, & God: The Main Course
David, Saul, & God consists of 9 chapters plus an introduction and conclusion. Among the 11 repetitive patterns discussed such as "David's Multiple Introductions" (pattern 3), "Saul's fear" (pattern 4), "Sword and Spear" (pattern 5) and "News of Death-Public and Private Davids" (pattern 9), I would like to note two that I found particularly insightful. Readers of 1&2 Samuel have often noted that there is a theme of "Failed Fathers" (Borgman's pattern 8), but to my knowledge, no one has explored its significance until Borgman (but see my book "Family Portraits: Character Studies in 1 and 2 Samuel," where I explore the connection between family failures and national consequences). The failed fathers of 1&2 Samuel include Eli, Samuel, and, especially, David. Borgman notes that the pattern of failed fathers has, in each case, important consequences for the nation of Israel. Eli's failure with his sons leads to a national crisis in which the Philistines defeat Israel and capture the ark of God (1 Sam. 4 ). David's over-indulgence with his sons Amnon and Absalom, similarly leads to national disaster (2 Sam. 13-20 ). Borgman writes, "Just as Eli did before him, David falters grievously as a father, with momentous negative consequences for the people he is supposed to be ruling" (p. 121). The difference with David, however, is a twist in the pattern, which occurs as he nears death and his son Adonijah attempts to take the throne (1 Kings 1). In this scene, David refuses to allow his self-indulgent son to take the throne. Borgman states, "At his physically weakest...David nonetheless rises to the occasion, evidencing the listening capacities we have seen in the past: he is receptive to advice from good people in the interest of Israel's well-being" (p. 133). He continues, "What breaks this pattern of fathers-sons-death is the strength of a father standing up to an ill-directed son-displeasing that son for the sake of a greater communal good" (p. 139). Although this last example falls outside the bounds of the Samuel narrative, scholars are well-aware of the close link between the books of Samuel and Kings (especially the first 2 chapters of 1 Kings).
The second pattern I would like to note (Borgman's 11th pattern) concerns the contrast made between Saul and David at the end of 2 Samuel. Readers are often puzzled by what appears to be a miscellaneous grouping of material found at the end of 2 Samuel in chapters 21-24. Scholars now recognize that this material is artfully arranged with a chiastic structure as follows:
A Saul sins, 3 year famine, resolution (2 Sam. 21:1-14 )
B David's warriors, leadership (2 Sam. 21:15-22 )
C David's poem concerning blamelessness and God (2 Sam. 22:1-51 )
C' David's poem, ideal ruler and God (2 Sam. 23:1-7 )
B' David's warriors, leadership (2 Sam. 23:8-39 )
A' David sins, 3 days plague, resolution (2 Sam. 24:1-25 )
Borgman spends chapter 9 looking at the outer two stories of the chiasm (A & A') involving Saul and David (in chapter 8 he explores the inner parts of the chiasm). Building on the insights of Herbert H. Klement he points out that, "What emerges clearly is the stark difference in the sinning of Saul and that of David" (p. 205). "Not only is there none of Saul's equivocating response to wrongdoing, there is in David what is inconceivable for the Saul we meet early in his story: a radical willingness to look at himself critically, and further, to offer his own suffering on behalf of communal well-being" (p. 213, see 2 Sam. 24:17 ). By the end of the story, Borgman contends that we are able to understand why God chose David over Saul. David is a man who, not only repents when he sins, but in 2 Samuel 24 recognizes his own sin without the intervention of prophet or anyone else, and then offers himself in order to protect the nation. As David's character unfolds throughout the story, we not only learn who he is, but we learn more about who God is.
In the conclusion to the book, Borgman contrasts the hero Odysseus (and the gods) from Homer's The Odyssey with David. His purpose is "to shed another angle of light on the dynamic among David, Saul, and God" (p. 221). Here are a few of his observations: "David inhabits a moral world...quite different from that of Odysseus" (p. 227). "David learns and changes from experience to experience; Odysseus, however fascinating, becomes more of what he has always been..." (p. 235). "Athene's focus in The Odyssey is helping Odysseus become more of what he is, while the biblical God helps David become more of what he can become. But this development is not for David's sake alone, or even primarily, but for the sake of this God's unchanging will for communal well-being." Borgman's final line of the book is fitting: "In coming to see David, we have come to understand the story's God as well" (p. 244).
David, Saul, & God: The Hor d'Oeurves
I realize that in any fine meal the hor d'oeurves are served before the main course, but please indulge me. After all, it's my metaphor! Since hor d'oeurves are side items to develop one's taste for the main course, I think the metaphor is appropriate here. Throughout his book, Borgman carries on a conversation with other scholarly points of view. He does this some in the text itself, but more thoroughly in the endnotes (57 pages of them!). A lot of modern scholarly treatment of David, Saul, & God (meaning the characters in 1&2 Samuel, not Borgman's book), in my opinion, has fallen prey to the prophet's critique that some "call evil good, and good evil" (Isa. 5:20 ). In other words, many make Saul the "good guy," or, more accurately, "the victim," while David and God become "the bad guys." Borgman argues strenuously, and I believe effectively, against such an interpretation throughout his book. Again and again, he demonstrates how the repetitive patterns in 1&2 Samuel clearly picture Saul as the "bad guy" (my terminology), God as just and compassionate, and David as, at first mysterious, certainly far from perfect, but ultimately, a man after God's heart. Rather than crafting his own portrait of David, Saul, & God (and misrepresenting the text as some do-at least in my opinion), Borgman allows the text to speak through his careful reading of the repetitive patterns he explores.
David, Saul, & God: The Bones
There actually aren't many "bones to pick" over in this book. In fact in terms of Borgman's treatment and methodology, I have no quarrel whatsoever (although there are, of course, a few places where I have a slightly different view from him). My complaint lies with the poor editing of David, Saul & God. The book is filled with grammatical and spelling errors and has the appearance of being hastily prepared for publication without being carefully proofread. Errors of every kind exist, from missing words, to words occurring in the wrong order, to wrong numbers for the endnotes, as well as endnotes missing entirely! Perhaps the most glaring error is the spelling error that occurs in the title of chapter 9. It reads in large letters: "Chiastic Conclusion: Final Contrast, Soul [instead of "Saul"] and David Sinning." Hopefully in a future edition, these errors will be caught and corrected. Although the errors mar the aesthetic quality of the book, the content more than makes up for this inadequacy. I highly recommend David, Saul, & God to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of 1&2 Samuel.
2 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars David For True Believers 8 Jan. 2012
By J. Morgan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Since there are two favorable reviews for this book already then I don't feel bad saying what I think about it, which is that it shows a lot about the author but not much about David. First, it is a very pretty book. I bought the hardcover and it looks great with really nice paper and binding and the printing is very clean and readable. The author has this theory he has adopted and decided to go with that the David story in the Bible was written to be read aloud so you have to understand it that way and a device for this type of oral reading is to repeat themes. He seems to be infected by this thought to where he very annoyingly writes his book in this style repeating practically word for word whole paragraphs he just put in the previous page.
He starts with the premise that the David narrative is a whole work and single work (despite being spread out through several books), since it must be considering how long the scribes had to work on it. The other premise is that the David narrative is the single greatest work of literature of antiquity, ignoring the possibility that it may have been written hundreds of years later by people who fictionalized legends. Then, since it is this perfect and great work which is an authentic first-hand account, then he proceeds to show how it is a perfect and complete and trustworthy account without contradiction or obfuscation but truly produces a true history of someone undoubtedly the ideal king for all time and something to be hoped for and desired for eternity.
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