We run our website the way we wished the whole internet worked: we provide high quality original content with no ads. We are funded solely by your direct support. Please consider supporting this project.

Elie_Marcuse_saul

Did God Kill King Saul?

When we approach Scripture with the assumption that it is all God-breathed for the purpose of bearing witness to Christ, even the most trivial contradictions in Scripture can acquire theological significance. This is what I argue in Cross Vision. Here I want to illustrate this by briefly discussing the theological significance of a curious discrepancy in one of the biblical accounts of King Saul’s death.

In 1 Chronicles, we read that after Saul was gravely wounded in a battle with the Philistines, he implored his armor-bearer to kill him so he would not be captured and tortured to death by his enemies. The armor-bearer could not bring himself to do this, however, so Saul decided to take his own life (10:3-4). Interestingly enough, the author goes on to explain that Saul died because he “did not keep the word of the LORD” and did not “inquire of the LORD,” but instead “consulted a medium for guidance.” For this reason, the author concludes, “the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David …” (vss. 13-4, emphasis added). The obvious question is, how can this author claim that Saul killed himself while also claiming that the Lord killed him?

One could of course explain this conflict by proposing that this author/redactor spliced together different authoritative traditions that contained conflicting accounts of Saul’s death. Alternatively, one could account for the discrepancy by appealing to any number of exegetical considerations.

But the discrepancy acquires a much more profound significance when we reflect on it in a crucicentric way. As a judgment of Saul’s rebellion, Yahweh had withdrawn his protection of Saul, thus allowing spirits to torment him. He also had allowed Saul to sink deeper and deeper into his self-chosen sin as he consulted a medium at Endor (1 Sam 28; cf., Deut 18:9-14) and foolishly headed into battle without Yahweh’s instruction to do so and without his protection. Yet, while Yahweh was not responsible for Saul’s sinful decisions or for the self-destructive consequences of these decisions that resulted in his suicide, Yahweh nevertheless assumed responsibility for them by allowing himself to be depicted as doing what he merely allowed. In this way, the portrait of the Lord putting Saul to death can be understood as a literary crucifixion, pointing to the crucified God who takes responsibility for the sin of the world.

Image: “Death of King Saul”, 1848 by Elie Marcuse (Germany and France, 1817–1902)

Category:
Tags:

Related Reading

The Centrality of the Cross in Church History

Some readers of Crucifixion of the Warrior God may be assuming that the emphasis I’m placing on the cross is unprecedented in church history. While I will not deny that the cross-centered approached to interpreting Scripture’s violent divine portraits is new, the fact that I’m placing the cross at the center of my understanding of…

Cross Centered Q&A

For those within driving distance of Saint Paul, MN, we invite you to join us for a free event. Greg will be discussing his new book Crucifixion of the Warrior God with Bruxy Cavey (Pastor of The Meeting House in Toronto) and Dennis Edwards (Pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis). Don’t miss this opportunity to hear Greg…

How Job’s Suffering Points to Jesus

As I introduced in my previous post, when we read the book of Job we must refute the common assumption that Yahweh is a Machiavellian deity who is controlling all that transpires in his creation, including Job’s suffering. At the same time, we must ask why the prologue (1:11-2, 2:3) and perhaps the final chapter…

Podcast: Was Jesus’ Experience of Separation on the Cross a Hallucination or a False Belief?

Greg talks about the paradox of Trinity and Christ’s experience of separation on the cross.  http://traffic.libsyn.com/askgregboyd/Episode_0349.mp3

Why Christ, not Scripture, is Our Ultimate Foundation

In a previous blog I argued that all our theological reflection must not only be Christ-centered, it must, most specifically, be cross-centered. I now want to begin to unpack some of the most important implications of adopting a cross-centered theological perspective. My ultimate goal is to show how a cross-centered theology is able to resolve the…

When the Last Few Moments Changes Everything

One of the central things ReKnew wants to accomplish is to challenge followers of Jesus to accept that the self-sacrificial love Jesus revealed on the cross is the definitive, and even the exhaustive, revelation of God’s character. Everything about God, we believe, should be understood through the lens of the cross. For most Christians, Jesus…