Last year at the Simeon Trust Workshop here in Indianapolis we studied 1 Samuel. I was reminded of how much Genesis imagery is shot through the Saul and David narrative. Particularly, Saul is increasingly cast as Genesis 3:15’s “Seed of the Serpent.” Consider his demise in 31:8. The Philistines strip off his armor and cut off his head! Well, that’s just what David did to Goliath in 17:51, 54. This seems like more than just revenge on the part of the Philistines for what David did to their great champion. Rather, the author tells us this to paint both Goliath and Saul in the same colors! It’s a sad end.
Additionally, in our study I think I discerned a thread through 1 Samuel that also typecasts Saul as Esau! When I think I get an idea like this I usually write up a proposal to vet it through the annual ETS meetings. So, here is the proposal I submitted in February of this year.
Genesis themes pervade the Books of Samuel. This is commonly observed. Dominic Rudman comments, however, in his 2004 VetT article “The Patriarchal Narratives in the Books of Samuel,” that “much research remains to be done on the relationship between Genesis and Samuel, for even now, many correspondences and allusions in Samuel have yet to be investigated.” Little advancement has been achieved in the interim. This paper argues that significant correspondences between Saul and Esau are not only present in 1 Samuel, but serve a major leitmotif that narratologically shapes Saul’s demise (as well as David’s rise) in the language of Genesis 3:15 and 25:19−34 (as well as 27:37−41). David is predictably portrayed as the “Seed of the Woman.” But the reader is increasingly shocked by the gradual typecasting of Saul as a manifestation of the “Seed of the Serpent” (Gen 3:15) and “another nation” (Gen 25:23). The denouement of this gradual typecasting finally comes in 1 Samuel 28:25 which echoes Genesis 25:34, the crass moment of Esau’s willful recusal from among the covenant people. The entire David-Saul struggle, therefore, is read against the backdrop of Gen 3:15, Gen 25:23 and Israel’s history with Edom. The tragedy is that even this Israelite King is not “of Israel” (Rom 9:6ff). David is Jacob, and Saul is Esau. This reading provides theological depth to the characterization of Saul and further elucidates the place of 1 Samuel in redemptive-history.
Over the next couple months of study I came to see themes that relate Saul to Cain(!) as well. I also noticed that strong Deuteronomy 18 languages pervades 1 Samuel—a point I took for granted but noticed was underrepresented in the relevant secondary literature. So I emphasize that as well in this paper.
The ETS meeting was earlier this month in Providence, R.I. The paper was well received and I got some good ideas for improving it. For the truly energetic reader, you can access the paper here. Enjoy! Would love to hear your thoughts if you read it. Here is a link just to the textual comparisons. I think you can just as well see there the point I am making.
Hope to catch you at this year’s Simeon Trust Workshop!