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2 Samuel 24: A Meditation on Wrath, Guilt, and the King 65 2 SAMUEL 24: A MEDITATION ON WRATH, GUILT, AND THE KING by Peter Miscall Peter Miscall has a Ph.D. in the Hebrew Bible from Harvard University (1972). He started teaching at St. Thomas Seminary in September 1972 and at present is an Associate Professor. His research interests have focused on biblical narrative with a secondary concern with Isaiah. He is the author of The Workings of Old Testament Narrative, 1 Samuel: A Literary Reading, and a new commentary on Isaiah to be published by Sheffield University Press in 1993. Introduction 2 Samuel 24 is the story of the census, the plague, and the altar. I approach the chapter as part of the corpus Genesis through 2 Kings and therefore pay attention to context and to parallels to the story, particularly those that occur in the Pentateuch. In the reading I pay attention to what is explicitly and clearly stated and note what isn't so stated. However, I focus on the lack of clarity in itself and do not involve myself in speculation to supply the information and background the narrator does not provide. The chapter is part of the "Appendix of Deconstruction" in 2 Samuel 21-24 that comes between the stories of the youthful and mobile David who battles enemies in the open and the aged, decrepit David who is involved in court intrigue in the confines of his bedroom.1 The chapters 'This is Walter Brueggemann's phrase: "2 Samuel 21-24: An Appendi.'C of Deconstruction ?" Catholic Biblical Quarterly 50 (1988), pp. 383-97. Gunn and Rosenberg express similar sentiments about these final chapters. David M. Gunn, "2 Samuel," in Harper's Bible Commentary, ed. James 1. Mays (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), pp. 287-304: Joel Rosenberg, "1 and 2 Samuel," in The Literary Guide to the Bible, ed R. Alter and F. 66 SHOFAR Winter 1993 Vol. 11, No.2 are in a chiastic structure of two stories, 21:1-4 and ch. 24, two lists of warriors, 21:15-15 and 23:8-39, and two poems or psalms, ch. 22 and 23:1-7. The poems in the center, celebrate the divinely sanctioned and supported king, the Lord's anointed (22:51). The pairing of king and anointed first occurs at the close of the Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10), another triumphant royal utterance.2 The Lord saves the king (2 Samuel 22:2-20), rewards him for his righteousness (22:21-29), and provides him military prowess and victory (22:30-49). The two lists of David's warriors are examples of this military might and divine victory; the latter is explicitly noted in 23:10-12. The Lord "has made with me an eternal covenant, ordered in all things and secure" (23:5; NRSV). The dynastic oracle and David's response in 2 Sam. 7:4-29 also speak ofthe monarchy, David's house, as established forever. Through David and the dynasty, the Lord gives his people a secure and peaceful land to live in where their enemies no longer trouble them (vv. 8-11). However, this triumphal and glorious vision of monarchy is consistently undercut in the narratives in 1-2 Samuel; the undercutting, the negative portrayal of David and kingship, are a major point of much recent work on the books of Samuel. One major aspect of the deconstructive move is the replacement of external enemies, for example, the Philistines who trouble Israel until their lasting defeat by David (2 Samuel 5:17-25; 8:1-4), by internal enemies whether the house of David itself or Sheba, a rebel from the north (2 Samuel 20). The house of David is haunted by the twin nemeses, the 'sword and blood. Abigail warns David of the dire consequences of shedding blood without cause (1 Samuel 25:31) and ]oab, David's pragmatic general and henchman, pays with his life for doing just that (1 Kings 2:31). The Lord declares that neither his steadfast love (!;Jesed: 2 Samuel 7:15) nor the sword (!;Jereb: 12:10) is to depart from the house of David...


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