Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Who's the Bible's Donald Rumsfeld?

From the Blogging the Bible series...

The Book of 2 Samuel

Chapter 20The long-simmering conflict between Judah and the other tribes explodes into civil war. The problem seems to be that David strongly favors the Judahites, and his patronage system rewards them with all the best jobs. (Think: Saddam's Tikritis.) A resentful Benjaminite named Sheba rallies the rest of Israel against David and his Judah loyalists, splitting the kingdom.

David dispatches his army against Sheba. But before they march off to war, his top commander, Joab, takes care of some personal business. In the last entry, I grudgingly admired the blunt effectiveness of Joab and called him the original Israeli. He's more like the original Donald Rumsfeld—an utterly ruthless bureaucratic infighter. Joab, you'll recall, offed potential rival Abner a few chapters ago. Now Joab fears he's being supplanted by rival general Amasa, so he assassinates him as well. (Just imagine Rumsfeld murdering Robert Gates and then getting his Pentagon job back. Come to think of it, that's not so far-fetched, knowing what we now know about Rummy.) But give this to Joab: He is a darn fine general. He besieges Sheba at the town of Abel. An Abelian woman realizes she and all her townsfolk will be killed if Joab sacks the city. So, she asks Joab what he wants. When Joab tells her he's just seeking Sheba, the woman persuades her self-preservation-minded neighbors to turn on the rebel. The Abelites cut off Sheba's head and chuck it over the wall, ending the siege.

(Remember how Absalom slept with David's 10 concubines? When David reclaims his city, he locks those unfortunate ladies in the palace, keeping them under house arrest till they die. The sexual taboos were rough, back in the day.)

I recall from elementary school history class that when the Vulgate was first released it was not received well by the authorities because it made it possible for everyday people to read what the scripture said for themselves rather than having it filtered and portioned out by the more educated church fathers. Prior to that, the Bible was only in Latin or Greek, not understood by everyday folk. The word "vulgar" and Vulgate come from the same Latin root, meaning "common place." It doesn't necessarily mean "dirty" but dirty is not ruled out altogether.

"Blogging the Bible" seems to be in the historic tradition of making scripture more meaningful to people who might not otherwise read the Bible. In this case the appeal might attract a few Democrats who would certainly benefit from Bible study.

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