Friday, 27 May 2016

I&II Kings (aka I&II Samuel)

Икона пророка Самуила из собрания ДОХМ.jpg
The prophet Samuel
Russian c17th

From the Second Sunday after Pentecost, the Matins readings (on Sundays in the Benedictine Office) work through I&II Kings (or I&II Samuel depending on which Bible you are using), so herewith a short introduction to it.

**I should note as an aside that, as foreshadowed a few weeks ago, I plan to start posting on Hebrews from next week.

Importance of Kings

Kings doesn't get much of a run in the traditional Mass lectionary - its sole entry as far as I can find is on Monday after the fourth Sunday of Lent (2 Kings 3:16-28).

But it is extremely important in terms of the history of Israel, covering the period roughly about 1070 - 970 BC, and includes some key 'types' of Jesus, including in the nativity story of Samuel, as well, of course, as in the life and promises made to King David.

About 1&2 Kings

Kings comes immediately after Ruth in the Bible.  I  Kings has 31 chapters; II Kings has 24.

Jewish tradition held it to have been written by Samuel, whose story it sets out, with additions by the prophets Gad and Nathan.  Certainly conservative scholars have generally dated it to the reign of Kings David and Solomon circa 1000-930BC.  But of course modern(ist) scholars dispute this, suggesting it was probably written around  630-540 BC.

The storyline starts with the conception of Samuel by Hannah after her pleading with God at the shrine of Silo.  Samuel becomes a judge and prophet, but inaugurates the monarchy with his anointing of Saul and then David.  Much of the first book then deals with the conflicts between the two.  Book II mainly deals with reign of David, up to death of Absalom.

Some of its key themes include God as the Lord of history, working his will through fallible and sinful human beings; the model of friendship provided by Jonathan and David; the effects of sin; and the dependence of a nation’s happiness on its leaders’ personal holiness

Some of its most important moments include:
  • Hannah’s song of praise, which is the key source text for the Magnificat (2 Kings 2:1-10), said in the Benedictine Office on Wednesday's at Lauds (ferial canticle);
  • Samuel's vocation story (1 Samuel 3);
  • the loss of the Ark of the covenant to the Philistines, and subsequent punishment of the priests of Silo (I Kings  4-6);
  • the promise to David that his descendants will rule forever (2 Kings 7);
  • David's adultery with Bathsheba, and subsequent repentance (2 Kings 11).

I Kings starts off with the story of the priest Eli and Samuel, moves to the establishment of the monarchy, and from chapter 13 onwards deals with the conflict between David and Saul.  Book II is primarily concerned with David, and conflict within his house (chapters 9-20).

I&II Kings in the Matins lectionary

In the Benedictine Office (unlike the Roman), I&II Kings is read over the period when there are no weekday readings, and so the readings set are for Sundays only:

Second Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Kings (I Samuel) 1:1-11
Third Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Kings (I Samuel) 9:18-10:1
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Kings (I Samuel) 17:1-16
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Kings (II Samuel) 1:1-15
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Kings (II Samuel) 12:1-16.

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