Knitting Hearts in 1 Samuel

Monday, June 13, 2022


Thank you so much Mary for creating this transcript!

Channing: Hi! I'm Channing

Elise: And I'm Elise. 

Channing: And this is The Faithful Feminists Podcast. 

Elise: We focus on feminist interpretations of scriptures and follow the LDS Come Follow Me manual as a guide for study. We understand scriptures can be a tricky endeavor for readers, but we also believe sacred texts contain compelling examples of loving and liberating relationships with The Divine, others, and ourselves. We hope you'll join us in exploring the problems and promises of sacred texts with imagination, critique, and celebration to reveal what we feel is the loving and liberating heart of scripture.

Channing: While Mormonism, with its iconic floral foyer couches, is our background, we follow our faith and our God on the winding path of spirituality over institution, and connection over condemnation. We are fellow wanderers, weavers, and doubters. If you’ve found yourself feeling a little too faithful for some and not enough for others: Welcome. We've saved you a seat on the soft chairs. This podcast is funded by our listeners’ generous donations. If you'd like to support our work, connect with us on Patreon or on our website at

Elise: [01:23] Hi, everyone. We're so glad that you're here this week. In today's episode we'll be working through basically the entire book of 1 Samuel, which for us looks like chapters 4 through 31 for the dates June 13th to the 19th. And before we jump into the content, we want to say a big thank you, thank you, thank you to our volunteer transcription team who works on typing out our episodes every single week. We love you and we appreciate you so much.

Channing: [01:50] Oh my gosh. Transcripts would be impossible without your help. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

Elise: [01:55] That's right. I think what we'll do this week is kind of offer some summaries for each of the chapters if you haven't had a chance to read them, and then we will offer some talking points along the way, because there are amazing stories. There's the love story between David and Jonathan. We meet people like Samuel and Saul, and there's lots of action. There's even a witch that shows up in this chapter. It's really, really phenomenal. So, if we were to start in chapters four through seven, this is when the Philistines become a major threat to the Israelites. In chapter eight, we see that the Israelites desire a king, but Samuel, who's the prophet, reminds them that with a king, you'll have to pay tribute to the king. It's not just all unicorns and rainbows here, and yet the people still desire a king and so God agrees. In chapters 9 through 10, this is where we meet Saul for the first time. As God reveals to Samuel that Saul will be the Israelite king. Learning this, Samuel anoints Saul, and the people accept and proclaim him as the king. Chapter 12, this is where some of the Israelites are going back on their request for a king. They're like, I'm not really sure if this is what we wanted, but Samuel says, Look, this is what you said that you wanted and now God has provided you a king in Saul. And at this point, Saul is really, really righteous.

[03:16] Then we move to chapter 13 where Saul has been king for two years. And he and his son, Jonathan, were at war with the Philistines. After a successful battle, Saul wanted to make a sacrifice to God, but Samuel didn't show up to perform the sacrifice when he said he was going to show up. So, Saul went ahead and just did the sacrifice. As the sacrifice was complete, Samuel walks up and said that God did not accept the sacrifice. Samuel says to Saul, “thou hast done foolishly”, and we learned that Saul has displeased God and Samuel speaks of God's desire to, “seek him a man after his own heart.” 

 Channing: [03:54] This story is so fascinating to me. So, we have about the first half of 1 Samuel that's really starting to lay the setting for the story, give us some context for all of the battles and the war that's happening, and we also see there's major stuff that's happening in these first 13 chapters, right? Not only are we seeing the Philistines become a huge conquering/warring threat to the Israelites, which shouldn't surprise us too much, because it seems like pretty much since the Israelites left Egypt they've been at war with someone or someone else or whatever, but we also see that Israelites change their entire government system from a system of judges to a monarchy, which is supposed to rule over the entire Israelite kingdom at large. I just want to take a moment to emphasize these are huge changes that are happening within the community and they all happen in the first half of 1 Samuel. So, I wanted to give our listeners a little bit of context for that as well.


[05:09] And from this point on after Saul has been established and anointed as king, like for the first few chapters of 1 Samuel, everything's going great. Yeah, the people are kind of whiny about it, but Saul is a good king. From here on out, from chapter 13 through the rest of the book, it's basically an emotional rollercoaster for Saul and Samuel and all of the other characters that we're going to come across in this book. And chapter 13 is really the beginning point where we start to have questions as readers of the text of, Wait a second, what's really going on here? So this exchange between Saul and Samuel, where Saul's like, Yeah, we just had success in battle. I wanted to make a sacrifice to God and Samuel didn't even show up until the sacrifice was already complete and was basically like, What the heck? Saul? Because you didn't wait for me now the sacrifice is not acceptable to God. And at least for me reading this- I don't know how you felt Elise- but for me reading this, I'm like, What the heck? This seems like such a small incident for Samuel to be like, Oh, what are you doing Saul? It just seems really petty, at least to me, in the exchange. But looking at it in the context of what's to come in the future chapters of 1 Samuel, it begins to form a bigger picture. And I think in the context of that, it makes more sense. I don't know. What do you think?

Elise: [06:43] Yeah. Well, there are a couple of other instances, like in chapters 14 and chapters 15, where we see Saul do something similar where God will command, Hey, I want you to go to this city or to this group of people and I want you to kill all of them and take all their food and kill all of their livestock. Don't leave anything alive. And in chapter 15, I think this is where Samuel and his people go out and they follow God's commands, but then the people are like, Hey, you know what? We saved actually the best of the best sheep so that we can sacrifice these sheep to God. Don't you think that's a great idea, Saul? We can offer, you know, praise and tribute through this sacrifice and Saul was like, Yeah, you know what? That does seem like a great idea. And so, I think I have some compassion for Saul here because he seems to be listening to the needs of the people and also relying on his own discernment and personal revelation to offer sacrifices to God. But then Samuel shows up and says, No. There's a line that says something like “it is better to obey than to sacrifice”. And that's one of the things that the Come Follow Me manual picks up on. So I understand how these scenes of Saul's unintentional disobedience play out in the larger narrative because David is supposed to be the king and we really start to see Saul go on this kind of steep decline where he wants to be in relationship with God, but God has rejected Saul.

[08:11] I think the compassion comes through for me in that there have been times in my life where I think I'm doing what's considered the “best” of the “good, better, best” only to find out, Oh, shoot, that actually wasn't the best option and somehow I'm sinning and that causes a lot of turmoil and I also think distrust between me and God. Like, God, I thought I was doing the best thing. I tried to follow your commandments to a T and still somehow I'm falling short, even though I was trying to listen to my own voice. And so, I don't know. I think obedience is really one of the things that whenever we talk about it on the podcast, we kind of struggle with and grapple with, because where's the balance between trusting your own personal revelation and obeying God? But what do you do when the commandments from God are like kill everyone and everything?

Channing: [09:04] Yeah. And I think too, obedience is a huge theme both for 1 Samuel and also for parts of 2 Samuel, because we see the theme of obedience play out in David's life as well. And so it just-- I don't-- yeah. I mean, that question is fantastic. Right. It's reminding me of the episode that we did that covered the book of Numbers, where we really have to look at the text critically and ask questions like: what is the cost of obedience when “God” (and I'm saying that in quotation marks, right), when God commands like a complete genocide of an entire community of people, like there is a cost to that? And where does personal revelation come into play? When we're talking about like, commandments from a prophet or commandments from a God to kill and yet our own personal revelation is like, I am not, I'm not going to do that. And the text never answers it. Right? The text leaves it almost as like an unanswered question. And I think there is some freedom in that for us as readers, to be able to say like, Yeah, of course there's going to be consequences either way. Right? Like if we, if we are obedient or if we're disobedient there's consequences either way. And I think the text is-- it’s less easy to weaponize the text, is what we would want to do, say in a traditional Sunday school setting where we're like, If you're obedient, then you get the good consequence, and if you're disobedient, you get the bad consequences. But if you're obedient to a God who commands complete genocide, you live with the trauma of that for the rest of your life. I think this is something that you and I talked about with this set of stories, there is no clear good or bad side in the book of 1 Samuel, or even in the book of 2 Samuel. And I think that that's something that's also particularly striking about this story as well. 

Elise: [11:09] Yeah. And a lot of it seems really contextual and like situational, right? So in one scenario, Saul listens to the people and offers sacrifice, and God rejects it. And God says that Saul, you're no longer going to be the king. Eventually the kingdom will be moved to someone else. And then in another scenario, this is a story that we both really liked. This was the story in chapter 14, where after a big war, there's a commandment that no one should eat any food after this battle. And Jonathan didn't know about this commandment. So Jonathan goes ahead and starts eating honey. And the people are like, Oh no, Jonathan, you can't do this. Like. You're going to be put to death because that's the commandment. And then Saul shows up and says, Hey, look, I'm sorry, son, that's the commandment, like we're going to have to put you to death. And then it's the people that advocate on Jonathan's behalf and actually in verse 45, they say, “Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought his salvation in Israel? God forbid: as the Lord liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not.” And I like this story because I see the people advocating and speaking up and against unjust commandments in order to save people in their community. And so it's tricky to me. How come in one situation when Saul listens to the people that's disobeying God, but in this situation it's, Jonathan is saved and the people are right? And the people interceded on his behalf. So I think it is really challenging to try and navigate commandments, especially when you're in community and relationship with other people. But I really loved this story and I was pleased to see Jonathan spared and the people- everyone- loves Jonathan.

Channing: [13:00] Oh my gosh. Well, I mean, from at least from what the text says, how could you not? Yeah. Like Jonathan is probably one of my favorite characters that we've come across in the entire year. I really love just seeing his empathy and care and concern and yeah, love, truly showing through in the text. 

[13:20] And we'll cover more of that later, but returning back to this story about the people saving Jonathan's life in the face of this commandment from his father, vow that his father made, it reminded me of the story of the daughter of Jephthah that we covered a couple of weeks ago, and how Jephthah made almost a very similar vow. Like, God, if you'll help me defeat the enemies that we're fighting against, then I will sacrifice whatever I see first when I get home and it was his daughter. And so, it's really interesting to me at least to compare and contrast these two stories. And again, I have to bring my questions to the text and say, Why does Jonathan, a son, get saved? But the daughter of Jephthah, who is a daughter, doesn't? 

[14:12] And so there's part of me that wants to offer a hopeful reading and say maybe the people learned from the example of the daughter of Jephthah and are able now to, I don't know, in the collective consciousness, to recognize like a valid vow and a less valid or a righteous vow or a less righteous vow and are able to kind of say, Okay, I'm not really sure that we need to kill somebody to have this be effective. So I don't know. I would like to think that the people collectively learned from the experience of the daughter of Jephthah, but even then, like I'm pushing back on myself and saying like, why is it that a woman's death has to be the lesson like, that has to teach the lesson that these vows are not always righteous or always well placed. So that was the thought and also that was sparked too, because Jephthah is actually mentioned, you know how we've talked about legacies of faith before in other episodes, where like the text will call on like past heroes or past like prophets and kind of do like a name drop in the text to show how righteous X, Y, Z person is? Well, they do the same thing and in one of these chapters, I don't remember which one it is, but they do the same thing in the text and they name-drop Jephthah as a very righteous hero from the scriptures, which I think is so fascinating because at least when we were reading it a couple weeks ago, that is not how his character came across.

[15:48] And then from there, moving to the story about genocide that Elise mentioned earlier, this comes up in chapter 15 and I want to get into the details of it because I feel like there's so much to work with and a lot more depth to the chapter if we really get into it and see the details. So what happens in chapter 15 is that Samuel tells Saul to go to war and destroy a people called the Amalekites. And at first I'm like, What? I haven't seen the Amalekites for a lot of chapters in the Bible so far. So I had to go way, way back to Exodus, like the footnote for chapter 15 is this incident that happened way back in Exodus when the Amalekites went to war with the Israelites when they had just exited out of Egypt. 

[16:45] So, this war that Samuel is telling Saul to have is in retribution for an event that happened hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years ago, that isn't even happening immediately to the people right now. So Saul says, All right, the prophet commanded it, so I'm going to do it. But not only did Samuel say, Hey, go to war with these people, Samuel says, “utterly destroy all that they have and spare them not, but say both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” So all the men, all the women, all the children and all the animals. Saul does this, but, just like Elise said, the people were like, Wait, maybe we can make a sacrifice to God with the best of the animals that are left. And Saul decides to listen and so he spares the animals and he also spares the Amalekite king. We learn later in the chapter that God is so displeased with Saul for not completing his commandment, that God says to Samuel, “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king for he turned back from following me and hath not performed my commandments.” Saul comes to Samuel telling him about what happened, but Samuel is not having any of it. He tells Saul about God's displeasure and Saul, just like Elise said, is genuinely confused. He says to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord and have gone the way which the Lord sent me. I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites, brought the king, and the people have brought the best of the sheep to sacrifice to God.” Samuel replies by saying, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices and in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice… because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”

[18:50] After this Saul kind of is realizing that maybe in the spectrum of like “good, better, best” choices, he probably didn't make the best choice, apparently, even though he was operating on the best information that he had at the time. And so he asks Samuel to forgive him, saying, Okay, yes. I recognize that I was way more worried about what the people thought about me and I wasn't as worried about listening to God, but I want a second chance. I want to try again. And Samuel says, No, sorry, there are no second chances here. And so to really drive home the point how disobedient Saul was, Samuel's like, Fine, if you're not going to destroy the Amalekite king, I'm going to do it. And so Samuel kills the king and from this point on Samuel and Saul separate, and they never see each other ever again until Samuel dies.

[19:57] It's just this wild chapter. And there, there's a couple of questions that I have about it, right? First of all, why is this war happening in retribution for events that happened way back in Exodus? That seems like a really misplaced commandment. But what do I know? Maybe people hold grudges for a really long time. And secondly, one of the things that Elise and I really struggled with with this story is there were no second chances for Saul. He asked in the text, Please forgive me, and Samuel, or God, or both said, No, sorry. You've used up all of your chances, which is so-- yeah. Elise and I, we've talked about this off the podcast, off air, but this idea that the text itself is contradictory. We have seen other instances in the Old Testament where God shows up with so much forgiveness, even in the face of we would think, Wow, that person really doesn't deserve that. But then we see instances like this where Saul errs on the side of caution and doesn't kill everyone and God's like, Nope, sorry. No second chances. So, I don't know. What are your thoughts about that, Elise?

Elise: [21:06] Yeah, I mean, I think it goes to show, like you said a little bit earlier, none of the characters are all good or all bad and I think that also includes God here because God offers David a gazillion chances, spares David's life a gazillion times. And I think there's one verse somewhere where God even has to repent for commanding the people to go kill another group of people or something. But you just see all of this really messiness happening. And even when we talk about David, who is everyone's favorite harp boy- I don't know- he is also being praised for being able to kill tens of thousands of Philistines. And so you have these characters that although we might feel a desire or are tempted to categorize them really strictly, we actually can't. And I think that that speaks really well to our day right now, and even to our own complexity as modern-day readers of the texts. And I think it's important for us to try and parse out, what about this character do I want to see as all good and why?

Channing: [22:16] Yeah. I think another question too, that I'm having from this particular chapter is this idea of perfect obedience. Right? And I'm even remembering we had a conversation about this in Doctrine and Covenants, because we saw that same language being used there. But again, perfect obedience to what? If the command is to follow God's word to the letter of the law- exact obedience, perfect obedience- what are the consequences? And I think over the next half of 1 Samuel we see, just like you said, Saul go into this really gradual and super confusing decline. And it almost seems to me that this experience of having to completely slaughter an entire people and then being rejected for following what God said most of the way, but because he didn't kill all the animals and one king, God's like, Nope, sorry you failed. Whatever. 

[23:24] I can just only imagine the dreams and the intrusive thoughts and the pain and anguish that Saul is experiencing, who I can imagine saying, I killed children for you and yet you're telling me because I didn't follow it 100% completely the exact way I'm no longer acceptable to you? I can imagine that that would put a person in very dire circumstances as far as mental health goes and feeling a connection to God. Just like you said, there's really no one blameless in this entire story. And I think in that way, the text reads like a tragedy. But then there's also times where it reads like a romantic fairy tale so this text refuses to be boxed or categorized or labelled in any way. So, I would encourage all of our listeners to resist trying to do that. 

Elise: [24:26] Moving on to chapter 16, we see God sending Samuel to the house of a man named Jesse, whose son David, the youngest son, is chosen to be the next king. Saul becomes afflicted with what's called an evil spirit in the text and every time this evil spirit overcomes Saul, Saul seeks after David whose harp song was so soothing to Saul that Saul made David his armorbearer. In chapter 17, we have the story of David and Goliath. And then in chapter 18, we see Jonathan and David meet, which we're very excited about. In verse one it says, “It came to pass that when David had made an end of speaking unto Saul”- this is after the Goliath scene- “that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David. And Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” Saul says that David lives with him now. And in verse three, “then Jonathan and David made a covenant because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him and gave it to David and his garments and his sword, his girdle, and his bow.”

[25:31] So, we've just barely introduced Jonathan and David, and their story kind of shows up in pieces and parts over, I don't know, chapters 18 till about 23 or 24 and we get small snippets of their relationship, the relationship between Jonathan and David. And I think that oftentimes we can turn to the story of David and Jonathan and we choose to read it only as a deep, genuine, but platonic friendship. And the Come Follow Me manual makes no address, doesn't even speak about the story of David and Jonathan. But guess what? I would bet that if they did, they would choose to see this as only a friendship.

Channing: [26:11] Yeah, I was looking in the Sunday School manual, they don't mention it at all, but in the Individuals and Families manual, they do mention it. And exactly as you said, they mention it as, They were the best of friends, the best friendship you could ever hope for. 

Elise: [26:28] Yeah, I looked at the seminary manual and it says, “David became close friends with Jonathan. Jonathan could have been jealous of David's success instead Jonathan rejoiced and demonstrated his friendship and his support of David continually, even after he learned that David would become the next king.” And I think it's absolutely worth stating that our repeated and willful denial of queer relationships in sacred text is a violent rejection of the validity, integrity and power of queer folks and their relationships. So, when we do this, when we only read queer relationships as friendships, it both erases, at least in this context, what we believe to be their truer story, a story of deep love, and it also erases a powerful example of queer homoerotic stories of love and devotion that are found within the Bible, which is a huge deal. 

[27:23] And I think as feminist readers, we're really familiar with the desire for representation in our sacred text, so much so that in almost every podcast episode, Channing and I try to celebrate, highlight, or explore the named and unnamed women in the text, or we try and grasp at something much more hidden like traces of texts that critique patriarchy or attempts at reclaiming bodies and pleasure and sensuality. I would hope that as feminist readers of the text, when we come across the story of David and Jonathan, we are gracious and quick to let the story speak for itself because the queer radical love is already there written into the story. And I think that reading the story of David and Jonathan only as a straight friendship means that we illegitimate the reality and the validity of their queer relationship. Often, we do this in order to keep ourselves comfortable and keep our categories limited and strict. And of course, yes, deep friendships are beautiful and essential, but when we cover over queer relationships by just denoting them as friendships, we erase gay, lesbian, or queer relationships and then that assumption and expectation of friendship becomes another tool to uphold heteronormativity, or the assumption that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is the default way of being.

[28:46] And if we were to even look at some of the verses, let the story speak for itself, we already talked about the beautiful line in chapter 18, where the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David. And hello! To me, that sounds like soulmates. The feeling as if God made someone just for you. There's also a lot of references to Jonathan and David making a covenant because they love each other as their own souls. In chapter 19, we see that Jonathan delights much in David. Moving to chapter 20, we have verses that say, “then Jonathan said unto David whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee.” Later Jonathan says to David, “And as touching the matter, which thou and I have spoken of, behold, the Lord be between me and the forever.” Later, David “fell upon his face to the ground and bowed himself three times. And they”, David and Jonathan “kissed one another and wept with one another.” Again, chapter 23, we see a covenant that David and Jonathan make before the Lord.

[29:56] I think one of the things I was struck with is thinking about all of the ways that queer relationships and queer couples make covenants of their love to one another outside of the formal institution of marriage. And I would be really, really interested to know how folks make queer covenants to those that they love. And what if any rituals follow such covenants? Some examples that I've heard of are: I know this couple who writes their names in each other's books as a covenant, that we're sharing our life together and we're sharing the most meaningful parts of our life together and for them that looked like sharing their books. I've also heard stories of people buying and sharing special jewelry that is made just for their partner or their people, or it might be texting lines from poems to one another, or having some type of good night ritual. So, these were some of the things that I was thinking of when I read about this covenant. And just thinking about the ways that queer people often make covenants to one another outside of formally approved, whether within the church or within the state, institutions. 

Channing: [31:03] One of the thoughts that I've had about this story is: I saw on Instagram once this post, I don't know- I don't want to call it a meme- but basically it was like, Two men kiss in the Bible, God approves. And then has the reference for these chapters. And I think what is striking here is God is never like, Oh my gosh, no, David and Jonathan, you can't have this homosexual relationship. They make a covenant before God and God accepts it. And I think that that in and of itself is also a radical reading of the text as well. To recognize that this is a God that says, Yes, I accept your love. Or at least at the very least, God has enough dignity to just say, Yep. It's accepted by my silence. You know what I mean? And so I don't know.

[32:02] I also think that there's something really radical in a reading that notices or brings forth… There is never any punishment or any like consequence for David and Jonathan's relationship… [Elise: From God.] from God or even from other people, maybe arguably from Saul a little bit? But otherwise, their relationship is generally accepted by their entire community. And I think that that's important too, especially. Yeah, just like you said, having queer representation in the Bible is so radical and it's amazing to me like how for most of my life, I read this story as a great, fantastic friendship and how different my perspective would have been if I had been taught from a young age, Hey, this is an example of two gay men or a gay man and a bisexual man being in a relationship together and how it would've changed my outlook and perspective on queer relationships as I grew up in a more and more queer accepting world. So, I think that's really exciting.

Elise: [33:13] Yeah, I think so too. And I think one of the clearest lines that we see about this romantic love that David and Jonathan share actually comes later in 2 Samuel chapter one versus 17 through 27. And this is David's lament over the death of Jonathan and Saul. And David writes, “Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives and in their death, they were not divided: they were swifter than Eagles, they were stronger than lions… Oh, Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places. I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me. Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.” [Channing: Oh, wow! Okay!] And I don't know how the text could offer itself anymore than what it's doing in this verse. Jonathan's love of David surpasses the love that David felt from the women to whom he was also in relationships with, like Michal and Abigail.

Channing: [34:11] Well, and at that point, two other women as well. David married a lot of women. 

Elise: [34:18] And continues to marry women into 2 Samuel. And I know that you had said that you feel like their relationship was generally accepted, but I think my reading of Saul is a little bit different. I actually don't think that Saul is really accepting.

Channing: [34:33] Yeah. I think there's evidence in chapter 19 to support that. So, in chapter 19, at this point, Saul becomes-- some people want to read that Saul is jealous of David because after a battle the women of the city were basically like, Saul has killed thousands of people, but David, David has killed 10 thousands of people! And I think some people read this as Saul feeling threatened by David or jealous of David. Whatever the reading is, we definitely know for sure that Saul changes from like, Oh, I love my little harp boy! To, I'm going to kill this guy. And in chapter 19, Saul tells Jonathan his plans to kill David and Jonathan is super concerned for David. So he tells him, Hey, I'm going to try and talk to my dad and see if we can't figure something out so that you can come home and be safe. So in chapter 20 Jonathan says to David, Okay, I'm going to talk to my dad, see if we can't work something out. So Jonathan goes to Saul and so at the dinner table, Saul and Jonathan and all the family are there and there's an empty seat for David. Saul asks Jonathan, Hey, where's David? And Jonathan comes up with this story, Oh, he's just out visiting family. And Saul gets really upset and confronts Jonathan and says, “Thou son of a perverse and rebellious woman do not I know that thou hast chosen David to thine own confusion and to the confusion of thy mother's nakedness”, bring him to me so I can kill him. And then you can be relieved of all of the torment that he causes you so that you can finally settle down. 

[36:35] And so in this, like in this exchange, like it can be read a couple of different ways, right? Like the traditional or conventional or conservative reading is that Saul is upset with Jonathan because he thinks that Jonathan would rather David be the king instead of Saul. And so Saul is like… I have to quote Wil Gafney on this cause it's just so good. The line where Saul says like…

Elise: [37:07] “Your son is a perverse and rebellious woman”?


Channing: [37:11] Yeah, yeah. Right, exactly. Wil Gafney says this is basically the equivalent of a modern day calling of somebody an “S.O.B.” And so I think that we can see just how emotional and upset Saul really is in this case. So there's one reading like that Saul is jealous of David, but then, also big thanks to Kate Mower who brought this to our attention, I think that there's a lot of argument that could be made here that this in chapter 20 is a coming out story where Jonathan is basically being able to say, I love David. Isn't he amazing? Isn't he great? And Saul is like, I know what you two are up to. I know what your relationship is. I know. And I do not approve, thou son of a perverse and rebellious woman. And I think that particular reading also fits the context of the text as well, and is incredibly sad. It's a sad story in that way, too. 

Elise: [38:13] Yeah. And I think the way that we choose to approach the story of David and Jonathan, it has consequences. It can teach us about what type of worldview or ideology we're trying to uphold and promote. Right? If I only read this story as friendship and that the jealousy or, or pushback that we see from Saul toward David is simply a political one, then how does that limit or expand my ideology about who, what type of families are supposed to- air quotes- “supposed” to be together and what type of relationships are approved and what type of relationships get erased? But if we, on the flip side, read this as a coming out story, as a story about queer relationships, then how does that expand? And open our eyes to the reality of many queer relationships and the experience of many queer people.

[39:02] And like Channing said, in this wa, this story can be read as a tragedy that plays on many queer tropes, like the trope of forbidden love, where Saul hates David. And many, many times we see David and Jonathan having to meet secretly. And then we see Jonathan having to basically play mediator between his father and his lover, being put in the middle. We have a gay witch hunt that's going on, where Saul literally hunts David all over town, trying to kill him. And then unfortunately, this is a love story that ends with the tragedy of death. And as we were speaking with our friend Kate this week from @LatterdayLez, we were saying how we were feeling a little bit pressured to kind of retell this story or wrap up this story with a bow that doesn't end with death and doesn't end with David and Jonathan being separated. Even though we understand that that's been a real experience for many queer folks and many queer relationships. And we were really grateful for Kate's response, which they said, “I think that's exactly its power. How long, how many millennia are we going to let this story play out? When are we going to stop it?” 

[40:10] And so I'm really grateful that we spent time with the story of David and Jonathan, because not only does the story get only read as a friendship, but even more than that, I think we just skip over the story of David and Jonathan all together. Even the Come Follow Me manual only assigns chapter 18, which is just the first meeting between David and Jonathan. And I think in all of the books of scripture, we've read over the past two and a half years on the podcast, the story of David and Jonathan seems to be the most devoted and the most creatively committed in the face of conflict and tragedy.

Channing: [40:44] Yeah, absolutely. I think I would also argue that that's because the story is between two men. And I think that we could also have really radical, loving relationships between women or between women and men, if the texts were to ever pay attention to the lives and stories of women. So I think that I would argue that that's one reason why this is probably one of the most loving and devoted stories we have. I would also definitely pair it with the Ruth story. We see a lot of love and devotion come through in that way as well. And so, yeah, I agree with you completely. And also even if the manual does assign only chapter 18, like literally when Jonathan meets David, he strips naked. He strips naked and he's like, Here, have all my stuff. And so I've never seen masculine friendships work out that way. I would love to be witness to that, but honestly, like there is just like you said, there's enough, and even just in the first four verses of chapter 18, to justify a queer reading of their relationship. 

Elise: [41:57] Yeah. I found this really great article that was titled, “Still Looking for my Jonathan: Gay Black Men's Management of Religious and Sexual Identity Conflicts” by Richard N Pitt. And the article looks at gay Black men who are heavily involved in fundamentalist African-American churches and the strategies or tools that they use to try and alleviate the conflict between their religious and their homosexual identities. And one of the men that was interviewed in the article says,

“While I know that I'll never be able to have the fairy tale relationship that straight people get, I still want to have someone love me like David loved Saul's son, Jonathan. I'm not sure if they were gay or anything, but when Jonathan died, David said that Jonathan's love for him was more powerful and stronger than even women's love for him. I want something like that. Someone who cares about me that much and someone I can care about like that, but I'm still looking for my Jonathan.” 

[42:57] And I think that this passage highlights why the Jonathan and David story is so powerful. Their love is vivid, it's visceral, it's passionate and it's fully committed. It's a love to me that seems to consume both of them while simultaneously giving them life. And I think for all of us religious folk, this story also shows God's acceptance of their relationship as a type of proof or testament that religiosity and homosexuality are not incompatible but, in fact, they are a radically loving pair. 

[43:30] Before we move on from David and Jonathan's story, I continue to see posts on Instagram about Pride month, about how “love is love”. And I also saw a different post that said something to the effect of, Yes, of course love is love, but now it's time to fight not just for statements about love, but fight for how we save and preserve life within that love. It's time to fight for lives to be spared, protected, and for people to be able to thrive no matter the love. And I hope that as we study the story of Jonathan and David, we can move from admiration and appreciation of their love and move toward a commitment to spare and protect queer lives and queer love by dismantling systems of oppression like heteronormativity and queerphobia that put queer folks and their loved ones at risk. And as we continue to work on dismantling these systems and working through our own prejudice, perhaps this story of David and Jonathan could have had a different ending. And then I hope that we can continue to strive for that today. 

Channing: [44:39] Yeah. And I'm also thinking about the ways that allies and church spaces can use this story as an entry point to conversations about queer love, queer relationships, supporting our queer siblings in the church and centering queer voices as we go through and explore the story of Jonathan and David. Really, all it takes is one brave comment in a Sunday School class to say, Oh, you know what really stuck out to me this week was reading about Jonathan and David's relationship. And to push back against the traditional reading of, Oh, it's just only a friendship and perhaps like push for more expansive and inclusive readings. Maybe David was bi, maybe David loved, in that way, both Jonathan and his other wives. There are so many ways that we can use this story and look at this story and provide spaces in our own church communities even to create conversations around safety and inclusion for our queer siblings. So if you're an ally, I hope you'll take a risk this Pride month.

[45:47] Also in these chapters where we are getting mostly the story of Jonathan and David, we also have another relationship that is unfolding in the text as well. Saul concocts this plan to kill David. And part of that plan is marrying David to one of his daughters, his daughter Michal. So in, at the end of chapter 18, Michal and David are married and the text says, “Michal loved David.” And then in chapter 19, we get this really incredible story and I loved reading this because it reminded me of one of the themes or types of women characters that we see in the text and it's that of a trickster, a woman as trickster. And I think that we see Michal embody that in chapter 19. 

[46:39] So Saul is coming up with this plan to kill David and Michal discovers this and she says to David, Hey, my dad's going to kill you and if you don't leave, you're going to die. And David's like, Okay, great. Get me outta here. So we see Michal helping David escape his house through a window, which I was like, Hey, I remember back to Rahab. I'm loving all of these repeating symbols or repeating motifs that we see in the text. So it was really cool to see that. Michal lets David out through the window and then to deceive the guards who keep coming in to ask about David so that they can take him to Saul, Michal stuffs statues and idols and pillows and goat skins underneath the bedcovers to make it seem like there's someone sleeping in there. And every time the guards come and ask about him, she's like, Oh, he's sick. Oh, he's sick. And so finally Saul gets so tired of not being able to kill David that he's like, Fine, bring me the entire bed with David in it so that I can just kill him while he's sick in this bed. And so the guards go in and they uncover this mass of idols and blankets and sheep skins and they're like, Okay, Michal's been lying to us this entire time. 

[48:04] So Saul confronts her and he's like, Why did you deceive me? And I loved hearing Michal's response. She basically was like, Well, he was leaving anyway. He was determined to get out of here and he basically said to me, I don't want to kill you too, but if you don't get outta my way, I'm going to kill you. And so in this way, Michal preserves David's life and allows him to live to fight another day. And honestly, we'll hear more about her story in second Samuel, but I feel so sorry and feel so sad for Michal, because I feel like out of most of the characters in the text and especially most of the women characters in the text, Michal really gets to the short end of the stick. David does not treat her well. And she really ends up sacrificing and trying to help wherever she can and it's never repaid to her. I love what Wil Gafney wrote about Michal. She said:

“Michal resists the patriarchal authority of her husband and father and pays the price. She's the only woman in all the scriptures who has said to love a man, and that love will not be returned. While David is inscribing his love for and with Jonathan, Michal is forgotten and neglected by him, her father, and the text. Jonathan and David share a number of tender scenes and they share kisses and a tearful goodbye. In contrast, Michal seems to be a fool for risking her privilege, status and relationship with her father for a man who does not love, want, value, or miss her.” 

[49:45] And so I just wanted to spend a little bit of time with Michal's story and recognize her sacrifice and the way that she moved in the text with power, with choice, with dignity and with love for David and love for David's life and recognize the ways that her story sometimes teaches us that good is not always rewarded for good. And sometimes you just have to do things that you know are right, simply because you know that they're right. So yeah. Wanted to spend a little bit of time with Michal before we move on to the end of the story and begin to wrap up our episode. 


Elise: [50:28] Before we wrap things up, there are two other stories happening amidst this saga that we want to focus a little bit of attention on. And one story shows up in chapter 25 where David meets Abigail. And so what happens is that David goes to his old sheepherding master and asks to be taken in because he's being hunted by Saul. But the master doesn't remember David or doesn't offer David any type of hospitality, but the master's wife, Abigail, actually does. She goes full out of her way to gather fruits and nuts and sheep and offer all of these provisions to David and really meet him with an act of hospitality. And again, just like Channing was sharing this story of Michal, we see Abigail and the women in this text offering hospitality and preserving life through David at every turn. I would even go so far as to say that I don't know if David would have made it as far as he did without the help of the women in his life and Abigail is absolutely one of them. So after Abigail meets David with this immense act of hospitality, her husband ends up passing away and David says, Okay, well, you know what? Now that you're single, I want to marry you. So David gets married to Abigail. 


Channing: [51:52] And also to Ahinoam. The text is not really clear on who Ahinoam is. I think it can be assumed that she is one of Abigail's handmaids who's mentioned in chapter 25, verse 42. So David takes two wives in chapter 25. 


Elise: [52:22] And also David's first wife Michal, Saul ends up marrying her off to another man. So David has multiple intersecting relationships throughout this entire story. 


Channing: [52:32] Yeah, I was excited by Abigail's story because I think that she really does showcase a lot of the hospitality and welcoming and caring for the needy and the stranger that we see so lauded throughout the text. And I am really excited to be able to watch her move and even speak and act within the text in a way that she feels is in alignment with her values. On the other hand, Wil Gafney also offers an interpretation of Abigail's story. And it's one that focuses on the harms of domestic violence and Gafney illustrates the ways that Abigail showcases a lot of the same characteristics that we would see women who have been in abusive relationships and how Abigail goes to every length and every end to make sure that her life is preserved and how Wil Gafney doesn't necessarily read David as like the hero in this text, but rather like prolongs an abusive relationship, especially as we see these relationships unfolding in second Samuel and in the future stories of David. 

[53:51] So just so everyone knows, there are many, many ways. I feel like this is… if you've learned nothing from the podcast, then we've failed but we hope that over the last few years we've shown there is no one clear cut, true, for sure, certain interpretation of any given story. And that's the beauty of the text. So as you're going through and reading the story of David and Abigail, recognize all of the different ways that these stories can be read from different perspectives and different angles and we'll end up with radically different results.


Elise: [54:28] That's right. I think the last story we want to focus on is in chapter eight, where Saul consults with the witch Endor. This is a super cool story. So basically what has happened is that Saul has commanded that all of the witches and the magic workers get out of town. They can no longer live in the main city. However, when Saul is kind of pushed into a corner and he's fearing for his life, he thinks that he'll be killed really soon. He asks one of his servants, I need you to let me know if there are any witches in this city, because I need to consult with one of them because Samuel, the prophet, has died and I'm not sure who I can talk to. So, please find me a witch. So Saul puts on a disguise and he goes to meet with the witch of Endor and she's really hesitant to meet with him. She doesn't know that it's the king, but she's like, Hey look, King Saul commanded that all of the witches be pushed out of town. What do you need? I'm kind of risking my life here, practicing my witchcraft and my divination with you. And Saul says to her, I need to speak to someone from the dead. I need you to kind of conjure up or communicate with Samuel the prophet. And so she does, she uses her divination and magic to bring Samuel into this conversation. And so Saul and Samuel have this conversation and remember: Samuel is dead, right? So this is a very magical story.

[55:53] And Saul says to Samuel, What can I do? I need to be in God's graces. I need God to protect me. I feel like I'm going to be hunted and killed really soon. And Samuel says, Look, I'm sorry, man. I told you this was going to happen. You have been rejected by God. And these are the consequences. This is the price that you have to pay. And then somewhere along the way Saul takes off his disguise and the witch is like, Oh, no! You're King Saul. Please don't hurt me. Please don't hurt me. And Saul spares her life and she gets to share her gift of witchcraft and magic and divination with Saul. And then shortly after this Saul dies in battle. I don’t have anything [laughs]… 

Channing: [56:40] Okay. First off, I want to say I was so excited. I was scanning through the chapter headings when we were looking last week, Oh, what's coming up. And I was like the witch of Endor?! This is seriously a fairytale. So we were very excited to be able to read her story and read about the ways that there is a witch who is in the text and she's legit. I don't know how else to describe her, but I find it fascinating that Saul, through a witch, Saul is communicating with a prophet about his standing with God. And I'm like, All of this is just coming together in totally unexpected ways. I don't even know what commentary to make on it, except for that I'm really excited that there is a witch in the Bible and she doesn't die.

Elise: [57:37] Yeah. And that she performs a really apparent and really clear and visible form of magic to communicate with the prophet. So it's not this kind of side-hustle where Saul wants to talk to his evil ancestors or something. Saul wants to talk to the prophet and she's able to act as this magic intermediary between worlds. And I think that we, outside of the language of witch and witchcraft, I think that the Mormon church has a lot of space to communicate with ancestors, to communicate with the dead, to communicate kind of across worlds and be really tender and open to spirits and promptings. And I think that this scene with the witch of Endor is closely linked to all of the things that Mormonism is really comfortable with, but I would encourage us to explore why does it feel so different and difficult when we use the language around witch and witchcraft? What about that feels threatening? What about that have we learned to automatically associate with things like…?

Channing: [58:55] Yeah. And another thing too, that I'm thinking, is the Bible is situated or is discussing community. The Israelist community is not an isolated community. They're coming into contact with other religious beliefs, with other spiritual frameworks. We know definitely that they're coming into contact with other deities and other gods. And so it's not like the Israelites just have this super quote-unquote “pure spirituality” that focuses only on the God of the Hebrew Bible. And so I think, especially in Mormon spaces, we have this idea that there's this one pure and true religion that is totally unaffected by all of the other spiritual beliefs and frameworks that are happening around it and I think the text shows that's not even necessarily true. And I know that we've talked about this before, but Mormonism itself has like very deep roots and connections to folk magic and like magical practices that we would definitely modernly associate with witchcraft. If you want to read more about that, you can read D Michael Quinn's work “Early Mormonism and the Magical Worldview”. But it's really fascinating to me to see even in the Bible, that there is no such thing as one pure true religion and in fact, it's being influenced and taking advice and circumstances and experiences in a spiritual framework from other practices and communities that it is contemporary with. So I find that very exciting and really hopeful. 

Elise: [01:00:40] Friends, thanks so much for being able to have a lovely conversation with us today. Even though we were able to dive in deeply to a few of these stories, there are also a lot of things that we weren't able to cover. For example, one of the things that has been working in the back of our minds is the way that Saul might be experiencing mental illness throughout the story. There are moments where he moves into fits of rage and anger, and then is able to kind of move back into the state of calmness and clarity. And I think, again, we can offer compassion for all of the characters that we see in the story while also holding them accountable for their actions and their atrocities that they commit, even if it's under the air-quotes “commandment of God”. So we're excited to see how this story shows up in your own study, in your family study, and in your class discussions. We love you very, very much and we'll talk to you next week. 

Elise: [58:52] Friends, thank you so much for joining us today for another episode of The Faithful Feminists podcast. We know your time and space is sacred and we are so grateful to have spent ours with you. If you enjoyed this episode, we'd be so happy if you left us a loving rating on iTunes and Spotify so other seekers can find us. 

Channing: [59:11] Financial donations support the many hours of research, work and devotion to each episode, as well as the everyday cost of creating and publishing the podcast. You can support us on Patreon or through a simple Venmo donation and help us create a world where creators, artists, activists, and beauty makers are valued and paid for their labor. Find us on those platforms and on Instagram as The Faithful Feminists. We're deeply grateful for your kindness and encouragement. We love you so much, and we hope to spend more time with you again soon.

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