We all have our favorite characters in books, movies or other stories. I have favorite characters from all sorts of literature, including the Bible. If you haven’t actually read the Bible, it’s actually a library of books- poetry, historical, inspirational, and yes, some that are a bit hard to follow. On the other hand it has intrigue, sex, murder, sex, double dealing, sex, lying, cheating, stealing, sex and everything else you could imagine.
I remember being an altar boy and being told by the older acolytes that if the readings included the Story of Ruth, be sure to watch the nuns who would all bury their faces in their missals. I never had that particular reading at the Mass the nuns attended, so I can’t verify that story.
However, I am willing to share some of my favorite Bible figures with you. No, it’s not because they were so holy. Actually it’s because they were so – well – human.
First, there’s Adam. God made him exactly the way he wanted and used to walk with him in the Garden of Eden. I guess when you hang out with God it’s easy to take one’s self a little too seriously. Adam figured that THE rule (as in one rule. Only one. Not two or more.) didn’t apply to him, so he screwed up and got evicted.
Then there’s Moses – it’s a wonder he wasn’t bipolar. He’s born (Yay!) and is supposed to be killed (Aww!), so his family puts him in a basket and floats him down the Nile (Aww! – I wonder what Child Protective Services would say about that!) He’s found by the Pharaoh’s daughter (Yay!) who hires Moses’ own mother to care for him (Yay!). He sees an Egyptian beating an Israelite (Boo!) and takes him on, killing him (Oops!) A fellow Israelite rats him out (Boo!) so he runs away, finds a lady and marries her (Yay!) and spends the next sixty (give or take) years herding goats for his father in law. Instead of living happily ever after (Aww!) God shows up (Yay!) and tells him to go to the most powerful man in the world – the Pharaoh – and tell him to let the Israelites go (say what?!). Every time the Pharaoh relents (ay!) he changes his mind (Boo!) and God sends a plague (Ouch!) Eventually the Israelites escape (Yay!) but they turn out to be the biggest bunch of complainers you could imagine (Aww!) God appears and talks face to face with Moses (Wow!) on a regular basis, but even Moses doesn’t have quite enough faith and messes up when God tells him how to produce a fresh water spring for the Israelites (Oops!). He gets to the Promised Land (Yay!), but 10 of the 12 scouts he sends out don’t believe God when He says that they can win over the current occupants and come back sounding like Eeyore (Boo!) so the Israelites end up going back to the desert to kill time until all the current adults die off and a new generation can inherit the Promised Land (Aww!) Moses takes them to the border, but because of that little episode at the spring, Moses isn’t allowed to enter (Aww!) and dies within sight of it (Aww!)
Then there’s David. God tells Samuel the prophet that one of Jesse’s sons will be the new king to replace Saul. Samuel goes to Jesse and each of Jesse’s sons comes before Samuel. Some look like good candidates, but God says no. Samuel asks Jesse if he has any more sons. Oh yeah, there’s the youngest tending the sheep.
We don’t know if Jesse just lost track of how many sons he had, if he wasn’t fond of David or if he thought the safety of the sheep was more important than finding the right person to be king. In any case, Samuel anoints David as the new king.
There’s just one problem – remember Saul the king? Well, Saul’s still alive.
David is chosen to play music for Saul (the other, other king). He becomes Saul’s shield bearer. He becomes best friends with Jonathon, Saul’s son. When everyone else is paralyzed with fear, he kills Goliath. He fights other battles.
Saul is living the life of a king, while David ends up hiding out in caves or foreign lands.
One might wonder if old Samuel got his prophesy a little confused.
He has several opportunities to kill Saul. Remember the cave that David is hiding in, Saul decides to use that as a bathroom and when doing so is standing (squatting?) so close to David that David is able to cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak. On several other occasions David ends up dangerously close to Saul, once even driving a spear next to where Saul slept, but David refuses to harm him. David believed that since Saul was anointed, it would be sinful to harm him regardless of any other issues. In fact, when Saul does die, a sycophant who claims (falsely) to have killed Saul is put to death by David’s command.
David eventually takes his throne and has a beautiful palace constructed. He feels badly that God’s Ark of the Covenant is still in a tent while he has a palace, but God tells him that building the temple isn’t his job. He’s a man of war, and a son who will be a man of peace will build the temple.
David was a great musician and a greater warrior. As great a king as he was, he had a l-i-t-t-l-e problem with his testosterone. When he found one particularly comely lass he went through all kinds of intrigues, ultimately sending her husband to lead a charge in which the troops were ordered not to follow. The husband died a hero’s death and David took extremely personal care of the widow.
Where else can you find a cast of characters to match these? Where else will you see such interesting plots?