Profiles in Deception: Lying and Falsehood in 1 Samuel
Access is limited until:
Several recent studies have sought to identify conditions under which deceptions are justified in the Old Testament. For criteria, these studies employ conceptual frameworks, including the deceiver’s gender, the deceiver’s intentions, and the relative power of the deceiver and the deceived. While these factors illuminate some trends in the Old Testament's portrayal of deception, they are not comprehensive. By attending to the genre of biblical narrative, this study shows how theological themes provide a more thorough framework for assessing the function of deception in a large unit of biblical narrative—the book of 1 Samuel.
This study uses 1 Samuel as a case study to demonstrate how theological themes elucidate the narrative function of deception. Through narrative analysis in character studies of Saul, Michal, Jonathan, Abigail, and David, this study shows that acts of deception instantiate the central theme of 1 Samuel: the Lord’s selection of David as Israel's next king and the Lord's rejection of King Saul.
Saul's deceptions give texture to his multifaceted portrait, and the complexity of his character reveals the space in which the Lord chooses a new king. The narrative uses Saul's deceptions to develop both his capabilities and his failures, illustrating the interplay between human and divine agency in his loss of the kingship. Saul couples deception with violence as he seeks to eliminate David, but his efforts fail to harm the rising king.
Saul’s children, Michal and Jonathan, utilize deception to transfer loyalty from their father to the newly anointed king, David, and this shift guides the reader from Saul’s reign to David’s. From Jonathan and Michal, David learns to use deception as an alternative to violence; this skill allows him to secure his kingship without murdering Saul, which manifests David’s election. Abigail's use of concealment to establish her allegiance to David echoes Michal's and Jonathan's earlier uses of deception to transfer their loyalty from Saul to David. As a result of her indirection, Abigail persuades David to refrain from violence, a key lesson for David as he moves toward the throne.
David's own deceptions continue to refine his skilled cunning and allow him to secure the kingship without harming Saul. David's deceptions also play a pivotal role in developing the contrast between Saul and David, particularly insofar as they display David's trust in the Lord to establish his reign and his ability to manipulate the Philistines.
By interpreting acts of deception in their literary context, this study synthesizes insights from previous studies focusing on the justification of deception in terms of conceptual frameworks such as the deceiver’s gender, the deceiver’s intentions, and the relative power of the deceiver and the deceived. This study thus provides a comprehensive account of deception in 1 Samuel that reveals the theological foundation of election therein. The Lord’s choice of David determines whether the narrative portrays acts of deception positively or negatively more reliably than the deceiver’s merits, gender, or motivations.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Rights for Collection: Duke Dissertations