In another battle with their old enemies, the Philistines, the Israelites suffer defeat and lose some 4.000 men. To boost morale, they carry the tabernacle containing god to the battlefield. The Philistines know trouble when they see it, exclaim "Woe unto us: who shall deliver us out of the hands of these mighty gods?" (interestingly, they use the plural "gods" here), but get advice (from whom, I really wonder): "Be strong, and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines… and fight". They gather courage, attack, kill some 30.000 Israelites (including those wicked sons of Eli) and seize the covenant containing god. A survivor brings the bad tidings to Shilom, where Eli (98 and blind) is devastated, falls down & dies. Gloom all around; their god is in the hands of the enemy - although it seems incredible they really think he wouldn't be able to fight for himself. The ark containing god is taken to Ashdod and placed in the temple of Dagon. God destroys the statue and wreaks havoc on the city. They then move him to Gath. Bad idea, same result - he kills all people by afflicting them with emerods (tumors in the modern translation) "in their secret parts". Nice, a god that gives his enemies scrotal cancer (remember: god of love). An attempt is made to move the ark to Ekron, but the Ekronites wisely refuse the poison & suggest sending the damn thing back. I guess destroying it wasn't really an option they considered; it's like having a cartload of unstable nuclear waste in your hands. So they send it back with a "trespass offering" of "five golden emerods and five golden mice" (tumors and rats, in the new translation). Why 5? One for every city god destroyed (although you might have noticed only three were mentioned above, and Ekron wasn't even destroyed… maybe the scribes wanted to avoid the more "divine" number of 3, so they chose 5?). I completely fail to see why they didn't just send along some gold - why the fuck golden "images" of tumors and small rodents??? The ark, along with the 10 golden images (an echo of the 10 commandments?), is placed on a driverless cart. If the animals return to Israel, they'll know it was god tormenting them; if not, it was "chance". The cows walk to Beth-shemesh straightaway, but as that's not "home", I'm not sure what that means - was it chance then? The inhabitants of Beth-shemesh are curious and look into the ark. As we know by now, god detests curiosity; he shows his displeasure by killing 50.070 men (rather specific number there). The survivors send a message to Kirjath-jearim - could someone *please* pick up the damn thing? They come to get it and the ark remains there for 20 years. The Israelites are sad they are without god; Samuel instructs them to get rid of their false gods & repent. When the Philistines attack again, god (apparently pacified) helps the Israelites & smites the Philistines. The Israelites take back all the cities they lost.
In his old age, Samuel trains his 2 sons to be priests but obviously they turn out to be wicked (money & women, the old song & dance). The people complain and demand a king for a ruler. Samuel palavers with the chef, then tells them they will regret this, as a king will only enslave & oppress them. But the people insist, so god tells Samuel he will find a king in the person of Saul, a muscular shepherd who happens to visit the city in search of his father's lost sheep. Samuel announces him as the Israelites' first king; the people cheer & shout "god save the king" (so that's where it comes from!). I suppose this story shows Israel's natural development as a state: after the tribal leadership of individual, god-chosen prophets, the period of Judges; now comes the age of Kings, although the concept of Kings was not new; in fact, every city had its own king.
An Ammonite army attacks Jabesh-gilead. Saul rounds up an army of 300.000 men and destroys them, after which he is officially instated as king in Gilgal (and there was much rejoicing). Samuel admonishes the people that it is a wicked thing to want a king (with some special thunder & rain FX by god to scare them), but as long as they faithfully worship it will be alright. After ruling for 2 years, Saul attempts a foolish attack on the Philistines but his army is way too small; they are butchered. He entreats god & Samuel for help. A confusing battle ensues, in which nobody really knows who's fighting whom. Jonathan, Saul's son, kills some 20 men, but ignores his father's command they should not eat as they didn't win the battle yet (he simply wasn't there when the command was given; and anyway, it was just some honey). Saul and Jonathan are captured; lots are drawn, Saul is freed. Jonathan will be killed but the Israelites free him. Saul continues warring against the Philistines. God commands him to go & destroy Amalek and kill every man, woman, child and animal. Saul obeys but keeps alive king Agag, as well as the best animals. Samuel is angry at him for disobeying god's command. Saul argues he only kept the animals alive to offer them to god, but to no avail: Samuel informs him "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king". To show true obedience, Samuel hacks king Agag to pieces (there's a real prophet!). After that, Samuel and Saul are no longer on speaking terms; god repents having made Saul king (make up yo mind dude) and instructs Samuel to visit a certain Jesse to find a new king. Jesse shows him his 7 sons, but there is no king among them. After some asking, he shows his 8th son, David, who was out herding sheep. This is the one (remember, he's the great-grandchild of Ruth - see XVIII). Meanwhile, Saul's got the blues; his servants suggest a jolly tune from a harp player. Unsurprisingly, David turns out to be a great musician, so he is summoned & plays for him - and Saul "was refreshed".
[Side note: with all those battles, names and locations, how can one *not* suppose all of this to be "true" history? It's an awfully elaborate setup for a parable, and it simply doesn't make sense otherwise. So fuck the progressives - let's treat it as bad history, shall we.]
Once more, the Philistines attack. They send their champion Goliath, a fearsome warrior measuring 3m, who challenges the Israelites to send a fighter of their own. David, who stayed at home herding sheep, is sent by his father to bring food to his brothers in the army, hears of the Philistine taunt & volunteers; he is sure of his success as he feels the lord is with him. Saul is skeptical, but David recounts how he killed a bear and a lion to protect his flock. Armed only with a sling and 5 stones (echoing the 5 tumors/mice?), he confronts Goliath and hits him square on the forehead with a well-aimed first stone (so why take 5). He then cuts off Goliath's head with the giant's own sword. The Philistines flee but are chased & slaughtered, their tents are burned. Saul takes on David as a son but is secretly jealous and afraid of him, as god is with David and he is way more popular with the people. After unsuccessfully trying to kill him with a javelin, he offers one of his daughters for marriage but demands a hundred Philistine foreskins for a dowry, hoping David will be killed while gathering those precious pieces of penis. But David and his men go and return with 200 foreskins (they got carried away I suppose), so he marries Michal, Saul's daughter, but Saul still wants to kill him and tells his son Jonathan of his plans. Jonathan however is a good friend of David, so he warns him and makes his father promise not to kill him. He gives his word but still tries to kill David, who flees, pursued by Saul and helped by Jonathan. In Nob, David takes the sword of Goliath and some food (when Saul hears this, he has all of Nob killed & destroyed). Then he travels to Gath, but as he's afraid of the king of Gath, he pretends to be a madman before traveling on to Moab. Here he gathers a band of 600 dissenters. When the Philistines attack Keilah, god tells David to go there & fight them. They win & take the city. Saul hears David is in Keilah and wants to trap & kill him, but David escapes. Jonathan visits David and tells him he will be king after Saul. Saul continues hunting for David but never captures him. When he finds Saul sleeping in a cave, David has the possibility to kill him but he doesn't, and even confronts Saul later, bowing down before the god-anointed king, showing he means no harm. Saul is touched & weeps.
Samuel dies. David sends over some men to Nabal, a rich farmer, to ask for food. He refuses, upon which news David returns to Nabal with 400 men with the intent of killing him. Hearing this, Abigail, Nabal's wife, hastily & secretly brings food to David for a peace offering. He is touched & promises not to kill "any that pisseth against the wall" (I take it that means men). Ten days later, god strikes Nabal dead; David immediately marries Abigail, along with 2 more wives for good measure. Remember, he was already married to Mishal, Saul's daughter, but Saul gave her away to another man (women = cattle) before once more hunting David. One night, when everyone in Saul's camp is sleeping (a little trick from god), David descends into the camp but again doesn't kill him, only taking his spear (morality actually seems to be improving, if only ever so slightly…). The next day, David shows the spear; Saul is humbled & returns home. David returns to Gath, from where he attacks the Geshurites, the Gezrites & Amalekites (hm, so far for moral improvement… forget I mentioned it). The Philistines once more march against Israel. As god is not responding to Saul's prayers, he secretly visits a necromancer (incognito because he previously kicked them all out of the country, along with all "wizards"). She summons up the spirit of Samuel from the earth (the first time someone comes "back from the dead"). Samuel, irked at being "disquieted", tells Saul it's all his own fault: god will deliver the Israelites to the Philistines and Saul will die the next day. David with his 600 men wants to join the Philistines in their war against Israel (?), but they don't want him in their midst so the group returns to Ziklag, a city given to them by Achish king of Gath, where they discover that during their absence, the Amalekites burned the city & stole all the women (let's not forget David attacked them first… and didn't Saul kill them all earlier on? Amazingly resilient people). They set off in hot pursuit and find a young Egyptian who was left by his Amalekite master for being sick; he leads them to the Amalekites - they are killed, the women recovered and all spoils taken and divided among David's friends. Meanwhile, Saul is defeated and Israel taken by the Philistines. As he is afraid the uncircumcised Philistines will "abuse" (?) him, Saul kills himself with a sword. His body is found, beheaded and nailed to the city wall for public display. During the night, some friends take it down and secretly burn & bury it.
Prophecy for dummies: in the sequel, David will heroically free the unlucky Israelites and become a great king.