Perhaps not surprisingly, the Bible introduces the character of King David — one of the most prominent characters of scripture and greatest heroes of the Israelite tradition — in the most charming, delightful of ways.
If you’re a fan of “Cinderella” (no crickets to be heard here I am sure) you will love it!
We’re told at the beginning of the 16th chapter of 1 Samuel that Israel’s present (and first) king, Saul, is going south fast; a successor to the throne is sorely needed. God directs His prophet Samuel to travel to Bethlehem and pay a visit to Jesse and his several sons. God will there and then direct which of those sons is the Divine choice for King #2 and, hence, to be anointed on the spot.
Samuel sneaks to Bethlehem on the guise of inviting Jesse to make sacrifice with him. Once Samuel arrives, it’s time for the “parade of sons” to see which one wins the crown.
The author sets up the suspense in a playful way. Chances are the audience hearing this story already knows who is going to be selected, so they/we enjoy witnessing the process drawn out. And, since this is the Bible, it also packs a theological punch.
First comes Eliab. Probably he’s the eldest and, apparently the most strapping and handsome. Clearly, all signs point to him! Samuel says to himself as much: “Surely the LORD’s anointed is now before the LORD.”
We then learn God’s moral of our story: “Do not look at the appearance or stature, for God doesn’t see as mortals see; God looks on the heart.”
That’s the message of many a fairy tale (and Brady Bunch episode).
In any case, back to our biblical tale. Handsome, strapping Eliab is not the one. Then second son Abinadab strolls by….but, God indicates he’s also a “no.”
Then we have #3 Shammah.
And three more sons.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no!
Reminds you, perhaps, of the delightful way the suspense is drawn out here!
Or, in a much more darkly comic manner, here….
(In case you want to know what Sondheim lyrics look like in Arabic, here's your chance!)
No matter what comes to mind as you read 1 Samuel 16:1-13, the developments of the story joyfully entertain us. Because, like with the beloved Grimm tale, we know there is one more candidate - the right one - yet to be considered. And he/she is not only the least likely but is soo improbable he/she is not even on the scene. More delightful suspense stretching!
Samuel asks Jesse (I can hear Prince Charming’s timber in the tone), “Are all your sons here?”
Jesse replies (not of course exactly like the Ugly Stepmother although it’s hard to mentally disconnect the two) “There remains the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.”
That's right! The one so lowly and least not only does he/she not need to be on the scene, but he/she needs to keep at work so the higher-ups in the family can maintain their fancier schmancier existence.
Sure enough, David is immediately summoned out of the ashes, er, sheep fields, and despite his puniness we're told he's ruddy and handsome. And he's the one whose fits the glass slipper, er, God’s call! Hurrah!
As I said above, the discovery and anointing of David is this is such a delightful, charming biblical tale! It certainly invites some sweet, creative treatments in worship, in accessorizing the preacher’s sermon.
After all, who doesn’t love Cinderella?!
I would invite the Comic Lens aficionado to consider taking things one step further…and suggest David is the Bible’s very own "CinderFELLA"!
And not just because in 1 Samuel 16 David comes to us as a male “Cinderella.”
Pondering through the lens comique, there are actually a lot of ways David's Cinderfella resembles Jerry Lewis's.
In an earlier blog, “The Lord is My Garbage Collector” (4/27/15) I discussed many of the comic aspects, and comic potential, of shepherds. Despite the considerable romance we, and societies throughout history, have attributed to shepherds, tending sheep has - and continue to be - among the lowliest, most despised, and ridiculed of livelihoods.
Of course, there are all sorts of good reasons why this strange irony -- the lowliest is actually the highest -- remains so deeply comforting and speaks volumes of spiritual truth. (Which is also why at least some of Jerry Lewis' movies are more than just gallons and gallons of gratuitous gags.)
And to bring Cinderfella into the 1 Samuel 16:1-13 mix causes the preacher's imagination to naturally reel! How oh how to bring hints of Jerry Lewis into the sanctuary when this text is preached upon! (For example, the 4th Sunday of Lent, Year A, where it's the Old Testament lectionary).
Wouldn't this make for the most fabulous of liturgical dances?
Or how about showing this scene in the middle of the sermon as an example of how lowly one member of a family member can be in relation to the others. Not too different from the chasm between the "runty" shepherd and the tall and strapping first-born!
If you have some carpenters in the congregation, maybe they could construct something so the pastor could enter the pulpit that Sunday, like this!
Of course, as we progress through 1 and then 2 Samuel, the story of David will drastically change in tone and outcome, once he beds Bathsheba and finagles the murder of her husband Uriah. The crazy comedy of lowly trickster and Cinderfella David will painfully grind into a tragedy of "Scottish Play"-esque proportions.
Some might say that’s what happened to Jerry Lewis, too. But that’s all for a different blog.
In the meantime, enjoy!