1 Samuel 13-14
This chapter has issues right in the first verse. The Hebrew-English translation reads: “Saul was —- years old when he began to reign; and two years he reigned over Israel.” If the bible version you’re reading has a number in there, it’s a guess. I looked at 3 other versions; Samuel’s age and number of years on the throne vary widely, and there are a lot of accompanying footnotes like “As in a few Greek manuscripts; the number is missing in the Hebrew”; and “Probable reading of the original Hebrew text”. Several other verses in ch 1 have similar discrepancies and footnotes of explanation. This is perfectly reasonable for an ancient book – except if it’s really the infallible word of an omnipotent god. Do most Christians realize that this is the state of much of their so-called inspired holy book? Doubt it!
So Saul and his troops are waiting to go into battle and they’re scared because the Philistines have more troops than grains of sand on the seashore (v 5). Uh, sure. They want to pray but Samuel’s not there yet. (Huh? I thought he was supposed to die at the end of the last chapter!) So Saul goes ahead and makes the sacrifice himself. Uh oh…. Not allowed. Lay people can’t make the offerings; priests have to protect their own interests. For this ‘crime’, Saul will be demoted and god will appoint a new leader, “a man after his own heart” (v 14). There’s another of those poetic phrases from the KJV that have become part of our vocabulary.
Now ponder v 19-22. One of the reasons the Israelites were losing battles is because they had no metal weapons. Apparently this was because the Philistines prohibited Israelites from becoming blacksmiths, specifically to prevent them from making weapons. This then suggests that the Israelites were subjects of the Philistines, rather than a competing nation, no?
More battle tales, yada yada yada. But in v 24 Saul makes another stupid oath, a la Jepthah, and sure enough his son Jonathan falls victim to it (how can he be guilty of violating an oath he was unaware of?). Jonathan possesses common sense and is unrepentant. (v 29-30). Nevertheless, Saul is determined to discover the sinner by casting ‘sacred lots’. When it turns out to be Jonathan, Saul doesn’t even wince but condemns his son to death (v 44). However, the crowd also has more common sense than Saul, and rescues Jonathan.