General Introduction
– Listener feedback: In which Michial takes offense at compliments
– What’s on the blog?
– A notice about next week

King David
– What picture does the Hebrew Bible give us of monarchy?
– The transition from judges to kings
– God’s rejection of Saul
– Heightism in ancient Israel
– A tale of two Lord’s anointeds
– Bad news for the bearers of bad news
– Kingly duties (haha, he said “doodies”)
– David’s mercenary army
– Zeus and the frogs

Greek Kings
– Smaller kings with less power
– Why was Agamemnon in charge, anyway?
– Does kingship follow religion?

The City That Would Have No King
– Why did the Romans hate kings?
– The real or mythical Tarquins
– Brutus plays dumb
– Night-wandering weasels
– A funny thing happened on the way to the Senate…

A New Kind of Kingship
– The King of the Jews
– On the Jewish Messiah
– Jesus thrown everything off balance
– Christ and politics: A preview of a future episode
– The new spiritual kingship
– Mark Antony and Herod the Great

Medieval Kings
– Charlemagne’s other nickname
– Packing a rod in the Germanic world
– David speaks Old English
– Ring-givers and gold friends
– The Phony King of England
– Who died and made you king?
– We skip the Renaissance

American Rejection of Monarchy
– We just hate George III
– The roots of the revolution
– The Adams/Jefferson mudslinging
– Democracy and American literature
– Ah, but we digress: Colonial myths
– Update: It was Samuel Adams, which is at least less ridiculous:

Pop Cultural Kings
– The Sultan of Swat
– Jack Kirby, the King of Comics
– King Richard


Aesop. Fables. Trans. Laura Gibbs. New York: Oxford UP, 2008.

Beowulf. Trans. Seamus Heaney. New York: Norton, 2001.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Essays and Lectures. Ed. Joel Porte. New York: Library of America, 1982.

Homer. The Iliad. Trans. E.V. Rieu. New York: Penguin, 2003.

Livy, Titus. The Early History of Rome. Trans. Aubrey de Selincourt. New York: Penguin, 2002.

McCullough, David. John Adams. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009.

Paine, Thomas. Common Sense. New York: Penguin, 1982.

Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005.

—. The Poems. Ed. John Roe. Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP, 2006.

4 thoughts on “The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #28: Kings”
  1. I know you guys didn’t have a lot of time to talk about it, but nonetheless I really feel y’all painted with some broad strokes when it came to your discussion of David and Saul. The biggest thing that bothered me was the usual Sunday School lesson that “God really never intended for Israel to have king.” (Maybe I’m especially bothered by that interpretation when it comes a from a couple of guys who claim to be Calvinists.) Of course “it’s complicated”, but God chose Saul, the people accepted God’s anointed, that point is very clear. Of course later on we hear that God regrets God’s decision. It also seems to me that Saul is a character I can sympathize with. Saul sins, but it seems to me that Samuel set Saul up for failure. Of course as the last judge it is not like Samuel is a neutral party.

    Also to be honest I don’t buy that David was such an honorable guy. Sure the text wants us to think that, but it is also clear at points that David’s allegiances are not firmly with Saul, God’s anointed. He joins sides with the Philistines and at the crucial point of a battle he does not tell the armies to pull back in order to spare Saul.

    Anyway, I just wonder what you guys think about some of these very complicated issues. If I was preaching a sermon I definitely would not nuance the whole “God never intended Israel to have a king” angle. It is clear that the system of Judges and tribal rule did not work so well. In many ways the people did need a king in order to gain security, and Saul did a pretty good job, all things considered. I am no monarchist, and I see how, like all human systems it has flaws. On the other hand, I think the point of the Old Testament prophets is not so much that having a king was bad, but having a bad king was bad.

  2. Phil,

    I agree with you that a full treatment of the scholarship surrounding 1 Samuel would find Michial’s take on Samuel and Saul to be one among competing readings. That said, I do tend to agree with him that it’s hard to establish the self-evident superiority of a monarchy over a confederation of tribal councils, rallied on occasion by a shophet, when one reads 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings together. When I teach Judges in churches, I often note that the sentence “And each did what was right in his own eyes” is one of the loveliest Rorshach tests in the Bible–how one interprets that will tell a careful observer whether the interpreter fears tyranny above all else or anarchy above all else. (I’ll leave it to our readers to speculate on my own objects of fear.)

    And to be fair, our treatments of the Roman republic, the medieval cult of kingship, and the career of Elvis Presley were also hopelessly narrow. As I said at the episode’s outset, I bit off way more than I could chew on this episode. 🙂

  3. What I find more and more amazing is the tension that exists in the Old Testament. On the one hand I see a lot of pro-David and pro-Solomon propaganda , but on the other hand the prophets are very critical of the “good guy” monarchs.

  4. Sure. As I said, that’s one of the reasons I remain a disciple of Brueggemann–he’s got what I take to be the best available account of what sort of Holy Book we’ve got, given all of those tensions in the text. I suppose I can imagine changing my mind if someone else is more convincing, but right now Brueggemann’s the best horse in that race as far as I’m concerned.

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