Magazine | June 27, 2016, Issue

Letters

Spiritual Self-Interest

In the Week (April 11), a comparison between King David and Donald Trump was made. In describing David’s braveness, it was written: “As a boy, David fought his way to the front line so he could avenge a fearsome giant and blasphemer against the God of Israel.” That statement demonstrates a common misconception of the events leading up to David’s encounter with Goliath and unfortunately misses the point of the story, a point that most National Review readers would find true to their core values.

When David first joined the ranks of his brothers in the conflict, he was there to watch the battle. When Goliath made his challenge to any of the Israelites to fight him one on one, David’s response was the same as that of all the rest of the soldiers; he retreated back to camp. It was there that King Saul offered an incentive to anyone who would fight and kill Goliath: a reward consisting of Saul’s daughter’s hand in marriage and a special dispensation by which the hero’s family would not have to pay taxes. This reward so intrigued David that he asked three different times, “What is the reward for killing Goliath?” In effect, David was making sure this verbal contract was binding. Only then did David get up the courage to fight Goliath and make history.

The story of how David acquired the courage to fight Goliath exemplifies what conservatives often tell the Left: “That which gets rewarded, gets done.” David had no interest in fighting Goliath, in being a hero, or in winning a war. As the Biblical scholar Doug Wead once so appropriately put it, David wanted the girl. He wanted to be rich. Killing Goliath was just an avenue to reach those dreams.

Patrick Buckley

Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.

The Editors respond: David tells Goliath that he intends to show “all the earth” that “there is a God in Israel” — a God who “saves not with sword and spear, for the battle is his.” That’s his motive. You think it’s a pious pretext and that what he wants is only upward mobility. Twice (no, not three times) he asks the men of Israel to confirm what the king’s reward is for slaying “this man,” as they call the giant — David calls him “this uncircumcised Philistine” — and is indignant at their hangdog resignation. The promise of wealth and assimilation into the royal family through marriage is commensurate with the value of the military task none of them has the guts to undertake. The greatness of the trophy betokens the greatness of the feat, not vice versa. Whether feat and trophy were for David bound up in a shining seamless garment is a fair question. His son Solomon asked for wisdom, and God gave him everything; his scion Jesus taught that, if we seek first the kingdom of God, other things will be added unto us. But to imagine that David sought first the other things and then, for show, added some talk about God is to project perhaps our own smallness of soul onto one of the greatest-souled men in world literature and, for that matter, recorded history.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

In This Issue

Articles

Features

Books, Arts & Manners

Sections

Politics & Policy

Letters

Spiritual Self-Interest In the Week (April 11), a comparison between King David and Donald Trump was made. In describing David’s braveness, it was written: “As a boy, David fought his way ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Trump U. charged outrageous sums for worthless instruction, left graduates woefully unprepared for the job market, and bombarded students with meaningless jargon and self-affirming slogans. Sounds like a legit ...
Athwart

Secret Agent Woman

In case you haven’t been following the important debates on the Internet this year, people are wondering why James Bond can’t be a woman and why Captain America can’t be ...
Politics & Policy

Poetry

ALTAR The altar of the great cathedral brings indoors something of the majesty of the open sky, as the architect lifts the eyes of all from the altar to the wide beauty and precision of the ...

Most Popular

U.S.

How to Bend the News

This, from ABC, is a nice example of a news organization deliberately bending the truth in order to advance a narrative that it wishes were true but is not: Venerable gun manufacturer Colt says it will stop producing the AR-15, among other rifles, for the consumer market in the wake of many recent mass ... Read More
U.S.

Trump’s Total Culture War

 Donald Trump is waging a nonstop, all-encompassing war against progressive culture, in magnitude analogous to what 19th-century Germans once called a Kulturkampf. As a result, not even former president George W. Bush has incurred the degree of hatred from the left that is now directed at Trump. For most of ... Read More
World

Iran’s Act of War

Last weekend’s drone raid on the Saudi oil fields, along with the Israeli elections, opens a new chapter in Middle Eastern relations. Whether the attack on Saudi oil production, which has temporarily stopped more than half of it, was launched by Iranian-sponsored Yemeni Houthis or by the Iranians themselves is ... Read More
Education

George Packer Gets Mugged by Reality

Few journalists are as respected by, and respectable to, liberals as The Atlantic’s George Packer. The author of The Assassin's Gate (2005), The Unwinding (2013), and a recently published biography of Richard Holbrooke, Our Man, Packer has written for bastions of liberal thought from the New York Times Magazine ... Read More