Brother Martin takes Myers/Briggs on an exegetical excursion into new territory

According to I Samuel 1, Hannah prayed at the shrine at Shiloh and she besought God to grant her a child, and the Lord heard her prayer. In due time she conceived and in due course gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel. She herself explained the reason for naming the child thus, saying “?because I asked the Lord for him.” (I Samuel 1:20 NIV)

However, the New Jerusalem Bible asserts that “a derivation from the root sha’al (to ask) would give sha’al ‘Saul’” (footnote to I Samuel 1:20 in NJB). Similarly W.K. Lowther-Clarke in his Concise Bible Commentary says of this same verse: “?A popular etymology, which would suit Saul better.” The Oxford Study Edition of The New English Bible adds a footnote on this same verse, saying “Samuel means ‘name of God’; curiously the verse explains the name Saul.”

Elsewhere the Oxford Study Edition of The New English Bible points out that birth stories are a response to curiosity about important historical figures, and it gives as further examples the stories of the births of Moses, Samson and Jesus. It goes on to say that “the birth story here (i.e. in I Samuel 1) is regarded by some as originally being about Saul rather than about Samuel; in verse 28 the Hebrew word for ‘lent’ is the same word as Saul, whose name is derived from the same Hebrew roots as in ‘asked’ (1:20) and ‘lend’ (1:28).

Commentaries point out that the books of Samuel and Kings may have been complied in the 7th century BC, though they went through some revision at a later stage. When the author (whom we shall henceforth call “the Chronicler”) wrote he had at his disposal at least two different sources from which he drew his material. It is a matter of dispute as to how far he understood the subtle nature of the documents which he used.

The Chronicler was of course writing many centuries before the researches of Myers and Brigg, and he probably knew nothing of the psychology of the shadow, which has played so large a part in modern psychological thinking.

Could it be that Samuel and Saul were one and the same person? To put this in alternative form: could it be that Saul was the real historical figure, the prophet and king, but that Samuel was his shadow?

In many noble works of literature the soliloquy is an art form which is employed by distinguished writers, e.g. William Shakespeare, whose famous words of Hamlet have been frequently quoted:

“To be, or not to be; that is the question: Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?”

It could be that the sources from which the author of I Samuel collected his information had employed a similar literary device, but that the Chronicler did not sufficiently understand this. Consequently it may be that the original text portrayed Saul agonising and wrestling with himself over the many problems of leadership. To put this in terms of modern psychology, Saul was addressing his shadow. However, the Chronicler may not have understood this, and he came to the conclusion that Saul and Samuel were two distinct persons with different roles.

This could easily make sense of a number of encounters between Saul and Samuel which the Chronicler records, e.g. the occasion when the people said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord (I Samuel 8:6 NIV). Was Saul troubled about this because of the enormous responsibilities involved, i.e. did “Samuel” in this context represent his shadow?

A similar situation is to be found in I Samuel 15 which tells of Saul’s failure to obey the Lord’s command relating to the destruction of all that remained after victory in a “holy war”?. In I Samuel 15:11 we read the words of God: “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the Lord all that night” (NIV). This surely is a picture of Saul’s remorse when he came to realise that he had offended against the Lord.

In verse 1 of the following chapter we read: “The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.’?” (I Samuel 16:1 NIV). Was this a picture of the internal turmoil in the life of Saul, who by this time knew that he was in the wrong?

In verse 7 of this chapter we read that the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance of his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (NIV). It may well be that the words further represent the struggle that was taking place in the mind of Saul who had already met David both as a comforter who played the harp and a mighty warrior who killed Goliath. Although Saul became bitterly opposed to David he may have secretly admired him, which could be the reason for the jealousy which blinded his vision in the days that followed. This struggle within his inner self would now be analysed by psychologists along the lines of split personality, i.e. Saul and his own shadow.

One of the last glimpses that we are given of Saul is the occasion when he realised that things had gone terribly wrong and that he was likely to be vanquished in battle; so he wanted to communicate with Samuel, who by that time had died.

Perhaps this means that he was at that time in such a state of depression and confusion that he could not even talk to his own shadow, for the shadow had apparently died, i.e. it was unavailable during the time that Saul was unable to think clearly. Although Saul had not received the insights of modern psychology, nevertheless he showed remarkable intuition. We read: “Saul then said to his attendants, ‘Find me a women who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.’ ‘There is one in Endor,’ they said.’” (I Samuel 28:7 NIV). Saul’s conversation with the spirit of Samuel gives every impression of this same struggle that was going on within his inner self. He was not able to resolve his problem, and he died a disappointed and disillusioned man.

The Chronicler does not appear to give Samuel an independent role, which could well indicate that he had misunderstood his sources and had failed to grasp the truth that Samuel was in reality the shadow of Saul. The greater insights of modern psychology (and particularly of Myers/Brigg) have helped us to unravel the mystery.

Brother Martin SSF wrote this article on April 1.