Living with conflict: A duologue between Samuel and Jonathan

For lent and Easter 2022, I’m writing six duologues between Samuel and other people in the Bible, all on the theme of living with conflict. The prophet Samuel, now deceased, converses with a series of guests in paradise, reflecting on their past experiences and what it was to live with conflict. All posts in the series are listed here.

In this, the fifth scene, he meets Jonathan amongst a colonnade of marble pillars. Jonathan shares how Michelangelo’s David prompted him explore stories from other traditions and see echoes of his life in them.

Background notes

Jonathan was the eldest son of Israel’s first king, Saul. Unlike most other people in this series, he was a contemporary of Samuel. 

Samuel was the judge of Israel. During his time, the Israelites asked for a king and the writers of the Old Testament viewed this request as a rejection of God. However, in obedience to God, Samuel went and found Saul and anointed him as king. 

When you read Saul’s story, as told in various chapters in the book of 1 Samuel, you get the feeling that he thought God could be manipulated. He had a superstitious worldview: if I offer this sacrifice, God will give me this victory. But he didn’t always obey God and eventually God rejected him as king. 

At this point, Samuel anointed David (in secret) as king. David then won a major military victory (killing Goliath) and became best friends with Jonathan. 

So that’s the background. The story of Jonathan is really interesting because it shows someone caught in the middle of a family conflict. Saul grows paranoid and doesn’t want David to become king, trying to kill him several times. Jonathan meanwhile upholds his duties as the heir apparent, but still is faithful to David in friendship. Jonathan is one of the humblest people described in the Bible; he isn’t interested in power and is very willing to let the kingship pass to David. 

In the end, Saul goes into battle with Jonathan and both of them are killed by the Philistines (1 Samuel 31). Jonathan therefore never gets to be David’s right-hand-man. 

This duologue is the shortest so far in this series touching only lightly on the theme of betrayal. I might come back to it later and expand it, but now I think it does the job. 

An excerpt from the script is below. All duologues in the series can be found here.

Length: 1,600 words
Actors: 2 adult males 
Genre: Drama. Duologue.
Advisory notice: Brief mentions of warfare and sexual infidelity (incest and adultery).

(PAUSE) I suppose I don’t like making our heroes into idols, moulding them into who we wish they had been; or who we wish we were. It’s that that makes me uncomfortable. 

Oh, for sure. And people did that with David and with this statue of David, I won’t pretend otherwise. But for me personally, seeing it gave me the licence to imagine. To contemplate different stories and images – including ones from outside our traditions. 

Such as?

The legend of King Arthur for example. He was hailed as a good king who had a round table, meaning every voice at the table was equal. And he had this mentor, called Merlin. 


He was a wizard. 

As in, a warlock?

Yes. He reminded me of you. (BEAT) I mean that as a compliment. Merlin taught Arthur right from wrong and was very wise, and eventually a very elderly man.

So what does Arthur do?

He comes from humble beginnings, establishes peace, goes on a quest for the holy grail. He’s referred to as the ‘once and future king’.

Sounds messianic. 

It is a bit. Then he commits incest with his half sister and his kingdom is usurped by his son Mordred.

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