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Rupert Giles's Remeadial Sunday School: Lesson One, David & Jonathan

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Giles stopped and looked at Buffy almost worriedly. “You're serious,” he said, not literally disbelieving, but amazed. Unpleasantly amazed, but not in the annoyed way that Buffy was used to, more concerned, as if she'd just revealed to him some serious vulnerability from which he felt a sudden need to protect her.

“Well I'm sorry, book guy,” Buffy huffed, wishing he'd just be annoyed so she could be mad about feeling stupid without also feeling guilty for being a bitch, “but I've had other things to do with my life than sit round reading the Bibles of every religion on Earth! So, no, I didn't know that David-and-Goliath David was the same guy as David-and-Bashba David or Star-of-David David. Anyway, what difference does it make? I mean, it's your job to know all this mystical myths and legends stuff, right?”

My job to...” now he was starting to get annoyed, or frustrated anyway. “Buffy, first off, as the Slayer it does behoove you to learn a certain amount about 'this mystical myths and legends stuff', but more importantly, even for... everyday purposes...” Dear God, how could he explain this to anyone who didn't already know? He could hardly think, his head was so filled with the punk-woosh-thunk noise of all of the cultural underpinning being pulled from beneath the edifice of modern Western literature. No wonder she never wanted to read books. Bloody hell, how did she watch television? Giles sighed. Through a glass darkly, obviously. Which was certainly a fault in her stars with symptoms manifesting as a fault in her self, a fault which was not of her making, i.e. not her fault. A fault it was his job to help her correct.

The Bible isn't just any book,” he tried to explain, wanting to sound patient but sounding urgent, intense. “It isn't even just any ancient sacred book of myth, history and prophesy. Its... a corner stone, a starting point a... massive cultural landmark the metaphorical size of the Great Wall of China. It is... the basis of our culture in a sense so broad and deep that I can say 'our' to you about it very easily, and could just as easily say 'our culture' to Shakespeare or Sigmund Freud or Salvador Dali. The Canonized content of the Hebrew Scriptures... it's, well, Canon. It's bedrock! Buffy, you cannot simply wander though life not knowing this stuff, it's too great a waste of your considerable intelligence.”

Alright, alright,” Buffy relented, “Tell me the tale. I promise I'll listen and make little attention paying noises.”

Giles gave her an affectionately exasperated look, and they both relaxed a little, smiling half apologetically at each other. Buffy kind of hoped that meant she wouldn't actually have to hear the Bible story, but it didn't. “David is the son of Jesse of the tribe of Benjamin one of the twelve tribes founded by the twelve sons of Jacob or Israel, son of Isaac the son of Abraham. A respectable but more or less ordinary background for his time, place and class, which was sort of upper middle in a mostly poor world. He started out in life as a shepherd boy, tending his father’s flocks in the field—”

“Um, is there a Clift Notes version of this?” Buffy asked, having minor guilt for breaking her promise so soon, but bored already. She had a feeling it was going to take a long time to get back to anything to do with their current research into the mystical-whose-it-ness of six-pointed stars at this rate.

Giles gave her a look of smoldering, cataclysmically affronted dignity. “Prophecy. Anointed One. Yodda. Yodda. Yodda,” he said, pronouncing each word with clipped, acerbic irony.

“Oh my God!” Buffy exclaimed, getting offended herself, sort of releived to finally be the one with a good reason to be offended. “You’ve been waiting like a year for me to piss you off in just the right way and at just the right time so you could say that to me!”

“Well do you want to hear this?” Giles demanded, “Or don't you?”

No, of course not, was the answer. She did not want to hear it, not even a tiny bit. But somehow, hearing the slight wounded note in his otherwise angry voice, seeing the cold center of profound disappointment in the depths of his blazing eyes, Buffy couldn't bring herself to say that she didn't care at all who this 'David' guy was, didn't see how it could possibly ever matter. “Yeah,” she said, as unreluctantly as she could manage. “Go on, I promise I'll be good and listen this time.”

“King David is fairly ambiguous as mythic figures go, which is quiet typical of the Hebrew Scriptures, actually. The name, Israel, actually means wrestling with God, and they do. But, well, he’s sort of part King Arthur, part Pan, part Hercules and part Oedipus, though not the part that Freud gets so hung up on, all whilst being deeply devoted to God and yet breaking His Law, which is always their main theme.

“As a young boy, he was anointed (that is literally, as in pouring oil on someone’s head) by a prophet who told his father he was going to be king, which was a bit of a problem, because they already had a King, Saul, who had a son Jonathan whom he wanted to succeed him.”

“So this Jonathan guy was his enemy? Did he send the giant to kill him or...”

“Oh Good Lord, no,” Giles explained, really warming to his subject, settling in for a long lecture. “David and Jonathan were the very best of friends. Despite the natural feeling of inadequacy that had to have arisen both from his friend's superior skill in battle and from the weight of his father's expectations, Jonathan loved and trusted David from the moment the young man came into the King's household.  He literally gave him the shirt off his back, his armor and his own sword, and when King Saul later sought to kill David, to defeat his destiny, it was Jonathan  who warned and protected him.  Of course, he loved his friend, and that was always the main thing with him.  But even apart from that, Jonathan knew from the very begging that he was never meant to be a great leader, never a man of destiny, and he accepted that.  He handed the crown to David without a moment's pause.  Truthfully, I think, he was only too relieved not to be the one Chosen...”