Imagine that the story you identified in Unit 2, “Reading Scripture through new eyes” was one of the stories that Jesus interpreted on the road to Emmaus. Where might you listen for the unheard voice of the Forgiving Victim in that story?
As for where we might listen for the unheard voice in 1 Samuel 18, it doesn’t seem possible to hear forgiveness in Saul (one who calls for blood), David (one who slaughters in double measure), or Jonathan (one who is enraptured by the carnage). Merab and Adriel the Meholathite are indeed voiceless characters in this story, but they are hardly victims. This leaves Michal and the slain Philistines.
Could Michal (one whose love is co-opted into the ruthless power plays of political rivals) be the unheard voice of the victim? I’m reluctant to think so. While the strength of Michal’s love for David is demonstrated in the next chapter when she foils her father’s murderous plot, it seems that the only reason she loves David so much is because she, too, is taken with the gallantry of his military endeavors and the pop songs celebrating his killing of myriad Philistines. The narrator doesn’t say this explicitly, but neither does the narrator provide any alternative commentary on the nature of her love for David—so it seems fair to assume that she is smitten for the very same reason the rest of the nation (save Saul) is smitten with the young man. Absent any indication to the contrary, I’m inclined to lump Michal in with her brother, Jonathan, as one who is enraptured by David’s violent exploits.
Is it, then, the slain Philistines whose unheard voices speak to us as we read with Jesus’ eyes? If so, then we are made queasy not only by the characters of Saul, David, Jonathan, and Michal—but also by the narrative voice of the story itself. Never once in the passage is the reader encouraged to humanize any Philistine person or group. If they had been given a voice following their demise, those Philistines would certainly have something to say to their killers (David and his men), to the leadership who legitimated their deaths (Saul and his courtiers), and to those who valorized their murderers (Jonathan, Michal, and the nation at large). However, attentiveness to their absolute silence in this story (i.e. observing the shear impossibility that at any point a Philistine might actually have something to say for himself) leads us as readers to confront the storyteller.
“Don’t you see?” whisper the slain, “This was never a tale of warriors (Saul and David) killing their enemies; this was always the story of enemies (Saul and David) warring against us in place of killing each other.”