8. The Battle Narrative and Defeat

According to the traditional pattern, “our” side represents the ideal human and religious values, and “our” hero or king wins the victory, which represents the triumph of these values over chaos and destruction. However, as a battle narrative moves toward realism, this victory is either frustrated initially or denied altogether, and the two main reasons are sin and history.

8.1. Sin and the Traditional Battle Pattern

The traditional pattern does not always reach the expected resolution immediately, for that would make for a dull and predictable story. The ancient Near East saw battles as trials, with the just party receiving the victory as noted above.[1] Defeat then points to some unrighteousness which typically belongs to the enemy. In several biblical stories, however, we find the sin within “our” side.

8.1.1. The Sin of Achan: Joshua 7

In Joshua 7, Israel’s first attempt to take the city of Ai fails. Though the spies report that it is an easy target needing only a few thousand soldiers, the forces no sooner go up than they are fleeing before the men of Ai, who kill thirty-six Israelites. As a result, “the hearts of the people melted and turned to water” (7:5). Joshua reacts in shock, and the Lord reveals to him that some have violated the ban, “have stolen, have acted deceitfully.”The Lord has the people “brought near,” and by elimination, Achan is taken. Though he humbly confesses his sin, they stone him to death to rid the community of sin. From the story’s perspective, one person’s sin infects the whole community, and his death reestablishes its righteousness. With that restored, Joshua moves again toward Ai. Using deception, he sets an ambush by pretending to fall back in order to draw out the men of Ai and burn the unguarded city. Israel then destroys the forces of Ai to fulfill the ban. Though the resolution satisfies this story, its confidence raises some questions.

8.1.2. Jonathan the Hero and Saul, the Foolish King: 1 Samuel 14

In 1 Sam 14, Jonathan and his armor-bearer cause “a very great panic” in the Philistine camp. Saul calls for the ark and begins his consultation, but the tumult is so great, he enters the battle without finishing. With the help of Israelites defecting from the Philistines and coming out of hiding, “the Lord gave Israel the victory that day” (14:23). The storyteller then tells us that Saul had “committed a very rash act on that day” by imposing a fast until evening. In a flashback, we learn of two “sins.” First, Jonathan violated the fast, whether knowingly or unknowingly, by tasting a bit of honey that made his eyes bright (14:27). Second, during the plunder, the hungry troops slaughtered the animals and “ate them with the blood… sinning against the Lord” (14:3-33).  When Saul learns of this, he builds an altar for a proper sacrifice.

Later, when Saul wants to pursue the Philistines by night, the priest proposes another consultation of the Lord, but that yields no answer. Saul then has everyone “brought near” and swears that whoever is at fault, “even if it is in my son Jonathan, he shall surely die” (14:39)! The sacred lot indicates Jonathan is taken, and Saul prepares to kill his son, the hero of the battle. However, the people intervene to protect the prince, whether because of their common sense or their sense of the tradition or both.

Here the “sins,” caused by the king’s inappropriate piety, tells us more about Saul’s character than about any real sin. Klaus-Peter Adam argues that this particular narrative shows the influence of Hellenistic Greek tragedy, with Saul as a tragic figure defined by Aristotle.[2] Francesca Aran Murphy also reads this story as a tragedy in which Saul “symbolically killed his son twice.”[3] While I shall argue below, along with many others, that Saul becomes a tragic figure, at this point, I find him still a comic figure. If Saul put the hero to death, the story would have been a tragedy. While Jonathan will die tragically with his father, here, Saul is still a comic figure. He is a foolish king unable to be the hero or to recognize his son as the hero of the battle. In this, we see the seed of the tragedy: Saul’s inability to recognize David as the hero, but that is still to come.

8.1.3. King Abimelech, the Bad King: Judges 9

The story of Abimelech in Judges 9 does not follow the traditional pattern but tells of a bad man who became a bad king. Traditionally the enemy, representing evil and chaos, attacks ”our” side from the outside. Here the bad king has taken control, and the youngest son, who escaped, tells the allegory of the trees to interpret the events (9:7-21). Even so, the story follows the tradition by seeing that evil is punished. The bad king goes out to fight the bandit lords of Shechem, who sends out the treacherous and proud Gaal ostensibly to be the hero but in reality to bring about his defeat. Indeed Abimelech routs him. However, when Abimelech presses his advantage to the city tower, a woman throws down a millstone crushing his skull. Though he has his armor-bearer slay him, still the report goes out that he dies at the hand of a woman—again, an unlikely hero like Jael and Judith. Though the story seems to break with tradition by enthroning a bad person, injustice still receives its traditional reward.

8.1.4. The Battle against Benjamin their Brother: Judges 18-20

Niditch begins her commentary on Judges 18-20 by noting that this cycle of stories, though “shocking,” tells of the strong emotion and dramatic deeds “familiar to readers of the great epic traditions of the world” which are “filled with tales of violence and re-creation.”[4] Here, the threatened violence against hospitality leads to real violence against women, which provokes a civil war. Dramatically the Levite cuts the dead concubine into two pieces and sends them throughout Israel to muster troops to avenge the crime 19:27-30). Once mustered, all swear to avenge the deed (20:1-11). A verbal exchange takes place with the Benjaminites who refuse to hand over the perpetrators of the violence (20:12-13). Three days of battle follows in traditional fashion. Despite the encouraging oracles, Israel must retreat the first two days, and only on the third do they claim a victory achieved by ambush as at Ai. There follow the burning and the destruction of “the city, the people, the animals, and all that remained” (20:48). While Israel’s defeat on the first two days retards the action and builds the tension, it also underlines their determination to avenge the crime.

The main differences between this story and the traditional pattern are two. First, the enemy’s threat is not against the people but against two women. The women are raped, and at least one dies. The crime’s specificity with the complicity of the father and Levite creates a realism that evokes outrage even within the story. Second, the enemies are not outsiders but “brothers” (19:23). This heightens the outrage. However, their destruction presents a new tension: there are no wives for the Benjaminites. In Judges 21, Israel takes wives from Jabesh-gilead, who had not come up for battle, and gives them to Benjamin. How is this different from earlier rape in the cycle? These breaks with the traditional pattern undermine the traditional meaning of the story.

As Niditch observes: “At the end, harmony prevails, at least in the view of the androcentric author: the warriors are domesticated, building houses, dwelling in them, and returning home. A renewal of order has taken place.”[5] From a non-androcentric perspective, many questions and problems remain. Gunn, in his survey of interpretation, notes that the story “clearly raised problems from early on,” with “early modern and modern readers…becoming increasingly inclined to condemn the Israelites, as well as the Gibeahites, for wanton behavior.” This concern “gains grounds in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as views of women and women’s rights were changing,” particularly in the later twentieth-century by feminist critics.[6] Phyllis Tribble includes this story in her classic Texts of Terror.[7] While Niditch finds “little comfort…for feminist appropriation,” she notes that Judges ends not in chaos but “with wholeness, reconciliation, rehabilitation and peace, made possible in men’s eyes through the taking of women.”[8]

8.2. History and the Traditional Battle Pattern

Several battle narratives break with the traditional pattern in important ways. As Scholes and Kellogg point out, the shift of allegiance from tradition to realism, whether fictional or historical, contributes to the breakdown of the traditional narrative. Since the tradition carried the culture’s identity and values, “our” triumph was necessary to reaffirm those themes. In real life, “our” side sometimes loses, or things are more complicated than we would wish. These facts must sometimes be faced, and these narratives deal with that complexity.

8.2.1. Jehoash defeats Amaziah: 2 Kgs 14:8-14 // 2 Chr 25:17-24

Amaziah of Judah, fresh from a victory of Edom, challenges Jehoash of Israel to a fight. Prudently the king of Israel tells him: “Be content with your glory,” but “Amaziah would not listen.” They meet at Beth-Shemesh, and “Judah was defeated by Israel; everyone fled home.” Jehoash captures Amaziah, tears down “four hundred cubits” of the wall in Jerusalem, and plunders the temple and palace. In 1 and 2 Kings, the king of Judah is the good king, but here he is proud and suffers defeat at the hands of the prudent Jehoash. The story does not follow the expectation of its tradition. The story also reports the plundering of the temple and other specific details that create the sense that this actually happened.

8.2.2. The king of Assyria defeats Rezin at the call of Ahaz: 2 Kgs 16:5-9

The story of the Syro-Ephraimite war is also the context of Isaiah 7-8. As it stands in 2 Kgs 16:5-9, the events follow the traditional royal pattern but run contrary to the biblical tradition. When Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Syria attack Judah, King Ahaz of Judah calls for his overlord to rescue him—King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria. As the Isaiah prophet makes clear, Ahaz should trust in the Lord and not in foreign kings (Isaiah 7-8); that is the tradition. However, Ahaz tells the Assyrian king: “I am your servant and your son” (16:7). The king of Assyria makes short work of it all in ancient Near Eastern fashion. The break with the biblical tradition points creates a sense of realism, as does the detail about Edom recovering Elath in 16:6. The realism supports a judgment that the text reflects the history of the events.

8.2.3. The Sennacherib Narratives: 2 Kgs 18:13-16, 17–19:37 // 2 Chr 32:1-33 // Isa 36-37

Sennacherib’s brutal campaign through Judah appears in sources beyond the Bible, but I am concerned only with the two stories in 2 Kgs 18:13-16 and 18:17–19:37. In the first, the good King Hezekiah capitulates and admits guilt, promising that whatever “you impose on me, I will bear” (18:14), and then he strips the temple and palace of everything to save Jerusalem. Even without the supporting evidence from the Assyrian archives, the break with the tradition creates a sense of realism and history.

The second story conforms to the biblical battle tradition. The king of Assyria sends messengers with outrageous demands belittling the Lord. The Judean elders react with fear by asking the Assyrian general to speak not in Hebrew but in Aramaic. Though the Assyrian messengers continue their outrageous commands, the Judeans at the king’s command do not answer. When Hezekiah receives the report, he reacts as a good and pious king by tearing his clothes, covering himself with sackcloth, and going into the house of the Lord while sending for Isaiah the prophet. After hearing how the Assyrians mocked “the living God,” Isaiah delivers an oracle beginning with “Do not be afraid” and foretelling that “I myself will put a spirit in him so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land” (19:7). After a further demand by the king of Assyria, raising the tension, Hezekiah prays for God’s salvation. Isaiah assures Hezekiah that his prayer is heard and gives a sign promising a return to normal life (19:29-31) and ending with the traditional motif of an oracle promising that the king of Assyria “shall not come into this city.” The traditional victory follows: “That very night the angel of the Lord set out and struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; when morning dawned, they were all dead bodies” (19:35). As at the Red Sea, the Lord brings about the victory without any help from his chosen people. The story adds the death of the enemy king, just as the tradition expects. In short, this story follows the traditional pattern.

The last two stories exemplify well the pull between the tradition and realism.[9] Things do not always work out as in the traditional way.

8.2.4. King Josiah dies in Battle against the Pharaoh Neco: 2 Kgs 23:29-30 // 2 Chr 35:20-26

Contrary to the traditional battle pattern, the good King Josiah dies in battle fighting Pharaoh Neco and the Egyptians. The narrator in 2 Kgs 23:29-30 gives only the barest account, but the Chronicler adds that Neco told Josiah that he had not come out against him. Interestingly the Chronicler tells us that Neco’s words are “from the mouth of God.” Still, Josiah does not turn back, and even disguises himself as Ahab in 1 Kgs 22:29. Again the displacement of the traditional pattern points to the storyteller’s allegiance to history.

8.3. Comic Death

In The Story of King David, David M. Gunn observes that the death of a significant person is a hallmark of biblical battle narrative.[10] Our survey of biblical stories here has made that clear. To better understand the function of these deaths, I want to make a distinction between comic and tragic deaths.

Comedy necessarily moves toward a happy ending, and this means reconciling or eliminating the forces of chaos and evil.[11] By comic death, I mean the destruction of the forces that war against good order and stability that the hero’s victory (re-)establishes. The death in these stoires is thematic rather than realistic to realize the comic pattern of the happy ending.

Traditional battle stories belong to this comic pattern. Their hero defeats the forces of chaos and destruction and establishes a new order of stability and life. The death of the enemy hero represents the destruction of chaos and oppression. In that sense, the enemy’s death is comic, and the story invites the audience to rejoice and celebrate this death.

Comic deaths include those of Pharaoh, Eglon, Sisera, Nahash, Goliath, and Holofernes, among others. The traditional story does not invite us to feel sad or weep for Pharaoh who stands for slavery and oppression; rather, it invites us to sing a victory hymn. Anyone feeling sorry for Pharaoh or Goliath reads the story contrary to its tradition.

Somewhat more complicated are the deaths of those within “our” side. In 1 Kings 22, the king of Israel, who “hated” the prophet Micaiah, is hit with a stray arrow and dies. He is “our” king, but has allied himself against the prophet of God, and so his death is really comic. So also in 2 Kgs 7:17. The captain who mocked the prophet Elisha is trampled at the gate, as foretold. Both have set themselves against the representatives of the divine hero and die a comic death. Jezebel, as the protector of Baal’s prophets, would fit into that category although her death has a strange, realistic dimensions. She puts on her makeup and calls out Jehu sarcasticly: “Is all well, you Zimri, murderer of your master?” (2 Kgs 9:31). Even Jehu, who had her thrown from a window, sends out his servants to bury her because she was “the daughter of a king.” In death she becomes a rounder character.

Ahithophel’s death is also a cause for rejoicing. He was a traitor to king David and offered his wise counsel to the rebel Absalom, who, according to the tradition, rejects it. Ahitophel, realizing the implications, takes his own life. Even so, the storyteller captures his resignation and suicide with realistic directness (2 Sam 17:23).

Abner, Saul’s general, survives his lord and comes to serve Ishbaal, the successor to the throne. The general  quarrels with Ishbaal and then tries to make peace with David who is open to the alliance. Joab, however, must avenge the death of his brother, and so he kills Abner treacherously (2 Sam 2-3). Abner’s death is more complicated than the simply comic deaths of Pharaoh and Goliath.  Whether historical or not, we have moved toward realism.

In Joshua 7, Achan is put to death because he sinned by breaking the ban and so caused the initial defeat and deaths of his fellow Israelites. Joshua invites Achan to give glory to God by making a confession which he does. His simple owning of guilt creates empathy for this sinner, but still Israel stones him to death (Josh 7:16-26). The story’s realism creates a tension between Achan’s heartfelt admission of sin and the swift justice of death. The text conveys an empathy that does not set well today. Even granting the justice of the punishment, Achan’s death evokes sadness and points toward tragedy. Rather than being two categories, the comic and the tragic are rather poles of a continuum.

8.4. Tragic Death

Tragic death does not invite us to rejoice but rather to mourn. Unlike comic death with its stereotypical characters, tragic death demands some realism, and its characters must deal with the complications of the real world. In both the Greek and Shakespearean tradition, the tragic character brings about their own death because of some tragic flaw, but this need not be the case. Hector’s death in the Iliad is tragic. He plays the traditional role of the enemy hero, who should represent chaos and destruction. Hector, however, is arguably the finest human being in the Iliad. He is the loyal and devoted son of King Priam and the faithful and loving husband of Andromache. He fights dutifully and valiantly for Troy, but he cannot match Achilles, the “hero” who kills him. Hector’s death is not one to be cheered but mourned, for it is tragic and captures for Homer something of the tragedy of war. His tragedy, however, is not of his own making but the result of his commitments and loyalty.

By understanding how Hector’s character breaks with the traditional role, his tragedy is made clearer. This same approach helps to clarify tragic death in the Bible.

8.4.1. 2 Sam 9-20, 1 Kgs 1-2

The storyteller of what is sometimes called “the Succession Narrative” or “The Court History” (2 Sam 9-20; 1 Kgs 1-2) provides us with the most realistic long narrative in the Bible. David’s son Absalom rebels against his father and, with his hair caught in a tree, is killed by Joab, David’s friend and commander. David famously weeps for his son, the rebel. Joab confronts the grieving father and king with the brutal reality of loyalty. As Joab says, “You have made it clear today that commanders and officers are nothing to you; for I perceive that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased” (2 Sam 19:6). For Joab, Absalom is the traditional enemy whose death must be celebrated. For David, Absalom is his son who must be mourned. For the audience, Absalom is more complicated still. He is the brother of a sister raped by her half-brother, about which David, his father, did nothing. Absalom is the avenger of his sister but also a hot-headed young man ingratiating himself to the populace and rebelling against his father, who does not quite know what to do with him. Absalom’s death is more complicated because of the story’s realism.

Other characters die a tragic death as well. Joab is David’s faithful servant. He kills Abner, Saul’s general, by deception; he puts Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, in the front line to die by the enemy’s hand; he tricks David into bringing back his exiled son, Absalom, and then kills that son when he rebels. For this service, David removes Joab as general and replaces him with Amasa, whom Joab also kills, seemingly by deception, to become again general. However, at Solomon’s accession to the throne, Joab finds himself among the opposing faction. When Adonijah proves treacherous, Solomon has the rival killed and then sends men to kill Joab, even as he holds on to the horns of the altar. Such is his tragic reward for a life of loyal, if violent, service to David, his king.

8.4.2. The Tragedy of Saul: 1 Sam 13-31

Many have recognized Saul as a tragic figure. Cheryl Exum recounts Saul’s violence and names him as a “tragic hero…haunted by demonic forces from both within and without…, but most disturbing is the realization that the evil spirit which torments him and makes his plight even more desperate is the agent of none other than Yhwh.”[12] She contrasts Saul’s tragic situation with those found in Greece.

“In Greek tragedy, the hero faces an indifferent, arbitrary world alone. Saul, in contrast, knows the agony of rejection by the God whose aid he repeatedly seeks—and more, he feels the terror of divine enmity.[13]

While I understand how Exum arrives at this understanding, the motif of the nemesis deity seems more at home in the Greek world where various gods and goddesses create trouble for human beings.

From the perspective of the traditional pattern, Saul is a tragic figure because he breaks the traditional roles. Lacking the techniques of a modern novelist who builds a coherent and organic whole, Saul’s storyteller(s) fabricate(s) a complex picture from pieces. In 1 Samuel 11, Saul shows himself a hero in the royal tradition by defeating Nahash and rescuing the citizens of Jabesh-Gilead. However, in 1 Samuel 14, he becomes a cautious and foolish king who imposes unwise fast and then is ready to put to death the hero of the day, Jonathan, his own son, until the people step in and quash this foolishness. His battle against the Amalekites and rejection by God in 1 Sam 15 has provoked much reaction by scholars, and much of the interpretation of Saul’s tragedy reflects the understanding of this text. Indeed it is hard from our vantage point to understand how the punishment of rejection fits the crime of violating the ban, which required the killing of men, women, and children. Samuel does not help the modern interpreter as he hews Agag in pieces. Although both narratives stand by themselves, they contribute to the complication of Saul’s character that follows in 1 Sam 16-31.

Although the seams of the stories show, the juxtaposition creates a sense of Saul’s disintegration. After David’s secret anointing, the spirit of the Lord departs from Saul and is replaced by “an evil spirit from God.” Saul brings David to play the harp and cause the spirit to depart. In the story of David and Goliath, Saul plays the traditional of the leader who commissions the hero, as does Anshar in the Enūma eliš and Anu in the Myth of Anzu. Moreover, Saul recognizes the hero by setting David over his army (18:5). When David returns, having killed “ten thousands” with Saul having only “thousands,” the king becomes “afraid of David,” and the evil spirit returns. Although promised the hand of the princess, Merab, as in fairy tale,[14] Saul does not give her to the hero. However, David falls in love with the princess Michal whom he receives only after passing a test that caused Saul to realize “that the Lord was with David” (18:20-30). This is the central issue for Saul. He should call and then recognize the hero. Though he does this initially, more and more, he is unwilling to accept David as the hero and his successor.

In 1 Samuel 19-20, the evil spirit returns, and the princess Michal helps the hero escape. When Jonathan, the heroic friend, tries to defend David before his father, Saul turns on him as well. With no alternative, the hero begins the journey that will eventually bring him to Jerusalem. Saul pursues David, and in perhaps his lowest moment has the foreigner Doeg kill the priest of Nob for assisting the hero, though unknowingly. During the pursuit, David twice has the possibility of killing Saul but does not; rather he shows loyalty to this disloyal king. Between the two scenes comes a romantic comedy; here, too David might have killed Nabal the Fool but is prevented by Abigail, the wise wife. However, when Nabal finds out, he has an apoplectic fit and dies. Thus this comedy ends according to the tradition with the marriage of Daivd and Abigail.

Though Saul blesses David for sparing his life and predicts the hero’s success, the king’s repeated attacks prove to David that he cannot be trusted. Ironically, David must pretend allegiance and service to Achish, king of Gath. When the Philistines prepare for war, Saul inquires of the Lord according to the tradition, but “the Lord did not answer him, not by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets” (28:6). So Saul turns to a medium whom he had driven from the land. In one of the great scenes of the Bible, she brings Samuel from the dead. The mimesis of the scene comes in part from the tension between Samuel’s coolness and the care of the woman who insists with his servants on feeding the desperate king.

The Philistine kings refuse to let David join the fight against Saul lest he betray them. The Amalekites, traditional bad guys, plunder David’s camp and carry off the women and children forcing the hero and his followers to follow and retrieve family while the Philistines bear down on Saul. The hermeneuts of suspicion will find the text too convenient, but the text plainly shows the hero being a hero.

In 1 Samuel 31, the Philistines immediately cause Israel to flee, with many falling on Mount Gilboa, and among them were the three sons of the king. Saul, wounded and with the battle pressing on him, asks his armor-bearer to draw his sword and thrust him through. The armor-bearer, “terrified,” refuses in a final act of loyalty. So Saul falls on his own sword to avoid capture by the enemy. The armor-bearer heroically follows his leader into death by falling on his own sword. According to the traditional battle pattern, the enemy hero and king should die at the end of the battle, but here “our” king dies by his own hand. His death is both heroic and tragic. By taking his own life, Saul shows that he is not afraid to meet death now that it has come. In that sense, his death, like Samson’s, is heroic. At the same time, death by his own hand is emblematic of the self-destruction that has overtaken him, and in that sense, his death is tragic. The complexity bringing about this self-destruction yields no simple interpretation. Exum portrays God as Saul’s great nemesis, and though she does not want to, I find that she exonerates Saul in her attempt to explore the “hostility of God.”[15] Francesca Aran Murphy, standing against Exum and Gunn, interprets Saul as a Greek tragic hero caught in hybris – pride.[16] but that, I find, depends too much on a Greek vision. Though the storyteller did not have the instruments of Dostoyevsky or even Euripides, the layering of stories creates a complex and complicated human being moved by both rational and irrational forces that bring the promise of his early triumph to a tragic end. The “spirit of God” leaves him and moves to David. However, Saul cannot accept David as the hero, for that would require him to accept his own rejection. Such acceptance of failure is difficult under the best of circumstances. At the same time, Saul is no villain; we do not cheer. The medium of Endor, who recognized his humanity and showed him care, points the way. His death evokes sadness, and though a broken man, he dies nobly facing the reality of his defeat.

This nobility shows itself in his armor-bearer dying with his lord. This servant refuses to lay his hand on the king—a theme closely associated with David in 1 Samuel 24 and 26. Moreover, in 16:21, Saul had made David his armor-bearer. And so, this armor-bearer who dies with his liege stands in for David.[17] Also, Saul’s sons die with their father and king—particularly Jonathan, who could have chosen David instead. Exum calls Jonathan “a victim” like Jephthah’s daughter.[18] However, the daughter had no choice. Jonathan had a choice. Like Hector, he is caught up in tragedy from which he cannot escape without surrendering his loyalty and duty. The men of Jabesh-Gilead, whom Saul saved from Nahash, add to the heroic theme by taking the bodies of father and sons from the wall and burying their bones under a tamarisk tree in Jabesh (31:11-13). Their actions reshape the motif of the hero’s recognition, and David continues this in 2 Samuel 1.

An Amalekite messenger brings Saul’s crown to David, claiming that he has killed the king to save him from the Philistines. Since this contradicts the story in 1 Samuel 31, modern scholars obsessed with finding sources have found it difficult to accept the simple conclusion in the text as it stands; the messenger lies.[19]The Amalekites are the traditional enemy of Israel and David.[20] Though David does not know that the messenger lies, he slays the man because he has laid his hand against the king. Instead of a victory hymn, there follows the famous lament over Saul and Jonathan, discussed above in §5.4.3.

The tragedy of Saul in counterpoint to the picture of David as hero uses the traditional motifs and patterns to build a battle narrative if transformed for Saul. Perhaps, some mix of sin and history lies as the base of this story, but the storyteller has given us something larger than just the facts.

8.5. Footnotes for Chapter 8

[1] For battle as a trial, see above §3.5.2.

[2] Klaus-Peter Adam has recently argued that Greek drama from the Hellenistic world has influenced 1 Sam 14:24-46. He finds that “the dialogue between Saul and the people resembles a typical setting of Greek tragedy,” specifically the dialogue between the main character and the chorus (132-136). The question of the casting of lots, the vow and the sacrifice of the son have parallels as well (137-150). Adam then argues that Saul’s character fits Aristotle’s definition of tragedy (156-168); “Saul as a Tragic Hero: Greek Drama and its Influence on Hebrew Scripture in 1 Samuel 14,24-46 (10,8; 13,7-13A; 10,17-27)” in For and Against David: Story and History in the Books of Samuel edited by A.G. Auld and E. Eynikel (Leuven: Uitgeverij Peeters, 2010) 123-183.

[3] Murphy, I Samuel, 15.

[4] Niditch, Judges, 190. For a redaction critical study, see Georg Hentschel and Christina Nießen , “Der Bruderkrieg zwischen Israel und Benjamin (Ri 20)Biblica 89 (2008) 17-38.

[5] Niditch, Judges, 208.

[6] Gunn, Judges, 243-275, esp. 244.

[7] Phyllis Trible, Texts of Terror: Literary Feminist Readings of the Bible (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984).

[8] Niditch, Judges, 211.

[9] Peter Dubovský has “argued that the biblical ‘distortion’ of the historical events was intentional. The writers probably did it to offer their interpretation of the downfall of Assyria. This presentation and organization of the events can be explained in terms of the historiography of representation”; “Assyrian Downfall through Isaiah’s Eyes (2 Kings 15–23): the historiography of representation,” Biblica 89 (2008) 1-16.

[10] 8n10 David M. Gunn, The Story of King David, (Journal for the Study of Old Testament, Supplement Series 6; Sheffield: University of Sheffield, 1978) 51‑54; “Narrative Patterns and Oral Tradition in Judges and Samuel,” Vetus Testamentum 24 (1974) 286‑317, esp. 287.

[11] new J. Cheryl Exum edited an important, foundational collection of essays called Tragedy and Comedy in the Bible, and in the opening article, she and J. William Whedbee discuss these two terms: “Isaac, Samson, and Saul: Reflections on the Comic and Tragic Visions” in Tragedy and Comedy in the Bible, edited by J. Cheryl Exum, 1-48. Semeia 32. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1985. See also Booker, Seven Basic Plots, 117, and Hagan, “Basic Plots,” 208-209.

[12] 8n18 J. Cheryl Exum, Tragedy and Biblical Narrative: Arrows of the Almighty (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992) 40.

[13] 8n19 Exum, Tragedy and Biblical Narrative, 41.

[14] 8n20 The princess may play the part of a helper, but she traditionally is part of the recognition and reward of the hero See Propp, Morphology of the Folktale, p. 63-65, XXXI. The hero is married and ascends the throne.

[15] 8n 21 Exum, Tragedy and Biblical Narrative, 18. Edwin Good, Irony in the Old Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965).

[16] 8n22 Murphy, I Samuel, 283.

[17] 8n 23 Jonathan’s armor-bearer is also linked to David as Walter Brueggemann notes, for “David is indeed the one ‘after Yahweh’s own heart’ (13:14)”;  First and Second Samuel, 129.

[18] 8n24 Exum, Tragedy and Biblical Narrative, 77.

[19] 8n25 See, for example, Jacques Vermeylen, “’Comment sont tombés les héros?’ Une lecture de 1 S 31 et 2 S 1,1-2,7,” in Analyse narrative et Bible (Leuven: Peeters, 2005) 99-116.

[20] 8n26 Exod 17:8-15; Num 14:43-45; 1 Samuel 15; 28-29, etc.


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