Monotheism was: "admittedly syncretistic..

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at
Sun Jan 27 18:13:55 EST 2002

But, Jonathan, surely by default in a narrative of this type, all the
actions of a "good" character are assumed to be good and those of a
"bad" one bad. The author doesn't need to say this explicitly: the
audience will already presuppose that your namesake, the hero, did the
right thing 1 Samuel 14 and Saul was in the wrong. From 13:14 we already
know that Saul was the bad guy and his successor would be good. Now
things do get more ambiguous with that successor in 2 Samuel, but when
David sins we are told this explicitly (11:27) and the message is
reinforced by a quoted prophecy (12:1-12). I think we should assume that
where there is no such indication the author approves of what David did,
even where, as in 1 Samuel 25, it offends modern sensibilities.

But, to defend Saul for a moment, what he proposes in 1 Samuel 14 is not
human sacrifice but a judicial death penalty following a clearly
described court procedure, yes, MOT YAMUT (14:39), for breaking a valid
royal decree. Indeed one could even admire Saul over many modern rulers
for upholding the principle that his own family is not above the law,
all who break it are subject to the same penalty.

Peter Kirk

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jonathan D. Safren [mailto:yon_saf at]
> Sent: 27 January 2002 20:14
> To: Peter Kirk; Biblical Hebrew
> Subject: Re: Monotheism was: "admittedly syncretistic..
> Since we are dealing with theoligical narrative, and not childrens'
> adventure stories, one would expect to find the authors' opinions
> even if not overtly stated, in these stories. And that is indeed often
> preferred method of the biblical narrators. The reader is left to draw
> own conclusions from the protagonists' words or deeds.*
> So one can't regard the Jephthah narrative of Judges 11 or the Battle
> Michmas narrative of 1 Samuel 14 as objective reporting. Yes, both
> Jephthah
> and Saul are depicted as rash; Saul the more so in comparison with his
> brave
> son Jonathan (ahem!) and the soon-to-be-king David.
> That is all the more reason to place weight on the absence of
> in principle of human sacrifice in both these narratives (and the
> of
> Isaac), in our assessment of the attitude towards human sacrifice in
> Bible.
> Sincerely,
> ---
> Jonathan D. Safren
> Dept. of Biblical Studies
> Beit Berl College
> * Sometimes this is more difficult, sometimes less so. Is David the
> king he is portrayed to be in later tradition, or is he a rat, a
> cynical Macchiavellian despot?

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