[b-hebrew] And Samuel turned back after Saul: the meaning of 1 Samuel 31

Jay Frank jif95 at mac.com
Wed Jul 22 10:12:21 EDT 2009

In Robert Alter's "The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel," Alter renders 1 Samuel 15:30-31 as follows ...

30. And Saul said, "I have offended. Now show me honor, pray, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and turn back with me, that I may bow to the Lord your God."

31. And Samuel turned back from Saul, and Saul bowed to the Lord.

Alter then offers the following comment: "All English versions render this, erroneously, to indicate that Samuel nevertheless accompanied Saul to the sacrifice. But the expression 'turn back with,' as in verse 30, and 'turn back from [literally, after], are antonyms, the latter meaning unambiguously 'to abandon.' (It is precisely the latter idiom that we see in God's condemnation of Saul in verse 11.) Samuel is completing his rejection of Saul hre by refusing to accompany him in the cult, shaming him by forcing him to offer the sacrifice without the officiating of the man of God." [pg.93]

While I very much enjoy Alter's work, I find it remarkable that all English translations would be in error. Thank you in advance for any light you might shed on the matter.



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