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

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Wed Jul 22 10:43:22 EDT 2009

I don’t know who this Robert Alter is, it doesn’t really matter.

Looking at the text, he is wrong. )XR has the meaning of being behind,
following after another when the two are going together.

In verse 11 we have the prefix M- indicating that Saul was no longer
following after God. So in contrast, verse 31 has that Samuel turned back
(he was leaving) following Saul back to the altar where Saul bowed down to
the Lord. (Interestingly, come to think of it, the text does not say that
Samuel bowed down.)

I don’t know how any translations render the verses, I don’t have any handy
to check up. But the Hebrew text indicates that Samuel followed Saul back to
the altar.

Karl W. Randolph.

On Wed, Jul 22, 2009 at 7:12 AM, Jay Frank <jif95 at mac.com> wrote:

> 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.
> L'shalom,
> Jay
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