[b-hebrew] And Samuel turned back after Saul: the meaning of 1 Samuel 15:31

Stephen and Rebecca Shead srshead at gmail.com
Wed Jul 22 15:26:21 EDT 2009

Apologies all - I forgot to change the subject line from my daily digest
email. (Actually, this time I've corrected the verse reference in the
subject line.) Here's my answer again, for reference...

I think Karl has a point. I just did a quick scan (nothing like exhaustive
or scientific), and it seems to me that the idiom Alter is describing ("turn
away from" someone) is pretty much always $WB M)XR (e.g. 1 Sam. 15:11), not
$WB )XR as in 1 Sam 15:31. That is, "turn away from" uses the combined
preposition M-)XR.

One of the few places where I came across a construction very similar to 1
Sam 15:31, with the simple preposition, is Ruth 1:15:

And she [Naomi] said, "See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people
and to her gods; return after [$WBY )XRY] your sister-in-law."

Clearly the idea is that Ruth should follow her sister-in-law, not turn away
from her and abandon her. In fact, the other construction -- with M)XR -- is
used in the very next verse with the meaning "turn back/away from", so the
contrast between the two constructions seems pretty clear in Ruth 1:15-16.

i.e. it the difference seems to be:
$WB )XR = turn to follow (someone)
$WB M)XR = turn away from following (someone) =
reject/abandon/leave/withdraw from someone

And although Saul is the only one who "bows down" in v.31, that was all he
was expecting (v.30). It's not an invitation for the both to worship;
Samuel's presence is required for Saul to worship.

Stephen Shead
Centro de Estudios Pastorales
Santiago, Chile

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