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  • The Story of Saul’s Election (1 Samuel 9–10) in the Light of Mantic Practice in Ancient Iraq
  • Jeffrey L. Cooley

Narratives describing the divine election of Saul in 1 Samuel 9–10 have long been the subject of traditional source criticism. All such analyses of these chapters conclude that the story of Saul’s identification as ruler or “designated one” () in ch. 9 through prophetic revelation and his selection via cleromancy in ch. 10 represent two separate narrative strands that have been knitted together by a redactor.1 Source critics have focused primarily on the contrasting opinions regarding kingship in these accounts, with ch. 9 being ascribed to a promonarchical source and ch. 10 to an antimonarchical source.

Stepping beyond the sources themselves, redaction-critical scholars read the text in its final form. They are joined by scholars frustrated with the difficulties [End Page 247] and decreasing returns of traditional historical-critical methods and who have approached these texts employing the hermeneutics of the New Criticism. These groups, when confronted with the obvious redundancy of mantic confirmation in 1 Samuel 9–10, understand the accounts in a number of ways. For example, Noth took 10:17–27 as an attempt to preserve an alternate tradition of Saul’s royal accession within the narrative.2 More typical, however, is Antony F. Campbell, who sees the prophecy concerning Saul revealed to Samuel and Saul’s subsequent anointing in ch. 9 as a “secret kingship,” while his selection by lot and his ensuing proclamation in ch. 10 are a public ceremony.3 Following Otto Eissfeldt in understanding the lot procedure in 10:15–21 and the oracle in 10:22–23 as two different mantic events, Campbell and Mark A. O’Brien do a fine job of bringing to bear redaction and literary approaches. Assuming that the reader clearly sees two mantic acts in play, they explain that the traditions need to be read complementarily, in spite of the difficulties.4 Though the two are speaking of 1 Sam 10:15–21 and Eissfeldt’s oracle in 10:22–23, what they write can easily be said of 1 Sam 9:15–17 as well.5

Now, the fundamental issue with which all of these authors are struggling is the issue of the “doublet.” Long a cornerstone of the historical-critical method, doublets have always posed a problem for those who wish to read the ancient text as a literary unity, regardless of whether they claim to be using New Critical, canonical, [End Page 248] or some other method. Why a redactor chose to employ such double narratives is easier to infer in some cases than in others. For example, the two creation accounts in Genesis 1–2 are usually read as complementary. Other cases, however, prove more difficult to explain, such as the two etiologies for the origin of the saying “Is Saul too to be counted among the prophets?” in 1 Sam 10:11 and 19:24. We know that ancient readers, too, could see these doublets as problematic and occasionally sought to resolve them. When, for example, the Chronicler imparts the exploits of Elhanan (1 Chr 20:5), he has Elhanan slaying Goliath’s brother rather than Goliath himself, thus resolving the conflict between 1 Samuel 17 and 2 Sam 21:19. In the only recent book-length study of doublets, Aulikki Nahkola laments that “in Old Testament study there is no appreciation of double narratives as a general phenomenon.”6 Given the wide variety of forms of the phenomenon, no single explanation is possible. Though we cannot explain such logically contradictory passages in toto, we can and must, I believe, tackle them on a case-by-case basis.

Returning to the narratives describing Saul’s various mantic appointments, I am by no means denying that these passages present patently different traditions. While recognizing that there are, without a doubt, multiple traditions regarding Saul’s divine election, we must come to terms with the fact that an editor chose to weave these traditions together to make what he believed to be a single logical narrative. I take for granted that that editor was not oblivious to the fact...


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