Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Themes and motifs in Samuel

If we were to underscore the key themes and motifs of the story of David, what would we find? Here are few that come first to mind:
A tale of two kings.

A story of the development of Israel from loose tribal groups to monarchy. Reservations about monarchy.

An exploration of the problem of succession and modes of legitimate authority: Eli -> Samuel -> Saul -> David -> Solomon.

A study in the uses of intelligence -- of voice and of the word -- versus the power of the sword.

A study of the relations of authority and its factors: servants, messengers, counselors, commanders.

Spy and counterspy: the elaborate game of intelligence.

Recurrent scenes in which what is said or understood is different from what is meant (messengers, traitors, parables).

Sharp contrasts between Saul's helplessness to do anything other than repeat and David's agility and uncanny ability to adapt.

Fathers and children; the family romance.

Music, poetry, temperament, distemper, well-tuned harmony (of mind and polis) vs. turmoil.

A complex exposition of human action, limits, and the workings of divine power.

Motifs (and leitmotifs) are plentiful: a rich and poetic play of words having to do with calling, summoning, hearing, hearkening, heeding another's voice;  the "heart" figures potently in a number of scenes; moments of showing, revealing; remembering; "house" as in dwelling and dynastic entity; also various houses. "Walls" and gates; roofs; construction. Hanging, decapitation. 

This is just a start -- what are some other themes, motifs or other aspects of the story?

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