Recovered: A Lost Portion Of The Book Of Samuel -- By: Paul Lippi

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 05:4 (Autumn 1992)
Article: Recovered: A Lost Portion Of The Book Of Samuel
Author: Paul Lippi

A Lost Portion Of The Book Of Samuel

Paul Lippia

Dead Sea Scroll fragment.

For the student of the Bible, the story of Saul’s first victory has always been problematic. A Dead Sea scroll of Samuel, released in the past decade, clears up the problem—and shows that at least some of the textual emendations of the critical scholars are correct.

The Received Text

According to the received Hebrew text, which almost all English Bibles follow in translating this passage, 1 Samuel 10:24–11:2 reads:

And Saul also went to his house in Giva, and the mighty whom God had touched in their hearts went with him. But the sons of no account said, “How will this one deliver us?” And they despised him and didn’t bring him a present. And he was as one dumb. And Nachash the Ammonite went up and encamped against Yavesh Gilad. And all the men of Yavesh said to Nachash, “Cut a covenant with us and we will serve you.” But Nachash the Ammonite said to them, “By this I will cut with you, by gouging every right eye, and I will make it shame on all Israel.”1

The first problem with this passage is the way it introduces Nachash. When a Biblical writer first makes reference to a king, the convention is that the writer introduces him by his name, his title, and the name of his territory or subjects. Subsequently, the writer can refer to him by his name alone or by his title alone or by a pronoun. The books of Samuel and Kings contain 20 examples of this practice.2

Since this passage introduces Nachash, we would expect it to say something like “And Nachash, king of the children of Ammon, went up,” instead of “And Nachash the Ammonite went up.” The Targum, the ancient Aramaic translation, does in fact say “And Nachash, king of the children of Ammon, went up,” but almost certainly this is owing to the translator’s familiarity with the conventions of Biblical story telling and not to his familiarity with a Hebrew text that differs from ours.

Unprecedented Severity

The second problem with this passage involves the situation described by the plot: Nachash suddenly goes up and lays siege to a town outside his domain. (Yavesh-Gilad was in Israelite territory.) The men of Yavesh offer to cut a covenant with Nachash and to serve him. But instead of accepting their surrender and lifting the siege, Nachash imp...

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