‘Play it again, Sam’ The Poetics of Narrative Repetition in 1 Samuel 1–7 -- By: David G. Firth

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 56:2 (NA 2005)
Article: ‘Play it again, Sam’ The Poetics of Narrative Repetition in 1 Samuel 1–7
Author: David G. Firth

‘Play it again, Sam’
The Poetics of Narrative Repetition in 1 Samuel 1–7

David G. Firth


A final form reading of 1 Samuel 17 is offered here, examining the narrative poetics of repetition and its relationship to complete and incomplete elements of plot. Five key repetitions are examined – monarchy, the authentic prophetic word, the fall of the house of Eli, Yhwh’s independent reign and prefiguring allusions to Saul. Although the text undoubtedly makes use of sources, it is argued that it is considerably more than their sum as these elements are woven together into a coherent whole in a manner that prepares the reader for the issues that are to be addressed in subsequent narratives. In particular, the conflicts that surface in chapters 812 are seen to be within the frame of Yhwh’s intentions since they are anticipated in these chapters. As with any good introduction, the reader is left waiting to see how it will develop.

1. Introduction

Traditional scholarship on 1 Samuel 17 has long drawn on the conventions of source and form critical analyses in order to demarcate the units that comprise this text. Thus, following on from the initial comments of Rost,1 it has been common to speak of a separate ‘ark narrative’ in 4:1b7:1 (plus 2 Sam. 6), which can then be examined as a discrete unit within it.2 Once this source has been isolated, then the surrounding text can also be examined on the same terms, especially

with regard to the tensions generated by such issues as Samuel’s non-appearance within the source. At the same time, it has also been noted that the ark narrative has clear links with material in chapter 2, so Miller and Roberts3 suggest that the source itself included 1 Samuel 2:12–17, 22–25 and 27–36, though also arguing that 2 Samuel 6 was not a part of this source.4 Irres...

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