Death, Social Conflict, and the Barley Harvest in the Hebrew Bible

Brian Britt

Abstract


Some recent scholarship characterizes violent biblical
narratives, such as the killing of Saul’s descendents in 2 Sam. 21, as evidence
of ancient ritual sacrifice. Yet 2 Sam. 21 has more in common with Ruth 1 and
Judith than with stories of sacrifice. By their common reference to the barley
harvest, untimely deaths, famine, and social conflict, these texts represent
reality through literary means. Drawing on René Girard’s theory of religion, I
suggest how the narratives of 2 Sam. 21, Ruth 1, and Judith, as well as a set of
narratives about sheepshearing, address social conflict as literary texts rather
than as transparent windows onto ancient practice.

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