Shalom Carmy

This article originally appeared in Tradition.



  The scene is familiar: the chosen people oppressed, wayward, weak, they grope towards penitence. The stage is set: that peculiar expectancy, heralding the contingent miracle, already hovers over the valleys and hills of Dan. The birth of the hero is awaited. Experienced men can set their biographical clocks in advance, who does not know how the birth occurs? The stunning revelation to the barren woman, the hushed instructions, her beaming, uplifted thanksgiving countenance. His youth is relatively quiescent. Nonetheless he is always aware of some great destiny crouching in the future like a beast in the jungle. Suddenly he emerges into a leadership. Charismatic, he inspires courage and loyalty in his brethren, adoration among the civilians. His followers, knees firmed by his pre-battle oration, return from their upset victory to the dancing of maidens and the sounds of jubilation. Their leader sheds his military mien, becoming their judge, their model family man, their teacher. If he laughs, he does so in private. There is peace in his time, and for some years after; his memory perpetuated by his many magnificent sons, the pride of their community.

  Even the most cursory reader of the Book of Judges will admit to disquietude in applying the typical model to Samson. He works alone, oblivious to the fact that they fail to appreciate his efforts on their behalf. Samson barely resents his betrayal by fellow Jews so long as they refrain from attacking him themselves.1 Not surprisingly, these prodigious efforts are sterile2. The Talmud3 records Samson's pride in never asking them for help. Their hero was a nazir ofsorts: yet his personal life was a shambles, a disfiguring tattoo of unrestraint, an almost pathological inability to control his sexual drives or even to channel them into a licit marriage.4 He thought he could raise their morale while ignoring their daughters. He was wrong.

  Samson was far from the sobriety of a Samuel or even from the diplomatic flair of a Jephthah. Lonely (you might even dub him "guerrilla"), he was more the nose-tweaker than the statesman, more the avenger than the liberator. Samson in the Bible is remembered chiefly as the practical joker who roared with laughter at the fox-torches he had unleashed,5 avenging his wife's death: "Agonistes" denotes the athlete before connoting the tragic hero. And even in death, this ultimate doubt as to Samson's responsibility, or, if you will, his maturity, is not resolved. Is his suicide an act of salvation and self-sacrifice, a last grand gift of himself to his people? Or is it the escape of a desperate and weary man, snatching at the alibi of a glorious death as a drowning man grasps at a straw? The death wish that shared his bed with Delilah6 is not wholly extinguished in his dying, "May I die with Philistines."

Jewish literature has little information to ease this final ambiguity, not for Samson has a Midrash reserved the analysis devoted to Saul's suicide7 or the subsequent elaborations of Posskim. R. Moshe Hayyim Luzzato, in his eighteenth century verse drama Maaseh Shimshon retains the confused motivation throughout Samson's dying monologue8. He does not, like MilIon, take pains to indicate a transition from selfish death-wish to self-transcendent sainthood, "calm of mind all passion spent."9

  Yet the final statement about Samson, poised between the events and our evaluation of them, like the line that separates addenda from their sum, states simply: "And he had judged Israel twenty years.10" Somehow Samson had been the man of the hour; and somehow, staggering and fallible, he had made the best of his botehed job he had made it to the finish line. Recalling God's gifts to His people, Samuel could still mention Samson with pride.11

  The secret of Samson's career is hidden in the depths of his tormented, defeated, psychology. The secret of Samson’s leadership is tangled in the complex of his time. On one hand, Samson is the weakness of his time incarnate; on the other hand, he engineers, precisely through his frailty, and despite the personal limitations which he shares with his generation, a religious thrust that transcends the Judge’s Society.


  Samson's parents ask him a riddle: "Is there no woman among your brethren and all my people that you go forth to marry into the uncircumcised Philistines?12 " Passivity and lack of discipline may be enough to explain Samson's sexual unrestraint; but whence this strange lust that leads him, time and again, and disastrously, to the agonies of his enemies' bed? Does the Biblical account yield a direct answer? No: "And Samson said to his father: 'Take her for me; for she is right in my eyes!'

  Perhaps we can get a perspective on Samson's unconscious motivation by pairing him off over-against his opposite number: the incestuous man.

  We live in an age that has seen "natural law" morality retreat again and again before a flood of anthropological and sociological material, the burden of which is that human beings do not agree about universal norms. It is therefore remarkable that the mysterious incest taboo has proven to be relatively (forgive the pun!) stable and universal across various and disparate societies.13

  You might describe this taboo, in modern terminology, as a sense of the mystery of otherhood. Man is torn between his existential loneliness, his inability ever to overcome his own limited, insolated perspective, and the vapidity, the emptiness, of that self to which he is anchored. The incestuous Idealism of pure Self condemns the Materialist dissipation of selfhood among the objects and subjects in the world; the arid transparency of the locked-in-itself self witnesses its own unreality outside Relation.

  Appropriate these parameters and you can map the crisis of man: how may one enter into relation with the not-I, how can I fulfill myself through my relationship, my love for, the other, without being destroyed by the other and without attempting to reduce the otherness to a mere extension of myself? For the Hegelian logician there is the movement from Subject to Object; the Marxist speaks of man's relationship to the means of production; the Sartrian angsts over the posessiveness of what we call love. Above all, we stand in awe before the paradox of God's Immanence with His Transcendence, of His Freedom which permits ours. All this, humanly speaking, involves some variation or other on the theme of Self-identity and Otherness.

  In the practical, tinkering, world of morals, we also come to grips with this problem. One can limit one's obligations to one's more immediate circle, risking a narrowness of relationship; or one may take a broad, universalistic stance, skirting the danger of over- abstracting one's relatedness to the point of non-existence. Taboos against incest prevent an overly great existential self-centeredness. The particular forms of incest vary from society to society, from culture to culture: for large sections of the Western world, union of uncle and niece is considered incestuous; some homosexuals are concerned that they are avoiding relatedness with the other-qua-female,14 no small amount of anti-Jewish propaganda points to Jewish endogamy as a symptom of self-centeredness and spiritual pride. But the problematic reflected in the incest-taboo is common to all.


  Now there is a celebrated narrative, familiar to all of you, common to many different cultures, that says something very interesting about incest: I refer, of course, to the plot of Oedipus Rex. If we forget our Freud for awhile, noting, in justification, that in most versions of the myth it is not the mother, but the sister, who provides the temptation to incest,15 we might want to distinguish three motifs in these tales:

 a. The hero solves an impossible riddle: Oedipus, you'll recall, solved the Sphinx's riddle concerning the nature of man.

 b. The hero unwittingly commits incest.

 c. The hero's failure of insight is punished with blindness.

  Oedipus has broken down the riddle in life, that riddle which forces man to go beyond himself, unto the other. He has conquered the Sphinx, the half-woman, half-beast, who had lured him to adventure, to danger, to relatedness, if only the relatedness of antagonism and glory-seeking. Having solved the riddle, it will now punish him. Having violated nature's secret, he will be broken by it.

  It's time we returned to Samson. Samson himself does not solve a riddle: he's busy enough posing them. Samson's disastrous sin is not incest, but, to the contrary, exogamy, intermarriage. Surely his being blinded is not enough to establish his kinship with Oedipus, even after the Talmud stresses the symbolic aptness of this punishment16 ("Samson followed his eyes; therefore the Philistines poked out his eyes"). What does this parallel have to do with anything?!

  Imagine that the Oedipus story is being told from the viewpoint of the Sphinx, Now the Sphinx spends her time asking riddles of people and devouring them when they fail to get the right answer. Being what she is, namely, a riddle, neither human nor animal, alone and alienated, she doesn't really have anything better to do. But does this kind of activity make her happy? Wouldn't she prefer to fall in love with one of her victims, give him a hint at the solution, give up her own life to save his,to shower him with glory? Only through this self-revelation to her other, her man, her vanquisher, can she experience herself as being human, as standing in relation, if only for that fleeting instant before her death overtakes the death of her function.


SPHINX: I've been miserable . . . hoping this would end. Now I am going to make a wish, and if it comes true I shall never have to mount this pedestal again, never kill again. I wish for a young man . . . I shall fall in love with him, and he will answer the riddle, as if he were my equal (My italics.). And when he gives the answer, I shall die.

ANUBIS: Only your human body will die.

SPHINX: Yes, the body that could make him happy . . .17


  The French dramatist Jean Cocteau was intrigued by this thought-experiment; he worked it out in his own adaptation of Oedipus La Machine Infernale. We begin to understand the inner life of the other-subject, the poser of riddles, crying out for the love of the other he craves. Is Samson not such a Sphinx? Is not Samson shackled by his identity as a weak, downtrodden Israelite; at the same time exhibiting a supernatural, incomprehensible, strength? Is not Samson more at home within the physical, powerful, muscular world of the Philistines, than among his brethren whom he defends against the Philstine predator?

Samson is in love with a culture he abhors. He desires to live among those alien to him, among whom he can never belong. He is the difficult, torturing riddles he invents.


  It is at his wedding-feast that Samson comes up with his first riddle: "From the eater came forth food; and from the strong came forth sweet.18 " The correct solution is: honey being found in the carcass of a lion. Difficulty: how could the Philistines be expected to solve this riddle, since it refers so obviously to a private event in Samson's life, unknown to them? Several answers have been put forth: Malbim,19 pointing out that "this riddle is impossible for a man to solve, "suggests that the geographical solution was implicit in Samson's formulation; i.e., the Philistines were expected to go on a sort of treasure hunt. Tur-Sinai20, among others, has attempted to construct some solution independent of the particular circumstances of the narrative; the riddle existed within some original collection of riddles, and the writer of Judges blindly interpolated it into the Samson episodes. Less fanciful than either is Kaufmann's argument that honey indeed is found in carcasses, rendering Samson's situation not unusual.21 Also plausible is Hank Bauer's suggestion that Samson's riddle is based on a punning usage of the words at and ari22. A correct explication of the riddle-episode should also take into account the unconscious antagonism that might lead Samson to promulgate an unfairly difficult conundrum: this is to be expected of an obsessive practical joker. Yet when all is said and done, it would be surprising if this riddle failed to tell us something about the mysterious spirit that authored it.

  Let's imagine that you're Samson, about to marry into a hostile group, passing the scene of your prodigious feat of strength: from the strong comes forth sweet. You're impressed by this image why? But of course! You are the strong man, and your strength, you hope, will dissolve into the sweetness of your connubial bed. . What a paradox! What a puzzle!

  Strength and sweetness are tied together as images in tension, within the larger context of heat and energy. And indeed, one looking for the imagery of fire and heat in these chapters is confronted by numerous examples:

  Samson must refrain from wine, the fire-beverage.23 While taking a detour around the vineyards,24 he tears open a lion, symbol of strength, mythically associated with the sun, source of heat25. He later finds honey, source of energy and sweetness, in the carcass; honey, again, is mythically associated with the sun26. If you agree with the Rabbinic etymology of Samson from shemesh=sun27 you have a veritable solar picnic. The Philistines threaten to burn his bride and do so28, after Samson burns their fields.29 Samson repeatedly snaps his bonds like "smoldering flax."30 Luzzato, dramatizing this fire-saturated story, justly has Samson describe his overwhelming lust in terms of fire.31

  If our analysis is correct, the riddle concerning the strong and the sweet reflects the deeper puzzle of Samson's use and abuse of his strength. To the Philistines, Samson is a monster, a hideous, supernaturally-gifted enemy. Yet Samson simultaneously seeks their fellowship through sexual union, while subconsciously he realizes his unrelationship to them and his vocation as defender of Dan. One is tempted to reinterpret the traditional metaphor of Dan as serpent:32 Just as the serpent's animosity towards man was rooted in the ambivalence of his jealousy (towards the more privileged Adam) and his destructive lust (for Eve); so Samson's onslaught on the Philistines was made possible by the combination of resentment towards Philistine superiority and lust for the Philistine's daughter. To translate his heat from strength to sweetness, is Samson's despairing goal.

  The failure to accomplish this casually, through unreflective action, forces Samson to gamble on the direct communication of self-revelation. Long before Samson's ultimate betrayal by Delilah, he himself betrays the hopelessness of this attempt, the impossibility of ever communicating genuinely with his alien wives: "I haven't told my father and mother; shall I tell you?"33 is Samson's justification for gainsaying his wife the solution of the first riddle. Contrast this with the Torah's belief in man and wife becoming one flesh, that a man may leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife. Samson admits that he cannot confide in his wife what he saw no need to confide in his parents.

That his resolve weakens is the triumph of despair over good sense.

  After his betrayal by his first wife, however coerced this betrayal may have been, Samson can no longer trust his Philistine liaisons. Drawn to them, he remains restless. At Gaza, the Bible tells us, he sleeps with a prostitute, but, significantly, leaves at midnight:33a he must have become restive; the assembled Philistines who cowered as he shouldered the gates, should have altered him for the future. The incident is recorded; its lesson went unlearnt.

  His secret remains his barrier from the world. After all, even , Samson himself, even the reader (on condition he has not peeked ahead) cannot be certain about the source of Samson's strength. There are diseases from which the sufferer can never know that he has recovered; his only way of knowing is when, cured, he loses his immunity and is re-infected. So was Samson's self-knowledge doomed to dormancy: he could know the nature of his gift only as it escaped him.

  If it had been only the teasing of Delilah, the instincts of self-preservation might, perhaps, have carried the day. But Samson is weary of the self he would preserve; the man who could lift the gates of a city cannot bear the weight of his own mysterious identity. For a while he remains the bantering humorist;34 then his spiritual legs buckle under him; his secret evaporates with his strength: he has confessed. The second riddle posed by Samson whence his great strength can now be solved. The otherness, the barrier, collapse; and with it the man. Like the Sphinx in Cocteau, he has given away his life with his riddle, without receiving a thank you for his trouble.

  His career had ended like a hectic dream, the enlightenment driven away; all that remained was the dark, and the ambiguous death. He had shed the gift that encased him like a shell; and the shell became the mystery. Why had this man's life been important, now that he had vanished?


  "When he called upon the Lord he was answered," says Gersonides,35 in discussing the particular greatness of Samson. Indeed Samson is alone among the Judges in his willingness and enthusiasm to pray for what he desires.

  In one sense, there is something childish and immature in Samson's prayer-life: namely, its banality. We find Samson crying out in exorbitant language that, unless he finds water, he will die. We think, almost automatically, of Esau impatiently grumbling that he is dying of hunger;36 of the vigorous athlete in the television commercial, who, the off-camera commentator assures us, is engaged in "thirsty work, working on a thirst that one beer won't even make a dent in." From another perspective, we look ahead to the suspension of this particular kind of machismo: we see David asking for water, then showing his derision for the he-man ethic by pouring onto the ground the hard-fought-for libation proferred the king by his eager knights.37 Yet the Bible rewards Samson for this prayer, immediately honoring him as the Judge of Israel for twenty years. Immature, he was also bold- bold enough to address God in an age that feared Him too much to serve Him.

  A paralyzing fear of God, what Kierkegaard was later to call "despair in not willing to be oneself, the despair of weakness," pervades the atmosphere of the Book of Judges. Its broad lines were discerned by the Netviv.38 A detailed commentary based on this insight remains to be published. Yet certain relevant points must needs be mentioned to illuminate the backdrop of Samson's career.

  The political correlative of this despair is disunity. Lacking faith in his own sense of cohesiveness, the Jew was able to cooperate with the entire nation only sporadically. At other times he was indifferent, or even suspicious of other tribes. The tribe of Judah betrayed Samson to the Philistines: no wonder then, that the hero operated alone.

  In morale, the period of Judges is marked by a despairing use and misuse of the oath. Moral resolve is displayed in outlandish and dangerous oaths: e.g., Jephthah and the ban on marrying into Benjamin. At the same time there is a loss of moral initiative: Nezirut, the act of haflaah, of separating oneself, would be expected to be the active reaching out of an individual towards a greater perfection. But within the framework of Judges we find the strange phenomenon of nezirut imposed from without. The verb "yafi" which in the Torah denotes the initiative of the nazir's commitment,39 is echoed in the angel's name: "Peli”:40 i.e., the angel must arrogate the moral courage that normally is expected of man himself.

  In the realm of religious experience, one notices an overwhelming sense of transcendence, of religious experience qua Otto's idea of the Holy the Wholly Other. Both Gideon and Manoah fear that no human being can survive after seeing an angel. The Book of Samuel bears witness to the scarcity of revelation during this period.41 It is Samson's mother who first perceives that God's revelation, despite its awesome Otherness,contains within it the assurance of God's Love42:

Had God willed our death, he would not have taken from us the burnt-offering and meal; and shown us all this; and now would not have told us this.


  How strongly Samson's religious boldness contrasts with the frailty of his age can be brought out by comparing him with Micaihu, whose story is told immediately afterwards.


  In both cases, the individual is presented in his relation to his mother. Samson's mother is the source of whatever standards he is compelled to confront, to uphold, and to betray. It is to her that the angel discloses Samson's destiny and its required regimen. And when Samson goes to Timnah to celebrate his nuptials, he is accompanied by his father, not his mother.43 Apparently her disapproval was stronger than her husband's.

  The Bible abruptly introduces us to Micaihu in dialogue with his mother: he confesses to her that a large sum of money she had been missing was in his possession. She immediately revokes her curse against the thief, and dedicates the money, (or part of it) for sacred purposes, i.e., the construction of the terafim. This is another example of the oath-anxiety that afflicts the typical citizen of the Judgeship.44 Like Jephthah, she had rashly taken God's Name; and was sorry. But whereas Jephthah lets his tragedy take its bitter course, this woman chooses a comic solution: Never again would she risk recourse to a living God; now she would play it safe. She would propitiate the deity; attend to her own security. That's what terafim are: an easy way to keep all anxiety about the future at bay, an aesthetic solution to that situation which begets, in the religious stage, the agony of prayer.

  It is within this framework that Samson's prayer for water breaks in on the reader, as it breaks in on the age, with the force of a wholesome, self-transcending,religious thrust. One chapter later, he prays again, this time in a more somber and ambiguous mood. And his prayer triumphs over the twisted climate of his soul; the prayer survives the man.

  The Philistine temple has come crashing down. The experienced men, those who thought they knew how the plot would end, who, whispering knowingly to girl-friend or kids, thought they had kept them ahead of the action, walk away disappointed, murmuring something about the decay of the heroic genre. If you asked them, they'd predict that the tale would be neglected; most certainly excluded from Holy Writ.

  In Shiloh, a controversial pamphlet appears, raising doubt concerning the conversion of the first Mrs. Samson, Believers in a strong High-Priesthood hope the new affair might finally put to rest the previous cause celebre: whether Pinhas had done enough to annul Jephthah's oath.

  A boy walked alone in a hilly field sowing. He wished: that he would grow up and be able to farm in the valley, where the ground was rich and soft and the seed ground into it by oxen and donkeys. He wished for an iron forge in his own village, instead of having to pay through the nose every time you needed to mend a tool. He wished that he didn't have to look the other way every time a Philistine girl drove past.

  Suddenly he felt a presence at the back of his head, like the eye of a camera, fixed: A giant's voice, like the voice of a frightened but trusting child, asks for water. The voice grows until it fills the boy's entire head, pleading, praying, for water. Tears roll down his cheeks, watering the seeds. After a while he felt better; but there was something he had not thought of before, he couldn't really name it. All he knew was that he wanted it, needed it, would ask for it.




1Judges 15, 11 ff. I am not addressing myself to the halakhic question whether it was permissible to betray Samson. See Malbim ad. loc.; Redak to II Samuel 20:22; Or Sameah Hil. Yesode Ha-Torah 5, 5. These sources are discussed by Rav Y. Gershuni in Or haMizrah 21:2, pp. 69-78. There appears to be a consistently lenient attitude in R. Meir Simhah's writings concerning the rights of the community or individuals to protect themselves at the cost of others. Cf. Meshekh Hakhmah, Parshat Shemot; and sources cited by R. S. Y. Zevin in Ishim ve-Shittot (Tel Aviv 1966) p. 186.

2Milton (Samson Agonistes, 11, 241ff) stressed the lack of support from which Samson suffered as an excuse for his political failure. This accords both with the popular typological interpretation of Samson; and with the Republican Milton's self-identification with Samson as rejected liberator.

3 Sotah l0a. Cf. Bereshit-Rabba 98:18; "Samson son of Manusli needed no aid."

4R. Moshe Hayyim Luzzato's characterization of Samson as a passive, weak-willed individual, is more in keeping with the Biblical narrative than Milton's more heroic conception. See Luzzato's Maaseh Shimshon (ed. Yonah David; Bialik Institute, Jerusalem 1967); I, part 3 (page 30-31). M. F. Krouse in Milton's Samson and the Christian Tradition (Archer, 1948) has discussed the typological approach to Samson that influenced Milton; and Samson's status as a saint, deriving from Hebrews 11:52.

5That the tying together of animals' tails was a common childhood prank, is evident from the Mishnah Bekhorot 5:3. Cf. 0. Volta (tr. Rudorff; Tandem 1962), p. 146.

6Judges 16:16.

7 Bereshit Rabba 34:19. See Addenda for subsequent discussion, see Dov Frimer in TRADITION 12.1, pp. 29-33.

8II, part 7 (lines 1010-1035). The motif of self-pity and the desire for an heroic death are without doubt the most strongly expressed.

9Milton's Samson (op. cit. 11.1 265ff) states: "But come what will, my deadliest foe will prove/My speediest friend, by death to rid me hence." It is at line 1381 that Milton changes Samson's motivation. "I begin to feel/Some rousing motions in me which dispose/To something extraordinary my thoughts . . . Nothing to do, be sure, that may dishonor/Our Law, or stain my vow of Nazirite." Milton solves the problem of motivation by stating quite simply that Samson had the right motivation, an approach that, especially for the twentieth century reader, is less than convincing. On the difficulty of dramatically portraying religious motivations, see the First essay in W. it. Auden's Secondary Worlds (Random House, 1968).

10Judges 16:31.

11 I Samuel 12:11.

12Judges 14:3.

13See Addenda.

"If Oedipus had read his Levi-Strauss" (in Urgent Copy, Norton 1968). (Burgess has since exploited this theme as the moral scaffolding in his recent novel M/F.)

For Jewish rationalizations of incest taboo, see R. Saadia Gaon, Emunot ve-Deot III, 2; Maimonides, Guide III. 49; and the unusual analysis in Responsa Mishpetei-Uzziel: Even ha-Ezer no. 3. Maharal of Prague (Be'er ha-Golah, end of Be'er 2) argues from the social relativity of incest bans against the rationality of incest taboos. The same position is implied in the less polemical context of Gur Aryeh Leviticus 20:17.

14Cf. the ruminations of Auden in his recently published Forewords and Afterwards (Random House, 1923) p. 451. This is not the place to expand upon them. See Addenda.

15See supra, footnote 13.

16See Sotah, ibid. One other trait shared by Samson and Oedipus is lameness. It is however, not implausible that the statement about Samson's lameness in Sotah is no more than a corruption of the text in Sanhedrin 105b (See Shittah Mekubbezet, Sotah, ad. loc.).

17J. Cocteau, The Infernal Machine and other plays, p. 41 (tr. Albert Bermel).

18Judges 14:14. In Luzzato's play, Samson immediately realizes the puzzle potential of the incident upon first encountering it.

19Judges 14:12. I leave it to you to judge his proof.

20 Halashon vehaSefer: Volume on HaSefer (pp. 58-93) and sources cited by Yehezkel Kaufmann in Sefer Shoftim (Kiryat Sefer 1962), p. 253.

21Kaufmann, Ibid.

22Cited in Publications of Israel Society for Biblical Research (Jerusalem 1966). Volume X. p. 382.

23See Gaston Bachelard The Psychoanalysis of Fire (tr. Alan C. M. Ross; Boston 1964), chapter 6. Bachclard discusses the relationship of alcohol to fire: also the flaming punch and crepes suzettes, etc. The last part of the chapter may be relevant to a solution of Leviticus 11.

24See Malbim on Judges 14:5

25See Kaufmaiin, p. 243.

26 Ibid.

27 Sotah ibid. Kaufmann (ibid.) agrees.

28Judges 14:15; 15:6.

29Judges 15:4-5.

30Judges ]5;14; lfi;9.

31Eg. I, part 4: lines 99-103.

32 Bereshit Rabba, ibid., 19, States; "Just as the serpent is found among women, so was Samson found among women." In the light of my suggestion this makes sense, obviating the need for the forced interpretation of Mattenot Kehunnah.

33Judges 14:16.

33aCf. John Donnes Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions: XV Expostulation

34The colorful and exuberant synonymous phrases used to describe Samson's rousing himself to face the imaginary foe is a verbal equivalent of a kind of confident humor and braggado; one gets a sense of playfulness and lack of anxiety. This device has been successfully exploited by the American comedian W. C. Fields and S. T. Agnew, for whom it has special intensity as a mode of defining the speaker's essential attitudes towards a particular type. On the general literary analysis of "elegant variation," see the essay with that title in W. K. Wimsatt’s The Verbal Icon (University of Kentucky 1954).

35Commentary to I Samuel 12:11

36Genesis 25:32; see Seforno ad. Loc.

37II Samuel 23:15 ff.

38See the brilliant discussion in Ha’emek Davar, Deuteronomy 31:19. Creative thought on Neviim tends (paraphrase Whitehead's famous comment on Plato) to produce a series of footnotes to the Netziv.

39Numbers 6:2.

40Judges 13:18-19. It is significant that these two verses (along with Leviticus 27:2) represent the only appearances of this verb form in the Bible.

41Samuel 3:1.

42Judges 13:23.

43Judges 14:10. See Malbim; Kaufmann is wrong in denying any significance to this change; while the mentioning of the father without the mother is not, in itself, exceptional; in this case, after both father and mother are repeatedly mentioned, the omission of the mother is reason for analysis.

44The political implications of the localized worship ensuing from this are described in Judges 18. The chronological question raised by Kaufmann (pp.56-7) is irrelevant to our purposes.

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