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At Whose Table? Stories of Elites and Social Climbers in 1-2 Samuel

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1-2 Samuel and indeed the entire Deuteronomistic History include several stories of elite members of society and their lifeways, concentrating on their use of economic resources, proper self-display as rhetors, and obedience or otherwise to those around them. Like other traditional societies, ancient Israel had a fairly deeply articulated sense of appropriate behavior by such persons. This paper draws on contemporary studies in both anthropology and rhetoric, as well as comparative evidence from the ancient Near East and other Israelite texts, to examine the stories of Nabal (1 Sam 25) and Barzillai (2 Sam 19) in their ancient social settings and locations in 2 Samuel. It argues that stories of such landed gentry reflect the interests of the readers and authors of these texts and reveal part of the social location of the entire DH. As such, they allow us to question a simplistic attribution of these texts either to the royal court or its critics, illustrating the complex interrelationships among various settings in Israelite life.

Affiliations: 1: Abilene Christian University, United States


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