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The Function of the Root śkl in Shaping the Ideal Figure of David in 1 Samuel 18

In: Vetus Testamentum
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The fourfold recurrence of the root śkl in 1 Samuel 18 to describe David (vv. 5, 14, 15, 30) calls for an explanation. While David’s characterization as maśkîl would seem to refer, above all, to his success in battle, a broader analysis of śkl in wisdom-related contexts, as well as elsewhere in the Deuteronomistic History, demonstrates that maśkîl functions as an epithet, bestowing upon the holder a wider sense of “success” that is intimately linked with Divine patronage. Thus, David’s characterization as maśkîl in 1 Samuel 18 promotes a more comprehensive definition of the ideal king, in contrast to the more restricted prerequisite of military skill associated with Saul. While it is most likely that the story in 1 Samuel 18 is composed solely from pre-Deuteronomistic strands, the intensity with which the root śkl is employed with relation to David corresponds with the Deuteronomistic agenda of portraying David as the ideal king.

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