The Samson narrative is notable for its cycles of violence and revenge. Sometimes this has been understood to be an expression of lex talionis(‘an eye for an eye’); indeed, Samson appears to assert as much, though his actions do not match up to the ideal. This paper argues that while the narrator permits Samson to make this claim, he demonstrates that a far more sinister dynamic is at work: namely, Girardian mimesis and scapegoating. At the centre of the rivalry between Israel and the Philistines is Samson, ‘monsterised’ by both sides, and represented in hulk-like terms. His sexual rivalry with his Philistine ‘companions’ embodies the rivalry between the two nations. Using a Girardian hermeneutic reveals how the cycles of violence are, in fact, an escalating form of mimesis, which twice approach crisis, but conclude with Samson escaping from the scapegoating role by taking matters into his own hands.
In this book Helen Paynter offers a radical re-evalution of the central section of Kings. Reading with attention to the literary devices of carnivalization and mirroring, she demonstrates that it contains a florid satire on kings, prophets and nations.
Building on the work of humorists, literary critics and biblical scholars, the author constructs diagnostic criteria for carnivalization (seriocomedy), and identifies an abundance of these features within the Elijah/Elisha and Aram narratives, showing how literary mirroring further enhances their satirical effect.
This book will be of particular interest to students and scholars concerned with the Hebrew Bible as literature but will be valued by those who favour more historical approaches for its insights into the Hebrew text.