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The Victory Song "Saul has smitten his thousands and David his ten thousands" (I Sam. 18: 7) as a Reflection of Saul's Soul / שיר הניצחון: "הכה שאול באלפו ודוד ברבבתיו" (שמואל א, יח 7) כבבואה לנפש שאול
יוסי לשם and YOSSI LESHEM
Beit Mikra: Journal for the Study of the Bible and Its World / בית מקרא: כתב-עת לחקר המקרא ועולמו
כרך נ, חוברת א (קפ) (תשרי-כסלו תשס"ה), pp. 32-42
Published by: Bialik Institute, Jerusalem / מוסד ביאליק, ירושלים
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23509405
Page Count: 11
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In I Samuel 18: 6-9 dancing women come out from all the cities of Israel to meet Saul with tambourines, celebration and lutes (verse 6). The women celebrate the victory of the Israelites over the Philistines, and they sing: "Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands" (verse 7). This is vexing to Saul, who thinks, "They credit David with ten thousands, but me they credit only with thousands!" (verse 8). Therefore, Saul hated David from that day on (verse 9). These are the facts in the text. It might seem that the dancing women wanted to praise David above Saul, but I think that Saul misunderstood their intention. There are three reasons for this assertion: First, the women came out to meet Saul, the king, and it is unlikely that they intended to insult or to mock him. Secondly, the structure of Classical Biblical poetry shows, that in parallelism the verb usually does not need to be repeated in the second phrase. Here the verb 'slain' is not repeated, and the replacement of 'thousands' with 'tens of thousands' helps to even the length of the phrases. In Hebrew, the word 'ten thousand' is longer than the word 'thousand', and, therefore, the rhythm of the song is preserved as in many other songs in the Bible (Num. 24:5, Ps. 92:3, Gen. 4:23, Jug. 5:26, etc). Finally, the words 'thousands' and 'ten thousands' in Classical Biblical poetry as well in Ugaritic poetry, appear as a pair and they symbolize a great amount without any difference between them. The author of Samuel must have known all these things. He used Saul's reaction to the song to demonstrate Saul's mental state, which was extremely troubled: "And an evil spirit from the Lord began to terrify him" (I Sam.: 16 14). Saul understood the literal meaning of the words but not their poetic meaning. This is the reason for Saul's anger, and his response, "to David they have given tens of thousands, and to me they have given thousands. All that he lacks is the kingship" (I Sam. 18:8), is Saul's interpretation of the song and not the author's intention or understanding of it.
Beit Mikra: Journal for the Study of the Bible and Its World / בית מקרא: כתב-עת לחקר המקרא ועולמו © 2004 Bialik Institute, Jerusalem / מוסד ביאליק, ירושלים