David T. Lamb

Is the God of the Old Testament…?

“I Will Strike You Down and Cut off Your Head”

If you are into trash talking, you may want to check out my recently published article,

” ‘I Will Strike You down and Cut off Your Head’ (1 Samuel 17:42) Trash Talking, Derogatory Rhetoric, and Psychological Warfare in Ancient Israel.”

It just appeared in a collection of essays entitled,

Warfare, Ritual, and Symbol in Biblical and Modern Contexts, edited by Brad Kelle, Frank Ames and Jacob Wright, from SBL (June, 2014)

Who trash talks in the Bible?  David, Goliath, Elijah, Jezebel, Jehu, the Rabshakeh, and even Yahweh himself.  David is the one who promises to “cut off” the head of his opponent Goliath from the title.

So, is it OK, or even good to trash talk?  Do you trash talk?  Should we trash talk today?  

I also have a series of nine blogs about OT trash talking (click here).

I begin with Shakespeare’s Henry V, then move quickly to John Cleese’s French knight in The Holy Grail (how often do you encounter Monty Python in academic works?) before working through examples in literature of the ancient Near East and the Bible.

I really like some of the section titles,

1) Introduction
2) Insults, Boasts and Predictions
3) Trash-Talk Research
4) Bulls and Birds, Falcons and Foxes: Trash Talking in the ANE
5) Flailing Flesh and Smoldering Stumps: Trash Talking in the Hebrew Bible
6) Canine Consumption: Elijah, Jezebel, Jehu, and Others
7) Eating Dung and Drinking Urine: The Rabshaheh, Hezekiah, and YHWH
8) Lions, Bears, and Dogs: David and the Philistine
9) Biomorphic and Zoomorphic, Scatological and Theological

I first gave an earlier draft of this in Oxford in July 2008, but many of the scholars weren’t familiar with the term “trash talking”, instead they spoke of “sledging” which is apparently what taunt speech is often called in cricket.

Other contributors to the volume include the three editors, as well as,
Saul M. Olyan
Nathaniel B Levtow
Thomas Römer
Kelly J. Murphy
Deborah O’Daniel Cantrell
Rüdiger Schmitt
Mark S. Smith
Susan Niditch
Jason A. Riley
T. M. Lemos

Where else do we find trash talking in the Bible?

3 comments on ““I Will Strike You Down and Cut off Your Head”

  1. kevindglenn
    July 9, 2014

    Just ordered the book, David! Can’t wait to read your essay. Other titles are intriguing as well. I love the OT for its rich verbal imagery and semiosis. I think Bear Grylls’ survival cuisine is inspired by what some OT personalities promise to feed their defeated enemies :)

  2. Marg Miller
    July 9, 2014

    Just read through your nine blogs on trash talking in the Old Testament! Although I do not engage in that myself (not out loud anyhow!), I have to be honest and say your take on them brought many smiles to my face and a couple LOLs! I have noticed these passages before but I will read them in a new light when I come across them again and will pay closer attention to all that is going on!

  3. Tanya Marlow
    July 10, 2014

    I love your titles! You always make it sound exciting.

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This entry was posted on July 9, 2014 by in 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Samuel, Book Reviews, Old Testament, Trash talking and tagged , , .
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