Day: July 1, 2011

“I will strike you down and cut off your head”: Biblical trash talking

“I will strike you down and cut off your head.”  These words are uttered by the boy David to the giant Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:46.  It’s hard to imagine the same person writing many of our favorite psalms (“The LORD is my shepherd as I decapitate foreign monsters…).  From Sunday school we’re all familiar of David’s highly accurate shot to the giant’s noggin, but the graphic ending of the story is often left out (I’m sure teen boys would love it).  David followed through on his prophetic trash talking as Caravaggio’s painting (1610) so vividly illustrates (1 Sam. 17:51).

I gave a paper on trash talking during the summer of 2008 in Oxford at the Society for Old Testament Study (SOTS).  (Although many Brits weren’t familiar with trash talking, there is a similar phenomenon in cricket called sledging.)  While David’s insult may seem shocking, he was simply responding to the taunts of the Philistine who called out to David as he approached, “I am a dog that you come at me with sticks” (1 Sam. 17:43).

As I researched the paper, I was surprised at how many places taunting appears in the Old Testament.  So, there’s a book idea–A Theology of Trash Talking.  I’ll be blogging through a few more examples of biblical trash talking, but I’d love to hear your examples, because I’m sure there are a few I haven’t noticed yet.  Where do we find trash talking in Scripture? 

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