By David M. Gunn

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Sample text

They answered, "He is; behold he is just ahead of you. Make haste (mhr); he has come just now (hyywm) to the city, because the people have a sacrifice today (hyywm) on the high place. As soon as you enter the city you will find him, before he goes up to the high place to eat; for the people will not eat till he comes, since he must bless the sacrifice; afterwards those eat who are invited. Now go up, for you will meet him immediately (hyywm)".

The word hrm seems to be connected with the idea of holiness, separation or taboo and can be used of various things forbidden to common use. In the Old Testament it is especially connected with warfare and the status of a defeated enemy and his possessions, and is used in some texts of the extermination of an enemy and the destruction of booty. In scholarly theory the term is often connected with the "holy war", a concept which owes much to the advocacy of von Rad's book (1951). He argued that "holy war" was a homogeneous and distinct institution in ancient Israel with a number of recognizable features.

Many a commentator has labelled Saul as "greedy" greedy because it is accepted (as, to be sure, the narrator leads us to accept in verse 9) that the spoil was spared for his and the people's own personal enrichment - assuming his "hypocrisy" and "dissimulation" in verses 13ff. (cf. ^ Why, on the contrary, should we (or Samuel) believe that Saul's explanation is genuine? The answer is to reiterate the point already made about that final phrase of Saul's explanation (verse 21), "in Gilgal". Why else should Saul and the people have come to Gilgal, the sanctuary of Yahweh, the scene of sacrifice, if not to do precisely what he claims?

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