1 Sam 6:11-15

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The Old Testament > 1 Samuel > Chapter 6

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Lexical notes[edit]

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Verse 12: Lowing as they went[edit]

Robert Alter (The World of Biblical Literature, pp. 101-106) suggests possible literary significance to the inclusion of the lowing of the cows here (the other details in this verse seem to be included in order to emphasize the directness of the course that the cows take in response to verse 9). First, the reason the cows are lowing is likely because their udders are full of milk because they have left their young behind. This shows that "the Lord can work his will against the grain of nature." Moreover, Alter suggest that this passage "rhymes weirdly, and suggestively, with the story of the birth of Samuel that immediately precedes it" where Hannah gives up Samuel to Eli's monastery after nursing him (1 Sam 1:23; note also the motherly devotion showed in 1 Sam 2:19).

Later in the books of Samuel, parent-child relations also figure as a prominent theme. For example, Saul is worried about his father's protracted absence from home (1 Sam 9:5). Later, tension between Saul and his son Jonathan becomes a major theme in (e.g. 1 Sam 14, 18-20). In 2 Samuel, David nearly loses his throne to one of his own sons. Alter concludes, "If the Hebrew writers conceive Israelite history as the play of power in the always uncertain effort to carry out God's aims in the arena of political events, there is a strong sense in these stories that human submission to these aims exacts a terrible price, tearing through the ligatures that bind parent and child, displacing people from the organic realm of biological connection to the sometimes murderous and usually corrupting realm of politics" (p. 105).

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