Death, Social Conflict, and the Barley Harvest in the Hebrew Bible

  • Brian Britt


Some recent scholarship characterizes violent biblical narratives, such as the killing of Saul’s descendents in 2 Sam. 21, as evidence of ancient ritual sacrifice. Yet 2 Sam. 21 has more in common with Ruth 1 and Judith than with stories of sacrifice. By their common reference to the barley harvest, untimely deaths, famine, and social conflict, these texts represent reality through literary means. Drawing on René Girard’s theory of religion, I suggest how the narratives of 2 Sam. 21, Ruth 1, and Judith, as well as a set of narratives about sheepshearing, address social conflict as literary texts rather than as transparent windows onto ancient practice.