Literary Examination of the Function of Satire in the Mispat Hammelek of I Samuel 8

Author: Mitchell, Eric Alan
This study is a literary examination of the Israelite request for kingship in 1 Samuel 8 with satire in view as its genre. Through a close reading of the passage this work contends that both Yahweh's and Samuel's speeches combine in the form a judgment speech to the nation of Israel. The greater unit of 1 Samuel 8-12 also shows a satiric dialectic that is subtly anti-Saul but not anti-monarchy. This study argues that 1 Samuel 8 is religio-political satire seeking to reform both the deviation from the covenantal norm of Yahweh's kingship and the deviation from the deuteronomic standard of Yahweh-initiated (i.e., prophet anointed) kingship.


"Eric Mitchell he has chosen the more difficult path in his study of 1 Samuel 8-12, for he does not employ only one method or seek to make one point. Rather, he grapples with the history of the passage's interpretation without choosing or dismissing opinions without cause. ... In short, this monograph exhibits hard work done in the service of the interpretation of 1 Samuel 8-12 that provides a meaningful historical, literary, and theological understanding of this rich and difficult text. Mitchell's work thus serves as a model for other rising scholars wishing to use multiple methodologies to interpret texts in a whole cloth fashion." - Dr. Paul R. House, Associate Dean and Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School

"Dr. Mitchell's work on 1 Sam 8 can be described as profound, as well. Such praise is not for the thorough, helpful literature review or for the detailed, careful analysis of primary and secondary sources. Rather, this praise stems from the fact that Mitchell indeed used all the tools (his selected methodology) appropriately, along with all the counsel (bibliography), while managing to escape forcing the text to fit his own presuppositions. Mitchell thus accomplished a significant task: He allowed the text to speak for itself. Likewise, Mitchell refined the synthesis of historical, literary, and rhetorical methods to create a better methodological approach. As a result, this work provides an excellent model for interacting with the biblical text." - Dr. Archie W. England, J. Wash Watts Chair of Old Testament and Hebrew, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

"Mitchell's work has two primary contributions. First, he has clearly and persuasively demonstrated the importance of satire in understanding 1 Samuel eight. In sum, the satire of 1 Samuel "delegitimizes the rise of Saul to kingship not by rejecting kingship as an institution, but by satirizing the elders' request for a king (i.e. Saul) to replace Yahweh as Israel's defender." 1 Samuel 8, therefore, "may be written against an elder/people-initiated kingship since the type of military king they requested was an abrogation of the covenant in Deuteronomy 17 and sought to usurp Yahweh's role as Israel's king and defender." Of course, his work will help further research for satire in the other parts of the books of Samuel and the rest of Scripture. This work opens up many new avenues of discussion and debate. Second, he has shown that the rhetorical situation of the narrator and the characters of the chapter eight is different." - Dr. Russell Thomas Fuller, Professor of Old Testament, The Southern Baptist Seminary

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
List of Tables
List of Figures
Foreword by Paul R. House
Chapter 1 – A Survey of the History of Interpretation of 1 Samuel 8
Chapter 2 – Theory and Methodology
Chapter 3 – A Successive Exegesis of 1 Samuel 8
Chapter 4 – Summary and Conclusion
Author Index
Subject Index