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Ritual Violence in the Hebrew BibleNew Perspectives$
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Saul M. Olyan

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190249588

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190249588.001.0001

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The Instrumental Dimensions of Ritual Violence against Corpses in Biblical Texts

The Instrumental Dimensions of Ritual Violence against Corpses in Biblical Texts

(p.125) 6 The Instrumental Dimensions of Ritual Violence against Corpses in Biblical Texts
Ritual Violence in the Hebrew Bible

Saul M. Olyan

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the instrumental dimensions of ritual violence against corpses in four central texts that feature decapitation of a dead foreign or domestic enemy or offender: 1 Sam 31, 2 Sam 4:1–12, 2 Sam 20:1–22, and 2 Kgs 10:6–10. Aside from communicating the reality of military defeat or lost leadership, humiliating survivors, or terrorizing others into conformity with the will of the beheading agent, severing the head from a corpse might also function to terminate an existing political relationship and generate a new affiliation, or perpetuate established political ties. Similarly, attempts to mitigate the severe effects of ritual violence against corpses by an enemy might function to confirm and extend existing political relations or create new relationships between parties where none had existed. Thus, the tendency of scholars to focus solely on the punitive and intimidating aspects of corpse abuse proves to be limiting.

Keywords:   corpse abuse, decapitation, defeat, intimidation, punishment, strategic ends, political relationships, enemy, offender, humiliation

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