Biblical Archaeology Review 34:1, January/February 2008

Biblical Views: Yahweh as Achilles

By Mary Joan Winn Leith

Sing “Wrath!” O Goddess; the wrath of Achilles, Peleus’ son,

and its devastation, which laid anguish a thousandfold upon the Achaians.

So begins Homer’s Iliad. But can one draw parallels between Homer and the Bible? I agree with Susan Niditch who, in War in the Hebrew Bible, notes that in the Bible, “heroic warrior material is part of larger narrative patterns that are typical of a cross-cultural range of epic stories about heroes.”1 For example, David’s encounter with Goliath in 1 Samuel 17 follows a story pattern similar to Homeric warrior epic. (In fact, given Goliath’s Philistine ethnicity, he probably could claim an ancestor or two among the Greeks at Troy,a and he might have sung a Philistine variant of the Iliad!) Similarly, the bloody mélée at Gibeon (2 Samuel2) between the soldiers of rival generals Joab and Abner recalls Iliadic skirmishes.

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