Abner Son of Ner: Characterization and Contribution of Saul’s Chief General
The dissertation represents the first comprehensive, academic examination of the character of Abner in the books of Samuel (1 Sam 14:50-51; 17:55–18:5; 20:25; 26:1-16; 2 Sam 2:8-32; 3:6-39), and it examines Abner’s character as it both resembles a real human being and functions as a literary device in the Masoretic Text (MT) and Septuagint (LXX). Following the examples of Sara Koenig and other biblical scholars (e.g., Robert Alter, Shimon Bar-Efrat, Adele Berlin, and Meir Sternberg), this dissertation gives attention to the ways these texts characterize Abner through direct and indirect characterization, narrative gaps, direct discourse, terminology, and grammar related to Abner, and the dissertation discusses the moral presentation of Abner in the texts and his character development from 1 Samuel into 2 Samuel. Moreover, utilizing Alex Woloch’s The One vs. The Many, the dissertation examines Abner’s character-space — the encounter between a character’s personality traits and its position within the narrative — in MT and LXX. While Abner’s character mimics a real human being in the way he is described, acts, and speaks in the stories, his character also contributes to the plots, structures, and messages of MT and LXX, and he illuminates other characters, especially Joab. The dissertation first devotes significant attention to Abner’s character-space in MT, followed by a discussion of how LXX differs from MT with respect to Abner. The dissertation concludes that Abner is a minor but complex and generally positive character who is integral to the plot of the story. Positively, Abner holds a powerful position within Saul’s court, is persuasive and shrewd, relies heavily upon rhetoric and questions, prefers peace over violence, and is widely respected by other characters. Negatively, he is lustful, presumptuous, and callous, and is an ineffectual military commander. The LXX presents Abner as a more powerful, threatening and yet merciful but less rhetorically shrewd character than does MT. As a literary device, Abner’s character symbolizes Saul and his kingdom, signals negative transitions for Saul’s house, illuminates other characters, and acts as the catalyst for the peaceful transition of power from the house of Saul to the house of David.
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