Every year in the week or so before Thanksgiving, The Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), The American Academy of Religion (AAR), the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR, which I believe is planning to change its name), and Biblical Archaeology Review’s Bible Fest hold overlapping conferences in the same city. The largest by far is the joint meeting of SBL and AAR, which presents literally hundreds of panels and discussions over three and a half days. That conference also includes a massive book sellers hall, featuring most of the major publishers and many lesser ones who sell books on related subjects. I believe the joint attendance for SBL-AAR approaches 10,000 attendees. While SBL and AAR cover almost everything biblical or religious, ASOR is primarily concerned with archaeology. This year all the organizations gathered in Denver.
I attended the SBL events and enjoyed a number of stimulating sessions. My friend and colleague at BASNY, Peter Feinman, struggles to attend both ASOR and SBL. See his two reports on the handling of 10th century Israel here and here.
I particularly enjoyed the panel “Ideological criticism and the Book of Samuel,” which dealt with the problematic story of Samuel’s rejection of Saul, as Samuel appears to have done nothing wrong. The bible, and implicitly the panel, treats the story as God’s rejection of Samuel. But as I suggested during the Q and A, it is Samuel, not God, who rejects Saul, and it is simply a case of Samuel’s corrupt family being rejected by Israel and Saul being chosen by Israel as Samuel’s replacement.
The story is nothing more than a political conflict between the corrupt Shiloh Priesthood, rich on perks, and the Israelites, lacking justice from the corrupt Shiloh judges. Samuel’s alliance with David was just another Shiloh power grab. I suggested to the panel, that reading the story, one gets the sense that Samuel had been lurking behind the boulder and delaying his appearance so that when Saul could no longer safely wait any longer and had to conduct certain rituals, Samuel could jump out from behind the stone and accuse him of violating God’s law. That got a few smiles.
For a more detailed, down to the nitty-gritty, of the conflicts between Saul, Samuel, and David, you might want to read my King David versus Israel: How a Hebrew tyrant hated by Israel became q biblical hero