Atonement Patterns in Biblical Narrative: Rebellious Sons, Scapegoats and Boy Substitutes

Michael Carden


The paper gives an overview of Atonement ritual patterns and symbolism before examining how Atonement elements are played out in certain biblical narratives. I survey a number of narratives from Genesis, Joshua, Judges and 1 Samuel before exploring the atonement patterns in the 2 Samuel story of the rebellion and death of Absalom. The Day of Atonement was not unique to the ‘Israelite’ Temple/s. While I believe ‘Israel’ had its own unique understanding of Atonement, ‘Israelite’ Temple symbolism, rituals and motifs are derived from and are part of a broader family of Middle Eastern Temple theologies and practice. Atonement is related to the New Year and world renewal, celebrating the divine overcoming of Chaos e.g Marduk vs Tiamat, El/Athirat vs Yam/Leviathan, Baal vs Yam & Mot, YHWH vs Yam/Leviathan(/Azazel?). Over 30 years ago, Rictor Norton identified a homo-erotic element in such mythologies and associated sacrificial rituals. My reading of Atonement patterns in the Absalom narrative highlights such homo-erotic possibilities.



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Bible and Critical Theory: ISSN 1832-3391