According to Deuteronomy 25:5–10, when a man refuses to marry his brother’s widow, the widow should approach the surviving brother (called the levir) “in the presence of the elders, pull the sandal off his foot, spit in his face, and make this declaration: ‘Thus shall be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house!’ And he shall go in Israel by the name of ‘the family of the unsandaled one.’”


See Jacob Milgrom, “Of Hems and Tassels,” BAR 09:03.


It is consistent with the narrative as a whole that the same image be used to highlight Saul’s downfall and David’s rise to power. In “Saul and David: Crossed Fates,” BR 05:03, Jan P. Fokkelman argues that all of 1 Samuel 13 through 2 Samuel 1 is an interaction between these two processes.



For more on the symbolism of clothing in the Bible, see H.A. Brongers, “Die Metaphorische Verwendung von Termini für die Kleidung von Göttern und Menschen in der Bibel und im Alten Testament,” in W.C. Delsman et al., eds., Von Kanaan bis Kerala (Neukirchen, Germany: Butzon and Bercker Kevelaer, 1982); Douglas R. Edwards, “Dress and Ornamentation,” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), vol. 2, pp. 232–238; Theodore H. Gaster, Myth, Legend and Custom in the Old Testament (New York: Harper and Row, 1969); Edgar Haulotte, Symbolique du Vêtement selon la Bible (Lyon: Aubier, 1966). For the symbolism of clothing in the ancient Near East in general, see A. Leo Oppenheim, “The Golden Garments of the Gods,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 8 (1949), pp. 172–193; and M.E. Vogelzang and W.J. van Bekkum, “Meaning and Symbolism of Clothing in Ancient Near Eastern Texts,” in H.L.J. Vanstiphout, ed., Scripta Signa Vocis (Groningen: Forsten, 1986), pp. 265–284.


See, for example, Archives royales de Mari (Paris, 1950), VI:45, xiii:112. Much has been written on the significance of the hem in the Bible and the ancient Near East. See, for example, Ronald A. Brauner, “Old Aramaic and Comparative Semitic Lexicography,” Gratz College Annual of Jewish Studies 6 (1977), pp. 25–33; Edward L. Greenstein, “‘To Grasp the Hem’ in Ugaritic Literature,” Vetus Testamentum 32 (1982), pp. 217–218; Paul Kruger, “The Hem of the Garment in Marriage: The Meaning of the Symbolic Gesture in Ruth 3.9 and Ezekiel 16.8,” Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 12 (1984), pp. 79–84; Meir Maulu, “Studies in Biblical Legal Symbols—A Discussion of the Terms Kanaph, heq, and hosen/hesen, Their Meaning and Usage in the Bible and the Ancient Near East,” Shnaton: An Annual for Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies 9 (1987), pp. 191–210 (Hebrew); and Jacob Milgrom, Numbers, The JPS Torah Commentary (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1990), p. 410; and Ferris J. Stephens, “The Ancient Significance of Sdisdith,” Journal of Biblical Literature 50 (1931), pp. 59–70.


See Peter D. Miscall, The Workings of Old Testament Narrative (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983), p. 60.


Jan Fokkelman, Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel, 2 vols. (Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1986), vol. 2, pp. 198–199.


See Paul Kruger, “The Symbolic Significance of the Hem (kanaf) in 1 Samuel 15.27,” in W. Claassen, ed., Text and Context, JSOTSup 48 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1988), p. 106.


David’s weakening status is also expressed symbolically through other family members: After David’s daughter Tamar is raped by her half-brother Amnon, she rips her splendid cloak—a sign of her status as princess—to indicate her mourning over the loss of her position and her future (2 Samuel 13).


The use of clothing as a literary device has been studied by Donald A. Seybold (“Paradox and Symmetry in the Joseph Narrative,” in Kenneth R.R. Gros-Louis et al., eds., Literary Interpretations of Biblical Narratives [Nashville: Abingdon, 1974], pp. 59–73); William L. Moran found similar uses of clothing in ancient Near Eastern texts (“Gilgamesh,” in The Encyclopedia of Religion, vol. 5, pp. 557–560).