Authors from the ancient world rarely used great detail to describe the physical features of characters in their works. When they did mention bodies, they did so with very specific goals in mind. In particular, the bodies of "heroic" figures, such as warriors, kings, and other leaders became loaded sites of meaning for encoding cultural, religious, and political values on a number of fronts. Brian Doak analyzes the way biblical authors described the bodies of some of
their most iconic male figures, such as Jacob, the Judges, Saul, and David. These bodies represent not mere individuals-they communicate as national bodies, signaling the ambiguity of Israel's murky pre-history, the division during the period of settlement in the land, and the contest of leading
bodies fought between Saul and David.
Heroic Bodies in Ancient Israel examines the heroic world of ancient Israel within the Hebrew Bible, and shows that ancient Israelite literature operated within and against a world of heroic ideals in its ancient context. The heroic body tells a story of Israel's remembered history in the eventual making of the monarchy, marking a new kind of individual power. Not merely a textual study of the Hebrew Bible in isolation, this book also considers iconography and compares Israelite
literature with other ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern materials, illustrating Israel's place among a wider construction of heroic bodies.