Disintegration and Reintegration

2017.01.26 | By Gregory Nagy, Keith Stone, and Lanah Koelle

Notes from a conversation at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki on January 20, 2017

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Notes on a Conversation

with Gregory Nagy, Keith Stone, and Lanah Koelle
at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki

Click here for a PDF version of the handout distributed on January 20, 2017, which contains the ancient texts in both ancient and modern Greek and the modern texts in English.


GN: What sometimes surprises me about songmaking is how beautifully it can respond to periods of crisis in society. When society is disintegrating, as seems to be the case right now in the country where I live, some songs produced in that society may still shine a light of hope for some kind of future reintegration. I cling to such a hope whenever I hear a really good song being sung—even if that song is about breaking. In American song culture, for example, there are so many good songs about breaking. The song can be about a mental breakdown. It can be about the breakdown of love. Or about the breakup, as we say, of a loving couple. Or about some other such heartbreak. Such songs may even make you think about the breakdown of society—about social disintegration. But, sometimes, the beauty of the song can surprisingly make you hope for the opposite: any society that can generate such a song, you may think to yourself, must have the power to regenerate itself. That kind of hope for social reintegration is what brings the three of us together on this occasion.


KS: It was a great honor to participate in a talk at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki with Gregory Nagy and Lanah Koelle of the CHS. Although I was initially asked to be Greg’s respondent, what ended up happening was more organic than the usual paradigm of lecture and response. As Greg and I prepared for the event, we decided that we would share our own developing conversation with the audience in Thessaloniki. Once Lanah joined this conversation, it became the plan for her to join us on stage too. In the current posting on Classical Inquiries we offer not a transcript but rather the gist of our remarks about each of the primary texts we looked at together in Thessaloniki.

By enacting our conversation in the lecture hall, our goal was to draw the members of the audience into that conversation. For me that included issuing a challenge to the audience, to consider whether the poetry and metaphors of these texts are powerful and flexible enough to describe the social disintegration we see around us and to help us envision the possibility of social reintegration. Can we put them to new use?

Before I end these introductory comments, I together with my colleagues Greg and Lanah would like to give a big thank-you to Dr. Polixeni Veleni, director of the Archaeological Museum, and to her colleagues, who made the evening very congenial for us, as well as to Christos Giannopoulos, Evangelos Katsarelis, and Christina Lafi of CHS-Greece, who organized everything in advance flawlessly.


1. Proverbs/Παροιμίαι 25:28

KS: In Proverbs 25:28 we see a reflection of the theme of the 2017 CHS Event Series: “Societies in crisis: economy, politics, culture.” We begin with this image of a city that is vulnerable because its protective structure has been destroyed, and we will end with a vision of a particular city (Jerusalem), eschatologically rebuilt and structurally sound.

In Proverbs 25:28, the personal and the social are mixed in a metaphor, one shedding light on the other (and it is a metaphor, not a simile as it is often translated). What is a person who has no self-control? That person is a city with no defenses. And since city walls offer protection from external dangers, that person is evidently defenseless against outside influences (of a kind unspecified in the proverb).

We will see other relationships between the personal and the communal as we progress through our chosen texts, including in the very next text, from the Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles.


2. Sophocles/Σοφοκλής Oedipus Tyrannus / Οιδίπους Τύραννος 58–67

GN: Before I proceed to the Greek text of Sophocles, I offer two thoughts about the idea of city walls and the accompanying idea of the city.

1. Although I will concentrate on Greek traditions in most of my presentation, I start here with a pair of words in the cognate Roman traditions. I have in mind the Latin word moenia, which means ‘city walls’, and the related Latin word mūnus, which means something like ‘token of reciprocity’. There is a fundamental idea of ‘give-and-take’ built into the meaning of mūnus: if I am a citizen who lives within the walls of a city, I owe it to my fellow-citizen to follow the rules of give-and-take, and my fellow-citizen has the same obligation to me. Derived from mūnus is the adjective commūnis, meaning ‘common, communal, mutual’. We see here a framework for the idea of society, and the physical reality of this framework would be the moenia or ‘city walls’ that contain and thus frame the activities and even the identities of the city’s inhabitants, who are the citizens. [[More in PH 144–145.]]

2. I recall the the Greek wording of Aristotle Politics I 1253a2–3, ὁ ἄνθρωπος φύσει πολιτικὸν ζῷον, which can be translated literally this way: ‘A human [anthrōpos] is by nature an organism of the polis [politikon zōion]’. We see in this wording the basis for a distinctly Greek concept of civilization—or πολιτισμός in Modern Greek. What Aristotle is really saying here is that humans achieve their ultimate potential within a society that is the polis or ‘city-state’. From this point of view, the ultimate in human potential is achieved politically. The original Greek wording of this observation by Aristotle is frequently rendered this way into English: ‘Man is a political animal’. Such a rendering does not do justice to the original formulation, since current uses of the word political do not convey accurately the historical realities of the ancient Greek polis. [[H24H 00§8]]

Having made these two points, I turn to the passage from the Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles. Here we see Oedipus speaking as if he were a king. We know from anthropologists that in most traditions the king is conventionally envisioned as the embodiment of society, as the body politic. When the king is just, the body politic is healthy. But when it is sick, as in the case of the tragedy at hand, then the king is sick as well. And the embodiment of a sick society is a king who is polluted, unconstitutional—so, not a king but a tyrant, a tyrannos.


KS: Returning to our question of the relationship between the personal and the communal, raised by our first text, here we see the crisis of society becoming concentrated in one person, in this case, in the king.


3. The Night of the Iguana

GN: In this opening sequence of the film, we see how the character of a community leader disintegrates while even the syntax of his sermon disintegrates.

“A City without Walls.”

This clip is taken from The Night of the Iguana, a 1964 film based on a 1961 play by Tennessee Williams. Richard Burton plays the rôle of a tormented Episcopal priest. The scene you see takes place at the very beginning of the film, before the title of the film is even projected. Shannon, the priest or ‘pastor’, as he calls himself, is about to deliver his Sunday sermon. He chooses as his topic a quotation from the book of Proverbs, chapter 25, verse 28 (King James Version):

“He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.”

But first, Shannon gets ready for his sermon by praying. He turns away from his listeners and toward the front of the church, toward God, as it were. He looks straight into the camera as he prays. You might say that we get a “God’s-eye-view” of his prayer. The prayer starts:

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer!”

Shannon’s gaze toward his God seems unswerving—or is it?

Shannon turns back toward the congregation and begins his sermon.

His prayer has prepared him (has it not?) for meshing what he thinks (“meditation”) and what he feels (“of my heart”) on the inside with what he speaks on the outside. He is ready to start with the quotation from Proverbs. So he goes ahead and says it:

“He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.”

So far, so good…

Now he must build on his “thesis sentence,” as we like to call it in expository writing.

He launches into the rest of the paragraph…

“And I wonder, as we examine our hearts together in this space set aside for worship, how many of us here can say ‘I rule my own spirit’. For, how weak is man: how often do we stray from the straight and narrow? But only when we abide in the Lord are we like cities without walls, only then can we defend ourselves against Satan and his temptations. We cannot rule ourselves alone. God only is our… is our help and our salvation.” The syntax starts coming apart when he says “how often do we…,” and he already falters. The faltering leads to self-contradiction, as when he says “city without walls” when he should have said “city with walls”

From the start, his meditation must have led him to think about human weakness and frailty. How weak is man! Now he tries to loop back to the point where he started, “how often do we stray from the straight and narrow?”

When he says this, you can see that his eye has become unsteady: you can see that his formerly straight gaze has become shaken, has begun to stray, to swerve. His unsteady eye is catching the hostile looks that are coming at him from the congregation.

The unsteadiness of the eye translates into an unsteadiness of speech. His speech now becomes shaken, has begun to stray, to swerve.

He tries to repeat “how often do we stray from the straight and narrow?” But he can’t.

He gets stuck between “how often do we” and “stray.”

He tries again, and he gets stuck again.

“How often do we, how often do we, …”

Then, all of a sudden he starts bellowing…

“All right!”—he screams.

There follows a stream of enraged bellowing.

His speech breaks down. He breaks down on the outside. He breaks down on the inside.

He has lost his rule, his control, over his own spirit. Shannon, the leader of his congregation, breaks down—and the congregation breaks up. The city that is broken down, without walls…

That’s it. No more sermon. He is now raving. His voice gets louder and louder as his syntax gets more and more disjointed. The congregation breaks out in murmurs. The congregation breaks up. It starts to scatter. Like some demon, he pursues them as they spill out of the church, into the rain.

Because Burton is Burton, with an exquisite ear for language, some of his lines are overwhelmingly powerful, even if disjointed, as when he refers to God as “this angry petulant old man in whom you believe,” or when he rails at his congregation: “you have turned your back on the God of love and compassion and invented for yourselves this cruel senile delinquent who blames the world and all He created for all His faults.”


KS: Note the giant wall in view behind Shannon when he is facing toward the altar in prayer. Here the walls belong not to a city but to a church building. Will they protect against danger? As Greg mentioned, the danger is internal, and the walls do not keep the community together, for the churchgoers disperse at the end of the scene.

Before that happens, there is another vision of disintegration: Shannon invites the churchgoers, if not to dismember him completely, at least to scalp him.

This clip also introduces the pastoral image that we will encounter in one of our later texts, from Ezekiel 34. Shannon calls himself “your pastor, your spiritual shepherd,” making the churchgoers his flock of sheep.

Finally, I would like to note that Shannon is doing what I encouraged the audience to do, which is to adapt the primary sources. He says:

“Whenever two or three are gathered together in my name,” is what the scripture says, but that’s not why you’re here. Let’s change the words, let’s rewrite the order of the morning prayer. Whenever two or three, or twenty or thirty, or two hundred or three hundred are gathered together to make whispered comment, to sit in judgment…


4. 3 Kingdoms / Βασιλείων Γ´ 11:29–40

KS: Here the action takes place outside of the construct of the city, as Jeroboam, one of King Solomon’s overseers of forced labor, has “gone out of Jerusalem” when the prophet Ahijah meets him on the road, out in the open country.[1] So, already we are dealing with a different metaphorical relationship between the personal and the communal. Here it is in the person of the prophet Ahijah that they meet: in the performance of the prophetic sign, the garment of this individual is torn apart (we could say that the garment disintegrates or is dismembered) into twelve separate pieces, one for each tribe of the Israelites, so that they can be reintegrated in a different configuration, ten transferred to Jeroboam and one remaining for Solomon. It is not only the tribes that disintegrate but also the kingship: where there was one king, now there will be two. (Later in the narrative, “Jerusalem” is also fragmented, as Jeroboam establishes alternative capitals and alternative sites of worship; 12:25–29.)

I read the fact that the garment’s twelve pieces break down into groupings of ten and of one as an indication that the communal is being defined in geographic or territorial terms, as there is one leftover tribe (Levi) that does not have any territorial holdings.

While in Proverbs 25:28 a person without self-control is compared to a city vulnerable to external threats, here the situation is somewhat reversed. It is not Solomon’s rule over his own spirit that is the problem, it is his oppressive rule over his own people; as in the foregoing passage from Oedipus Tyrannus, the danger to the community is internal, and as in the scene from The Night of the Iguana, the result is the dispersal or fragmentation of the community.

Finally, in this passage from 3 Kingdoms, the prophetic renegotiation of disintegration and reintegration occurs in a place apart, that is, specifically outside of “the city,” in the open country. We will see something similar later, in prophetic visions that take place out in a valley or on a remote mountaintop.


5. “I Fall To Pieces”

Click above to listen to a recording of Lanah performing “I Fall To Pieces,” and click here for the lyrics.

KS: I have just one quick observation on this text, which is that a suggested antidote to the problem of disintegration is to pretend that there was never any integration in the first place.


6. Ezekiel/Ιεζεκιήλ 34:1–31 [34:5–6, 12–13, 23]

KS: I include this passage because it is a complement to the scene from The Night of the Iguana. It uses the same metaphor (though much more elaborated) of the flock and the shepherd. The person of the shepherd is the integrating force. When there is no shepherd, the flock disintegrates (34:5), and it takes someone functioning as a shepherd to reintegrate the flock (34:12–13). That is the relationship between the personal and communal here. So far on the personal side we have kings (Oedipus, Jeroboam, and the royal figures of Ezekiel 34, who are called shepherds), a priest who is also a shepherd (Shannon), a lover who falls to pieces, and the abstract person of the proverb. On the side of community or society we have the city of the proverb, the city of Thebes, the congregation of Christian worshipers, which is by implication a flock, the tribal territories of the Israelites, the lost union of two lovers, and the Israelites as a nation, construed as a flock of sheep.

Although I haven’t highlighted the relevant verses on the handout, in this prophecy of Ezekiel, the problem is not the absence of a shepherd but the presence of bad shepherds, rulers who show attention only to themselves and not to the flock.


7. Ezekiel/Ιεζεκιήλ 37:1–14 [37:7–10]

KS: I consider this vision to be the most famous—certainly the most striking—instance of disintegration and reintegration in Ezekiel, perhaps in the whole Bible. It deals with the ultimate in disintegration, which is the disintegration of the body in death, and the ultimate in reintegration, which is resurrection. I won’t repeat the details of the vision here except to say that disjointed bones are put back together again in the form not only of individuals but also of a community: “they stood on their feet, a vast multitude” (37:10). What is the relationship between the personal and the communal here? It is hard to say, but it does not seem to be a source of trouble. In this vision, the reintegrated individual seems also to be perfectly integrated into the reintegrated community.

Note, too, the pause for breath: bodies have been created, but they are not alive yet. As in the creation account in Genesis 2, the integration of the breath of life is a distinct step. In Ezekiel’s vision, not only must the breath be integrated into the bodies, but the breath itself is put together from the four winds, from the four corners of the world.


8. Plutarch Romulus 27.5

GN: In this compressed retelling of a Roman myth about the beginnings of social order in Rome, the prototypical king of Rome, Romulus, is dismembered by the senators of a prototypical senate: the senators then disperse from the senate, and each member of the senate carries home with him a member of the dismembered royal body. This primordial scene of dysfunction in myth is then matched, by implication, in an ever-recurrent scene of functionality in ritual. The ritual here is the convening the senate: every time the senate reconvenes, the dismembered body of the king becomes symbolically reassembled and reintegrated as the body politic that is represented by the senate.


KS: Here we see one order replaced by another, a monarchy replaced with a senate—however, it is not all discontinuity. The new order is only legitimate because it is a reconfiguration, a reintegration of the previous, disintegrated order.


9. Vita 5.24–34 (quoting Greek Anthology 11.442)

GN: This epigram is attributed to Peisistratos, who ruled Athens during the sixth century BCE. This ruler was later demonized as a tyrant after his dynasty (known as the Peisistratidai) was replaced by the prototypically democratic régime installed in Athens by Cleisthenes toward the end of the sixth century. Back in his glory days, however, as we see in the wording of this epigram, Peisistratos was boasting that he had reassembled what are described as fragments of a body of poetry that had once been composed by Homer—and that we know today as the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey. And this body of poetry is imagined here as a corpus that had disintegrated, fallen to pieces, which were then scattered all over the region of Asia Minor. In terms of the myth propagated by Peisistratos, however, he as ruler of Athens took the initiative of reassembling the pieces and thus bringing the body of Homer back to life, as it were, every time the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey were performed “live” at the festival of the goddess Athena in Athens. [[HPC 314–316.]]


10. Shāhnāma I 21.126–136

GN: According to the Shāhnāma or Book of Kings by Ferdowsi, I 21.126–136, a noble vizier assembles mōbad-s, wise men who are experts in the Law of Zoroaster, from all over the Empire, and each of these mōbad-s brings with him a “fragment” of a long-lost book of Book of Kings that had been scattered to the winds; each of the experts is called upon to recite, in turn, his respective “fragment,” and the vizier composes a book out of these recitations. … The vizier reassembles the old book that had been disassembled, which in turn becomes the model for the Shāhnāma “Book of Kings” of Ferdowsi (Shāhnāma I 21.156-161). We see here paradoxically a myth about the synthesis of oral traditions that is articulated in terms of written traditions. [[HQ 70 following Davidson 2013:41–43.]]


KS: This passage reminds me of the creation of the Septuagint, the Greek Bible, as recounted in the Letter of Aristeas (2nd century CE). In fact, the very name “Septuagint,” which is Latin for the number seventy, is an allusion to this story. Briefly, in order to create a translation of the Hebrew Law that is worthy of the royal library in Alexandria, 72 Israelite elders are assembled, six from each tribe, to produce a new translation. They do so over a period of 72 days. Although it is not a lost book per se that is thereby recovered, the book was effectively lost from the point of view of the royal librarian, who did not have an accurate translation and who could not read Hebrew.


11. A Telugu myth

GN: What follows is a remarkable detail about one of the living oral traditions of India. In Telugu society, there is an aetiological myth explaining why the Palnāḍu epic is now sung by untouchable Malas. According to the oral tradition of this epic, the original was written down by a Brahmin poet. But it was torn apart and scattered. Thus, every time the epic is now performed orally, it is seen as a reintegration of the original book—so that the book itself is a symbol of the oral tradition as a whole. [[HQ 71, with bibliography.]]


12. Theognis of Megara Elegies 15–18

GN: In this poem, we see a foundation myth about the the origin of society. The myth is native to the city of Thebes. In this myth, the origin of the city and of the society that populated the city is linked with a prototypical wedding that unites Cadmus, the founder of the city, with his bride. A song is sung by the Muses sing at the wedding. Joining them in the singing are the Kharites ‘Graces’, who are personifications of kharis, a word that conveys the beauty and the pleasure of the song. The song is about social integration, as anthropologists might describe it. In terms of the song, however, the wording says it more simply and directly: whatever is kalon ‘beautiful’, as embodied by the kharis ‘beauty and pleasure’ of the song, is philon, that is, near-and-dear. So, the beauty of the song is social integration, visualized as the ties that bind men and women together. The content of this wedding song of social foundation can be linked with another myth about the origins of Thebes: in this myth, the beautiful sound of a seven-string lyre played by the prototypical hero Amphion literally builds the city walls of Thebes (Hesiod F 182 MW; Pausanias 6.20.18). Significantly, the name of the bride of Cadmus, founder of Thebes, is Harmoniā, which is derived from a word that refers to the tuning of a seven-string lyre. As for the idea that the song of the seven-string lyre builds the city walls of Thebes, it is relevant to the case of the Latin word moenia, which as we saw means city walls and which is related to the Latin word mūnus, referring to the obligation of give-and-take as a foundational principle of society. Derived from mūnus, as we also saw, is the adjective commūnis, meaning ‘common, communal, mutual’. [[More in PH 144–145.]]


13. “Love Will Tear Us Apart”

Click above for Lanah’s performance, and click here for the lyrics.

LK: Each verse conveys movement between disintegration and reintegration in a cyclical way. The chorus emphasizes—Love will tear us apart again—and in each verse the singer details the relationship’s disintegration, while still maintaining a desire to reintegrate.

For the performance, I chose to conclude the song by revisiting lines from the first verse (“And we’re changing our ways / taking different roads”). Another way of handling disintegration is to accept it, learn from the experience, and then find new paths to reintegration.


14. Euripides Bacchae 881, 901

GN: This refrain, which equates the beauty of the song with the pleasure of nearness and dearness, is an echo of a song sung at a most auspicious occasion. We know it from the poetry of Theognis, as quoted already. There the song was sung to celebrate the wedding of Cadmus and Harmoniā. But here the song is being sung at a most inauspicious occasion. While the singing and dancing ensemble of the chorus is singing this song on-stage, as it were, Pentheus the king of Thebes is being torn apart off-stage, limb from limb, by his mother and his two aunts.

So, there is an irony in the echoing of this song of beauty and social integration in the refrain of the Bacchae, since tragedy here is marking the ultimate disintegration of the king Pentheus, the grandson of Cadmus the founder of Thebes. But there is also an implied hope expressed in this echoing, since the integration of the body politic can be seen as a correlate of the disintegration suffered by the body of the king. I say this because, as we have already seen, the generic king can be pictured as the body politic. Here I return to the myth about Romulus: this prototypical king of Rome, as we saw, is killed and dismembered by the members of the prototypical senate, each one of whom takes home with him a portion of the body. My reading of this myth, as I noted, is that it aetiologizes the recurrent convenings of the Roman senate: every time the senate comes together to represent the body politic in the political present, it reintegrates the body of the prototypical king whom the prototypical senators had dismembered in the mythical past. So, there may be hope for Pentheus as well: every time a chorus sings and dances the refrain ‘whatever is beautiful is near and dear’, the body of the primordial king may once again get to be reassembled as the body politic. [[H24H 21§64.]]


15 A. Ezekiel/Ιεζεκιήλ 40–48 (Temple Vision) [40:2]

KS: Like the open country and the valley in preceding texts, here another extra-urban location is the site of vision and renegotiation of the terms of reintegration: a very high mountain. From this mountain, however, a vision can be had of the city.


15 B. Ezekiel/Ιεζεκιήλ 43.2–5

KS: My intention in including this passage was to make the point that the metaphors we use to think about disintegration also determine how we envision the way back to integration. One way in which the city of Jerusalem “falls to pieces” in Ezekiel’s vision is that the glory or presence of Israel’s god leaves the temple through its eastern gate (Ezekiel 10:18–19; 11:22–23). Correspondingly, in Ezekiel’s vision of reintegration, the divine presence re-enters the temple through its eastern gate (43:2–5). Ezekiel himself makes this point (43:3), tying his vision of reintegration to his earlier visions of disintegration (see ch. 1; cf. also 10:20, 22).


15 C. Ezekiel/Ιεζεκιήλ 48.30–35

KS: This is a fitting passage on which to end because it is a vision of a reintegrated city. Its walls are rebuilt, unlike the city in Proverbs 25:28. And the tribes of Israel are at least notionally gathered together again, reversing the disintegration of Ahijah’s prophecy in 3 Kingdoms 11:29–40, insofar as each of twelve tribes has a gate named for it in the new city wall.


Final comments

KS: During our conversation I also showed two drawings of the new temple in Ezekiel’s final vision.




Ezekiel’s vision of the new temple is marvelously detailed, giving in verbal form the measurements of all kinds of its features. It would have been impossible to bring all of that verbal detail into our short conversation at the museum, so these two attempts to reproduce that detail in visual form served as a quick substitute. Nevertheless, from Ezekiel’s vision I take encouragement that when our societies are disintegrating all around us, if we do the painstaking work of extending the traditions that have come down to us, we too can find new visions of reintegration.


GN: When I started speaking on this hopeful occasion, I was thinking about songs about breakdown, breaking up, heartbreak, and how such songs may even make you think about the breakdown of society—about social disintegration. But, as we have seen, the beauty of such songs can surprisingly make you hope for the opposite: any society that can generate such songs, I am more certain than ever, must have the power to regenerate itself. As I said from the start, I persist in hoping for this kind of social reintegration.


Bibliographical Abbreviations

H24H   = The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours, Nagy 2013

HPC     = Homer the Preclassic, Nagy 2010|2009

HQ       = Homeric Questions, Nagy 1996

PH      = Pindar’s Homer, Nagy 1990



Davidson, O. M. 2013. Poet and Hero in the Persian Book of Kings. 3rd ed. Cambridge, MA. 1st ed, Ithaca, NY 1994; 2nd ed. Costa Mesa, CA 2006.

Nagy, G. 1990. Pindar’s Homer: The Lyric Possession of an Epic Past. Baltimore. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_Nagy.Pindars_Homer.1990.

Nagy, G. 1996. Homeric Questions. Austin. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_Nagy.Homeric_Questions.1996.

Nagy, G. 2010|2009. Homer the Preclassic. Printed | Online version. Berkeley and Los Angeles. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_Nagy.Homer_the_Preclassic.2009.

Nagy, G. 2013. The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours. Cambridge, MA. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_NagyG.The_Ancient_Greek_Hero_in_24_Hours.2013.



[1] At this point, in 11:29, the ancient Greek traditions contain a sentence that the Hebrew traditions do not: ‘he [Ahijah] made him [Jeroboam] go off of the road’. I take this to be an insertion meant to explain how the subsequent action could take place ‘in the open country’ if they initially met ‘on the road’. It could also explain how they ended up ‘alone’, since the road might be a place where other people would encounter them whereas the open country might not be such a place, but only the Hebrew and not the Greek contains the word ‘alone’.