Kenneth M. Craig, «Bargaining in Tov (Judges 11,4-11): The Many Directions of So-called Direct Speech», Vol. 79 (1998) 76-85
This article explores the subject of speech as mediated discourse in the bargaining scene between the elders of Gilead and Jephthah in the land of Tov (Judg 11,4-11). The episode consists of the narrator's frame in vv. 4-5 and 11 and five insets wherein the elders initiate and conclude the dialogue (elders- Jephthah-elders-Jephthah-elders). The narrator informs us that the elders approach Jephthah with a plan of taking (xql) him from the land of Tov. The taking is accomplished through speech that the narrator quotes, and the perspectival shifts in narration and quotation demonstrate the Bible's art of diplomacy. The speeches are tightly woven with the narrator interrupting only to shift our attention from one side to the other in this tit-for-tat interchange. But even here, the narrator is not completely effaced. The reception acts are staged in a way that remind us of the presence of all sides in this exchange. The bargaining thus proceeds through filtered words, and the resulting insets call attention to the web of perspectives and competing interests, the offers and counter offers in the world of give- and-take, and, from our side, the fun of it all.
In the world of representation the language of discourse is quite distinct from the world of things, for speech and thought are part of subjective experiences and not merely images of reality. When speakers speak, they image, mediate, and frame their own words as well as the words of others. Re-presented speech is thus a mimesis of discourse. When Jephthah and the elders of Gilead bargain in the land of Tov, their words are mediated to us, filtered through the narrator's own verbal, sociocultural, thematic, aesthetic, persuasive, and moral design. The words spoken in Tov by their very form entail indirections because the speakers communicate with us through someone else. Jephthah and the elders speak, but their words are of another's devising. Their discourse is speech within speech, a perspectival montage. Any one speech event actually entails two levels of communication by two communicators with two perspectives, and one, the narrator's, is always hidden and possibly ironic. Such levels are important to recognize in Judg 11,4-11 because the narrator often works in self-imposed silence. Overt words may hide multiple perspectives, and the layers of quotation may even manifest themselves as triple talk since a character can always speak something other than his or her own mind.
We do well to develop an eye for dissimilarity because speech and thought are often at odds in the bargaining scene between Jephthah and the elders. We and the dialogists hear the words spoken, but are left to figure out what lies behind them. In this communication web, even listeners exert influence and shape the words uttered by the speakers. Hearing itself is part of the dialogue, and we will also consider how another's speech is received. The dialogue scene opens with the introduction to opponents at war.
4And in time the Ammonites waged war against Israel. 5And when the Ammonites waged war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to take Jephthah from the land of Tov. 6And they said to Jephthah, Come and be for us General that we may fight against the Ammonites. 7But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, Are you not the ones who hated me and expelled me from my father's house? So why have you come to me now when you are in dire straits? 8And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, Precisely because of this, now we turn to you that you may go with us and fight against the Ammonites, and you shall be for us Governor over all the inhabitants of Gilead. 9And Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, If you turn me to