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.
they might win in fighting against the Ammonites. The elders have confidence that Jephthah can organize a military response against the Ammonites and bring victory for the Gileadites.
In this case, Jephthah's potential rise to power is not unlike that of other individuals in the book of Judges whose strength and military prowess are combined with traits and habits that make them unlikely candidates for leadership. Like the bound-in-the-right-hand Ehud and the ever-testing Gideon who precede him and the often distracted mighty deliverer Samson who will follow, Jephthah is an unexpected choice, and the knowledge we possess of him makes him all the more unlikely. A prize now awaits the exiled son, but their offer, of course, falls short of the commanders' (r#) forecast that whoever fights the Ammonites will be Governor (#)r) over all the inhabitants of Gilead (10,18). If we assume the elders are aware of the commanders' forecast which certainly seems plausible based on their counter-offer in v. 8 we begin to see them as shrewd negotiators. Once the perspective shifts from the commanders, we hear the elders asking much, but offering little. The office of General will last only as long as the battle itself, and if he falls on the battlefield they suffer no loss. This son of a prostitute, exiled by his brothers, living in a land outside Gilead with "empty" men, they know, but never say, is expendable.
Jephthah responds to their plea with two rhetorical questions, and with them begins the process of firmly stipulating for the recognition of his authority: 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? The first question concerns the past; the second the present. Their full weight makes clear that if negotiations are to proceed, they will be on Jephthah's terms. Information is conveyed at two levels: the answer to your request is No, and the reason is that people do not seek help from those they have rejected, just as victims of rejection do not assist rejectors 7. Rejection is a two-way street: you rejected me; I now reject you.
Jephthah's choice of the word "expelled" (#rg) in the opening question serves as a reminder of past actions and is now a powerful bargaining tool. But from the reader's side the word looks back in narrative time to the dialogue between Yhwh and Israel in 10,10-16. While Jephthah is a potential deliverer, Yhwh is a proven deliverer against Israel's enemies: Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines, Yhwh had asked in 10,11. After the Israelites cried out from the oppression of the Egyptians, Amorites, Philistines, Sidonians, Amalekites, and Maonites, God delivered them, but left little hope for future deliverance in the wake of yet a new cycle of rejection: Yet you have abandoned me and worshiped other gods; therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry to the gods whom you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress, Yhwh says in 10,13-14.