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.
Jephthah's first response and the parallels in dialogue and context with 10,10-16 make it clear that the elders are, indeed, desperate men.
From a rhetorical perspective, Jephthah's mention of expulsion makes the point that rejection carries its price. It also duplicates the narrator's reference from v. 2. Sons of the same father, the brothers had previously expelled Jephthah from their house with stern words: You shall not inherit anything in our father's house for you are the son of another woman. Their previous action has present implications: why have they come to him now? Jephthah's speech is, of course, a response and as such invites comparison with the elder's opening in v. 6. They had stressed unity in their opening words to him: be for us, we may fight. For his part, Jephthah dwells on the idea of separation as he matches their double plea with a counter double punch: you hated and you expelled. That is, in his first question, he counters their double verbal forms "come" and "be" with you "hated" and "expelled." The pronominal forms in his follow-up question continue the theme of separation. Why have you come to me now that you not we are in dire straits? In this second question the interrogative why ((wdm) also serves a distinct rhetorical purpose. When this word is used, the clauses that precede it state undeniable facts; the clause that follows it calls into question an assumption by indicating incredulousness that certain actions should follow, given the situation. Thus the rhetorical question makes clear that rejection itself makes the terms of the demand impossible to fulfill. Why should I deliver you? 8
While Jephthah's No sounds emphatic, the elders understand that in the world of negotiation No may mean Maybe. Since they perceive that his words, like theirs, conceal thoughts (might a counter-offer sound better?), the bargaining proceeds to a new level. They duplicate their previous theme of urgency in v. 8, and to it they add flattery: You are the only one who can successfully wage war against the Ammonites. They match him on his own terms. Why have you come to me now (ht(), he had asked. They respond that it is precisely because of their dire straits that they now (ht() turn to him. In this stage of the negotiations, after Jephthah's words "you hated" and "you expelled," they increase the drama with new words in dialogue. Previously they "came" to Jephthah, an image that is presented from three perspectives early in the scene: first by the narrator (Klh v. 5), then by the elders (Klh v. 6), and finally by Jephthah himself ()wb v. 7). They now "turn" (bw#) to him after rejecting and disinheriting him. While Jephthah had referred to the past explicitly, they mention it only obliquely in their reference to (re)turning, a word that often carries profound religious overtones. It suggests turning away from (their) previous actions and mistakes while concomitantly turning to a new modus operandi. This turning works in two directions simultaneously. They (re)turn to him now, but it is Jephthah not the elders who has gone away!
Their sudden turn of heart is revealed in their turn of words. With the original title of General (Nycq) off the negotiating table, they propose to