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.
before we proceed, let me remind you of the past. Yes, it is true that you "turn" to me with the Ammonites all around, but let me set the context of the turning, Jephthah is saying as he interposes a new element in the causal chain. While they have cleverly avoided the issue of non-victory, he actually introduces success as a condition for the prize as he shifts attention heavenward: if Yhwh gives them over to me. What they are willing to give, he announces, he will earn with Yhwh's help. As Cheryl Exum has observed, Jephthah's statement now lends divine approval to the negotiations by making his appointment as #)r contingent on divine favor 10. But the introduction of religious language also works at another level. The language of both the dialogists and the narrator leaves no doubt that it is not Yhwh who will make Jephthah Governor. It is humans who carry this entire scene forward. Does this language call attention to problems on the horizon? It is, after all, we now discover, the son of a prostitute, not the elders of Gilead, who perceives that Yhwh determines the outcome on the battlefield. Their silence on this point may suggest their disregard for Yhwh, or, if we take the multiple directions of speech seriously, their silence may issue from their deliberate attempt to keep the bargaining on an earthly, simple-as-possible, appeal-to-his-instincts plane.
They offered the title of Governor over all Gilead after mentioning the projected fight against the Ammonites. He preserves this causal sequence (fighting > Governor) in his response in v. 9. Let there be no mistake, Jephthah underscores, I will assume office after battle. With reinstatement as family member not on the table (cf. vv. 2 and 7), we might assume that for Jephthah command of a sizable group is better than reinstatement. As the negotiations conclude, the distance and opposition between exiled and elders is almost dissolved at the linguistic level. While Jephthah does not go as far as they had in their opening petition (be for us, we may fight), his previous I-You opposition in v. 7 (you hated me) is much less pronounced at the end. His opening remark in v. 9 is literally "if turning you me," and he closes with the words, "I myself will be for you Governor." The issue of the prize is retained from the elders' offer, but it appears as Jephthah's final word in the scene. Words suggesting a new consensus in opposition to the Ammonites ("you me" and "I for you") precede Jephthah's mention of the prize.
Now that both parties are satisfied, ready to strike a deal that meets the desires of all, the elders acquiesce completely and quickly. Their final speech is only eight words in the Hebrew: Yhwh is listening between-us; indeed, what-you-say, certainly we-will-do. They now seize upon what they had previously left unsaid. From the one who associated with "empty" men, they have learned a lesson through speech. He had borrowed their words (now, turn); they now adopt his language. Their opening word, just spoken by Jephthah, is the special name Yhwh, whom they announce is listening between both parties. The Yhwh they had overlooked is now