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.
foregrounded: the bestowal of the high office, they announce, will hinge upon divine ratification of the proceedings. But again, their language works at more than one level, leaving us with the impression of the multiple directions of direct speech. Does the ceremony properly end as Robert Boling concludes 11, or does it bode trouble? Has Jephthah's leadership been legitimized? Has he merely been given authority to meet an emergency at hand rather than receive a divine call to act as a deliverer? These questions the narrator leaves unanswered for the moment. The spirit of Yhwh will come upon Jephthah subsequently (11,29), but his call to leadership here comes not from God but from the tribal leaders of Gilead. They make the illegitimate son legitimate, and in a book where the divine spirit often descends (Judg 3,10; 6,34; 11,29; 13,25; 14,6.19; 15,14), Yhwh's absence on stage gives the scene a portentous aura.
They introduce a preposition in the dialogue, Yhwh is listening "between" (Nyb) us, and underscore the new unity. Their language moves in the opposite direction of the narrator's and characters' earlier words (against, take from, hated, expelled), and at the phonological level the preposition sounds in the Hebrew much like the first part of the name of the Ammonites (ynb) which the newly formed coalition opposes. In their final response the elders also affirm that what Jephthah says they will certainly do, and the narrator confirms in v. 11 what their words had hinted at all along: it is the people who make him their leader.
The narrator, who had opened the scene, closes it with a reference to the consecration ceremony. With a deal struck, the newly appointed leader solemnizes the pledges. The elders' second offer of governor exceeded their first offer of general. They have paid, and, at first glance, at a price no greater than that forecast by the commanders in 10,18. But while it is true that the negotiations cease without any mention of reinstating Jephthah as heir, the people make Jephthah both Governor (#)r) and General (Nycq). He had expressed interest only in the Governorship, and the appointment was to be conditioned upon victory. But the elders give him political office now, even as they appoint him military leader for the crisis at hand. Their haste is accentuated by the narrator's report of their actions. They dispense with Jephthah's condition in v. 9 (if Yhwh gives them) as they confer both titles even before the battle begins. The two titles had been introduced in vv. 6, 8 as General and Governor, but are reversed in the narrator's report of the conferral in v. 11. The issue of perpetuity, so important to the one exiled by his brothers (You shall not inherit anything in our father's house, they told him in v. 2), is thus now foregrounded as the elders willingly bestow the title of perpetuity before making him their leader for the battle at hand.
They have secured just the kind of rough rider they need, a man who has proven himself in battle and who is also expendable. In the event that the Ammonites kill Jephthah, the elders will suffer no great loss. Indeed, they might even find consolation in being relieved of a permanent governor