Steve Runge and Josh Westbury recently released the electronic Lexham Discourse Hebrew Bible (6 vols). One of the 6 volumes is an introduction to their function-based approach to Hebrew grammar. For Hebrew grammar this is the best complement to Runge’s Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament, available electronically or in print. The introduction included in the Discourse Hebrew Bible bundle is very clearly written. If you have no prior experience with “discourse grammar” this is a great place to start. The following is one attempt to put this type of analysis into practice.
Redundant Quotative Frame (RQF)
In the Introduction, Runge and Westbury define “redundant quotative frame” (RQF) as follows:
The use of extra speaking verbs to frame or introduce a speech, drawing attention to a surprising or important element of the speech that follows.
For example, they note that “the most commonly used redundant quotative frame is וַיַּעַן וַיֹּאמֶר, where וַיֹּאמֶר is unneeded” (sec. 1.5).
RQF’s in Jonah
It seems to me there are two RQF’s in the book of Jonah, one in 3:4 (וַיִּקְרָא וַיֹּאמַר) and one in 3:7 (וַיַּזְעֵק וַיּאֹמֶר). There are plenty other speeches in Jonah, but these two are marked by the way they are introduced with RQF’s. The question is why?
I propose that, taken together, these two speeches highlight the primary conflict in the narrative. Finally, after fleeing and being supernaturally put back on track, Jonah arrives at Nineveh and proclaims (וַיִּקְרָא וַיֹּאמַר 3:4) that in forty days the city will be overthrown. Then comes the real bummer for Jonah: Nineveh repents (3:5). Nineveh’s surprising response is not just stated by the narrator, the king of Nineveh himself issues a decree (וַיַּזְעֵק וַיּאֹמֶר 3:7) that the whole city repent and cry for mercy. Jonah did what Yahweh told him and the response was exactly opposite of was expected.
Highlighting these two speeches sets up chapter 4, where the narrative tension will reach its climax. There’s no resolution. The book ends with the tension high. It is commonly thought that the key to the book of Jonah is chapter 4. Does this application of Runge and Westbury’s approach provide linguistic support for reading the story this way? How do you understand the function of the RQF’s in Jonah? What do they do? This question is for anyone, but I especially wonder what CJ Fresch, the Parks, and the HBU crew think of this analysis.
Related Post: Lexham Discourse Hebrew Bible as a Reference Work