Brian W. Davidson

sharing things I enjoy

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

3 responses to “Redundant Quotative Frames in Jonah”

  1. Fresch

    Thanks very much for this, Brian.
    I find it very interesting that these are the only RQFs in Jonah; I would expect at least one more to draw attention to YHWH’s closing speech (at least its second half) in chapter 4. It does cause one to wonder: why only these two, why not others?
    Anyways, I think you are on to something here. Highlighting the speeches does set up for chapter 4 rather nicely.

  2. What do you think about Jonah 1:14? This is the only other place that might be considered an RQF. I had counted it out because it doesn’t necessarily seem redundant. We are told that they “cried to Yahweh,” which is significant in and of itself, and then we get a quotative frame.
    It is interesting that Judges 15:18 is not marked as a RQF in LDHB, but 1 Kings 17:20 and 17:21 are.

  3. Fresch

    Your inquiry has caused me to ask a question that perhaps should have been asked earlier. Does קרא ever introduce direct speech by itself? I’m leaning towards it not. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time right now to do a search and look through each occurrence, but I think that would be a beneficial investigation. If it does, then surely any time that אמר co-occurs with it, we have a RQF. If it doesn’t, then it would seem that אמר is used out of necessity (alternatively, I suppose one could argue that by the very nature of crying out, any speech introduced by קרא will be pragmatically highlighted to match its semantic prominence, but that would be hard to prove).