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Once upon a time . . .?

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Chapter Summary

Several suggestions have been made about the difference between the beginning in the first book of Samuel and the book of Job. D.J.A. Clines dismisses the suggestion of R. Gordis, and prefers to follow König’s explanation that 'the subsequent narrative has no link with any stage in the course of Israel's history'. This chapter sets this discussion in the context of a slightly wider range of evidence. Of all the ways in which classical Hebrew narrative may begin, the use of an absolute x + היה is restricted to those where the reader is being alerted to watch out, because there is more in what follows than meets the eye. Its use at least twice in what may loosely be called 'a juridical parable' means that it cannot be the equivalent of 'once upon a time', since that would ruin the rhetorical force of the passage.

Keywords: היה; classical Hebrew narrative; D.J.A. Clines; juridical parable; R. Gordis



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