It shows that the ancient Hebrews did pay attention to the moment events happened and that they had the ability to date them reasonably precisely. Nevertheless we will see below that stories are often not properly dated. Ruth In the book of Ruth we find many cases of timing based on standard events. These cases do not have any relevance for our purposes because they do not shed light on the question whether the story of Ruth is fictional or not. Two time phrases deserve extra attention. In Ruth 4 a legal procedure is described that is — apparently — quite old and may be unknown to the listeners or readers of the story.
According to Campbell this construction can refer to a previous time period of a generation or less Job ; Judges , to a long period 1 Chronicles , several hundred years , or to primeval antiquity Psalm How long this period has to be does not become clear on the basis of this text, but it need not have been many generations.
Stern, Time and Process in Ancient Judaism,, 46ff. How must we conceive this time phrase? The designation evokes the book Judges in which the glorious deeds of several leaders of the children of Israel are written down, like Gideon, Samson and Deborah. The text does not give an answer to this question, but it is clear that the dating is at least a rough estimate because the time of the judges must have covered almost two centuries.
In both books the story is not set in a certain time period, although we already saw that the ancient Israelites were perfectly able to do so see my remarks about dating in the historical books. The only way the story of Jonah is historically situated is by the name of its main character see paragraph 2. The book of Job is not situated in time at all.
The time references that are used in the books of Jonah and Job are, as a consequence, all rather vague. About the indistinct dating of the book of Job I can state the same thing as about the opaque geography of the book: the context of the book may be deliberately kept vague to make it easy for the readers to generate from the story a general, paradigmatic, image of the suffering righteous man. In Jonah there are even less time phrases than in Job. The time formulas used are mostly formed by certain Hebrew verbal forms. It is striking how little attention the author pays to the temporal organization of the story.
Did the word of god come immediately to Jonah when he was spit out? This might be the case, but it is also possible that it lasted a week before God spoke again to Jonah. It does not bother the narrator.
Esther In the book of Esther we meet a new style of timing. In Esther the author has worked hard to put all the events of the story in an at first sight precise time scale. Maybe Hellenistic influences the book of Esther is dated late are due to this. In the book of Esther the time is divided in years of the reign of Ahasuerus ; in months Tebet, Siwan, Adar — all according to the Babylonian calendar ; and in days counted from the beginning of the months.
Coogan ed. Stern, Time and Process in Ancient Judaism, 9. Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, The feast of Purim is dated on the fourteenth and fifteenth day of the month Adar, the days after the Jews had defended themselves against their attackers. Although the dates in Esther seem quite accurate, it might be justified to nuance their reliability. Genesis This nuance does not dismiss all dates in Esther, but it can make one careful in judging the dates of Esther. Dommershausen, Die Estherrolle. Moore, Esther. Hartman and A. Meaningful names This chapter may hold the key to our problem of recognizing narrative fiction.
A famous Latin saying is Nomen est omen and this saying is certainly true for narrative fiction. It adds uniqueness to all the characteristics of a personage. Nobody would call his or her daughter Little Red Riding Hood; it is a descriptive name, like Goldilocks or Snow-white. According to literary theorists names can be used in different ways. Furthermore, there can be 4 a semantic connection between the name and the character. This last category is very important for our purposes.
As we will see, most of the names in our corpus have a semantic value. Descriptive names are those names that say something about the appearance or character-traits of the characters. Predictive names give something away about the future of the characters. In the Bible we find many examples of the J.
The original division is derived from Ph. Barthes, W. Kayser, W. Booth and Ph. Compare T. We also find examples of the interpretation of names. In the pages that follow I will discuss all names that occur in the books of our corpus.
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If those names shed light on the stories in which they pass, I will try to clarify that connection. Ruth If there is one book in our corpus in which names are meaningful, it would have to be the book of Ruth. In the book of Ruth eight names appear and almost all of those names can be explained in the light of the events that take place in the book. That the names in Ruth are used with a purpose is made clear in the story itself through Naomi.
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Naomi renames herself Mara in verse But let us start with the first name in Ruth, Elimelech. Though the name Elimelech is in itself not strange, one can wonder why the author chose this name — it only occurs here in the Hebrew Bible. During this time there was no king in Israel, so God was the only king of the people of Israel. This is in stark contrast with the end of the book of Ruth, where the birth of the famous king of Israel, David, is already announced. As Elimelech dies in the book of Ruth, the theocratic ideal of a land governed by God also dies.
The name of Elimelech is maybe suspicious; the names of his sons are all too clearly made up.
Jonah & the Whale
It is striking how few words are dedicated to the lives of these two young men. Before the last chapter of Ruth it is not even known which of the two sons married Ruth and which married Orpah. The meaning of their names — which occur only here in the Hebrew Bible — strengthens this image. See for example J. Sasson, Ruth, Sasson, Ruth, ; K. A Commentary Notice also that the two names rhyme. RUTH is a widely speculated name, but most scholars agree that Ruth is an ordinary name without special connotations.
But we still have to discuss two names.
The name Boaz is rare and its etymology is obscure. Kohlhammer, , 11 J. Noth, Die Israelitischen Personennamen, 11; F. This also accounts for Orpah. Geburtstage herausgegeben von Ernst Jenni und Martin A. Gray, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Noth, Die Israelitischen Personennamen, Obed fulfils this function in his relationship with Naomi. Radday admits that the name Jonah ben Amittai belongs to a prophet mentioned in 2 Kings , but he states that absolutely nothing is known about this prophet.
Furthermore, this prophet lived about one century before the Israelites could have heard of Nineveh. Because this name stands in stark contradiction with the actions of the prophet! Hosea ; Song of Songs ; and There might, however, be a problem with the translation of the name of Jonah. Does this philological objection destroy our ironical reading of Jonah? I do not think so. In the corpus of this study I perceive a tendency to use folk- etymologies, i.
Furthermore there are a lot of persons mentioned in the genealogy of Ruth. Because those persons do not play a role in the story I do not discuss their names. The author may have used real names from the Davidic bloodline, because they were known to his readers. See M.