Confused Language as a Deliberate Literary Device in Biblical Hebrew Narrative

Gary A. Rendsburg


This article presents a paradigm example of confused
language in an ancient Near Eastern literary text, the Egyptian tale of "The
Shipwrecked Sailor." It explains the pertinent passage as a clever literary
device in which confused and irregular syntax is utilized to portray the
confusion that characterized the moment of the shipwreck. It then proceeds to
treat seven biblical passages where similarly confused language is invoked to
portray confusion, excitement, or bewilderment. Two of these passages have been
treated previously in the secondary literature: 1 Sam 9:12-13 and Ruth 2:7. The
five new treatments concern Gen 37:28, Gen 37:30, Judg 18:14-20, 1 Sam 14:21,
and 1 Sam 17:38.

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