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The role of narrative
Narrative is used extensively in these books of the Bible to convey situations. The authors had a number of alternative literary conventions that could have been used - for example eponym lists were extensively used in Mesopotamia in official annals to record events.
|Some eponym entries (ANET)|
|Hammurabi year 33:
|He redug the canal (called) "Hammurabi-(spells)-abundance-for-the-people, the Beloved-of-Anu-and-Enlil", (thus) he provided Nippur, Eridu, Ur, larsa, Uruk (and) Isin with a permanent and plentiful water supply, and reorganised Sumer and Akkad from (its) confusion. Mari and Malgi he overthrew in battle and made Mari and ... and also several other cities of Subartu, by a friendly agreement, (listen) to his orders.
|Adad-nirari II year 43:
|In the eponymat of Palilerish, (governor) of Rasappa: (campaign) against Damascus.
This would perhaps have been an obvious style for events during the Judges era, had the authors wished to recount the national history in this way. Instead, the means chosen is to focus intensively on a few key episodes, presented in the form of direct interactions between people, and omit details of large spans of intervening time.
Within narrative blocks we can see occasional use of certain standard literary styles, for example the
route list of Numbers 33
is in a style (and with certain specific details) like that used in New Kingdom Egypt. Similarly,
the general shape of Deuteronomy
reflects that of Middle Hittite law codes. However, the overall technique used is narration of personal encounters.