Why You Should Look for the Leitwort (key word) When You Are Reading the OT (and especially in your devotional reading)

From my OT notes:

Repetition is one of the key rhetorical features in biblical Hebrew narrative. So important is repetition that James Muilenburg, the father of modern rhetorical analysis in biblical studies, has well said, “repetition is the hallmark of Hebrew rhetoric.” Repetition provides a sense of coherence and unity to a narrative. So repetition is one of the most reliable guides to determining what a story is about. What keeps getting repeated in a story invariably becomes the central focus – the thing toward which everything points.

Aaaaaand… why you should take Hebrew:

Of course, the repetition of a key word is not as evident in English translations as it is in the Hebrew text. Most translations actually go to the opposite extreme, translating the same Hebrew word with different English equivalents for the sake of fluency and precision in English. One polysemantic wordplays of the same Hebrew word are obscured in English.

An example:

Sometimes the same Hebrew root is repeated in various morphological forms. For example, the root shal (“to ask, demand”) occurs repeatedly as a verb in 1 Samuel 8 and as a noun in 1 Samuel 9. The people sinned by “demanding” (shal) a human king, rejecting YHWH as their king and deliverer. Against the protests of Samuel, YHWH tells the prophet to give the people what they want. The immediately following narrative then introduces the reader “Saul” (shaul), whose name is the passive form of the root shal and literally means “the one who is demanded” or “the one asked for.” The insightful reader immediately suspects that he will be the new king. So the wordplay suggests that God will give the people what they asked for. This is an example of poetic justice: since they sinned by demanding a human king rather than YHWH, He would give them what they asked for – and it would not be pretty!

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