Narratives are stories; tales told to fascinate us, to entertain us, and
as in the case of the Bible, they are to relay the truth about God. Old Testament
narratives are stories about God and His chosen people, the Israelites. Actually,
the Old Testament Bible uses narratives to tell about events from the beginning of time to the time when Israel had lost its
kingdom and beyond. Narratives are dramatic and spellbinding and perfectly fit
to be the most used form of writing in the Bible.
According to Fee and Stuart, Old Testament narratives are
told on three different levels: the top level reflects the whole universal plan worked out by God through His creation; the
middle level focus on and around Israel; and the bottom level is made up of the hundreds of individual stories found within
the other two levels (Fee 1993:70). Biblical narratives are also made up of several
components: scene, plot, point of view, characterization, setting, dialogue, structural levels, and stylistic or rhetorical
devices (Sandy 1995:70).
Interpretation of an Old Testament narrative is to be done
by taking the narrative as a whole, not broken down into different parts. The
impact and effect of the narrative comes from the story as a whole, when broken down, the narrative losses its persuasiveness. Evaluation of a narrative must be made with the narrative as a whole unit, not when
its pulled apart into pieces (Fee 1993:83). There are several principles in interpreting
Old Testament narratives; listed below are four of these methods, taken from Sandy and Giese, pages 80-81.
"Identify each scene of the narrative." Each of the characters should be identified and their dialogue and actions summarized. Look for the main character and find out what he is saying and why he is saying it, why are these details
recorded? (Sandy 1995:80). One thing to remember here is that the main character
does not always do what is right (Fee 1993:84). An example of that would be David
when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and then murdered her husband so that she could become his own wife; David was far
from doing what was right in this scene. So, the main character is not always
"Determine the point of view from which the narrative is
recorded." Discover from whose point of view the story is being told and why
the story is even being told. Determine if the story focuses on one main character
or is there more than one person the subject of the passage. Is the narrator
one of the main characters, a minor player in the passage, or is he in some other place or time all together? Look for the narrator to write about the emotions and feelings of the characters involved, does the writer
seem to side with one person over the others? (Sandy 1995:80).
"Look at the units within a scene and their relationship
one another." Learning how the smaller units in a scene all fit together will
help to bring out the meaning of the whole scene (Sandy 1995:81). Narratives
are not stories full of hidden meanings, the correct interpretation, with a little study, is there for all to see. Also, a narrative may pose more questions than it answers, if all the little pieces, when put together,
dont answer the questions, then God may have decided not to put the answers there in the first place (Fee 1993:81).
"Study the stylistic devices the author uses." Included in these devices are "repletion, omission, inclusion, chiasm, irony," and others (Sandy 1995:81). The narrator will use different types of words and figures of speech to get his point
across to the reader. For example, if the writer wants to really emphasize something,
he may use repletion, as in the book of Jeremiah, where the writer uses the phrase sword, famine, and plague 15 separate times