Where and How of Bible Stories

If the opening lines of a story describe a busy airport terminal we know without much reflection that the story does not come from three hundred years ago. The setting makes a story real and gives it atmosphere and mood. For example, why does Boaz in Ruth 4:1-2 locate his legal case in the gate and not in his home or in the house of the mayor of the city of Bethlehem? Obviously, the gate being the “most public” place in ancient times adds an important legal element to the story.


The settings also helps us to better understand the action which follows. Take the story of David and his men hiding in a cave only to have King Saul who is hunting him come into the cave all alone and unsuspecting. This would seem like the ideal opportunity to make God’s promise (that is, that David would be king, 2 Sam. 24:4) a reality. The setting highlights the stellar character of David in this story. He does not take advantage of this ideal opportunity. The setting in the story of Joseph also paints an “opportunity”. Joseph is handsome and in a position of power. His master’s wife is infatuated with him and they are alone in the house. Joseph, like David, shows his sterling character in resisting this opportunity to “advance” his career. But setting is not the only important element of a story. We need to also look at the point of view of the narrator.


The point of view of the story is closely related to the narrator, who controls the story. We see the story unfold through the narrator’s eyes, who provides us with important information about a character or may even withhold information from us.


A story told by a friend as opposed to an enemy will sound very different. If my friend tells my life-story he will do it with grace and most likely be less critical. In a story told from the perspective of the first person (“I” or “we”), the narrator is part of the story, as, for example, Nehemiah in his story (Neh. 1:6). The angle that the narrator provides will shape our reaction to the story and is a finely tuned instrument in the hand of a skillful author.


Are you happy with your life ‘setting’ or do every else’s lives seem more fulfilling than your own? How can we grow were we are planted?


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