He Would Not Hear Her Voice: From Skilled Speech to Silence in 2 Samuel 13:1–22
Higgins examines the central role of speech acts in 2 Samuel 13: 1–22. In this narrative, speech is the primary expression of agency and the primary vehicle for characterization. Building on the work of literary and feminist critics, the author illustrates how manipulated and controlling dialogue dramatizes the clever Jonadab, the cruel Amnon, the cornered Tamar, the credulous David, and the calculating Absalom. The essay focuses on the representation of Tamar's speech, from her first protestation to her final silence. Tamar's lost voice is the end of a deliberate degeneration in speech, reflecting various registers of biblical Hebrew expression. This process begins with Tamar's heightened emotion, related through the formal stylization of parallelistic speech. Her utterance devolves into prose, becomes unintelligible and then inarticulate, and ends in silence. Through this degeneration, the biblical author conveys her physical brutalization, emotional breakdown, and narrative loss of agency. Tamar's ultimate silence echoes her interior and exterior desolation. Higgins argues that the writer's use of speech in 2 Sam 13 compounds Tamar's victimization, exposes the failings of patriarchy, and has far-reaching effects as a critique on biblical gender ideology.