Richard Pratt defines scenes in a Biblical narrative “as batches of closely related circumstances, actions, and characters that form the basic building blocks of Old Testament stories.”
But how to identify those scenes is our present task. Identifying scenes in narratives is important because once you have identified the scenes then you can summarize what each scene meant to the original audience (in the Summary Statement below) and then the preacher can identify the application to his modern audience (the Timeless Principle below). The Timeless Principles become the main points in the preacher’s narrative sermon. The example below is taken from 1 Samuel 1. After the example is an explanation on how to identify the scenes.
Scene One (1:1-2) (Summary Statement)Hannah is barren. (Timeless Principle) Our problem is barrenness in leadership. Leadership is the theme of 1 and 2 Samuel. The three leaders are Samuel (1 Samuel 1-7), Saul (8-15) David (1 Samuel 16 ff). The book that is all about God sovereignly raising up leaders opens with the barrenness of leadership and how that barrenness was overcome.
Kind of scene change for scene one: Content change and Location change between verses 2 and 3.
Scene Two (1:3-8) (Summary Statement) Hannah does not retaliate. (Timeless Principle) Our solution is not retaliation
Kind of scene change for scene two: Content change after verse 8.
Scene Three (1:9-11) (Summary Statement) Hannah prays. (Timeless Principle) Our solution is prayer
Kind of scene change for scene three: Repetition a key word “remember” in verses 11 and 19.
Scene Four (1:12-18) (Summary Statement) Hannah continues to pray. (Timeless Principle) Our solution is continued prayer
Kind of scene change for scene four: Scene four is in between repetition of keywords “remember” in verse 11 and 19
Scene Five (1:19-20) (Summary Statement) God answers Hannah’s prayer. (Timeless Principle) God answers our prayers
Kind of scene change for scene five: Time change and Location change between verses 20 and 21.
Scene Six (1:21-23) (Summary Statement) Will Hannah give Samuel. (Timeless Principle) Will we give our best to God back to God? when He answers prayers?
Kind of scene change for scene six: Location change between verses 23 and 24.
Scene Seven (1:24-28) (Summary Statement) Hannah gives Samuel to God. (Timeless Principle) Give to God your best and watch Him bless.
Kind of scene change for scene seven: Time change and Location change.
Clues for identifying scene changes
The following clues help to identify scene changes: Content, repetition, time, and location. The first clue to consider is the content clue. The first scene of 1 Samuel has the content common to introductions of narratives: Static information followed by repetitive information. The first scene has already been identified by the two methods narrators use to introduce a narrative. The first scene for 1 Samuel is verses 1,2 where the author used the first method of introducing a narrative by putting most of the preliminary information at the beginning of the story. This static information is followed by scene two which has different content. The content is next characterized by repetitive action in verses 3-8. The repetitive information is followed by punctual action which commences the actual plot which in 1 Samuel 1 starts in verse 9 and gives the reader the beginning of scene three which covers verses 9-11. In the next section where an exegesis of 1 Samuel 1:1-28 will be conducted, the chaistic structure of the scenes will also help determine the scenes and also the meaning of the scenes.
Not only can content help identify the scenes but also repetition of key words, phrases, clauses, and sentences. For example, Hannah requested that the LORD “remember” her prayer in 1 Sam.1:11 which ends scene three in the narrative. The fifth scene in the narrative is started with the answer to Hannah’s prayer and the repetition of the word “remember.” “The LORD remembered her.” In between these two repetitions is the fourth scene in verses 12-18.
Dr. Pratt gives additional helpful hints for marking the boundaries of scenes. “Old Testament stories offer many clues for establishing scene divisions . . . .We can separate one scene from another by noting significant changes in time, setting, and mode of narration.” The first clue that Dr. Pratt mentions is a time change that takes place in the narrative that can be noted as simply as “and they rose up in the morning early” (1 Sam. 1:19) which also helps the reader to identify the fifth scene. Sometimes the waw consecutive “and” ( w ) marks a time change and therefore, a scene change as at the beginning of verse 19.
Scene changes can also be identified by location changes. There is a location change in 1 Sam. 1:3 which helps the preacher mark the second scene in 1 Samuel. “And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in Shiloh.” An almost identical location change begins the sixth scene in 1 Samuel’s first narrative in v.21. “And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and his vow.” Location change also begins the last scene in verses 24 -28.
The following posts will demonstate how exegesis help determine what is the summary statement for each scene which leads to the timeless principle.
Pratt, He Gave Us Stories, 153.