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From what I have seen in reading Tanach every conversation is between two parties and two parties only. Sometimes those parties consist of 1 person and other times of several people for example "And his brothers said..." but in all of those latter instances the group of people are speaking as one unified voice.

Even when there are multiple people present the conversations seem to be recorded as a two party conversation. For example with Iyov there is never a time where all of his friends speak together in a single conversation taking turns - ie you don't have Iyov says X, Bildad responds with Y then Eliphaz interjects Z. Instead you have each person sequentially delivering a soliloquy.

I would like to know if there are any examples of dialogue in Tanach where all 3 or more parties are actively engaged in a conversation together at the same time.

8

In Jeremiah 26 there is a conversation involving six different named parties:

  • Jeremiah speaks to the nation, the priests and the prophets
  • The nation, the priests, and the prophets respond
  • The princes of Judah hear and come
  • The priests and the prophets speak to the princes and the nation
  • Jeremiah speaks to the princes and the nation
  • The princes and the nation speak to the priests and prophets
  • The elders speak to the nation

Song of Songs 8:8-10 is another possible case. Since this is poetry and doesn't identify the speakers, there are multiple possible ways to read these lines, but it's reasonable to read each verse as said by one party (brother #1, brother #2, sister).

  • I don't agree with the Shir HaShirim reference but I think there Jeremiah reference is very strong – rikitikitembo Aug 15 at 1:38
  • "Jeremiah speaking these words in the House of the LORD." I can get there... – Jay Aug 15 at 6:00
  • prophet response I cannot (maybe will not) – Jay Aug 15 at 6:00
  • @Jay I don't understand what you meant by that – b a Aug 15 at 10:20
  • By what though... exactly. prophets respond And what I meant was too much to explain and too little prolly of no consiquence – Jay Aug 15 at 10:40
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I believe the conversation in Gen. 34:6-18 between Shechem, Chamor and the Benai Yaakov fits the criteria. I have included the text along with notes in brackets indicating each party.

Then Shechem’s father Hamor came out to Jacob to speak to him. Meanwhile Jacob’s sons, having heard the news, came in from the field. The men were distressed and very angry, because he had committed an outrage in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter—a thing not to be done. And Hamor spoke with them, saying,

[1st party] “My son Shechem longs for your daughter. Please give her to him in marriage. Intermarry with us: give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves: You will dwell among us, and the land will be open before you; settle, move about, and acquire holdings in it.”

Then Shechem said to her father and brothers,

[2nd party] “Do me this favor, and I will pay whatever you tell me. Ask of me a bride-price ever so high, as well as gifts, and I will pay what you tell me; only give me the maiden for a wife.”

Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor—speaking with guile because he had defiled their sister Dinah— and said to them,

[3rd party] “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to a man who is uncircumcised, for that is a disgrace among us. Only on this condition will we agree with you; that you will become like us in that every male among you is circumcised. Then we will give our daughters to you and take your daughters to ourselves; and we will dwell among you and become as one kindred. But if you will not listen to us and become circumcised, we will take our daughter and go.”

Their words pleased Hamor and Hamor’s son Shechem.

  • +1 The only thing lacking in this case is that each party only says one statement. Of course, most conversations in Tanach are short (or summarized), so this doesn't say much. – Mordechai Aug 15 at 7:18
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This is very interesting! I can think of many examples in the Torah where you might expect a multilateral conversation, but instead, the narrative fits your pattern.

Gen. 3:9-19 might be taken as one conversation in which God, Adam, and Chava each speak, though you could also say that the verse in which Chava speaks (v. 13) is a sidebar bilateral conversation between God and her.

In Gen. 18:12-15, there appears to be a conversation including Sarah, God, and Avraham, except that Avraham is included as a direct object of God's speech, but not as a speaker himself.

  • 1
    the way I read it both examples are not 3 way conversations. in Gen. 3 God first speaks with Man. That conversation ends and He speaks with Woman, then He has a monologue. in Gen. 18 its not clear to me who the vayomer in v.15 is referring but in any case there are only 2 parties actively speaking, God and Sarah. – rikitikitembo Aug 14 at 19:08
  • I don't see how this answers the question. – msh210 Aug 15 at 5:38
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Here are a few examples that I think at least somewhat fulfill your criteria:

  • Genesis 24:55-58

    Rebecca's mother and brother tell Abraham's servant that Rebecca should remain with them for a while. The servant responds that he wants to leave. They call Rebecca and she says that she is willing to go with the servant.

  • Genesis 40:7-19

    In the beginning the Chief Butler and the Chief Baker talk as one, but eventually each one tells over his dream separately and Joseph interprets them.

  • Numbers 13:27 - 14:9

    Here the scouts speak to everyone, then Caleb issues a rejoinder, then the people speak, and then Caleb and Joshua speak.

  • example 1 I wouldn't Rebecca as an active participant in the conversation, she just interjects when spoken to. Example 2 Joseph is having two different and separate conversations with each steward (as indicated by verse 16). Example 3 also doesn't read like a conversation to me, it reads as disparate statements (with part of the back and forth closed by verse 14:2) – rikitikitembo Aug 15 at 1:18
  • @rikitikitembo I don't think rebecca is merely interjecting. Two parties were having a conversation and then they brought her in to get her opinion on the very matter they had been discussing, at which point she gives her opinion to both parties. The Joseph example can go either way, but it sounds like all three were talking together but each person directed their words at the specific person they were relevant to. The last example is kind of a conversation between three different groups of people. The scouts state their opinion, Joshua and Caleb state their disagreement, and the people react. – Alex Aug 15 at 1:43
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Most of the book of Job / Iyov in the Ketuvim is a lengthy discussion and debate between Job and his three trusted friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar on the nature of human suffering and the common question of 'why bad things happen to good people'. Even though each person takes his turn, 2:11 makes it clear that all four of them are together:

... they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.

The three of them observe while Iyov scratches his skin outbreaks with pottery shards.

So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great. (2:13)

So this is much more than a conversation. They remain by his side debating with him for a long period of time.

  • Please see my comment on the question above. This is not a conversation, this is individual statements. None of the friends speak to one another or respond to the statements of the other. – rikitikitembo Aug 15 at 19:26
  • I guess my feeling is that the sequential nature of the text represents an editing stage in which their points are summarized, and that condensed form becomes the written record of their discussions. The debates in the Greek academy that are passed down are rather like this too, I think. It doesn't mean the philosophers necessarily uttered those exact words. – wberry Aug 15 at 19:36

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