Questions often build the rhetorical effect of a passage. "Real" questions (where the questioner seeks information) can do this. However, other sorts of question have such effects as their central purpose, so they are called "rhetorical questions".

Teachers ask questions seeking an answer, but an answer the speaker already knows. Such "pedagogical questions" presuppose one particular answer. Pedagogical questions are common in the book of Psalms (e.g.: 8:4ff.; 24:3ff.; 25:12; 34:12).

These and true "rhetorical questions" tend to blur together, there is not a neat distinction, Ps 50:16-17 or Prov 20:9. Above all where the goal is to make the hearer recognize their limits it is difficult to uphold an effective distinction (Prov 20:24; 30:4).

Rhetorical questions are especially common among the prophets, because of their polemic intent. Often we find them in a series (e.g. Is 66:7-9, a series of eight) as they are also in the book of Job. Jeremiah typically has a series of three (e.g. Jer 2:14), three is a highly potent number in all forms of rhetoric as any good storyteller and many poets know.

Among the prophets the goal is often made evident as it is in Is 49:15.

This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,

© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.