Adhering to Israel’s God

Article by Leo G. Perdue

Theology and Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, by Walter Brueggemann, Fortress, 777 pp., $48.00.   Walter Brueggemann’s brilliant new book, the culmination of a lifetime of incisive theological work, embodies the transitional moment between one interpretive age and the creative stirrings of a new one. While he does not assume that new methods are always …

Chapter 1: Lord and People  in  Song of the Vineyard

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

Exodus is the story of Israel’s creation-deliverance by Yahweh and is based not on demonstrable historical evidence but on the interpretation of the events as seen in the light of faith. The story centers around the person of Moses who appears as something more than a mere man.

Chapter 1: Naaman  in  The Politics of God and the Politics of Man

Book Chapter by Jacques Ellul

Ellul begins with a study of the interaction of Naaman and Elisha. As the title suggests, the focus is on Naaman rather than on Elisha. Working through the biblical account step by step, Ellul reads the text carefully, finding hints of how God works through people, those who are faithful, as well as those who are not. This analysis results in insights regarding how God accomplishes his purpose through people who make both wise and unwise choices.

Chapter 1: The Act of Redemption (Exodus 1:1-18:27)  in  The Book of Exodus

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

Their conglomerate tribal origins as slaves under persecution by Pharaoh Rameses II is the setting for the emergence of the Hebrews as a people under the leadership of Moses. The Lord’s astounding victory over Pharaoh is the dominant theme of Exodus, and brings together the exiled Moses with the suffering slaves, from which Moses emerges as a kind of God-like man. His leadership is traced through the dealings with Pharaoh, the nine plagues, the escape by sea with its supernatural overtones, and the wilderness wanderings.

Chapter 1: The Hebrews in Their World  in  The Old Testament, Keystone of Human Culture

Book Chapter by William F. Irwin

Israel came late into the course of Oriental history. Though a small nation, there is need to understand how she differed from her neighbors and contemporaries. Israel transcended them attaining a world of thinking and concepts much like our own. Though Greece has distinct regards in some attributes for us today, Israel can be considered the great divide of humanity. Through commerce Israel affected all who came into contact with her.

Chapter 10: The Culmination, Summary, and Projection of Prophetic Faith  in  Song of the Vineyard

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

II Isaiah (chapters 34-35, 40-45), is in the prophetic tradition of I Isaiah in its developed emphasis on Yahweh’s holiness during the Babylonian exile, with a promise of deliverance and restoration of Israel as the servant people described in four poems. Napier summarizes classical prophetism as encompassing word and symbol, election and covenant, rebellion and judgment, compassion and redemption leading to consummation in radically transformed history.

Chapter 2: Joram  in  The Politics of God and the Politics of Man

Book Chapter by Jacques Ellul

What does one do when things are at their blackest? Ellul turns next to Joram who faces a deeply distressing situation. This provides the stimulus for reflection on the role of the prophet amid the worst situation. There is also delicate analysis of how God works through decisions of humans whether or not they are responsive to God’s word through the prophet.

Chapter 2: Lord and World  in  Song of the Vineyard

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

Genesis 1-11 sets the particular story of Israel against the background of all creation and in the midst of universal human existence. Creation is not envisaged as creation out of nothing, but rather as the radical transformation of prior chaos by Yahweh. The universal human situation is described in the self-contained tales of the Garden of Eden (3), the Brothers Cain and Abel (4), the Flood (6-9), and the Tower of Babel (11). These tell the story of man’s rebellion against Yahweh’s good intentions in creation, the alienation from God that resulted, and the introduction of the theme of salvation as seen in the call of Abraham.

Chapter 2: The Making and Meaning of Covenant (Exodus 19:1-24:18)  in  The Book of Exodus

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

The appearance of the Lord at Mt. Horeb in Sinai to contract a Covenant with the Israelites was an auditory rather than a visual appearance. As the senior party of the Covenant, the Lord offers to redeem Israel from its multi-form, perennial Egypts and bring it into the freedom of his service, provided Israel accepts this offer and commits itself to the Covenant as God has made it known in the Ten Commandments. This chapters examines each commandment.

Chapter 3: Hazael  in  The Politics of God and the Politics of Man

Book Chapter by Jacques Ellul

This account adds yet another dimension to the interplay of God with the world where human purpose is shown to be only temporarily effective when it is disobedient to God’s purpose. The prophet must be faithful, even when the word from the Lord is a hard word. Even those who disobey this word end up evidence of how God works out God’s purpose. The bitter realism of the passage becomes stark evidence of how God triumphs.

Chapter 3: Lord and Covenant  in  Song of the Vineyard

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

The historical, etiological and theological meaning of the covenant in relation to the patriarchs (Genesis 12-50), the Sinai decalogue (Exodus 19-20), the Covenant Code (Exodus 2:1-24), the work and person of Moses (Exodus 32-34), the priestly cultus and ethic (Leviticus 16, 19, 23-26), the narratives of wilderness and occupation (Numbers 5-6, 11-17, 20-24; Joshua 1-12, 23-24).

Chapter 4: Anarchy  in  Song of the Vineyard

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

The theme of anarchy pervades Joshua 1-12 and Judges 2-5 in telling the story of Israel’s being called out of Egypt under Moses and into the Promised Land under Joshua. Judges 6-21 and Ruth describe pre-monarchic Israel including accounts of Gideon, Jotham, Jephthah and Samson documenting this anarchy prior to the monarchy.

Chapter 4: Prophecy. <I>In the Days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (Isaiah 1-11, 17-22, 28-33)</I>  in  From Faith to Faith -- Essays on Old Testament Literature

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

A study of Isaiah of Jerusalem. He, no more than any other prophet, is typical. But one suspects that the phrase “typical prophet” is a contradiction in terms. In the very nature of his being a prophet, a spokesman for Yahweh, a prophet does not and cannot conform to a type. But Isaiah is central to Old Testament prophecy, perhaps as no other.

Chapter 4: The Denial and Renewal of Covenant (Exodus 32:1-34:35)  in  The Book of Exodus

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

These chapters are dominated by the figure and role of Moses who, when the incident of the Golden Calf shattered the Covenant, was able to use the uniqueness of his relationship with the Lord to appease the divine anger through intercession and argument with the Lord, and to gain for Israel full divine forgiveness. There also emerges in this passage the appearance of an alternative Ten Commandments known as the “Ritual Decalogue.”

Chapter 4:Jehu  in  The Politics of God and the Politics of Man

Book Chapter by Jacques Ellul

Ellul plunges even deeper into the mystery of how God’s purposes are accomplished through human agency. Jehu is not a pleasant person, but a sort of enforcer. Using the choice of transparency versus opacity, Ellul shows how Jehu fulfills prophecy without being a witness to God’s mercy and love. The relevance to contemporary church life is clear and challenging. The final sentence poses a question which offers the reader one final challenge worth one’s persistence.

Chapter 5: Ahaz  in  The Politics of God and the Politics of Man

Book Chapter by Jacques Ellul

The next political figure in Second Kings is Ahaz. After an intense analysis of this king’s policies and history, Ellul reflects at length on how his encounter with Isaiah demonstrates how politics emerge as the substance of Second Kings. The chapter ends with a challenging reflection on God’s Holy Spirit with particular reference to what it means to act prophetically in the present.

Chapter 5: Law. <I> Hear, 0 Israel (The Legal Codes)</I>  in  From Faith to Faith -- Essays on Old Testament Literature

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

A survey, necessarily brief, of the major codes of law in the Old Testament, their superficial characteristics, the general qualities which they hold in common particularly as against other extrabiblical codes, points of difference among the three major earlier codes, the ethical qualities and content of these three, and finally the central theological motivation of all Old Testament law. We may then attempt, from this assessment of the law, to distinguish its primary theological presuppositions.

Chapter 6: Rabshakeh  in  The Politics of God and the Politics of Man

Book Chapter by Jacques Ellul

This chapter deals with an encounter between Hezekiah and an emissary of Assyria, Rabshakeh. The foreign representative delivers a prophetic message, which Hezekiah receives as a Word from the Lord. Rabshakeh proceeds to challenge Israel and their God. The challenge provides Ellul opportunity to reflect on politics and faith, with a probing analysis of propaganda which identifies how “modern” this passage is.

Chapter 6: Rupture  in  Song of the Vineyard

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

I Kings 1-11 offers a brief description and evaluation of a series of kings ending with Solomon, and the division of the northern and southern kingdoms. The central theme of I Kings 11-16 is the emergent prophetism based on prophetic Yahwism as contrasted with popular Yahwism. I Kings 17 to II Kings 14 gives the background of classical prophetism as seen in Samuel, Elisha and Elijah.

Chapter 7: Anticipated Judgment: The Eighth Century  in  Song of the Vineyard

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

The 8th century prophets indict Israel for her unrighteousness, beginning with Amos 1-9 which is unrelieved condemnation that turns to some contingent hope. Hosea offers more positive prospects for the man/God relationship in his analogous relationship with his wife Gomer. It is in Isaiah 1-23, 28-33 and Micah 1-7 that 8th-century prophetism reaches its theological and ethical zenith.

Chapter 7: Hezekiah  in  The Politics of God and the Politics of Man

Book Chapter by Jacques Ellul

The final chapter explores Hezekiah’s role in this crisis, which Ellul sees as one of a faithful sovereign. Hezekiah sees that the crisis is beyond politics, since the Assyrians have impugned God. There is a limit to politics, and thus of all human intentionality. The final section is a discussion of “miracle” which establishes how God can be sovereign without diminishing human agency.

Chapter 8. Suspended Judgment: The Seventh Century  in  Song of the Vineyard

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

Deuteronomy is seen as the reformed law of Yahweh that functions as a packaged legal prophetism. Nahum 1-3, Zephaniah 1-3 and Habakkuk 1-3 are the 7th century prophets who continue the tradition of classical prophetism in the uncertain time of Babylon’s ascendancy. The protesting prophetism of Jeremiah 1-52 places him as a prophet among prophets warning of Yahweh’s only suspended just judgment.

Chapter One: Myth. <I> In the Beginning (Genesis 1-11)</I>  in  From Faith to Faith -- Essays on Old Testament Literature

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

All nature testifies to the glory of God; but Israel tends always to see God’s primary and decisive self-revelation in the arena of history, not nature. Israel conceives of no reality that is not historical reality. It is inevitable, therefore, that she clothe her primeval history in historical dress. What so convincingly to her is must have its expression in a setting of time and place and persons.

Conversations Among Exiles

Article by Walter Brueggemann

Our society is marked by a deep dislocation that touches every aspect of our lives. The old certitudes seem less certain; the old privileges are under powerful challenge; the old dominations are increasingly ineffective and fragile; the established governmental, educational, judicial and medical institutions seem less and less able to deliver what we need and …

Introduction  in  The Politics of God and the Politics of Man

Book Chapter by Jacques Ellul

Ellul provides an initial statement about his purpose, specifically, why he chose Second Kings as the place to guide his reflections on how the faithful go about the political aspect of their lives. Suggesting that Second Kings is the most political in Scripture, he outlines why it is important for the Christian who is concerned about politics, in whatever sense that term is used. This initial taste of Ellul introduces the reader to Ellul’s approach as an exegete.

Introduction  in  The Book of Exodus

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

Exodus, like Genesis, is a book of origins that tells how the people of Israel became a people so that events in the present time are given sense and meaning by being viewed against the formative Exodus events. The author clarifies the use of the three source hypothesis – J, E and P, and stresses the connection of the Exodus and the torah in the development of Israel, and the deep relationship between the Exodus story and Christianity.

Introduction  in  Song of the Vineyard

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

The Old Testament is the story of Israel It is literature in the sense that it is the oral and written creation of many individuals using many diverse forms and literary devices. It is history in that it is the story of God’s life and will on the plane of human history as witnessed in the life and faith of Israel. It is theology in that it is about the purpose and power of God in what the story characteristically calls the word of God. The story tends to group its varied events and components around four central events – the Exodus from Egypt, the establishment of the monarchy under David at Jerusalem, the purification of Israel by the Word of God in the political defeat at the hands of Assyria, and the fulfillment of Israel’s existence that has never quite come and will yet be seen in the blessing of the families of the earth and the healing of the world’s estrangement.

Listening to the Text

Article by Walter Brueggemann

The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of I and 2 Samuel, by Robert Alter, Norton. 410 pp. $30.00 Robert Alter’s contribution to current scripture studies has been immense and defining. Alter, who is professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley, possesses a rare combination of interpretive gifts. He has …

Old Testament Ethics

Article by Douglas A. Knight

In discussing Old Testament ethics, we are not faced with the usual problem of trying to pick out a consensus from a welter of diverging viewpoints and methods. If only there were such an abundance of careful studies on biblical ethics, we would find ourselves in the luxurious position of highlighting the helpful approaches, discarding …

Old Testament Foundations for Peacemaking in the Nuclear Era

Article by Bruce C. Birch

The Old Testament caricature undoubtedly results from the lack of a critical and nuanced understanding of the scriptural witness. If our concern is peacemaking — particularly the special urgency given that task by the nuclear threat — then we shall have to come to grips with those portions of the biblical witness in which the …

Preface  in  Prophets in Perspective

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

A serious, responsible, comprehensive review of that phenomenal movement which produced such giants in the history of religion as Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and that crowning figure of prophetism, the Second Isaiah.

Preface  in  The Book of Exodus

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

The editors and publishers of the Layman’s Bible Commentary series offer a rationale for the series as designed to be a concise non-technical guide for the layman offering helpful explanations of fundamental matters in simple, up-to-date terms that will move its readers to take up the Bible for themselves.

Preface  in  Song of the Vineyard

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

This short introduction to the Old Testament is designed for colleagues in teaching as well as formal and informal students including working clergy persons and lay persons. It is offered to provide help in understanding the text of the Old Testament and seeing the essential continuity of Old and New Testaments.

Recovering the Covenant

Article by William Johnson Everett

The Covenant Tradition in Politics, by Daniel J. Elazar; Translation Publishers. Vol 1.; Covenant and Polity in Biblical Israel, 459 pp. $29.95 paperback. Vol. 2; Covenant and Commonwealth, 362 pp. $54.95. Vol. 3; Covenant and Constitutionalism, 271 pp. $54.95. Vol. 4; Covenant and Civil Sociey, 382 pp.paperback, $29.95, $54.95. The past 40 years have been …

Section 1: The Drought  in  Word Of God - Word of Earth

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

The author takes us through some experiences of his own into a world where we must listen and learn about the earth — Word of the Earth. Then turning to Elijah he gives us reason to be concerned, and that conservation of the earth within reason is a must topic along with the Word of God.

Section 2: The Altars  in  Word Of God - Word of Earth

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

In all ages man has believed himself on a secure earth plateau, believing all is well. The fact is exploitation and pollution by the millions of tons each year during the now period. Yet humans are the privileged for they can think and act to preserve the earth, while using it with godly intuition. God gave the earth to man to manage wisely for his own use.

Sociological Criticism of the Old Testament

Article by Norman K. Gottwald

Sociological criticism addresses long-noticed social features of the biblical text. The single most pervasive subject of the Old Testament traditions is the community of Israel itself. It is equally apparent that Israel lived in differing forms of social organization over its long history: as extended families or clans under patriarchs, as tribes during the period …

The Bible and Communication

Article by Peter Horsfield

The communication situation today The development of electronic technologies for storing and transferring information in the past two generations has been exponential. Things are now being done in electronic communication which once would have been thought impossible. These developments have changed not only the speed and way in which we now communicate: they have also …

The Book of Exodus

Book by B. Davie Napier

(ENTIRE BOOK) A scholarly but non-technical analysis of the Book of Exodus, offering an appreciation of the beginnings of Judaism as well as some commonalities shared by Judaism and Christianity.

The Bookshelf  in  Song of the Vineyard

Book Chapter by B. Davie Napier

Additional reading is recommended from the following list of books, all in English. A number of significant German works are cited in the footnotes. A fuller, annotated English bibliography may be found in Gottwald, A Light to the Nations, pp. 553 ff. Albright, NV. F., From the Stone Age to Christianity, Anchor Edition, Garden City, …

The Greatest Songs

Article by Peter Paulsen

Paul was a newly minted seminary graduate and not much acquainted with the ways of the world when he arrived at his congregation just in time to conduct the wedding of one of the parish’s leading daughters. He had done well in his Biblical Introduction courses and had exhibited real skill in his worship leadership. …

The Old Testament, Keystone of Human Culture

Book by William F. Irwin

(ENTIRE BOOK) Schools of interpretation agree and affirm the unique historic significance of the Bible. Coupled with God’s people down through the centuries is revealed the influence of the Hebrew people, and the Bible, on those who interacted with the Hebrews, and remoter cultures surrounding them. From these Old Testament studies come a better understanding of the Hebrews, and therefore the Old Testament.

The Politics of God and the Politics of Man

Book by Jacques Ellul

(ENTIRE BOOK) Second Kings does not come to mind as a source for reflection and insight for a Christian understanding of how a person of faith deals with politics. Nor would most commentators chose to make Elisha the focal figure for such a study. However, Ellul’s treatment furnishes one with a feast of careful analysis and insight for any person of faith seeking guidance in how to live as a Christian in a political world.

The Sacred and the Mundane: The Message of Leviticus

Article by Peter J. Haas

For Jewish homileticians, early spring is not a good time. According to the rabbinic cycle of Torah readings, this is when we come down from the great heights of Genesis and Exodus, with their breathtaking perspectives and sweeping visions, and enter the flat and seemingly arid plain of Leviticus. As my Protestant friends sympathetically remind …

Truth-Telling and Peacemaking: A Reflection on Ezekiel

Article by Walter Brueggemann

The government in ancient Jerusalem was busy doing the things governments do: deploying ambassadors, developing new weapons systems, designing new technologies, dealing with cost overruns, securing more funding, levying taxes and holding press conferences. It was busy pursuing the things that would bring security (or the impression of it): power, money, technology. But the more …