Teaching the book of Obadiah this morning, I was reflecting on the issue of Israel and her neighbors: Jordan, The Palestinian Territories and Lebanon. According to this little book written (likely) sometime in the sixth century B.C. (though some have argued for as early as the 9th century) “Edom” and Gilead (which is within the boundaries of Jordan; vv.18, 19), the “Philistine plains” (part of the modern Gaza strip; v.19), and “Phoenician” and “Zarephath” (in modern Lebanon) are all to be destroyed and occupied by Israel.
The normal narrative I hear in my circles argues that it is Israel’s neighbors who have set themselves to see Israel utterly destroyed and thus should not be reasoned with (or so the story goes within certain camps). It is typically further argued that these neighbors are simply always fighting and are the culprits of the angst against Israel and thus no agreement should be made with them.
This narrative fails to account for the religious text of Obadiah which declares the destruction and dispossession of Israel’s neighbors at their hands. How would that potentially affect Israel being a legitimate negotiation partner? How should Israel’s neighbors consider a people who hold as sacred a text which is primary to the institution of this people being a people and which calls for their destruction?
These were questions which arose in my mind as we reflected on this text. What are your thoughts? How have you perceived trying to work with a people whose religious text seems to call for your destruction? Can their be concessions?
As a footnote, I understand the modern nation-state of Israel does not typically regard such texts as authoritative, though some certainly do. It nevertheless remains that this text belongs to Israel as a people.
I have been teaching The Minor Prophets this semester and as we covered Joel I was struck by the use of Joel which John makes in the Revelation (particularly chapter 9) of the book of Joel. Here are some connections I noticed in my brief study (followed by a few random reflections):
- The sounding of trumpets (Joel 2.1; Rev.9.1, 13)
- An army of locusts (Joel 1.4; Rev.9.3)
- An innumerable army (Joel 1.6) and an army of 10,000 times 10,000 times 2 (Rev.9.16)
- “teeth like/of a lion” (Joel 1.6; Rev.9.7)
- Contrast between the utter destruction of plant life by the locusts (Joel 1.4-12) while the “locusts” in the Revelation are not allowed to do any harm to plant life (Rev.9.4)
- The locusts appear “like war horses” (Joel 2.4) or “like horses prepared for battle” (Rev.9.7)
- The armies of locusts each sound “like chariots” (Joel 2.5; Rev.9.9)
- Destruction by fire goes ahead and behind (Joel 2.3; Rev.9.18-19)
- Columns of smoke are directly connected to each (Joel 2.30; Rev.9.2-3)
In each, repentance should be the response. In Joel hope resounds by the end, but in the Revelation the people persist in their many idolatries (even as hope will be had by the overcomers by the end of that book).
Another preliminary thought concerning each: Joel 1 and 2 are often believed to be speaking about an “army” of locusts (1) and the armies of Babylon (2) though such a clear distinction cannot be made and likely (in my thinking) should not. If asked which is represented in chapter two I would answer, “Yes”. Both the “locusts” and the “Babylonians” seem intended. In regard to Revelation 9, it appears that perhaps the same issue is at stake where there is some distinction between each of these groups: the army of “locusts” and the demonic cavalry where the former only harms humans (but doesn’t kill) and the latter destroys everything and everyone before them up to a third of humankind. However, we have two armies represented that in some sense are reiterative of the movement between Joel 1 and 2 concerning the locusts and cavalry.
I had not realized there was an update to the already helpful “Stories from Canaan” by Michael Coogan. This update includes the work of Mark Smith (who has been writing THE critical commentary on the Baal Cycle for well over a decade and has compiled the most exhaustive bibliography on Ugaritic studies available). While I quite enjoyed the first edition, I would guess this update (which includes several new texts) offers an updated introduction and continues the tradition of an easily readable translation of these texts which provide a significant entree into the cultural-religious context which ancient Israel found herself.
Originally posted on Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth:
Coogan, Michael D. and Mark S. Smith, eds. Stories from Ancient Canaan. 2nd ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2012. Pp. x + 180. Paper. $25.00.
Context is king. It’s a simple yet profound statement. A word has any number of possible meanings and any given one is determined by the words that surround it (at least at the written level; the meaning of a spoken word can be discerned by paying attention to body language, tone, inflection, etc.). But context refers to more than mere words and the words that surround them; it has reference to situations and circumstances that form the setting for any given event. One of the biggest hindrances to the interpretation of texts, especially ancient texts, is the lack of context. There are just some things that the original readers/hearers of an ancient text would have taken for granted that modern readers have to work…
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For those interested in the topic, I have just uploaded the paper I presented at the 2014 SBL/AAR annual meeting in San Diego, CA as a special session of the Society for Pentecostal Studies. The title is “Elisha and the Double Portion Spirit: Sign of the True Son of the Prophet (2 Kgs 2-9, 13)”. It is a small portion of my exegetical work I am doing for my PhD on “A Theology of the Spirit in the Former Prophets”.
Here is the summary:
While it is assumed among scholarship that the “double portion” which Elisha requests of Elijah refers to the portion of the eldest son (following Deuteronomistic law), it is proposed in this paper that this is theologically significant to demonstrate Elisha as the true son of Elijah as prophet of Yahweh in contrast to the other “sons of the prophets” in the Former Prophets. This motif is followed in the stories of Elisha as he fulfills the prophetic call earlier given to Elijah as Horeb, knows and does what the “sons of the prophets” cannot do themselves, and functions as a new Elijah in the paneling accounts and images. The role of Spirit endowment as verification of elder sonship is followed as a theological trajectory of the Former Prophets.
This quote speaks (in part) to Bonhoeffer’s notion of the world “come of age” and a “religionless Christianity” that has only spoken to God where human knowledge is at its limits. Such cannot be the case. He wrestled with the notion of a positive Christology over and against a simply negative Christology in his lectures while at Finkenwald. In this later development of his thought, he seems yet further arguing for the need to positively construct our theology based on what is known (eg, revealed).
This becomes all the more significant in a world that presses the boundaries of our knowledge yet further and seems to find less need of providing any “theological” explanation for existence and experience (a world which Bonhoeffer found himself wrestling with). Theology cannot be a “stop-gap” to fill the holes of our knowledge. Theology must be located as such in the very concrete (objective and yet subjective) person and work of God in Christ Jesus.
At last some of my articles are published. I have had several book chapters “in publication” for several years now, along with several journal articles. Today I opened my Logos software and did a quick search and found that my two articles for the Lexham Bible Dictionary were finally published (one on “Ono” and the other “Hadad-Rimmon”). Hooray!
Thus is the life of publishing…hurry and write…then wait…and wait…
If you have not downloaded the free version of Logos, you should. It comes with a free book every month that they will add to you library along with the Lexham Bible Dictionary which is a MASSIVE scholarly endeavor meant to challenge the likes of the Anchor Bible Dictionary (and yet be completely free).
And perhaps someone will actually read my utterly obscure article contributions. :-)
A friend recently posted a video that makes claims concerning the “number of the beast” in Revelation 13:18 (it can be viewed HERE) . I found the following graphic posted on Facebook of Walid’s claims about the symbols/words written in “Sinaiticus” (a Greek codex with many sections dating from the fourth century). Walid claims that the bottom line is actually depicted properly by the top line with crossed swords (an Islamic symbol) and the Arabic word/s meaning “In the name of Allah”
Walid mentions (and draws) the top lines characters which do NOT appear in any Greek manuscript. As it turns out Codex Sinaiticus (which he specifically says to go check out) does not have even an abbreviated form of the number, but has the fully written form for each number. As it turns out all one needs to do is go online and verify with the manuscript (which is freely accessible to anyone with internet access). See the image HERE.
It is found in the third column [lines 21-22]: εξακοϲιαι εξηκοτα εξ
Anyone can see that his claims have no factuality when looking at the manuscript itself (even if one did not know Greek they could still note that these symbols are nowhere present in the text). Further, if one were to check the Nestle-Aland text of the Greek New Testament they will find that with the many variants preserved in the manuscript traditions (and reported in the text-critical note of the NA text) not one contains any such markings representing numbers. In other words, his entire claim is false and easily proven so.
Yet, such drivel will continue to be received by many in the West who simply WANT Muslims to be the tools of the Antichrist and somehow the Beast/s of the Revelation. Perhaps it is our concern not to be found ourselves numbered a part of that beastly system which opposes Jesus rightful rule over all? Perhaps what we do not really understand and yet fear (rightfully or wrongfully) always seems readily at hand to explain the beasts of our apocalyptic nightmares? Perhaps we seek “hidden knowledge” that “verifies” our fears because if our fears were proven unfounded we might have to consider how we ourselves may be surrendering to all that rejects Jesus the king of all?
To those who overcome…
The ending chapters of Judges function at several levels:
1) historical context for the audience who received these stories in this form (the accounts refer to some time 1200-1100 BC). For instance, chapter 18 explains why Dan was in the north rather than in the south (where Joshua had said they were alloted land). Chapters 19-21 explain why Benjamin was so small and how they had barely survived. In the context of later generations reading this account it would explain the loss of tribes by means of the LORD expelling them for their continuing depravity. I am particularly thinking of the expulsion of the ten tribes of Israel (including Benjamin) in the 700s and then the later exile of Judah between 609-586 BC.
2) Kingship – the author of Judges is demonstrating what life without a king was like. The whole story (19-21) is framed by “there was no king” (19:1; 21:25). This would seem to indicate they had a positive appraisal of kingship even if the actual stories of kings for Israel and Judah does not play out that well (which might indicate that this account found its form in the days of David/Solomon).
3) Rejection of Benjamin – this whole story emphasizes the perversity of Benjamin and their near annihilation. We need to bear in mind that the king chosen first was from Benjamin. Is this a way of subtly (not so subtly) speaking against Benjamites ruling? After all, Saul would likely have been only a handful of generations removed from this incident. He owes his life to the sparing of the tribe, but also finds his genealogy littered with the perverse. More striking is that the father-in-law in Bethlehem of Judah (David’s hometown) is over-abounding in generosity toward the Levite (19:3-10). When the Levite finally leaves he is compelled by his servant to not stay in Jebus (what would become Jerusalem) because of the Jebusites whom they would not likely receive hospitality from. Instead they stay the night in Gibeah of Benjamin and are violated perversely.
4) Increasing depravity – the whole of judges undoes the work of Joshua. Joshua reads as if the people inherited the whole of the land. Judges (from the beginning) shows they did not. And not only was this because they did not deal with neighboring clans/tribes of the Canaanites as they should (and then face battles with various folks as judgment), but they even face assaults from their own tribes: Benjamin assaulting the concubine (and showing them to be just as evil as Sodom which was entirely destroyed) and the other tribes assaulting and almost completely destroying Benjamin. And the violence continues with the forcible taking of wives for Benjamin. And in the immediate account, the Levite treats the concubine with violence in his cutting her into pieces. And the text even is suggestive that the concubine hadn’t died from the gang raping and there is no clear indication she died prior to being cut up by the Levite. Is this demonstrating yet further that the Levites – those specifically responsible to teach and uphold Torah for everyone – were descended into depravity? (see Judges 18 about the Levite serving the idol stolen from Micah and established in Dan).
Arnold, Bill T., and H. G. M. Williamson, eds. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005.
Block, Daniel Isaac. Judges, Ruth. NAC. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999.
Boling, Robert G. Judges. AB. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005.
Frolov, Serge. Judges. FOTL. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013.
Hamilton, Victor P. Handbook on the Historical Books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.
Martin, Lee Roy. The Unheard Voice of God: A Pentecostal Hearing of the Book of Judges. Blandford Forum, Dorset, UK: Deo Pub, 2008.
Soggin, J. Alberto. Judges, a Commentary. OTL. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1981.
In a recent conversation about events in the Middle/Near East, a question was raised as to the potential for fulfillment of prophecy, specifically concerning “Gog and Magog”.
Gog and Magog have so captured the imagination that their very mention seems clouded by mystery and ready at hand to apply to nearly any particularity in contemporary geo-politics involving the modern nation-state of Israel. However, few consider the actual texts where these terms are mentioned in Scripture. Gog (the referent to the prince of the eschatological hordes) only occurs two places in Scripture (excluding the referents which point to an genealogical figure): Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20.
In Ezekiel, Gog is the prince from Magog (meaning “place of Gog”). This ruler is brought by the will of YHWH to a restored Israel to make war. He is gathered with hordes from the corners of the known world (6th century BC). These two chapters are spent describing the hordes and their ultimate destruction and burial. Interestingly enough the valley of Hamon-Gog where the bodies are buried over 7 months immediately follows another valley filled with dead: the valley of very dry bones (Eze.37). That first valley was the slain of Israel, restored by the Spirit of YHWH and even restored as a united people in the land of promise. This latter valley becomes the resting place of all who would think to destroy the work of YHWH to live in peace in the midst of His people. While numerous people groups are included in this horde (including Persia [part of modern Iran]…a favorite current target of prophetic prognosticators) the intention is not to locate the people groups as all-encompassing. It seems to function more toward all those who are from far away (from the very boundaries of civilization) who would gather together against the work of YHWH (though brought by the “hook” of YHWH to the land). This is NOT intended as Ezekiel’s message against a restored Caliphate (something imagined by Muslim extremists and fear-mongering Westerners). Nor is it against any of these people groups. It is against all who would oppose the ultimate plan of YHWH to dwell with His redeemed people (Israel for Ezekiel, but inclusive of all of God’s people in the NT).
In the Revelation 20.8, Gog and Magog function as stock phrase for the opposing hordes from the four corners of the earth in an even more broad sense than Ezekiel. This is in contrast to “Gog” who was “from Magog” in Ezekiel. Here (if one is following a sort of “timeline” of events in the Revelation) is the final battle to end all battles. This one follows the 1000 year imprisonment of Satan and the 1000 year reign of Christ. It immediately precedes the final judgment and the coming of the New Jerusalem and the New Heavens and New Earth.
Given the above passages (from a Premillennial eschatology) it should seem readily apparent that anyone attempting to discern “Gog and Magog” in our contemporary setting has no grounds. Not only do the passages not support such an interpretation (even if one is not Premillennial) given their prophetic/eschatological nature to depict things in more broad terms, but they also would not support such following the predominant western Evangelical approach of Premillennialism which would locate this war at the very end of the millennial reign (and distinguish it from the Battle of Armageddon immediately preceding the Second Coming). Meaning it would be a thousand years from the Second Coming. The face of the planet (and her empires) would be radically refashioned from the current geo-political make-up.
In brief, finding Gog and Magog in contemporary news and prognostications is biblically unfounded. We need look no further than locating it with all who ultimately oppose the rule of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I was asked today about the seeming disparity between the genealogy of Matthew and Luke, both of whom provide a different father’s name for Joseph the (supposed) father of Jesus: Jacob (Matthew 1.16) and Heli (Luke 3.23).
There are two basic proposals:
1) That both genealogies refer to Joseph, with Matthew’s account intended for Jesus place as heir to the throne of David and Luke’s account intended for the actual biological lineage of Joseph.
2) Matthew is recording Joseph’s genealogy and Luke is recording Mary’s. This is supported by numerous early Fathers: Origen, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Athanasius, and Justin Martyr.
It has been suggested (in support of the second proposal) that Mary’s genealogy is given under the name Joseph (by Luke) because (A) women were not official heads in the genealogical records of the ancient world, though they could be mentioned (such as in Matthew) it was always in connection to a husband/father, and (B) that perhaps Mary was an only child (speculation, I know) and would be the family inheritor whose husband is then adopted as the heir for her. Under the second explanation it is usually pointed out that this would make Jesus the heir of David (and Abraham) by both adoption (through Joseph) and by birth (through Mary).
What are your thoughts?