Old Testament

Review: “The Old Testament,” by Richard Hess

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Richard Hess is an Old Testament professor at Denver Seminary who has distinguished himself with a brace of high quality studies and commentaries. These include a notable Commentary on Joshua in the Tyndale series, and a book on Israelite Religions. This work of Old Testament introduction competes with the works of Hill & Walton, Longman & Dillard, Arnold & Beyer, as well as older books by Gleason Archer and R. K. Harrison.

In The Old Testament Hess reviews each book of the Hebrew Bible providing an outline, an overview of the contents, a helpful section on “Reading” each book, which is divided into “Premodern” and critical readings; the latter being particularly useful. There is then a section on “Gender and Ideological Criticism,” Ancient Near Eastern and Canonical context, Literary structure, Theological themes, and a brief annotated bibliography. Overall, the style is highly readable and informative. The chapters are enhanced with black and white charts, diagrams, maps, photos, and insets focusing on pertinent topics.

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Why the Old Testament Matters

In this excerpt from his book, Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament, Walter Kaiser explains why the Old Testament should be emphasized more in local churches:1

Let it be affirmed right away that the central theme of both the Old and New Testaments is Christ. Did not our Lord rebuke the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on that first Easter Sunday afternoon for their failure to understand that he was the one to whom all the Law, Prophets, and Writings pointed (Luke 24:25–27)?

Indeed, while the prophets were ignorant of the time and the circumstances surrounding the coming of the Messiah (1 Pet. 1:10–12), they were clear about five things: (1) they were writing about the Messiah; (2) they knew Messiah would suffer; (3) they knew Messiah would also be glorified and that he would triumph; (4) they knew the suffering would precede the glory; and (5) they knew that they were speaking not only to their own generation but to all of us who would come later, such as those in the church in Peter’s day.

Therefore, the prophets’ bewilderment about their lack of knowledge as to the precise date of the appearing of Messiah should not be taken as proof that the prophets spoke “better than they knew,” or that they often spoke in ignorance of what they wrote.

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Surveying the Period from Joshua to David (Part 4)

Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Returning to chapter 7 of 2 Samuel, verse 13 speaks of David’s son building “a house for My name” with the addition of the pledge of an everlasting dynastic kingdom. Walter Kaiser has commented on the connection between the establishing of a kingdom and the right to erect a temple. He writes,

[A]ccording to 2 Samuel 7:13…the “house” of David had to be first established by Yahweh before a temple could be built. Temple building could only be the completion and crowning effect of Yahweh’s creation of a kingdom.1

If this is right then David could not begin his reign by ordering the construction of a temple to Yahweh. Why not? Because peace in the kingdom was not attained during David’s reign, either through having to impose his reign over dissidents, or through his own disastrous breaking of the law he was supposed to be upholding via the incident with Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Sam. 11).

As Niehaus reminds us, the covenants of God,

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Surveying the Period from Joshua to David (Part 3)

Gerard van Honthorst - King David Playing the Harp (1622)

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

God’s Covenant with David

David was the king that Yahweh had promised (Gen. 17:4-6, 16; Deut. 17:14-15). His reign came some four centuries after God had said that He would “surely set a king over you” (Deut. 17:15), and not much shy of a millennium after the covenant made with Abraham. God never seems to be in a hurry.

In many ways 2 Samuel 7 is the strategic point for understanding the covenants with Israel. It pulls together the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, land and people and God-centered government, in a way that concretizes the one and shows the righteous yet temporal nature of the other. In the person of the King the Lord’s creation goal will take shape. That King is not David, but David, like Abraham, is granted the inestimable privilege of beginning the dynasty (cf. Matt. 1:1).

Scripture presents the Davidic covenant almost as a response from Yahweh to the relocation and veneration of the ark of the covenant. Here is a man who will take the covenant seriously (even though he will sin grievously – Psa. 51).

The importance of the Davidic covenant is underlined by the fact that, as with all the previous Divine covenants, God Himself utters it.

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Surveying the Period from Joshua to David (Part 2)

Uzzah Touches the Ark and Dies. Matthäus Merian (1593-1650)

Read Part 1.

Judges is best read as a chronicle of the fate of the separate tribes within the narrative. There appears to be some overlapping of events within the Book so that a strict 410 year chronology from first to last is doubtful.1 Further, there is the sad report that summarizes the first two stories in the so-called “Bethlehem Trilogy” at the end of the Book,2 that,

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6)

This report, repeated for emphasis in Judges 21:25, does not come from the close of the era of the Judges, but most likely from the beginning. Kaiser remarks,

The events narrated in these two appendixes to the Book of Judges probably fell early in the period of the judges, since a grandson of Moses, in one case, and a grandson of Aaron, in the other, would need to be contemporaneous with the generation that came after the Conquest.3

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Why Preach the Older Testament?

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

A pastor once asked me what I was preaching in church. I said “Luke in the morning and Micah in the evening.” He was flabbergasted. He admitted that if he announced any Old Testament book, his church would empty until he was back into the New Testament.

I am blessed to preach at a church which offers an evening service in addition to the morning services.

I’ve tried to make it my practice to take the morning to preach expositionally through the New Testament, and the evening for the Old(er) Testament.

This gives our people a full-orbed notion of the redemption plan. It also builds biblical literacy. For example, these are some of the under-appreciated books we have preached through verse by verse, or chapter by chapter: Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, Ecclesiastes, Micah, Nahum, and Obadiah. 

We cover why there is genocide, polygamy, slavery, gang rape, incest, and human sacrifice. We don’t even skip over all the verses about goopy bodily fluids. Rather than “unhitch” from this material and ignore it like an embarrassing family history, we do the hard and rewarding work of studying it in depth. We apply our hermeneutics and rely on the illumination of the Spirit, and we suck the marrow out of every verse. And our people love it!

There are four reasons I can think of to pay concerted attention to the older of the two biblical testaments.

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Surveying the Period from Joshua to David (Part 1)

The Battle of Jericho - Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872)

After the death of Moses on the east side of the River Jordan the responsibility for leading the fledgling people of Israel into the Promised Land fell upon Joshua the son of Nun (Josh. 1:1-2). The first indications were that Yahweh’s power would make them unstoppable. The passage of the ark of the covenant over the dry bed of the Jordan demonstrated to the people that the Creator Himself was their God, and they were in covenant with Him (Josh. 3:17). In a real sense the priests bore the covenant with them as they passed into Canaan. There was every reason to be devoted to God.

The overthrow of Jericho and the way it was accomplished once again only underlined Israel’s dependence on Yahweh (Josh. 6). But Achan’s sin cost the lives of thirty-six men (Josh. 7:1-5), as well as causing the name of Yahweh to be blasphemed.1 Defeat at Ai proved that without God conquest was not going to be possible. Thus, from the very start of the campaign miraculous acts of God encouraged the Israelites to occupy the land.2 But they were also reminded that success depended on them going about it God’s way; that is, with an eye to the covenant.3

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