I.C.3. Schelhaas, J. "II Samuel 7:1-5," in The Law and the Prophets. J. Skilton, Editor.
Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1974, 283-297.
"Do all that is in your heart (doe al wat in uw hart is) gives the king complete freedom. The prophet means here that David should execute all that he thinks of, reflects, proposes about the ark's abode. The heart is here the seat of the considerations, contemplations, intentions, decisions. The reason Nathan gives is that Yahweh is with the king. That is really evident in his whole course of life. According to Nathan, this ground is sufficient for the execution of this plan and the advice he gives. That Yahweh is with David is absolutely true. But that Nathan makes a mistake about the consequences, he will soon find out ... This does not imply that the king's intention as such should be rejected. For in 1 Kings 8:18 Solomon says that the Lord said to his father David: that you had the intention to build a house for My Name, you did well that you had this intention.
"But the prophet should first have waited for God's revelation. A good intention does not always mean that we are allowed to execute it. That Nathan too desired a temple for the God of Israel was not wrong in itself. The mistake made here was that he spoke as man and not as prophet, while his opinion as a prophet had been specifically asked for."
I.F. Freeman, H. E. An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets. Chicago: Moody,
"What then were the true function and purpose of the sons of the prophets? In attempting to answer this question it will be well to note their function in those passages where they are mentioned in Scripture: (1) They are depicted as residing together in common dwellings at religious centers like Gilgal, Bethel and Jericho, sitting before a great prophet. We are perhaps warranted in supposing that spiritual instruction was imparted to them (II Kings 4:38; 6:1; 1 Sam. 19:20). (2) Another of the spiritual functions of these groups was that of prophesying together (1 Sam. 10:5 ff.). Just what this prophesying was and what form it took, has been the subject of much speculation. First Samuel 10 seems to indicate that a part of it was the singing and chanting of praises to God. The band of prophets was descending from the high place where they had participated in some form of religious observance, and they were prophesying accompanied by musical instruments. Evidence that this was an accepted method of prophetic expression is clear from 1 Chronicles 25:1-3. Thus the groups would not simply prophesy as individuals, but jointly in a body, or in a procession, at various places in public praise and worship. (3) They also acted as spiritual messengers in important matters pertaining to Israel. This is seen when Elisha sent one of the sons of the prophets to anoint Jehu king of Israel (II Kings 9:1), and again when God sent another as a messenger of judgment to speak His word of rebuke to King Ahab for his leniency in dealing with Ben-hadad (I Kings 20:35-43).
Young, E. J. My Servants the Prophets. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952, 83- 94.
"It should be very carefully noted, however, that there is not a hint in the text to suggest that the prophesying was brought on by the music, as though the music were a stimulant. The musical instruments were carried before the prophets, and the implication given is that they were employed merely by way of accompaniment. Hence, the prophesying in which these men engaged was not a meaningless raving, but rather a devout praising of God to the accompaniment of music.
"If we employ the word "ecstasy" to describe the prophets, we must use the word with care. That they were under the compelling influence of the Spirit of God, there can be no doubt, for it is said to Saul that when he meets the prophets, the Spirit of Jehovah will rush upon him and he will prophesy with them. The fulfillment of this prediction is related as follows: "And the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied in their midst" (I Samuel 10:10b). From this it appears that the act of prophesying in this particular instance was a result of the rushing upon of the Spirit. God's Spirit came upon the prophet, and the result was that he prophesied. The source of the "ecstatic" condition, therefore, is not to be found in the presence of music, nor of voluntary association, nor in contagion, nor for that matter in any self-imposed or induced stimuli, but only in the "rushing upon" of the Spirit of God."
II.D. Vos, G. Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948 (reset for Ninth Printing, 1975), 191-197.
"With this enquiry into the meaning of nabhi' we may combine a brief discussion of its Greek equivalent, prophetes, from which our word prophet has come. We associate with this mostly the idea of 'foreteller'. This is not in accord with the original Greek etymology. The preposition 'pro' in the composition does not express the time-sense of 'beforehand'. It has local significance; the prophetes is a forth-teller. The Greek term, however, has religious associations no less than the Hebrew one. Prophetes is the one who speaks for the oracle. Thus it might seem, that with the 'pro' correctly understood, the Hebrew nabhi' and the Greek prophetes were practically synonyms. This, however, would be misleading. The Greek prophetes does not stand in the same direct relation to the deity as the Hebrew nabhi' does. In reality he is the interpreter of the oracular, dark utterances of the Pythia, or some other inspired person, whom, from the depth underneath, the godhead of the shrine inspires. The Pythia would thus stand at the same remove from deity as the nabhi', but the prophetes is separated from the deity by this intervening person. Prophetes is therefore rather an interpreter than a mouth-piece of what the god speaks through the one he directly inspires. He adds of his own, not merely the illumination of the oracle, but also the form in which he clothes the meaning apperceived ... (pp. 194,195).
"It is no wonder, then, that the word prophetes, taken into the service of Biblical religion, had to undergo a baptism of regeneration, before it could be properly used."
II.D.1 Albright, W. F. From the Stone Age to Christianity. Doubleday Anchor Books. Garden City: Doubleday & Co., 1957 , 303-305.
"The current explanation of the word nabhi' "prophet," as "speaker, announcer," is almost certainly false. The correct etymological meaning of the word is rather "one who is called (by God"), one who has a vocation (from God)," as appears from the fact that this is almost always the sense which the verb nabu "to call," has in Accadian, from the middle of the third millennium to the middle of the first. The king is repeatedly termed "the one whom the great gods (or a special high god) have called." Using a noun (nibitu) derived from this verb, the king is styled "the one called by the great gods, etc." The verbal adjective nabi' means "called," in the Code of Hammurabi. All Hebrew verbal forms from this root are transparent denominatives from the noun nabhi', and throw no light whatever on the derivation of the latter. This interpretation of the word suits its meaning exactly; the prophet was a man who felt himself called by God for a special mission, in which his will was subordinated to the will of God, which was communicated to him by direct inspiration. The prophet was thus a charismatic spiritual leader, directly commissioned by Yahweh to warn the people of the perils of sin and to preach reform and revival of true religion and morality."
Meek, T. J. Hebrew Origins. Harper Torchbooks. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1960, 150.
"The third word for prophet is the one that became the most popular of all and almost wholly replaced the older term ro'eh. It is nabi', from a root not found in Hebrew, but found in Akkadian as nabu, "to call, to call out, to speak." It accordingly means "speaker, spokesman (of God," and is correctly translated in the Septuagint by the Greek profhth , a noun derived from the preposition pro, "for, in behalf of," and the verb fhmi "to speak." Hence the prophet of the nabi' type was strictly not a "foreteller," as is popularly supposed, but a "forthteller, preacher," and this was the meaning of "prophet" in English until after the time of Queen Elizabeth, when for some reason the term came to be equated with foretelling, predicting. For example, a book by Jeremy Taylor published in 1647, entitled The Liberty of Prophesying, is not what the present connotation of the words would lead one to think; it is a book on freedom of speech--in modern language, "The Freedom of Preaching." Accordingly, the strict meaning of the word "prophet" in English and its meaning in the original Greek and Hebrew is "speaker, spokesman"; and this is made absolutely certain by such a passage as Ex. 7:1, where Yahweh says to Moses: "See, I make you a god to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall serve as your spokesman (your nabi')." Note also Ex 4:16: "He [Aaron] shall speak for you to the people; he shall serve as a mouthpiece for you, and you shall act the part of god to him [lit., he shall be to you for a mouth, and you shall be to him for a god]." That is, the prophet was a spokesman, the mouthpiece of God; "man of God" he is often called; he was an oracle possessed by the spirit of God."
II.E. Young, E. J. My Servants the Prophets. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952, 62, 63, 105-124.
"In the Septuagint, a different reading appears. "And formerly in Israel, thus spake each man when he went to enquire of God, Come, let us go to the Seer, because the people formerly called the prophet 'The Seer.'" The reading of the Septuagint may easily be explained. It has substituted "the people" for "today." It is not to be preferred above the Hebrew text, and therefore, we shall base our discussion upon the Hebrew rather than the Septuagint ...
"For our part we are unable to see that the passage in I Samuel 9, although it employs the two words, yet makes a distinction between two types of men of God. Certainly it would be wrong to say that the expression nabhi was taken up into the Hebrew language only after this time. For it should be noted that, in this very context (I Samuel 10:5) Samuel himself uses the word. Further, the expression occurs in the Pentateuch in passages which are earlier than the present one. The key to the difficulty has been pointed out by Konig, although it is not necessary to follow him in his preference of the Septuagint over the Hebrew. It is that ro'eh was the prevailing popular designation of a man of God. When Saul, an ordinary country lad, met the maidens coming to draw water, he enquired of them as to the presence of the ro'eh. In Saul's days people used such a designation to indicate the prophet. The technical name of the name of God was nabhi, but the people commonly spoke of him as ro'eh."
III.A.1 Tucker, G. M. "Prophecy and the Prophetic Literature," in The Hebrew Bible and Its Modern Interpreters. D. A. Knight and G. M. Tucker, editors. Chicago: Scholars Press, 1985, 346, 347.
"Malamat was more specific in his definition of the Mari "diviner-prophets," and more cautious about the parallels with the OT. He saw them as parallel to the prophets of the OT in their consciousness of mission and their willingness to speak uninvited to the authorities in the name of the god, but "the all-too obvious gap is apparent in the essence of the prophetic message and in the destiny assigned to the prophet's mission" (208). The Mari oracles address the ruler or his representatives--and not the nation as a whole--and express material concerns or local patriotism (208)."
"The most recent major treatment of the Mari texts, and also one of the most careful, is that of Noort, who is not at all convinced that the Mari "prophets" were the predecessors of those known from the OT or even that the two were related. In at least the last point he certainly goes too far, for the two are phenomenologically if not historically related. Whether or not one accepts his conclusion that the Mari oracles are basically unlike OT prophecy, he has presented a very useful analysis of the various means of revelation at Mari and of the roles of both the speakers and their addressees. The messages are quite diverse, but they have in common the communication of a word of a god in a situation of crisis."
III.A.2 Albright, W. F. From the Stone Age to Christianity. Garden City: Doubleday, 1957, 186.
ÒSomewhat later is the prophecy of Nefer-rehu, which is extremely interesting as the oldest certain example of a vaticinium ex eventu, since it purports to date from the reign of Snefru of the Fourth Dynasty, but describes in some detail events from the reign of Ameni (Amenemmes), the founder of the Twelfth Dynasty six centuries later.Ó
Young, E. J. My Servants the Prophets. Appendix: "Extra-Biblical 'Prophecy' in the
Ancient World." Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952, 193-205.
"One must notice the utter lack of seriousness in this text. The king is seeking merely for entertainment, and so he desires to be informed concerning the future. Nefer-Rohu makes no pretense of being a prophet; in fact, he even states that he cannot foretell the future. Furthermore, the text states that it is dealing with the message of Nefer-Rohu, as he brooded over what would happen in the land. In other words the message is not a revealed one, nor does it purport to be. It is in a class with the many "predictions" of the ancient world, and far removed from the prophecies of the Old Testament" (203).
Smith, G. V. "Prophet." ISBE (rev. ed.), vol. 3, 989.
"The "prophecy of Nefer-rohu" purports to tell how Pharaoh Snefru of the 4th Dynasty was entertained by a prophet who predicted that chaos would soon overtake Egypt, but that order and justice would be reestablished when Ameni of Nubia (a reference to Amen-em-hep I, the first king of the 12th Dynasty) became king (ANET, pp. 444-46). The so-called prophecy undoubtedly was written as political propaganda to support the rule of Amen-em-hep I (see W. K. Simpson, ed., Literature of Ancient Egypt (1973), pp. 234-240)."
III.A.3 Kuenen, A. The Prophets and Prophecy in Israel. Amsterdam, Philo Press, 1969 (original Dutch edition, 1875), 555.
"It would of course be very desirable that we should be able to speak with certainty upon such an important question as this. But from the want of historical accounts we must rest content with probable conjectures, which have this recommendation besides, that they give us a satisfactory explanation of the first appearance of prophecy in Israel."
von Rad, G. Old Testament Theology. Vol. 2. New York, Harper & Row, 1965,
"In eleventh-century Syria and Palestine there are signs of the rise of an ecstatic and mantic movement whose origins are apparently outside that area, and perhaps lie in the mantic of Thrace and Asia Minor. Canaanite religion must, then, have been the medium by which the movement came to Israel. The earliest Old Testament evidence for its appearance are the accounts of the Dervish-like enthusiasts who from time to time emerged up and down the land, probably to be eyed askance by the settled Israelite farmers (I Sam. x. 5ff.)."
III.C. Freeman, H. E. An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets. Chicago: Moody, 1968, 26.
"Moses, in Deuteronomy 18, declares that God would establish the Hebrew prophetic institution, which as a type would one day culminate in the ideal Prophet, the antitype, Jesus Christ. The prophetic institution was to be a type of "sign" of the God-anointed Prophet (Christ), after the same manner that the priesthood, or priests, were a sign of God's anointed Priest as depicted in Zechariah 3:8;"
Young, E. J. My Servants the Prophets. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952, 20-35.
"At this point it may be well to pause and summarize the results of the study thus far. Deuteronomy eighteen, we have learned seems to contain a double reference.
"1. There was to be a body of prophets, an institution, which would declare the words that God commanded.
"2. There was to be one great prophet, who alone would be like Moses and might be compared with him, namely, the Messiah.
"The question now arises as to the relationship between these two emphases. Some have held that we are to understand a collection or group of prophets to which Christ would also belong, as the perfect realization of the prophetic body. This however, is not a legitimate thought to derive from the words. It is far better, because more faithful to the text, to regard the prophet as an ideal person in whom are comprehended all true prophets. The prophetical order is thus an ideal unity, which is to find its focus point in the historic Christ. For the Spirit of Christ was in all the true prophets. When finally Christ appeared upon earth, the promise was fulfilled in its highest and fullest sense. It is, therefore, a Messianic promise."
IV.B.2.b. Young, E. J. My Servants the Prophets. Chapter 9. "The Prophets as Recipients of Revelation." Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952, 70, 71, 75, 161-190.
"From this we learn that in certain cases, the word nabhi might have a wider connotation than that of declaring a message for God. At least in this passage it (and its denominative verb) may indicate those who are engaged in abnormal behaviour."
V.A.2. Vos, G. "The Idea of Biblical Theology as a Science and as a Theological
Discipline." In Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation. The
Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos. R. B. Gaffin, Jr., Editor. Phillipsburg:
Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980, 14.
"For, God having chosen to reveal the truth through human instruments, it follows that these instruments must be both numerous and of varied adaptation to the common end. Individual coloring, therefore, and a peculiar manner of representation are not only not detrimental to a full statement of the truth, but directly subservient to it. God's method of revelation includes the very shaping and chiselling of individualities for His own objective ends. To put it concretely: we must not conceive of it as if God found Paul "ready-made," as it were, and in using Paul as an organ of revelation, had to put up with the fact that the dialectic mind of Paul reflected the truth in a dialectic, dogmatic form to the detriment of the truth. The facts are these: the truth having inherently, besides other aspects, a dialectic and dogmatic side, and God intending to give this side full expression, chose Paul from the womb, molded his character, and gave him such a training that the truth revealed through him necessarily bore the dogmatic and dialectic impress of His mind. The divine objectivity and the human individuality here do not collide, nor exclude each other, because the man Paul, with his whole character, his gifts, and his training, is subsumed under the divine plan. The human is but the glass through which the divine light is reflected, and all the sides and angles into which the glass has been cut serve no other purpose than to distribute to us the truth in all the riches of its prismatic colors."
V.C.2.a.2) Eichrodt, W. Theology of the Old Testament. Vol. 1. Philadelphia: Westminster,
1961, 17, 51ff.
"The crucial point is not--as an all too naive criticism sometimes seems to think--the occurrence or absence of the Hebrew word b'rit, but the fact that all crucial statements of faith in the OT rest on the assumption, explicit or not, that a free act of God in history raised Israel to the unique dignity of the People of God, in whom his nature and purpose were to be made manifest. The actual term 'covenant' is, therefore, so to speak, only the code-word for a much more far-reaching certainty, which formed the very deepest layer of the foundations of Israel's faith, and without which indeed Israel would not have been Israel at all."
V.C.2.c. Vos, G. Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948 (reset, ninth printing
"To this kingdom-producing movement the rise and development of prophetism attach themselves. The prophets were guardians of the unfolding theocracy, and the guardianship was exercised at its centre, the kingdom. The purpose was to keep it a true representation of the kingdom of Jehovah. It sometimes almost appears as if the prophets were sent to the kings instead of to the people."
VI.B.1. Freeman, H. E. An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets. Chicago: Moody
Press, 1968, 104.
"False prophets were characterized by their low morality; hence, true and false prophets could be distinguished by a personal or intrinsic test. The false prophet was a mercenary who prophesied for hire (Micah 3:5, 11); he was a drunkard (Isa. 28:7); he was profane and wicked (Jer. 23:11); he conspired with others to deceive and defraud (Ezek. 22:25); he was light and treacherous (Zeph. 3:4); he committed adultery, walked in lies and supported the evildoers (Jer. 23:14); and he was generally immoral in life and conduct (Jer. 23:15).
"The false prophet was, moreover, a religious opportunist, prophesying only what the degenerate people wished to hear (Isa. 30:10-11; Micah 2:11); he proclaimed an optimistic message of peace and prosperity (Ezek. 13:1-16; Jer. 14:13; 23:17; Micah 3:5); he often practiced divination (Ezek. 22:28; Jer. 14:14), and prophesied lies out of his own heart (Ezek. 13:2; Jer. 23:16). Thus, in a real sense, the moral character of the prophet himself would attest to his authority. He who professed a divine commission from the holy God of Israel must reflect a conduct and character consistent with that claim (cf. Matt. 7:15-20)."
VI.B.5. Bavinck, H. Gereformeerde Dogmatiek. Vol. 1. Kampen: Kok, 1918, 403,
"Revelation, taken as a whole, first reached its end and purpose in the coming of Christ. But it falls in two great periods, in two distinguishable dispensations. The first period served to ingraft the full revelation of God into the history of humanity. The entire economy can be considered as a coming of God to his people, as a seeking of a tabernacle for Christ. It is thus predominantly a revelation of God in Christ. It bears an objective character. It is characterized by extraordinary acts, theophanies, prophecy and miracles are the ways by which God comes to his people. Christ is the content and the middle point of it. He is the Logos, that shines in the darkness, comes to his own and becomes flesh in Jesus. The Holy Spirit was not yet, because Christ was not yet glorified (John 7:39). In this period the inscripturating was in step with the revelation. Both grew from century to century. To the degree that the revelation progressed the Scripture increased in scope. When in Christ the full revelation of God is given, theophany, prophecy and wonder have reached their high point in Him and the grace of God in Christ has appeared to all men, then at the same time, there is also the completion of the Scripture. Christ in his person and work has fully revealed the Father to us, therefore that revelation is fully described for us in the Scripture. The economy of the Son gives way to the economy of the Spirit. The objective revelation goes over into the subjective application. In Christ an organic center is created by God in the midst of history, from out of this center the light of revelation shines in constantly wider circles.. . . The Holy Spirit takes all from Christ, He adds nothing new to the revelation. This is complete and therefore not capable of enlargement. Christ is the Word, full of grace and truth; his work is complete; the Father himself rests in his work. His work cannot be added to or enlarged by the good works of the saints, his word not by tradition, his person not by the pope. In Christ God has fully revealed himself and given himself fully, therefore the Scripture is also complete, it is the complete Word of God.
"But even though revelation is complete - her work does not cease."
"The Reformation confessed the perfection and sufficiency of the Scripture . . . over against the Roman doctrine of tradition . . . this characteristic of the Scripture must be well understood (520). With this it is not claimed that everything which was spoken or written by the prophets, Christ and the apostles has been included in the Scripture; there are many prophecies and apostolic writings which have been lost to us; Num 21:14; Jos 10:13; 1 Kgs 4:33; 1 Chron 29:29; . . . 1 Cor 5:9; Col 4:16; Phil 3:1, and Jesus and the apostles did many more signs and spoke many more words that are recorded (John 20:30; 1 Cor 11:2, 14 . . .) This characteristic also does not claim that the Scripture contains all the customs, ceremonies and regulations which the church needs for her organization, but only that it contains completely the articles of faith, that which is necessary for salvation. . . . The sufficiency of the Holy Scripture flows also forth out of the nature of the N.T. dispensation. Christ became flesh and completed his work. He is the last and highest revelation of God. He declared the Father to us, John 1:18; 17:4, 6. By him has God in the last days spoken to us, Heb. 1:1. He is the highest, the only prophet . . . When Jesus completed his work he sent the Holy Spirit who does not add something new to the revelation, but leads the people of God in the truth, John 16:12-15, till they come to the unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, Eph 3:18, 19; 4:13."
Vos, G. Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948 (reset ninth printing 1975), 5, 6.
" The historic progressiveness of the revelation-process. It has not completed itself in one exhaustive act, but unfolded itself in a long series of successive acts. In the abstract, it might conceivably have been otherwise. But as a matter of fact this could not be, because revelation does not stand alone by itself, but is (so far as Special Revelation is concerned) inseparably attached to another activity of God, which we call Redemption. Now redemption could not be otherwise than historically successive, because it addresses itself to the generations of mankind coming into existence in the course of history. Revelation is the interpretation of redemption; it must, therefore, unfold itself in instalments as redemption does. And yet it is also obvious that the two processes are not entirely co-extensive, for revelation comes to a close at a point where redemption still continues. In order to understand this, we must take into account an important distinction within the sphere of redemption itself. Redemption is partly objective and central, partly subjective and individual. By the former we designate those redeeming acts of God, which take place on behalf of, but outside of, the human person. By the latter we designate those acts of God which enter into the human subject. We call the objective acts central, because, happening in the centre of the circle of redemption, they concern all alike, and are not in need of, or capable of, repetition. Such objective-central acts are the incarnation, the atonement, the resurrection of Christ. The acts in the subjective sphere are called individual, because they are repeated in each individual separately. Such subjective-individual acts as regeneration, justification, conversion, sanctification, glorification. Now revelation accompanies the process of objective-central redemption only, and this explains why redemption extends further than revelation. To insist upon its accompanying subjective-individual redemption would imply that it dealt with questions of private, personal concern, instead of with the common concerns of the world of redemption collectively. Still this does not mean that the believer cannot, for his subjective experience, receive enlightenment from the source of revelation in the Bible, for we must remember that continually, alongside the objective process, there was going on the work of subjective application, and that much of this is reflected in the Scriptures. Subjective-individual redemption did not first begin when objective-central redemption ceased; it existed alongside of it from the beginning.
"There lies only one epoch in the future when we may expect objective-central redemption to be resumed, viz., at the Second Coming of Christ. At that time there will take place great redemptive acts concerning the world and the people of God collectively. These will add to the volume of truth which we now possess."
VII.A.1. Kohler, L. Old Testament Theology. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1957
(translated from third revised German edition, 1953), 72, 181, 182.
"This cult is however no new thing and not of Israel's creation; less still is it a revelation from Jahweh. It is an annexation of the traditional cult of the conquered land."
"Just because the cult is a bit of ethnic life the prophets are always setting question marks against it, doubting its propriety, rejecting it. "Did ye bring unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years?" Amos 5:25. This question expects "no" for an answer, which historically is wrong but which is correct to this extent--that it was not God but men who instituted the cult. We say the cult, for in the Old Testament the cult is almost identical with the sacrifices; there is little more to it than that, above all there is hardly any proclamation of the word. "I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices", Jer. 7:22. The statement is unambiguous and unconditional. The sacrificial system does not owe its origin to God. His will is operative only in the regulation of it. "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? I am full of the burnt offerings of rams. When ye come to see my face, who hath required this at your hand?" Isa. 1:11-12. Many more passages of this sort might be quoted, and they are important."
VII.A.3. Allis, O. T. The Five Books of Moses. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and
Reformed Publishing Company, 1949, 170-173.
"The reason for the startling words we have just considered is given in words almost equally surprising: "For I spake not unto your fathers nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning [AV, ARV] burnt-offerings or sacrifices." These words seem at first glance to bear out fully the claim of the critics that Jeremiah knew nothing about a sacrificial system introduced by Moses at the time of the Exodus. But such a conclusion rests upon the failure of the English translation to do justice to the ambiguity of the Hebrew words rendered "concerning"; and particularly to the fact that, as is made clear by a study of the usage, they may also be rendered by "because of" or "for the sake of." ...
"It is obvious that if in Jer. vii.22 we employ the stronger rendering "because of" or "for the sake of," this verse not merely ceases to support the inference which the critics base upon it, but it becomes exceedingly appropriate in the context. The Lord does not say to Israel that He gave no commands to their fathers concerning sacrifice. At first the people listening to Jeremiah might think that was his meaning. But a moment's reflection would convince them that such could not be the true purport of his words. What Jehovah meant was that He did not speak to their fathers for the sake of sacrifices, as if He needed them and would suffer hunger unless He were fed by these grudging offerings of sinful men who had no conception of the real relation in which they stood to Him. The language appears to be intentionally ambiguous, even startlingly so. But the words, "Put your burnt-offerings unto your sacrifices and eat ye flesh" are intended to give the clue to their meaning. Then after pointing out in this striking way that God has no need of the sacrifices of His creatures, the prophet goes on to declare that obedience was the real aim and requirement of the Sinaitic legislation."
McComisky, T. "Amos," The Expositor's Bible Commentary. Vol. 7. F. E. Gaebelein, Editor. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985, 316.
"Verses 25-26 are difficult. Many commentators hold that because the question of v.25 expects a negative answer, Amos was affirming that sacrifice was unknown during the wilderness period, or that it was not regarded as necessary for a proper relationship with Yahweh, obedience being the sole requirement. But this interpretation does not do justice to the continuity of vv.25-26 called for by the Hebrew particle waw (untr. in NIV) that begins v.26; nor does it adequately explain why a statement denying the efficacy of sacrifice was placed in the judgment section of the oracle.
"The question (v. 25) calls for a negative answer: no, the Israelites did not sacrifice then. Evidently the forty-year period was a time when obedience to the Levitical institutions had declined (Josh 5:5-6). This period began with the defection of the Israelites at Kadesh (Num 14:33-34; cf. Josh 5:6). The defection to idolatry in this wilderness period is
emphasized in the prophetic tradition (Ezek 20:10-26; Hos 9:10; 13:5-6).
"Verse 26 begins with a waw that is best understood as adversative: "But you have lifted," Israel disobeyed God and by her neglect of sacrifice turned to idolatry.
"The words "shrine" (sikkut) and "pedestal" (kiyun) need not be altered to read "Sakkut" and "Kaiwan," names of the god Saturn, though that view is attractive. It is not certain that Amos knew of this deity, and the MT makes sense as it stands. The verse refers to the implements of idolatrous worship of an unknown astral deity. Seen in this way, v.26 fits the formal structure well, for Amos, like Ezekiel and Hosea, traced the disobedience of God's people far back into their history. Verse 24 calls for obedience, the judgment section in vv.25-27 affirms their disobedience and bases the predicted judgment (v.27) on their long history of unfaithfulness to God."
VII.B.1. Johnson, A. R. The Cultic Prophet in Ancient Israel. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1962.
"As a result the intercessory aspect of the prophet's role has been more or less overlooked. Yet it is undoubtedly true that the ayb!n* or 'prophet', as a professional figure, was as much the representative of the people as the spokesman of Yahweh; it was part of his function to offer prayer as well as to give the divine response or oracle. This being the case, the question again arises as to what exactly was the status of these consultative specialists. Had they, like the early prophets, a standing within the cultus akin to that of the priests? In particular, should we think of the Jerusalem prophets as being members of the Temple personnel?" (60)
"Thus, to sum up, there is considerable evidence both in the more definitely historical records of the Old Testament and in the messages of the canonical prophets themselves to show that during the monarchy (and, in a measure, for some two centuries later) the ayb!n* , qua professional 'prophet', was an important figure in the personnel of the cultus--particularly that of the Jerusalem Temple. As such, his function was to promote the <wlv* or 'welfare' of the people, whether that of the individual or that of society at large. To this end his role was a dual one. He was not only the spokesman of Yahweh; he was also the representative of the people. He was not only a giver of oracles; he was also expert in the technique of addressing Yahweh, i.e. in the offering of prayer." (74)
VIII.B.1. Driver, S. R. An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament. New York: Meridian Books, 1957 (reprint, originally published, 1897), 238, 239, 242, 243.
"The theological ideas of c. 40-66 (in so far as they are  not of that fundamental kind common to the prophets generally) differ remarkably from those which appear, from c. 1-39, to be distinctive of Isaiah. Thus, on the nature of God generally, the ideas expressed are much larger and fuller. Isaiah, for instance, depicts the majesty of Jehovah: in c. 40-66 the prophet emphasizes His infinitude; He is the Creator, the Sustainer of the universe, the Life-Giver, the Author of history (41[:]4), the First and the Last, the Incomparable One. This is a real difference...But in truth, c. 40-66 show an advance upon Isaiah, not only in the substance of their theology, but also in the form in which it is presented; truths which were merely affirmed in Isaiah being here made the subject of reflexion and argument...The Divine purpose in relation to the nations, especially in connexion with the prophetic mission of  Israel, is more comprehensively developed. The prophet, in a word, in whatever elements of his teaching are distinctive, moves in a different region of thought from Isaiah; he apprehends and emphasizes different aspects of Divine truth."
Freeman, H. E. An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets. Chicago: Moody Press, 1969, 196-203.
"Not every prophecy needs to be traced to a definite contemporary historical situation, nor directly applicable to the generation to whom it is spoken. It cannot be maintained, as Driver contends, that "the prophet speaks always, in the first instance to his own contemporaries: the message which he brings is intimately related with the circumstances ofhis time: his promises and predictions...correspond to the needs which are then felt." Obvious contradictions to this concept of prophecy are Zechariah 9-14; Daniel 11-12 (see especially 12:4,8-9); Isaiah 24-27, in addition to those already mentioned. This is not to overlook, of course, a general relationship of prophecy to the historical situation which called forth the prophetic utterance."
Margalioth, R. The Indivisible Isaiah. Evidence for the Single Authorship of the Prophetic Book. New York: Yeshiva University, 1964, 1, 5, 6, 42.
A. "The assumption that the book of Isaiah is not the work of one author, but that chapters XL to LXVI belong to an anonymous prophet who lived during the Return to Zion, is regarded as one of the most important achievements of biblical criticism. This judgment has gone beyond scholarly circles and has been generally accepted by all classes, and become part of biblical schooling. One rarely encounters an enlightened person who does not accept it as unquestionable truth.
"The division of the book of Isaiah was first expressed by the critical school of Doederlein (1775). His system was developed and expanded by the Christian critics Justi Eichorn, Paulus, Berthold, Rosenmuller, Gesenius, Ewald, Hitzig, Knobel, Blick, Dillman, Duhm, Marti, and others. Many Jewish scholars followed in their wake. Among these mention may be made of Ben Zeev, Krochmal, Weiss, Kraus, and Bernfeld.
"According to Kraus, in his scientific commentary to Isaiah, "It is an accepted fact among modern commentators that chapters XL to the end are not by Isaiah." He continues: "According to our present state of knowledge it would be a fruitless effort on the part of anyone to try to prove the authenticity of these chapters, since it is shown by internal evidence that they cannot be ascribed to the true Isaiah." (p.1).
B. "Kraus enumerates eighteen words and expressions "peculiar" to Isaiah "the second." Several of them, as he admits, are to be found also in Isaiah "the first," but in chapters that Kraus ascribes to Isaiah "the second." "But even if such expressions were to be found in far greater number, what proof can be deduced therefrom? Do special words or expressions in one or another chapter prove anything? Does that fact give ground for separating this chapter or any other from the body of the book? In the prophets it is not unusual for one word or more to appear several times in certain chapters although they are not found even once in any of the preceding chapters. Take the expression 'h tm^q=n] (the vengeance of the Lord), which appears several times in Jeremiah L and LI, but is not to be found again in the whole of the book. Is that sufficient reason for separating these two chapters from the book? Or again, the expression br\j# yl@l=j^ (slain by the sword) is found no fewer than ten times in Ezekiel XXXI and XXXII, but does not appear even once in the preceding chapters. Does Ezekiel XXXI start a second Ezekiel? In every prophetic book it is possible to point to numerous words, phrases, expressions, appearing several times in only one chapter or in a group of chapters and not elsewhere in the book. We are left to conclude then, that such words or phrases are favored in terms of the context, the specific message of the prophecy given in the particular chapters."
"As regards the arguments that the two sections of the book Isaiah differ in language and style, which according to Ben Zeev is a thing that can not be proven by example, we shall demonstrate in this book, by hundreds of examples, that the opposite is true. Not only are the two sections similar both in language and style, but they are remarkable for their unity, in that the similarities between them cannot be ascribed to any influence whatever." (p.5,6).
"The system here employed to demonstrate the unity of both parts is briefly as follows:
"After classifying the entire book of Isaiah by subject, we have shown that in regard to each subject both parts employ innumerable like expressions which are peculiar only to this book. It has also been proved that the specific expressions reveal the same vigor in both parts as well as the same usage. Even common expressions are distinguished by a particular use identical in both. The second section inverts the words of the first. Passages and word groups of the first are composed of elements found only in the second, and vice versa." (p. 42).
Oswalt, J. N. The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1-39. NICOT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1986, 18, 19.
"The nearest thing to objective proof of a lack of unity in the composition appears in Y. Radday's impressive investigation, The Unity of Isaiah in the Light of Statistical Linguistics. Radday did a computerized study of numerous linguistic features of the book of Isaiah and compared these in the various sections of the book. As a control he studied other pieces of literature, both biblical and extrabiblical, which were reputed to have come from one author. As a result of these researches he concluded that the linguistic variations were so severe that one author could not have produced the whole book of Isaiah.
"As might be expected, these conclusions were greeted with approbation by critical scholars who saw their position as being vindicated. But in fact Radday's conclusions call into question some scholarly views...
"A number of questions may be raised concerning Radday's methodology. The very infancy of the field of statistical linguistics raises some questions. Do we yet know enough to speak with confidence about the possible limits of variation in a given person's usage?5...None of this is to question the integrity with which Radday's study was undertaken and performed, but it is to point out that the evidence is still not as objective as a manuscript in which only chs. 1-39 (or some such) would appear.6"
"5. Note that another sort of computerized study of the book's characteristics led to the conclusion that it is a unitary composition: L. L. Adams and A. C. Rincher, "The Popular Critical View of the Isaiah Problem in the Light of Statistical Style Analysis," Computer Studies 4 (1973) 149-157; while yet another, A. Kasher, "The Book of Isaiah: Characterization of Authors by Morphological Data Processing," Revue de l'Organizations Internationales pour l"etude des Langues anci par Ordinateur 3 (1972) 1-62, concluded that the composition is not a unity, but his results pointed to different divisions of the book than did Radday's. For a review of the difficulties inherent in the statistical approach, cf. R. Posner, "The Use and Abuse of Stylistic Statistics," Archivum Linguisticum 15 (1963) 111-139.
"6. It is ironic that those who lauded the reliability of Radday's methodology as it applied to Isaiah were much less convinced of its reliability when he recently reported that the same methodology established the unity of the book of Genesis. Cf. Y. Radday, et al., "Genesis, Wellhausen and the Computer," ZAW 94 (1982) 467-481."
Whybray, R. N. The Second Isaiah. Old Testament Guides. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1983.
a. "This volume, like my commentary on Isaiah 40-66 in the New Century Bible series (1975) and my two monographs The Heavenly Counsellor in Isaiah xl 13-14 (1971) and Thanksgiving for a Liberated Prophet (1978), is the outcome of constant preoccupation with the second half of the Book of Isaiah since I first prepared lectures on it in 1965. I believe that the view which has for many years been almost universally held, that chapters 40-55 are substantially the work of a single anonymous 'prophet of the Exile', remains valid and is likely to remain the view of the majority of scholars." (p. vii).
b. "It is clearly addressed to a group of people who have been exiled from their homeland by a conquering power, which also is referred to by name: Babylon. In four passages (43:14; 47; 48:14, 20) Babylon is spoken of by name in these terms, and this historical situation is confirmed in numerous other passages.
"Chapters 40-55,then, would have made no sense in the eighth century, when the people of Jerusalem and Judah were still living at home under the rule of their own kings; when Babylon, far from being a great power, was--and remained until the fall of Assyria in the late seventh century B.C., long after the death of Isaiah--merely one of the cities of the Assyrian Empire; and when Cyrus had not yet been born and the Persian Empire did not yet exist. On the other hand, everything in these chapters makes good sense as the message of a sixth-century prophet to the Jewish exiles in Babylon." (p. 4).
VIII.B.2. Baldwin, J. G. Daniel. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. InterVarsity,
"In the case of the Aramaic, close study was given to the subject by several scholars earlier this century, the most thorough being that of H. H. Rowley. Further work constantly needs to be done, however, in the light of further Aramaic texts which are continually being published, and the increased understanding which they make possible; hence the long article by K.A. Kitchen, "The Aramaic of Daniel." He looks at (a) vocabulary, (b) orthography and phonetics, (c) general morphology and syntax. It may be helpful to summarize the conclusions which Kitchen reaches as a result of his closely-reasoned and well-documented work.
"In the first place the Aramaic of Daniel and of Ezra is shown to be Imperial Aramaic, 'in itself, practically undatable with any conviction within c. 600 to 330 BC'. It is therefore irrelevant to make distinctions between 'Eastern' and 'Western' Aramaic, which developed later. The only indication of a place of origin arises out of the word order, which betrays Akkadian influence, and proves 'that the Aramaic of Daniel (and Ezra) belongs to the early tradition of Imperial Aramaic (seventh-sixth to fourth centuries BC) as opposed to later and local, Palestinian derivatives of Imperial Aramaic.' ...
"Much has been made of the occurrence of Greek words, and to the non-specialist the inference might seem conclusive that they point to a period after the conquests of Alexander the Great until it is made clear that there are only three such words, and that they are all the names of musical instruments. Greek wares were being traded all over the Ancient Near East from the eighth century onwards; Greeks were apparently employed in Babylon in the time of Nebuchadrezzar, and there is nothing surprising about there being instruments of Greek origin and bearing Greek names in the Babylon of the sixth century BC. What is significant is that there are so few Greek loan words in the Aramaic of Daniel. According to M. Hengel, "From the time of the Ptolemies Jerusalem was a city in which Greek was spoken to an increasing degree." "It can be demonstrated from the Zeno paypri that the Greek language was known in aristocratic and military circles of Judaism between 260 and 250 BC in Palestine. It was already widespread at the accession of Antiochus IV in 175 BC and would hardly have been suppressed even by the victorious freedom fight of the Maccabees." "From the third century we find almost exclusively Greek inscriptions in Palestine." On this evidence the fact that no more than three Greek words occur in the Aramaic of Daniel (and those are technical terms) argues against a second-century date for the writing of the book."One would--on the Greek and Persian evidence...--prefer to put the Aramaic of Daniel in the late sixth, the fifth, or the fourth centuries BC, not the third or second. The latter is not ruled out, but is much less realistic and not so favoured by the facts as once imagined. ...
"In the continuing debate, though H. H. Rowley contested Kitchen's findings, they were supported, and Rowley's arguments refuted, by the leading Israeli Aramaist E. Y. Kutscher in his major survey of the state of research on early Aramaic, and have been favourably received by other linguists. It is becoming an accepted fact that the date of Daniel cannot be decided on linguistic grounds, and that the increasing evidence does not favour a second-century, western origin."
Davies, P. R. Daniel. Old Testament Guides. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1985, p. 31.
"Critical commentaries, especially around the turn of the century, made much of the fact that Belshazzar was neither a son of Nebuchadnezzar nor king of Babylon. This is still sometimes repeated as a charge against the historicity of Daniel, and resisted by conservative scholars. But it has been clear since 1924 (Montgomery, pp. 66-67) that although Nabonidus was the last king of the neo-Babylonian dynasty, Belshazzar was effectively ruling Babylon. In this respect, then, Daniel is correct. The literal meaning of 'son' should not be pressed; even if it might betray a misunderstanding on the part of Daniel, a strong case against Daniel's historical reliability is not enhanced by the inclusion of weak arguments such as this."
VIII.C.3. Nielsen, E. Oral Tradition. SBT 11. London: SCM Press, 1954.
A) "The modern contempt for learning by heart--learning things by heart is a necessary basis for oral tradition--is not exactly characteristic of the ancient Semites. The ancient Mesopotamian culture seems to have been enthusiastic about writing; but we have some texts that stress the importance attached to learning by heart. From the often quoted conclusion of the Irra-myth we cite:
"The scribe who learns this text by heart escapes the enemy, is honoured [in his own land]
In the congregation of the learned where my name is constantly spoken I will open his ears.
"In Ashurbanipal's prayer to Shamash, notable because it concludes with a curse and a benediction, somewhat similar to ancient oriental royal inscriptions, we read in the benediction:
"Whosoever shall learn this text [by heart] [and] glorify the judge of the Gods, Shamash
may he make his...precarious, may the word of his mouth please the people" (pp. 19-20).
B) "Turning to West-Semitic culture we remark that it is quite apparent that the written word is not valued highly. It is not considered an independent mode of expression. Even if the Quran has given rise to a 'theology of Scripture' which may well be comparable with that of Judaism and Protestantism, the written copies of the Quran play an astonishingly unobtrusive role in Islam. The Quran has constantly--as in the first days of its existence--been handed down orally; everyone who wants to be admitted to the mosque of Al-Azhar (in Cairo) must be able the recite the whole Quran without hesitation, and their holy writ is learned by heart by one of the initiated reciting it and the younger disciples repeating it until they know it by heart" (p. 21).
C) "The story tells of Johanan ben Zakkai in the camp of Vespasian. After he had been received in audience by Vespasian for the first time, 'they seized him and locked him up with seven locks, and asked him what time it was at night, and he told them, (and) what time it was during the day, and he told them. And how did our master Johanan ben Zakkai know? From the recitation of the Mishnah. In other words Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai not only knew his Mishnah by heart, but he knew just how long it took to recite each paragraph, and how much time he needed to get through it all (pp. 21,22).
D) "As an explicit reaction against the spread of the art of writing we may cite the following words of Plato (from the Phaedrus). They are remarkable as a reaction which does not originate with the common people, the ignorant crude masses--illiterate people are not characterized by contempt, but by respect for the written word. These words represent rather an attitude Plato had in common with the intellectual aristocracy of his day.
"Socrates: I heard, then, that at Naucratis, in Egypt, was one of the ancient gods of that country, the one whose sacred bird is called the ibis, and the name of the god himself was Theuth. He it was who invented numbers and arithmetic and geometry and astronomy, also draughts and dice, and, most important of all, letters. Now the king of all Egypt at that time was the god Thamus, who lived in the great city of the upper region, which the Greeks call the Egyptian Thebes, and they call the god himself Ammon. To him came Theuth to show his inventions, saying that they ought to be imparted to the other Egyptians. But Thamus asked what use there was in each, and as Theuth enumerated their uses, expressed praise or blame, according as he approved or disapproved. The story goes that Thamus said many things to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts, which it would take too long to repeat; but when they came to the letters, 'This invention, O king,' said Theuth, 'will make the Egyptians wiser and will improve their memories; for it is an elixir of memory and wisdom that I have discovered'. But Thamus replied, 'Most ingenious Theuth, one man has the ability to beget arts, but the ability to judge of their usefulness or harmfulness to their users belongs to another; and now you, who are the father of letters, have been led by your affection to ascribe to them a power the opposite of that which they really possess. For this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it because they will not practise their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise."
E) "...when he relates that thousands of Brahmins still learn the Rigveda by heart (153,826 words!), or when he tells of a blind Veda student who in the course of twelve to thirteen years of study had brought matters to such a pass that he could be examined by means of Max Muller's printed text edition, and was always found accurate. Although the Hindus have made use of writing since the fifth or fourth century B.C., they have retained oral tradition. Why? Cult and religion are always rather immune to technological improvements, are always wedded to tradition. The Vedas were a divine message, handed down orally from one generation to the other, without the aid of writing; therefore the oral tradition is continued into the age of writing" (pp. 30,31).
IX.A.1. Dyrness, W. "The Age of Aquarius," In Dreams, Visions and Oracles. C. E.
Armerding and W. W. Gasque, editors. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,
1977, pp. 15-26.
"It is no coincidence that the publication of Hal Lindsey's first book on prophecy coincided with the greatest revival of astrology in three hundred years. (It is interesting to note how often his book appears in bookstores alongside astrology manuals.) Man can escape as easily into prophecy as astrology. In either case, he is a pawn and thus relieved of moral responsibility. That this was no part of Lindsey's purpose is clear from the final pages of his book. Certainly God has used his treatment to lead many to a commitment to Christ, and for this God is to be praised. But we must be careful that our longing for Christ's return is not motivated by a desire to escape responsibility."
Ross, J. R. "Living Between Two Ages." In Dreams, Vision and Oracles. C. E. Armerding and W. W. Gasque, editors. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,
"If the prophecies are indeed motivated by a basic ethical concern, as I am convinced a detailed study will demonstrate, then it is our response that is the most crucial issue. If we should become experts in prophetic interpretation, if we have all knowledge of things future, yes, even if we know the day and the hour of Jesus' coming, but if our lives are not transformed by the expectation of what God will do, then we have turned prophetic study into a parlor game and our knowledge becomes a curse instead of a blessing."
Wilson, D. Armageddon Now. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977, 216.
"The premillenarians' history, however, is strewn with a mass of erroneous speculations which have undermined their credibility. Sometimes false identifications have been made dogmatically, at other times only as probabilities or possibilities, but the net result has always been the same--an increased skepticism toward premillennialism.
"Those persons confronted with premillenarians' presentations need to be conscious of the composite past of prophetic interpretation which has included the following phenomena. The current crisis was always identified as a sign of the end, whether it was the Russo-Japanese War, the First World War, the Second World War, the Palestine War, the Suez Crisis, the June War, or the Yom Kippur War. The revival of the Roman Empire has been identified variously as Mussolini's empire, the League of Nations, the United Nations, the European Defense Community, the Common Market, and NATO. Speculation on the Antichrist has included Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler, and Henry Kissinger. The northern confederation was supposedly formed by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the Rapallo Treaty, the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and then the Soviet Bloc. The "kings of the east" have been variously the Turks, the lost tribes of Israel, Japan, India, and China. The supposed restoration of Israel has confused the problem of whether the Jews are to be restored before or after the coming of the Messiah. The restoration of the latter rain has been pinpointed to have begun in 1897 1917, and 1948. The end of the "times of the Gentiles" has been placed in 1895, 1917, 1948, and 1967. "Gog" has been an impending threat since the Crimean War, both under the Czars and the Communists."
IX.A.2. Mickelsen, A. B. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963, 289-292.
"But prophecy is not history written after the event. Ordinary historical writing in the Bible lacks the enigmatic character of prophecy. It is characterized by a treatment of details and their subordination to basic events in some type of chronological pattern. This is in contrast to the prophetic narratives which deal with future realities. These realities are set forth as important particulars but subordinate details are not presented in developed time sequences or consistent trains of thought. Any man who could write history in the form of Hebrew prophecy would have to forget half of what he knew in order to give the appearance of being a prophet. But the artificiality of such a tactic would surely show through."
IX.A.4. Berkhof, L. Principles of Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1958, 150.
"The element of time is a rather negligible quantity in the prophets. While designations of time are not altogether wanting, their number is exceptionally small. The prophets compressed great events into a brief space of time, brought momentous movements close together in a temporal sense, and took them in at a single glance. This is called "the prophetic perspective," or, as Delitzsch calls it, "the foreshortening of the prophet's horizon." They looked upon the future as the traveler does upon a mountain range in the distance. He fancies that one mountain-top rises up right behind the other, when in reality they are miles apart. Cf. the prophecies respecting the Day of the Lord, and the twofold coming of Christ."
IX.A.5. Davidson, A. B. Old Testament Prophecy. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1904, 167-169.
"In these ancient prophets, the Church even of the Glorification still cleaves to Zion hill as its earthly centre. And I must repeat that it cannot be shown that the prophets ever used the words Zion, Jerusalem, and the like, as mere symbols of the Church of God. In the prophetic Scriptures, these words have always their natural, local, material force,--the place of the Church of God. Nor can it be shown that the name of any country, such as Edom or Egypt, had ever lost its natural sense, and become a symbol for the world or the world-power, or for the enemies of the Church. These nations, such as Egypt, Babylon, and the like, were the world, the world-power; and, of course, the words connote this idea along with the literal one. But in the Old Testament prophets the words had never come to connote this idea merely. Such terms in the prophets are always to be taken in their literal, natural sense. This I consider the first principle in prophetic interpretation--to read the prophet literally--to assume that the literal meaning is his meaning--that he is moving among realities, not symbols, among concrete things like peoples, not among abstractions like our Church, world, etc. If we make this assumption, then we know what we have before us. We have a known relation of things, and we can comprehend what is said concerning it. We see the prophet's hopes and fears, his certainties, and, what fills up a much larger part of his page, his anticipations, his presentiments, his feelings and gropings after truth and the future of God's kingdom.
"We have, in a word, a living, thinking man, taught of God, amidst his circumstances, the leader of God's people in these circumstances, and speaking to them the truth in terms of their circumstances; a man not illuminated further than was needful to make him useful for the work of his day,--a work for which, perhaps, perfect illumination would have unfitted him,--and therefore not a man made to use mechanically a symbolic speech which, if true for us, would have been a sheer mystery and unintelligibility to himself. The first thing in interpreting prophecy is to hold that the prophet had a meaning, that he uses language like any other writer, and that what he literally says he literally means. Thus, and thus alone, can we reach his meaning.
"It is another question altogether whether his literal meaning shall be literally fulfilled. A thousand things may intervene to modify the expression of the idea in its fulfilment. For the prophet spoke of the kingdom of God as it was in his day, though he may have said something of it that is going to come about only in our day. He represented this as coming about in the conditions of his own time, while these conditions have quite disappeared, and the thing has yet to come about; and when it comes about, it will be in the conditions of our day or of a future day,--conditions very different indeed from his, and therefore it will come about in a way very different from his conception of it. Accordingly, when a discrepancy arises between the terms and form of a prophecy given in Old Testament times and the form in which we naturally look to see it realised in our times, it is, of course an error to insist on the literal terms, and say, "These literal terms are the prophecy; and being a prophecy, it must be literally verified. We cannot see how nations that no longer exist can take part in actual transactions; but they are named in the prophecy, and it is ours to believe: the day will declare." Of the persons who so speak, one must say that they sacrifice their reason to their faith; and they probably injure the truth more by their irrationality than they advance it by the spectacle of their faith.
"On the other hand, it is equally an error to say, "This prophecy can be realised now, in the times to which it refers, only in this general way. All these particulars of the Old Testament form are only symbols; they must be stripped off, and then the bare truth they covered must be apprehended alone, and applied." This is equally false, because it gives no account of the form, and how thinking religious men so conceived the truth, and so expressed it. Of course, this method leads to less absurdity than the other in the matter of fulfilment; but it is the fruit of a purely mechanical conception of the origin of the prophetic Scriptures. The true way to regard prophecy is to accept it literally as the meaning of the prophet,--the only meaning which in his time he could have,--but to say, as to fulfillment, that the form of the kingdom of God is now altered, and altered finally, never to return to its old form; and so fulfilment will not take place in the form of the prediction, but in an altered form; but still the truth of the prophecy will, no doubt, be realised. If it be objected to this way of conceiving the prophecies, that it makes the prophets state what is false, and appear as erring, ignorant men, the answer is, that it merely makes them share in the imperfections of the dispensation to which they belonged."
Young, E. J. The Book of Isaiah. Vol. 1. NICOT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972(2), 396-500.
"12 ... The Messiah will be a drawing point for the heathen, and through the work of Christian preaching and Christian missionaries He will draw them unto Himself. How important, particularly in this day and age, therefore, that the church send forth to the four corners of the earth missionaries who are aflame with the truth that apart from the true Messiah, Jesus, there is no salvation!"
"13 ... In Christ all national, sectional and regional distinctions will be abolished, and through the figure employed in this verse we learn that in Christ there is a true unity and place for all men of whatever race or color. In Christ alone can they be one."
"14 ... Here is the true unity of the faith in opposition to the hostility of the world. This true unity does not hide itself in cringing self-defense, expecting attack. It takes the offensive; the enemies of the Messiah must be destroyed, and in the strength of the unity that the Messiah gives, the people fly upon the Philistines, representatives of the enemies of God and His church.
"What Isaiah is here describing cannot, of course, be understood in a literal sense. Rather, here is a beautiful picture of the unity that is the possession of the saints of God, obtained for them not through their own works, but through the blood of Christ, and of the vigorous, active participation in the work of conquering the enemy world, a conquering which is brought about through the sending of missionaries and the constant, active, vigorous, faithful proclamation of the whole counsel of God to every creature. ...
"The glorious hope here held for God's people does not consist in a despoliation of nomad Arabs of the desert. It rather consists in the blessed task of making the saving power of God known even to those who, like the apostle Paul, had once been persecutors of the church ...
"The picture is of a complete reversal of conditions, not to take place in Palestine, but in the greater field of the world, a reversal which would consist in the people of God reaching out to bring all men and make them captive to Christ."
IX.A.7. Mickelsen, A. B. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963, 263.
A. "But often typology becomes an excuse for sensationalism in interpretation. Such sensationalism must be firmly repudiated by every honest interpreter. But if an interpreter, fully aware of the unity of the people of God, can show historical correlations while being aware of the differences between the type and the antitype, he certainly may observe such historical parallels. In such an activity the interpreter must discipline himself severely."
B. "No one should launch out on a career of finding more types until he has carefully studied all of the New Testament examples of typology first. A thorough understanding of these will take time and effort. But the understanding gained in such an undertaking is well worth that effort. In the New Testament, typology was used to make prominent the message of God's grace in Christ--not to exalt the teacher. Interpreters who are faithful to the New Testament can only do the same thing. Any typology which is farfetched or artificial will only hinder the proclamation of the gospel. Hence care in the employment of typology will always be essential."
Stek, J. ÒBiblical Typology Yesterday and Today,Ó CTJ 5/2 (1970)139.
ÒIn other words, a type is a historical reality which served a significant historical purpose within its own historical horizon (not merely a symbolic one), but it was also fashioned by Providence in such a way as to contribute to the larger purpose of God, namely, to reveal Ôin successive stages and operations the very truths and principles which were to find in the realities of the Gospel their more complete manifestationÕ[Fairbairn, 67]Ó (139),
ÒAs the architectÕs models and sketches are controlled by his clear vision of the building which will some day serve his clients purpose, so the Lord of redemption history ordained certain matters in the earlier dispensation which had their archetypes in the laterÓ (137).
Vos, G. Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975 (reset for 9th printing),
"SYMBOL AND TYPE
"In determining the function of the ceremonial law we must take into consideration its two large aspects, the symbolical and typical, and the relation between these two. The same things were, looked at from one point of view, symbols, and from another point of view, types. A symbol is in its religious significance something that profoundly portrays a certain fact or principle or relationship of a spiritual nature in a visible form. The things it pictures are of present existence and present application. They are in force at the time in which the symbol operates.
"With the same thing, regarded as a type, it is different. A typical thing is prospective; it relates to what will become real or applicable in the future. ...
"...the things symbolized and the things typified are not different sets of things. They are in reality the same things, only different in this respect that they come first on a lower stage of development in redemption, and then again, in a later period, on a higher stage. Thus what is symbolical with regard to the already existing edition of the fact or truth becomes typical, prophetic, of the later, final edition of that same fact or truth. From this it will be perceived that a type can never be a type independently of its being first a symbol. The gateway to the house of typology is at the farther end of the house of symbolism.
"This is the fundamental rule to be observed in ascertaining what elements in the Old Testament are typical, and wherein the things corresponding to them as antitypes consist. Only after having discovered what a thing symbolizes, can we legitimately proceed to put the question what it typifies, for the latter can never be aught else than the former lifted to a higher plane. The bond that holds type and antitype together must be a bond of vital continuity in the progress of redemption. Where this is ignored, and in the place of this bond are put accidental resemblances, void of inherent spiritual significance, all sorts of absurdities will result, such as must bring the whole subject of typology into disrepute. ...
"The mere fact that no writer in the New Testament refers to a certain trait as typical, affords no proof of its lacking typical significance. Types in this respect stand on a line with prophecies. The New Testament in numerous cases calls our attention to the fulfilment of certain prophecies, sometimes of such a nature that perhaps we might not have discerned them to be prophecies. And yet we are not restrained by this from searching the field of prophecy and looking in the New Testament for other cases of fulfilment. The instances of typology vouched for by the New Testament writers have nothing peculiar to themselves. To recognize only them would lead to serious incompleteness and incoherency in the result. A system of types is something rational, the shaping of which we may expect from a God of wisdom, but the insertion here and there of a few isolated allusions would be out of harmony with the evidence of design in revelation."
IX.B.4. Alford, H. The Greek New Testament. Vol. 1. Chicago: Moody Press, 1958
(reprint; original, 1854-1860), 118.
"Neither this--nor the testimony of our Lord, ch. xvii. 12--is inconsistent with John's own denial that he was Elias, John i.21. For (1) the question there was evidently asked as assuming a re-appearance of the actual Elias upon earth: and (2) our Lord cannot be understood in either of these passages as meaning that the prophecy of Mal. iv. 5 received its full completion in John. For as in other prophecies, so in this, we have a partial fulfilment both of the coming of the Lord and of His forerunner, while the great and complete fulfilment is yet future--at the great day of the Lord. Mal. iv. 1."
Bright, J. The Authority of the Old Testament. Nashville: Abingdon, 1967, 80-95.
"It was generally believed that Scripture had various levels of meaning. Origen popularized a threefold sense corresponding to the supposed trichotomy of man's nature: body, soul, and spirit. There was a literal or corporeal sense (i.e., what the words in their plain meaning say), a moral or tropological sense (i.e., a sense figurative of the Christian soul, which thus gives edification and guidance for conduct), and a spiritual or mystical sense. Later, still a fourth sense was added: the anagogical or eschatological sense. Thus, to give a classical example, the word "Jerusalem" was understood in the Middle Ages as having four senses: literally it referred to the city of that name in Judah, tropologically to the faithful Christian soul, allegorically (mystically) to the church of Christ, and anagogically to the heavenly city of God which is our eternal home. It was possible, albeit not necessary, to understand the word in all four of these senses in a single text. But the tendency was to care far less for the literal meaning than for the spiritual ones, for the true meaning of the text is spiritual. Indeed, some Scripture--so it was held--cannot be interpreted literally, for it tells of things that are immoral and thus unworthy of God (adultery, incest, murder, etc.); and much Scripture is too primitive or too trivial, if taken literally, to be a fit vehicle of divine revelation (lengthy genealogies, rules for animal sacrifice, the dimensions of the tabernacle, etc.). Such passages yield their true meaning only if interpreted spiritually.
"The result was a wholesale and uncontrolled allegorizing of Scripture, specifically the Old Testament."
"...But the spate of fanciful interpretations continued to flow unchecked from pulpit and lecturer's desk alike. The meanings that could be got from Scripture were limited, one might justifiably feel, only by the interpreter's ingenuity."
"...Whatever their inconsistencies may have been (and they were on occasion inconsistent), both the great Reformers rejected allegory in principle--repeatedly and in the strongest language. In the preceding chapter both Luther and Calvin were quoted in their insistence that it is the duty of the interpreter to arrive at the plain sense of the text intended by its author. Similar quotations, in which they expressed their contempt of allegory, could be adduced almost at will. Luther, whose vocabulary was by no means impoverished, is especially vivid. He declares that Origen's allegories "are not worth so much dirt"; he calls allegory variously "the scum on Scripture," a "harlot" to seduce us, "a monkey-game," something that turns Scripture into "a nose of wax" (i.e., that can be twisted into any shape desired), the means by which the Devil gets us on his pitchfork. He declares (in expounding Psalm 22) that Scripture is the garment of Christ and that allegory rends it into "rags and tatters." "How," he cries, "will you teach faith with certainty when you make the sense of Scripture uncertain?" Calvin is equally stern. More than once (as at Gal. 4:21-26, quoted in the preceding chapter) he calls allegorical interpretations an invention of the Devil to undermine the authority of Scripture. Elsewhere he describes them as "puerile," "farfetched," and declares that one would do better to confess ignorance than to indulge in such "frivolous guesses." The interpreter, he declares, must seek the plain sense, and if that is uncertain he should adopt the interpretation that best suits the context."
Kaiser, W. C., Jr. Malachi. God's Unchanging Love. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984, 34, 104, 107.
"Perhaps the best way to describe this phenomena is to call it a "generic prediction," which Willis J. Beecher defined as
one which regards an event as occurring in a series of parts,separated by intervals, and expresses itself in language that may apply indifferently to the nearest part, or to the remoter parts, or to the whole--in other words, a prediction which, in applying to the whole of a complex event, also applies to some of its parts."
"In keeping with the characteristics of generic, or successive fulfilment, of prophecy, Malachi closes with a promise that God would send that messenger introduced in 3:1 as the forerunner of Messiah. However, he does not say that he will be Elijah the Tishbite, but "Elijah the prophet" and he thereby opens the door for a succession of announcers all the way up to the second advent of Messiah when the first and last Elijah would step forth as the beginning and the end of the prophets."
"Elijah has been selected since he was at the head of the prophetic order--all other prophets followed him. He also was a reformer whom God raised up in "a remarkably corrupt age, and whose rejection was followed by a particularly terrible day of the Lord, viz. first the calamities inflicted by the Syrians, and then the captivity of Israel."
"But Elijah's spirit and power were passed on to his successor, Elisha (2 Kings 2:15), just as the spirit of Moses came to rest on the seventy elders. Thus, John the Baptist came in that same line of reformers, prophets, and forerunners of Messiah, for he too came "in the spirit and the power of Elijah" (Luke 1:17). And from Elijah's day to ours, a long line of forthtellers have stood in the succession; men like Augustine, Calvin, Meno Simons, Luther, Zwingli, Moody, and Graham."
Payne, J. B. Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy. New York: Harper & Row, 1973, 121-129.
"Two modern movements have in particular been characterized by an appeal to the hermeneutic of double sense. On the one hand stands liberalism, with its overall denial of authentic prediction. ...
"On the other hand stands dispensationalism, with its presupposition that the church cannot be predicted within the OT writings. ...
"Three basic reasons appear for maintaining the concept of one (NT) meaning as opposed to that of the so-called dual fulfillment. (a) The first arises from the very nature of hermeneutics. John Owen, the 17th century Puritan, long ago laid down the dictum, "If the Scripture has more than one meaning, it has no meaning at all;" and most of the more recent writers have agreed that dual fulfillment is incompatible with objective interpretation. Ramm says, "What a passage really means is one thing. If it meant many things, hermeneutics would be indeterminate." Fairbairn himself observes that such an approach causes uncertainty of application and makes the meaning too general for practical employment."
"One finds a second reason for single, unified meaning in the evidence from the NT. As Lockhart described the decisive attitude of Acts 2:29-31 toward Psalm 16, "The apostle Peter argues that David could not refer to himself, for he died and saw corruption, but that he was a prophet, and foresaw that Jesus should be raised without corruption. . . . It seems not easy to mistake the apostle's meaning." Terry thus concludes:
The words of Scripture were intended to have one definite sense, and our first object should be to discover that sense and adhere rigidly to it. . . . We reject as unsound and misleading the theory that such Messianic psalms . . . have a double sense, and refer first to David or some other ruler, and secondly to Christ.
In fact, from reading the NT, it is safe to say that one would never suspect the possibility of dual fulfillment.
"(c) The third reason for single fulfillment is the evidence from the OT contexts. Fairbairn, for example, grants that his principle of multiple sense not infrequently fails to work out in the concrete cases where its presence is attempted to be shown. Terry says flatly, "The language of Psalm 2 is not applicable to David or Solomon, or any other earthly ruler. . . . Isa 7:14 was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ (Mt 1:22), and no expositor has ever been able to prove a previous fulfillment ..."
Pentecost, J. D. Things to Come. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971, 46.
"C. The law of double reference. Few laws are more important to observe in the interpretation of prophetic Scriptures than the law of double reference. Two events, widely separated as to the time of their fulfillment, may be brought together in to the scope of one prophecy. This was done because the prophet had a message for his own day as well as for a future time. By bringing two widely separated events into the scope of the prophecy both purposes could be fulfilled. Horne says:
The same prophecies frequently have a double meaning, and refer to different events, the one near, the other remote; the one temporal, the other spiritual or perhaps eternal. The prophets thus having several events in view, their expressions may be partly applicable to one, and partly to another, and it is not always easy to make the transitions. What has not been fulfilled in the first, we must apply to the second; and what has already been fulfilled, may often be considered as typical of what remains to be accomplished."
Sauer, E. The Dawn of World Redemption. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1951, 145.
"Everything is historically conditioned and yet at the same time interpenetrated with eternity. All is at once human and divine, temporal and super-temporal. ...
"They speak of the return from Babylon and simultaneously promise the gathering of Israel at the still future inauguration of the kingdom of peace (Isa. 11:11-16)."
Terry, M. S. Biblical Hermeneutics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, n.d., (Chapter 27, "No Double Sense in Prophecy") 493-499.
"The hermeneutic principles which we have now set forth necessarily exclude the doctrine that the prophecies of Scripture contain an occult or double sense. It has been alleged by some that as these oracles are heavenly and divine we should expect to find in them manifold meanings. They must needs differ from other books. Hence has arisen not only the doctrine of a double sense, but of a threefold and fourfold sense, and the rabbis went so far as to insist that there are "mountains of sense in every word of Scripture." We may readily admit that the Scriptures are capable of manifold practical applications; otherwise they would not be so useful for doctrine, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. iii, 16). But the moment we admit the principle that portions of Scripture contain an occult or double sense we introduce an element of uncertainty in the sacred volume, and unsettle all scientific interpretation. "If the Scripture has more than one meaning," says Dr. Owen, "it has no meaning at all." "I hold," says Ryle, "that the words of Scripture were intended to have one definite sense, and that our first object should be to discover that sense, and adhere rigidly to it. . . . To say that words do mean a thing merely because they can be tortured into meaning it is a most dishonourable and dangerous way of handling Scripture." "This scheme of interpretation," says Stuart, "forsakes and sets aside the common laws of language. The Bible excepted, in no book, treatise, epistle, discourse, or conversation, ever written, published, or addressed by any one man to his fellow beings (unless in the way of sport, or with an intention to deceive), can a double sense be found. There are, indeed, charades, enigmas, phrases with a double entente, and the like, perhaps, in all languages; there have been abundance of heathen oracles which were susceptible of two interpretations; but even among all these there never has been, and there never was a design that there should be, but one sense or meaning in reality. Ambiguity of language may be, and has been, designedly resorted to in order to mislead the reader or hearer, or in order to conceal the ignorance of soothsayers, or to provide for their credit amid future exigencies; but this is quite foreign to the matter of a serious and bona fide double meaning of words. Nor can we for a moment, without violating the dignity and sacredness of the Scriptures, suppose that the inspired writers are to be compared to the authors of riddles, conundrums, enigmas, and ambiguous heathen oracles."
"Some writers have confused this subject by connecting it with the doctrine of type and antitype. As many persons and events of the Old Testament were types of greater ones to come, so the language respecting them is supposed to be capable of a double sense. The second Psalm has been supposed to refer both to David and Christ, and Isa. vii, 14-16, to a child born of a virgin who lived in the time of the prophet, and also to the Messiah. Psalms xlv and lxxii have been supposed to have a double reference to Solomon and Christ, and the prophecy against Edom in Isa. xxxiv, 5-10, to comprehend also the general judgment of the last day. But it should be seen that in the case of types the language of the Scripture has no double sense. The types themselves are such because they prefigure things to come, and this fact must be kept distinct from the question of the sense of language used in any particular passage. We have shown above (pp. 399, 400) that the language of Psa. ii is not applicable to David or Solomon, or any other earthly ruler. The same may be said of Psalms xlv and lxxii. Isa. vii, 14 was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ (Matt. i,22), and no expositor has ever been able to prove a previous fulfilment. The oracle against Edom (Isa. xxxiv, 5-10), like that against Babylon (Isa. xii), is clothed in the highly wrought language of apocalyptic prophecy, and gives no warrant to the theory of a double sense. The twenty-fourth of Matthew, so commonly relied on to support this theory, has been already shown to furnish no valid evidence of either an occult or a double sense.
"Some plausibility is given to the theory by adducing the suggestive fulness of some parts of the prophetic Scriptures. Such fulness is readily admitted, and ever to be extolled. The first prophecy is a good example. The enmity between the seed of the woman and that of the serpent (Gen. iii, 15) has been exhibited in a thousand forms. The precious words of promise to God's people find more or less fulfilment in every individual experience. But these facts do not sustain the theory of a double sense. The sense in every case is direct and simple; the applications and illustrations are many. Such facts give no authority for us to go into apocalyptic prophecies with the expectation of finding two or more meanings in each specific statement, and then to declare: This verse refers to an event long past, this to something yet future; this had a partial fulfilment in the ruin of Babylon, or Edom, but it awaits a grander fulfilment in the future. The judgment of Babylon, or Nineveh, or Jerusalem, may, indeed, be a type of every other similar judgment, and is a warning to all nations and ages; but this is very different from saying that the language in which that judgment was predicted was fulfilled only partially when Babylon, or Nineveh, or Jerusalem fell, and is yet awaiting its complete fulfilment."
IX.B.5. Boettner, L. "Postmillennialism." In The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views.
R.G. Clouse, Editor. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1977, 134, 137.
"This general principle of interpretation has been expressed as "literal wherever possible" (H. Bonar) or "literal unless absurd" (Govett). One does not have to read far in the Bible to discover that not everything can be taken literally. Jesse F. Silver refers to "certain places" where some "other meaning" is designated. But he gives no rule by which those certain places are to be recognized. We find no labels in the Scripture itself telling us, "Take this literally," or "Take that figuratively." Evidently the individual reader must use his own judgment, backed by as much experience and common sense as he can muster. And that, of course, will vary endlessly from individual to individual."
"It is admittedly difficult in many instances to determine whether statements in Scripture should be taken literally or figuratively. As regards prophecy, that often cannot be determined until after the fulfillment. Most of the Bible, however, particularly the historical and the more didactic portions, clearly is to be understood literally, although some figurative expressions are found in these. But it is also clearly evident that many other portions must be understood figuratively. Even the premillennialists must take many expressions figuratively, or they become nonsense. Since the Bible gives no hard and fast rule for determining what is literal and what is figurative, we must study the nature of the material, the historical setting, the style and purpose of the writer, and then fall back on what for lack of a better term we may call "sanctified common sense." Naturally the conclusions will vary somewhat from individual to individual for we do not all think alike nor see alike."
Mickelsen, A. B. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963, 303- 305.
"Remember that interpretive analysis must precede a decision on the exact relationship between the literal and figurative in any passage. Deciding what is literal and what is figurative must be based upon grammar (meaning of words and relationship of words), history, culture, context, and convictions of the original writer himself."
"The literal meaning--the customary and socially acknowledged meaning which carries with it the ideas of actual and earthly--must become the base for figurative meanings. Upon this base they depend. If an interpreter declares that a certain expression is figurative, he must give reasons for assigning a figurative meaning. These reasons must arise from an objective study of all factors and must show why the figurative meaning is needed. Sometimes interpreters insist that elements are figurative because their system of eschatology requires it, not because the Scriptures and objective factors demand it. It is surprising how figurative some adherents to extreme literalistic schools can be!"
"... Where there are compelling grounds for figurative meanings, they should be adopted. A careful interpreter will interpret both literally and figuratively because the passage he is interpreting demands these procedures. Labels suggesting that a man is either a completely literal interpreter or a completely figurative interpreter are foolish. If they were true, they would indicate that the individual thus designated would be totally unable to grapple with meanings and ideas. Such people usually do not try to interpret. Therefore, a careless tossing around of labels should be avoided at all costs. The well-balanced interpreter has objective reasons for both literal and figurative meanings."
Turner, D. L. "The Continuity of Scripture and Eschatology: Key Hermeneutical
Issues," GTJ 6/2 (1985) 275-287.
"Writers of various eschatological stripes have commonly expressed the view that differences in eschatological systems arise "primarily out of the distinctive method employed by each in the interpretation of Scripture." Though there is a degree of truth in such a statement, it is simplistic. One's consistency in taking biblical language literally will have an obvious influence upon one's theology, but the reverse is also true--one's theology will have an obvious influence upon his hermeneutics. It is mistaken to speak of either a "literal" or a "spiritualizing" hermeneutic as a purely inductive, overall approach to Scripture. To speak in such generalities obscures the real issue: the interpretation of specific biblical passages. Any study of Scripture involves a certain degree of exegetical, theological, and hermeneutical preunderstanding. Even the cultural and historical circumstances of the interpreter tend to sway his understanding of Scripture, as Gundry has appropriately warned: "We as Christian exegetes and theologians are susceptible to influences from the moods and conditions of our times, and especially so in our eschatologies."
"All of this is not to say that hermeneutics is unimportant, or that a consistent literal hermeneutic is unattainable. Indeed, such a hermeneutic is essential in handling the whole Bible, including poetry, prophecy, and figurative language. Properly used, the result of a literal hermeneutic is not "wooden letterism," but sensitivity to figures of speech. However, in the exegesis of specific biblical passages, the exegete must realize that his use of a literal hermeneutic is preconditioned by his theological presuppositions. The same hold true for the practicioner of a "spiritualizing" hermeneutic. It is common for dispensationalists to accuse nondispensationalists of spiritualizing or allegorizing the Bible, especially the OT, and for covenant theologians to charge dispensationalists with hyperliteralism. As long as the debate is carried on in such vague generalities there will be no progress whatsoever. It is time to heed the advice of Bahnsen:
The charge of subjective spiritualization or hyperliteralism against any of the three eschatological positions cannot be settled in general; rather, the opponents must get down to hand-to-hand exegetical combat on particular passages and phrases."
"It would appear that vague generalities about theoretical hermeneutics accomplish very little. The cavalier dismissal of eschatological systems on the sole ground of hermeneutical theory serves only to obscure the more pertinent issues. Advocates of a "dual hermeneutic" cannot be dismissed with the charge of "allegorizing" and neither can dispensationalists be shouted down with the rebuke of being "hyperliteralists." However, hermeneutical conclusions on specific issues may be viewed as being inconsistent with one's professed hermeneutical method. When there is a discrepancy between the two, both dispensationalists and covenant theologians should take heed.
"The main burden of these thoughts on the hermeneutical question is that any profitable debate must focus upon concrete issues, such as the NT use of the OT and the nature of progressive revelation. Here specific passages may be exegeted and profitably debated."
X.A. Machen, J. G. The Christian Faith in the Modern World. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1947, 61, 63.
"A man hears some true preacher of the gospel. The preacher speaks on the authority of a book which lies open there on the pulpit. As the words of that book are expounded, the man who listens finds that the secrets of his heart are revealed. It is as though a cloak had been pulled away. The man suddenly sees himself as God sees him. He suddenly comes to see that he is a sinner under the just wrath and curse of God. Then from the same strange book there comes a wonderful offer of pardon. It comes with a strange kind of sovereign authority. The preacher, as he expounds the book, seems to be an ambassador of the King, a messenger of the living God. The man who hears needs no further reflection, no further argument. The Holy Spirit has opened the doors of his heart. "That book is the Word of the living God," he says; "God has found me out, I have heard His voice, I am His for ever."
"Yes, it is in this way, sometimes, and not by elaborate argument, that a man becomes convinced that the Bible is the Word of God.
"Yet that does not mean that argument is unnecessary. ... I may be convinced with my whole soul that the Bible is the Word of God; but if my neighbor adduces considerations to show that it is really full of error, I cannot be indifferent to those considerations. I can, indeed, say to him: "Your considerations are wrong, and because they are wrong I can with a good conscience hold on to my convictions." Or I can say to him: "What you say is true enough in itself, but it is irrelevant to the question whether the Bible is the Word of God." But I do not see how in the world I can say to him: "Your considerations may be contrary to my conviction that the Bible is the Word of God, but I am not interested in them; go on holding to them if you want to do so, but do please agree with me also in holding that the Bible is the Word of God."
"No, I cannot possibly say that. This last attitude is surely quite absurd. Two contradictory things cannot both be true. We cannot go on holding to the Bible as the Word of God and at the same time admit the truth of considerations that are contrary to that conviction of ours.
"I believe with all my soul, in other words, in the necessity of Christian apologetics, the necessity of a reasoned defence of the Christian Faith, and in particular a reasoned defence of the Christian conviction that the Bible is the Word of God.
"Some years ago I attended a conference of Christian students. Various methods of Christian testimony were being discussed, and particularly the question was being discussed whether it is necessary to engage in a reasoned defence of the Christian faith. In the course of the discussion, a gentleman who had had considerable experience in work among students arose and said that according to his experience you never win a man to Christ until you quit arguing with him. Well, do you know, my friends, when he said that I was not impressed one tiny little bit. Of course a man never was won to Christ merely by argument. That is perfectly clear. There must be the mysterious work of the Spirit of God in the new birth. Without that, all our arguments are quite useless. But because argument is insufficient, it does not follow that it is unnecessary. What the Holy Spirit does in the new birth is not to make a man a Christian regardless of the evidence, but on the contrary to clear away the mists from his eyes and enable him to attend to the evidence.
"So I believe in the reasoned defence of the inspiration of the Bible. Sometimes it is immediately useful in bringing a man to Christ. It is graciously used by the Spirit of God to that end. But its chief use is of a somewhat different kind. Its chief use is in enabling Christian people to answer the legitimate questions, not of vigorous opponents of Christianity, but of people who are seeking the truth and are troubled by the hostile voices that are heard on every hand."
R. J. Neuhaus, ÒWhy We Can Get Along,Ó First Things 60 (1996) 27-34.
In thinking about the connections between faith, reason, and discourse, St. Augustine is particularly helpful. It is possible to find snippets, especially from his devotional and homiletical writings, that can be used to suggest that Augustine is a fideist, someone who sacrifices reason to faith. But that would be a grave misunderstanding. Augustine addressed with great sophistication why it is that faith is reasonable and why it is that reason without faith is incomplete. There is, for instance, the very engaging essay, The Usefulness of Believing. The very title reflects AugustineÕs assumption that Christian and non-Christian are able to consider together what would be useful in understanding the truth. Augustine makes the case that belief is necessary for understanding. He explains in great detail to his unbelieving interlocutor the reasonable case for believing. It is clear that Augustine and his interlocutor share a common ÔaprioriÕ in what they mean by reason and reasons. The argument is that belief is necessary to understanding - in everyday life, in science, in friendship, and in matters religious - and why belief is necessary is itself rationally explicable.
ÒUnderstand my word in order to believe,Ó says Augustine, Ôbut believe GodÕs word in order to understand.Õ As Etienne Gilson writes in The Christian Philosophy of St. Augustine, Ô[In Augustine] the very possibility of faith depends on reason . . . because only reason is capable of belief.Õ Again, ÔThe Augustinian doctrine concerning the relations between reason and faith comprises three steps: preparation for faith by reason, act of faith, understanding of the content of faith.Ó But Augustine himself said it best: ÔNo one believes anything unless he first thought it to be believable. Everything which is believed should be believed after thought has preceded. Not everyone who thinks believes, since many think in order not to believe; but everyone who believes thinks.Õ Augustine was a firm opponent of what would later come to be called fideism. The claim that faith is utterly arbitrary - that it is not supported by and cannot appeal to an a priori about what is reasonable - finds no support in Augustine or, for that matter in the mainstream of the Great Tradition of Christian thought.
Donald Fuller and Richard Gardiner, ÒReformed Theology at Princeton and Amsterdam in the Late Nineteenth Century: A Reappraisal,Ó Presbyterion 21 (1995) 89-117 [pp.112-114].
Two observations from this quote on science by Fichte seem to inform (in a conceptual/foundational way) KuyperÕs new vision of Reformed theology and mission. First, FichteÕs discussion of types of people (i.e., Ôwhat sort of man one isÕ) leads logically to it being Christianized by Kuyper with his own Ôtwo types of peopleÕ: the regenerate and the unregenerate. These epistemologically oriented categories of persons, in essence, represent competing Ôphilosophical systemsÕ thematized along Fichtian lines. For just as Fichte writes that Ôa philosophical system . . . is a thing animated by the soulÕ so, also, Kuyper writes that ÔfaithÕ is Ôthat formal function of the life of our soul which is fundamental to every fact in our human consciousness.Õ From a foundational point of view, therefore, it appears that Kuyper embraces the conceptual principles of a Fichtian vision of science. Secondly, as FichteÕs ÔIdealismÕ acknowledges, it is not possible to ÔconvinceÕ someone of your position if they are not of a certain type. This notion, too, appears to be employed by Kuyper who believes that it is futile for the Christian to engage the Ôman of thoughtÕ in an attempt to ÔconvinceÕ him of the Christian truth; it is only GodÕs business to change the consciousness. Kuyper writes,
To ÔmoveÕ the unregenerate to a different judgment you should not reason with him, but change his consciousness; but it is not your responsibility to change his consciousness, but GodÕs.
By accepting and importing Fichtian science into Reformed thought, it is now more clear as to why Kuyper removed Apologetics as a major category in his framework of Reformed theology (as we addressed earlier) and, also, from what intellectual source he derives his epistemologically-based Ôtwo kinds of science.Õ
But since for Kuyper argument, metaphysics, and proofs of the existence of God are considered no longer persuasive for defending the Christian faith, what alternative does he propose? Using a morality-based conception of religion (as suggested by Fichte), Kuyper elevates the doctrine of Ôthe noetic effects of sinÕ to a level of cosmic and ontological significance not, heretofore, generally accepted by Reformed thought. This doctrine functioned to ÔshieldÕ the Christian faith from the ÔsinfulÕ intellectual assaults of modern, secular scientists, whose ÔunregenerateÕ noetic functions were severely marred by sin. This shielding or self-protective approach to defending the Christian world view, however, is what may be termed negative apologetics. This approach, too, while certainly opposed to the atheism of positivist philosophy, is, nevertheless, formally in line with the agnosticism of nineteenth century transcendental philosophy.
The Old Princetonians take a different approach to science and therefore, also, to apologetics. Warfield, for example, affirms that theology is a science like the other sciences because of his belief that metaphysical first principles of reason cooperate with Christian faith and that legitimate empirical inquiry requires metaphysical grounding. He disagrees with KuyperÕs accommodation to natural scientific philosophy and what is entailed in its argument - including that there are two kinds of science and persons. Warfield insisted that Kuyper had misused the doctrine of the Ônoetic effects of sinÕ on which Kuyper had blamed all the errors of modernity. The traditional Reformed position, also held by Warfield, is that the effect of regeneration is justification, not an intellectual upper hand:
The regenerated man remains a sinner; no new faculties have been inserted into him by regeneration . . . . He is in no condition, therefore, to produce a ÔscienceÕ differing in kind from that produced by sinful man.
Warfield and the Old Princetonians believed, with Turretin, in the universality of first principles, metaphysical laws that are true for the regenerate and the unregenerate. Thus, faith and knowledge are not dichotomous but cooperative and coordinate with a human knowing of God and of the truth about reality. Sin is primarily a moral issue, not an epistemological one. Warfield believed that Ôall minds are of the same essential structure.Õ He, therefore, firmly supported the notion that one can reason with a non-believer as an evangelistic procedure. Thus, Warfield writes that, though it is true that
God alone give the increase . . . it does not seem to follow that Paul would, as well, therefore, not plant and Apollos, as well, not water . . . . It is beyond all question [that] only the prepared heart can fitly respond to the ÔreasonÕ; but now can even a prepared heart respond, when there are no ÔreasonsÕ to draw out its actions?
WarfieldÕs belief in apologetics and evangelism are rooted in his epistemological understanding that faith and knowledge (or faith and reason) are cooperative in character:
On the one hand, a right faith is always a reasonable faith . . . . on the other hand, faith is in its idea not so much a substitute for reason as a preparation for reason; and the effort of the wise man should be to transmute his faith into knowledge . . . . But in any event for such creatures as we are, our walk must largely be guided by faith, and it is only through faith that we can hope to attain knowledge.
The fact of primary importance to note here is that with Augustine, faith and reason are never conceived as antagonists, contradictories, but always as coadjutants, cooperating to a common end.
It is apparent from the foregoing quotations that Warfield perceives the faith/reason relationship as a simultaneous and cooperative one, not an antagonistic one. He believes there is just one ÔkindÕ of person and that ÔkindÕ of person is a sinner. Warfield objects to KuyperÕs Ôhyper-CalvinistÕ position that would relegate the regenerate to a passive status with respect to their interaction with the unregenerate. To Kuyper's criticism that apologetics concerns itself only with Ôthe minimum of ChristianityÕ, Warfield explains in some detail the real significance of apologetics in the context of theology:
What is Ôthe minimum of ChristianityÕ? And what business has Apologetics with Ôthe minimum of ChristianityÕ? What Apologetics has to do with is certainly not an Ôminimum,Õ but just Christianity itself, whatever that may prove to be . . . . When men speak of the ÔApologetical minimum,Õ we cannot help suspecting that they have for the moment lost sight of Apologetics itself altogether, and are thinking rather of some specific ÔApologyÕ which they judge might be useful . . . for the moment. If such an ÔApologyÕ were identifiable with ÔApologetics,Õ we might well sympathize with those who consider Apologetics a department of ÔPractical TheologyÕ . . . . But the Apologetics with which we are concerned is a much more fundamental, a much more comprehensive, and a much more objective thing . . . . It concerns itself with the solid objective establishment, after a fashion valid for all normally working minds and for all ages of the world in its developing thought, of those great basal facts which constitute the Christian religion; or, better, which embody in the concrete the entire knowledge of God accessible to men, and which, therefore, need only explication by means of further theological disciplines in order to lay openly before the eyes of men the entirety of the knowledge of God within their reach.
Warfield and the Old Princeton theologians believed that reason and faith cooperated in order to provide a knowledge of God coordinate with a true human knowing, even if such knowledge was incomplete. This coordinate notion of faith and reason is rooted in Augustinianism, is deeply at odds with nineteenth century positivism, and means that speaking about God to the unregenerate really matters. WarfieldÕs vision for Christian engagement with secular intellectual perspectives is, therefore, quite different than the retreatist orientation of Kuyper and some other continental theologians. Warfield writes,
Let us, then, cultivate an attitude of courage as over against the investigations of the day. None should be more zealous in them than we. None should be more quick to discern truth in every field, more hospitable to receive it, more loyal to follow it wherever it leads. It is not for Christians to be lukewarm in regard to the investigations and discoveries of the time. It is for us, therefore, as Christians, to push investigation to the utmost; to be leaders in every science; to stand in the vein of criticism; to be the first to catch in every field the voice the Revealer of truth, who is also our Redeemer. The curse for the Church has been her apathy to truth . . . she has nothing to fear from truth; but she has everything to fear, and she has already suffered nearly everything, from ignorance. All truth belongs to us as followers of Christ the Truth; let us at length enter into our inheritance.
Section Two - A Survey of the Prophetical Books
II.B. Keil, D. F. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament. The Twelve Minor Prophets. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954 (reprint), 337-349.
"Wrong, or violence, is all the more reprehensible, when it is committed against a brother. The fraternal relation in which Edom stood towards Judah is still more sharply defined by the name Jacob, since Esau and Jacob were twin brothers. The consciousness that the Israelites were their brethren, ought to have impelled the Edomites to render helpful support to the oppressed Judaeans. Instead of this, they not only revelled with scornful and malignant pleasure in the misfortune of the brother nation, but endeavoured to increase it still further by rendering active support to the enemy. This hostile behaviour of Edom arose from envy at the election of Israel, like the hatred of Esau towards Jacob (Gen. xxvii, 41), which was transmitted to his descendants, and came out openly in the time of Moses, in the unbrotherly refusal to allow the Israelites to pass in a peaceable manner through their land (Num. xx.). On the other hand, the Israelites are always commanded in the law to preserve a friendly and brotherly attitude towards Edom (Deut. ii. 4, 5); and in Deut. xxiii. 7 it is enjoined upon them not to abhor the Edomite, because he is their brother."
II.C. Keil, D. F. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament. The Twelve Minor
Prophets. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954 (reprint), 363, 367.
"The difficulty is only removed by the assumption that Obadiah regarded Edom as a type of the nations that had risen up in hostility to the Lord and His people, and were judged by the Lord in consequence, so that what he says of Edom applies to all nations which assume the same or a similar attitude towards the people of God. From this point of view he could, without reserve, extend to all nations the retribution which would fall upon Edom for its sins."
III.B.4. Allen, L. C. The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah. NICOT. Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976, 86, 88, 89, 92, 115, 118.
A. "The locusts are referred to collectively as "the northerner." The insects normally attack Judah from the south or southeast, borne by the prevailing winds, but cases are known of approach from the north. The plague that hit Jerusalem in 1915 came from the northeast. Presumably in Joel's time the onset had come from the north; the ensuing references to geographical features in the other three directions support this inference. But as in 2:1-11 the locusts were seen through psychic spectacles, so here the present term has a numinous dimension superimposed upon the natural. Earlier prophets had given dread description of the "enemy from the north." The phrase has something of the flavor of Tolkien's grim hosts of Mordor. In Ezek. 38:15; 39:2 the apocalyptic hordes of Gog come from the farthest north to destroy Judah, only to be smashed by Yahweh's counterattack. Even before Ezekiel's time Jeremiah had made the theme his own, using it repeatedly to describe the uncanny forces of evil that Yahweh would employ as his agents to punish sinful Judah . . . "
"A realistic touch is added in the gruesome reference to the decomposition of the drowned insects washed up on the shores. Jerome mentions that he had witnessed locust swarms over Judea driven by winds into the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean, and had observed the beaches filled with stinking heaps of dead locusts which endangered the health of man and beast. The intention in emphasizing to the people this offensive phenomenon was "to assure them of the total destruction of the locusts" (Bewer). It is significant that stench in its other two uses in the OT occurs in a military setting of corpses on the battlefield. Probably such an association is intended, and the locusts are viewed still in military guise. The invaders will meet with a resounding defeat at the hands of Judah's great Ally, invincible though they were in 2:2-11, Yahweh, formerly at the head of this army (2:11) and enemy of his people, is now on their side again as a result of their change of heart and life. The curse passes to the locusts, which are to be repulsed and destroyed."
B. "The wonders and "signs" are related to the miracles performed by Jesus as divine attestation of his mission. There may well be a reference to the uncanny happenings in sky and earth some seven weeks before, which Jewish pilgrims to the Passover would have witnessed. "The people in Jerusalem had indeed seen the sun turned into darkness, during the early afternoon of the day of our Lord's crucifixion. And on the same afternoon the paschal full moon may well have appeared blood-red in the sky in consequence of that preternatural gloom.""
Keil, D. F. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament. The Twelve Minor Prophets. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954 (reprint), 211, 212.
"There is far greater diversity in the opinions entertained as to the fulfilment of vers. 30-32: some thinking of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans (Grotius, Turretius, and the Socinians); others of judgments upon the enemies of the covenant nation shortly after the return from the Babylonian exile (Ephr. Syr. and others); others, again, of the last judgment (Tertull., Theod., Crus.), or the destruction of Jerusalem and the last judgment (Chrys.). Of all these views, those which refer to events occurring before the Christian era are irreconcilable with the context, according to which the day of the Lord will come after the outpouring of the Spirit of God. Even the wonders connected with the death of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, of which some have thought, cannot properly be taken into account, although the marvellous phenomena occurring at the death of Christ--the darkening of the sun, the shaking of the earth, and the rending of the rocks--were harbingers of the approaching judgment, and were recognised by the ocloi as warnings to repent, and so escape from the judgment (Matt. xxvii, 45, 51; Luke xxiii. 44, 48). For the signs in heaven and earth that are mentioned in vers. 30 and 31 were to take place before the coming of the terrible day of the Lord, which would dawn after the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon all flesh, and which came, as history teaches, upon the Jewish nation that had rejected its Saviour on the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and upon the Gentile world-power in the destruction of the Roman empire, and from that time forward breaks in constant succession upon one Gentile nation after another, until all the ungodly powers of this world shall be overthrown (cf. ch. iii. 2). On account of this internal connection between the day of Jehovah and the outpouring of the Spirit upon the church of the Lord, Peter also quoted vers. 30-32 of this prophecy, for the purpose of impressing upon the hearts of all the hearers of his address the admonition, "Save yourselves from this perverse generation (Acts ii. 40), and also of pointing out the way of deliverance from the threatening judgment to all who were willing to be saved."
IV.B. Aalders, G. Ch. The Problem of the Book of Jonah. London: Tyndale Press, 1948.
(1)"A third argument which must be discarded is that based on the parallels, especially of the fish story. Many scholars have been engaged in collecting parallels from non-Biblical sources. Time and again it has been asserted that the author utilized ancient myths and folk tales to compose his story. It is, however, impossible to prove that he was even acquainted with such tales. Feuillet, himself a convinced adherent of the parabolic interpretation, has demonstrated that there is no reason whatever to assume that the author has borrowed from such sources. The points of conformity which can be shown are so few and insignificant, that it is impossible to prove from these that the author of Jonah used or even knew the heathen legends. And if acquaintance with such material cannot be clearly proved, how can these parallels contribute to the solution of the problem whether the author intended to give an historical record or to compose a didactic fiction?"
(2)"Such was also the opinion of the Jews. They did not regard the book of Jonah as a parable, but assumed it to be a record of real historical events. This is evident from the apocryphal book of Tobit. As Tobit is dying he calls to his son, Tobias, and commands him to go into Media, 'for (says he) I believe the word of God upon Nineveh, which Nahum spake, that all those things will be, and will befall Assyria and Nineveh.' This text is probably correct, but the Septuagint (with exception of Cod a ) has Jonah instead of Nahum. This may be a false emendation, but it proves that the Jews certainly did not regard the book of Jonah as a parable. In the third book of Maccabees the priest Eleazar when praying refers to the deliverance of Jonah as follows: 'And when Jonah was languishing unpitied in the belly of the sea-born monster, thou didst restore him, O Father, uninjured to all his household.' This reference is preceded by similar recollections of the Pharaoh who was drowned together with his proud host, of Sennacherib, who was defeated in sight of the holy city, of the deliverance of the three friends from the fiery furnace, and of Daniel from the lions' den. This likewise is a firm proof that the Jews regard the book of Jonah as a record of actual historic events. And Josephus, who repeatedly emphasizes the historical character of his work, includes the contents of the book in his Antiquities. Though we may have good reason to question the actual value of his historical accuracy, there is no doubt at all that he voices the view of his people" (p. 28).
(3)"Finally, and this is of much greater importance, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself undoubtedly accepted the events narrated in the book of Jonah as truly historical. This is manifest not only from the fact that He alludes to the stay of Jonah's sojourn in the whale's belly, but also from His reference to the repentance of the Ninevites: 'The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold a greater than Jonah is here.' Our Lord could not have made such a serious pronouncement unless He was firmly convinced that the Ninevites actually repented at the preaching of Jonah. A parabolic interpretation of this repentance is absolutely impossible in the light of this emphatic warning of Christ.
"Now this may not mean much to many commentators, but it means everything to us who believe in Him as our precious Saviour, the Son of the Father, faultless in His humanity. And perhaps it may mean something to those who share this belief, but do not fully and entirely agree with us in accepting the Old Testament as an integral part of the infallible, authoritative Word of God" (pp. 29-30).
Allen, L. C. The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah. NICOT. Grand Rapid: Eerdmans, 1976, 176, 178, 179.
(1)"This element of surprise is a key factor throughout the book. A prophetÕs journeying to Ninevah to deliver his message is an extraordinary phenomenon. Prophetic oracles against the nations are common place, but they were normally spoken on the prophetÕs native soil for the benefit of his fellow nationals. The political mission of Elijah and Elisha to Damascus (1 K. 9:15; 2 K. 8:7-13) is the nearest parallel, but JonahÕs journey is of a different nature.
Another surprise, a shocking one, is JonahÕs refusal to shoulder his prophetic burden. Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah indeed shrank from their assignments, but JonahÕs blunt refusal goes far beyond their hesitation. In fact this little book is a series of surprises; it is crammed with an accumulation of hair-raising and eye-popping phenomena, one after the other. The violent seastorm, the submarine-like fish in which Jonah survives as he composes a song, the mass conversion of Nineveh, the magic plant--these are not commonplace features of OT prophetic narratives. While one or two exciting events would raise no question, the bombardment of the reader with surprise after surprise in a provocative manner suggests that the author's intention is other than simply to describe historical facts. Bold would be the man who ventured to say that this series of happenings was impossible, for who can limit the omnipotence of God and say categorically that any could not happen? Not impossible but improbable is how they strike the ordinary reader. What if the author meant to arrest our attention and focus it on his message by means of a string of improbabilities?"
(2) "For a long time the book of Jonah was interpreted in a strongly historical vein. Yet although the Church Fathers, who mostly used Jonah symbolically, admitted its historicity, there were those who doubted it, including in the fourth century Gregory of Nazianzus and in the eleventh, Theophylact. Luther viewed the story as nonhistorical. Today there are both Roman Catholic and Protestant circles that maintain the historicity of the book with a fervor that assumes that its inspiration and authority depend upon it: "If the book of Jonah is history, it is part of the evidence for the most important truth imaginable, namely that the Almighty God seeks to bring men to repentance and will pardon those who truly repent. But if the book is not historical, then it is only the opinion of some singularly broadminded Jew that God ought to pardon even Gentiles if they truly repent." But is it inconceivable that "some singularly broadminded Jew" was inspired to teach this much-needed lesson? Such a viewpoint is in danger of restricting the Spirit of God and belittling the value of the parable as a genuine scriptural medium (pp. 178,179).
(3) "Certainly the story is set out in a narrative form, but "all parables resemble a record of historical events. . . . It is impossible to argue from the form of the book of Jonah that it must have been meant as a record of historical events." Another factor to be taken into account is the obviously intended identification of the hero or anti-hero with the prophet of 2 K. 14:25. Here at least is a historical basis, which suggests that the incidents related in our book are historical. There may well be a historical nucleus behind the story, but this is not relevant to its understanding in its present form. Behind the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) lies 2 Chr. 28:15. Behind the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11-27) lies the visit of Archelaus to Rome to get his succession to Herod authorized. Behind the parable of Dives and Lazarus may well lie the rabbinic tale of how Abraham's steward Eliezer, of which Lazarus is the Greek form, was sent to Sodom to test the hospitality of its citizens. But no one would fail to differentiate these parables from a straightforward recital of events. In each case an older theme has been used as raw material for the creation of something new and contemporary."
(4) "Yet does not the statement of Jesus concerning Jonah in Matt. 12:39-41 constitute a testimony to the historicity of our book? Von Orelli, who himself interpreted the story thus, admitted: "It is not indeed proved with conclusive necessity that, if the resurrection of Jesus was a physical fact, Jonah's abode in the fish's belly must also be just as historical." In this regard it is important to note a feature which will be shown in the later section on the sign of Jonah, that it is not strict exegesis that is reflected in Jesus' use of the narrative of Jonah and the fish, but the popular Jewish understanding, which the Lord took up and employed as a vehicle for truth concerning himself. If this is so, it is quite possible to maintain that his reference merely reflects the contemporary view without necessarily endorsing it for the student of the OT. Moreover, allowance must be made for a figurative element in the teaching of Jesus, an element Western literalists have notoriously found difficulty in grasping. If a modern preacher would not be at fault if he challenged his congregation with a reference to Lady Macbeth or Oliver Twist, could not Jesus have alluded in much the same manner to a well-known story to reinforce his own distinctive message?" (p. 180).
Ellison, H. L. The Prophets of Israel. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969, 55, 56.
"What really matters is the historicity of the book. It is abundantly clear that its literal truth was never questioned in Jewish tradition. Indeed, Philo of Alexandria, that great master of allegory, who would doubtless have eagerly seized on a symbolic or allegoric explanation had it been known to him, "took great pains to explain the marvel of the fish."
"Equally the canonicity of the book seems never to have been questioned. Whether the modern scholar explains the book as prophetic legend, symbolic narrative or didactic fiction, he is faced by the impossibility of explaining how the Jewish people, and in particular our Lord, came to regard it as historically true. The difficulty is the greater when we realize that our spiritual explanation of it as a historically true account will be, to a greater or less degree, significantly different from that we should give it, if we regarded it as fiction. We are asked to believe that the Jews not merely forgot it was fiction, but even forgot its true meaning. It is not unfair to remember also that moderns are singularly in conflict as to its original purpose and meaning."
"Those then who deny the book's factual truth must bear the onus of explaining how a book so very different from the other prophetic books ever came to be included in the prophetic canon, how it was forgotten that it was symbolic or didactic fiction, and above all how our Lord was incapable of realizing its true nature."
"Let us face a simple fact. From Eichhorn onwards the denial of the book's historicity was in the first place the result of the then dominant rationalistic view of the world, in which there was no room for miracle or for Divine interference in things physical.
"The conservative must bear part of the blame, however. For him, all too often, the first half of the book is all that has mattered. He has tended to overlook that God's miraculous dealings with Jonah were but a preparation for the revelation of the Divine character. If we want the literal truth of the book to be taken seriously we must both give it an adequate spiritual interpretation and justify the exceptional miraculous element in it."
Stek, J. H. "The Message of the Book of Jonah," CTJ 4 (1969) 23-50.
"1 The writer assumes the historicity of the events narrated. This is an assumption which most readers and students of the book today are strongly inclined to reject. Lifting this narrative from its own unique canonical and historical context, and consciously or unconsciously reading it in the context of general history where miracles such as are narrated here do not happen, except in myths, legends, and fairy-tales, the modern reader and scholar feel compelled by the analogy of history to find some explanation for the narrative other than that the events narrated actually happened. Employing the principle of the analogy of history, recourse is generally taken, as does Eissfeldt, to "a mythological, fairy-tale motif which is found throughout the world, namely the motif of the swallowing and vomiting out of a man by a great fish, known, for example, in one form of the Perseus saga (The Old Testament, An Introduction; Trans. P. R. Ackroyd, New York, Harper and Row, 1965, p. 405.)
"The method here illustrated is insidious. It implies, if consistency be a virtue, that the same must be done with every Biblical narrative of a marvelous event. The fatal result is that all Biblical wonders are explained away on the principle of the analogy of history.
"The present writer recognizes the validity of the principle of historical analogy, but insists that the only appropriate historical analogues for the marvelous events recorded in the book of Jonah are the similarly marvelous events belonging to that history of salvation to which the Biblical writers bear witness, viz., the history of the mighty acts of God. This is the only proper context for the reading of the Book of Jonah. Within this context, historical narrative takes historicity seriously, even when narrating most unusual events -- precisely because there are unusual events to narrate. And within Biblical literature, the Book of Jonah finds its nearest analogy as literature in prophetic historical narrative, as most scholars will admit.
"35 The report of a repentance of the Ninevites has often been appealed to as a proof of the legendary character of this prophetic book. H. H. Rowley puts it bluntly: "That Nineveh was instantaneously converted is a thesis which will not convince any students of her history, unless the conversion was as ephemeral as it was swift--in which case it was worthless, and hardly likely to deceive God" (The Growth of the Old Testament [New York: Harper and Row, 1963 - first published in 1950], p. 114).
"If the present writer rightly interprets the purpose of the book of Jonah, an "ephemeral" repentance on the part of the Ninevites was sufficient to God's purpose. For even such a repentance, which began to manifest itself already when Jonah's preaching to Nineveh had hardly begun -- "And Jonah began to enter the city a day's journey" (3:4) -- stands in sharp contrast to Israel's callous dismissal of the long and miracle-filled ministries of Elijah and Elisha. By their response to a prophetic warning, however ephemeral it may have been, the Ninevites put hard-hearted Israel to shame. Moreover, that God responds graciously to even an ephemeral repentance is evidenced by His sparing of Ahab who similarly manifested what could only have been an ephemeral repentance in response to Elijah's threat of impending judgment (1 K. 21:22ff.)."
Wiseman, D. J. "Jonah's Nineveh," TynBul 30 (1979) 29-51.
"If this is a parable it is unique in its length and lack of explanation compared with others in the Old Testament and in the inclusion of 'miraculous elements', absent from all other ancient Near Eastern parallels. This is especially remarkable if 'the cogency of the parable depends on its verisimilitude as portraying a human situation'."
IV.C.1. Finegan, J. Light From the Ancient Past. Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1959, 202.
From the annals of Ashur-nasir-pal II:
ÒI stormed the mountain peaks and took them. In the midst of the mighty mountain I slaughtered them, with their blood I dyed the mountain red like wool. With the rest of them I darkened the gullies and precipices of the mountains. I carried off their spoil and their possessions. The heads of the warriors I cut off, and I formed them into a pillar over against their city, their young men and their maidens I burned in the fire.
I built a pillar over against the city gate, and I flayed all the chief men who had revolted, and I covered the pillar with their skins; some I walled up within the pillar, some I impaled upon the pillar on stakes, and others I bound to stakes round about the pillar; many within the border of my own land I flayed, and I spread their skins upon the walls; and I cut off the limbs of the officers, of the royal officers who had rebelled.Ó
IV.C.2. Stek, J. H. "The Message of the Book of Jonah," CTJ 4 (1969) 36,37,41,42.
"V. The events of Jonah's prophetic mission to Nineveh serve also as rebuke to sin-laden and stubborn Israel. Even the pagan mariners are surprised that Jonah, who serves the "God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land," would attempt to flee from such a God, and their words of surprise register at the same time a rebuke (the question, Ma(h) zo'th asitha? [1:10] seems always to imply both surprise and accusation, cf. Gen. 3:13; 12:18; Ex. 14:5; Jg. 15:11). Moreover, the seamen's concern for Jonah's welfare stands in meaningful contrast to Jonah's callous attitude toward the Ninevites. It is also evident that the repentance of the Ninevites at the one-sign ministry of Jonah serves as a standing rebuke to the sin of Israel who stubbornly refused to listen to the warnings of the prophets, even when these warnings had been accompanied by mighty signs as in the ministries of Elijah and Elisha. Once again, Yahweh seeks to "move them to jealousy with those that are not a people" (Dt. 32:21)."
V.B.3. Hillers, D. R. Covenant. The History of a Biblical Idea. Baltimore: The Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1969.
"For again and again we find that the prophets frame their oracles of woe in terms echoing the curses associated with treaties. Having done so, we have discovered another pointer to the importance of the covenant to the prophets. ...
"One of the most significant biblical parallels is in Leviticus 26. Its special importance derives from the nature of this chapter, for it is a long list of curses associated with a covenant with Yahweh--it tells what will happen "If you reject my statutes, and loathe my laws so that you do not perform all my commandments and thus break my covenant." The curse in verse 22 reads: "Then I will send among you wild animals, which will make you bereft of children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number and your ways desolate." Thus just as this curse was traditional in Near Eastern treaties, so we find it attached to a version of Israel's covenant with Yahweh. If a prophet announces that the curse is about to be brought on Israel, it is not hard to frame a hypothesis to cover the situation: the prophets announce doom in terms known to them and their hearers from the curses attached to the covenant."
"Numerous other passages could be cited, but perhaps this many will be enough to introduce the hypothesis that the prophets were often not arbitrary in choosing the lurid figures in which they depicted the wrath to come. They were not indulging a morbid imagination but were fundamentally like lawyers quoting the law: this is just what the covenant curses had said would happen. We can imagine that this contributed a sense of inevitability to their pronouncements."
"The above illustrates what I believe to have been true of the Israelite prophets. In the face of Israel's apostasy they declare Yahweh's judgment by drawing on curses traditionally associated with the covenant. If so, we have another large body of evidence that the prophets--and their hearers--thought in categories derived from the covenant and expressed themselves in language drawn from it.
"This is important for our assessment of the prophets, who in anyone's view are some of the most interesting figures in the Old Testament. Much of modern scholarly study of the prophets has been devoted to prophetic psychology and attempts to describe and parallel the abnormal states of mind in which the prophets received their communications from God. Critical orthodoxy saw in the prophets the great creative figures in Israelite religion, the ones who made of a simple, natural faith a genuine monotheism vitally concerned with righteous living. Others more recently have tried to find the prophets a base in Israel's cult, in her organized institutions of worship. Though the present chapter is obviously not a full investigation of the role of the prophets, it may be enough to suggest modification in all the above conceptions of the prophets' place in Israel's religion. Though we do have evidence, inside the Bible and out, that some prophets cultivated a kind of ecstasy and in this fit delivered their oracles, such prophetic rapture appears more and more to have been an incidental and extraneous feature of the profession, and one not especially characteristic of the literary prophets of Israel. Instead, they appear as rather sober figures who framed oracles that drew on a conventional stock of ideas and phrases with roots deep in Israel's history rather than in their own consciousness or individual genius. For this reason also we must reassess the once common idea of the prophets as innovators. Without in any way denying their creativity, it would seem from their use of Israel's most ancient religious heritage that they were in great part creative as religious reformers are."
Hoekema, A. A. The Bible and the Future. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979, 210.
"Old Testament prophecies about the restoration of Israel may also have multiple fulfillments. In fact, they may be fulfilled in a threefold way: literally, figuratively, or antitypically. Let us look at some examples of each type of fulfillment.
"Prophecies of this sort may be fulfilled literally. As we have just seen, all the prophecies quoted about the restoration of Israel to its land have been literally fulfilled, either in the return from Babylon captivity under Zerubbabel and Joshua (in 536 B.C.), or in a later return under Ezra (in 458 B.C.).
"Prophecies of this sort may, however, also be fulfilled figuratively. The Bible gives a clear example of this type of fulfillment. I refer to the quotation of Amos 9:11-12 in Acts 15:14-18. At the Council of Jerusalem, as reported in Acts 15, first Peter and then Paul and Barnabas tell how God has brought many Gentiles to the faith through their ministries. James, who was apparently presiding over the council, now goes on to say, "Brethren, listen to me. Simeon [Peter] has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, as it is written, 'After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling (or tabernacle, KJ and ASV) of David, which has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up, that the rest of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who has made these things known from of old'" (Acts 15:14-18). James is here quoting the words of Amos 9:11-12. His doing so indicates that, in his judgment, Amos's prediction about the raising up of the fallen booth or tabernacle of David ("In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen . . .") is being fulfilled right now, as Gentiles are being gathered into the community of God's people. Here, therefore, we have a clear example in the Bible itself of a figurative, nonliteral interpretation of an Old Testament passage dealing with the restoration of Israel."
"Here, then, we find the New Testament itself interpreting an Old Testament prophecy about the restoration of Israel in a nonliteral way. It may well be that other such prophecies should also be figuratively interpreted. At least we cannot insist that all prophecies about the restoration of Israel must be literally interpreted.
"Prophecies about the restoration of Israel may also be fulfilled anti-typically--that is, as finally fulfilled in the possession by all of God's people of the new earth of which Canaan was a type. The Bible indicates that the land of Canaan was indeed a type of the everlasting inheritance of the people of God on the new earth."
"The question might still be raised. If the ultimate meaning of prophecies of this sort is the inheritance of the new earth in the final state by all the people of God together (both Jews and Gentiles), why do the Old Testament prophets speak in such narrow terms about a restoration of Israel to its land? The point is that the final blessedness of the people of God on the new earth could only be described by these Old Testament prophets in terms which would be meaningful to the Israelites of those days. For those Israelites the term Israel was simply a way of saying "the people of God." For them the land of Canaan was the land God had given to his people as their dwelling place and their possession. But the Old Testament is a book of shadows and types. The New Testament widens these concepts. In New Testament times the people of God no longer consists only of Israelites with a few non-Israelite additions, but is expanded to a fellowship inclusive of both Gentiles and Jews. In New Testament times the land which is to be inherited by the people of God is expanded to include the entire earth. As an illustration of this point, observe how Christ himself widens the meaning of Psalm 37:11, "But the meek shall possess the land." In the Sermon on the Mount Christ paraphrases this passage in the following way: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5). Note how the land of Psalm 37 has become the earth in Matthew 5.
"We therefore agree with dispensationalists that Old Testament prophecies about the restoration of Israel to its land do, at least in one sense, look forward to a glorious future. But we see that glorious future not as limited to the millennium but as involving all of eternity, and we understand that future as being good news not just for Israelites but for all of God's redeemed people. To understand these prophecies only in terms of a literal fulfillment for Israel in Palestine during the thousand years is to revert back to Jewish nationalism and to fail to see God's purpose for all his redeemed people. To understand these prophecies, however, as pointing, for their ultimate fulfillment, to the new earth and its glorified inhabitants drawn from all tribes, peoples, and tongues ties in these prophecies with the ongoing sweep of New Testament revelation, and makes them richly meaningful to all believers today. We see, therefore, in these Old Testament prophecies inspiring anticipations of the glorious visions of Revelation 21 and 22."
Huffmon, H. B. "The Treaty Background of Hebrew Yada ," BASOR 181 (1966) 31-37.
"The most obvious technical usage of "know" is that with reference to mutual legal recognition on the part of suzerain and vassal. In the treaty between the Hittite king Suppiluliumas and Huqqanas from eastern Asia Minor, Suppiluliumas says to his vassal, "And you, Huqqanas, know only the Sun [. . . .] regarding lordship; also my son (of) whom I, the Sun, say, 'This one everyone should know (sakdu),' ... you, Huqqanas, know him [. . . .]! Moreover, (those) who are my sons, his brothers, (or) my brothers . . . know [. . . .] as brother and associate. Moreover, another lord ... do not ... know [. . . .]! The Sun [alone] 'know' [. . . .]! ... Moreover, any other do not know [. . . .]!" And in the treaty between Muwattallis and Alaksandus from western Asia Minor, the Hittite suzerain assures his vassal that in the case of rebellion against the vassal, "As he [the rebel] is an enemy to you, even so is he an enemy to the Sun; [and] I, [the Su]n, will know only you [. . . .], Alaksandus.""
Ò ÔKnowÕ is also used as a technical term for recognition of the treaty stipulations as binding. In the treaty between Muwattallis and Alaksandus, already cited above, Muwattallis says to his vassal, ÔMoreover, this tablet which I m[ade] (for) you, Ala[ksandus], [let them re]ad it to you three tim[es] yearly, year after year, and you, Alaksandus, know [. . . .] it.Õ"
Motyer, J. A. The Day of the Lion. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1974, 37, 73, 74, 83, 84, 93.
A. "The clear division of the text in RSV helps us to see that the illustration used in verse 12 is a separate oracle and therefore brings before us a distinct truth. It is wholly ironic. The law (Ex. 22:12 f.) required an under-shepherd to furnish proof that an animal had been snatched from the flock: he must retrieve enough to show that it had been torn as prey by a marauding beast; otherwise he would be assumed to have appropriated the animal for himself and must pay compensation in full. Such a rescue was no rescue at all; it was only the evidence of what once was but now is no more.
"Here, then, is the irony. The remains of the people of God, the rescue which is no rescue, the surviving proof of what once was, consists of the corner of a couch and part of a bed. We may pose the question: if two legs, or a piece of an ear point to the former existence of a sheep, what sort of people are represented by the rescued evidence of parts of beds and couches?9 Imagine that these are the vestiges of the people of God! In spite of the abundance of their religion (4:4, 5) it is not in temple ruins or shattered altarstones that Amos finds evidence of the character and concerns of the people who once lived there. Beds, couches, pillows summarize their life and habits. Sensuality, luxury, idleness, bodily care--but no evidence of religion, never mind spirituality."
"9 The words the corner of a couch and part of a bed should either be associated with the verb dwell ('who dwell in Samaria....on...') or be treated as parallel to two legs, or a piece of an ear ('so shall...Israel...be rescued--the corner of a couch and part of a bed!'). In either case (and the latter is to be preferred) there is reference to a luxury-loving, sensual and indolent people. Cf. 6:4-6. The key phrase, however, is as hard to translate in one of its details as it is clear in its general significance. The Hebrew reads 'the corner of a bed and the demeseq of a couch'. There are as many explanations of the disputed word as there are commentaries and translations. Over them all Hammershaimb rightly writes the word 'dubious'. Some have related demeseq (but impossibly) to the word 'damask', but it at least provides a vigorous and pointed rendering: 'the leg of a settee and a silken pillow'. Pillows and bedlegs leave us in no doubt of the interests and occupations of the former residents."
B. Women are the trend-setters in society. They have ever been the final guardians of morals, fashions and standards. Consequently Amos (as Isaiah after him, cf. Is. 3:16 ff.) can isolate the heart-beat of society by examining its typical women. He starts by noting in such typical Samaritan society two of the features already exposed. First, a way of life which excludes all personal spiritual dimensions: the womenfolk are just like so many prime head of cattle (4:1), content with a purely animal existence, wanting nothing more. In their kind they were champions--Bashan was noted for its cattle (dt. 32:14; Ps. 22:12)--but it was a wholly body-centred, flesh-and-bones context in which they had excelled. Maybe some of the fine ladies were more concerned to lose weight than to gain it, but none the less it was the body and not the soul which occupied their waking hours. Secondly, Amos notes again that the society of which they were the trend-setters was an 'I'm all right, Jack' outfit thriving on the miseries suffered by and the indignities loaded upon the defenceless. The poor and needy were fleeced and squeezed without qualm of conscience."
Thompson, J. A. The Ancient Near Eastern Treaties and the Old Testament. London: The Tyndale Press, 1964, 30, 35-37.
"If some doubt remains about the influence of the Near Eastern treaty concept on such thinking it would seem that the many references in the prophets to a covenant law-suit point to the influence of the treaty idea. It has been cogently argued recently that there is, in the law-suits in the prophets, a fusion of actual court procedures and the Near Eastern treaty pattern. According to H. B. Huffmon the law-suit in the prophets follows a fairly standard literary form consisting of an introduction in which the scene of the judgment is described; an address by the plaintiff, who is also the judge, in the form of questions which actually list the accusations to which the accused has no adequate reply; a resume of the past benevolent acts of the plaintiff and the ingratitude of the accused; and finally, the indictment of the accused. This latter feature is sometimes presented in the form of an exact judgment and sometimes in the form of a warning concerning the evil results of a breach of covenant. In a number of cases witnesses are called to attest that the covenant has been broken. Heaven and earth are commonly called, no doubt in view of the permanence and reliability. In some passages the futility of ritual acts or of trust in other gods is declared.
"The picture in these law-suits is well known in the context of the Near Eastern vassal treaties. Great kings sent their agents or messengers to rebel vassals to point out to them the futility of trust in other helpers or in other gods in case of rebellion. Moreover, the consequences of rebellion were quite regularly declared in such cases. It would seem that the law-suit was a means by which a suzerain either declared war on a rebellious vassal, or issued an ultimatum to one who was beginning to show signs of rebellion. Both in the Old Testament and in contemporary Near Eastern literature we have evidence of these two kinds of law-suit."
"f. The vocabulary of covenant
"The Near Eastern treaties of the second and first millennia BC provide valuable information about the language used to express the relationship between a suzerain and his vassal in the lands surrounding Israel. A comparison of the terms used in the Near Eastern treaty texts with those used in the Old Testament reveals many points of similarity.
"In the first place there are a number of terms that are etymological equivalents. The Near Eastern treaties are written for the most part in Akkadian and Aramaic, languages that are cognate with Hebrew. Thus the Hebrew noun segullah which is used to describe Israel as Yahweh's 'treasured possession' in several passages in the Old Testament is a strict etymological equivalent of the Akkadian sikiltu which occurs on a treaty seal from Alalah to describe the king as a 'treasured possession' of the god. Again the terms yasar, mesarim and misor, all of which are used in the Old Testament to define the quality of 'rightness' of 'straightness' in reference to the requirements of Yahweh's covenant, have a close etymological equivalent in the akkadian term mesarum which also defined 'rightness' in numerous Akkadian documents. And again, the verb hatu and the noun hitu, both meaning literally 'sin', were commonly used in treaty documents to define an act of rebellion. They are exactly equivalent to the Hebrew verb hata and the noun hatta'th, both of which define rebellion against Yahweh, Israel's covenant Lord.
"In the Aramaic Sefire documents the verb sm means 'obey', literally 'hear'. The same verb is used in Hebrew although it is there regularly construed with the preposition b so that the phrase means literally 'hear into', a vivid expression for that deliberate attention to the words of a king that results in obedience. The Sefire texts also make use of the verb sqr 'lie', 'act falsely' to describe an act of rebellion. The same usage is found occasionally in covenant contexts in the Old Testament.
"Apart from etymological equivalents, there are numerous semantic equivalents to Near Eastern terms in the Old Testament. Thus the Hebrew expression abhar berit, 'transgress a covenant' is an exact semantic equivalent to the Akkadian expression mamit/nis ilani etequ, 'transgress the oath of the gods'. Further, a number of individual terms in the Near Eastern treaty documents have semantic equivalents in Old Testament covenant contexts. Thus the Akkadian awate and the Hebrew debarim both mean literally 'words', and both define the covenant stipulations; the Akkadian sebu and the Hebrew 'ed both denote 'witness'; the Akkadian mamitu and the Hebrew sebu'ah both denote 'oath'; the Akkadian arratu and the Hebrew alah both mean 'curse'. In each case the terms are regularly used in treaty or covenant contexts.
"These equivalents make it clear that certain aspects of the Old Testament covenant language were rooted in the wider Near Eastern environment. Indeed, it is true to say that the formal and legal elements of the covenant between Yahweh and Israel were expressed in terms which were very similar to those used in the Near Eastern treaties. Even such a term as 'love' which has always seemed to be unique in the covenant between Yahweh and Israel is now known to have a semantic equivalent in the treaty texts of the Near East. Both suzerains and vassals were expected to show some measure of devotion to one another, at least in a formal way.
"In general, both in the Old Testament and in the Near Eastern treaties the parties were described as 'king' or 'lord' on the one hand, and 'servant' on the other. The covenant stipulations were known as 'words' or 'commandments'. All treaties and covenants had 'witnesses' to the 'oath' that was taken. The verbs 'rule', 'love', 'serve', 'bless', 'curse', 'obey', 'swear', 'cause to swear', 'call as witness', and others besides, all belong to the same general Sitz im Leben, namely to the suzerain-vassal society which gave rise to the Near Eastern treaties, and which provided a pregnant metaphor for the expression of the covenant between Yahweh and Israel.
"Clearly the covenant between Yahweh and His people Israel could not find full expression in such legal and formal terms, even if these were important aspects of the covenant. There were deeper ranges to Yahweh's covenant with His people which was, of course, a religious and not a political covenant. It may be difficult to isolate a completely unique set of verbs and nouns which may be described as Israel's special covenant vocabulary, but it seems clear that there was, in fact, a group of terms which may be regarded as giving definition in a special way to the covenant between Yahweh and His people."