The truth that God is the King of kings and the Lord of lords comes out loud and clear in the book of Daniel, and it comes at no better time. For the setting of the book of Daniel was the sixth-century, a time when Israel, God’s chosen nation, was in held in captivity in Babylon. The question on every faithful Jew, especially on the mind of the book’s human author, would be whether or not God was really in control, being that His people were now seemingly under the control of human gentile kings. After dealing with some introductory matters, this biblical theology will divide the book of Daniel into three themes, God, Israel, and mankind in general, for it is clear that the scope of this great book extends beyond that of God’s covenantal relationship with Israel to the whole of the created universe. Read the rest of this entry »
Merrill points out the story of David bringing the ark to Jerusalem on the second attempt (p. 469), and how he told the priests to consecrate themselves and carry it in the way the Torah commands, is a great illustration on how the book of Chronicles differs from Samuel and Kings. There are parts where the chronicler chose to give details that were not a part of any other book. And even this even brings to mind David’s spiritual leadership of the nation – though I would not yet go as far as to say David assumes he is like Melchizedek, he was at least a spiritual leader. Even the omission of the reference to punishment if David’s sons were disobedient (in the Davidic Covenant), Merrill points out, it most likely because of the postexilic period in which the book was written (p. 470). David’s sons had already rebelled, and so the writer was looking to the ultimate fulfillment in the Messiah to come – therefore the misbehavior part was not needed, for his emphasis. I had never really thought about the timing of the books, and it really is an important feature in order to get the right interpretation.
Because of the information in the book of Hebrews, I have always thought there was some type of visible temple in heaven that the temple on earth was modeled after. But I think Merrill is right, we should not take the “shadow” concept too far. The temple was to be the house of God – so I do see the heavenly model in that – but since the idea of earthly things being a “pale reflection” of what exists in heaven comes from a Platonic idea, it is most likely wise to do more study in this area before saying there is a mirror copy of the temple in heaven (p. 473). But I am not sure if I would go along with Merrill in saying that the temple, “must be a metaphor for paradise itself” (p. 475).
The nature of the historical writing in Scripture is important to look at, as Merrill points out (p. 477). Though some secular scholars (and probably “Christian” ones as well) would say the history of the Bible cannot be trusted because it is biased, Merrill has a good point in saying it can be both historically accurate as well as being “biased” or rather filtered through a theological grid (p. 477). It makes sense the writers would be writing with a purpose, and therefore would omit some things, because they did not fall within the purpose. It really is the story of God – not a nation. Though at times a nation fits in with his story.
Looking back into how much criticism has fallen on the Bible it really is amazing that anyone still criticizes it. I remember reading at how no one thought the Hittites existed, but now everyone knows they did. And in Ezra-Nehemiah in regards to letters recorded written by pagan kings, Merrill refers to the fact that “Skeptical scholarship refuses to take the texts of the letters of these pagan kings at face value” (p. 484). You would think scholars would have learned their lesson by now, the Bible is true! But it seems the fight will continue to go on. For me, I agree with Merrill, that even though, “to this date no extrabiblical evidence exists to corroborate the biblical testimony…that by itself should cast no doubt as to the authenticity of the biblical record” (p. 485).
It is amazing to think of how God actually does “relate to His creation,” and, “in ways that are perceptible” (p. 159). So often I take the Bible for granted, but I must constantly remind myself of the amazing truth, that it is God’s Word, His communication to me, that I might know Him intimately, and glorify Him for His great purposes. This perspective that Merrill draws out for the book of Chronicles is a very good start, to get my mind right with the text.
The covenants in the Old Testament are very complex, but I have enjoyed studying them and observing new details that I had never seen before. Merrill states the fact that in Chronicles, the writer does not emphasize the Sinaitic Covenant, but rather stresses the Davidic Covenant (p. 162). This is interesting, because of the nature of the Sinaitic Covenant, being conditional in nature. Its purpose “was to fulfill the promise to the patriarchs concerning a nation and to provide a kingdom over which the Judahite sovereign could reign” (p. 167). The purpose was to create a nation who would model “what it meant to be the dominion of the Lord” (p. 167). It was never meant for personal salvation – it was never a mode of gaining right standing before the Lord – this is critical! So when Israel failed to provide this kingdom, the termination of the Sanaitic Covenant could be anticipated, but the purposes of the Lord to bring this kingdom would continue – and still through Israel for the promises were to Israel. This is even brought out in how the names invoked in regards to God are “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (p. 170). The continuity between covenants is beginning to make sense.
The tracing of Adam to David in the genealogy in Chronicles is also an interesting element that I never thought about before (p. 169). The whole concept of dominion as an overarching theme in the Bible really comes out. I still am not fully able to see the connection in my mind, but it is beginning to make sense. What other reason would the chronicler want to show the line from Adam to David? This especially makes sense with Jesus being in the line of David, as being the second Adam. Obviously, all humans are related to Adam, but to specifically bring out the point does seem odd unless there was a point to it.
Merrill’s understanding that David saw himself in direct relation to Melchizedek is somewhat difficult to see (p. 177) biblically. Especially because of the connection those Psalms are used in the New Testament for Jesus and not so much for David (I always thought them to be prophetical, not about David). “And the Lord said to my Lord,” I really do not think refers to David at all. “My Lord,” would mean David’s Lord, not himself. And yet Merrill thinks David is referring to himself (“my Lord [i.e., David]” p. 181). I do not understand where Merrill gets that; especially with the New Testament in-depth explanations of that passage.
Again, Merrill’s understanding of David and the priesthood is not totally convincing. This time he focuses on the wearing of the ephod (p. 180). In regards to another king (Uzziah) being disciplined because of doing something a priest could do, he says, “His sin was not in functioning as a priest but rather in intruding into the domain of the priests of Israel” (p. 181) I am not sure how that differs from functioning as a priest. If David did things that only priests were allowed to do, then why would Uzziah not be able to get away with it?
[Comments on readings in Merrill's Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament] Merrill’s view on prophecy comes out in his comments on Hannah’s prayer, “But there can be little doubt that she also speaks of a ruler to come in the near future…” (p. 428). I find it hard to agree that we can know for sure that Hannah was praying for a king “in the near future” because nothing in the text tells us. Merrill uses the word, “also” and therefore tells us that he believes there is dualism in the prophetic text. But again, I see no reason to force any dualistic view on Hannah’s prayer in this passage.
Some information that I have never heard is brought up when Merrill points out that “according to His own heart” is “a technical term referring to divine election” (p. 431). Does this change the meaning of “a man after My own heart” as well? I always thought it meant that David was aligned with God in His desires – meaning he was godly. But Merrill really almost seems to strip down the terms of God’s “choice” to be legal and without emotion. Yet I do not believe God is without emotion. I believe He loves, with intense feeling. One only has to look to Jesus to see this. Jesus felt intense emotions, and love was one of them. I am not sure why Merrill feels he must strip down God’s emotional side and make Him stone-cold. But, that being said, I should look more into the meaning of these phrases for perhaps it is true that emotion has no part of them.
Merrill’s link to the royal priesthood is interesting (p. 447). I don’t believe I have ever heard David being linked with Melchizedek. I understand his logic in doing so, but I am just not sure if I totally agree on how something like that would come into being. I mean, David just started doing his own sacrifices because he lived in the same city as Melchizedek (p. 451)? I think I need a better reason than that. It is interesting, because Heater in BTOT does not seem to agree with Merrill, for he points out that if Saul had sacrificed himself, he would have been disciplined for such action (BTOT p. 140 compared to Merrill p. 448), but that he most likely did not. Heater therefore, does not take the text as literally as Merrill (for Merrill states the text says David sacrifices, and therefore we should take it as such). But in the end, if the link with royal priesthood and Jesus is with David, why would the Hebrew author not mention it? Why does he only mention Melchizedek and not David? I believe, while Merrill may be on to something, he needs more proof, more link as it were, to say that the royal priesthood actually began (or continued depending on how you look at it) with David.
Elijah’s challenge to the people of Israel, “If Yahweh is God, follow Him. But if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21 p. 455) caused me to think about apologetics in the Bible. Because so much emphasis is placed on logically convincing people that God is God, and yet even in Elijah’s case, the amazing miracle, that gave the people a huge load of empirical evidence, did not change their heart. Elijah’s depression after the event could really be compared on a small scale with those who go on their first evangelism encounter with all kinds of ways to “convince” people of the truth of the Gospel, and then come back without anyone believing.
[Comments on readings in A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament - chapter by Homer Heater] Homer Heater does a great job summarizing the theology of Samuel and Kings; truly the books are, “two marvelous compositions showing God’s rule among men and, more specifically, the men and women of Israel” (p. 116). He states that the Davidic Covenant is the “centerpiece” of Samuel and of Kings (p. 120), and that by acknowledging this centrality one picks up on the argumentation of 1 Samuel and “how it moves inexorably toward 2 Samuel 7” (p. 120). I am not sure if Heater showed this argument very clearly, and for such a bold statement, I would have expected more from him.
When Heater refers to the problem of high places in Samuel and Kings, he brings up an issue that caused me to have some questions in my mind. The writer(s) of Samuel had no problem with high places as long as they were dedicated to the Lord but the writer(s) of Kings were opposed to them (p. 126). First of all, Heater brings up a quote from someone who seems to be a liberal and doesn’t really give a reason for quoting him, only a brief comment that the author of the quote is obviously arguing in a “circle” (p. 126). But my question really has to do with how far one takes the author’s words as his own, and delineates them from God’s own Word. These are the narrators we are talking about. So when can we know what God thinks about the matter, if the authors were humanly opposed? Can we only take direct prophecy as the actual thoughts of God? Heater opens up a huge box here, and does not close it. I mean, for example, are the Psalms just thoughts of men, or can we take them as the authoritative Word of God? There is a fine line here, in delineating between authors, and then ignoring the one author of Scripture, the Holy Spirit; and I am not sure Heater does us a service in his commentary on the matter.
Samuel’s first interaction with God would make an interesting study for as Heater quoted, “the word of the Lord was rare” (p. 129). What are ways to know of God’s voice today. Many claim they hear Him. Eli’s instructions were quite simple, and it did not take long for him to catch on that it was God. How did Old Testament saints know when God spoke to them? They did not have the Bible as we have it today, and so by what method could they affirm anything dogmatically? Was it through signs, or did God just make them know supernaturally it was really Him? With all the charismatic dogma going around these days, such a study could prove helpful.
Heater makes a good point about the easy cross-over from Yahwism to Baal worship, in the fact that Yahweh could be called Baal. As someone interested in translation, this also makes a good point, that just because a name is used of a false God, it does not mean it cannot be used for the true God. Though great care must be taken in translation, this sheds some biblical light on the issue, rather than most arguments that I have heard which are purely based on man’s own reasoning.
[Comments on readings in A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament - chapter by Thomas Constable] Thomas Constable does an excellent job at summarizing Joshua, Judges, and Ruth, but from the outset there is one issue in particular I felt he did not completely address (p. 93). That is the statement in Joshua 21:43 that, “the Lord gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it.” Thomas claims that the promises were not fully realized in Joshua’s lifetime citing 24:1-28, but I do not feel that this is such a simple issue. Joshua does not only once state explicitly that the Lord had given them the land, but twice (Joshua 23:14), so this really is a big deal. Covenantal theologians do not interpret the text the same way Thomas does, and so I am really surprised that he did not spend more time developing his reasoning. He points to some studies done by scholars, backing up his claim that what is said in Joshua is false (p. 103 footnote 21), but did he realize he is using the claims of scholars against the Bible? No, this must be resolved by the Text, and I did not feel that he did so.
Also, the idea that Judges was recorded to provide “apologetic justification for Israel’s monarchy” (p. 94), seems a little hard to grasp, being that God was angry when Israel, shall we say, “recognized” they needed a king. Sure, it might not have been the right timing – but it seemed like great timing, if Judges were in fact showing their need for one. God was their king, but Israel did not want him. And it gets sticky when we deal with the fact that Israel’s sin led to the Messiah (for it did, but would God have appointed a king over Israel if they had not asked for one? It is hard to know).
Constable’s point regarding Israel’s continued existence as a nation as a polemic for God’s choice is compelling (p. 95), and I believe one that has yet to be fully explored (at least in covenantal circles). God truly has remained faithful. This should help us interpret the difficulties in the conditional statements in the covenants, being that God always gave Israel chance to repent, to return, and experience His blessing once again (even later, once Israel was exiled).
In Constables observations about love being “a commitment to honor and glorify [God]” I think he fails to take man’s fallen state into account. If men were perfect, would there ever be a time when we did not feel love towards God? Is it not rather because of sin, or even sin, because we do not feel love towards God, but must do things out of duty because we know we should do them? I think perfect love is a love of feeling, but it is because of sin that we must make a commitment to honor and glorify God, because we will fail otherwise.
[Comments on readings in Merrill's Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament] One topic that I have yet to really study is that of Old Testament means of revelation from God (p. 76). Merrill has great summaries on each mode of revelation in the Old Testament, but it leaves me still wondering. As Christian conservatives we believe the Bible is the only revelation of God that can be truly infallible and inerrant, but how does that concept pan out in an Old Testament world? They had dreams and visions, and yet they were for sure from God. Why is it that we put the written word on a pedestal, and dismiss other means of past revelation as unreliable? It seems like a hole in the system. If revelation in dreams was once a valid way for God to communicate, why do we demean that mode of communication? Could those revelations not be proven? Were they just the “voice” in someone’s head? We know them not to be, for Scripture tells us it was God Himself, but how did they know it was God?
On Merrill’s discussion about Isaiah 7:3-17 (p. 97), I found it difficult, if there were two fulfillments, to believe that there were two virgins. Is it a virgin or is it not? Obviously the New Testament tells us Mary was a virgin, but did Isaiah? Because if the prophecy was fulfilled once with a non-virgin (meaning through relations with a man), how could the word that Isaiah used actually mean “virgin”? Because the prophecy would be false – at least in the first fulfillment.
When Merrill states that Genesis 2 contains “highly figurative language” (p. 105), I am not sure if I agree. What in the passage demands that it be figurative? Merrill believes God did not actually “form, breathe, plant, and place” anything, but that these things rather happened as a direct result of God’s spoken word. But what is preventing God from in some way, doing these things personally? All Genesis 1 says is that God created man – it doesn’t say how (if He spoke or “formed” him). Also, the planting of God refers directly to the Garden of Eden, which seems to be a special place, whereas there were other plants that were spoken into being, God could have taken special care of Eden. Why does Merrill feel chapter 2 must be figurative? I am not convinced.
The relationship Canaan had with Noah was quite interesting (p. 113). I had never heard that or saw it in my reading of Scripture. Very interesting! This puts Merrill a step above Thomas Constable in my thoughts, especially because Merrill later has a whole section on “Holy War” (p. 415). But I still found it interesting that neither of them made the connection to God being ready to give mercy to any Cannanite who wanted to repent, as shown through Rahab. Merrill even mentions Rahab (p. 417), but does not draw any conclusion to her being saved (it sure sticks out like a sore thumb to me!).
[Comments on readings in A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament - chapter by Merrill] Merrill points to the very heart of the covenant relationship as “fellowship between Yahweh and His people” (p. 57). I think this is important as one reads and studies the law, because at times it can seem very harsh. But as one puts the law through this lens, it really does aid the understanding of it – God was so gracious to Israel to even tell them anything about how they can achieve a right relationship with Him, and the same is true for us today. God is gracious beyond all our own understanding. The people of Israel are chosen, set apart, not because they were great, but just because God set His love upon them, and one begins to see the concept of the “image-bearer” here, because in being the people of God, Israel was to be like God, in that they were to be holy as He is holy. I think the more I read the more I am understanding this concept. It is interesting that I never really have heard anyone articulate it. It is good to learn more of God’s Word.
One characteristic of Merrill’s writing that maybe is a weakness is that he just states ideas without backing them up. I realize there is only so much space in a one volume work, but for the more significant issues, I wish he would interact some with those of differing opinions for my benefit as I interact with others. When he states that Israel would have hope in exile even though they were disobedient to the covenant because the covenant “was based on the unconditional promises of God” (p. 59) I really wonder what a covenantal theologian would say to that. How would Merrill argue this point? It really does seem like quite a big issue, but Merrill does not even go into more detail positively, let alone negatively.
Merrill explains, in his section on Deuteronomy, that “the emphasis is not on the universal covenant with all mankind….Rather [it] is on the covenant with Israel” (p. 67). He then goes on to say that “The call to Israel is not to fill the created earth but to occupy a land” (p. 67). I wonder how exactly this fits in to the idea that the “Creation Mandate” is the center for the whole Bible. And how does this work also for us, who have been given the mandate to make disciples? I see that God’s rule has in some sense been forfeited until the end (Rev. 11:15 on page 69), but why Israel? Why this taking of the land? Does the Bible explain this explicitly, or is it something that is in-between the lines that we must put together for ourselves? It would seem that if this is the theme of the Bible, it would be explicate, but I still do not understand fully how this all works out.
When Merrill brings up the form of Deuteronomy (p. 73), I still do not fully understand how this form would aid our interpretation. Is it just a fact that helps those who do not believe the book was written in the time of Moses? Or does it have some other usage that would not be able to be found through internal evidence? Outlining a book normally does not take extra-biblical sources to accomplish. So why is it brought up? Especially since it is a covenant renewal text, rather than just a plain covenant (p. 74)?
If friend borrows money and we agree on payment, and he doesn’t pay, is the agreement over? No!