Literature and Theology of the Old Testament

  • Created by: Tamika
  • Created on: 04-01-18 23:14


  • Lamentations is often placed after Jeremiah
  • It is set in the period after the fall of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (586 - 587 BCE)
  • The vividness of Lamentations leads one to believe that it is an eyewitness account but the poetry suggests otherwise
    • it follows an alphabetic acrostic
  • Israel didn't exist as a name until the 12th/13th century BCE
  • There was no nation called Israel until the 10th century BCE
  • There was not a serious setup of Israel until the 8th/9th century BCE
  • It is a form of protest --> draws attention to horrors that should not have happened
  • The order of the acrostic is in contrast to the disorder of the pain
  • Lady Zion is the personification of Jerusalem as a widow
  • Chapter 2 --> focus on the falls of Jerusalem and God's wrath
  • Chapter 3 --> draws language from other parts of the Old Testament - Psalms, Isaiah, and Job
    • if God is consistent enough to put His justice on evil then He is consistent enough to reward
      • Lamentations 3:38-39
  • Chapter 4 --> the two year siege of Jerusalem
  • Chapter 5 --> a communal prayer for God's mercy
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  • People were able to print longer than they were able to write
  • 14th.15th century CE, printing becomes popular with the Reformation
  • Only 1% literacy rate in the ancient world but in the Roman period this increased to 10%-15%
  • The idea of Scripture wasn't introduced until later than the actual production of the texts
    • Isaiah went through serveral stages of growth and the original is not know to modern scholars
  • These books are not mass productions
    • "Israelites view..." is the view expressed by some of the 1% elite
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  • law is a regulation with some official backing
  • Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 both depict the 10 commandments
  • Keeping the sabbath is impractical for the poorest in society and coveting is only an issue for the wealthy who have stuff to be coveted

Hammurabi and Babylon

  • Hammurabi was a Babylonian king
  • His laws were based on hypothetical situations
    • if x then y
  • You show the quality of your society by the quality of your law
    • This law does not need to be followed but written down to be presented to the gods
  • If we view the law as a written treaty or contract to be upheld by society, then the Jews signed this contract when they joined the covenant
    • In modern society, you sign the contract when you choose to live in a society
  • The 10 commandments is the first known occasion of a God making laws for humans not humans making laws for gods
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  • Deuteronomy and Exodus are similar
    • Deuteronomy is supposed to replace Exodus
  • The commandments in Exodus are on Mount Sinai but in Deuteronomy it is at Mount Horeb
  • 586 BCE - the fall of Judah
  • 721 - the fall of Jerusalem
  • Around this time, the biggest army was the Assyrian (8th to 7th century BCE)
    • it fell apart from the inside
    • The Babylonians benefitted
  • The area around Israel was essentially a power vacuum when Assyria withdrew
  • Moses constantly reminds the Israelites about the 10 commandments and monotheism
  • Chapter 12 -16 --> one temple for one god
  • Chapters 16 - 18
    • God says he will send prophets who will be superior to kings, priests and elders
  • Chapters 19 - 26
    • Civil laws and social justice --> more liberal than surrounding societies
  • Chapters 27 - 31
    • Moses knew that the Israelites would rebel and be exiled but has hope for them to turn back to god
    • He talks about the circumcision of a hard heart
      • there is something fundamentally wrong with the human heart
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King Josiah

  • depicted as hosting religious reform
  • Reforming Bethel - not his territory so not normal
  • Megide - Judah and Israel were used like a corridor
  • Corcemish - the boundary between Syria and Turkey; a battle led to the permanent destruction of the Assyrian Empire
  • 2 Kingdoms - in the Bible this was orginally 1 kingdom then broke into 2
  • Josiah finds a scrolls and realises they haven't been doing what they were supposed to
    • religious reform - closes cults
  • Deuteronomy was not keen on kings
    • it was a religious movement not political but generated by the same things
  • There is an ongoing idea of 1 kingdom, 1 God, 1 people
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Deuteronomistic History

  • Deuteronomy doesn't fit with the rest of the Pentateuch, but does with what follows
  • Ruth is only place where it is in the Christian Bible because of its chronology
  • The interests of the 4 Kingdoms are much like the interests of Deuteronomy
  • Martin Noth - wondered whether there was something running through Deuteronomy to 2 Kings
  • It is thought that Deuteronomy was originally just a law code embedded within a treaty and that the narrative was added to make it part of the Deuteronomistic History
  • It is understood that Deuteronomy is either a free standing introduction or that it is part of the History
  • The biggest modern challenge surrounds the story of Joshua and Judges
    • Judges is supposed to follow from Joshua but it doesn't flow as there are some unconquered lands
  • 2 Kings raises the issue of when and for what purpose this historical book was created
    • perhaps it was to firm the idea of a single Israel
  • If it was written in the reign of Josiah, it looks forward to the possibility of a unified Israel
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  • based around the idea of cycles and covenants
  • Heilsgeschichte - history of salvation
    • history and the glorious embrace of God in the past
    • it is a way of thinking about Israel and its relationship with God
  • Some people argued that Israel saw its religion in terms of its history
  • Gerhard von Rad - some of these provlamations of God delivering the Israelites from salvation were creeds recited
    • "God brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt"
  • Mesha - in his father's generation, the Moabites had angered their gods and were given into the hands of Israelites
  • Good and bad was measured as an adherence to the covenant
  • We don't know any other religions in which they found themselves bound to their god by a treaty
  • The book of the law was lost between the building of the Temple and the reign of Josiah
  • There would have been many Israelites who did not know about the covenant or even agreed with the laws in Deuteronomy
  • it is a story of everything going wrong
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  • Joshua and Judges are the stories of Israel before the founding of the monarchy
  • Joshua begins at the border of the Promised Land
  • The first 5 chapters are preparatory
  • Joshua 6-12 are the stories of conquest
  • The violence of Samson leads on to the further destruction of Israel's unity
  • "In those days, there was no king in Israel. Every man did what was right in his eyes."
  • Joshua is about the fulfilment of the Promise
    • This is a story of extreme violence
  • There is total annihilation in Joshua - herem
    • herem seems to siggest that this destruction is God's will
  • There is a lot of Deuteronomistic theology in Joshua
    • Obedience is rewarded; disobedience is punished
  • Joshua 12 gives a complete list of those conquered which seems to suggest that it is a complete conquest
  • Joshua 13 speaks of unconquered land
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Herem - Conceptualization

  • Joshua appears to be putting "herem" into practice
  • Some translations have it as "put to death" and "destroy" but these don't capture the religious duty
  • This seems to be part of the cultural background of Syrio-Palestine
    • Mesha, king of Moab, was commanded to do something similar

Conceptualizing Herem

  • as God's portion (Niditch)
    • human life is so valuable it should be offered to God
  • As God's justice (Niditch)
    • eradication of evil
  • As 'culturemap category' (Nelson)
    • there are certain things in Israelite culture that are taken for granted such as the idea of purity and impurity
  • As utopian law and history written in retrospect (Weinfeld)
    • speaks of what might have ideally happened but was never put into practice
  • As theological metaphor (Moberly)
    • it is to express our duty and obedience
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Herem - Subversive Moments

  • Rahab (Joshua 2,6)
    • She is a Cananite who is obedient to the LORD
    • She and her family are saved
  • Achan (Joshua 7)
    • He is an Israelite who is exterminated as he keeps some thing he wasn't supposed to keep
  • The Gibeonites (Joshua 9)
    • They disguise themselves as foreigners as the Israelites are only to kill Canaanites
    • They are later found out and become slaves to the Israelites but are not killed
  • those who are in relationship with the LORD do well (Rahab) and those who are not (Achan) do not do well
  • The focus is on the relationship with the LORD rather than ethnicity
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Succession Narrative


  • Samuel introduces us to the monarchy
  • Saul is undermined from the outset as YHWH chose David to replace him
  • 2 Samuel 5 -- David is anointed
  • 2 Samuel 7 -- covenant with David
  • There is a deuteronomical tension between choice and obedience
    • being chosen by God doesn't absolve from responsibility
  • The Succession Narrative is thought to be the source of the Deuteronomic History
  • If the Succession Narratives are about Solomon, why is he so absent in them?
  • Attempts to explain the complex history of David's children
  • In Kings 1, what David knows and doesn't is important
  • Is this historical writing an attempt to describe the past? -- wealth of detail
  • It is primarily interested in the relationship between David and his family not the wider political context
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Succession Narrative - Genre

Political Propaganda

  • written in order to put a spin on events that were well-known
  • An apology to explain why David became king rather than Saul

Propaganda against the monarchy

  • Solomon becomes the fall guy for his father's desire to destroy his enemies

Pro-Davidic but anti-Solomon

  • Josiah is the first king after David to fulfil the promise
  • Everything goes downhill after Solomon

Serious entertainment

  • denounces engagement and challenges you
  • written for the reader's pleasure
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