Monthly Archives: May 2015

Was Samson a Good Judge?

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For all of my church-going life, Samson’s had a pretty bad wrap. He had some positives: he was a judge of Israel, a lion killer who had multiple Holy Spirit fillings, and a Philistine killer. And then there were the negatives: he followed his appetite (e.g., food, women, etc), disregarded God’s law (again, food, women, etc), and fell for Delilah’s tricks. He was the last in a downward spiral of God’s judges over Israel, and, as is often taught, was the worst of the judges over Israel.

And yet, though I think this is so (having read through Block’s Judges/Ruth commentary), Watts has challenged that notion. This is not an original idea from him, but one from Gordon Hugenberger’s Judges class. Hugenberger has written an article called “Why Samson May Not Have Visited a Prostitute (Judges 16:1-3)” in a festschrift to Beale titled From Creation to New Creation, and is currently writing the Judges volume in the Apollos Old Testament Commentary series. My Digital Seminary has written about this article a little while ago. While it is illuminating, so are the comments. After reading the comments I thought it was a closed case. But as no argument is sealed with one piece of evidence, Watts came with a sling of evidence about this Philistine killer.

What’s unique about Samson?

  1. He’s the only judge Israel didn’t ask (or “cry out”) for [Judg. 3.9, 15; 4.3; 6.6; 10.10].
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    Was Samson a “dropkick” (i.e., a loser)? Watts said, “If you really think Samson is the worst of judges, you have a serious problem. You’ve demonstrated that God can’t provide [good] leadership.”
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  2. There are more references to God’s Spirit falling on Samson than any other figure [Judg. 13.25(?); 14.6, 19; 15.14].
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  3. He’s in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 (v. 32).
    • Though, so is Jephthah, and he doesn’t register high on the moral exemplar list (though that’s not the point of the “Hall of Fame”).
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  4. According to Watts, Samson is “one of the wisest figures in the Old Testament.” On two occasions he comes up with three-way puns.
    • One pun is found in Judg. 16.25-27, though I don’t know if it’s one of the “three-way” puns. Watts doesn’t tell us where the puns are found, and I’m not expert on which puns are three-way and which are not.
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  5. Samson keeps going back to Delilah. Samson must be a moron blinded by love, right? Yet, throughout the book of Judges, who keeps going back to Israel knowing full well that she will sell him out when there’s money/idols involved?
    • YHWH. He loves Israel, even when she consistently betrays him.
      • Also, it never says that Samson has sexual relations with Delilah. She is commanded to seduce him, which may or may not entail sexual relations (according to Watts, Hugenberger, and the English translations).
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  6. When Samson is about to die he prays to YHWH, but doesn’t repent. Yet YHWH still hears Samson’s prayer.
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  7. Where in the Bible does God effect a great deliverance to an unrepentant dreadful sinner? Samson.
    1. Where in the biblical narrative does God ever step in to win a greater victory in one’s death than was ever experienced in his life? Samson and Jesus.
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  8. Samson is the only judge where the author says, “And his parents did not perceive this was from the Lord” (Judg. 14.4). The author knows all the readers will make the same mistake as Samson’s parents and think Samson is a loser, much like the mistake many righteous people thought about Jesus in his lifetime (including his own family, Mark 3.21).
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  9. When Samson goes to Gath (Judg. 16.1-3), many think he’s up to no good in the house of the prostitute. Yet here we see the exact same language used about the spies who go to Jericho in Joshua 2, and nobody thinks the spies are up to no good (a summary of Hugenberger’s article on this topic can be read here).

Are There Other OT Parallels to Samson?

  1. On his way down to Timnah, God’s Spirit falls upon Samson and he kills a lion (Judg. 14.6).

    Later on in 1 Samuel 17.36 we read of another character who polished his skills by killing a lion in his early days (which prepared him for the future holy war with the Philistines). Who is this character?

    • David
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  2. After this incident, Samson comes back from fighting the Philistines and finds honey (14.8-9). (Remember, he’s fighting this “holy war” alone).

    Again in 1 Samuel, there is another who is fighting the holy war alone (along with his armour bearer). These two men take on the whole Philistine army. Later on, they find and eat honey (while his own father is sitting under a tree doing nothing). Who is this man?

    • Jonathan

Are there more OT parallels? Probably. Watts asks, “What if there are more parallels with Samson and Jesus than any other figure in the OT?” This makes me curious: if Hugenberger is right, how many parallels have we missed? Watts takes the idea that Judges was written around the time of 1 & 2 Samuel, which helps make the case for the parallels between the books. If Samson really is so great, what other parallels have the biblical authors drawn from him?

After having listened to Watts, I’m eager to read Hugenberger’s commentary on Judges. I’d like to see what parallels he has found and how he defends his “Samson-is-more-like-YHWH-than-you-thought” concept. While I find this interesting, I can’t help but ask what this does to the storyline of Judges? How does this view of Samson relate to the other judges and the story as a whole? Until I know that, I’m not fully persuaded (though if the evidence warrants, I could be). I’d like to hear your thoughts on this too. Do you think Samson is a lost cause? Or is he simply misunderstood? Could it be said of us readers that we “did not perceive this was from the Lord”? 

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Isaiah Class Introduction

Isaiah

In going through Rikk Watts’ Isaiah class, Watts lays out the class forecast in his handout (which is included with the MP3 download). When giving a projected forecast for a class, it’s important to stick to it, both for your sake and for the sanity of the students (especially when the book consists of 66 chapters). Watts follows through with his forecast, and this is seen in the following examples.

Class Forecast

Themes

Primarily, to acquaint students with the leading themes of the multifaceted message of Isaiah, noting in particular both their continuity and development throughout, and thereby providing students with a sense of the unity and diversity of material within the overall purpose of the book;

Knowing that he cannot cover every chapter and verse of the book of Isaiah, Watts tries to stick to the themes of Isaiah. A book is much easier to understand when one understands the broad themes that run-throughout the book. No (normal) person understands an engine without seeing how the engine works as a whole. Only then do you take it apart and study each piece.

  • Why does Jerusalem (and Eliakim) show up smack dab in the middle (chapter 22) of a section about specific nations being judged (13-23)?
  • There seems to be an extreme change in tone between chapter 39 and 40 (and themes between 55 and 56). Why is this?

Relevance

To assist students in understanding the relevance of the various Isaianic concerns to the life of the people of God in the contemporary world and in so doing to highlight ways in which the book can be preached both in the church and the world.

Watts isn’t satisfied with explaining the text to his students only to leave them to figure out what it means for today (or worse, they end up thinking they are more superior because they “understand” Isaiah now). Instead, he pinpoints the heart of Isaiah.

  • Israel didn’t trust that God was in control of history. Yet why did they think the gods of Babylon had any power at all? Why do we think our banks have the power to control our history? Or our government?

Biblical Theology

Secondarily, when the occasion arises to articulate the theological contribution of Isaiah to the NT by examining the ways in which numerous Isaianic texts have profoundly shaped the message of NT authors (e.g. Isa 6 in the Gospels and Acts; the use of the so-called Messianic prophecies), and to discuss the problems related thereto.

Finally, Watts have a few classes on Biblical Theology and how the New Testament reads the Old (here and here). I would really enjoy listening to both of these, and tastes of them can be found in this Isaiah class. I can tell Watts has a solid grasp on these issues. The New Testament authors were immersed in the biblical world. They grew up reading the Bible and having it ingrained into their lives. Surely they would understand the Old Testament better than we. Throughout their writings there remains echoes and allusions to the Old Testament (think of Facebook throwbacks). Yet how does the NT interpret the OT?

  • What is really going on in Isaiah 6, and why do all four of the gospels refer to this section?
  • If Isaiah intends “blindness” and “deafness” to be meant metaphorically throughout his book, how was anybody supposed to see that Jesus was the Messiah when He healed literal “blindness” and “deafness”?
  • Did Isaiah really prophesy a virgin birth?
  • What is Paul doing when he quotes Psalm 68 in Ephesians 4? Why did he take special liberties to change the wording?

Lecture List:

Here is the list of the lectures. I’ve tried to provide the chapters covered in each class.

  1. Intro and Overview
  2. Yahweh’s Lawsuit [1-3]
  3. Justice and the People of God [4-6]
  4. Isaiah’s Call: The Idolater’s Curse [6-9]
  5. Restoration and the Messianic Prophecies [9-12]
  6. Short-Sighted Security: Neither Egypt Nor Babylon [13-39]
  7. Yahweh Comes!… And Israel’s Complaint [40]
    • Yahweh’s Offer of Salvation: Earlier Traditions
  8. New Exodus and New Creation / Jacob-Israel: Yahweh’s Blind and Deaf Servants [41-45; 50]
  9. The Solution: A New Servant Israel 
    • Call and Task [42; 49]
    • Suffering Service [50; 52-53]
  10. Disillusionment and Injustice [56-58]
  11. Yahweh as Warrior [59-63]
    • Jerusalem-Zion Restored [60-62]
    • The Messenger to Zion [61]
  12. Salvation for Foreigners: My House is a House of Prayer for All Nations [56; 66]
    • The Last Great Lament [63-64]
    • New Heavens and New Earth [65-66]

Next Time

This is the more boring part of the posts (I mean, it’s from the syllabus, which despite pronunciation is the most non-silly part of the class). Other topics I did cover are:

These aren’t set in stone. I haven’t written them yet. They’re only thoughts right now. I may post more once I look back through my notes and see points of interest. All in all I will say that the special place Isaiah holds in the NT is more appreciated than it had been before. From topics of hardened hearts, to new creation, to idolatry, and salvation of Gentiles, Isaiah has more to say about life today than many Christians give it credit for.

Though I can’t simply give you all of the class information, I hope what I do put on here gives you a greater appreciation for Isaiah, the Bible, and ultimately Jesus Christ, the high King of Heaven.

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Hate the sin, love the sinner?

IVPDoBT
I’m working through the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology right now on my own time (and not as a review). It views the themes of the biblical canon as a whole (a theology of the whole Bible on a particular subject). Here, Carson writes on the topic of Love. I won’t comment on the majority of his post except for this one sub-section titled The thesis that God hates sin but loves sinners.

Whether spoken to extinguish the fires of heated judgment or to evade the guilt of one’s own sin, this is a popular saying among Christians. Yet what are we to think about those psalms which speak of God hating the sinner? Phrases like that, though few, are biblical (for an example, read on). Whereas the assumption that “God hates the sin, yet loves the sinner” is never explicitly stated in the Scripture (but, in some way, by Augustine and, more explicitly, Ghandi). How does God really feel toward the sinner?

There is a small element of truth in this thesis. God always hates sin; he is invariably and implacably opposed to it. And it is true that God loves sinners: God ‘demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom. 5:8; cf. John 3:16). Nevertheless the thesis, with its simplistic antithesis between the personal sinner and sin in the abstract, is mistaken. The same apostle who declares that God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against ‘all the godlessness and wickedness of men’ (Rom. 1:18) also speaks of God’s wrath against individuals (2:5); indeed we are all ‘by nature children of wrath’ (nrsv). The first fifty Psalms repeatedly describe the kinds of people on whom God’s wrath rests, not just the kinds of sin. Indeed, the language can move from God’s wrath to God’s hate and abhorrence: ‘The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors’ (Ps. 5:5–6, niv).

None of this means that God’s wrath is arbitrary or whimsical. In Scripture, God’s wrath, however affective, is the willed and righteous response of his holiness to sin. God’s holiness, like God’s love, is intrinsic to the very being of God; his wrath is not. To put the point another way: God has always been holy, as he has always been love; he has not always been wrathful. But where his holiness confronts the rebellion of his creatures, he must be wrathful (and the entire sweep of the Bible’s storyline insists he is), or his holiness is anaemic. Yet for all that he is no less the God of love.

Yes, God did love the world so much that He sent His only Son, but, alternatively, in the end, sin must be judged. God holds wrath against the sinner because of their sin. Whereas, for the believer, the wrath of God toward our sin was revealed against Christ at the cross. Because of this, knowing God in Christ, we are to strive for holiness. To look like our Father who graciously adopted us into His holy family through the death of His Son.


In the coming weeks I plan to write up a few posts (no promises on length nor consistency), but there are a number of topics here that interest me, especially as I become increasingly interested in biblical theology. Being that the term Biblical Theology is not as widely known as one would hope, and since one could study the biblical theology of pretty much every subject in the Bible, there’s enough to keep anyone’s hands full.

Norway3-The-carefree-Traveler

Besides that, I’m in Norway now. (This is not my backyard, but I will find it). Mari, her family, and I are gearing up for our wedding celebration in June. Among setting up for that, having family and friends over, and painting a few houses, I’ll have a set of summer reading to go on about, some reviews, some I already own and really need to work through. I looking forward to the reading, the relaxing, the painting, and the mountains.

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Review: Exodus (NAC)

Exodus [NAC]

Exodus is two sides of the same coin. In the first 19 chapters (and in a few near the end)

  • We have an oppressed people being led out of the greatest nation on earth after an onslaught of ten massive plagues.
  • God takes them across the Red Sea and smashes the Egyptians.
  • These former slaves become a kingdom of priests to God.
  • They (fearfully) experience his frightening and majestic glory on Mt. Sinai.
  • Later many of these kingly priests turn away from YHWH to make a golden cow.

Exciting? Yes. But then we have the other side of the coin.

  • Five chapters of seemingly random, endless laws.
  • Seven chapters of how Israel was to build a tabernacle for YHWH,
  • Six chapters of the completion of the temple.

That all said, with varying commentators and equally varying viewpoints, there’s a high chance Exodus can get the shaft and remain (seemingly) dull and lifeless to many. Thankfully with some humour and plenty of common sense, Douglas Stuart hits the nail on the head with this one, making it all a bit easier for us.

Stuart is known for

In his huge work here he seeks to bring the text to life and show us what Moses was thinking when he wrote part two of his “pentology.”

Introduction

According to Stuart, Exodus is split into two parts:

  1. In Egypt, Israel was the servant of pharaoh.
  2. At Sinai, they became God’s servants (20).
  • Structure
    • He believes that the book of Exodus is not some independent work set apart from the rest of the Pentateuch, but it is to be understood as a part of a five-piece, the Pentateuch.
  • Historical Issues
    • They argue for a 15th-century exodus (from 1 Kgs 6.1), agreeing in their ignorance of exact modern locations (which are lacking). Yet, that doesn’t deter their confidence in the truthfulness and historical reliability of Moses’ words.
  • Text
    • Exodus as a whole is “rather well preserved in the Masoretic tradition” and the LXX confirms the vast majority of MT readings.
  • Authorship dealing with Style Variety and Source Analysis
    • Albeit, they take Moses as the author of Exodus.
  • The Theology of Exodus covering topics of:
    • Salvation, Freedom From Bondage
    • Real Knowledge of God
    • A Covenant People
    • A Promised Land
    • The Limited Presence of God in Israel’s Midst
    • Representing an Invisible God by Invisible Symbols
    • The Necessity of Law
    • The Necessity of Following God
    • Only One God Has Any Real Power

Chocolate Milk

Excursus

There are many excursuses thrown into the mix that are both helpful and interesting (if you haven’t seen, I’ve already posted one two of them dealing with Slavery in the OT and the Book of Life). Here is a list of a few more:

  • The Angel of the Lord
  • Fire Theophany
  • The Nile as a God
  • The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart
  • Moses’ Staff
  • Did Anthrax Cause the Fifth and Sixth Plagues?
  • Was Moses Divorced From Zipporah?
  • Israelite Holy War
  • The Paradigmatic Nature of Biblical Law

Who You Gonna Call?

Stuart seeks to dispel many myths and conjectures by others, ranging from his excursus How Many Israelites Left Egypt? (297-303) to whether or not God punishes children for the sins of their parents (Ex 20-5-6). Of course in the OT we see many examples of a “harsh and angry” God who unjustly kills his creation. Yet this is not what Stuart sees.

He says of 15.7, “In fact, the just God revealed in the Bible will not tolerate evil (though he is extremely patient in waiting for repentance, as he was for at least eighty years with the Egyptians) and plans for its eventual total elimination…. Those offended by these facts about God are wishing for a reality that has never existed. He does get mad; he does smash his foes, and he is majestic in doing so” (352, emphasis mine, similar ideas also seen in 32.26-28).

21.20-21; Stuart says that corporeal punishment was suitable to be used on slaves as punishment (in fact, he says it has been used throughout all of history, with only many in the latter part of the twentieth century in the modern Western world having a problem with it). However, one could not go overboard on his slave. There was punishment, and then there was abuse. Stuart keeps his eye on the surrounding laws (21.18-19, 26-27) showing they would be employed to “make sure the employer did not get off without penalty” (491).

22.16-17; Paying the bride price was not degrading to women. In fact, in this time it honoured the value of women by “The betrothal/bride price system was designed to make marriage harder to come by than what could be achieved on whim or quick decision, and it elevated marriage accordingly because people instinctively value what is hard and costly to get” (510).

25-31; 35-40; Here we find what is deemed the most “boring” part of Exodus. While true (for me), nonetheless it is probably the high point of Exodus, where YHWH says he will actually dwell among his people (Ex 25.8). Stuart gives a pretty detailed account of the materials used in, the building of, and the functional use of the tabernacle. Unfortunately Stuart doesn’t look much at how temples were used in ANE culture, but he does look at specific items in the tabernacle (e.g., lampstand) and how it is seen throughout the OT and NT (Gen 8.11; Ps 52.8; Zech 4.11-12; Rev 11.4).

I should say that just as these chapters aren’t easy to read in the Bible, neither are they simple to read here. Mainly, there is a lot of information giving one plenty to look at. Though te pastor will have to sift through a lot of details.

32.19; Did Moses break the Commandments out of hasty anger? No. In fact, it was “an important symbolic act done carefully, deliberately, and openly for the benefit of the Israelites because of the way violation of a covenant is routinely described in the ancient semitic world as a ‘breaking’ of that ‘covenant [Zech 11:10]'” (677).

Surely there is more that could be said about different portions of this commentary, but I cannot name everything. As the commentary proper is 794 pages, there’s much-too-much for me to say here. Stuart has many insights into the ANE culture and lays them out for the reader to see how the Exodus lies in history.

Recommended?

Highly. At 826 pages there’s more than enough to read and glean here. Exodus is near impossible to read and understand on your own. Yes, while we are filled with the Spirit of the Lord, that doesn’t mean he’ll reveal to you the cultural mindset of a 15th century Egyptian people while you read is word. But what we can do is rely on others who have put in the time to study God’s word, and who equally rely on him to reveal the intended meaning as they study. With scholarly issues left almost wholly to the footnotes, this commentary is easy to read. Used side by side with Enns’ commentary and you should have your hands full for a long time.

Lagniappe

  • Series: The New American Commentary (Book 2)
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Holman Reference (June 15, 2006)

Buy it on Amazon!

[Special thanks to Chris at B&H for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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Excursus: The Book of Life

Exodus 32.30-33, The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses returned to theLord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book.


Here in Exodus 32 Moses is interceding with YHWH over Israel and their sin of idolatry with the golden calf they had made (32.1-4). In the verses above, both Moses and God acknowledge that sin can cause someone to be “blotted out of your [YHWH’s] book.” Many young and old have pondered the question, “What is this ‘Book of Life’?

In his Exodus commentary in the New American Commentary (NAC) series, on page 685 Stuart explains,

In the ancient world both governments and individuals kept records of populations. These records were used for many of the same sorts of purposes that official records are used for in modern times [e.g., taxes, military]. Once a given population… became so great that no person… could maintain in his or her head a full, accurate list of the inhabitants, a listing… of inhabitants was required to be prepared in writing. Of course, this ‘book’ had to be updated as the actual population changed.

When someone moved into town, their name was added to the book. When someone closed up shop, bought the farm, kicked the bucket, or simply moved away, their name was simply removed (or “blotted out”). In this the listing would always be current, being updated as was fitting.

Through the Scriptures

Stuart mentions a few verses:

  • Psalm 69.28, Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous.
  • 1 Samuel 25.29, “If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling.”
    (The “bundle” here represents that of a shepherd who could probably would have had a bag/bundle of pebbles, one for each sheep of his. Abigail knows that God has the power to sling out the the bad pebbles from his bundle).
  • Deut 9.14, “Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they’” (cf. Deut. 25.19; 29.20).

Conclusions?

What can we determine from this?

  1. “The Book of Life is a record of those going on to eternal life as opposed to those who by their own decisions have rejected God and his salvation (cf. John 3:19-20). To have one’s name in the Book of Life is to have preserved in faith and obedience to God until the final judgment of the earth. To have one’s name blotted out is to have offended God by lack of faith and, accordingly, by disobedience so that one cannot continue to live, that is, have eternal life” (687-68).
  2. “[E]veryone starts out in the Book of Life. It is a book of the living, and all who are born originally appear in it….. All who come into the world have the potential for eternal life…. When they appear at the judgment and the books are opened (Dan 7:10; Rev 20:12), their names will not appear in the Lamb’s Book of Life because they chose a different direction… from the direction God prescribed” (688).

Surely, this should cause us to think. The Philippians are to stand firm in Christ, just as the women who have laboured “side by side” with Paul have, as “fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life” (Phil 4.1-3).

Yet in the church in Sardis, in Rev 3.5 Jesus says, “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels [cf. Mk 8.38].” Five other times in Revelation we find references to one having their name in the Book of Life (Rev 13.8; 17.8; 20.12,15; 21.27).

Let us stand firm in Christ and persevere unto the end that our names may not be blotted out of the Book of Life, but that when we appear before the Ancient of Days he will open the books, call us his children, and welcome us home.

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