Monthly Archives: November 2015

Why Genesis 6.1-4?

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There is at least one Jewish text from the intertestamental (Second Temple) period which says that there were divine beings who were “coming to earth to ‘fix’ mankind” (103). This meant they were coming with their profound knowledge to direct and lead humankind in the way to live. Though they were trying to help, once they put on fresh flesh they couldn’t resist their sexual urges with the women they saw.

1 Enoch chapter 6 says,

“And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the watchers, the sons of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: ‘Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.’”

The term ‘Watchers’ is even seen in our Bible. The ESV translates Dan. 4.17 as,

“The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.”

Here, both God and his divine council participate in decision making. “Daniel 4 is the only biblical passage to specifically use the term watcher to describe the divine ‘holy ones’ of Yahweh’s council. The geographical context of Daniel is of course Babylon (Dan 1:1-7), which is in Mesopotamia” (104).

The Watchers (sons of God) produced giant offspring from the women. Other texts associated with 1 Enoch retell the story. One such text is called The Book of Giants, and in it some of the giants are named. One name is Gilgamesh, the “Hollywood star” of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Relevance?

In my previous post, A Flood of Stories, I said that Genesis 6.1-4 was written as an attack on Babylonian ideas to undermine the “credibility of the Mesopotamian gods and other aspects of that culture’s worldview” (102). Mesopotamia, where Babylon was located, was replete with various flood stories and stories of divine beings coming down to the earth and mating with human women. 

Babylon’s priestly class (the intellectuals) believed that pre-flood Mesopotamian civilization was “handed down by their gods” (108). Because of this divine act, the priests “wanted to connect themselves and their intellectual achievements with knowledge from before the flood. It was their way of claiming that their knowledge and skills were divine and… superior to those of the nations they had conquered.” Thus, the Babylonian gods were superior to all other gods.

So the apkallus were the divine beings who possessed profound knowledge, and Babylonian kings claimed to be descendants of these pre-flood divine figures. “The collective claim was that glorious Babylonia was the sole possessor of divine knowledge, and that that empire’s rule had the approval of the gods” (108).

Of course, this isn’t going to sit well with Israel, the ones who follow Yahweh, the one who is like no other (Is. 45.5). To Israel, the apkallus had demonic origins (being bound up with Mesopotamian demonology, it was only natural to think of the apkallus in this way). Babylonian scholars taught that the apkallus’ divine knowledge survived the flood… in the form of giant offspring.

Here’s the kicker!

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 The biblical writers agreed that there were giants, “renowned men, both before and after the flood” (108)! But these giant offspring were not of the true God. Instead they “were the result of rebellion against Yahweh by lesser divine beings” (108). So Genesis 6.1-4 (alng with 2 Peter and Jude) portray Babylon’s boast of divine knowledge not as something wonderful, but as “a horrific transgression and, even worse, the catalyst that spread corruption throughout mankind” (108).

Genesis 6.5-7 is a summary of the effect of the sin:

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Yet Noah… was blameless (Gen 6.8). In fact, he is in the line of Christ (Lk 3.36, 38). The Son of God was never infected with the seed of the serpent (Gen 3.15).

Next Time

I will have four more posts to end the series off. The next post will cover a range of weird texts in the Bible just so all can be reminded (and perhaps see for the first time) that the Bible does say some really odd things. Things that many haven’t heard in a Sunday morning church service. 

The next three posts will deal with Nimrod, the Tower of Babel, and Deuteronomy 4 and 32. All are found in chapter 14 of The Unseen Realm, The next few posts shouldn’t be too long, but hopefully you’ll see how these topics are intertwined.  

Outline

The Nephilim

Dividing the Nations

The OT Trinity

Buy it on Amazon!

UnseenRealmCover_Final-WEB

And also Heiser’s more condensed version,

supernatural

Buy it on Amazon!

1 Comment

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Urban Legend: We Can Do Anything Through Christ Who Gives Us Strength

Urban legends are un- (or dis-)proved stories that have been passed down for decades, such as how Coke will dissolve a tooth overnight, how alligators live in New York’s sewers, or how Mr. Rogers was a sniper in the Navy SEALS. David Croteau, in his new book Urban Legends of the New Testament (review here), covers 40 of the most commonly misunderstood New Testament passages, or 40 New Testament “urban legends.”

I’ll cover three or four, with the first one being on Philippians 4.13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

The Urban Legend

“All of us have goals in life. Some of you want to be professional athletes. Others may want to be famous musicians or actors. Some want to start their own businesses. Whatever you want to do, remember this verse and claim it daily. Put it on your mirror so you see it every morning and every evening. While apart from Christ you can do nothing, through him you can accomplish anything” (163).

Evander Holyfield had this verse reference on his boxing shorts. Last summer on American Ninja Warrior there was a guy with this reference on the back of his shirt. It’s hugely popular, strikingly encouraging, and is often poorly understood.

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The Text

Phil 4.10-12 says,

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”

The Context  

In these verses Paul is thanking the Philippians for their gift, and he tells them that in all circumstances, especially in the difficult ones (4.12), God has taught Paul to be content. Paul then gives his famous tweetable quote in verse 13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

All Things?

Does Paul really mean he can do all things? Could he really be the next American Ninja Warrior? Could he out-punch Evander Holyfield and out-throw Tim Tebow? Could he out-snipe Mr. Rogers

Here, “all” does not mean “all.” In verse 13 “all” doesn’t mean “anything without exception.” Paul isn’t saying, “I can do all things. No exception!” The NIV says, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Why?

“Perhaps the translators were trying to get the reader to look closer at the context. The phrase ‘all things’ seems to mean ‘anything,’ but the phrase ‘all this’ makes me ask: what does the ‘this’ refer back to?…  [Now] the key to correctly interpreting this verse is unlocked. The ‘this’ or ‘things’ Paul was referring to were the various circumstances in 4:12” (164).

Also, Croteau says the Greek doesn’t have Paul saying he can “do” all things. Instead, Paul says, “I am able….” Therefore, Paul is saying, ‘I am able to be content in all these circumstances by the One who gives me strength.’” (165). Simply read 2 Corinthians 11:23b–28 and we can see how needed it was for Paul to have contentment. Beatings, stoning, lashes, muggings, shipwrecks… I’ve never experienced any of those things! And yet he’s able to remain content in his circumstances because of God’s power. The same God who has the power to bring our salvation to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil 1.6) is the same who who has the power to teach us contentment in every single day of your life.

It is challenging to be content when having little or when in abundance. Many people might think having riches will lead to contentment. But the National Endowment for Financial Education estimates that as many as 70 percent of Americans who get a lot of money suddenly will lose all that money within a few years” (164).

Urban Legends

Buy it on Amazon or from B&H!

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A Flood of Stories

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In surveying the options to answer the question, “Who were the Nephilim?,” we last looked at the view that the Nephilim were the offspring of rebellious divine beings. In his book The Unseen Realm. Michael Heiser mentions how 1 Enoch informed the worldview of Peter and Jude. He tells us

“Jewish literature like 1 Enoch that retold the story shows a keen awareness of [the] Mesopotamian context” of Genesis 6, and “Jewish thinkers of the Second Temple period [the period between the testaments] understood… that the story involved divine beings and giant offspring. That understanding is essential to grasping what the biblical writers were trying to communicate” (102).

Genesis 6.1-4 is a polemic, a strong attack on someone or something. It is an effort to undermine the “credibility of the Mesopotamian gods and other aspects of that culture’s worldview” (102). This involves borrowing ideas from the Babylonian culture and changing them to illuminate a correct theology of Yahweh while at the same time discrediting other gods.

“Gilgameche” in History 151

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It was in university where I first heard the idea that there were other flood stories (e.g., the Epic of Gilgamesh) besides the biblical story of Noah. While this didn’t shake my faith, it struck me as odd. It wasn’t so much hearing that there were other flood stories, but that I had never even heard of this before! But it is true. Mesopotamia is replete with other flood stories that deal with a large boat and the salvation of animals and people. Below are a few notable mentions. 

The Supporting Cast

The apkallus: In the time before the flood, a group of divine beings who possessed profound knowledge. Many were considered evil and were integral to Mesopotamian demonology.

Marduk: the chief god of Babylon

The Apsu: “subterranean waters deep inside the earth” (103).

Their Story

As some of the Mesopotamian stories go, the apkallus mated with women and “produced quasi-divine offspring” which were considered to be two-thirds apkallu (102). This matches the Epic of Gilgamesh, where the hero Gilgamesh “was considered a giant who retained knowledge from before the flood” (103).

In another text, the Erra Epic, Marduk punishes the evil apkallus with banishment to the Apsu (also a part of the underworld). In doing this Marduk commands that the apkallus never come up again (reminding us of 2 Pet. 2.4 and Jude 6-7). The fact that this link is found not in the OT but in the NT (2 Peter and Jude) shows that the intertestamental Jewish writers were keenly aware of the Mesopotamian background.

Conclusion

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No, I’m kidding!

Were the Nephilim really offspring of divine beings who rebelled against Yahweh and had sex with human women? Why do we need to know this? How is it relevant to the rest of Genesis? In my next post it only gets weirder. I’ll look at Genesis 6.1-4 in its original context, along with what we are to do with the Nephilim, some watchers, and why the Israelites cared.

Soap_Opera0luDetail

Don’t worry. This won’t become a soap opera with characters who have no business being in the show.

Outline

The Nephilim

Dividing the Nations

The OT Trinity

Buy it on Amazon!

UnseenRealmCover_Final-WEB

And also Heiser’s more condensed version,

supernatural

Buy it on Amazon!

1 Comment

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Review: Interpreting the Parables

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Have you ever read Augustine’s allegorical interpretation of The Good Samaritan? The Apostle Paul is the Innkeeper? How could Jesus have expected his audience to think of Paul when they hadn’t met him yet? And how would any good Bible reader come to the conclusion that “[t]he two pence are either the two precepts of love, or the promise of this life and of that which is to come”? How are Christians who want to stay true to the Bible supposed to interpret the parables? Is there one meaning? Are there many meanings? Are the parables even authentic?

Craig Blomberg gives us an updated version of his book Interpreting the Parables. Blomberg is a Distinguished Professor of the New Testament at Denver Seminary, and has written a number of commentaries and books on believing the Bible, the reliability of the Gospels, holiness, and possessions. He writes from an evangelical perspective that takes the Bible as historically reliable and true.

Summary

Blomberg argues for an allegorical approach to interpreting the parables. Yet this approach isn’t that of Augustine or other church fathers who took things to the extreme. Here, most parables are boiled down to one, two, or three points, mainly depending on the number of main characters (which at most consists of three main types).

Blomberg introduces his book with two differeing sides of scholarly consensus on parables: One the one side, scholars say allegory should be rejected even though there are small amounts of it in some of Jesus’ parables. On the other side, some scholars say the Gospel parables are more allegorical than many think, and they are usually making more than one point. After summarizing the coming chapters, Blomberg divides his book into two parts.

Part One

Part One covers “Methods and Controversies in Interpreting Parables.” Surprisingly, I found this part to be interesting, though that’s probably because, wanting to be a teacher, I want to know what’s going on in the biblical interpretation world.

Chapter Two gives us the two main approaches of parables as allegory and non-allegory, other contemporary thoughts, and rabbinic parables. Chapter Three shows how Form Criticism (the form of a teaching and its original setting) rose and how scholars used this to interpret the parables. Chapter Four shows how Redaction Criticism (how the Gospel authors edited their works) came to be and how it contributed positively and negatively to the study of the Gospels.

Chapter Five brings new literary and hermeneutical methods to our attention showing how different scholars from the 1960s up to today have interpreted the Gospels with these new methods. Some of these methods include Structuralism, Postmodernism, Marxism, Feminism, and more.

Part Two

Part Two covers the “Meaning and Significance of Individual Parables.” It is longer than Part One, thankfully. Here Blomberg puts his interpretive scheme into play, showing the reader how Jesus does use some measure of allegory in his teaching. Most parables consist of three types of characters: a master, a positive example, a negative example.

Chapter Six interprets simple three-point parables. These are parables with three characters (fitting the three-type role). Blomberg covers the Prodigal Son (Lk 15), the Lost Sheep and Coin (Lk 15), the Two Debtors (Lk 7), the Ten Virgins (Mt 25), and more. In all, ten parables are looked at.

Chapter Seven considers complex three-point parables. These parables have more than three character, but they can generally be boiled down into three types. Blomberg covers the Talents (Mt 25), the Sower (Mk 4), the Good Samaritan (Lk 10), the Wicked Tenants (Mk 12), and more. In all, eight parables are looked at.

Chapter Eight involves looking at two-point and one-point parables such as the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Lk 18), the Two Builders (Mt 7), the Midnight Friend (Lk 11), the Mustard Seed and the Leaven (Lk 13), and more. In all, over thirteen parables and a few metaphors are looked at.

Chapter Nine gives the reader a theology of the parables: the Kingdom and the Christ. Here Blomberg says that “all of Jesus’ parables revolve around one central theme: the kingdom of God” (411). He covers the theology of the kingdom with it’s reign, its realm, and personal and social transforming power. And we see Christology in the parables. We see how Christ thought of himself as intimately connected with the Father. Jesus is at the center of the kingdom.

Recommended?

The church has been getting a number of books on the parables recently. Pastors shouldn’t neglect Blomberg’s Preaching the Parables, and word on the street says that John MacArthur’s new book Parables should not be passed up. While the last two are aimed at pastors and the church, Blomberg’s volume covers a lot of ground. It is suited for students, teachers, professors, and pastors. It is academic, but Blomberg argues well for a sound, allegorical interpretation of Jesus’ parables. Blomberg avoids the extremes of turning Jesus’ parables into John Bunyan’s Pilgrim Progress (which was written to be an in-depth allegory) and that of turning Jesus’ parables into a one-point punch. There is so much more to the kingdom of God than can be made in one point.

Blomberg says, “The main aim of the parables is to describe the activity of God in Jesus, more particularly so that men many trust in it and become disciples, or else be offended at it” (412-13).

Lagniappe

  • Paperback: 463 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic; 02 edition (July 16, 2012)

Post

Buy it on Amazon or at IVP Academic

[Special thanks to IVP Press for allowing me to review this book. I was not required to give a positive review in exchange for this book].

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Heiser on the Rebellious Divine Offspring View

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So of all three views on who the Nephilim were, the last one is pretty wild. And controversial. But then again, so is the birth of Jesus to everyone else in the world. 

The Incarnation

Here’s what Heiser says about this third view,

[T]his interpretation is less dramatic than the incarnation of Yahweh as Jesus Christ. How is the virgin birth of God as a man more acceptable? What isn’t mind-blowing about Jesus having both a divine and a human nature fused together? For that matter, what doesn’t offend the modern scientific mind about God going through a woman’s birth canal and enduring life as a human, having to learn how to talk, walk, eat with a spoon, be potty trained, and go through puberty? All these things are far more shocking than Genesis 6:1-4, and yet this is what Scripture explicitly affirms when it informs us that the second person of the Godhead became a man. God became a man from conception onwards (186, emphasis original).

Ephesians 6.12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Many Christians disagree with what science says about creation, but when they read this verse and ask, “What are ‘cosmic powers’?,” they expect nothing but a naturalistic answer. Our way of thinking is often, “We believe in demons, but don’t start gettin’ weird on us. This ain’t normal.”

Just like the incarnation ain’t normal.

Deficiencies of This View

  • When the Sadducees pose Jesus with a problem about the resurrection in Matthew 22.23-28, Jesus responds by saying, “For in the resurrection [the resurrected] neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”

Deficiencies of That View

As Heiser points out,

The text does not say angels cannot have sexual intercourse; it says they don’t. The reason ought to be obvious. The context for the statement is the resurrection, which refers either broadly to the afterlife or, more precisely, to the final, renewed global Eden. The point is clear in either option. In the spiritual world, the realm of divine beings, there is no need for procreation… [which] is part of the embodied world and is necessary to maintain the physical population. [Similarly,] life in the perfected Eden world also does not require maintaining the human species by having children – everyone has an immortal resurrected body. Consequently, there is no need for sex in the resurrection, just as there is no need for it in the nonhuman spiritual realm. But Genesis 6 doesn’t have the spiritual realm or the final Eden world as its context. The analogy breaks down completely (186).

Conclusion

So this view is the one that Heiser finds the most biblical, and I have to say I agree with his conclusions. But we still have more questions. Why do we need to know this? How is it relevant to the rest of Genesis? Why did the biblical authors think it was necessary for their readers to know this information? In my next post I’ll look at Genesis 6.1-4 in its original context which will include more flood stories.

Outline

The Nephilim

Dividing the Nations

The OT Trinity

Buy it on Amazon!

UnseenRealmCover_Final-WEB

And also Heiser’s more condensed version,

supernatural

Buy it on Amazon!

1 Comment

Filed under Biblical Studies

Are Nephilim the Offspring of Rebellious Divine Beings?

Homer-Cyclops-SM-704428

In surveying the options to answer our question, “Who are the Nephilim?,” in my last post we looked at the interpretation which believes that the “sons of God” were divinized human rulers. In The Unseen Realm Heiser gives us a third option: 

  1. The Sethite view
  2. Divinized Human Rulers
  3. The Nephilim are the offspring of rebellious divine beings.

Peter and Jude

“Peter and Jude did not fear the alternative” (97).

2 Peter 2.4, 9-10 says,

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment… then the Lord knows how… to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

Likewise, Jude 6-7 says,

And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Both Peter and Jude describe the time of Noah before the flood when “angels” sinned. This sin caused the flood and “is placed in the same category as the sin which prompted the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah.” These angels/sons of God “left their proper dwelling.” “There is… no other sin in the [OT] that might be the referent” (98).

Though 1 Enoch was not canonical (and any early church leaders who gave it that status later abandoned the idea), it informed the worldview of Peter and Jude (more on this in the next post).

Peter says that the angels were held in Tartarus (“hell,” 2 Pet. 2.4). “Tartarus” was used in “Greek literature for the destination of the divine Titans, a term that is also used of their semi-divine offspring” (fn. 13, pg 98). “All Jewish traditions before the [NT] era took a supernatural view of Genesis 6:1-4.” This interpretation was not a problem until the 4th century AD when it fell out of favor with certain church leaders (i.e., Augustine).

Rather than taking our biblical theology from the church fathers, we’re to take it from the Old and the New Testaments. To do that we must analyze Genesis 6.1-4 in light of its Mesopotamian background as well as 2 Peter and Jude.

Genesis 6, One More Time

Genesis 6.1-4 says,

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the [divine] sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they [left their proper dwelling and] took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” [As a result] the Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the [divine] sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore [giant] children to them. These [giant children] were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

Conclusion

Were the Nephilim offspring of divine beings who rebelled against Yahweh by having sex with human women? Heiser seems to think so. But isn’t this idea a bit farfetched? A bit “out there”? It sounds like something Giorgio Tsoukalos from the history channel would say:

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No, this guy is never right.

What does Heiser think about all this? What should Christians think? I’ll look at an argument for and against this view, and some final remarks. Then we’ll start to look at how Genesis 6.1-4 plays out in Scripture.

Why did the biblical authors think it necessary for their readers to have this information?

Outline

The Nephilim

Dividing the Nations

The OT Trinity

Buy it on Amazon!

UnseenRealmCover_Final-WEB

And also Heiser’s more condensed version,

supernatural

Buy it on Amazon!

3 Comments

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Review: Beyond the River Chebar

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Beyond the River Chebar, a compilation of studies on kingship and eschatology in Ezekiel, is part two of the “River Chebar” series. Volume one is titled By the River Chebar (my review), and covers historical, literary, and theological topics in Ezekiel. Daniel Block, Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, has been studying Ezekiel for twenty-five years now and is known for his works on Ezekiel and Deuteronomy.

As stated in volume one, to interpret the Hebrew Bible one must ask at least three questions:

  1. What does the text say?
  2. What did the text mean to the original audience?
  3. What does the text mean to me?
  4. What does the text say it like that?

Block proves that his twenty-five years have given him a grasp of Ezekiel’s thought world and of his own literary connections throughout the book.

Summary

Chapter One deals with Ezekiel’s lack of enthusiasm for “Zion theology.” The name “Zion” is missing form the book, the kingship of YHWH “receives little attention,” Ezekiel is more focused on Israel returning to the land than to “Jerusalem,” he never links God’s electing choice of the land of Zion and his election of David together, and more. Ezekiel is trying to dismantle Israel’s towering pride and bring them to a point of humble repentance and full obedience and serve to Yahweh.

Chapter Two shows how Ezekiel portrays the past, the present, and the future monarchy of Israel. Most of the kings were wicked, but YHWH does have a final plan of restoration. “[T]he exile should be interpreted not as a sign of divine rejection, but of election. YHWH had removed [the exiles] from Jerusalem to spare them the conflagration to come, and in Babylon he personally became their ‘small sanctuary’” (33). What happens to King Jehoiachin at the end of the exile is a ray of hope for the exiles and the dynasty of David.

Chapter Three gives us a look at how the book of Ezekiel contributes to the picture of King Jehoiachin in his portrayal as a cedar sprig (Ezek 17), a lion (Ezek 19.2-9), and a vine (Ezek 19.10-14). Again, the conclusion is that Ezekiel’s portrait of King Jehoiachin is a ray of hope that God “will not forget his ancient word to David” (73). Unfortunately, much of what is in the previous chapter is included here, although that’s to be expected when separate monographs are brought together into a single volume.

Chapter Four shows how Ezekiel’s prophecies were to destroy Israel’s notions of security simply based on their relationship to YHWH, and instead they were given to inspire hope that YHWH had not forgotten his covenant with his people and would rescue them through the means of a Davidic Messianic figure. In Chapter Five, this essay consists of observations on how the Gog oracle (Ezek 38-39) should be interpreted, on the form of the oracle, and a summary of the interpretation.

Chapter Six asks, “How does Ezekiel 38.17 fit in with the Gog prophecy?” Is Gog the one of whom YHWH spoke in former days by his servants the prophets of Israel? Or is he not? Chapter Seven – Having come after a few chapters of salvation/redemption prophecies, the prophecy about Gog in Ezekiel 38-39 seems misplaced. What is the function of the Gog oracle in Ezekiel 38-39? Ezek 39.21-29 shows how God will use Gog to glorify himself as the one who keeps his promises to his people by saving them and by permanently making them his own.

Chapter Eight gives us “ten interpretive keys to Ezekiel’s final vision” (Ezek 40-48). These chapters are not to be taken literally, as “the present vision picks up the theological theme [of YHWH’s permanent residence among his people] and describes the spiritual reality in concrete terms, employing the familiar cultural idioms of temple, altar, sacrifices, [prince], and land” (172). Chapter Nine provides us with the key to interpreting Ezekiel’s temple: Ezekiel 43.10-11. The sacred space of the temple the “perfection… and order of the entire system [would] create in [Israel] intense shame for their own iniquitous actions… and shatter all assumptions of worthiness” (186). 

The Chocolate Milk

What I found noteworthy is Block’s constant awareness of the context. He informs the reader of Ezekiel’s polemic against Israel’s “kings” and thus for the use of the term “prince” to distance the Davidic king from (most of) the unstable kings of Israel and Judah.

In chapter six, Gog in Prophetic Tradition, Block says that “the Gog pericope may be interpreted as a full-blown commentary on 28:25-26. This pattern of raising and idea briefly, only to drop it and then return to it in full with a full treatment in a later prophecy, may be observed repeatedly in the book of Ezekiel” (127). Examples include Ezek 16.60-63 and 36.16-32; 36.27 and 37.1-14 (fn. 2, 127).

Recommended?

Block is an extremely gifted scholar. He covers an exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) amount of information (this can be seen especially in his footnotes). This is certainly an academic work. While it can be read and understood by a layman (me, for example), it is indeed not devotional reading. Yet, in all of it’s depth and torrents of information, you will get quality scholarship here. Block is an expert on Ezekiel (one of over twenty-five years [xi]), but is a conservative, evangelical scholar. He accepts a holistic view of Ezekiel’s work. It’s not that there couldn’t be any editing, but that the hand of Ezekiel is surely behind the book.

These are Ezekiel’s words from God. These are the thoughts and struggles of a prophet-priest who was commissioned by God to speak satire and extreme language to get Israel to listen, and who gave prophecies of hope and restoration so that God’s people would be at peace and have confidence in their God.

Lagniappe

Buy on Amazon or at Wipf & Stock

[Special thanks to Wipf & Stock for allowing me to review this book. I was not required to give a positive review in exchange for this book].

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