16. The Exilic Hope, Post-Exilic Disappointment, and the Intertestamental Period

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Introduction

The glory of Yahweh has abandoned the temple, Jerusalem has been destroyed, and both Israel and Judah have been carried off in to exile. Will they repent and God renew His covenant promises to them? Will the return from exile be the final exodus whereby God fulfills all his promises and establishes His eternal kingdom? Or will Judah continue to be plagued by the sins that have beset them throughout their history?

I. The Exilic Hope

The prophetic message during the period of the exile was one of judgment mingled with hope.[72] Their message of hope centered on several issues all of which focus upon the renewal of the covenant promises.

A. Reconciliation with God

Throughout Scripture God promises that if His rebellious people would turn to Him in repentance then He will return to them as their God and will gather them as His people (II Chronicles 7:13-14; Jeremiah 30:8-22; 31:1; Ezekiel 34:30-31).

B. Return to the Promised Land

Furthermore, they are also promised a return to and the expansion of the promised land (Isaiah 54:1-3; Jeremiah 30:3; Ezekiel 34:11-16).

C. Reestablishment of Davidic Kingship

There is also an emphasis upon the renewal of the promises of the Davidic Covenant with particular emphasis placed upon the rule of the Davidic King (Jeremiah 23:5-6; 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23-24).

D. Rebuilding of the Temple

Also included in the emphasis upon the renewal of the promises of the Davidic Covenant is the promise that a new temple will be built within a New Jerusalem and that God’s glory will return and He will dwell among His people forever (Ezekiel 40-48).

E. The New Covenant

However, the most significant occurrence during this time is not the prophetic word concerning covenant renewal but the promise of a new and better covenant whereby the people will be indwelt by the law of the Lord and will dwell with Him in an eternal city (Jeremiah 31:31-40).

II. Post-Exilic Disappointment

A. Ezra-Nehemiah in Context

Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book that was later divided “around the end of the fourth century A.D. because of the main characters who carry the story line in each.”[73] Ezra is the most likely author of Ezra-Nehemiah and is also the author of I and II Chronicles, which again was originally one volume. Unlike Chronicles which retells Israel’s redemptive history for the purpose of demonstrating continuity between the post-exilic community and their past. The book of Ezra-Nehemiah records events that occurred within the lifetime of its author and so it is written within close proximity to the events themselves. This two-volume work, Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah “renewed the sense of destiny, as the idealization of the Davidic Monarchy is transformed into a community given to the law of Moses, to separatism, and to the temple worship through the dynamic leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah.”[74]

B. The Message of Ezra

The Babylonian captivity comes to a close when Cyrus, king of Persia, conquerors the Babylonians in 539 B.C. One year later, 538 B.C., Cyrus issues a decree that the exiles should return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4). Among this first group of exiles is king Zerubbabel a descendant of David, whose leadership was recognized by Judah despite Cyrus having appointed Shesbazzar as the ruler over Judah (1:8). Chapters 3-6 then s the rebuilding of the temple, opposition to this task, and the ministry of Haggai and Zechariah who exhort the people to resume their work of rebuilding the temple.

Would someone read Ezra 3:10-13 for us? Does the temple described here resemble the one described in Ezekiel?

Those who had seen the former temple were right to weep because the new temple paled in comparison to the one built for Solomon; however, the rest of the people were right to shout for joy because the Lord is faithful (Isaiah 53). Nevertheless, this temple, though its building was sovereignly orchestrated by Yahweh, is not the coming temple toward which Ezekiel directs our attention.

Then in 458 B.C. Ezra and numerous others return to Jerusalem (7-8). Upon Ezra’s return the situation in which he finds Judah, as well as his response, is described in 9:1-5.

Will someone read that for us?

Ezra’s profound humility is seen in his prayer as he concludes his prayer,

“And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations? Would you not be angry with us until you consumed us, so that there should be no remnant, nor any to escape? O LORD, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this” (9:13-15).

The book then ends with the people’s repentance and abandonment of sin.

C. The Message of Nehemiah

The book of Nehemiah begins with Nehemiah in Babylon receiving news that Jerusalem’s walls had been destroyed and its gates burned (Nehemiah 1:1-4). Nehemiah was the cupbearer of the Persian king Artaxerxes (1:11) and he used this opportunity to plead that Artaxerxes would allow him to return to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls. The king allowed him to return to Jerusalem in 455 B.C. (2:1-8). Just as with the building of the temple there was opposition (4:1-14) and yet in only 52 days the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt (6:15-19).

Would someone read that passage for us? Is there anything that stands out in this account?

The nations perceived that Jerusalem’s walls were rebuilt with the help of God. Perhaps God will begin to fulfill his covenant promises and begin to bless the nations.

Just as in the exodus from Egypt the exodus from Babylon and rebuilding of the walls is followed by the reading of the Law (8:1-8). On the first day of the seventh month Ezra stood on a platform before the people and read aloud the Law while the Levites stood amidst the people and “gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (8:8). They gathered again on the twenty-fourth day of the same month and stood to confess their sins and then an unknown individual leads the assembly in a profound prayer recounting both the history of redemption and confessing their sins as a people (9:5-37). They then covenant together in keeping the laws of Moses (9:38-10:39). Nehemiah then left Jerusalem and returned to continue his service to Artaxerxes (13:6-7; cf. 1:6). When he returns to Jerusalem he finds them neglecting the Levites, ignoring the Sabbath, and intermarrying with foreign women. The Old Testament closes on a low note as Nehemiah prays, “Remember them, O my God, because they have desecrated the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites. Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work; and I provided for the wood offering at appointed times, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good” (13:29-31).

“The problem is that although the structure of the kingdom portrayed by the prophets is there in outline, the substance is not. There is no glorious return, no magnificent temple set in the midst of the regenerated earth. It is clear that the people have still not undergone that spiritual transformation that makes them perfectly the people of God. There is no magnificent reign of the Davidic prince.”[75]

III. The Exile and Return as Eschatology

The first section “I. The Exilic Hope” clearly lays our an eschatology for this period as these great hopes do not find their fulfillment during this time but await future fulfillment. Rather than summarize that material here we will direct our attention toward Ezekiel 34 where the LORD both rebukes Israel’s failed leaders as well as offering hope for the future.

Conclusion

What can we learn from the exilic and post-exilic period? How has our study through the Old Testament deepened your understanding of God?

Excursus A: The Intertestamental Period

I. Chronology

At the close of the Old Testament in 400 B.C. Judah was under Persian rule. During this time “the original concept of Torah, denoting ‘instruction,’ or divine guidelines whereby people might live righteously before a holy God, gradually gave way to the Persian concept of dat, or unalterable, incontrovertible decrees that formed a rigid legal system.”[76] Because of this change an oral tradition was developed that stood equal to the Torah. Furthermore the destruction of the temple led to the creation of Synagogues during this period. In a succession of battles between 334 and 331 B.C. Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire and Judah fell under Greek control.[77] The influence of Greek culture and language eventually led to the creation of the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament. When Alexander died in 323 B.C. the empire was divided between the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria. Judah fell under the control of the Ptolemies until 198 B.C. when it fell under Seleucid control. Under the Selucids Antiochus IV Epiphanes established an altar to Zeus in the temple and in 167 B.C. the Maccabean revolt began and lasted from 166 to 142 B.C.; Israel was finally free from Syrian rule. The descendants of Judas Maccabeus formed the Hasmonean dynasty, the Hasmoneans also occupied the position of high priest, and they ruled until 63 B.C. when Pompey I brought them under Roman rule. Rome ruled Judea indirectly through the last of the Hasmoneans and then later through the Herodians. During the Intertestamental Period the Jews experienced pressure both politically and culturally which led to various forms and degree of syncretism between Jewish culture and the various cultures they encountered. These massive theological and cultural shifts set the stage for the New Testament.

II. Cultural Developments

A. The Common People

The majority of the Jews lived outside of Jerusalem during the Intertestamental Period. Rather than return to Jerusalem they settled throughout the Roman Empire. Furthermore, the majority of them were not a part of any religious sect and their practice and theology varied.

B. The Essenes

This group arose to help support the Maccabean revolt and many later chose to withdrawal from Jerusalem to form their community at Qumran. They lived communally, were fervent in prayer, and dedicated themselves to studying the Torah as a substitute for the animal sacrifices within the corrupt temple system. While they withdrew from Jerusalem the firmly believed that Yahweh would subdue both the Gentiles and corrupt Jews and that they would be given a prominent position in the messiah’s kingdom.

C. The Pharisees

Like the Essenes the Pharisees were originally associated with the Maccabean revolt and later separated do to compromise within the Hasmonean Dynasty. They were the leaders of the synagogues where they taught and interpreted of the law. This interpretation took the form of an oral tradition that was viewed as possessing authority equal to that of the Torah

D. The Sadducees and the Priests

They were a group of aristocratic Jews who had come to power due to their cooperation with the Romans. They controlled the temple and taught the law there. Together with the Pharisees they formed the Sanhedrin. They differ from the Pharisees in that they hold only to the Torah and rejected the rest of Old Testament Scripture as well as doctrines not found in the Torah.

E. The Zealots

They were political revolutionaries who were eager to overthrow the Roman Government. At times various groups of these revolutionaries rose up against Rome and their rebellions were quickly crushed.

[72] See chapter 15 for a list of pre-exilic, exilic, and post-exilic prophets.
[73] Mark Dever, The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006), 389.
[74] VanGemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 288.
[75] Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 196.
[76] VanGemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 317.
[77] MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, 1089.

15. The Divided Kingdom and Exile

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Introduction

With the death of Solomon Israel’s golden age quickly came to an end as the ten northern tribes seceded from Judah. How will Israel fair as a divided nation? Will there remain a remnant faithful to Yahweh? What will become of the promise?

I. The Divided Kingdom

We are given a glimpse of God’s plan in dividing the kingdom in I Kings 11:26-40. This is critical to understanding all that will follow.

Will someone read that for us? What reason is given for Yahweh’s rending the kingdom in two and what is Israel’s future hope?

First, we see that the kingdom is being divided because of Israel’s continued apostasy. Specifically “because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and they have not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and my rules, as David his father did” (11:33).

Second, there is hope because this is not a permanent situation (11:39) the kingdom will be reunited.
Nevertheless in 931 BC the kingdom was divided with ten tribes of Reuben, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, and Manasseh/Ephraim following Jeroboam in the north and the tribes of Judah and the Levites in the south. The tribe of Benjamin was divided between the two kingdoms.

A. Israel ― The Northern Kingdom

For fear that the people will return to Jerusalem to worship and have their hearts turned against him and towards Yahweh and the Davidic king, Rehoboam, Jeroboam quickly establishes new centers of worship for the Northern Kingdom. He crafts two golden calves, places them in Dan and Bethel, and boldly proclaims “Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (I Kings 12:28). Furthermore, he even moves to establish a new priesthood and new feasts. There were kings who came after him; however, none of the northern kings followed after God. Even Jehu, who for a while did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, failed to turn from the sins of Jeroboam (II Kings 9:1-10:36). “He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” was the resounding refrain used to describe the kings of Israel. Finally, in 722 BC the Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrians and was carried off into exile because of their idolatry (cf. II Kings 17:6-41).

As the Assyrians are resettling Samaria the king makes a profound observation. Would someone read II Kings 17:25-28?

While the people do not listen and continue to serve both the LORD and carved images the Assyrian king’s recognition of the LORD’s judgment serves as a strong rebuke to Israel who failed to recognize the judgment of the LORD.

B. Judah ― The Southern Kingdom

Israel has several kings who did what “was right in the sight of the LORD” [Asa (I Kings 15:9-24, Jehoshaphat (I Kings 22:41-50), Joash (II Kings 11:1-12:21), Amaziah (II Kings 14:1-22), Azariah (II Kings 15:1-7), Jothan (II Kings 15:32-38), Hezekiah (II Kings 18:1-20:21), and Josiah (22:1-23:30)]; however, few of them lived up to the Davidic ideal. Ultimately, Judah is invaded by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and Jerusalem falls. He installs Zedekiah as king over Judah. Nebuchadnezzar eventually returns to Jerusalem and destroys both the city and the temple and carries a third group into exile in 587/586 BC (cf. II Kings 23:31-25:30).[70]

II. The Destruction of the Temple

To truly grasp the significance of the temple’s destruction we need to turn back to I Kings 8:1-11.

Will someone read that for us? What significant event has happened here?

Prior to this the glory of the LORD has filled the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-35) and His glory has now filled the temple in Jerusalem. And yet in II Kings 24:20 we read, “For because of the anger of the LORD it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence.” The temple would then be destroyed and the LORD would no longer dwell amongst His people as before.

III. The Pre-exilic and Exilic Prophets

A. Introducing the Prophets

We do not have time to cover all of the prophets during this study. Because of this a brief summary of their message as well as a brief chronology will be given.

“The prophets were proclaimers of righteousness, preaching both law and promise, grace and judgment, to motivate the people to repentance and a life of obedience in the will and plan of God. Their predictions were often given as incentives to their contemporaries for holy living in that day, seeing that the future belonged to their God and to his righteous reign.”[71]

B. Israel ― The Northern Kingdom

Pre-exilic Prophets ― Eighth Century BC: Amos, Hosea, and Jonah

C. Judah ― The Southern Kingdom

1. Pre-exilic Prophets ― Eighth Century BC: Isaiah and Micah

2. Exilic Prophets ― Seventh Century BC: Daniel, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Joel, Nahum, Obadiah, and Zephaniah

3. Post-exilic Prophets ― Sixth Century BC: Haggai, Malachi, and Zechariah

IV. The Divided Kingdom and Exile as Eschatology

While this period begins with the destruction of the temple, of Jerusalem, and the deportation of God’s people it also begins with a sense of hope and expectation as this situation will not be permanent. God’s people are left to look forward to a time when He will restore Israel under the leadership of an unseen yet future Davidic king. But for now all of the promises appear to be lost; the land has been disinherited, the king dethroned, and Yahweh has removed His protection from them. When will restoration come?

Conclusion

How does Israel’s current situation resemble situations from their past and toward what end is the LORD working in the division of the kingdom and the exile?

[70]The three exiles are 605 BC (Daniel 1:1-7), 597 BC (II Kings 24:10-16), and 587/586 (II Kings 25:1-21).

[71]Kaiser, The Promise-Plan of God, 153.

14. The Monarchy and God’s Covenant with David

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Introduction

As the book of Judges continually echoed the need for a king our attention must now turn to the book of Samuel and king David to whom the book of Ruth directs our attention. Is he the great king prophesied in Genesis 49:8-12 or will fulfillment await a future generation? How will Israel respond to her kings? Will they be characterized by apostasy as in the time of the Judges or will they submit themselves to the LORD and His king?

I. I and II Samuel

A. I and II Samuel in Context

I and II Samuel were originally one volume and it was not until the translation of the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, that a division was made. Unlike several of the books that we have studied thus far neither the author nor the time of writing for the book of Samuel is clear. However, the frequent mention of Israel and Judah as separate entities point to a date that is sometime after the division of the kingdom. The book of Samuel is framed by Hannah’s prayer (I Samuel 2:1-10) and David’s Psalms (II Samuel 22:1-23:7). These two sections set forth the work’s major themes.

  • Yahweh as the Rock of Israel
  • Yahweh’s victory over Israel’s enemies
  • Yahweh’s blessing upon Israel
  • The establishment of Yahweh’s kingdom through His anointed king, or Messiah[65]

Yahweh’s action to accomplish these events represents a source of tremendous hope to a generation who witnessed the failure of Israel’s monarchy.

B. Samuel ― One who Speaks for God

“The books of 1 and 2 Samuel start with the story of a barren woman and a barren nation. . . . Like Israelites, who at this time are being oppressed by their enemies, Hannah cries out to the LORD to take away the stigma of her infertility (1 Samuel 1).”[66] The birth of Hannah’s son, Samuel, represents both the end of her infertility and that of Israel as comes as a prophet (I Samuel 3:19-20) whose ministry represented the return of the Word of the Lord to Israel after a long period of near silence (I Samuel 3:1).

C. Saul ― A King like the Nations

Would someone read I Samuel 8:1-9? We have already noted that a king was prophesied from the line of Judah (Genesis 49:8-12) so the idea of kingship is not what the LORD takes issue with. How has Israel erred in their request?

They desire a king that will rule them like the nations and such a desire represents the rejection of Yahweh as their king. In accordance with their request the LORD gives them their desire and Saul becomes king (I Samuel 9-10). Saul defeats many of Israel’s enemies; however, he soon begins to ignore the Word of the LORD and God rejects Saul as king (I Samuel 15:10-35). Saul’s life ends tragically when facing immanent defeat, against the Philistines, he takes his own life (I Samuel 31:1-7).

D. David ― A King after God’s Heart

With the rejection of Saul the Yahweh declared “But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you” (I Samuel 13:14). This man was David who was anointed by Samuel, for the Lord, and upon whom the LORD’s spirit came (I Samuel 16:1-13). David rose in prominence and after the death of Saul he was anointed as king over Judah (II Samuel 2:1-4) and finally as king over all of Israel (II Samuel 5:1-5). Despite his many failures David “typified theocratic kingship”[67] and became the standard by which future kings were judged.

E. The Davidic Covenant

During this study two types of covenants have been discussed; what are they?

The two types of covenants are conditional and unconditional covenants. The Davidic Covenant is and unconditional covenant (II Samuel 23:5; Psalm 89:34-37) which was defined as “an arrangement imposed by a superior on subordinates . . . It usually designates an agreement made to or for, not with, the subordinate, depicting a legally binding promise which one party makes toward another.”[68] A unilateral covenant depends solely upon God’s covenant-keeping faithfulness for fulfillment.

Will someone read II Samuel 7:8-16? I have included it below as to aid our study.

8Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. 9And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. 12When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever'”II Samuel 7:8-16).

What promises does Yahweh make? The first four expand upon themes from the Abrahamic covenant from chapter 7.

  • Offspring/Seed: “I will raise up your offspring after you (v.12)”
  • Personal Blessing: “I will make for you a great name (v.9)”
  • Blessing to the Nations:
  • Land: “I will appoint a place for my people (v.10)”
  • National Blessing: “I will give you rest from all your enemies (v.11)”
  • A Dwelling place for Yahweh: “He [David’s offspring] shall build a house for my name (v.13)”
  • An Eternal Kingdom: “I will establish the throne of his [David’s offspring] kingdom forever (v.13)”
  • Fatherhood and Sonship: “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son (v.14)”

II. I and II Kings

A. I and II Kings in Context

As with I and II Samuel the book of Kings was originally one volume that was later divided. Also the author of Kings is unknown but the literature suggests that it was written during the Babylonian exile. It serves an exhortatory function, like the book of Judges, as it reminds Israel of its failure to heed the word of the Lord and the subsequent judgment that resulted in their exile. However, also like Judges, it points to Yahweh’s patience and longsuffering as He delays His judgment upon Israel’s apostasy.

B. Solomon ― A King whose Heart Turned from the LORD

Upon David’s death his son Solomon succeeds him as king (I Kings 2:10-12). Solomon is noted for his wisdom and under him Israel experiences prosperity and prophetic fulfillment. God raised up a seed after David, his name became great, Israel experienced peace with the nations and the nations benefited from Solomon’s wisdom, Solomon built the temple for Yahweh’s name, and David’s throne and dynasty was being established. However, “when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father” (I Kings 11:4). After the death of Solomon (11:43) the kingdom of Israel was divided in two with Israel in the north and Judah in the south (12:16-24).

III. The Monarchy and Davidic Covenant as Eschatology

“From this point onward the faithful remnant looked for a messiah of David with whom God would be present and by whom he would extend his peace, justice, righteousness, and wisdom to his people.”[69] While Israel experienced fulfillment of the Mosaic and Davidic covenants under Solomon the fulfillment was temporary and Israel was left anticipating the coming of one from David’s line who would establish God’s kingdom, build His house, and secure blessing for both Israel and the nations. Solomon’s reign serves to point Israel forward to an age of prosperity yet to come.

Conclusion

What themes do you see developing over Israel’s history and in what way do you find them to be helpful in your walk with God?

[65]VanGemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 206 and 215-216.

[66]Bartholomew and Goheen, The Drama of Scripture, 88.

[67]VanGemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 222.

[68]Busenitz, “Introduction to the Biblical Covenants,” 176.

[69]VanGemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 234.

13. Faithfulness to the Faithless

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Introduction

The closing of Joshua created a strong tension between what Israel had been promised and their current situation. It forced the questions, “how long will Israel remain faithful to Yahweh?” and “how long will they maintain possession of the land?” This was compounded by the existence of various remnants of the nations whom they conquered among them and left open the possibility of disinheritance (Joshua 23:12-13). Judges will answer these questions as we see the relationship between Israel and these nations play itself out over the course of four-hundred years.

I. Judges

A. Judges in Context

While the events recorded in the book of Judges immediately follow the conquest of the land recorded in Joshua it was not written down, by Samuel, until around four-hundred years later, sometime during the beginning of Saul’s reign. This is significant because Israel was not longer comprised of people who had witnessed the mighty working of God to bring them out of Egypt or to conqueror the Promised Land. They had received these as stories and traditions. Rather than witnesses of God’s great saving acts this generation witnessed Israel’s apostasy and God’s subsequent judgment. This is the context in which the book of Judges was written and it served as both a warning and a reminder of how they arrived at their current situation.

B. The Narrative of Judges

Will someone read Judges 2:1-5? In what way did Israel fail to obey the Lord and what is His response to them?

Despite His promised protection Israel failed to drive out all the inhabitants of the land that He was giving to them. Because of this He is not going to drive them out; rather he is allowing them to stay so that their deities will ensnare Israel.

Will someone read Judges 2:6-15? What is significant about this new generation and what does this tell us about the past generation?

This new generation does not know the LORD or His mighty acts on Israel’s behalf. After the giving of the Ten Commandments Israel is exhorted to teach these commands to their children so that they and generations to come might not forget the mighty works of the LORD after they enter the Promised land (Deuteronomy 6; 11). The new generation does not know the LORD because of the previous generations failure to instruct them and their failure to drive out the inhabitants of the land.

We have talked about how God’s presence is often equated to God’s protection in what way is 11-15 related to God’s presence and when did the LORD warn them of this?

This is the negative aspect of God’s presence. Positively God’s presence means His protection but negatively His presence necessitates His judgment of sin. God has warned them of the dangers of disobedience throughout the Scripture that has been recorded at this point in history but no clearer is this seen than in the lists of covenant blessings and curses (cf. Deuteronomy 4-26).

Will someone read Judges 2:16-23? This section serves to summarize the cyclical pattern which is presented in the book of Judges. What is this pattern and what does it teach us about God and His covenant?

The pattern presented in Judges is that of apostasy, false repentance, temporary salvation, and then continued apostasy. Their repentance is false because it is based upon their physical situation (2:18) and not upon their relationship with Yahweh. This teaches us that God is faithful to His covenant. He has not destroyed them because he has made an everlasting covenant with them; He will make Israel a great nation and a blessing to the nations. However, we see that while God will keep His covenant to Israel the people can forfeit their participation in the covenant blessings to a future generation. Furthermore, we see God’s fatherly concern for Israel’s wellbeing as He disciplines His people in hopes of their repentance and return to Him.

Judges 21:25 (cf. 17:6) is in many ways a summation of the entire period of the judges but in an important way it also serves as an argument for what is to come. Would someone read this verse for us? As Judges was written during the beginning of Saul’s reign what argument is this verse making?

It is arguing for the importance and necessity of the monarchy. Everyone did as they saw fit because there was no king. This both reminds Israel of their failures in the conquest, the profound grace of God amidst their apostasy, and the necessity of divinely appointed leadership.

II. Ruth

A. Ruth in Context

The book of Ruth come to us sometime before or during David’s reign and it records events that began during the time of the Judges to the birth of David. While it was written in a similar context to that of Judges is serves two far different function. First, is serves as a rebuke as we see Yahweh working among Gentiles and their faithfulness to Him during a period marked by the apostasy of Israel. Second, it serves as a reminder of God’s covenant faithfulness to fulfill His promises (Genesis 49:8-12).

B. The Narrative of Ruth

Will someone read Ruth 1:1-7?

Naomi then pleads with her two daughter-in-laws asking them to return to their mother’s house and marry. Orpah returns to her people but Ruth stays with Naomi, which is where we will pick up in 1:15-18.
While her character is praised later in the book by Boaz (3:11) here we see a profound statement of her loyalty to both Naomi and to Yahweh. This is a harsh rebuke to Israel that in the midst of their apostasy a
Will someone read that for us? This verse is often read at weddings, and it is a profound statement if loyalty, but what is really said here?

Gentile would chose to commit herself to the people of Israel and their God. Furthermore, it is a reminder that God will bless the nations through the seed of Abraham even in spite of their faithlessness.

Ruth then encounters “a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz” (2:1). This relationship introduces the reoccurring theme of a kinsman-redeemer who “could redeem (1) a family member sold into slavery (Lev. 25:47-49), (2) land which needed to be sold under economic hardship (Lev. 25:23-28), and /or (3) the family name by virtue of a levirate marriage (Deut. 25:5-10).”[64] This theme points Israel back to Yahweh as the redeemer of Israel in Egypt. Boaz redeems Ruth, they marry, and have a son named Obed. Obed is the fathers Jesse, who fathers David the king of Israel.

III. Judges and Ruth as Eschatology

Through Israel’s cycle of rebellion in Judges we are constantly confronted with the need for a king in Israel. Amidst the rebellion God’s faithfulness to His people and refusal to destroy them stands as a tremendous testimony to His commitment to fulfill His promises a commitment which is clearly seen in the book of Ruth. Despite Israel’s failure to be a blessing to the nations we see God calling the nations to Himself in the person of Ruth. Furthermore, it is through this gentile that David is born and we will see the significance of this event in I and II Samuel.

Conclusion

What do these two books teach us about Yahweh and His covenant?

[64]John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2005), 293.

12. The God Who Obtains Israel’s Inheritance

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Introduction

Deuteronomy left us in a state of tension as it records Moses final words to Israel exhorting them to remain faithful to Yahweh as He fulfills His promises to them. This is a tension that remains throughout the book of Joshua as we see God’s people struggle to remain faithful even amidst God’s mighty acts to obtain and secure an inheritance, a permanent dwelling place, for His people.

I. The Conquest in Context

The book of Joshua was written by Joshua during the time of the conquest and it emphasizes the unity of Israel. We saw before how the creation and fall narratives emphasize our solidarity with Adam and the whole of humanity. The narratives of the patriarchs explained the origin of Israel as descendants of Abraham and recipients of the Abrahamic Covenant. Then we learned how Deuteronomy gives unity to this covenant structure by extending the promises to this new generation. The writing of Joshua then expresses this solidarity as it applies to the twelve tribes of Israel. During the exodus and wondering in the desert they existed in close proximity to one another; however, now as they move to enter the land they will be spread over great distances, depending upon their portion. Despite this geographical divide the book of Joshua reminds them of their common “history, traditions, and divinely revealed law, which bound them together, as it were, by a divine constitution.”[60]

II. The Narrative of the Conquest

Like Deuteronomy we do not have sufficient time to work through the book of Joshua with great detail. The outline below will allow us to briefly overview the narrative of Joshua while introducing us to several important themes that we need to study in detail.

  • Joshua is Commissioned by the Lord and Assumes Leadership (1)
  • Scouting the Land (2)
  • Entering the Land (3-5)
  • Conquering the Land (6-12)
  • Dividing the land (13-22)
  • Joshua’s Final Exhortations and Death (23-24)

III. Important Themes in Joshua

A. Yahweh’s Provision

If there is one thing that the book of Joshua makes clear for us it is that the Lord graciously acts on behalf of His people to secure the fulfillment of His promises to them. Israel is not responsible for conquering the land Yahweh is. Yahweh’s words to Joshua in 1:1-9 make this point expressly clear.

Would someone read that passage for us? What is the source of Joshua’s and Israel’s confidence?

Their confidence is in the presence of the Lord because God’s presence means His protection as well. Even more so when the spies encounter Rahab we see that the LORD’s reputation precedes Him.

Will someone read Joshua 2:1-16? What is the source of the nations’ fear? Are they afraid of Israel or her God? What name does Rahab call Israel’s God? Why is this significant?

The nations fear the God of Israel because His reputation as a warrior has preceded them. Furthermore, they are afraid because they know that He has given this land as an inheritance to Israel. Rahab does not refer ambiguously to Israel’s God; no she calls Him Yahweh. This is the name of the God who deliver’s Israel from slavery in Egypt and this God will deliver Rahab and her family as well.

B. Yahweh’s Holiness

The most difficult aspect of Joshua for us to cope with is the command that certain cities be completely destroyed.

Will someone please read Joshua 6 for us? What is your immediate reaction to that? How would you respond if the president announced that this would be our new policy for cities housing terrorists?

This is a very difficult question to answer and I want to look at it from several different perspectives. First, I want us to see it through the perspective of Israel’s sacrificial system. Second, I want us to see it from a redemptive-historical perspective. Finally, I want us to see it against the backdrop of God’s longsuffering, pertaining both to Israel and to these particular nations.

First, within the sacrificial system we see that this,

“was just the opposite of a voluntary whole-burnt offering in which the offerer willingly gave up the entire animal in an act of total submission (Lev 1; cf. Ro 12:1-2). Here, after much divine longsuffering and waiting, God called for everything that belonged to him in the first place ― life, possessions, valuables ― as an involuntary whole-burnt offering.”[61]

From the perspective of Israel they experienced this reality, although vicariously, as a continual aspect of life and fellowship with God. This is a profound reminder of God’s grace towards Israel because He is not partial in the administration of His judgment.

Would someone read Deuteronomy 12:29-31? What is the motivation behind this destruction?

Would someone read Deuteronomy 13:12-18? Is God’s promised response to an idolatrous Israel any different than His response to the Idolatry of the nations? Why then is this a reminder of Yahweh’s grace towards Israel [Think back to the golden calf (Exodus 32) or Kadesh Barnea (Numbers 13-14)]?

Second, when understood redemptive-historically we see the solidarity of humanity in judgment and the solidarity of renewed humanity in grace. Speaking specifically of Achan’s sin (Joshua 7) Goldsworthy explains,

“We see the principal of corporateness that operates in Scripture. The one represents the many because of the corporate solidarity or oneness of that group. Thus the whole human race sinned in Adam. . . . In Abraham the whole nation was chosen. Through the ministrations of one priest all the people are reconciled to God. And so it will develop until the ideas of representation and substitution become fixed in the concept of salvation. Now the leader, Joshua (whose name means “Jehovah is salvation”), mediates the saving and judging acts of God.”[62]

This concept of solidarity was first introduced to us in Genesis 3:15. Here we observed that while humanity is unified with Adam in rebellion and subsequently the curse. The hope of this verse is that while we all are under the curse and deserve judgment there is a second solidarity, not with fallen Adam but with the victorious head-crushing offspring of Eve. We see this reality played out both in Israel’s own struggle with unbelief and its struggles with the unbelieving nations.

Finally, this event paints a profound picture of the longsuffering and unfathomable grace of God. Turning back to Genesis 15:16 we read, “And they [Israel] shall come back here [the land] in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” Now some 600 years later Joshua is leading Israel to take possession of the land that the Lord is giving them. Looking back to Deuteronomy 12:31 we see that the inhabitants of the land practiced human sacrifice to their god’s. In light of Yahweh’s command to totally destroy certain cities his patient endurance of their sin paints a profound picture of His grace and we see the fruit of that grace in the deliverance of Rahab and her family.

IV. The Conquest as Eschatology

“The stage is set for Israel to live as a light to the nations. God’s response to mutiny in his good creation has been to elect one man, Abraham, and then to recover part of the earth and to place Abraham’s descendants there. Israel in the land is meant to be a taste of what God intends for the whole of his creation.”[63]

And indeed the repentance and deliverance of Rahab and her family is a foretaste of how God will bless the nations through Abraham. Yahweh had fulfilled His promises to Israel. As Joshua 21:43-45 records:

“Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.”

And yet the concluding chapters of Joshua end on a solemn note similar to that of Deuteronomy. Israel has conquered the land and it has been apportioned to the twelve tribes of Israel. But with Joshua’s closing exhortation one is forced to ask how long will Israel remain faithful to Yahweh? How long will they maintain possession of the land? This points us to the tension between the already and the not yet found throughout the rest of Scripture. They have already been delivered from slavery, they are already free to worship God as God’s people, in God’s place, and under God’s rule; but they land is not yet permanently and fully theirs. There remains among them remnants of the nations whom they conquered and disinheritance looms ever on the horizon (Joshua 23:12-13).

With this tension between the already and the not yet we are forced to conclude that this situation points us forward to a greater fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. This points us to when God’s people, in God’s place, and under God’s rule may worship Him freely forever without the threat of disinheritance.

Conclusion

In what way does the possession of the land and the already/not yet tension expand your understanding of the church? What principles learned from Israel’s situation remain applicable today?


[60]VanGemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 166.
[61]Walter C. Kaiser Jr., The Promise-Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 102.
[62]Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 158.
[63]Bartholomew and Goheen, The Drama of Scripture, 83.