AACC Liveblog: Robert Gordon on the Former Prophets

Former Prophets (Joshua to 2 Kings) – Robert P Gordon

Called Former Prophets because they talk a lot about prophets, like Samuel and Elijah etc. In Jewish tradition (the Talmudic period) the idea was that the prophets wrote these books – Josephus thought Samuel wrote 1 and 2 Samuel. The term “former prophets” may owe a lot to assumed authorship.

Turning Points – Judges to Kings: Repentance in the Deuteronomic History

Martin Noth suggested the Deuteronomic history were works produced to explain why/how Judah found trouble. The book of Deuteronomy proceeded this material, it played a part in the formation of these books.

Deuteronomy is the engine pulling the books along – Deuteronomic language and theology imbues the following books.

It’s common to say that in Judges chapter 2:6-12 there’s a scheme at play that operates throughout the rest of the book.

Defection/Defeat/Repentance/Deliverance – a cycle.

Gordon says there’s no repentance in Judges 2.

Subsequently Israel calls out in despair, and they’re delivered, but they don’t “repent.” The verbs that would traditionally be used in a context of repentance are not used in the book of Judges. Except in chapter 2 (v18) where it is used to described God having compassion on Israel, and Israel returning to their corrupt ways. The verbs are used in close juxtaposition – perhaps a deliberate inversion/irony. Israel doesn’t repent, but a case could be made for translating the verb as God repenting.

In Chapter 10 the Israelites confess their sin against the Lord, but they are rebuffed, because God is literally “fed up” with them. This is the best you’ll get in Judges in terms of Israel’s repentance.

The question of Israel’s polytheism isn’t really relevant, or dealt with, within the text of Judges.

1 Samuel

Eli and Samuel continue the judging tradition. The issue of repentance comes up in chapter 7. “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts…” (shades of Deuteronomy 30). The Israelites aren’t lamenting about their own circumstances at this point but rather the situation with the Ark of the Covenant being held by the Philistines.

The narrative is portraiture not rather than photography. The text contains generalisations and hyperbole in order to make theological points. We have to be careful to understand what the aim of the text is. We can do this while still maintaining a high view of scripture.

What is the point of the Deuteronomic History?

Depends on your view on dating – is it a Josiaic composition withan exilic editor? Is it early? Is it to paint Israel as abject failures? To present post exilic theological options?

What are Israel to do in the hour of judgment? They are to turn and repent. Even after Josiah’s repentance God’s anger burns against Israel and seems to be a repudiation of the kingship in total.

Repentance is important and unavoidable in the New Testament – both John the Baptist and Jesus preach it first up, Hebrews 6:1 makes it a pretty foundational doctrine. It was also held to be very important in Hebrew theology. Repentance, in Jewish theology, converted unforgivable sins into ritual sins addressable through the law. “Great is repentance, for deliberate sins are accounted as sins of ignorance” – the Talmud. The Targum follows this pattern – repentance leads to forgiveness.