Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Not an even exchange

Israel’s rejection of Yahweh’s rule is not fundamentally an exchange of one divine rule (the rule of Yahweh) for another divine rule (the rule of one Canaanite god or another); rather, their allegiance to the foreign deities (and thus disloyalty to Yahweh) exposes their fundamental drive to chart their own course, realize their own destiny, and set the standard for their own conduct apart from God. Idolatry and autonomy, thus, are intricately intertwined, two sides of the same coin.—David J. H. Beldman, Judges, Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, forthcoming)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Violence!

Our time and culture are no less violent than those of ancient Israel. On the one hand, we live in a culture that celebrates and consumes violence in film, video games, and sport. On the other hand, we lament the violence that plagues our city streets, hides behind the closed doors of our homes, enters our schools and claims our children, feeds on racism and other forms of prejudice, wreaks havoc on the global political stage, and dominates our media coverage. Violence breads violence and creates a culture of fear and anxiety; the cycle seems unbreakable. As valuable and worthwhile as they are, anger management seminars, violence awareness, counseling, and diplomatic peace talks cannot eradicate the violence that plagues a society like ours in which everyone does what is right in their own eyes. And like Israel in the settlement period, any hope for change must begin with the people of God, radically committed to the divine king and unswervingly motivated to live out his kingdom principles.—David J. H. Beldman, Judges, Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, forthcoming)

Monday, February 18, 2019

It's not just personal, it's structural

In this fallen world, allegiance to God and King Jesus does not guarantee life and flourishing this side of eternity, but disloyalty that breeds sin will only in the long run produce disharmony, fear, oppression, misery, death—all those things that are opposed to life and flourishing. Accordingly, Judge’s full-orbed instruction on sin also implies something about the doctrine of salvation. Along with the thrust of the biblical story, Judges communicates (albeit as a subtext) a longing for deliverance that extends as wide and as deep as the pervasive spread of sin. Judges provides a stark and sobering picture of sin and its consequences, and thus stands as a vital source for a multidimensional doctrine of sin, but also implies a cosmic redemption that heals the ills of human immorality, institutional corruption, economic oppression, and societal breakdown—thus, it stands as a vital source for a multidimensional doctrine of salvation.—David J. H. Beldman, Judges, Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, forthcoming)

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The root of sin

At its root, then, sin is a disposition in the hearts of the people of God, and not specific acts that transgress a moral code. That is not to say that actions and behavior are irrelevant. In fact, this disposition of disloyalty to Yahweh manifests itself in actions that transgress Yahweh’s will.—David J. H. Beldman, Judges, Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, forthcoming) (emphasis original)

Friday, February 15, 2019

The real cancer

The stranglehold of sin not only creates a context of widespread immorality, but also produces an environment of uncertainty, division, oppression (economic and other), fear, suspicion, false hospitality, cowardice, and familial and social brokenness. Sin is like a cancer that literally sucks the life out of its host. Not content to be confined or limited, sin, once taken root, spreads in such a way that it saps the energy and life that feeds cells and organs. The result is that the cancer (sin) thrives and grows while the host environment of the cancer deteriorates and eventually dies.—David J. H. Beldman, Judges, Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, forthcoming)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Right in the eyes of whom?

In the context of the sins of Micah and the Danites, of the atrocity of Gibeah and the resulting disasters (chs. 17–21), the refrain “doing evil in the eyes of Yahweh” gives way to people “doing right in their own eyes.” The moral standard has shifted from divine to human, and the resulting moral relativism leads to chaos. As I have argued throughout this commentary, the people (individually and collectively) doing what seems good in their own eyes is bound up with their rejection of Yahweh as king (“There was no king in Israel”), so again these narratives underscore the connection between divine allegiance and sin.—David J. H. Beldman, Judges, Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, forthcoming)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

He exists—but what does that mean?

It is worth clarifying that we never encounter Israelites (individually or collectively) denying his [Yahweh] existence or alternatively acknowledging his existence but then consciously rejecting his divine authority. Instead, we have plenty of examples of a syncretistic blending of Israelite and Canaanite “religion.” This religious syncretism is quite evident at a number of places, not least in the example of Gideon’s patriarchal household and in Gideon himself. Gideon’s father maintained a shrine to Baal and Ashtoreth (6:25–32), and yet his father must have passed down something of the tradition and history of Israel because Gideon recalls some of them (6:13). Gideon himself rightly acknowledges the rule of Yahweh but then immediately fashions an idol and sets up a shrine that “all Israel whored after” and that “became a snare to Gideon and to his family.” When it comes to dividing divine loyalties, like father, like son. Indeed, according to the pervasive polytheistic cognitive environment of the ancient Near East, paying homage to Yahweh and also serving the local deities would be the most natural thing for the Israelites to do. And yet, Yahweh was unique among the gods of the nations and by virtue of his special relationship with them and his redemptive and preserving deeds on their behalf, Israel was called to be a unique people. Accordingly, there was to be no division of loyalties—service to foreign gods is implicitly a rejection of Yahweh.—David J. H. Beldman, Judges, Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, forthcoming)