Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Summary of Intercession in the Hebrew Bible

The texts suggest that apotropaic intercession was considered to be generally, but not universally, effective, although even in cases where it appears to have failed YHWH refrains from wiping out all Israel. Yet intercession merely has a partial effect; the HB emphasizes YHWH’s freedom of action throughout. He “does what he wishes” (cf. Pss 115:3, 135:6, Jonah 1:14). YHWH may “change his mind” based on repentance, apotropaic intercession, direct appeal by the targeted victim, or YHWH’s own “good nature”; however, he also seemingly disregards much human intervention and persists in his planned punishment.

In sum, then, biblical apotropaic intercessory utterances aim to persuade the deity, rely on many of the same rhetorical strategies and arguments as supplications to human authorities, and are generally portrayed as effective at reducing or appropriately targeting divinely planned doom. As for the theology of the intercession proper, apotropaic intercessory appeals depict a deity moved by human passion as well as pain, a deity sensitive about his reputation, and a deity attached to his chosen, particularly his patriarchs. This God is stirred by justice but sometimes in need of reminding to protect the innocent in his rush to punish the guilty. YHWH is depicted as resembling a well-intentioned and all- powerful monarch, who relies on his advisers for guidance when the concerns of his subjects are brought to his ears—but who always reserves the final judgment as his own.—Forestalling Doom page 213

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