I try to read a new chp in John Goldingay, OT Theology: Israel’s Gospel, the last week of the month. Well, I had to much to do last week so I’m behind … and now I’ve got some eager readers who want to see what he has to say in chp 7. So here goes:
The first three sections of chp 7 are about Israel as a people in the wilderness, a place where Israel lives out the obedience to which it is called and the disobedience it can’t seem to escape. Israel, he says, “is on a journey to a land of promise, and one that exists on an earthly plane, not an ethereal one, because God is intent on fulfilling a purpose on the earthly plane” (474). “Nothing,” he says, “is straightforward in the story of the people of God” (451).
In the last two decades we have begun to talk much about the “story” or “narrative” of the Bible, but I must admit the normal “story” that then gets told is not the biblical writers’ stories (not “story” — there are many stories). The story we often hear — creation, fall, redemption — is one way of telling that story, but it is mostly a Protestant Reformation, individualistic story. Just try picking up your Bible at, say, Numbers and read through, say, 2 Chronicles — or skim it quickly in an hour or so — and tell me how often “creation” and “fall” appear. Those terms are from Romans 5, and are surely one way of putting the biblical story, but it is not very often told.
Numbers tells a different story and this story is told in chp 7 of Goldingay’s (always) lengthy chapters. The people of God is sustained, disappointed, protesting, bride and rebel, chastised and mercied. Isn’t the story much more along the line of election/people of God, obedience, disobedience, discipline as exile, and return/restoration? In other words, it’s an explanation, a story, of why things in history turn out as they do. The story of Israel is the story of Egypt to Sinai and to the Land of Promise, but it is also the story of Qadesh — not just all good news but lots of nonsense along the way. Warts and all is the story. Psalm 78 kind of stuff.
It is also the story of war and seizing the land from others. Here are some words from Deuteronomy that describe what Israel did to get the Land: efface, tear down, expel, confound, clearing out, striking down, breaking down, shattering, cutting up, burning, dispossessing, devoting by killing, finishing, destroying, eliminating, and cutting off (7:1, 2, 5, 17, 20, 22, 24; 12:2, 3, 29).
What kind of war stories are told in the OT?
1. Liberative (Gen 14).
2. Passive (Exodus)
2. Defensive, punitive (Exo 17:8-16).
3. Aggressive, punitive (Num 25; 31:1-3).
4. Pacifist (Num 20-21).
“War may be an evil, but is a necessary evil, and so we must ‘sin boldly'” (481).
On herem — the devotion of entire cities to God through destruction — Goldingay has several observations:
1. Military machine was destroyed in Joshua 11.
2. It came back to haunt Israel.
3. It turns in on itself in Judges 19–21.
4. It was dangerous in the hands of a man like Saul in 1 Sam 22.
5. It is located in a distinct “supranatural marvelous beginnings” period in Israel’s history.
War results in receiving God’s gift: the Land. Goldingay discusses four models of how Israel got the Land:
1. Military campaign: Israel came from outside and it was abrupt.
2. Social revolution: Israel came from inside and it was abrupt.
3. Migration: Israel came from outside it was gradual.
4. Cultural differentiation: Israel came from inside and it was gradual.
Herem War also has to do with holiness and separation.
Israel gets the Land for a settled life; it is the Land Yhwh gives and owns and it is designed for implementing Torah.