KERUX: A JOURNAL
Editor: James T. Dennison, Jr.
Assistant Editors: Richard A. Riesen and David L. Roth
KERUX is a publication of Kerux, Inc. and appears three times each year. Editorial offices are located at 1131Whispering Highlands Dr., Escondido, CA 92027-4961. Correspondence should be directed to the editor at this address. Subscription rates for one year are: $15.00 (U.S. and Canada); $20.00 (elsewhere). All remittances should be made payable in U.S. funds. KERUX is: abstracted in Religious and Theological Abstracts, Myerstown, PA; indexed in Elenchus of Biblica, Rome, Italy.
ISSN 0888-8513 Vol. 7, No. 3
This final issue of Kerux's sabbatical year features the Old Testament prophets–seers of the end of the ages. Lena (Mrs. Newman) Lee provides a structural outline of the book of Joel relying upon the literary characteristics of the Hebrew texts. Her discussion of the redemptive-historical significance of Joel's images and themes is stimulating. We trust our readers will find rich and rewarding Christocentric meaning in the prophet of locusts, Pentecost and the Day of the Lord.
Klaas Schilder's sermon from Jeremiah is riveting and dramatic. Our readers will note that Schilder preaches in the period after the close of World War II and the approach of the Cold War with its chilling Iron Curtain. On this nether side of the demise of Soviet communism, we rejoice that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ continues to display his sovereignty over the nations. Meredith G. Kline concludes his exposition of the third night vision of Zechariah by directing our attention to the kerygma of the Messianic Angel.
The Board of Kerux conveys hearty best wishes to our readers for the advent season and the new year. May the blessings of him who has brought the "end of the ages upon us" abide with each of you. Veni, Domine Iesu!
STRUCTURE OF JOEL
(Based on the Hebrew text; English equivalent in [ ])
The book of Joel presents difficult historical, critical and interpretative problems. Its date remains in doubt. Scholarly estimates of the period of Joel have ranged from the ninth century B. C. to the Maccabean period. The basis for the early date stems from Joel's parallel themes with the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah and Amos. Edward J. Young maintains a pre-exilic date. R. K. Harrison favors the post-exilic date, citing certain post-exilic terms, including some Aramaisms found in the work. Both attest the difficulty of establishing a definite date due to a number of valid literary, traditional and historical factors.1
Although its integrity has been questioned by some, Hans Walter Wolff has written a masterful defense of the unity of the book.2 The major problem is interpretative. Opinion is divided with regard to
2:11ff., i.e., whether the prophet describes an apocalyptic army or a human army on the "day of Yahweh." Calvin, for instance, considers it a human enemy army,3 while Wolff insists that the passage describes a human army in apocalyptic terms. Others treat it merely as a locust invasion.
It is hoped that by paying careful attention to the structure of the book of Joel, the meaning of the writer will become clearer for interpreting the book as a whole. Bar-Efrat is of the opinion that by observing the literary/narrative art of the Old Testament writers, it is possible to attain a systematic and organized understanding of the text.4
The book of Joel is prophetic in nature. It is written like a lengthy poem, with the use of imagery, parallelism, repetition and colon-like sentences. Key words, alliteration and refrains hint at its effective oral communication. Similes and metaphors are encountered throughout the book, indicating that a merely literal interpretation may not unravel the profound revelation that Joel is attempting to communicate. Poetry has always been an efficient means of communicating not only important truths, but the emotions and insights of the writer as well. In this way, the whole being of the reader or listener is stirred up to respond to the truth.
It is apparent that Joel was written at least twenty-four centuries ago. Historical and cultural factors of the past must be taken into consideration. How it harmonizes with the organically unified structure of the redemptive revelation of God is important in its interpretation. (For example, it is indeed helpful that part of the prophecy is found in Acts 2:17-21 and declared to have been fulfilled.) Close study of the Hebrew text uncovers the themes and motifs in the book. Examination of the occurrences of these themes and motifs in the Old and New Testaments brings much to light. My study of Joel is implemented by means of Geerhardus Vos's idea of biblical theology5 as further exemplified by the writings of Meredith G. Kline and others.
Since the narrator does not use paragraphs or punctuation, he must have some means of communicating a structure. In an attempt to structure the book I have pursued multiple readings of the Hebrew text, observing clues in the context, the vocabulary and the syntax. In addition, I have used guidelines derived from S. Bar-Efrat, J. P. Fokkelman and Wilfred G. E. Watson.6 With reference to the structural outline, the book appears to have a chiastic pattern of A-B-C-B-A. The heart of the message begins when Yahweh ACTS for the first time in the prophecy—the Lord UTTERS his voice before his army (2:10-3:5) [2:10-32].7 He calls his people to repent and cry out to him (2:12-13). Then he pours out his Holy Spirit upon all flesh (3:1-5 [2:28-32], fulfilled at Pentecost—Acts 2:17-21) before the culmination of the ultimate judgment on the goyim ("nations") on the one hand and ultimate blessedness for 'ammo ("his people") on the other (4:14-16) [3:14-16].
The Introduction and the Conclusion are parallel to one another because the former asks a question and the latter provides a reply (1:1-3; 4:15-20 [3:15-20]). In the body of the prophecy thematic changes are marked by keywords such as yom yhwh ("day of the Lord"). Sentences repeated word for word demarcate the end or beginning of subject divisions. The contents of the paragraphs reinforce these perimeters. Changes of addressor and addressee (indicated by pronouns and the context) confirm these divisions (see the structural outline, pp. 4-5 above).
The following sentences, clauses or phrases have been used to demarcate the sections. The symbols (*) are used in the Structural Outline to indicate the occurrences of word for word repetition:
1. *fast* – "Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly" (1:14; 2:15).
2. *trumpet* – "Blow a trumpet in Zion" (2:1, 15).
3. *great things* – "For he (YHWH) has done great things" (2:20, 21).
4. *Valley of Jehoshaphat* – "Valley of Jehoshaphat" (4:2, 12) [3:2, 12].
5. *THE SUN AND MOON GROW DARK AND THE STARS LOSE THEIR BRIGHTNESS*
This sentence occurs with the theophanic "the Lord utters HIS VOICE" (qol yhwh) which is the sound of divine advent in judgment (2:10-11; 4:15-16 [3:15-16]). There is a slight variation in 3:4 [2:31] in that the moon turns to blood.8
6. yom yhwh – "Day of the Lord" (1:15; 2:1, 11; 3:4 [2:31]; 4:14 [3:14]).
The content of 1:4-16 suggests that Israel is addressed (vv. 2-4). The byt yhwh ("house of the Lord") is found here (vv. 9, 13, 14), but not in 2:1-9. The two sections are divided by the prophet's cry unto God (1:16-20). The change in speaker and hearers here indicates the transition from the judgment theme to the deliverance theme. The byt yhwh ("house of Yahweh") is definitely the term for Solomon's temple, as it occurs sixty times in that context in I Kings 6, 7, 8. Priests, ministers of the altar, offerings and libations, and elders are mentioned (1:9, 13, 14), whereas the content of 2:1-9 suggests a universal address. Zion is mentioned in the latter, but not in the former, and there is no mention of anything relating to the cultic worship of the old covenant. This implies a discernible transition from the old covenant with Israel to the new covenant with Zion. This transition becomes clearer when exegetical study of 2:1-9 reveals the Divine Redeemer Warrior.
The imagery of the locust devastation serves as a vivid picture of apocalyptic destruction in the day of the Lord. In chiastic pattern Joel brings the eschatological judgment on all the nations (4:1-14) [3:1-14] to parallel the judgment on Israel (1:4-2:9). In the final analysis, the emphasis is on the eschatological judgment, but the prophet arranges it so that the judgment is seen to begin from the house of Israel.
The most important and urgent part of the message is in 2:10-14, 3:4-5 [2:31, 32], and 4:15-16 [3:15-16] where the sun, the moon and the stars lose their brightness because of God's theophanic glory. With each of the three theophanic pronouncements is the warning of an impending eschatological judgment and the offer of reconciliation, salvation, deliverance and refuge to those who repent, return and call upon the Lord. The unrepentant (goyim) will be destined to eternal desolation, and the repentant ('ammi) to restoration and refuge in Zion (where the Lord dwells and where there is eternal blessedness). These eschatological events are completely new creations of God—the revelation of the Divine Redeemer Warrior (2:1-11), the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (3:1-5) [2:28-32], and the Father on his throne who dwells in Zion (4:15-17 [3:15-17], 21 [3:21]; cf. Rev. 21:3-5).
Day of the Lord (Yom Yhwh)
The keywords "the day of the Lord" occur five times—1:15; 2:1,11; 3:4 [2:31]; 4:14 [3:14]—and determine the structural pattern of the poem, serving as transitional catchwords linking separate stanzas that feature a different addressor or addressee.
The "day of the Lord" is a special expression designating God's dreadful intervention in the course of redemptive history. It is a day of YHWH's triumph over his enemies. It is also specifically used to denote judgment, i.e., bringing destruction for the wicked, the enemies of God's people (Am. 5:18-20; Zeph. 1:14-17). New Testament references point to the day of Jesus Christ as the eschatological final judgment that will certainly come with the parousia of Christ (1 Cor. 1:7-8; Phil. 1:6, 10; 1 Thess. 5:1-10; 2 Thess. 1:7-10).
New Testament writers considered themselves to be living in "the last days" (Acts 2:16-17) or in "the ends of the ages" (1 Cor. 10:11). What the Old Testament prophets perceived as one movement is revealed in the New Testament to consist of two stages in history—the Messianic age and the age of the future. "The last day," "the consummation of the age," still lies in the future (Mt. 13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; 28:20; Jn. 6:39, 44, 54; 12:48; 2 Tim. 3:1; 2 Pet. 3:3; Jd. 18).9 And yet, the eschatological state has arrived with the one great eschatological intrusion that has broken in with the advent of Christ (Heb. 2:3, 5; 9:11; 10:1; 12:22-24). It is the first-fruits of the consummate eschatological state that will come with his parousia.
Accompanying the strong warning of the ultimate day of reckoning, the message of redemption is emphatically given with words concerning the supernatural signs of the sun, moon and stars (Joel 2:1-14; 3:1-5 [2:28-32]; 4:15-21 [3:15-21]). God's mighty act of redemption is portrayed in theophanic imagery describing the Divine Redeemer Warrior and his retinue (2:1-11). The people of Zion will know that the Lord is in Israel—qrb in (the very midst of) Israel (2:27). Following this will be the theophanic outpouring of the Holy
Spirit at Pentecost. The root of the word qrb in 2:27 basically denotes being or coming into the most intimate proximity to the object (or subject). Its secondary meaning entails actual contact with the object.10 In the third divine theophany, YHWH dwells in Zion with his people in eschatological blessedness (4:15-21 [3:15-21]; cf. Rev. 21:3-5).
The Divine Redeemer Warrior executes judgment in the "day of the Lord," bringing destruction upon the enemies of God's people (4:1-14 [3:1-14]; Am. 5:18-20; Is. 2:12-21; 10:3-4; 13:6, 13; 34:8; Jer. 46:10; Ezk. 7:1-9; 30:1-19; Ob. 15; Zeph. 1:14-18; 2:2, 3; Mal. 3:24 [4:5-6]; I Thess. 5:2-3). Hence, this day is also visualized as a day of deliverance, joy, restoration and blessedness for God's oppressed people. There is the association of judgment on the one hand and salvation and deliverance on the other.11
The Locust Imagery
Locust devastation was one of the curses that would befall Israel if she disobeyed the stipulations of the Mosaic Covenant (Dt. 28:38, 42). The locust imagery, coupled with the rhetorical question in Joel 1:2, was a powerful reminiscence of God's judgment on the Egyptians at the Exodus (Ex. 10:2, 6, 14, 15). The annual Passover which commemorated their redemption from slavery to the Pharaoh of Egypt was observed by the devout (Ex. 12:24-28; Dt. 4:32-39). The historical event became an image to communicate the revelation of God concerning the eschatological consummation of the redemptive plan of God. The redemptive plan of God will be such a completely new creation that the most dramatic historical experience had to be drawn upon to describe it, i.e., the exodus. The new revelation builds upon revelation already given.
The eighth plague (the locust devastation) came up over all the land of Egypt and settled in all the territory of Egypt. Locusts covered the surface of the whole land (Ex 10:14, 15). The triple emphasis intimates that the judgment included everyone. The whole land was darkened, and nothing green was left on tree or plant throughout all the land of Egypt (Ex. 10:15). And just as supernaturally as the
multitude of locusts came, even so they left. Not one locust remained. The totality of this plague was emphasized in Ex. 10:14. No mention is made that Goshen was excluded.
In the ninth and tenth plague, God made a distinction between the Israelites and the Egyptians, as well as a distinction between their dwellings. The Israelites had light, but for three days the Egyptians were in thick darkness that could be felt. Then came the plague upon the first born. Yet God redeemed Israel with the death of the Passover Lamb, and led his people forth like a Warrior, who fought and defended them, and gave them new life in a new land (Ex 13:18, 21-22; 15:3ff.; Josh. 5:14; Ps. 106:9, 10).
The main theme in Joel is the Last Judgment that will come upon all, like the eighth plague. But as in the ninth and tenth plagues, God has a redemptive plan. This time he uses the imagery of the Divine Redeemer Warrior. The revelation of God continues to grow in profundity. The use of Messianic symbols in the death-to-life portraits hint at the nature of the redemptive plan. The parallel between the Passover lamb and the bridegroom's death is apparent (in the gospels, it is certainly a portrayal of Christ, the Messiah; cf. Jn. 1:29; 3:29; Mt. 9:15; 25:1-13; Mk. 2:19, 20; Lk. 5:34-35; Rev. 19:7-9; 21:2, 9). Darkness to light is frequently a new creation motif (Gen. 1:1-2; Jn. 1:1-3). God will do something completely new—the Incarnation (Lk. 1:78; 2:32; Is. 42:6; cf. Joel 2:2).
Just as there was a differentiation between the Egyptians and the Israelites, so will there be differentiation of the ammi ("my people") and the goyim ("the nations") in the last judgment. There will be a complete "eastern sea to western sea" annihilation (2:20) of "the Northern One" (i.e., the enemy of Zion and Israel). This would be the result of the Divine Redeemer Warrior's triumph, the promise made to the redeemed, who are a byword and an object of scorn to the nations.
The Divine Redeemer Warrior
The prophets customarily describe eschatological events with the image of an analogous past, reviving the past to reveal the future. Joel 2:1-11 is a metaphorical elaboration of God's redemption, symbolically presented by theophanic merismus of a conquering, irresistible Redeemer Warrior and his retinue. Like the locusts, nothing can stop him. God's theophanic, eschatological intrusion will be unprecedented, unrepeatable like the eighth and tenth plagues in the Exodus (1:2; 2:2; Ex. 10:6, 14; 11:6). However, it will be so supernaturally new that the prophet must use the analogy of past experiences and metaphorical language to communicate it.
The adjectives Joel uses to describe the Divine Redeemer Warrior reveals YHWH himself. He descends from the mountains with the 'am rab and his purposes cannot be thwarted (2:2, 6-11). 'Am rab could refer to a myriad of innumerable angels or people. The word 'rpl translated "darkness" in the NIV, is used consistently in the Old Testament for the theophany of God all fifteen times it occurs (Ex. 20:21; Dt. 4:11; 5:19 ; I K. 8:12; Jer. 13:16; Ezk. 34:12; Joel 2:2; Zeph. 1:15; Is. 60:2; Ps. 18:10 ; 97:2-3; 2 Ch. 6:1; 2 S. 22:10; Job 22:13; 38:9). In the day of cloud and darkness ('rpl), YHWH himself will search for his sheep and look after them; he will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered (Ezk. 34:11-12; Jn. 10:3, 11, 14-16).
When God descended upon Mount Sinai to speak to Moses in the people's hearing (Ex. 19:3, 9, 10, 18), the description of his theophany consisted of exactly the same Hebrew vocabulary found in Joel 2:1-11:
day of clouds and darkness (Joel 2:2; Ex. 19:9; 20:21)
the loud trumpet sound (Joel 2:1; Ex. 19:19; 20:18)
trembling of the people (Joel 2:1; Ex. 19:16, 17)
the earthquake [synonyms used] (Joel 2:10; Ex. 19:18)
the fire (Joel 2:3-5; Ex. 19:18)
The Lord's qol ("voice") (Joel 2:11; Ex. 19:19)
Holy hill, mountain (Zion in Joel 2:1; Mt. Sinai in Ex. 19:3, 18)
In Dt. 4:11-13, 24, as Moses recounted this day when he had received God's stipulations (Ex. 20), he again used similar vocabulary to describe the theophanic phenomena—the blazing fire, the clouds and darkness, the qol of the Lord. He states that "the Lord your God is a consuming fire" (cf. Dt. 5:22, 25). In Heb. 12:18-22, 29, the same theophanic description connects Mt. Sinai with Mt. Zion in the transition from the Old to the New Covenant.
The Divine Redeemer Warrior imagery in Joel 2:1-11 is a concrete sense-related old image given a new twist to describe the inexpressible (humanly speaking). Joel uses the acme and apex of all God's theophanic revelations given thus far to express to his contemporaries the theophanic glory of the Lord who will come with his retinue (cf. Dt. 33:2; Ps. 68:17; Dan. 7:13; cf. Joel 2:11). This descent of God seems to be a specific answer to Isaiah's prayer in Is. 64:1ff.
In the Hebrew text, Joel 2:3, 4a, 6, 10, 11a refer to a masculine, singular, third person. Verses 2:4b, 5, 7-9, 11b, refer to masculine, plural, third persons, distinguishing the Divine Redeemer Warrior from his retinue (who seem to be angelic beings in their invincibility). The appearance of the likeness of the glory of YHWH is described by Ezekiel to be like the qol of an army (Ezk. 1:24, 25a, 28b; cf. Joel 2:5, 11). The Divine Redeemer has his innumerable retinue, like obedient warriors and soldiers (2:2, 7), indefensible, unswerving, disciplined, supernatural and mighty (2:7-9). This description indicates the certainty of God's sovereignty and that his decree will certainly be carried to fulfillment. The Redeemer will come, and the people are thus exhorted to have faith in him and repent and call upon him (2:12-17).
Lest the people confuse this Redeemer with Hadad or Baal, YHWH distinguishes himself by stating the revelation of himself in exactly the same words as those given to Moses: ". . . the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and
abounding in love" (Joel 2:13; Ex. 34:6). None of the ancient near eastern gods or goddesses would fit this description, nor the attributes of God implied in his stipulations of the Mosaic Covenant. For the divine warrior motif, see also Ex. 15:3; Is. 59:15-20; Rev. 19:11-16; Josh. 5:13-6:2.
The Glory of God
"The sun and the moon grow dark and the stars lose their brightness" is word for word found in 2:10 and 4:15 [3:15], but with some variation in 3:4 [2:31]. The sun, moon, and stars, objects of idol-worshippers, lose their glory in the presence of God's glory (Is. 60:19; 24:23; Acts 26:13; Rev. 21:23; 22:5). Such worship was forbidden by God (Dt. 4:19; 17:3; Jer. 8:2). It is a phenomenon of the day of God's cosmic extermination of sinners (Is. 13:10-11).
The first occurrence of this sentence comes right after the revelation of the Divine Redeemer Warrior in 2:1-11. The triple occurrence underscores YHWH's action for his people and each occurrence focuses attention on the urgent message that follows: the warning of the dreadful yom YHWH immediately followed by YHWH's call to his people to repent and to return to him, to be reconciled to him, for he will be their refuge in that dreadful day (2:10-14; 3:4-5 [2:31-32]; 4:14-16 [3:14-16]). Joel 4:14-16 [3:14-16] is different in that there is a solemn warning for the unrepentant instead of the call for repentance. God himself will save. He will pour forth his Spirit to give regenerating life to flesh incapable of divine life in order that they may commune with him (cf. Rom. 3:9-19).
command to his people to gather to him is given in a sevenfold series of imperatives
that form an alliteration with the q syllable (2:15-16). Note also the
nasal m syllable that forms a somber rhyme with the imperatives. The
stress is upon urgent obedience:
|Blow the trumpet in Zion!||tiq'u shopar bsiyon!|
|Declare a Holy Fast!||qaddoshu som!|
|Call a sacred assembly!||qir'u 'asarah!|
|Gather the people!||'ispu 'am!|
|Consecrate the assembly!||qaddoshu qahal!|
|Gather the elders!||qibsu zqnim!|
|Gather the children and those nursing at the breast!||'ipsu 'olalim wyonqi shadayim!|
These imperatives are followed by a threefold series of jussives (commands) concerning the Bride and Bridegroom leaving their marital chambers, and the priests weeping and praying between the entrance and the altar of the temple. All this is made possible because God will provide a substitutionary offering which will replace the grain offerings and the drink offerings at the altar. God will meet his people at the entrance of the temple as he said he would at its inauguration (Joel 2:14-17; cf. Ex. 29:38-44). The Divine Redeemer Warrior is the Good Shepherd who gathers his sheep, the Bridegroom who claims his bride, the substitutionary Sacrifice of sacrifices, the true Vine, the Heavenly Bread of Life.
The waw in v. 18 connects vv. 15-17 to vv. 18ff. God promises to consequently bless in response to his provision of a substitutionary sacrifice. His people's obedience to his sevenfold imperatives will bring about the consummation of blessing. Abundance is promised (the grain, new wine and oil imagery) and the enemy of Israel and Zion will be annihilated (2:20).
There will be blessing (vv. 23-24) and restoration (vv. 25-27). The switch from the future tense in vv. 18-20 to the past perfect tense in vv. 20c-21 (the twofold "Surely [ky] he has done great things"), coupled with the causative ky indicates that the future is possible because of the accomplished work of God. This is also indicated by the Hiphil used for "I will drive far the Northern one" and "I will push him from upon you" to his complete annihilation (v. 20). The signs of abundance and restoration, and the people's praising the name of the Lord their God, are evidently the result of God being qrb ("in their
midst")—in Israel (v. 27). There is the connotation of the spatial proximity of God in Israel. This must occur before Pentecost, which is described in 3:1-4 [2:28-31] and fulfilled after the advent of Christ. Joel, by using the whyh 'ry kn ("and afterward," 3:1 [2:28]), marks a timespan between 2:27 and 3:1 [2:28].
The Three Portraits of Death-to-Life
The threefold call to yll ("wail") in the midst of the destruction and death of the land, animals and people (1:5, 11, 13); and the threefold call to the land, the wild animals and the people of Zion to rejoice (2:21, 22, 23), because of renewed life and restoration, is interposed by God's amazing act (2:1-14)—"such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come" (2:2). For God himself will redeem his people like a mighty warrior. Death is overcome by him.
Three traditional symbols of the Messiah are used in the three portrayals of death-to-life, the transition coming after the creation motif of light breaking forth like dawn through the darkness and spreading forth into a blazing flame descending down the mountains (2:2-3). The light of the world, the Redeemer, comes like dawn descending from Mt. Sinai to redeem his people.
First, there is the imagery of the ba'al ne'wureyha ("bridegroom") for whom the virgin mourns (1:8). The bridegroom dies in the brief span between the act of "acquiring" and the "act of taking into the home," the time of especially cruel separation (Num. 30:17 ; Hos. 2:17 ; Jer. 2:2). This is intensified by the mourning priests who minister before the Lord and his altar (1:9, 13). In 2:16 the bridegroom and bride are among God's people, called to gather, leaving their chamber of consummation. They are among the priests, elders and children to whom God promises restoration, blessing and total deliverance from their enemies (2:18ff.). The Lord refers to himself as the bridegroom (Mt. 9:15; Mk. 2:19, 20: Lk. 5:34, 35), who gave his life for the bride (the Church) in Rev. 19:7-9 (cf. Is. 54:4-8; 62:4-5). The Creator is Husband-Redeemer (Is. 54:5).
The second potent illustration is the minhah wnesek (grain and drink offering). This particular offering was inaugurated after the seven-day ordination of Aaron and his sons and the seven-day purification of the altar (Ex. 29:38-43). The altar had to be anointed and atonement had to be made for it in order to consecrate it as most holy. Whatever touches the altar shall be holy. This is the tamid or perpetual twice-daily sacrifice which is the heart of the later worship of Israel in the temple (Acts 3:1). A lamb sacrifice was offered also in conjunction with it. It was a preparatory sacrifice for communion with God that he might meet and speak with his people and consecrate the place by his glory (Ex. 29:44, 45, 46). It was the prerequisite to God dwelling among the Israelites and being their God. To have it "cut off" (Joel 1:9) or withheld (1:13) meant no atoning sacrifice for sins and the loss of communion with God.
God himself will provide a substitutionary, propitiatory sacrifice (2:14). This will be the divine, most holy sacrifice of his sinless Son to substitute for every sacrifice commanded in the Old Testament. Indeed the foreshadowing of the eschatological must fade in the fulfillment of its reality (2:14; Jn. 1:29; Heb. 9:8-26). The eternal life-giving sacrifice will replace the twice-daily death sacrifice.
The third portrait of death-to-life utilizes agricultural imagery. In 1:7, the vines are laid waste and the fig trees are ruined by the goy ("nations"). And in 1:12, the vine is dried up and the fig tree withered along with the bridegroom's death and the cutting off of the grain offerings and drink offerings. After the advent of the Divine Redeemer Warrior (2:1-11), the fig tree and the vine yield their riches because the Lord has done great things (2:21-22). Likewise the ruined fields and dried ground (1:10) become open green pastures (2:22). The dried up trees (1:12) are bearing fruit (2:22). Mourning (1:8) has turned to joy and gladness (2:21, 23). The suffering cattle, sheep and the wild animals (1:18, 20) are called to enjoy the revived pastures (2:22). There is abundance of rain.l2 These wondrous regenerative happenings are firmly attributed to YHWH in the repeated clause—ky higdiyl yhwh la'sot ("surely he has done great things," 2:20, 21).
It is no coincidence that "bridegroom and bride," the "vine and the fig tree," "grain and drink offering" are images used here. Christ referred to himself as the Bridegroom in Mt. 9:15; Mk. 2:19; Lk.5:34; Jn. 3:29; cf. Rev. 19:7-9; 21:9, 10; as "the true Vine" in Jn. 15:1. Could "the grain and wine offering," the blessing provided by YHWH in Joel 2:14, be this "bread which comes down from heaven" (Jn. 6:50), as well as the bread and wine used during the Passover feast which was referred to as his body and blood of the New covenant symbolizing his atoning death? Christ inaugurated this Holy Communion on the Passover, significantly relating it to the Passover lamb sacrifice (Mt. 26:17ff.; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 22:1ff.). The tamid is always offered with a lamb sacrifice and precedes the communion of God with his covenant people. Upon the death of Christ, the veil of the temple that separated the holy place from the most holy place was supernaturally and significantly torn in two from top to bottom (Lk. 23:45; Mt. 27:51; Mk. 15:38).
The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit
This event is to take place after the advent of the Divine Redeemer Warrior. There is a gender pattern of female and male in the five line structure. This inversion of gender matching emphasizes the unusual event:
I will pour out my Spirit (f) on all flesh (m)
and your sons (m) and your daughters (f) will prophesy
your ancients (m) will dream dreams (f)
your youths (m) will see visions (f)
even on slaves (m) and handmaidens (f)
A merismus of a global picture is presented emphatically this way, expressing also the inevitability of its prophetic fulfillment.l3 The redeemed will be given an overpowering measure of God's Holy Spirit and will be saved from God's wrath. The lost are like chaff thrown into the fire for destruction (Mt. 3:11-12).
Nation (goy) and God's People ('ammi)
Just as God differentiated Israel and Egypt in the plagues, particularly in the ninth and the tenth plague, here Joel clearly differentiates between the goy and the 'ammi. The Lord first used the term 'ammi when he spoke of Abraham's descendants. He had chosen and was identified with them by means of the covenant (Ex. 3:7ff.). Goy usually refers to the pagan Gentile nations, especially after the formation of the nation Israel. The goy whose invasion of Israel is likened to a locust invasion, is ironically to be ultimately destroyed by the Divine Redeemer Warrior in a final cosmic event. None will escape except his redeemed people ('ammi) (2:18, 20; 3:5 [2:32]-4:2 [3:2]; 4:12-16 [3:12-16]). The others (goyim) will face the judgment of God in the valley of decision without the refuge and stronghold of God for his people—YHWH's inheritance, once objects of scorn among the goyim. The Divine Redeemer Warrior is a devouring fire, dividing between the holy and the profane (2:3; cf. Gen. 3:24; Ps. 50:3, 5; 97:3; Ex. 14:19-20; Is. 66:15-16). For the 'ammi, there will be eschatological restoration to the Garden of Eden, but for the goyim there is eschatological judgment, death and desolation.
The ingenuity of this poem, so remarkably worded and structured, attests to its divine inspiration. The revelation unfolds like a blossom in redemptive history, giving more details that would ultimately help the faithful to recognize their Messiah. It is so interwoven with the whole canon of Scripture that its interpretation could not be misconstrued, for it "grows" upon revelation given to the Israelites, a people consecrated to go through extraordinary experiences. God spoke through his unmistakably authentic spokesmen, the prophets. For absolutely new future truths had to find common ground in the analogously known truths in order to be effectively communicated to mankind.
God continued to unfold the profound truth of the incarnate
Christ, his death and resurrection, for the new creation of a regenerated people, and the awesome judgment that would be the consummation of wickedness in the world. The graphic description of the devastating locust invasion ever instills one with the awesome fear of God and his judgment. God decrees his redemptive plan. It is divinely executed, and this is emphasized by the symbolical use of the number three, and the description of the invincible, innumerable retinue of God. Therefore, the people must turn to God in repentance and obedience.
He is the Lord Sabboath, "the Lord of Hosts," sovereign over every man and all creation. His commands (given by alliteration in seven consecutive imperatives) emphasize the urgency of the moment for the gathering of his people—the day of YHWH draws near. The only hope of refuge in that day of consummation is God's provision of justification through the Redeemer, the Good Shepherd, the Substitutionary sacrifice of sacrifices, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the True Vine, the Light of the World, who outshines the sun, the moon and the stars in his glory. Joel alludes to these images of Christ and these images are confirmed in the New Testament.
He will battle the northern one to complete annihilation and the nations that are in allegiance to the enemy will face the judgment of God and be sentenced to eternal damnation and desolation. The Divine Redeemer Warrior divides the 'ammi from the goyim. Like the cherubim with the flaming sword, he guards the Garden of Eden faithfully from fallen man. His new creation (his people) are those who will respond to his gracious call in repentance and obedience to his commands. They will receive the seal of the Holy Spirit as the foretaste of the eternal life of restoration and eschatological blessedness with God. They will be resurrected from death that no longer has dominion over them. The Old Testament saints had this faith and witnessed to it with their lives (Heb. 11). God's redemptive plan is revealed through the person of the Divine Redeemer Warrior, the seed of the woman, from the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the
Son of David, the Son of Man, the Son of God. Joel ends with a triumphant note for God and his saints—FOR GOD DWELLS WITH THEM IN ZION!
1. Edward J. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 255-56; Roland Kenneth Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), 876-79.
2. Hans Walter Wolff, Joel and Amos (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), 6-12.
3. John Calvin, Joel, Amos and Obadiah (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1986), 43ff.
4. Shimon Bar-Efrat, Narrative Art in the Bible (Sheffield: Almond Press, 1989), 10-11.
5. Geerhardus Vos, Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, ed. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1980), 30.
6. See Bar-Efrat, note 4 above; J. P. Fokkelman, Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel, Vol. 1 (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1981); Wilfred G. E. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poety (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1984).
7. Throughout this essay, passages from Joel in parenthesis ( ) refer to the Hebrew text; passages in brackets [ ] refer to the English versions. Hence, (2:10-3:5) refers to the Hebrew text of Joel, while [2:10-32] refers to the numbering in the English versions.
8. Meredith G. Kline, Images of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986), 98-102.
9. Vos, op. cit., 26.
10. Harris, Archer, Waltke, Theological Workbook of the Old
Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 2:2065. See also Ezk. 37:7, the Piel imperative in Ezk. 37:17; cf. Gesenius, Kautsch, Cowley, Gesenius Hebrew Grammar(Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1910) 52n (p. 143), 64h (p. 171); also perhaps, Ex. 14:20; Jdg. 19:13.
11. Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1979), 80-83.
12. Autumn and spring rains are important for the Israelite terrain (2:23, cf. Jam. 5:7) because of the lisedakah (justification) of God.
13. Wilfred G. E. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1984), 189.
The Year of Destruction
in the Light of the Year of Jubilee
Translated by Fritz Harms
Every Sunday we come together, and we are filled with concern. At first we thought that when the war was over–as it seemed–and the Germans and Japan defeated, that we had arrived at a safe spot. But it turned out that we have not left the difficulties behind ourselves at all. Every week the question is pressed upon us more and more: what will become of our desperate world? Incidentally, besides the recent developments, life is still affected by difficulties which we could hardly have imagined. In other words, we are still in the midst of the year of calamities. The year of disaster is not over yet. We may also simply think of the imminent threat within Eastern Europe and the
tension with Russia.
Now we can do two things. We can say the year of destruction is still there and this is very serious indeed. Therefore we groan and moan, which makes us sink even deeper in the swamp. Or we can say the year of destruction is there, but we are children of the promise and so we will place the year of calamity in the light of the year of jubilee which is coming. Only in this way will we be pulled out of this swamp with the cords of God's love, our Father in Christ Jesus, our Lord. For that is truly Christianity. In this time of Advent, we must place all the years of destruction in the light of the year of jubilee of Christ Jesus, which was and is and is to come, in order that we might be children of the promise.
Therefore, I wish to call your attention to this by speaking on the subject: The prophet Jeremiah places the year of destruction in the light of the year of Jubilee.
We will look at four points:
(1) he places the poverty of the year of destruction in light of the richness of the year of Jubilee; (2) he places the hopelessness of the year of destruction in light of the prospects of the year of Jubilee; (3) he places the contract of the year of destruction in light of the covenant of the year of Jubilee; (4) he places the document of the year of destruction in light of the Gospel of the year of Jubilee
Our text tells us that the prophet Jeremiah lived in a terrible time. It was a year of war and calamity for both Jeremiah and the entire people.
From northern Asia, armies had come from a powerful king who sought to conquer all of Asia. He had besieged and conquered city after city, people after people, and now his next object was to get even with that small inferior people in Judea and their capitol Jerusalem. Already the armies had come near. Heavily weaponed troops had marched by. The fields had been set on fire, the harvest destroyed, and now the city of Jerusalem was under siege.
To be sure, there had been a pause. The king was suddenly occupied with other serious matters at home, but when that was settled he had returned. He laid siege to the city once again and then dealt the final blow. Soon the people will be submerged in trouble. In other words, it meant a year of disaster for the church of the Lord, the temple, the palace, and the entire state and nation. But it was also a year of disaster for the family of Jeremiah the prophet.
To begin with, Jeremiah himself was imprisoned in Jerusalem in the penitentiary house, which was part of the palace. The prophet had been captured on the accusation of treason. This was and is quite an offense, one which could mean death in time of war. The prophet had made this announcement to the king and the people: we will lose this war, as far as the flesh is concerned. The Lord himself had declared emphatically that the war would end in a defeat for the church of the Lord. True, a shoot would arise out of the exile, out of the cut down trunk of David. This would be Christ Jesus. However, since that shoot could only come out of a cut down trunk, that trunk had to first be cut down. This could not take place in any other way. And therefore the prophet had to tell the king, this war will be lost. Our only hope is to look to Christ, the shoot, the sprout. But, when the king, soldiers and people heard that, it was said–that man breaks the morale of the soldiers. Such a prophecy of misfortune only brings fear and anxiety. And in the same way which the English radio tried to keep up the people's courage and America told us to take courage and trust, so it was here. So in the days of Jeremiah they said, you must keep the people happy in wartime, otherwise all is hopeless, and the cause is already lost. That's why they said that the prophet was a traitor. And such a person must be punished with imprisonment. The king did not dare to act otherwise because he was a weak man.
Added to this sadness, another sorrow came over the family of Jeremiah. In days past he had been a man of great wealth and this family was of high standing and owned property as an inheritance in Anathoth. This was a village near Jerusalem about as far away from Jerusalem as Maassluis or perhaps even Schiedam is from Rotterdam.
In that village there was a piece of land owned by the family. It is exactly that property in Anathoth that suffered much from the war. As I said before, the king came from the north! If one wants to come from the north to Jerusalem, he passes through Anathoth. Anathoth was positioned at the frontline. A Rotterdammer knows what that means. Just as Rotterdam was destroyed in May 1940, so Anathoth was destroyed in the days of Jeremiah. It was done so thoroughly that the prophet Isaiah exclaims, "Oh, poor Anathoth!" Poor Rotterdam! we used to say, and so they did in those days, Oh, poor Anathoth! As the soldiers marched through, houses were burned, fields destroyed, children kidnapped, men murdered and women defiled. Jeremiah's family was left totally destitute. The farmers could not harvest or sow seeds and the land was left unworked. And as a proof that Jeremiah's family was bankrupt, we read about a day (announced by God Himself) when a family visit takes place in the cell of the captured prophet.
It is his cousin Hanameel, a son of an uncle of Jeremiah, who comes to him. Hanameel means "God is favorably disposed to me." But it hardly looks as if God is indeed favorable to him. For the field has been destroyed, the capital is gone, and the man needs to call for help. He knocks on the prison door and asks permission to visit his cousin. After much negotiating he may finally see him. The key squeaks inside the lock and as the door opens he is pushed inside and the door closes behind him. There they stand now in a cell, two cousins, two men who used to enjoy great respect in more prosperous days. One is a prophet of God and imprisoned, the other is a member of the family of the prophet and is also destitute. There they stand now! What poverty! The poverty of destruction, the poverty of the year of war. What poverty indeed!
The situation becomes even more grim when we hear what the cousin has to say to the prophet. It boils down to this: Cousin Jeremiah would you help us? We cannot go on. The money is gone, our strength has failed, the field is dead, and unless you help us we shall have to sell our property and ourselves into slavery. What? says
Jeremiah, You want my help, a prisoner? Yes, for you are the redeemer. You have the right of inheritance and redemption. The meaning of the redemption can be described as following. The Lord had made special provisions for when a family in Israel had become poor and was left without any money and was forced to sell all its belongings. When this occurs, the Lord said, Do not sell. There is still hope for the generations the Lord loves. He wants them to be preserved well. And so the following law was put into action: in the event that a family had been reduced to utter poverty, they should try to find someone in their own family with money who would be asked to intervene on their behalf. He is to pay for the poor family so that the property can stay within the family for the time being. And when the year of jubilee arrives, then all will be returned to the rightful family ownership.
Even here, beloved congregation, one can see a beam of light shining through the cell door, the light of Jesus Christ, the King of the year of Jubilee. The Sabbath law and the Sabbath glory shines brightly through everything in Israel. Every seven days a Sabbath, which points to Christ; every seven years a Sabbath year, which points to Christ; and every seven times seven years the year of jubilee, an extra year of Sabbath, also pointing to Christ who enters that rest completely. In the year of jubilee the trumpet was blown for the great celebration of peace, the feast of restitution. The poor receive the belongings back which they had been forced to sell, slaves and prisoners are set free, all that are bent down are raised up. This is a prophecy, that the time is approaching, the great Year of Jubilee when Christ Jesus as the Messiah will restore the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf, make the crippled walk, let the dead live and say to the poor, here is the merry good news. Therefore, that year of jubilee confronts the imprisoned burdened prophet with the question: You, prophet of God, whose mouth is full with jubilee and thanksgiving and redemption, do you truly believe in the year of jubilee? Will that cousin of yours hear from your mouth today: prepare yourself, be enlightened, for your light is coming? You have the right of inheritance, the redemption; that is an office, being a redeemer. God
insists on that office. Do you know who is the greatest redeemer in the Bible? It is a certain Boaz, a wealthy man. And when Ruth comes to him saying, Oh help us, help the family that is poverty stricken, then Boaz comes to their aid and redeems them and even takes Ruth to be his wife. And then a child comes; and later another one; and then comes a David out of Boaz and Ruth and out of this David is born still later David's son, Christ Jesus. Indeed, God insists on redemption! The great Redeemer, Christ Jesus, would never have been born (humanly speaking), if this redeemer Boaz had not fulfilled his duty as a redeemer to Ruth and Naomi.
And therefore when the prophet Jeremiah hears his cousin say, Buy it! then it is the Lord asking: Prophet, how do you preach the Word, or how do you preach today with the deed? It is not easy for the prophet to flee the poverty of the year of disaster in the light of the year of jubilee. It is not easy, for he himself is a prisoner. Besides, if he does try to flee, it only means new danger. No redeemer was burdened like the prophet Jeremiah. Boaz could do it a hundred times easier than the prophet here today. Why? Because the king who kept him imprisoned had defiled the year of jubilee. In those days the house of David was terribly deteriorated. True, the king had set the slaves free one time for a while, but alas, in wartime one makes use of forced laborers, and so the slaves were brought back to slavery. The oath to the Lord was broken with respect to the slaves. In other words, the king had defiled the year of jubilee, which guaranteed freedom to the slaves. And so, when the prophet proclaims publicly that his cousin wants to be treated according to the year of jubilee, the king can say: So, so, so . . . another rebel? Still opposition and rowing against the stream? Kill that man, he is a danger to the nation's security. And so if the captured prophet is asked: Do you wish to profess the year of jubilee and remain in this cell? I do not think that any other human being has ever been tempted as this prophet to keep up his belief in the year of jubilee. And yet it happens!
It says it so clearly and beautifully. Then I, Jeremiah, confessed that this was the Word of the Lord. A day before it was announced the
cousin is coming. He has had one day to ponder the question, Shall I do it or not? Shall I stand or fall? But as soon as he hears the key squeaking in the lock and the visitor comes in, he knows that when this man speaks it is the Word of the Lord. Right away he is determined to do it, and he places the poverty of the year of calamity in the light of the year of jubilee. In principle he has been victorious. And in this cell in which he prepares the purchasing document, the angels are singing on these two poor men's behalf: Rise, shine, for your light has come.
So we come from one joy into another in the Lord. We have come now this far, that man places hopelessness of the year of calamity in the light of the hope of the year of jubilee. That is what it says when I read, "Therefore, I bought from my uncle's son, Hanameel, the field, which is by Anathoth and I weighed him the money, 17 shekels." So, the prophet officially signs the contract and buys the property in Anathoth and pays a steep price: 17 shekels. I cannot say how much money that is. The coins' value is based upon the time in which one is living. I just want to say this: King Solomon received for a very big winery the revenue of 1000 pieces of silver. If then the prophet, who is financially broke, pays his cousin the amount of 17 shekels for the piece of land by Anathoth, then this is a fair amount. Now the question is: is paying all that money a responsible thing to do? No, when speaking according to the flesh. This is what you call throwing good money after bad. I could also say it this way: there is no logical reason for buying that piece of property for that price. After all, the property was destroyed and there was no harvest, nor were there any workers left to plough the soil . . . even the tools were gone. Who would pay such a price for that miserable piece of land? Some wise person might argue that the property is still an investment of money even if the land has lost its value. Especially in war-time it is quite something when one can safely invest his money. So, one could say, you are not being business-minded, for when the prophet buys that piece of land, this investment is totally responsible. This is because it
is an investment of money in an inalienable possession. And if that is what you are saying, I would respond by saying: you are right, provided that this land was in fact purchased. But I do not think that this was the case. If one reads the Bible carefully, keeping the laws of redeeming in mind, then this one point will come into mind: the redeemer did not buy a piece of land but only the revenue of the soil. This was the law of the Lord: the entire land remains the Lord's! And the tribes that obtain it do not possess it but have it on loan. When Joshua divides the land after the conquest, one tribe receives this and the other tribe something else; one family this piece of land and the other family some other piece, but always with the stipulation, That land is not yours but remains the Lord's! You may only work it and use it for the Lord after his will and law. For this reason the land is given back to the poor families by God's own rule. The year of jubilee, in which the poor received back their little possession, was only possible based on the basic idea that the land remains the Lord's, it is not man's!
And now I want to ask you something. When the island Walcheren was flooded, perhaps many of you bought a piece of land in Walcheren thinking they will drain it again. It is a good investment. But would you have still bought the proceeds last year or even this year (let's say in February) on the basis of a contract? The proceeds of a piece of land which is under water? You say no, no, this year nothing will grow there. Exactly. Again I ask you what the prophet was doing? He paid 17 shekels of silver, which meant that he paid the price of as many harvests as there might be the coming year of jubilee. That is what the redeemer did. Everything would turn out fine.
We would say to the prophet that he is not using money wisely. There will not be any harvest this year, nor the following. The king may think, Maybe next year there will be another harvest. Yet the prophet knows that they will go into exile. In other words, Jeremiah is aware that even if he stays alive, he will never have one kernel of wheat from that field, never eat a grape, and never bite into a piece of fruit. In short, he will never earn one penny from this piece of land.
That is the hopelessness of his purchase.
But the Lord says, It is written in My Word: when I'm weak then I'm strong, when I'm poor, I'm rich. When I do things that are without prospect, then I open perspectives, perspectives upon the year of jubilee. When you might say now, No, cousin Hanameel, no way. I will not do it, or, I will pay a small price to get out of it, then you, Jeremiah, stand in the way of the year of jubilee of the Lord. You can say, It is war, that is true; I am a prisoner, that is true too. All of that you might say, but one who hinders a poor soul who is a sheep of the flock from having an outlook upon God's year of jubilee is not a prophet, but he falls from the prison of the king on earth into the prison of the King of both heaven and earth.
And so, prophet, what are you doing here? Will you buy for the full price? Yes or no?
And then something appears upon the wall of the prison cell. It is that beautiful word of the catechism, Lord's Day 23: the word "As though" and the other word "nevertheless". As though I had done it myself, thus it is reckoned unto me, what Christ did for me. "As though". And the other: even though I'm a sinner, yet I am righteous before God in Christ. "As though," the one church-word, "nevertheless" the other church-word. Those two words now begin to shine, written with God's own hand in the cell of the prophet Jeremiah in his prison. He buys the harvest of the field, as though a year of jubilee were coming; even when no year of jubilee would come, for the strange king is not interested. He says, "Get going, you bunch of slaves, come here to the concentration camp. And so when there will not be a year of jubilee in those first years, nevertheless I pay, dear cousin Hanameel, brother in Christ, until the coming year of jubilee. Here is the sum of money: 17 silver shekels." For the church, which is reformed also under the old covenant, which keeps the contract according to Christ's own laws, that church abides with the "as though" and the "nevertheless." The hopeless year of calamity is real, but, oh God, oh God, keep our eyes open for the prospect of the year of jubilee. Do not let one of these little ones fall by us.
He who sees it this way has heard the call in the cell: Be ready, be enlightened, for your light is coming. The feast of Advent in the jail; the preaching of Christ between two men that have ended up in the gutter.
And so when the prophet was called to make that purchase, there is a third miracle that appears.
The contract of the year of calamity is thus being placed in the context of the covenant of the year of jubilee. It says it here so beautifully, "I signed and sealed the deed, had it witnessed, and weighed out the silver on the scales." All this is a contract, I repeat, a contract. Whoever closes a purchase like this one must do this in solemnity. One may try to make a deal unofficially, while alone with a friend or family member. But a prisoner can never buy something secretly. Instead, if he wants to purchase something he must ask for permission and put his request on paper, accept being checked and finally he may be permitted to buy under strict control. This is also the way it went with Jeremiah. The cousin needs to be redeemed, but that can only take place at the king's approval. And the king heard that his prisoner is very eager to redeem this property. The year of jubilee is in the man's bone and marrow. And when he hears that, the king is surprised and irritated, and so are the court officials. The king is annoyed because that prophet there is holding slaves, whom he, the king, has secretly kept. The king's blood boils. And still he is embarrassed.
Does that "traitor of his country" believe in the year of jubilee? And everyday he says, People, people, there will not be another year of jubilee. The king now sees that the prophet who predicted that there will not be a year of jubilee for 70 years now also says: and still we will ring the bells for the coming year of jubilee. When this happens, the king discovers this one thing: the so-called traitor of his country is not a betrayer of his church. He sticks to the promise. And therefore this prophet is not simply a betrayer of his country for he has understood
one thing clearly: the bells of the Sabbath of God, the Sabbath-day, the Sabbath-year, the year of jubilee, the bells of the Sabbath of God will remain ringing whatever the result will be. Then the king began to grasp something of this mystery, namely, that the prophet saw the people not in the first place as a nation, but as the church, the church of Christ. During that time this church may have been in bonds by the nation, but it remained a church and was to be considered as a church. And therefore, the people of God were to receive the year of jubilee, even when everything in the nation seemed to be mocking and ridiculing it.
Then we see the prophet presenting the contract. The notary is present, the clerks, the contract and the copy, exactly as it should be. The seal is on it, a signed copy, everything is in order. But this contract of the year of disaster, about which they can laugh, since it is throwing away money, since it is not worth anything, that contract is now placed in the light of the covenant of the Lord's year of jubilee.
For the king of the North in those days, and Stalin in ours, and whichever power may come in our days, may silence the clocks of the church and the Sabbath year and the year of jubilee. That will not prevent the bells from ringing, however, for they are ringing above and it is God who pulls the ropes. The ear that hears is the ear of faith, and the eye that sees is the eye of faith, and the hand that works is the deed of faith. I can hear the bell of God's majesty ringing in heaven and no earthly power will ever be able to break the cycle of the year of jubilee of the grace and the faithfulness of the Lord. Rise, shine, for your light is appearing by the covenant of the Lord, which cannot be shaken. And so we move forward to the final point.
This prophet knows how to view the announcement of the year of disaster in the light of the Gospel, the Bible and of the year of jubilee. For when the letter of purchase and the copy have been written, Baruch receives an instruction. The Lord tells him to take the letter, the original letter of purchase, which has been sealed, as well as the
copy, and place both of them in an earthen vessel. This is in order that they may be preserved for many days. That is something unusual. Normally, the notary locks up the documents in a safe and the testament is registered, to be read later by someone else. And so this notary will do the same. He will place the documents in an earthen vessel. That belongs to his profession. Every contract must be able to be found later. But everything which a notary normally does is being done now by the prophet himself through Baruch, his secretary. In the presence of all, Baruch is to say, My Lord, the notary, give it to me. I, Baruch, will keep the contract and the copy in an earthen vessel. We will seal it thoroughly and we will also seal off the vessel against moth and decay. For many years later, they must be able to see and read: the prophet Jeremiah, in the year of the Lord so and so, when all was in devastation, still believed in the year of jubilee. That year which did not come, and yet did come regularly (because his meaning, his secret, its content, Christ Jesus, did come) for he speaks to His church, "Behold, I come quickly, I will not be deterred." And so when the prophet lets this be done through Baruch, the announcement of the purchase becomes in the year of disaster a part of the Bible. For Baruch was not simply the prophet's clerk, but he was the Lord's servant in the writing of the Bible. Baruch wrote down Jeremiah's prophesies, and thanks to him we now have these Bible pages.
And when the king is angry with Jeremiah and says, away with that garbage, and puts the documents in the fire because it bothers him, then Baruch comes again, and rewrites the same, the Word of God. That man has been God's servant in preserving and registering the pages of Sacred Scripture. And when this man is appointed to keep the document, including the copy, then this man is really appointed to make that announcement in the pages of the sacred Gospel.
Congregation, we are able to pick the fruit of that today. Our eyes have seen that it has happened. Rise, shine, for your light has come.
Years later after the exile, a poverty stricken group of people returned to the land of promise. Among them were also family members of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was dead and buried, Baruch was
gone, the king was gone, the witnesses were gone, they had all been buried. But after the exile, the people return to the holy city, they settle down in Anathoth and all the families search for their former belongings. But nothing is left. No contract, no inheritance rights, nothing! They all search for belongings but they find nothing. Jeremiah's children and grandchildren, however, say, Here is our document and there is its proof, the document with the copy, well preserved. And after many days they know this: that man, who sang psalms in the darkest nights, who in the year of calamity sang about the year of jubilee, that man took hold of the star of hope out of the strength of Christ. He taught one thing: God's clock does not stop. He also showed them that Christ Jesus is coming and everything that we own, including our land, is radiated by Him, by the light of the covenant of grace.
And just as the family of Jeremiah was strengthened and saw the promises, powerful, immovable and secure, so it is for you congregation today. I close as I began. It is a year of calamity. It is a miserable situation. The world is groaning. It is all misery, a year of calamity, indeed it is. But do not say, the calamities put their stamp on our times. I say, that is not true! The real stamp is the one of the year of jubilee. For even while we no longer have a year of jubilee as in the days of Jeremiah (because the shadows have passed by, the old covenant is fulfilled and has almost disappeared) yet we have this–we proceed towards the fulfillment. The eternal year of jubilee awaits us; the year of jubilee, which will commence in the Day of Days but will never have an end; a New Years' morning, but not an Old Years' evening. And in the eternal period of jubilation all slaves will be freed, all those in chains will be released, the blind will see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the dead live, the poor will be rich. And just as Jesus uses that as his proof for John the Baptist, that He truly is God's messenger, so do we. We have understood that He is alive. For every dead person who lives in sin is dead. If he is now alive by the power of regeneration, this is the proof: Christ was and is and the year of jubilee is coming until all eternity.
Indeed, we are on our way to the final, great, eternal, never-ending year of jubilee. And the word 'year' is consumed by the word 'jubilee.' That is why I demand of you, as God's messenger, that you will view all your days in that perspective, that you end your books as holy testimonies of the Gospel and thus buy out the time in these evil days knowing that the text remains profoundly true–Rise, shine, for your light has come. We are in the new covenant and the Lord's year of jubilee will not falter. He comes, He comes to judge the earth and the world in righteousness. And all the slaves that are imprisoned and underground (where cruel violence must surrender) are being led in justice. Amen.
Prayer of Thanksgiving:
We thank Thee, heavenly Father, for Thy Word in its rich meaning. Wilt Thou lead us by Thy Holy Spirit and by Thy Word to be gracious daily in seeing and expecting the great light that has come into the world. Amen.
November 18, 1945
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Evangel of the Messianic Angel*
Meredith G. Kline
II. Kerygma–Christ: Commander of the Gentiles
It is still the Angel-Measurer speaking in Zechariah 2:6-13 (10-17). His words, however, are no longer being relayed to the "young man," Zechariah, but are now directed to the people of Zion (vv. 6-11 [10-15]) and to all the world (vv. 12, 13 [16,17]). God's people are addressed as "daughter of Zion" (v. 10 )15 and viewed as in captivity with the "daughter of Babylon" (v. 7 ).
To this audience the messianic Angel presents an interpretation and application of the message of the foregoing imagery. In vv. 6-11 (10-15) application in imperative form (call to action) precedes
interpretation, the latter functioning not just as explanation of the symbolism but as motivation for obeying the command. By the repeating of this hortatory pattern these verses are structured into two subsections, vv.6-9 (10-13) and vv. 10, 11 (14, 15), with imperatives in vv. 6, 7 (10, 11) and v. 10a (14a) and explanation-motivation in vv. 8, 9 (12, 13) and vv. 10b, 11 (14b, 15).16 An important third element in this pattern is the concluding statement of (messianic) validation (see vv. 9c, 11c [13c, 15c]). In the final section of the kerygma (vv. 12,13 [16, 17]), the imperative (v. 13a [17a]) is again followed by a ki-clause of motivation, but is preceded by a summation (v. 12 ).
From the kerygmatic exposition of the imagery it appears that the perfecting of the cosmic temple-city by the messianic Measurer would follow upon a redemptive warfare involving both the dispossession of the world powers for the enrichment of God's kingdom (vv. 6-9 [10-13]) and, paradoxically, a gracious work of conversion, a gathering of multitudes of Gentiles into the community of salvation (vv. 10, 11 [14, 15]). Christ, the kerux, heralds here his coming world-wide victory over the enemy and issues beforehand his efficacious altar call to his own, afar off, to come home. It will be the completion of this universal mission that authenticates his claim to be the Servant-Lord sent by the Lord God of hosts.
A. Conquest of the Nations. Continuing the typological idiom of the imagery section, the kerygma pictures the covenant people of the messianic age as Israelites still in the land of Babylon, anticipating deliverance. Old Testament prophets portray Israel's return from captivity as a second exodus and agreeably these two typological events, exodus and restoration, are blended in the Angel's prophetic representations of new covenant history.
The opening directive of the first subsection (vv. 6-9 [10-13]) is expressed in a double imperative: "flee from the land of the north" (v. 6a [10a]) . . . "to Zion escape" (v. 7a [11a]).17 Leave Babylon, head home to Jerusalem. Get out of the oppressive world center and get back to the center of God's kingdom. This had also been the prophetic command of Isaiah: "Go forth from Babylon, flee from the Chaldeans"
(48:20) . . . "Depart, depart, go out from there" (52:11).18 Jeremiah picked up the refrain in his oracle against Babylon: "Flee out of the midst of Babylon" (50:8; 51:6a) . . ."be not cut off in her iniquity, for it is the time of Yahweh's vengeance" (51:6b).
Between the two imperatives a motivation clause is inserted: "For I am spreading you abroad as the four winds of the heavens, says Yahweh" (v. 6b [10b]). Expounding the promise inherent in the image of an unbounded Jerusalem, the Lord assures those he commands to return, that their future back at Zion is one of blessing, of expansion in every direction. This enticing prospect of Jerusalem's coming fullness is amplified in the following motivation clauses, all of which hark back to the basic symbol of vv. 4, 5 (8, 9).
While return to Zion is encouraged by appeal to its promised prosperity, flight from Babylon, as from Sodom (Gen. 19:12ff.), is urged on the grounds of its impending doom (vv. 8, 9 [12, 13]). The two are closely related: Jerusalem's prosperity would be achieved through the plundering of Babylon.20 The first and third motivation clauses in vv. 8, 9 (12, 13) announce Messiah's mission of judgment against the offending world powers. The middle clause affirms afresh the Lord's intense love for his oppressed people. Vision three thus restates the theme of messianic vengeance introduced in vision one and developed as the main point of vision two.
The motivation clause in v. 8a (12a) presents the Angel's announcement of his mission to the nations that plundered the covenant people. It begins with 'achar kabod, a problematic phrase, especially for those who regard this mission as Zechariah's, not Messiah's. There are two particularly cogent options. One is to translate "after glory," in the sense "in quest of glory."21 The glory to be won could be the wealth of the nations (cf. Hag. 2:6-9) or the honor of God's name, secured through the display of his sovereignty in the avenging of his people. In favor of this interpretation, the nature of the mission as an avenging judgment is the main emphasis in the adjoining clauses, especially in v. 9 (13).
The second attractive possibility is to translate "with (the) Glory,"22 signifying that the Angel would be accompanied in his mission by the theophanic Presence, the Glory-Spirit. Favoring this view is the fact that kabod had just been used in the imagery of v. 5b (9b) for the Glory-Presence in the midst of God's people.23 This would be another allusion to exodus history, for in the mediatorial intercession of Moses after the golden calf episode (Exod. 32:34-33:23) the precise issue was whether Israel was to be led to Canaan by the messianic Angel alone or by the Angel attended by the Glory-cloud.24 Theophany in the form of the Angel alone had been characteristic of the patriarchal age, but the coming of the typological age of judgment at the exodus was marked by Parousia-Presence. God heeded Moses' plea and his Glory accompanied his Angel on his mission to plunder the nations of Canaan. In Zechariah 2:8 (12) the Angel would then be giving assurance that his announced eschatological mission against the nations would be a Parousia event, a coming in the glory of the Father and all his holy angels.25 And when, as the incarnate Messiah, he was about to move beyond his earthly state of humiliation, he, like Moses, prayed for an investment with the Glory-Spirit appropriate to the new stage of exaltation he was entering in the heavenly day of the Lord. "Father, the hour is come . . . glorify thou me with thine own self, with the Glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:1, 5).26
The ki-clause in Zechariah 2:8b (12b) might be taken as directly supporting the command to return from Babylon (v. 7a [11a]) by assuring God's people that they were precious to him ("the apple of his eye") so that they might confidently anticipate his blessings back at Zion. The point would then be the same as in the motivation clause in v. 6b (10b). Suggesting this direct relation to v. 7a (11a) is the resonance of bebabath (v. 8b [12b]) with bath-babel (v. 7a [11a]) and the irony thus highlighted: "the daughter of" his (God's) eye (v. 8b [12b])–the daughter of Zion (v. 10 )–is dwelling with "the daughter of Babylon" (v. 7a [11a]).27 Alternatively, v. 8b (12b) could relate immediately to v. 8a (12a), explaining God's determination to visit retribution on the nations: the people against whom they had
shown malice were precious to him. Indeed, since Israel belonged to God as his personal possession, the nations that dominated her were challenging God's claims on her service.28 By reinforcing the motivation of v. 8a (12a), v. 8b (12b) would still be supporting, but indirectly, the imperatives of vv. 6a and 7a (10a and 11a).
Again in the motivation clause of v. 9a (13a) the disaster threatening Babylon is the consideration urged for obeying the double command of vv. 6a, 7a (10a, 11a) to flee from there. Messiah's mission against the world powers would resemble the ancient judgment on Egypt. It would result in a complete reversal, the plunderers becoming a spoil to their former servants, just as the Egyptians were despoiled by their Hebrew slaves (Exod. 3:22; 12:36). Messiah would effect this defeat by brandishing his hand over these nations, an action reminiscent of the stretching forth of God's hand and the lifting up of Moses' hand over Egypt. Like Zechariah 2:9 (13), Exodus 3 combines these two features: commissioning Moses, God declares that he will send forth his hand and smite Egypt with wonders (v. 20) and that Israel in leaving will despoil the Egyptians (vv. 21, 22).
Isaiah, in oracles against Egypt and Babylon, describes God's destroying judgment as a shaking of his hand over them (Isa. 11:15; 13:2; 19:16; cf. Job 31:21). He clearly alludes to the lifting of the hand of God and of Moses over the sea at the exodus (Isa. 11:15) and under the figure of the typological history of the exodus from Egypt and the return from captivity, Isaiah, like Zechariah, was prophesying of a messianic, eschatological judgment.29
What we have found in the first subsection of the kerygma is that the Measurer himself is central in the exposition of the imagery. That the Messiah and his mission is the main theme of the vision becomes even more evident when we notice how each kerygmatic subsection (vv. 6-9 [10-13] and vv. 11, 12 [15, 16]) concludes by pointing to the prophesied events in Zion and the world as validation of the divine sponsorship of that mission. But before dealing with the validation motif in vv. 9c and 11c (13c and 15c), we will examine the second subsection, its imperative (v. 10a [14a]) and its motivation (vv. 10b,
11a [14b, 15a]). We will find that it discloses a new aspect of Messiah's mission, a surprising development not suggested by the first subsection (at least, not at first glance),30 yet essential to explain the image of Jerusalem expanded to unprecedented dimensions, beyond containment.
B. Conversion of the Gentiles. "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion" (Zech. 2:10a [14a]). The directive that introduces the second division of the kerygma (vv. 10, 11 [14, 15]) is the perfect prelude for the glad tidings that follow in the motivation section.31 "Lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of you" (v. 10b [14b]; cf. 11b [15b]). With this promise the messianic Angel puts into words what was expressed symbolically in the first vision by the imagery of the rider on the red horse in the midst of the myrtles (1:8; cf. 1:16a). He heralds the Christmas evangel, good news for all people (cf. Luke 2:10). "Joy to the world! The Lord is come . . . Let men their songs employ."
Centered between the two assurances that the coming Lord "will dwell in the midst of you" is the disclosure of a distinctive new aspect of Jerusalem's restoration prospects. "Many nations will join themselves to Yahweh in that day and will be my people" (2:11a [15a]). The last clause is the covenantal formula used by Jeremiah when prophesying of the new covenant (31:33; 32:38). Also, the verb lawah ("join") is used elsewhere for covenantal alliance.32 Reminiscent of Psalm 2, Psalm 83 pictures the nations taking counsel and entering into covenant together against God and his people (vv. 2-5 [3-6]), and Assyria's participation in this covenantal coalition is denoted by lawah (v. 8 ). In Jeremiah 50:5, lawah refers to the union of God's people with him "in an everlasting covenant." Of most interest for Zechariah 2:11a [15a]) is Isaiah's use of lawah for foreigners attaching themselves to Israel (14:1) and to the Lord (56:3,6). Alternative terminology is taking hold of God's covenant (56:4,6); keeping the Sabbath, the covenant sign (56:2,4,6); and receiving the everlasting name (56:5) that belongs to those in the new and everlasting covenant (55:3, 13).
Incorporation of the Gentiles into God's covenantal people is a recurring theme in Zechariah. He indicates, moreover, that their
status is to be one of full participation, including cultic privilege. As noted above, the picture of many nations joined to the covenant community (2:11a [15a]) is surrounded by the doubled promise: "And I will dwell in the midst of you."33 At the close of the passage which forms the central spine of the overall diptych structure of the book (6:9-15), an episode symbolic of Messiah's royal-priestly coronation, the prospect emerges of those far off coming and sharing in the building of the temple (v. 15). Likewise, the introduction to the second half of the diptych (7:1-8:23) concludes with a prophecy that the Gentiles will take hold of the skirts34 of the covenant people, saying, "We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you" (8:23). Taking hold of the hem of the garment was a sign of submission to authority. For Gentiles to grasp the tasseled skirts of Jews was to join in the acknowledgement of Yahweh's sovereignty signified by that sartorial symbol. It was to take hold of God's covenant, like those whom Isaiah described as being joined to the Lord and his people (Isa. 56:4,6). This symbolic convention is reflected in the Gospel episodes of individuals touching the border of the garment of Jesus, the true Jew and the Lord, combined in one (cf. Matt. 9:20, 21; 14:36). Though not involving Gentiles, these instances embodied religious confession of the Lord such as Zechariah had envisioned.
Elsewhere Zechariah foretells the conversion of Philistines, who will become as chieftains in Judah (9:7). On a broader scale, he foresees a remnant out of all nations coming to Jerusalem to worship the King, Yahweh of hosts, and to observe the Feast of Tabernacles (14:16). This was in the tradition of Isaiah's assurance to foreigners who were joined to the Lord that they were to be welcomed into the heart of the service of sacrifice and prayer on God's holy mountain (Isa. 56:6-8). They would see God's Glory and be admitted into the priesthood of his house (Isa. 66:21). God's purpose to make known the gospel unto the nations for the obedience of faith had indeed been revealed by the scriptures of the prophets (Rom. 16:26).
Another aspect of Isaiah's large contribution to Zechariah 2 is the
connection he makes between the themes of the conquest of the Gentiles and their conversion. In his treatment of Gentiles joining Israel, the first stage finds these former strangers from the covenant assisting in the restoration of God's people, being joined unto them, but as servants. They, the captors and oppressors, are taken captive and are now ruled over (Isa. 14:1-3; cf. 60:4-14). Then in Isaiah's later resumption of the theme, this joining of foreigners to the house of Jacob becomes a religious joining unto Israel's God, a gathering into the full fellowship of covenant life and divine service (Isa. 56:3-8).
Gentile conversion is also related to Gentile conquest in the passages where Isaiah provides background for the Zechariah 2:9 (13) imagery of God's brandishing his hand over the nations. In Isaiah 11 the new exodus symbolism of the spoiling of the former oppressor and the drying of the waters by God's shaking his hand (vv.11-16) is connected to the prophecy of the nations seeking unto the messianic "root of Jesse" (v. 10). And in Isaiah 19 the shaking of Yahweh's hand over the Egyptians in judgment (v. 16) leads to their knowing him and erecting an altar to worship him with sacrifice and oblation (vv. 19-21). Egypt, smitten by the Lord, returns unto him and is healed (v. 22). Indeed, in that day the Assyrians join the Egyptians in the worship of Yahweh (v. 23). "In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria" (v. 24), the Gentiles sharing with the Jews in their identification with the Lord and reception of his triune blessing: "Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands [cf. Isa. 43:7], and Israel mine inheritance" (v. 25). A remarkable disclosure given beforehand in prophetic Scripture of the church in which the Gentiles in the flesh, once far off from God, are brought near in the blood of Christ, who creates of Jews and Gentiles one new man (Eph. 2:11ff.).
Zechariah's third vision contains the same association of ideas as these Isaianic passages. Thus in Zechariah 2:11 (15) the conversion of the Gentiles emerges unexpectedly as a consequence of the conquest of the enemy powers. Likewise in Zechariah 9 the conversion of Philistines (v. 7) occurs in the context of a holy war campaign that
dispossesses the ungodly nations occupying God's land. And in Zechariah 14 the overcoming of the universal gathering against Jerusalem is the background of the prophecy of a new gathering at Jerusalem, this one of converts out of all the vanquished nations, come to worship the Lord (v. 16).
It is particularly the act of the spoiling of the aggressor nations by their former servants (Zech. 2:8, 9 [12,13]) that provides the basis for the idea of converts being won from the ranks of the enemy. In Zechariah 2:9 (13) the spoiling of the nations is a dispossessing of them in terms of their worldly wealth and glory. It is not the same as the wresting of converts from them referred to in Zechariah 2:11 (15). The latter is a second kind of spoiling, an act of salvation. Those who move from the world's side to the Lord's side as a consequence of the messianic Angel's mission of judgment on the nations (v. 8 ) are to be viewed as having been captives of the enemy power, a prey that had been seized and is now set free. This spoiling of the nations is a redeeming of the nations.
If we follow the thematic trail of Messiah's redemptive spoiling of the nations on into the New Testament, we come in a straight course to the Lord's binding of the dragon, deceiver of the nations, in Revelation 20. The place to pick up this trail is Isaiah 49:24,25.
Isaiah 49 abounds in parallels to Zechariah's third vision. The voice of Messiah, the Servant of the Lord, breaks through as the speaker (vv. 1ff.). God's people experience an exodus-like homecoming (vv. 9-12), which calls for song and rejoicing (v. 13). Zion's citizenry will so increase as to burst through the old bounds (vv. 19, 20). These new children of Jerusalem will come from the Gentile nations (vv. 21,22; cf. v. 12), for the Servant will be a light to the Gentiles and God's salvation to the ends of the earth (v. 6). Hence, the influx of the Gentiles will validate the claims of the servant Lord to be the God of Jacob and his Savior (vv. 23,26). But of most immediate interest is the coupling of the conquest and conversion of the nations, and particularly the promise that in Zion's warfare, God, the warrior-champion of his people,35 will take away the captive prey
of the terrible adversary (vv. 24, 25).
Isaiah 49:24,25 is translated by Jesus into a saying about himself and Satan (Matt. 12:29; Mark 3:27; Luke 11:21,22). Rephrased, the question, "Shall the prey be taken from the strong?" (Isa. 49:24) becomes, "How can one enter the house of the strong man and spoil his goods?" (Matt. 12:29). And God's answer, asserting that he would himself contend with the strong man and take away his prey (Isa. 49:25), becomes in Jesus' saying a declaration that a stronger warrior will overcome the strong man, take away his armor (Luke 11:21,22), bind him, then enter his house, seize his goods and divide the spoil. According to the context, Satan is the strong man and Jesus is the stronger warrior who spoils the prince of demons by rescuing the demon-possessed from his domination.36
These messianic acts of deliverance, wrought by the Spirit-finger of God, heralded the arrival of the kingdom (Matt. 12:28; Luke 11:20). They were a harbinger of the penetration of Christ's saving power into all the dark domain of the deceiver of the heathen world. By the gospel the stronger One would take the prey from the terrible foe, bringing former victims of his deception out of all the Gentile nations as converts to serve the triune God of truth. As the stronger One declared at the critical hour of his confrontation with the strong enemy: "Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself'' (John 12:31,32).
Revelation 20:1-3 restates the saying of Jesus in apocalyptic style. Here, the messianic Angel from heaven (v. 1), the stronger One, binds the dragon, the strong man, for a thousand years (v. 2). Imprisoned in the abyss, Satan can no longer confine the light of the community of faith within the bounds of Israel, deluding all the other nations with his lie (v. 3). The thousand years are great-commission-fulfilling times. All through the millennium the stronger One is rescuing as a prey from the dragon multitudes of converts out of every nation, tribe, people, and tongue (cf. Rev. 7:9). Delivered from the devil's darkness and deception, drawn as disciples unto the Light of the world, they
become lampstand churches, martyr-witnesses faithful unto death. Beheaded for the testimony of Jesus they are received into the heavenly ministry of the martyrs as priest-kings with Christ before the throne of God (Rev. 20:4-6). So complete is the triumph of the stronger One over the draconic foe, he who has the power of death, that dying, for the Christian martyr-witnesses, is transformed into a "first resurrection," an entrance into a sabbatical resting (cf. Rev. 14:13) and reigning with their Savior-Victor. In that blessed state they continue during the millennial time of the "the great tribulation" for the church on earth (cf. Rev. 7:14), waiting until the full complement of their company is attained (cf. Rev. 6:11), eager for the day when that pleroma of the seed of Abraham from all the nations, Christ's battle spoils, will be displayed to the glory of God as the fullness of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:24-26).
Jesus' saying, particularly in its Lucan form, connects Isaiah 49:24, 25 (and Zechariah 2) with Revelation 20:1ff. Light is thus thrown forward from Isaiah and Luke on Revelation 20 showing that the binding of the dragon is to be understood in terms of Christ's delivering souls as a prey from Satan's power. The millennium is revealed as the present church age of world-wide gospel testimony and ingathering, an age for exercising all patience through the tribulation of the times (cf. Rev. 1:9; 2:2,3,19; 3:10; 13:10; 14:12). Light is also thrown back from Luke 11:21,22 and Revelation 20 on Isaiah 49 and Zechariah 2. Aware that Satan is the ultimate enemy of God and man standing behind the world powers, we can more readily understand the paradoxical prophetic portrayal of the nations both as enemies to be conquered by the divine warrior (for they often act as agents of the Enemy) and as captives held by Satan but set free and united as converts to Zion by the stronger One, sent with the Glory-Spirit.37
From our later vantage point in redemptive history we perceive that the soteric spoiling of the nations transpires first. The elect remnant who constitute the pleroma of the Gentiles are gathered in during the present church age. Afterward, the nations, spoiled of the elect and now identified with antichrist, the son of perdition, are
spoiled of their earthly heritage in the judgment of the last day. It is through this process of the twofold spoiling of the nations, first of their people and then of their property, that Jerusalem becomes enlarged to cosmic horizons (Zech. 2:4 ).
C. Validation of Messianic Commission. Each of the first two subsections of the kerygma closes with the assertion: "You will know that Yahweh of hosts has sent me" (vv. 9,11 [13,15]). As shown above, the speaker making this claim is the one speaking in the first person throughout the kerygma, the messianic Angel, the Measurer. What he is going to accomplish among the nations in the power of the divine Glory (cf. vv. 5, 8 [9, 12]) will demonstrate that he is in truth the Messiah sent by God. It will validate his self-identification as the Servant-Branch whom the Lord of hosts brings forth (cf. 3:8).
When the Lord was charging Moses with his role as mediator of the old covenant, Moses raised the question of credentials. God responded that the authentication of his call would be the manifestation of the divine Presence with him and the consequent successful performance of his assignment to deliver the Israelites and establish them in covenant with the Lord. "Surely I will be with you and this shall be the sign unto you that I have sent you: when you have brought forth the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God upon this mountain" (Exod. 3:12). The great I Am, God of Glory, would accompany Moses (Exod. 3:14-17) and brandish his hand over Egypt (Exod. 3:20) so that Israel would despoil their oppressors (Exod. 3:21, 22) and return from the house of bondage to the house of the Lord in the land of promise (Exod. 3:17). It was this presence of the Glory, executor of redemptive judgment, that Moses subsequently insisted on as the quintessential attestation to his divine commissioning (Exod. 33:14-16).
In Zechariah the theme of the validating of the messianic mission appears in two other passages besides 2:9,11 (13,15). The first is in vision five (4:1-14), which exhibits extensive correspondence to vision three, its matching member in the chiastic structure of the series. Among the parallels are building imagery, with a messianic figure
holding a construction line (2:1  and 4:10); promise of the subjugation of the world power (2:8,9 [12,13] and 4:7); and the consummating of the restoration program (2:4,5,12 [8,9,16] and 4:7,8). Like the third vision the fifth appends to the final universal triumph of God's kingdom the messianic claim: "You will know that Yahweh of hosts has sent me" (4:9).
The validation formula appears again in the crowning episode in Zechariah 6:9-15, following directly on the announcement that Gentiles from afar will take part in the rebuilding of God's dwelling place (v. 15). Since Messiah, the Branch, is the primary agent in this temple construction (vv. 12,13), the statement that its completion will attest to a divine commissioning clearly refers to Messiah, not Zechariah.
As we have seen, the situation in Zechariah 2 is much the same. Thus in all three passages the evidence that validates messianic identity is the fulfilling of the mission of the Measurer (Zech. 2:1, 2 [5,6]), namely, completion of the temple/city with the divine Glory within and the inclusion of the Gentiles in the fullness of eschatological Jerusalem. Elsewhere in Scripture the universality of God's work of salvation, particularly the contribution of Gentiles to the glorification of Jerusalem, is cited as the ground for similar validation claims, like: "You will know that I am Yahweh" (Isa. 49:23); "My people will know my name" (Isa. 52:6–a context abounding in parallels to Zechariah 2); and "You will know that I, Yahweh, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob" (Isa. 60:16). The fact that such analogous phenomena concern claims to deity, not just to prophetic inspiration, corroborates our interpretation of the validation formula in Zechariah 2:9,11 (13,15) as an assertion not of the prophet Zechariah but of the messianic Angel.
When Jesus arrived, sent of the Father, he renewed the evangel-apologetics he had engaged in as the divine Angel of Zechariah's visions. "The works which the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father has sent me" (John 5:36). The world would know that Jesus
was the Christ of God when not only his disciples but all who should believe on him through their word were joined together in one in him, partaking of the glory which the Father gave him (John 17:20-23). When the ascended Jesus breathed out the Spirit, the earnest of that glory, on the Pentecost community, firstfruits of the universal harvest, Peter pointed to this eschatological development as a confirmation of Jesus' claims. Thereby the house of Israel was to know assuredly that God had made this Jesus whom they crucified both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36; cf. Rom. 1:4). In the mission of Moses, mediator of the old covenant, the accompaniment of the Angel by the Glory-Spirit attested to the mediator's divine call (cf. Exod. 33:12-17). In the new covenant (the Angel himself now being mediator of the covenant), the validation of the divine commissioning of the covenant mediator is again the presence of the Glory-Spirit–and the resultant extension of the soteric blessings of the kingdom to the Gentile nations.
What John began to do in his Gospel, demonstrating that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, by rehearsing his sign-works (John 20:30,31), the apostle continued to do in the Book of Revelation. The Apocalypse is a covenant witness document of Jesus, the faithful witness, presenting his claims as the covenant Lord, testifying that he is the mighty messianic Angel, who was sent, who came and conquered, and is now invested with the Glory-Spirit, all authority in heaven and earth his. In demonstration thereof the Apocalypse confronts us with an overwhelming assemblage of images of his mighty acts as victor over the dragon and the beasts, judge of the nations, possessor of the keys of death and Hades, divine priest-king who redeems a countless multitude out of all people to enjoy and serve God in the heavenly Zion forever.
The final validation of Jesus as the Christ of God will be the consummating of his mission as the Measurer-Builder (Zech. 2:1,2 [5,6]) in the eschatological descent of the New Jerusalem from heaven, of cosmic dimensions and having the glory of God (Rev. 21:10ff.). In this present age God allows the ungodly to suppress in unrighteousness the knowledge imprinted on their hearts by the self-authenticating witness
of the divine revelation in creation and redemptive re-creation. But in that day every knee must bow in acknowledgement that the Lord is God, the Judge of all (Rom. 14:10-12), and every tongue must confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:11; cf. Rev. 5:13).38 The validating insignia, always absolutely cogent, will then command cosmic confession.
D. Summation and Summons. God's promised presence as the Glory in the midst of Jerusalem is climactic in the imagery section (2:5b ), and in the kerygma it is this dwelling of the Lord in the midst of his people that is presented as the ultimate purpose of the messianic advent (2:10,11 [14,15]). Agreeably, God's choice of Jerusalem for his sanctuary-dwelling is the theme of the summation in v. 12 (16). Paired with the election (bachar) of Jerusalem (v. 12c [16c]) is the Lord's taking of the entire community of Judah as his own inheritance portion (v. 12a [16a]; nahal, the verb, and cheleq, the noun.)39
Zechariah's thought and terminology go back to the Deuteronomic treaty of the Great King. The divine choice of Jerusalem reflects the frequent Deuteronomic references to the place Yahweh would eventually choose (bachar) as the permanent location of his Glory-Name and central altar (12:5,11, passim). In Deuteronomy 32:9, recalling the Lord's allotment of national territories, Moses declared that Yahweh's portion (cheleq) was his people, Jacob was the lot of his inheritance (nahalah). Similarly, Psalm 33:12 and Psalm 47:4 (which shares the Zechariah 2 theme of Yahweh's universal kingship) combine bachar and nahalah in expressing the same idea. And in Exodus 15:17 (cf. 33:3,15; 34:9) God's inheritance (nahalah) is paralleled by his dwelling place in the midst of his people, the sanctuary his hands establish as the site of his everlasting reign.
The design of the election of Jerusalem is explicitly stated in the phrase, ‘al ’admath haqqodesh (v.12b [16b]). Giving the preposition ‘al its final sense (cf. e.g., Exod. 29:36; Deut. 27:13), I would translate, "for the sanctuary ground."40 The use of ’adamah (rather than ’erets) speaks against translations like "in the holy land." It
suggests a particular spot of ground that has been sanctified by a divine epiphany. Illustrative are the episodes in Exodus 3:5 and Joshua 5:15, in which the immediate presence of the Angel of the Lord made the place where Moses or Joshua stood holy ground (’admath qodesh in Exod. 3:5). In choosing Jerusalem, God was vouchsafing to it the divine presence (Messiah and Glory-Spirit) that would make it a sacred place; his purpose was to secure it as the site of his temple.41
Deuteronomy 32:43, the closing verse of Moses' witness song, has been brought into the discussion of Zechariah 2:12 (16) because it contains the term ’admatho, "his [Yahweh's] land/ground," seen by some as comparable to Zechariah's ’admath haqqodesh (understood as the entire promised land). Though the specific parallel seems illusory, the broader contexts of Deuteronomy 32 and Zechariah 2 have much in common and comparison proves illuminating. Shared features include: the use of nahalah and cheleq for God's heritage (as noted above); the figure of the pupil of the eye for the preciousness of Israel to God (Deut. 32:10; Zech. 2:8 ); the formal combination of summons to all the world plus rationale (Deut. 32:43; Zech. 2:12,13 [16,17]); paradoxical prospects for the Gentiles, including both vengeance and redemptive action as occasion to praise God (Deut. 32:26-43; Zech. 2:8,9,11 [12,13,15]).42
Interpretation of the notoriously difficult Deuteronomy 32:43 best begins with recognition that retribution against the enemy nations is the sustained theme in the immediate context (from v. 26 on) and the main point in v. 43 itself. This emphasis is augmented in the longer textual tradition of the verse, variously represented by the LXX and Qumran, which includes "he will requite those who hate him" after "he will render vengeance to his adversaries."43 Together they form the middle pair of a four cola chiasm (A.B.B.A.), of which the A-members are "he will avenge the blood of his servants" and "he will make atonement for his land (’admatho) and people" (NIV). It becomes evident that this making of an atonement payment for the land must be understood in terms of the law in Numbers 35:33, which requires the making of atonement for land44 stained by innocent
blood, crying out for vengeance. Only the shedding of the murderer's blood would accomplish this atonement. Significantly, Deuteronomy 32:43 is immediately preceded by God's sworn commitment to exact such gory vengeance against the oppressors of his people (vv. 40-42). The final clause of Deuteronomy 32:43 does not, therefore, speak of making expiation for the sins of God's people but of avenging their righteous blood. Thereby, God cleanses "the lot of his inheritance" (Deut. 32:9) to serve as his holy dwelling in the midst of Israel–the purpose stated for making atonement for the land in Numbers 35:34 (cf. Deut. 19:10; 21:8).
Given the textual uncertainties in Deuteronomy 32:43 and the awkwardness of "his land, his people" at the close, there is a serious possibility that the ’admatho reflects an original reference to "the blood" (dam)45 of his people. A perfect parallel would then obtain with "he will avenge the blood of his servants." Numbers 35:33 would still be the legal background but the reference to the blood-stained land would be only implicit.46
It seems then that ’adamah is not used in either Deuteronomy 32:43 or Zechariah 2:12 (16) to denote the promised land. But examination of the Deuteronomy 32:43 context does disclose fundamental correspondences to Zechariah 2 and alerts us to the fact that the promise given in the summation (Zech. 2:12 ) assuring the choice of Jerusalem/Judah as sanctuary ground entails the messianic mission of retribution described earlier in the kerygma section (vv. 8,9 [12,13]). If this terrain is to serve as a temple site of the holy One of Israel, expiation must be made for its blood-defilement by avenging its sons against the nations that have attacked and slain them.
Isaiah locates the avenging of the martyr-saints at their resurrection triumph over death and the final defeat of Satan. He describes the earth as defiled since the Fall by innocent blood and groaning under death's corruption (Isa. 24:4,5; cf. Rom. 8:19ff.). But at last Yahweh will come forth to punish the inhabitants of the earth (Isa. 26:21a) and to destroy Leviathan, possessor of the power of death, persecutor of the saints, accuser of the brethren (Isa. 27:1). Then the earth/
netherworld will no more cover over her slain, but disclose their blood, long crying for vindication (Isa. 26:21b; cf. Gen. 4:10; Rev. 6:10; 16:16; 19:2). All this is prophesied anew in the Book of Revelation: the judgment of the bestial world-city and the devil, the resurrection, and the clearing of the cosmos of death and Hades (Rev. 19:11-20:15). And here, as in Zechariah's third vision, this work of divine avenging is the immediate prelude to the establishment of the holy temple-city, New Jerusalem, sanctified by the triune Presence, the tabernacle where God dwells with men (Rev. 21:1ff.).
To his summation (Zech. 2:12 ) the divine Angel adds a concluding summons to all mankind (v. 13 ). The kerygma had begun with Messiah issuing his evangel-command to those far off (v. 6 ; cf. Isa. 49:1ff.). It was a call to escape back to the altar/temple of God at Zion (v. 7 ). Gospel invitation is an altar call; it creates an altar-centripetal movement. In the new covenant age evangelistic advance finds the witnessing church expanding in a centrifugal mission out from the site of the old earthly altar, out to the nations of the Gentiles. But this centrifugal propulsion of the testimony of Jesus to the ends of the earth still triggers an altar-centripetal gathering, not however back to earthly Jerusalem and its obsolete altar but to the true altar in heavenly Jerusalem. In the universal summons of Zechariah 2:13 (17) Christ, the kerux, provides a model for his church in fulfilling its great commission as he centers the rapt reverence of the Gentiles on the parousia-Presence, the Glory of the Zion above.
The messianic Angel announces imminent divine action (v. 13b [17b]), a decisive intervention ending the delay that had prompted his earlier plea of "How long?" (cf. Zech. 1:12). He heralds the advent of the Lord, appearing from his heavenly throne (cf. Deut. 26:15; Hab. 2:20a; Ps. 11:4), his zeal stirred up like a man of war to do battle against his enemies (cf. Isa 42:13; 51:9; Judg. 5:12).
So, hush! Silence all flesh (Zech. 2:13a [17a]). The summons sounds and the kings of the earth shut their mouths, speechless, awe-struck before the exalted Servant (Isa 52:15b). His mission is authenticated as divine, for they, Gentiles deceived by the devil, now
hear and understand what had been unheard-of, what the prince of darkness had kept from them, the gospel tidings of peace with God through the sacrifice and intercession of this amazing Servant. He has come and overcome Beelzebub. He has rescued the prey from many nations. He has been exalted and his claim to be Christ, sent forth by the lord of hosts, has been validated (Isa 52:13-53:12).
Hush! Silence all flesh before Yahweh. The day of the Lord is at hand (cf. Hab. 2:20b; Zeph 1:7; Rev. 8:1). "This is the day in which the Lord is up and doing; let us be glad and rejoice in him" (Ps. 118:24; cf. Mal. 3:17; 4:3 [3:21]).
* This is a continuation of an article begun in Kerux 7:2 (September 1992), pp. 15-25.
15. Even if the genitive is regarded as appositional (i.e., "maiden Zion") the city represents its occupants.
16. The latter are all introduced by ki, "for," or "for lo I" (v. 9a [13a] and v. 10b [14b]).
17. Accusative defining place whither may be placed first for emphasis, especially with imperatives. This adverbial rather than vocative rendering of Zion achieves the syntactic pairing suggested by the phonic correspondence of tsaphon (north) and tsiyyon (Zion).
18. He too pictured the departure in exodus terms as an act of redemption, with God's Presence before and behind as protector and provider, guiding through the wilderness, bringing forth water from the rock (cf. 48:21; 52:12).
19. If the verb paras is given its less frequent sense of scatter, the clause becomes an insipid parenthesis referring to God's past dispersing of the Israelites to account for the fact they are now in Babylon. It would then differ from the other ki-clauses, all of which
point to present circumstances or future prospects as reasons for compliance with the imperatives.
20. In Noah's oracle in Genesis 9 there is a correlation between the curse on Canaan (v. 25) and the blessings on Shem and Japheth (vv. 26,27). This is indicated by the repetition of the curse after each blessing. Dispossession of Canaan is the other side of Israel's taking possession. Cf. Isa. 54:3.
21. Cf. the use of ’achar in Gen. 37:17; Ezek. 33:31; Hos. 2:5 ; Job. 39:8.
22. The meaning "with, in the company of" for ’achar attested in Hebrew and Ugaritic.
23. The motivation clause of v. 8 (12) would thus fit the pattern of the others in developing the implications of the introductory imagery.
24. See the discussion in my Images of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980), pp. 71-75.
25. In Isaiah 48:16, in the context of judgment on Babylon (v. 14), is the statement (evidently to be attributed to the Son of God): "the Lord Yahweh has sent me and his Spirit." In Psalm 73:24 ‘achar kabod modifies "you will take me (into heaven)." Some translate "with glory." Other options are "with (the) Glory" or "afterwards (by your) Glory."
26. Note also the associated theme of validation of mission in John 17:22, 23, as in Zechariah 2:9 (13).
27. On "daughter (bath) of the eye," see Ps. 17:8; Lam. 2:18; cf. Deut. 32:10. This reading of bebabath assumes either a doubling of the preposition or a diminutive doubling of the noun. It may also be read "gate" of his eye. In that case, bath-babel would be understood as "the daughter of Gate-of-god" (Babel, according to the common etymology). Perhaps a double pun is intended.
28. This would be the same emphasis found in the oracle in vision one. See the comments in Kerux 6:2 (September, 1991), p. 30.
29. Hand (yad) is a designation for the Glory-cloud and it is paralleled in these passages by other such designations–"Spirit" (Isa. 11:15) and "banner" (Isa. 13:2). In Zechariah 2:8, 9a (12, 13a) the fact that the "hand" of v. 9a (13a) stands in a corresponding position to the kabod of v. 8a (12a) in the chiastic arrangement of the three clauses argues for the translation of ’achar kabod as "with the Glory."
30. Actually, the deliverance of God's people from exile, which is involved in the judgment on the nations, is to be understood of all who are in a far off, Lo-Ammi condition, Gentiles as well as Jews. The new element in vv. 10, 11 (14, 15), the conversion of the Gentiles, is thus discernible in vv. 6-9 (10-13).
31. Announcing the same hope of the coming of the Savior-King to speak peace to the nations, Zechariah 9:9ff. similarly begins: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion."
32. Leah puns on lawah in naming Levi, expressing the hope that her husband will now be joined to her (Gen. 29:34). Does this reflect on the marriage relationship as a covenant? A similar word play is found in the Lord's promise to Aaron that the Levites will be joined to him to keep the charge of the sanctuary (Num. 18:2,4).
33. Some arbitrarily apply this promise to Israelites only. They see it as a restrictive qualification on Gentile participation that betrays the author's failure to attain fully to the new covenant concept of universalism. The root prophecy, Noah's oracle, is similarly misinterpreted by those who identify the subject of "he will dwell in the tents of Shem" (Gen. 9:27) as God rather than Japheth, thus making the passage say that while Japheth would have worldly blessings, God's covenantal presence would belong to Shem exclusively.
34. In Num. 15:38, 39 and Deut. 22:12 the term kanaph, "skirt," is used for the border of the garment to which tassels with a blue strand were to be affixed as a reminder of the covenant stipulations of the Lord.
35. Cf. also the imagery of God's lifting up his hand and military
banner unto the nations (v. 22).
36. In Isaiah 53:12, dividing the spoil is a feature of the exaltation of the Servant of the Lord as a reward for the redemptive suffering whereby he sprinkles many nations (Isa. 52:15).
37. Significantly, Satan, latent in the world powers in Zechariah's third vision, appears in the immediately following vision as the Adversary, whom the Angel of the Lord overcomes, so saving the elect from his power.
38. Isaiah 45:23, cited by Paul in Romans 14:11 and Philippians 2:11, is set at the conclusion of an on-the-offensive apologetics challenging the folly of the idolaters. The Lord simply points to his self-revelation in his work of creation and his words of prophetic predisclosure as the incontrovertible manifestation of himself as God, sole sovereign of space and time. As in Zechariah 2, this validation of divine claim comes in connection with a universal summons to salvation (Isa 45:22). Biblical apologetics has an evangelistic thrust; it is a function of the church's witness to the name of the Creator-Savior-Consummator.
39. Zechariah's first three visions form a unit. Visions two and three develop the two main themes introduced in vision one, with vision two emphasizing retribution against the nations and vision three the restoration of Jerusalem and return of the Glory. In rounding out the triad, vision three echoes several features of the opening vision, including the coupling of the choice of Jerusalem and the favoring of the cities of Judah (cf. 1:12, 17 and 2:12 ).
40. V. 12b (16b) might be taken with v. 12a (16a), but a better balance is gained if it is construed with v. 12c (16c), the opening waw of which is then emphatic with postposition of the verb. Possibly v. 12b (16b) pertains to both the a and c parts of the verse.
41. If v. 12b (16b) goes with the selection of Judah in v. 12a (16a), the sanctuary concept is extended beyond the temple in Jerusalem. Similarly, Zechariah 14:20,21.
42. The same combination appears in Ps. 47:1ff. See the quotation of Deuteronomy 32:43a in Romans 15:10.
43. Another addition found after the first clause in LXX and Qumran, and providing a parallel to it, is adopted in the quotation in Hebrews 1:6.
44. Used here is ’erets, which at times refers to soil (cf., e.g., Deut. 11:6; 12:16; 29:22).
45. Cf. Accadian adammatu, "dark blood."
46. In Numbers 35:33 the making of atonement is "for the blood" (laddam) as well as for the land (la’arets).
Seminary, S. Hamilton, Massachusetts
Westminster Theological Seminary in California, Escondido
for Reading The History of Biblical Theology:
Encyclopedias and Dictionaries
James T. Dennison, Jr.
Recently, one of our readers asked for reading suggestions in order to further explore biblical theology. One of the best ways in which to gain a perspective on biblical theology is to trace the historical development of the discipline. And one of the best ways to gain this "mountain top" view of the evolution of biblical theology is to turn to the survey articles in Bible encyclopedias and dictionaries. These articles trace the growth of biblical theology from the
Reformation through Protestant Scholasticism and Pietism to the Enlightenment. Under the evil star of Deism as it influenced German rationalism, biblical theology became a distinct part of the theological encyclopedia in the eighteenth century. Nineteenth century romantic idealism was followed by twentieth century existentialism and linguistic analysis. Since its birth as a distinct theological discipline, biblical theology has been dominated by the prevailing philosophical ideology. It is precisely this point which makes Reformed biblical theology in the tradition of Geerhardus Vos unique–it is dominated by revelation (eschatologically conceived), not ideology (philosophically construed).
The most recent excursion surveying the history of biblical theology is found in the massive Anchor Bible Dictionary (Doubleday) published this summer. The article on "Theology (Biblical), History of" (Volume 6, pages 483-505) is by Henning Graf Reventlow, modern German critical scholar whose books on biblical theology are distinguished for synthetic overviews of the topic (cf. The Authority of the Bible and the Rise of the Modern World [Fortress, 1984] and Problems of Biblical Theology in the Twentieth Century [Fortress, 1986]). Reventlow's review is succinct, candid (he is a liberal!) and up-to-date. He is particularly at home in describing the twentieth century state of the discipline. There is no better survey treatment of developments in biblical theology since World War II available in English. His extensive four-page bibliography omits Vos and Ridderbos although it does indude Gerhard Hasel, Chester Lehman and J. Barton Payne.
Brief articles in two one-volume dictionaries rapidly summarize trends in biblical theology from 1700 to the present. Gerhard Hasel contributes "Biblical Theology Movement" to the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. by Walter A. Elwell (Baker, 1984), pages 149-52. This article concentrates on the neo-orthodox biblical theology movement as a reaction to nineteenth century German liberalism. Neo-orthodoxy was an attempt to repristinate some "word of God" for the modern church. The failure of this "new modernism" biblical theology is amply documented by its demise (cf. B. S. Childs, Biblical
Theology in Crisis [Westminster, 1970]) and the current malaise in critical, post-neo-orthodox biblical theology. Liberal biblical theologians have produced no consensus in the last quarter of our century–nor is a consensus likely to emerge given the hodge-podge of contemporary views about revelation (all of which are grounded ultimately in Enlightenment principles). Incidentally, Hasel has written two extensive surveys of the history of Old and New Testament theology (Old Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate [Eerdmans, 4th ed. 1991]; New Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate [Eerdmans, 1978]).
Robert Morgan provides the other serviceable "rapid survey" in a one-volume dictionary format (cf. "Biblical Theology" in A Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, ed. by R. J. Coggins and J. L. Houldon [SCM/Trinity Press International, 1990], pages 86-89). This is a revealing (he's a liberal too!) overview of the field from Johann Phillip Gabler (1787) to Krister Stendahl (1962) by the translator of William Wrede's seminal Uber Aufgabe und Methode der sogenannten neutestamentlischen Theologie ("Concerning the Problem and Method of the so-called New Testament Theology"–English translation by Morgan as "The Tasks and Methods of 'New Testament Theology'," in The Nature of New Testament Theology [Allenson, 1973], pages 68-116). Morgan's proposal for a way out of this late twentieth century biblical theological malaise is to rehabilitate Gabler's eighteenth century rationalistic biblical theological methodology (cf. his "Gabler's Bicentenary," Expository Times 98:6 [March 1987], pages 164-68). Precisely how that will play as we approach the twenty-first century is anybody's guess. (After all, we went through a neo-Schleiermacher revival in the late 1970's. Who says liberalism isn't progressive, forward-looking, innovative!!!)
At this point, the reader may be wondering if there are any conservative surveys of the history of biblical theology which will critically assess the discipline as it has metastasized through its various stages of critical/liberal malignancy. There are two major articles of this sort: George Eldon Ladd, "Biblical Theology, History of" in the
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia ed. G. W. Bromiley (Eerdmans, 1979), Volume 1, pages 498-505; Willard Taylor, "Biblical Theology" in the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Zondervan, 1975), Volume 1, pages 593-600. Both articles provide a conservative evaluation of the discipline from the Reformation to the 1970's. Taylor's article situates the discipline vis-a-vis exegesis and systematic theology while evaluating the methodology of the twentieth century heilsgeschichte ("holy history" or "salvation history") school (i.e., Oscar Cullmann, G. Ernest Wright, etc.). Ladd's essay consists virtually of one paragraph summaries of various biblical theologians arranged according to each one's most noted biblical-theological treatise (i.e., Oscar Cullmann, Christ and Time; Alan Richardson, Introduction to the Theology of the New Testament, etc.). The bulk of his remarks focus on developments since the late nineteenth century emergence of the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule ("History of [Comparative] Religions School"). The "History of Religions" approach reduced the religion of the Bible to an evolutionary construct. That is, Biblical religion evolved as all other non-Christian religions evolved–from simple or primitive religious notions to complex or developed religious dogmas. On this basis, biblical theology (and "the religion of the Bible") is reduced to the lowest common denominator among all world religions.
One other conservative treatment of our subject may be mentioned, although it is a very disappointing and superficial essay: Francis I. Anderson, "Biblical Theology" in the (never finished) Encyclopedia of Christianity (Wilmington, DE: National Foundation for Christian Education, 1964), Volume 2, pages 63-70. This article focuses (inadequately, in my opinion) on definitions while giving no attention to the historical development of the topic. To his credit, he does mention Vos, Ridderbos and E. J. Young.
Before concluding with the heretofore tour-de-force survey in Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, I mention a small gem by Stanley B. Marrow in the New Catholic Encyclopedia (J. Heraty, 1967), Volume 2, pages 545-50 sub "Biblical Theology." Written from a
Roman Catholic point of view (and many fertile developments in modern biblical theology have been contributed by Catholics; cf. especially Xavier Leon-Dufour, Dictionary of Biblical Theology [Seabury, 1973]), Marrow succinctly treats the history of biblical theology from the Middle Ages to the 1960's. Every major figure is treated: Gabler, Vatke, Wellhausen, Eichrodt, von Rad, Kittel, Bultmann, Stauffer, and many more. While not exhaustive, the article is a superb piece of compressed writing.
I conclude with the three famous articles from the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (Abingdon, 1962). First is the exhaustive survey by Krister Stendahl ("Biblical Theology, Contemporary" in Volume 1, pages 418-32) in which he proposes the now legendary canon of critical/liberal biblical theology–the distinction between "what it meant" (i.e., what the biblical text meant to those who first received it) and "what it means" (i.e., what it means to us today). This handy formula reveals the reductionist agenda of liberal/critical biblical theology. The meaning of the Biblical text to its first hearers or recipients or audience is very different from the meaning of that Biblical text to its modern hearers or recipients or audience. By means of various modern interpretive tools (form criticism, redaction criticism, source criticism, etc), contemporary scholars (pastors, laymen) must get behind the text to what it meant and then make the text applicable to the contemporary listener. Stendahl blatantly drives a flying wedge between the ancient text and the modern interpreter. The second article by Otto Betz ("Biblical Theology, History of," ibid., Volume 1, pages 432-37) is a standard treatment of our subject from the sixteenth to twentieth centuries. The third article is found in the Supplement to the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (Abingdon, 1976), pages 104-111. This is an article in which the author, James Barr, summarizes his now famous strictures against the neo-orthodox biblical theological movement. Barr's use of linguistic analysis to torpedo the neo-orthodox camp arises from his own devotion to the spirit of nineteenth century liberalism and the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule ("History of [Comparative] Religions School"). The Bible is not a unique religious document. The Dead Sea Scrolls (Qumran) and
Nag Hammadi (Egyptian Gnostic) texts have demonstrated other religious documents contemporaneous with the Bible (especially the New Testament). For Barr, the Bible is a human statement of human religious belief; a story of the "God" these ancient writers believed they encountered. This religious story must be reinterpreted in order to be meaningful to modern man. The methods Barr prefers for this reinterpretation are very similar to those of nineteenth century liberalism. James Barr is in fact an advocate of a return to the metaphysical subjectivism of classic liberalism. (And this is progress?!?)
The study of the history of biblical theology is intriguing and depressing. Intriguing as the major players in each century advance their method for doing biblical theology against the backdrop of the dominant philosophy of their era (rationalism, romantic idealism, existentialism, linguistic analysis). Depressing as each proponent attempts to salvage some meaningful content from a book he has dismissed as "primitive" and "unenlightened." Is it any wonder that in liberal/critical circles there is no unified biblical theology!
However, we are those with a "sure word." God has spoken objectively in history. The progress of that revelation has been directed to the redemption of his people. That redemptive revelation is centered in the person and work of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. As that redemptive revelation unfolds from Genesis to Revelation, it displays the character of an organism. This organism is both vertically (eschatologically) and horizontally (historically) interrelated. God himself comes to us; comes to us in his Son, Jesus Christ; comes to us in history in order that we may come to him now and in the eschaton. That is our story because it is His story. And, dear reader, that is what we have learned from Geerhardus Vos–the father of a truly biblical theology!