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 (May, September, December). Editorial offices are located at 1131 Whispering Highlands Dr., Escondido, CA 92027-496 1. 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 Old Testament Abstracts, Washington, DC and Religious and Theological Abstracts, Myerstown, PA; indexed in Religion Index One, Evanston, IL and the Elenchus of Biblica, Rome, Italy.
ISSN 0888-8513 May 1997 Vol. 12, No. 1
Clothing From Heaven
Douglas B. Clawson
As we have considered these last chapters of the book of Exodus, I have labored to show that what God is doing here at the foot of Sinai is like what happened in the creation and fall and redemption of man. I have attempted to show that the tabernacle was a type of the garden of Eden. It was like paradise where God and man met. It was a living and functioning example of what it was to be like for Israel to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
If an Israelite could have sat and watched the comings and goings of the priests and Levites at the tabernacle, he would have been watching a type of the garden of Eden. He would have seen a type of the Kingdom of God and ultimately a shadow of the new heavens and new earth. Only unlike Adam and Eve who, on account of their sin, were forced to live outside of but within sight of the garden, God provided a way for Israel to come within the barriers.
Along the lines of thinking that I have already proposed in approaching these chapters, chapter 39, with its completion of the clothing for the priests and the examination of the completed parts of the tabernacle and its court, is reminiscent of the sixth day of creation.
In Genesis 1:24 and following, we read about the sixth day of creation.
And God said, Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: Livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind. And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground ....
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
As on the sixth day of creation, when in his final work of creation God made man, the people of God here, reflecting God's creative work, make as their final work, the clothing which must be filled by the man and the men who will serve in the presence of the coming God. They cannot fill the clothing, only God can do that. It is something like God forming the body of man from the dust of the ground and then breathing into the man to make him a living being. Israel made the clothing of the priest; it would be up to God to fill it.
Once the clothing is completed, like God who on the sixth day examined all and pronounced it good, Moses here examines all the work of the workmen, sees that all has been completed as the Lord commanded and blesses the people. This examination is not of a people who have labored in their own strength. This is an examination of a people who have sinned and have been forgiven; a people who once wanted other gods and who now want this God; a people who once only wanted gods to lead, but who now want a God who will live with them and allow them to live with him.
Just as with the other chapters that repeat the material found before the incident with the calf, we will not reconsider the details that we looked at in Exodus 28. Rather we will look at the material here in light of the grace revealed after Israel's sin with the calf, and the grace to be revealed in the coming of God to dwell with his people. God has forgiven his people. He has shown them in the example of Moses' relationship to himself, the relationship they can have. God has made his people want him and now only the clothing of the priests must be finished.
Having completed the construction of the tent, the ark of the covenant, its atonement cover, the lampstand, the table of the bread of presence, the golden altar of incense, the copper laver, the altar of burnt offering and the curtains for the barrier around the tabernacle, all that now remained to be described for the completion of the worship of God's people is the clothing for the priests. All was done exactly as God had revealed it to Moses, and as Moses had instructed Bezalel and Oholiab. God combined the Spirit-given wisdom of the craftsmen with the God-revealed knowledge that was given to Moses.
God's will was done on earth as it was in heaven. In fact, that point is made excruciatingly clear in this chapter. Look at verse 1—"as the Lord commanded Moses"; verse 5—"as the Lord commanded Moses"; verse 7—"as the Lord commanded Moses"; verse 21—" as the Lord commanded Moses"; verse 26—"as the Lord commanded Moses"; verse 29—"as the Lord commanded Moses"; verse 31—"as the Lord commanded Moses"; verse 32—"The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses"; and verses 42 and 43—"The Israelites had done all the work just as the Lord had commanded Moses. Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded." God's will was done on earth as it was in heaven and all is almost ready for God to come to his people. In the next to the last chapter of the Book of Exodus, we discover that the tabernacle and the clothing of the priest are completed. And behold, all is very good.
I. The Completed Clothing of the Priests
From the same woven material with which they made the inner curtains of the tabernacle, the children of Israel made the garments for the High Priest.
In the description of the ephod here in chapter 39, we have a description of the manner in which the ephod was fabricated that is not found anywhere else. The gold was hammered into sheets and then cut into thin strips so that it could be woven like thread into the ephod. The ephod and the stones and the shoulder pieces with the memorial stones were made for the High Priest exactly as the Lord commanded Moses. Then a breast-piece was made with its gem stones and gold rings and waistband. Everything was made exactly as the Lord commanded Moses.
The skilled craftsmen also made the robe and the linen pomegranates around the hem of the robe, the band around the opening, the bells and the tunics for all of the other priests. Everything was made exactly as the Lord commanded Moses. They made the linen tunics for the rest of the priests with the turban, the headbands, the undergarments and sash. Everything was made as the Lord had commanded.
They also made the plate that fits on the turban and that hangs between the eyes of the priests. They made the gold plate with the words "Holy to the Lord" engraved on it. Even this simple plate was made exactly as the Lord had commanded Moses.
As we have seen in previous passages, these priests—these servants—were to be like the servants, the angels, who serve in the tabernacle in heaven (as seen by the apostle John in Revelation 15:5, 6). Everything was done on earth as it is in heaven. That is what was revealed to Israel in all this.
Israel was being pointed beyond the earthly to the heavenly, just as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had been. That is why everything is repeated from the earlier chapter 28, where God revealed the garments of the high priests and priests on the mountain. That is why we find it written over and over again that it was done as the Lord had commanded Moses.
God called Israel to be a kingdom of priests—a manifestation on earth of what is in heaven. God was clothing Israel's priests exactly as he had revealed to Moses, so that Israel would see in the priests that Israel should be clothed exactly as God had revealed from heaven. No, not in fine colored linen, jewels and gold, but in the righteousness, the holiness and true knowledge which those precious things shadowed.
In writing about what will happen at the return of Jesus Christ when the dead in Christ are raised, Paul says, "For the perishable must be clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality" (1 Cor. 15:53). But what about now? How should those who have been called and made priests of the most high God be clothed?
In Romans 13:13, Paul writes "Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather cloth yourselves with Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful flesh." The sins that Paul describes here are the very sins that characterized the lives of the Israelites. The shadows which were placed before the eyes of Israel as an example of how they should really be clothed pointed them to Christ. The fulfillment of these shadows has been given to you. You must be clothed in Christ—his righteousness, holiness and true knowledge.
That is why Paul also commands the Colossians to clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, to bear with one another and forgive one another as the Lord has forgiven them and over all these to put on love" (3:12-14). That is why Peter tells believing wives that their beauty should not come from the clothes, gold and jewels, but from the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Pet. 3:3).
You must be clothed with Christ, the Savior and Lord revealed from heaven, just as the priests were to be clothed exactly as the Lord revealed to Moses from heaven. Just as their linen, gold and jewels were formed and put together exactly as revealed, the character of your life must be exactly like Christ's. His life in yours; his character in you.
II. The Completed Tabernacle
This tent, this dwelling place for God while he lived among his people, was fundamentally a place where God would be present, but present for a purpose. God would be present in order to meet with his people on a continual basis.
Only Moses had seen the heavenly vision and received the specific instructions from God. The skilled workmen had the words and they had the Spirit of Wisdom, but only Moses had seen the original. Everything from the tent to the furniture to the utensils and the tent pegs and posts was brought to Moses so that he could compare what was on earth and see if it corresponded to what had been revealed from heaven.
Now in his examination of the completed work, what Moses saw is exactly what had been declared over and over. Everything was made as the Lord commanded Moses. Moses' response to this obedience, to this zeal to do the will of the Lord, was to bless the people. In essence, Moses saw that all was good.
Oh that at his return, Jesus would see that in him and through him, all that we have done has been done exactly as the Lord has commanded, exactly as it has been revealed from heaven through Jesus Christ. Oh that Jesus would bless us on that day with the words, "Well done my good and faithful servants." Oh that he would see that all is very good.
Like the making of the garden for man to dwell in, God has instructed his people to do what Adam was to have done, to work on caring for and building the paradise in which God and man would have fellowship, communion and union together. For you, such building takes place not in the building of a kingdom for this present earth, or in the construction of anything built with human hands. For you, it is the building here on earth, by Christ, of that kingdom of heaven, that kingdom of God, that kingdom of Christ which Jesus has begun in himself.
The heavenly kingdom is not characterized on earth by earthly power, an earthly nature or earthly extension. It is characterized as the manifestation of a new creation—a creation, a paradise, a tabernacle where the will of the Father is carried out in the hearts and minds of believers.
Two things remain for Israel beside the actual setting up of the tabernacle—namely for God to descend and inhabit the dwelling place and for God to fill the clothing of the priests. God will do the first in the next chapter. He will do the second when he has the priests ordained. Yet even these remaining events are only anticipatory to the fullness of their reality to be ac-
complished in Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God does both. In Jesus, God comes to dwell among his people; and in Christ, God is the one to fill the clothing of the priest who is the perfect mediator for his people.
For you, God has caused the reality of what Israel had only in shadow to be fulfilled. Jesus is the paradise of God for you. It is in Christ that man meets God and finds communion in him and union with him. He is the ultimate paradigm for the garden of Eden, the kingdom of God and the New Heavens and the New Earth. In Jesus, man meets and walks and talks and has communion with God.
In him, all is prepared and laid out before the Father and seen to be exactly as the Father has commanded. In him, you too are placed before the Father, like a curtain, a jewel, a board, a tent peg. In Christ, God sees that you have been made and are being made exactly as the Lord has commanded from heaven.
In Christ, God blesses you and sees that all is very good.
Grace Orthodox Presbyterian
Hanover Park, Illinois
What Should I Read on Hosea?
James T. Dennison, Jr.
The eighth century B.C. was an era convulsed by the principal power of the then current Ancient Near Eastern world. Every nation-state of the Levant cowered at the revival of the imperium of the Great King, the ruler of Akkad, Sumer, Babylon and the four corners of the earth. Tiglath-Pileser III assumed the throne of the Neo-Assyrian empire in 745 B.C. He proceeded to reverse four decades of Assyrian decline by marching his armies back and forth year after year from the Tigris-Euphrates to the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf to the mountains of Ararat (Urartu). Counter-attacking the powers which had reduced Assyrian might in the first half of the eighth century B.C., he expanded the borders of the Neo-Assyrian empire to the north (Urartu), south (Babylon) and west (Syria, Palestine, Lebanon). At his death in 727 B.C., Assyria controlled the Mesopotamian crescent from the border of Egypt to the border of modern Azerbaijan to the border of modern Iran. All nations paid him tribute—to resist was to invite flaying, impaling, beheading, razing.
The two small nations at the keystone of the Middle East—Israel and Judah—suffered destruction, intimidation, taxation from Ashur. As early as Tiglath-Pileser III's first western campaign (743 B.C.), the divided reigns of Palestine were put on notice to the threat of a marauding, predatory, imperial power. A year later, threat moved closer to reality. From 742-740 B.C., Tiglath—Pileser III besieged Arpad (Syria). When the region submitted to the Assyrian yoke, the kings of Damascus, Tyre, Kue and Carchemish paraded their obeisance and their treasuries. Two years later (738 B.C.), he invaded Israel sub-
jecting Menahem to humiliating tribute. Rezin, King of Damascus, joined the king of Israel in bending the knee to Assyria. This joint participation in humiliation may have forged the alliance for the subsequent Syria-Israelite (e.g., Syro-Ephraimite) alliance in which Rezin teamed with Pekah, King of Israel, to attempt to compel Judah (King Ahaz) to throw off the Assyrian yoke. The so-called Syro-Ephraimite War (734-32 B.C.) caught the attention of the royal administrations of Syria, Israel and Judah; it also captured the prophetic eye of Isaiah (chapter 7) and Hosea (5:8-6:6). The usual reconstruction of this scenario pits Rezin and Pekah against Ahaz. The Syro-Ephraimite league is anti-Assyrian seeking a military-political base of rebellion against the Great King of Ashur. Uniting west and east Jordanian kingdoms, they press Judah to up the anty against Assyrian hegemony. Ahaz, however, is uncooperative and appeals to Tiglath-Pileser III for relief (to Isaiah's chagrin, cf. Isa. 7:1-19). The result is relief for Judah, but at the cost of further humiliation, taxation and degradation. Damascus is razed, Rezin is killed (2 Kgs. 16:9), Pekah is dethroned by Hoshea (2 Kgs. 15:30, probably an attempt by a pro-Assyrian faction to save the northern kingdom) and Assyria seizes much of Israel, reducing the satrapy to the hill country of Ephraim round about Samaria (2 Kgs. 15:29).
Assyria under her "Great King" (cf. Hos. 5:13, margin) is the major player in the political life of the nations of the Middle East. When Hoshea, king of Israel, dallies with Egypt in an attempt to gain independence from Assyria,l he nonetheless seals the doom of Ephraim and Samaria. Assyria besieges the capital, levels the city, deports the native population and imports a mixed group of aliens.2
Each of the commentaries included in this survey contain background introductions to the international context of Hosea's prophecy. None of them,
1 Cf. 2 Kgs. 17:4. These events probably occurred about 727 B.C. when Tiglath-Pileser III died. The resulting transfer of power to Shalmaneser V (727-722 B.C.) may have provided Hoshea the opportunity he sought for courting the favor of Egypt; cf. Hosea 7:11.
2 Cf. 2 Kgs. 17:5, 6, 23, 24. Scholars continue to debate the identity of the conqueror of Samaria in 722/21 B.C. Some maintain it was Shalmaneser V; others contend that Shalmaneser initiated the seige, but died before the city was razed. The honor of conquest therefore belonged to his successor, Sargon II (722-705 B.C.).
however, contains the full story of Assyrian-Syrian-Israelite interaction. This story must be patched together from various monographs and encyclopedias. The most helpful of the former are: J. A. Brinkman, Prelude to Empire (1984); Stefan Zawadzki, The Fall of Assyria and Median-Babylonian Relations in Light of the Nabopolassar Chronicle (1988); John Boardman, ed., The Assyrian and Babylonian Empires and Other States of the Near East from the Eighth to the Sixth Century B.C. (Cambridge Ancient History, Second Edition, Volume III, Part 2, 1991). Useful encyclopedia treatments are found in the Anchor Bible Dictionary (1992) and the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (revised edition, 1979). Recently, Hayim Tadmor has published The Inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III, King of Assyria (1994).
Handbooks of biblical history are also indispensable—the standard conservative treatment is the late Leon Wood's A Survey of the History of Israel (revised edition, 1986); the standard liberal version is the late John Bright's A History of Israel (3rd edition, 1981).
The prophet Hosea is a witness to the death of the northern kingdom in the second half of the eighth century B.C. Most critical scholars acknowledge that the historical Hosea is behind most of the book which bears his name. In addition, there is a general consensus among these liberal scholars that the historical events reflected in the prophecy are contemporaneous with the prophet's experience. In other words, the prophet Hosea and the events chronicled in his book accurately reflect the historical events of the eighth century B.C. Even when critics allege that a redactor (i.e., later editor) has reworked portions of Hosea's remarks, they nonetheless maintain that the book is an authentic product of the eighth century B.C. All the commentaries reviewed below adopt this conclusion regardless of whatever (groundless) redactional work they may find in the text. In fact, there is no reason to deny the text of the prophecy to the prophet himself in toto—no reason save critical fundamentalism and the baggage that "enlightened" methodology entails.
The era of Hosea's prophecy covers the second half of the eighth century B.C. Specifically the terminus a quo is the end of the dynasty of Jehu. Hosea 1:4 indicates that the last of the descendants of Jehu will be judged for the blood-lust of Jezreel. The irony of Jehu's bloody assassination of Joram (2 Kgs. 9:24) will be visited upon his house instead. King Zechariah (2 Kgs.
15:8-10) is assassinated by Shallum in 753 B.C. Hence Hosea's prophetic career is inaugurated at approximately that time. On the other hand, the terminus ad quem of the prophet's revelation may be dated from chapter 9:3. Israel will "go to Assyria," an event which occurred in 722/21 B.C. Hence Hosea's prophetic career concludes shortly before the fall of Samaria. Hosea is present for the final thirty years of the history of the northern kingdom.
Hosea is a man intensely aware of the international scene (Assyria and, to a lesser extent, Egypt). He is intimately acquainted with Israeli politics, including the follies of the royal palace, the futility of Samaria's foreign policy and the wheeling-dealing emanating from the influence peddlers of the northern kingdom. Hosea recognizes Assyria as a force not to be trifled with (Hosea 11:5), betrayal of which will mean certain punishment (Hosea 10:6). But Hosea's perception transcends the merely international political intrigue of mighty Assyria versus puny Israel. He realizes that the full measure of Israel's sins in courting foreign powers (contrary to the covenant with the Lord) will be repaid in God's judgment, i.e., the Great King from the east. Assyria is God's instrument of judgment against Israel's apostate foreign policy.
Even more astutely, Hosea realizes that the death of his nation is sealed in the bloody nature of Israel's own national politics. From 754 to 722/21 B.C., no less than seven kings sat on the throne of Israel. Four of the seven (more than half) come to the throne by assassinating their predecessor (Shallum killed Zechariah, 2 Kgs. 15:10; Menahem killed Shallum, 2 Kgs. 15:14; Pekahiah was killed by Pekah, 2 Kgs. 15:25; Pekah was killed by Hoshea, 2 Kgs. 15:30). This reign of terror destabilized Israeli national politics making her a "silly dove" (Hosea 7:11) in international affairs, but reducing the nation to the survival of the fittest domestically. The reader of this eighth century B.C. seer cannot forget the turmoil on the domestic front reflected in the text.
Yet for all the national and international political machinations, Hosea's Israel is spiritually and morally corrupt. The displacement of Yahweh with Baal is the fundamental sin of the nation. Fertility worship was as seductive and enslaving in Hosea's day as pornography is today. The Playboy/Penthouse degradation is not new—it's the old Baalism undressed as unretouched photo's and Internet images. While scholars continue to debate the narrative and the meaning of the Baal myth, it appears to be a fertility ritual involving
sacred prostitution duplicating the annual/seasonal sojourn of Baal from life to death to rebirth. As god of the thunder and rain, Baal is the mythical fertilizer of the earth. In the spring, his potency is evident in the greening of the fields. His consort, Ashtaroth, is his loyal sexual companion and advocate. When Mot (Death) kills Baal and takes him to the underworld, the earth dies (winter). But Ashtaroth descends to the underworld to revive Baal and restore him to life. The resulting sexual reunion between Baal and Ashtaroth guaranteed fertility to the earth and the seasonal pattern of rebirth, harvest, death. The worshippers of Baal rehearsed this myth (particularly its sexual ritual) via cultic prostitution in the groves and high places of Palestine. Hosea provides documentary evidence of the perverse nature of the Baal cult (Hosea 2:16, 17; 4:12, 13; 9:1, 2; 13:1). While many critical scholars (and some of the commentators below) discount Hosea's account of the Baal ritual regarding it rather as a Yahwistic polemic against a native Canaanite religion, the points of agreement between Hosea's description of Baalism and the archeological record should tip the scale of credibility in the prophet's favor for all save the most ideologically motivated.
Worship of Baal is cultic whoredom. Hosea minces no words in calling harlotry harlotry. This betrayal, adulteration and perversion of the union between God and his bride-people is the chief theological backdrop to the prophecy. Hosea is relationally, indeed covenantally, focused on Israel and the Lord. The prophet's marriage metaphors are redemptive-historical in character. Retrospectively, Hosea regards the Exodus from Egypt as the bride-purchase of God's spouse. The wilderness sojourn is the honeymoon excursion. The entrance into the land is the settlement of bride and groom in their homeland. But the willing enticements, seductions, prostitutions/debaucheries of God's bride at the hands of a tinhorn idol rupture the covenant bond. In whoring after her lovers, Israel destroys herself, for her seducers are mere users, casting her off for yet more perverse pleasures.
The remarkable feature of Hosea's prophecy is that the prophet's life incarnates his message. The theological marriage between God and Israel is embodied in Hosea's marriage to Gomer. There is no sound reason to jettison the traditional view of the relationship between the prophet and his wife. Not only is that bond epexegetical of the larger redemptive-historical paradigm, the (pseudo-)exegetical gymnastics required to endorse an alternative sce-
nario are based in commentators's agendas, not the plain reading of the narrative. Calvin's allegorical treatment is contrived from embarrassment. Wolff's suggestion that Gomer was a cult prostitute prior to her marriage conveniently dovetails Baalism and Gomerism. But the nincompoop award in the matter goes to G. I. Davies! He contends Gomer was a prostitute and Hosea was her client (p. 108). Only a post-new morality/situation ethics liberal could come up with this idiocy!
Expanding upon the incarnational character of Hosea's biography, my own suggestion re the much controverted discussion of Gomer's character may be described as the proleptic view. Most commentators admit the phrase "wife of harlotry" (Hos. 1:2) is not the usual phrase for a practising prostitute (cf. Josh. 2:1; Jdg. 16:1). If Gomer was not literally a harlot prior to her marriage to Hosea, then the phrase "wife of harlotry" is proleptically anticipatory of what she will become after the wedding. This reading is supported by the significance of the parallel phrase "children of harlotry" (Hos. 1:2). It is clear that the children were not born of harlotry prior to the marriage of Gomer and Hosea. Verse 3 plainly describes the conception of Jezreel after Hosea takes Gomer as his wife. The conception of Lo-ruhamah (1:6) and Lo-ammi (1:8, 9) is parallel. This daughter and son were conceived by Hosea, not by harlotry. Hence the phrase "children of harlotry" is emblematic of what the children eventually became, i.e., imitators of the spiritual infidelity of the nation. By the same token, "wife of harlotry" does not refer to what Gomer was at her marriage to Hosea, but what she becomes in pursuing her lovers (cf. Hos. 2:7).
Perhaps the most significant support for the proleptic reading flows from the redemptive-historical pattern retrospectively narrated by the prophet. The exodus motif dominates the book of Hosea (cf. chapter 2; 11:1; 12:9; 13:4, 5). God's bride was brought up out of Egypt. This era is described as a betrothal (2:19, 20 reflecting on 2:15). God's "virgin bride" from Egypt was covenantally pledged to her Lord at Mt. Sinai. But she committed harlotry against him at Baal-peor (Hos. 9:10) and continually in the promised land (Baalism). Thus God took to himself a "wife of harlotry"—not what she was in Egypt, but what she became by her whoring after other gods subsequently. So too Gomer was a "wife of harlotry"—not at the wedding, but what she subsequently became in whoring after her paramours. In sum, Hosea's biographical experience with Gomer is exactly parallel to God's experience with Israel: covenant
union in faithfulness; adulteration of that union subsequently by actual whoredom. As the prophetic biography closes in chapter 3, Hosea's faithful love discovers the profligate Gomer (perhaps in a slave market vv. 1, 2). He redeems her by purchasing her liberty—a paradigm of the new and second exodus which eschatologically dominates the message of salvation throughout the book. The prophet-servant himself incarnates the history of salvation which God designs for his once faithful, yet wayward bride, whom he intends to redeem in an exodus greater than that under Moses.
The theological motifs which recur in the book of Hosea include covenant union, marital fidelity, exodus from bondage, wilderness sojourn, Davidic monarchy—even (un)creation (cf. 4:3). This retrospective glance on the part of the prophet is an attempt to relate Israel's present to her redemptive-historical past. The reminder of God's mighty acts in time past both vivifies and unifies the present eighth century B.C. history of Israel. Israel of Hosea's day is organically connected (retrospectively) to Israel of old. But Hosea does not use this organic continuity merely to display unity with the redemptive-historical past. The retrospective reversal is also a judgment motif. Wayward Israel is sentenced to return to her protological beginnings in accordance with God's eschatological judgment. Reversal of Israel's present liberty is portrayed in terms of a return to Egypt, i.e., a return to bondage, slavery and exile (8:13; 9:3). Each of the children's names (chapter 1) is symbolic of a reversal in covenant relation: repudiation of the establishment of the kingdom (Jezreel, v. 4); repudiation of covenant mercy (Lo-ruhamah, v. 6); repudiation of people status (Lo-ammi, v. 9). The reversal of the order of creation (4:3) is a return of the land to primeval chaos. Hosea prophecies judgment as a return to Israel's beginnings.
However, no canonical prophet projects reversal as eschatological judgment alone. Prophetic reversal via crisis is itself eschatologically reversed. The reversal (judgment) is to be reversed (salvation). Retrospective is succeeded by prospective. There are two sides to the eschatological vision of the prophets—eschatological judgment and eschatological salvation. The retrospective protological revelation is organically connected to the prospective eschatological revelation. Hosea reverses the exodus in order to portray the coming exile and bondage of Israel under Assyrian judgment. But then he
graciously projects that reversal into the echatological future: "out of Egypt have I called my son" (Hos. 11:1; note Israel's designation as "son" in Ex. 4:22, 23). Hosea proleptically anticipates a new Israel—an eschatological Israel (indeed, an eschatological Son)!—who will participate in a new exodus—an eschatological exodus. Hosea's eschatology of hope is projected in the reversal of the reversal.
Hence, the reversal of the symbolic names of Hosea's offspring in 1:10-2:1 is indicative of Hosea's entire prophetic eschatology. If the monarchy of the northern kingdom is turned back to Jezreel ("end of the kingdom" or no king!, 1:4), then the eschatological Israel will experience the reversal of Jezreel ("one leader," 1:11; cf. 3:5). If the nation of Ephraim is to revert to a state of mercilessness (1:6), then the eschatological Israel will experience "Ruhamah" (2:1; cf. 14:3). If covenant rejecting Israel returns to "not my people" (1:9), then the eschatological Israel will hear the covenantal declaration once and for all ("my people," "your God," 1:10, 2:1; cf. 2:23).
The retrospective side of Hosea's judgment reversal indicates imminent wrath and destruction by Assyria (722/21 B.C.). The razing of Samaria and the deportation of the ten northern tribes together with their disappearance from the stage of history underscores the finality of God's wrath for the Israel that then was. None of the ten tribes reversed the reversal by coming out of Assyrian bondage and returning to the promised land. None of the tribes of the northern kingdom ever again sat before the throne of a Davidic monarch in Samaria or Jerusalem. None of the inhabitants of the northern kingdom experienced God's covenantal mercy and adoption. The destruction of Israel and Samaria (722/21 B.C.) was an intrusion of eschatological judgment with all its attendant horror and finality. Hell itself will be no less horrible and final. Banishment from God's land in 722/21 B.C. was emblematic of eternal separation from the Lord.
Well, if the reversal of the reversal was not accomplished in the restoration of the ten northern tribes of Israel, how was it accomplished? Fulfillment would require an Israel who is "son" of God (11:1), who is able to undergo wrath and death vicariously, whose "exodus" is the reversal of bondage for his people, whose sweet union with his precious Bride can never be prostituted nor adulterated. Fulfillment would require one who would incarnate the
reversal (i.e., relive the history of Israel as it were) so as to bear the cursed reproach; yet one who would again reverse the reversal once and for all. In this one, an eschatological exodus; in this one, an eschatological covenant; in this one, an eschatological David; in this one, an eschatological wedding. Dear reader, that one is the Lord Jesus Christ. The reversal of the reversal projected by Hosea is fulfilled in our Savior. For his exodus is the eschatological exodus for the people of God; his (new) covenant is the eschatological covenant for those who were "not my people"; his kingdom is the eschatological kingdom for the sons and daughters of the age to come. Hosea's eschatology finds its accomplishment in Jesus Christ, the eternal and ontological Son of God.
It is therefore clear that the book of Hosea belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. And to all who are in Christ Jesus, Hosea's oracles of grace, mercy and salvation are their possession. For in having him who is the fullness of the book of Hosea, these sons and daughters have the redemptive-historical blessings obtained through his incarnation as the eschatological Israel of God. He incarnates the exodus in order to set his people free. He incarnates the covenant in order to call us his people while we call him our Lord and our God. He incarnates the kingdom in order to rule over us as the eschatological Shepherd-King of the new Israel. He incarnates the Bridegroom/Husband of his Bride/Wife in order to marry us unto himself in faithfulness forevermore. The book of Hosea belongs to the church of Jesus Christ. Her life is hidden with Christ in Hosea's oracles of salvation. In short, Hosea must be interpreted Christocentrically.
This measuring stick must be placed alongside each of the commentaries listed below. Does the writer see Hosea Christocentrically? Landy, Davies and Anderson and Freedman are exceedingly weak in this area. The neo-orthodox Wolff and Mays are at least theologically concerned with the Christian meaning of the text. Wolff, in fact, often ends his comments on a pericope with remarks addressed to the Christian preacher. Hubbard and Stuart are Christocentrically oriented, in large part on account of their conservative, evangelical approach to the text. However, none of the commentators approaches Hosea from a Reformed biblical-theological point of view. The priority of the eschatological from an orthodox Christological point of view remains to be thoroughly explored.
Structure of Hosea
Hosea's Hebrew text is frequently quite intricate, structurally speaking. Chapter one evinces a formula pattern for the names of Hosea's children: the imperative ("call") is followed by the word for "name" (shem), and the personal name (Jezreel, Ruhamah, Lo Ammi) plus a clause of explanation (ki clause), vv. 4, 6, 9. The names of the children constitute a full inclusio bracketing 1:10-2:23 (Jezreel—1:11 with 2:22; Ruhamah—2:1 with 2:23; Ammi—2:1 with 2:23). In other words, the material in 2:2-20 is a reflection of the signification and transformation of the sibling names (compare also Jezreel="scattered" [1:4] with "gathered" [1:11]; Lo-ruhamah = "no mercy" [1:6] with "mercy" [2:1]; Lo-ammi = "not my people" [1:9] with "my people" [2:1]). Redemptive-historical allusions (i.e., exodus [2:15], wilderness sojourn [2:14], entrance into the bountiful land [2:15]) reinforce the eschatological reversal mirrored in the children's names (cf. Jezreel with "I will sow"—2:22, 23; "I will have mercy" with Lo-ruhamah—2:23; Lo-ammi with "my people"—2:23).
Chapter three contains a leitworter ("keyword") which signals the theme of Hosea's redemptive purchase of his wayward bride—the word "love" appears four times in verse one. Each subsequent verse is an elaboration of that love: love acts (v. 2), disciplines (v. 3) waits (v. 4), returns seeking the good (V. 5).
Chapter four uses the rule of threes (4:1-3). There are three negatives announced in verse one. Verse two expands by doubling the rule of threes: swearing, deception, murder, stealing, adultery and violence (which is equivalent to bloodshed). Building on this motif of the negation or repudiation of the decalogue in Israel, Hosea adds the reversal of creation in 4:3 also by the rule of threes (beasts of the field, birds of the sky, fish of the sea). Note that this uncreation is precisely the opposite order of Gen. 1:20, 24, 28. Sinai-covenant reversal is followed by creation reversal. The sin of Israel is an undoing of the redemptive-creative order. If this section is a covenant lawsuit motif (rib pattern), Israel is charged not only with a rejection of Sinai, but with a rejection of the cosmic creation order.
Hosea 5:8-14 announces the Syro-Ephraimite War (734-32 B.C.). In a series of seven quatrains, the conflict between Ephraim and Judah is recounted. Suing to the Great King (= "King Jareb") of Assyria yields no healing, only the further devastation of the northern kingdom (reduction of Israel to vassal status with the hill country around Samaria for territory, cf. 2 Kgs. 15:29) and the reduction of Judah to tribute (cf. 2 Chron. 28:20, 21).
The inclusio device structures the final two chapters of the book. "Guilt" is the key term which envelopes the history of the northern kingdom in chapter 13. Guilt derived from: idolatry (v. 1), the repudiation of the exodus legacy (v. 4); the rejection of the God of the wilderness sojourn (v. 5); rebellious monarchs (vv. 10, 11); stubbornness (v. 13). The inclusive guilt of Israel is enclosed between the limits of the chapter: "Ephraim ... became guilty" (v. 1)/"Samaria will be held guilty" (v. 16). Chapter 14 ends with a lovely portrait of eschatological salvation framed within an inclusio. Hosea 14:5-8 is a projection of a redeemed people enveloped by God himself. The theocentric enfolding of his orphan sons and daughters (cf. 14:3) is framed by a simile in which the divine initiative is declared: "I will be like the dew to Israel," v. 5; "I am like a luxuriant cypress," v. 8. In between the envelope, the telescoping of similes is a virtual reciprocation or response to the Lord's mercy (v. 3; cf. 2:1, 23). This new Israel will be "like the lily," "like the cedars of Lebanon" (v. 5), "like the olive tree" (v. 6), "like the vine," "like the wine of Lebanon" (v. 7). The new Israel takes on loveliness, verdure, fruitfulness similarly reflected in her Lord. Enfolded within the beauty of the Lord, the eschatological people of God are lovely, beautiful, fragrant. It is a paradisaical portrait of eschatological new life in God himself. This "new Eden" is greater and better than barren and devastated Israel of the eighth century B.C. The eschatological Israel of Hosea 14 transcends the Israel whose land once flowed with milk and honey.
The student, pastor, scholar has numerous commentaries on Hosea from which to choose. Conservative evangelical treatments include: David A. Hubbard, Hosea: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, IL:
Intervarsity Press, 1989; ISBN 0-8308-1429-0; $17.99 cloth) and Douglas Stuart, Hosea-Jonah (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987; ISBN 0-8499-0235-5; $25.00 cloth). In the style of the Tyndale Old Testament commentaries, Hubbard provides brief, up-to-date comments on the text with an eye to its New Testament or Christological significance. In my opinion, this is the most helpful commentary on the prophet from an evangelical point of view. Stuart often provides more detail than Hubbard, but he is too quick to emend the Hebrew text (a favorite device of commentators more liberal and critical than he) and fails to penetrate the theological heart of a pericope as consistently as Hubbard. James L. Mays, Hosea: A Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969; ISBN 664-20871-1; $20.00 cloth) and Hans Walter Wolff, Hosea (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974; ISBN 0-8006-6004-8; $29.00 cloth) are products of neo-orthodox biblical theology. While generally too concessive to higher criticism, they nonetheless provide incisive theological insights into the text. Wolff in fact often writes with the Christian preacher in mind; a remark about the "Gospel" usually concludes his section on the "Aim" of a pericope. The most thorough commentary on the book remains Francis I. Andersen and David N. Freedman, Hosea: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., Inc. 1980; ISBN 0-385-00768-X; $26.00 cloth). In nearly 700 pages, the authors labor over every aspect of the text. The rewards are great for the patient reader, but the technical level of the discussion is frequently daunting. Theologically, this volume in the Anchor Bible series is quite weak. The authors are very hesitant to expound the text beyond the horizon of Old Testament Israel.
Two recent commentaries are even more disappointing. G. I. Davies, Hosea (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1992; ISBN 0-551-02445-31; $19.95 paper) is dull—in fact, boring. The most frequent scholar quoted by Davies is G. R. Driver whose promotion of Old Testament form criticism explains the tedium behind and inherent in this commentary. Davies does not seem to be aware that his brand of liberal fundamentalism is moribund and downright uninteresting. Francis Landy has contributed Hosea to the Sheffield Academic Press series (Sheffield, England: ISBN 1-850-75733-X; $19.50 paper.) This is a truly "contemporary" treatment of the Old Testament prophet. Landy discovers issues of feminism, sexual harassment, liberation theology, ethical relativism and other reflections of our (post)modern
politically correct era. Happily, Landy's commentary is equally as trendy and as equally guaranteed to fade away when the next socio-political fad strikes our culture.
Finally, yours truly has lectured through the book of Hosea from a Reformed biblical-theological perspective. These 19 audio tapes are available from New Life Mission Church of La Jolla, P.O. Box 927403, San Diego, California, 92192.
A Redemptive-Historical Consideration of Philemon1
Traditionally, theologians and commentators divide the epistle of Paul to Philemon into four literary units: salutation, thanksgiving, body of the letter and close.2 In their opinion, the letter neatly fits into this rhetorical pattern. Verses 1-3 serve as Paul's salutation and introductory greetings: verses 4-7 serve as Paul's thanksgiving and intercession for Philemon; verses 8-20 serve as Paul's plea for Onesimus and constitutes the main body of the letter; and verses 21-25 serve as Paul's final remarks, greetings and benediction.3
Although this traditional division of Philemon is helpful and correct insofar as it goes, the question remains whether Paul has structured his letter in a more detailed rhetorical fashion in order to help his readers unlock its theological significance. It will be argued in what follows that Paul's rhetori-
1 I would like to express my personal thankfulness and indebtedness to my fellow pastor at Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Sewickley, Pennsylvania, the Rev. Charles G. Dennison, for many of the insights found in this paper.
2 James T. Dennison, Jr., "Paul, Philemon, Onesimus and the New Creation in Christ Jesus." Kerux 6/3 (1991): 40.
3 Two examples among many commentators who propose this structure for Philemon are Peter O'Brien, Colossians, Philemon, vol. 44 Word Biblical Commentary (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1982) 270, and Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon, trans. W. R. Poehlmann and R. J. Karris (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971) 187.
cat structuring of his letter is deliberate and meaningful as it drives the reader to the heart of his theological argument.
Structure of the Letter
In the letter to Philemon, Paul arranges his material in the form of a loose concentric pattern with the related verses forming rings around one central verse. In such a concentric pattern, the central portion of the letter is complemented and clarified by the verses which envelope it. The suggested concentric pattern of the letter is as follows:
vv. 13-16 F
|v. 12 E||v.17 E'|
|vv. 9-11 D||vv. 18-19 D'|
|vv. 7-8 C||vv. 20-21 C'|
|vv. 4-6 B||v. 22 B'|
|vv. 1-3 A||vv. 23-25 A'|
In this concentric structure the paired verses A and A', B and B', C and C', D and D', E and E' reflect each other in structure, content and theme while enveloping the central verse, F.
A (vv. 1-3) and A' (vv. 23-25)
The rhetorical parallel between A and A' in structure and content is hard to miss. The letter begins in A with the mention of five individuals: Paul, Timothy, Philemon, Apphia and Archippus. In parallel fashion, the letter ends in A' with the mention of five individuals: Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke. Added to the list of names in A is the phrase, "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ." Again in parallel fashion, added to the list of names in A' is the phrase, "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ."
B (vv. 4-6) and B' (v. 22)
B establishes the proper mood of the letter and communicates goodwill to the reader while linking its praise to the subject in question. For example, in B, Paul writes, "I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers" (v. 4). This is then linked with B' where Paul repeats the Greek word for "prayers," but now amplifies it from his personal prayer for them to their efficacious prayers on his behalf.
C (vv. 7-8) and C' (vv. 20-21)
In C, Paul writes that the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through Philemon (v. 7). In C', Paul writes that in order for his own heart to be refreshed, Philemon must refresh Onesimus (v. 20).
D (vv. 9-11) and D' (vv. 18-19)
The concentric relationship can again be seen in the relationship between D and D'. In D, the begetting of Onesimus is in view (v. 10). In D', the begetting of Philemon (v. 19) is in view in that Philemon, having been released from the power of sin, is a debtor to Paul for the life which he now has. Also, in D, the imagery Paul portrays is that of himself as the father sending the son (v. 11). In D', Philemon assumes the role of the father as Paul as the son makes payment for the sins of Onesimus (v. 18).
E (v. 12) and E' (v. 17)
The connection between E and E' is in the sending of Onesimus. In E Paul in sending Onesimus is sending his heart. Philemon in E', therefore, is to accept Onesimus as if he were receiving Paul himself.
F (vv. 13-16)
According to the proposed concentric pattern of the letter, F represents the axis around which the whole epistle revolves. Here, the argument of the whole is summed up precisely and formally advanced. Paul, in building to this point, now persuasively puts forth the main thesis of the letter. Paul desires Philemon not to do anything by compulsion, but of his own free will even as Philemon now finds himself enjoying the freedom that comes from being united to Jesus Christ. Such is his freedom in Christ that Philemon can
be the father who can send his heart, the son. Thus, Philemon is put in the opportunity of ministering to Paul through Onesimus. Paul petitions Philemon to express his own freedom in Christ and in imitation of Paul by sending Onesimus to him.
Although a brief attempt has been made to show the connection between the related verses in Philemon, the following is a more detailed theological look at one of the pairs. The pair chosen for closer observation is A (vv. 1-3), the salutation, and A' (vv. 23-25), the benediction.
Theological Examination of A and A'
A (vv. 1-3)
In typical Pauline fashion, the letter begins with a salutation. It includes the mention of five individuals: Paul, Timothy, Philemon, Apphia and Archippus. Theologically, the list has importance because of the way Paul presents himself. Paul, the apostle, has the preeminence among the persons named because of his office, but he deliberately humbles himself and exalts the others.
Paul's humility is apparent immediately after he identifies himself when he writes that he is a prisoner of Christ Jesus. Some have concluded that Paul's mentioning of his being a prisoner in the salutation is a direct reference to his imprisonment in Rome during the writing of this letter. Although he was in jail in Rome at the time of the letter's composition, his usage is more ironic than anything else. To Paul, being in humble submission to Christ Jesus as a prisoner is a positive. Though he is a prisoner to Christ Jesus, he is free with the freedom that only Christ Jesus can give.
Paul, then, gladly confesses that he is a prisoner not of Caesar, but of Christ Jesus. In his semi-eschatological identity, Paul acts according to the impulse of this profound motivation-freedom in Jesus Christ. In a sense, the words that follow the opening phrase, "Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus," will be a lesson in the nature of freedom that is found presently in the Kingdom of God. Paul himself learns this lesson on the road to Damascus upon encounter-
ing the risen Christ when he is transformed from bond-slave of Satan to bond-slave of Christ.
But, there is more here than just the personal transition for Paul from death in Satan to life in Christ—there is also the transition from the old era to the new era in regard to authority. Acts 9:1-9 signals the close of the leadership that pertains to Old Testament Israel (represented by Saul) and the constituting of the new leadership for the church (represented by Paul). In other words, the experience of Paul on the road to Damascus represents a redemptive historical transition not only for Paul personally from bondage to freedom, but also for the church. The old leadership has passed away in light of the coming of the new. Paul, then, serving as a corporate figure, leads as one who is joined to Jesus Christ. Because Paul is now the prisoner of his Lord, his ministry will reflect Christ's ministry.4
Evidence of Paul's deliberate modelling of his ministry after Christ's ministry is seen in his treatment of Timothy, Philemon, Apphia and Archippus in the salutation. For example, concerning Timothy, Paul humbles himself while he exalts Timothy to a seemingly co-equal position in the authorship of this letter. Paul's use of the singular pronoun in verse 4 onward (apart from verse 6) indicates that he alone is the literal author of the letter. The significance, then, of the exaltation of Timothy in the salutation goes beyond the literal authorship of the letter. Timothy here represents the post-apostolic age and is to be the sharer and conveyor of the message of the apostolic ministry represented by Paul.5 In this regard, the post-apostolic age is the "brother" of the apostolic age in its labor of love for the Lord.
Paul also exalts Philemon, calling him "beloved and fellow worker." Paul's adjectival use of "beloved" in regard to Philemon indicates that Paul saw his
4 Concerning the ministry of the apostle, Geerhardus Vos writes, "His entire task, both on its communicative and on its receptive side, can be summed up in his reflecting back the Christ-glory, caught by himself unto others. To behold Christ and to make others behold him is the substance of his ministry." "The More Excellent Ministry," Grace and Glory (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1994) 94.
5 Leonhard Goppelt, Apostolic and Post-Apostolic Times (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980) 198-200.
life enriched because of Philemon in that to not have one's "beloved" meant death. Paul also indicates that he considers Philemon to be his "fellow worker" in the ministry.
At first, this is somewhat surprising since Philemon is not an elder in the church, but rather a layman. The effect of the apostle calling Philemon "beloved and fellow worker" is that the unordained, represented by Philemon, also participate in the apostolic ministry. Thus, the post-apostolic ordained (Timothy) and the unordained (Philemon) are included in Paul's apostolic ministry.
In verse 2, Paul continues to exalt others while bringing to expression the unity that exists between the post-apostolic unordained and ordained in his apostolic ministry. Here Paul praises Apphia as "our sister" and Archippus as "our fellow soldier." Although unordained, Apphia is elevated to the status of her husband Philemon. She is a sister in the house and has an identity independent of her marital relationship.6
Archippus appears as the pastor of the church in the house and as such he is a "fellow soldier" with Paul in the ministry of the word. Evidence of Archippus's status as ordained comes from Colossians 4:17: "and say to Archippus, 'take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it."'
Apparently, the church was meeting at the home of Philemon and Apphia, and Archippus served as their pastor. It is evident that Paul here places primary emphasis on the church as the people of God. Conversely, the apostle has no regard for the church as the building or structure where the people meet.7
6 S. B. C. Winter comments that adelphia, "sister," was a term used among early Christians to designate someone who participated in the Christian Community. "Methodological Observations of a New Interpretation of Paul's Letter to Philemon." Union Seminary Quarterly 39 (1984): 206.
7 Concerning the preeminence of house churches in the New Testament, Murray J. Harris comments, "There is no evidence of special buildings for church activities until the third century A. D. New Testament reference or allusions to house churches and their hosts are: Gaius at Corinth (Rom. 16:23), Aquila and Priscilla at Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:19) and at Rome (Rom. 16:3, 5),
In the salutation, Paul also announces that what he has to say is a royal message from the King he serves.8 Paul, as an apostle, is an emissary or ambassador of the kingdom of God communicating the greetings of the King from his throne to his vassals. The King speaks through his messenger, the apostle, with a greeting that contains a testimony to what his kingship offers and guarantees with absolute surety.
This Pauline salutation, then, communicates the reality of the covenant that exists between God and his people. The life of the King, God himself, is so bound to the realities of his kingdom that if he fails to provide these blessings to his people he forfeits his life.
More particularly, the blessings of the kingdom in this letter are "grace ... and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." The grace that Paul has in view is not saving grace, but the continuing and sustaining grace which is the possession of those who are citizens of the kingdom.
In fact, a strong case can be made that Paul understands the content of this grace of the kingdom to be the benevolence of the sovereign God to his subjects in both disposition and reward. The king who failed to place his wealth at his people's disposal was condemned in ancient society. The King whom Paul serves, however, has made his own possessions the possessions of his people.
Support for such a position can be seen in Psalm 31:19 where the day of God's visitation and the vindication of his people is described as the day in which the full deposit of God's goodness (or literally "grace") shall be granted to those who fear him. In other words, the goodness stored in heaven will be present for those who take refuge in him before the sons of men.
One of the primary blessings, then, that God promises to bestow upon his people in his coming is grace, and Paul is telling his readers here in this letter
Lydia at Philippi (Acts 16:15, 40), Numpha at Laodicea (Col. 4:15), Philemon at Colossae (Philm. 2)," Colossians and Philemon (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1991) 246.
8 In light of the Old Testament passages such as Daniel 4:1, 6:25 and Ezra 4:17, the king and his kingdom and the greeting must be connected. The messenger who bore the letter in the Old Testament would be the apostle of the New Testament.
that such grace is now theirs with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover, the grace of the kingdom of God (i.e., that which God gives for his people's full satisfaction) is God himself.9
The other blessing of the Kingdom that Paul communicates in the salutation is peace. In the Old Testament, the king believed that peace was that which he himself was empowered to preserve and extend for his subjects. Paul has the same sort of peace in mind. It is a peace that belongs to the conditions of the realm, i.e., life in the kingdom. This is a peace that is being extended to believers in their present situation out of the realm of the "not yet."10 The eternal peace of God is a possession presently accessible to the Christian through the work of the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6) who gives to his people blessing and rest without end for he is their peace (Mic. 5:5) in the new day that has arrived with him.11
It is in this light that grace and peace are inseparably connected as kingdom blessings. If God in this last day is extending his grace to us, it follows that there cannot be any anxiety in the kingdom. In this way, heaven is a realm of peace free of frustration and worry.
Furthermore, from the salutation it can be seen that Paul communicates the grace and peace of the kingdom in a priestly manner." He operates in a priestly manner in conforming his will to the divine will. As the king has bound his will to the matters in view in the salutation, the apostle in his ser-
9 According to Vos in his article, "The Kingdom of God" (Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, ed. R. Gaffin [Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980]), "The king is according to oriental conceptions the source of grace and the fountain of blessing for all his subjects" (304). The implication of Vos's insight is that the blessings of the realm of the great King are merely an extension of his person scaled with the literal giving of himself.
10 Vos writes, "...there is neither quietness nor repose for the believer's heart except on the bosom of eternity, There and there alone is shelter from the relentless pursuit of change." "Heavenly-Mindedness," Grace and Glory (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1994) 117-18.
11 Xavier Leon-Dufour, ed., Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Second edition, Revised and Enlarged (NY: Seabury Press, 1973) 413.
12 Two passages that openly illustrate Paul's own recognition of the priestly manner of his ministry are Romans 15:16, "ministering as a priest," and Philippians 2:17, "being poured out as a drink offering."
vice has done the same thing. The supreme desire of the apostle in writing this letter is that such grace and peace would be found in the people he addresses. He will have himself poured out as a drink offering so that the grace and peace of the kingdom might be realized in those addressed—the church.
A' (vv. 23-25)
Paul's closing greetings and benediction parallel and reaffirm the truths declared in his opening greetings and salutation. As mentioned previously, five individuals are identified in both the opening and closing greetings. The divine communication to these people (Paul included) is that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is theirs. This is reminiscent of the Aaronic blessing found in Num. 6:22-27. At the conclusion of that benediction, God places his name upon the people so that the people carry his identity.
The import of such a blessing is that as God is in himself, so are his people. He lacks nothing, so they also lack nothing. They are filled with the fullness of the goodness of God, and being filled they are at peace. The placing of the name of Christ upon New Testament believers acts in a parallel fashion. Believers in having Christ have every good thing. They are at peace, living in absolute confidence that he has risen from the dead and now presides in heaven.
In this regard, the benediction functions with respect to the divine intention. The intention of God is to bestow his goodness or grace upon his people as it is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul as the emissary, then, prays in the benediction that this blessing might come to pass. His deepest desire is that his King's intention might be fulfilled and to this end he labors and gives his heart in love. Paul wishes nothing more than that the wealth of the kingdom belong to those whom he serves. Christ before him has given his life that these blessings might be bestowed upon the people of God, and Paul, as his prisoner, does nothing less, and that freely.
Hopefully, the preceding has illustrated a glimpse of the potential for the exegete in viewing Philemon from such a concentric pattern. Christ stands at the heart of this letter, and in him, all who believe have been made free being transformed from darkness to light by his death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ has set Paul, Philemon, and
Onesimus free, and now that freedom is to come to expression in their lives as they relate to one another in a Christ-like fashion.13
Grace Orthodox Presbyterian
13The pattern established in A and A' is immediately continued in B and B' where Paul states in verse 4, "I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers," and in verse 22 ...... for I hope that through your prayers I shall be given to you," As Jesus Christ ever lives to intercede for the saints at the right hand of the Father in heaven, so Paul prays for Philemon and beseeches Philemon to imitate him as he imitates Christ.
A Paradigm for the Exodus Conflict
Jeong Woo (James) Lee
There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Egypt was the most formidable force with which to be reckoned in the world of Ancient Near East. Nestled in the fertile soil surrounding the Nile, Egypt very early became a great civilization. The pyramids stood as an impressive and imposing testimony to its scientific and architectural accomplishments; its statues great and small showed in their delicacy and refined details the artistic genius of that nation; the ubiquitous hieroglyphics daily reminded not only of its great history of its great kings and their conquests—but also of the spiritual reality of the involvement of their gods, and their benevolent blessings, in its daily life. Its military prowess rode on the wheels of the fierce and fearsome chariots which seemed to know no defeat; and the Nile provided abundantly as the well-suited cradle for the development of Egypt as a great nation and civilization.
If there was no doubt about the magnificence of Egypt, neither was there any doubt that this greatness was owed to the person of Pharaoh. He was the center of the government of Egypt. He was the final word on the administrative, legislative, judicial, military, social, financial and even religious functions of the government and nation. Private property existed only in the form of royal donations; the same was true for every personal liberty, personal
status, or rank.1 Everything hinged on him and he ruled with an absolute sovereignty over the nation.
This absolute sovereignty of Pharaoh over the nation and people of Egypt could not be possible unless an aura of supernaturalism surrounded his person and office. Pharaoh was treated with reverence and awe fitting only for the gods. Indeed, Pharaoh was regarded as the very incarnation of the gods. There were truly a great number of different gods in Egypt. The Egyptians were known in the ancient world not only for the meticulousness with which they carried out their religious worship and ceremonies but also for the great variety of their gods ranging from animals, fish, birds and reptiles to the great powers of nature and to many beings that inhabited the heavens and the earth. Different gods came into prominence at different times and Pharaoh was associated with many of the gods. Most particularly, Pharaoh was considered as the son of Re, the self-created sun god, who supposedly created all things. However, he was endowed with powers and authority of different gods for his sovereign rule over the nation.
Of the various gods with whom Pharaoh was associated, two goddesses were crucial with regard to his power and authority as the great king of Egypt: the Uraeus (or snake/cobra) goddess, Wadjet, and the vulture-goddess, Nekhbet. Wadjet was personified in the cobra and was the titulary goddess or guardian goddess of Lower Egypt. Nekhbet was personified in the vulture and was the titulary deity of Upper Egypt. "Those two goddesses together simply represented all strength, power, and sovereignty in the two lands of ancient Egypt."2 Obviously Pharaoh's authority to rule over all the land of Egypt came from these two goddesses. One of the ancient records tells how the king of Egypt came to possess this sovereign authority: "In the year one of his coronation as king—his majesty saw a dream by night: two serpents, one upon his right, the other upon his left. Then his majesty awoke and found them not. His majesty said: 'Wherefore [has] this [come] to me?' Then they (the two goddesses) answered him, saying: 'Thine is the Southland; take for
1 Henri Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods, p. 51.
2 John D. Currid, "The Egyptian Setting of the 'Serpent'." Biblische Zeitschrift 39/2 (1995):209
thyself (also) the Northland. The two goddesses (Wadjet and Nekhbet) shine upon thy brow, the land is given to thee, in its length and its breadth. [No] other divides it with thee."' (it seems as if the vulture-goddess, Nekhbet sometimes appears as a vulture and sometimes as another serpent.)
The two goddesses were said to shine upon Pharaoh's brow. This belief was physically represented on the front of Pharaoh's crown which sometimes was designed with the faces of a vulture and a cobra and other times with two enraged female cobras. These uraei (cobras/serpents) at the front of Pharaoh's crown became, then, the very emblem of Pharaoh's power and authority. Listen to the words of a newly enthroned Pharaoh to the uraeus-crown:
O Red Crown, O Inu,
O Great One,
O Magician, O Fiery Snake!
Let there be terror of me like the terror of thee.
Let there there be fear of me like the fear of thee.
Let there be awe of me like the awe of thee.
Let me rule, a leader of the living.
Let me be powerful, a leader of spirits3
This symbolism was taken up even by the Scriptures in Ezekiel 29:3:
"Speak and say, 'Thus
says the Lord God,
"Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh, king of Egypt,
The great monster (or serpent: tannim) that lies in the midst of his rivers,
That has said, 'My Nile is mine, and I myself have made it.’"
So the king of Egypt sat high on his throne. He was surrounded by his royal entourage, including the magicians and priests of their gods. These magicians were important to the royal court because their function was to manipulate the powers of nature with their secret arts (Ex. 7:11) for the benefit of Pharaoh. The ultimate proof of their secret powers was in their ability to change their staffs into serpents, the symbol of the goddesses who adorned the crown of Pharaoh.
3 Currid, p. 212.
Now enter Moses and Aaron, the emissaries of Yahweh. They passed through the corridor between the gigantic marble pillars of Pharaoh's palace, inscribed with hieroglyphics of the myths and histories exalting the power and authority of Pharaoh—all designed to induce reverence and awe of the great divine king of Egypt. Pharaoh watched them from his high throne, surrounded by his royal court. On his brow shone his golden crown with two cobras fiercely projecting from it. Two sons of Hebrew slaves in shabby clothes and with rugged appearance walked in. They have no entourage, no royal attire. There was nothing to show forth their credentials and authority. Indeed, one was a slave, another a shepherd. And yet they commanded Pharaoh—the great king of Egypt, the son of Re, endowed with the powers of the great goddesses Wadjet and Nekhbet—"Let the sons of Israel go!"
"Not again! " grumbled Pharaoh in great agitation. "Have they not learned their lessons? Have they not learned that neither the name of Yahweh nor his claim mean anything to me? Have I not proven the utter emptiness of Yahweh's claim by suppressing his people even more merely by the command of my mouth? Don't they recognize that Yahweh has no power over me? That I, Pharaoh, endowed with the strength of Wadjet and Nekhbet, am far more powerful than Yahweh—whoever he may be?" And yet Pharaoh was puzzled. "What makes them come back to me again so foolishly? I will humor them this time .... So, Moses and Aaron, on what authority do you come to me? Show me a sign!"
This request by Pharaoh was met with a most ironic response. Moses ordered his brother to throw down the staff at the feet of Pharaoh, upon whose brow was the golden crown with two snakes projecting from it, and the staff turned into a serpent.
Moses ordered his brother to throw the staff down at the feet of Pharaoh. Both Pharaoh and his servants knew all too well what the throwing down of the staff meant. In their mythical legends, many magicians challenged one another by throwing their magic wands/staffs down, which through their secret arts and sorcery were transformed into other things, as a demonstration of their magical powers. Now, Aaron, nothing but a Hebrew slave, threw his staff down and that staff changed into a writhing, living serpent. What was
believed to belong only to the divine Pharaoh and his most esteemed magicians was performed by this simple Hebrew slave.
And the throwing of the staff was all that was necessary for the staff to turn into a living snake. There was no incantation, no ritual accompanying this supernatural occurrence. Aaron, in obedience to the command of Moses, the servant of the Lord, simply threw the staff down and it turned into a snake immediately, just like that—as if it were a natural thing. And how ironic the next scene was! The Egyptian magicians were called to do the same, as was supposed to be their expertise. And yet, this was done only with a great deal of effort, only after applying their secret arts.
Don't forget to note that the staff of Aaron was turned into a snake, which was the emblem of Pharaoh's power and authority. The moment Aaron's staff was turned into a serpent, the sacred territory of Pharaoh's royal and divine authority (which never had been and was not to be trespassed by anyone) was violated: the cloud of myth that surrounded Pharaoh was completely dispelled. And this staff, which turned into a snake (the emblem of Pharaoh's almighty power), was totally in Aaron's control. It came into life by the simple act of Aaron's tossing. It would later be turned into a staff again by the simple touch of Aaron's hands.
And the staff of Aaron swallowed up (Heb. bela, translated in the LXX as katapino) the staffs of the Egyptian magicians. What a graphic demonstration of the total helplessness of the magical power of Pharaoh's magicians before the mighty power of Yahweh! The snakes which represented the sovereign authority of Pharaoh were helplessly swallowed up by the snake transmogrified from the staff of Aaron, a servant of the Lord.
This confrontation was to be the paradigm for the ten plagues to follow. Indeed, this encounter between Moses and Aaron and Pharaoh does not belong to the ten plagues. It acts as a preliminary introduction, providing the paradigm for the ensuing battle between Yahweh and Pharaoh.
The staff would be used again and again throughout the narrative of the ten plagues. Ultimately, the staff would be used for the division of the Red Sea, which provided a safe passage for the sons of Israel and at the same time proved to be a deadly trap for the armies of Pharaoh.
And the very same word, "swallow", was used, not only for the snakes, but also for the Egyptian army in Exodus 15:12. In the song of victory, Moses and the sons of Israel confessed, "Thou didst stretch out Thy right hand; the earth swallowed (bela) them."
Throughout these confrontations, God was in the business of reclaiming his authority, blasphemously ignored and scorned. He is the supreme Ruler—the sovereign Lord over all creation, including Egypt, and even Pharaoh himself. This he demonstrated by meeting Pharaoh on his own ground. He picked up the very emblem of Pharaoh's authority and power and destroyed him with it. Such was the way God used to demonstrate his complete victory: the very emblem of Pharaoh's power would be turned into an emblem of his destruction—a great reversal.
However, this was merely an introduction to a great demonstration of God's power to be revealed for his people. Later in redemptive history, we would witness another confrontation—a confrontation filled with ironies as well. For there was another king—a king who was greater than Pharaoh. This king surrounded himself with his demonic entourage and sat high in the throne of his palace. Out of his livid crown shot forth the emblem of his power—death, the ultimate enemy of God's people. And into the very palace of Satanic power, the Son of Man, in the appearance of a helpless and suffering Servant, entered. And the Satanic king, with all of his demonic court surrounding him, would watch the entrance of this suffering Servant. And from the brows of Satan himself, death in its hideous serpentine form would watch piercingly with its bloodthirsty beady eyes every movement and step of the Son of Man, its long-awaited Victim.
Death did not have any idea that this seemingly helpless Son of Man was destined to be its final Victim. For God meant this confrontation to be a great eschatological battle, filled with irony. Jesus, very God of very God, the Giver of life, would meet death face to face. And he would surrender himself to death, the great and final enemy of his people. He would surrender himself and let death wrap him around with its lethal coils. And thus he would be lifted up on the cross to die.
Yet, what an irony! The death of the Son of Man was the death of death itself! As the Son of Man bore our sins in his body on the cross and paid the penalty of our sin completely through his death, death had to die. For the wages of sin is death and where sins are completely paid for in death, there can be no death! "And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and he has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Col. 2:13-14)!
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the very proof that death has died. And for the people of God who are united unto Jesus Christ through faith, death is no longer a cruel tyrant. That is why Paul breaks out into a song of victory in his meditation upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ: ... Death is swallowed (katapino) up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:54b-57)! In this song of victory for the defeat of Satan and death, Paul uses the same word katapino, which was used for the defeat of Pharaoh and his magicians. Yes, death is swallowed up in Jesus Christ, as were the serpents of Pharaoh. What a great reversal! What a complete victory! The death of Jesus Christ was used for the death of death!
So complete is God's victory in Jesus Christ that death is not merely removed: in Jesus Christ, death, the pinnacle of despair, has been transformed into the entrance to our eternal glory; the emblem of Satan's power is transformed into an emblem of God's triumphant power and life; the grave has been turned into a place of hope. Not only that, death will be our final witness and testimony to the surpassing greatness of our heavenly inheritance in Jesus Christ. For in death, we are called to give up all things—all of our earthly possessions, all of our beloved ones and even our life itself—for the joy of possessing God! And so should you live each day: your daily life should be a reflection of your final testimony at death. For if death, which is the culmination of our sufferings, is swallowed up in victory, how much more are our sufferings in this life! As Christ embraced our sufferings in his incarnation and earthly life, they too have been transformed in him. How else could the
Apostles exhort believers to rejoice when sufferings and trials come! "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance" (James 1:2-3). "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen him, you love him, and though you do not see him now, but believe in him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory . . ." (1 Peter 1:6-8).
Listen to the testimony of apostle Paul: "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison . . ." (2 Cor. 4:16-17). So, brothers and sisters in the Lord, do not lose heart in your spiritual journey. Rather, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice," for the Lord has overcome the world and death and the victory is yours in Christ Jesus our Lord!
New Life Mission Church
of La Jolla, Presbyterian Church in America
La Jolla, California
Edmund P. Clowney. The Church: Contours of Christian Theology Downer's Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1995, 240pp., paper, $14.99. ISBN 0-8308-1534-1.
The doctrine of the church has indeed fallen upon hard times. It is expected that the world would know little and appreciate even less, the nature and mission of the church. But now within the church itself, confusion and ignorance of the church reign. The world, with all its lack of interest in this topic, still associates the church with God and with a world beyond this one. Nowadays, the church, seeking to prove its relevance to the world, has become a place driven by the concerns of men, at the center of which is a religion of human interest and human need, where worshippers do not come to bow before God, but where God is made to bow before men. The church is big business, religion a commodity and the customer is king. Christianity and Americanism are indistinguishable from one another and churches and pulpits are turned into political action committees and promoters of a civic religion.
Edmund P. Clowney has been studying and writing on the doctrine of the church for a long time. Many are familiar with earlier works that have opened the scriptures to us on this all important doctrine (cf. Living In Christ's Church, Great Commissions Publications, 1986). Clowney's latest work The Church: Contours of Christian Theology, builds on the insights that were offered before and expands upon them to provide a comprehensive survey of the Biblical revelation concerning the church. He also interacts extensively with evangelical, Catholic and liberal theologians, not simply to dismiss them but to assess them and answer them.
For those who are interested in the eschatological perspective of the New Testament, the question of eschatology and the church is of extreme importance. Clowney's approach seeks to be faithful to that perspective. Chapter one introduces us to the church as "The Colony of Heaven" (p. 13). The church is the earthly contingent of the heavenly Kingdom of God. It is temporally on the earth with the mission to worship God (ch. 9), to confess Christ to the nations and gather the lost into Christ's Kingdom (ch. 11), and to reflect honor and glory on our home country and to honor and exalt our Lord and King. God in Christ has made us by grace to be citizens of heaven, therefore we are to live in an appropriate manner (p. 84ff.). This commitment to the transcendent character of the church is carried through to the end of the book, where commenting on the Lord's Supper, he writes: "The unchanging Christ still gives the bread and the cup, sealing his presence until the day when the mission of the church is finished, and with that host from every family and nation we will see him whom we love and he will eat with us again in resurrection glory" (p. 290).
Clowney gives the reader a concise summary of what his book contains (p. 25). He considers the church as it is to be understood in relation to the Trinity; the attributes of the church as they are spelled out at the end of the Apostle's Creed; the marks of the church; the ministry of the church and its relationship to the world; the structure and government of the church; some "much debated topics"; and a final chapter on the sacraments. A "Biblical theological method" (p. 25) is employed to trace these truths down through the Old Testament and into the New. The church progresses from being the chosen people of God, to the possession of the Messiah, to the church indwelt by the Spirit. Clowney follows the journey of God's people from Eden to Canaan to Jerusalem to the cross to the empty tomb and to the heavenly Jerusalem above. "For here we do not have an enduring city, but are looking for the city that is to come" (Heb. 13:14).
Clowney sees the character of the church as that of servant. "The church is called to serve God in three ways: to serve him directly in worship; to serve the saints in nurture; and to serve the world in witness" (p. 117). In worship, the vital concern is not to please men, but rather to glorify God. God exercises sovereign right over the way men approach him in worship. The church's
ministry to the saints is to teach them "to know the Lord", "to do the Lord's will", and "to be like Christ" (chapter 10). "To be like Jesus ... is to follow in the way of the cross, in the life of sacrificial love" (p. 148). The church serves the world by proclaiming the gospel to it. The world's deepest bondage is sin and the church's message declares what God has done, in Christ, to save us from our sins. This proclamation will draw men and women to Christ and it will also harden the proud unbelief of this world. "Salvation comes, not by economic reform, political liberation or ecological stewardship, but by faith in the Savior, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life" (p. 165).
Chapter 12 deals with the church in relation to this world and its culture. Clowney's treatment of this topic is gratifying. Citing Adam and the garden of Eden we are reminded that the formation and development of culture, while righteous and holy tasks in themselves, still was not the goal for Adam. "Perfected fellowship with God is the goal of human history set before us in the Bible; it is a goal to be reached through God's blessing" (p. 173). Cultural transformation cannot be pursued directly without becoming like the world. The church's impact upon the world follows in the wake of the church's higher goal of communion with God in heavenly glory. "Jesus Christ, who comes to bring salvation, also fulfills the heart of the cultural mandate. Paul pointedly declares that Christ not only has dominion over all things, but that he fills all things (Eph. 1:23; 4:10; Gn. 1:28). The Second Adam has completed the calling of the first in both aspects" (p. 175).
Clowney's treatment of the parachurch will concern some readers (pp. 107-8). His treatment of the subject is not without its critique. There are cautions for parachurch organizations. But these ministries that seek to transcend denominational borders are "simply activities of church members" and are able in a greater way, to give expression to the unity of Christ's church (p. 107). But they need denominations also "because (the parachurch) does not provide the ordered structure of office, worship, sacrament and discipline that a denominational church offers" (p. 107). It seems to this reviewer that so much of what is written in this book is the very knowledge, importance and appreciation for the church that the parachurch lacks. Perhaps in an effort to gain an entrance to the parachurch and get a hearing among them, Clowney has wisely chosen to become all things to all men that by all means he might instruct some.
Forty-six pages of notes and indexes at the end make this book a handy workbook for reference and further study. The need for continued study of eschatology and the doctrine of the church is pressing. The Church: Contours of Christian Theology does more than make a beginning. It also moves us further into the Biblical depths.
Reformation Orthodox Presbyterian
Morgantown, West Virginia