Saturday, April 07, 2018

Reading I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible, by Michael Heiser #1

Heiser i dare youThe next book I will be reading through is I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible, by Michael S. Heiser. In this book Heiser looks at some of the more difficult texts in the Bible and encourages us to interpret the Bible in the context of the cultures to whom the original revelation took place. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.

Heiser starts with a section called "Walk Like an Israelite." The point here is that God revealed himself in a way Israel would understand within their cultural background. For example, God does not change their view of how the universe was put together (3 tiered world, with a solid sky, resting on pillars sunk into the deep waters) but reveals himself within that world view. He meets them where they are to get them where he wants them to be. Another example would be that God takes things they already had or were doing (like temples, sacrifices, circumcision) and repurposes them and gives them new meaning. For us to understand what God was doing and teaching in the OT and then to apply it to our situation, we first need to understand what it meant to them in their context. We have to do more than just read the Bible. We need to study it. We are blessed that today we have tremendous resources to do just that and this book is a good introduction to them.  

Although He could have done so, God didn’t change Israel’s culture when dispensing His truth. He didn’t give Israel a new culture that was dramatically distinct from Israel’s neighbors. That choice would have produced something indecipherable to the people of the time. That would have undermined the whole enterprise of communication. What this means is that inspiration operates within a cultural context chosen by God in His sovereign wisdom. 9

The miraculous nature of Isaac’s birth is the key to understanding circumcision as the sign of the covenant...Everyone in Abraham’s household witnessed the miracle of Isaac’s birth. From that point on, every male understood why they had been circumcised: Their entire race—their very existence—began with a miraculous act of God. Every woman was reminded of this when she had sexual relations with her Israelite husband and when her sons were circumcised. Circumcision was a visible, continuous reminder that Israel owed its existence to Yahweh, who created them out of nothing. 18

Moses stands out against the stories of the ancient cultures because he isn’t promoted like their chosen figures, but saved and demoted to poverty so that he can lead others to salvation. He is the new archetype of the chosen hero—one who is promoted only for the benefit of others. Over and against the stories of worldly kingdoms, Moses’ story articulates God’s remarkable work for His kingdom. His values are different from ours, and as is often the case in retrospect, we can be grateful for that. 21

In the next few sections Heiser tackles some other difficult OT passages that are often avoided. These passages should not be ignored because “if it’s weird, it’s important.” (39). Here he looks at Zipporah's courageous circumcision in Exodus 4, the division of the 10 commandments, the sin offerings in Leviticus, the day of atonement sacrifices, the dirty water test for adultery in Numbers 5, and the translation discrepancies in Deuteronomy 32. One could argue with his conclusions but he does a good job of placing each passage in its cultural context and in the context of its immediate surrounding passages and the context of the whole Bible. I think he does an especially good job with the meanings of the sin offerings and Day of Atonement. This section would be very helpful if you are preaching or teaching one of these passages.

We must not neglect to do what God requires. Had Moses been obedient to the covenant ritual of circumcision after leaving Egypt, his life—and his role as God’s servant—would not have been in danger. We also need the courage to do what’s right, even if it seems out of place. Failure in any of these regards will create obstacles to God’s desire to use us for His glory. Exodus 4.21-26, 26

The real goal of the sin offering was ritual purification...These people (and objects) were not unacceptable because they had done evil, but because they were imperfect—they “fell short” of the holy perfection that God’s presence required. The ritual reinforced the idea of the complete otherness of God...The sin offering was about purification for access to God. Leviticus, 32

God, of course, doesn’t need to be protected by a zealous scribe or anyone else. Israel’s doctrine was that Yahweh was unique and above all other divine beings (Pss 29:1; 89:5–7). In a severe judgment, the nations at Babel were disinherited by Yahweh and given over to the administration of other gods (Deut 4:19–20; 32:8), whose actions would be judged by the God of Israel (Psa 82:1, 6). This paved the way for God to create a new people, Israel, in the very next chapter of Genesis. And ironically, it was through Abraham’s seed that the disinherited nations would be reclaimed (Gen 12:1–3). Deuteronomy 32.8-9, 32.43, 46

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