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St. Peter am Hart, Austria

Die Deutsche Bibliothek - CIP-Einheitsaufnahme

"For you have strengthened me" : biblical and theological studies in honor of

Gerhard Pfand! in celebration of his sixty-fifth birthday / edited by Martin

Prbstle, with the assistance of Gerald A. Klingbeil and Martin G. Klingbeil. - St.
Peter am Hart, Austria: Seminar Schloss Bogenhofen, 2007. - XXX, 478 S. : III.;
ISBN 978-3-902637-00-0

Die Deutsche Bibliothek- Bibliographische Information

Die Deutsche Bibliothek verzeichnet diese Publikation in der Deutschen Nationalbibliographie; detaillierte bibliographische Daten sind im Internet ber abrufbar.

2007 by Seminar Schloss Bogenhofen, 4963 St. Peter am Hart, Austria

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Jede Verwertung auerhalb des Urhebrrechtsgesetzes ist ohne Zustimmung des Verlegers
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Cover design: Emesto Looser
Printed in Germany
ISBN 978-3-902637-00-0

Gerhard Pfandl



List of Abbreviations........................................................................................


List of Contributors .......................................................................................... XVIII

A Tribute to Gerhard Pfandl ......................................................................... XIX
Gerhard Pfandl: Bibliography ........................................................................ XXIII

Biblical Studies-Old Testament

Jifi Moskala
The Concept and Notion of the Church in the Pentateuch ...................

Martin Probstle
"Lion of Judah": The Blessing on Judah in Genesis 49:8--12 ................. 23
Jo Ann Davidson
"Deep Breathing" ......................................................................................... 51
Martin G. Klingbeil
"I Will Be Satisfied with Seeing Your Likeness": Image and Imagery in the Hebrew Psalter ...................... .. .... ..... .... .. .................. .. .... .. ...... 59
David Tasker
The People of God in Prophetic Literature .............................................. 75
Richard M. Davidson
The Messianic Hope in Isaiah 7:14 and the Volume of Immanuel
(Isaiah 7-12) ................................................................................................... 85
Paul B. Petersen
God-the Great Giver ................................................................................. 97
Tarsee Li
The Characterization of God in the Aramaic Chapters of Daniel ........ 107
Gerald A. Klingbeil
"Rocking the Mountain": Text, Theology, and Mission in Daniel 2 ... 117
William H. Shea
The Seleucids as Cedars, and the Maccabees, Messiah, and
Herodians as the Shepherds in Zechariah 11 .......................................... 141


Table of Contents

Biblical Studies-New T estarnent

Jon Paulien
New Testament Use of the Old Testament .............................................. 167
Ekkehardt Muller
Jesus and the Covenant in Hebrews ......................................................... 189
George E. Rice
Thematic Structure of Revelation .............................................................. 209
Mathilde Frey
The Theological Concept of the Sabbath in the Book of Revelation .... 223
Johannes Kovar
Die Gebote in Offenbarung 12,17 .............................................................. 241

Theological Studies
Hans Heinz
Jesus Christus und die Heilsverkiindiger in den Weltreligionen ........ 267
Jack]. Blanco
The Essence of Adventism .......................................................................... 275
Angel Manuel Rodriguez
Towards an Adventist Theology of Hope ............................................... 289
Norman R. Gulley
Another Look at the Pre-Advent Judgment ............................................ 305
Alberto R. Timm
The Seventh-day Adventist Doctrine of the Sanctuary (1844-2007):
A Brief Historical Overview ....................................................................... 331
Frank M. Hasel
Was Ellen G. White a Fundamentalist? ..................................................... 347
Kwabena Donkor
Theology of Tithing in Ellen G. White ...................................................... 361

Table of Contents


Practical-Theological Studies
Carol M. Tasker
A Rationale for Spiritual Formation in Theological Education ............ 381

Rex D. Edwards
Self-Discipline and Spirituality .................................................................. 399

Ted N. C. Wilson
An Extraordinary Last-Day Gift from God ............................................. 409

Historical Studies
Heinz Schaidinger
Uber die Christianisierung des Frankenreichs in Spatantike und
Friihmittelalter .............................................................................................. 421

Daniel Heinz
Adventisten im Osmanischen Reich - ein Fallbeispiel fiir islamische Intoleranz .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .................... .... .. .. ....... .. .. .. .. .... .. .. ............ .. .. ......... 453

It goes without saying that the publication of such a Festschrift is the collaborated work of many individuals. Gerald A. Klingbeil and Martin G.

Klingbeil not only are jointly responsible for the birth of the idea for this
Festschrift but also helped delivering it by editing several of the essays. Although mostly e-mail was our means of communication (the final e-mail
"Festschrift Newsletter no. 102" testifies to the rich exchange), our communication rests on a much deeper level that goes back to the time when we
sat together listening to "Rabbi Pfandl." Thank you for your partnership.
A further thank you goes to the copy-editors Marlene King-Adams,
Chantal J. Klingbeil, and "Magister" Hans Matschek. Their attentiveness to
detail is unrivaled.
I would like to express my appreciation to Maureen Pfandl, Gerhard's
wife, who provided me with valuable information on Gerhard's curriculum
vitae, as well as to Evelyn Dberbacher, his sister, and Manfred Pfandl, his
brother, who filled some of the information gaps regarding his earlier years.
I would also like to thank my colleagues at the theological seminary of
Seminar Schloss Bogenhofen-Frank Hasel, Johannes Kovar, Heinz Schaidinger, and Winfried Vogel -who consistently encouraged me along the
way and lent their help for several of the challenging issues involved in this
project. A special thanks goes to Stefan Serena who readily facilitated his
expertise of the computer world. Without him this book would have not
seen the light of publication so soon.
Finally, my gratitude goes to my wife, Marianne, and my two sons, Max
and Jonathan. They always allowed me to work extra hours in the Ferdinand-Pieringer-Bibliothek Bogenhofen-probably because this book is for
the one who always joins us in a good family game when he visits us.

Above all, gratitude needs to be expressed to God, who in Gerhard has

given us a friend, colleague, and teacher. May Gerhard's example continue
to inspire others to serve God.
Seminar Schloss Bogenhofen
Reformation Day 2007
Martin Probstle


Asia Adventist Seminary Studies


Asia Journal of Theology

The Abundant Life Bible Amplifier
Analecta biblica
Ancient Near East
Abingdon New Testament Commentaries
Arbeiten zur neutestamentlichen Theologie und Zeitgeschichte
Alter Orient und Altes Testament
Apollos Old Testament Commentary
Altes Testament
Das Alte Testament Deutsch
Adventist Theological Society Dissertation Series
Andrews University Seminary Doctoral Dissertation Series
Andrews University Seminary Studies
Biblical Archaeologist
Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research
Bulletin for Biblical Research Supplements
Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary. Edited by F. D. Nichol.
7 vols. Rev. ed. Washington, D.C.: Review & Herald, 1976-1980
Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
Bibliotheca ephemeridum theologicarum lovaniensium
Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Edited by K. Elliger and W. Rudolph. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1977
Biblical Interpretation
Brown Judaic Studies

Anchor Bible
Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by D. N. Freedman. 6 vols. New
York: Doubleday, 1992
ACEBTSup Amsterdamse Cahiers voor Exegese van de Bijbel en zijn Tradities Supplement Series
Augsburg Commentaries on the New Testament
Akkadisches Handworterbuch. W. von Soden. 3 vols. Wiesbaden:
Harrassowitz, 1965-1981



Bib Int


List of Abbreviations


Biblischer Kommentar Altes Testament


Bible and Literature Series


Biblische Notizen
Biblical Research Institute Studies
Bibliotheca sacra
Beihefte zur Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft
TI1e Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of
Chicago. Edited by I. J. Gelb et al. Chicago: Oriental Institute,
Cahiers Theologiques
Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. Edited by J. Sasson. 4 vols.
New York: Scribner, 1995
Catholic Biblical Quarterly
Continental Commentary
Culture and History of the Ancient Near East
Commentaire du Nouveau Testament
The Context of Scripture. Edited by W. W. Hallo. 3 vols. Leiden:
Brill, 1997-2003
Currents in Research: Biblical Studies
DARCOM Daniel and Revelation Committee Series
Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments. Edited by R. P. Martin and P. H. Davids. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997
Dictionary of the North-West Semitic Inscriptions. J. Hoftijzer and
K. Jongeling. 2 vols. Leiden: Brill, 1995
Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books. Edited by B. T.
Arnolds and H. G. M. Williamson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2005
Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Edited by T. D. AlexDOTP
ander and D. W. Baker. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2003
The Expositor's Bible Commentary. Edited by F. E. Gaebelein. 12
vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976-1992
Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Edited by H. Baiz and
G. Schneider. Translated by V. Howard and J. W. Thompson. 3
vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990-1993
Europaische Hochschulschriften - Reihe Theologie
Einhei ts-Ubersetzung
Elberfelder Bibel

List of Abbreviations



English Translation

Exp Tim

Evangelical Quarterly
Expository Times


Feminist Companion to the Bible


Forms of the Old Testament Literature


Koehler, L., W. Baumgartner, and J. J. Stamm, The Hebrew and

Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Translated and edited under the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson. 4 vols. Leiden: Brill,


Handbuch zum Neuen Testament


Hebrew Studies


Harvard Semitic Monographs


Herders theologischer Kommentar zum Alten Testament


Irish Biblical Studies


International Critical Commentary


The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. Edited by G. A. Buttrick.

4 vols. Nashville: Abingdon, 1962


Israel Exploration Journal

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Edited by G. W.
Bromiley. 4 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979-1988


Indiana Studies in Biblical Literature


International Theological Commentary


Journal of Asia Adventist Seminary

Journal of the Adventist Theological Society
Journal of Biblical Literature
Jewish Bible Quarterly
Journal of Early Christian Studies
Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages
Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman Periods


Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series


Journal for the Study of the Old Testament


Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series


Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha

Journal of Theological Studies


List of Abbreviations


Kritisch-exegetischer Kommentar i.iber das Neue Testament



King James Version




Mesopotamian Civilizations


Mitteilungen des deutschen archiiologischen Instituts Kairo


New American Commentary


New American Standard Bible


New Century Bible


New Century Bible Commentary


New English Bible


Neue Echter Bibel

Masoretic Text


The New Interpreter's Bible


New International Commentary on the New Testament


New International Commentary on the Old Testament


New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Edited

by C. Brown. 4 Vols. Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1975-1985

NIDOTTE New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis. Edited by W. A VanGemeren. 5 vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997

The New International Greek Testament Commentary


New International Version


The NIV Application Commentary


New Jerusalem Bible


Novum Testamentum


Supplements to Novum Testamentum

New King James Version


New Studies in Biblical Theology


New Testament I Neues Testament


New Testament Commentary


New Testament Studies


Orbis biblicus et orientalis


Orbis biblicus et orientalis. Series archaeological


Oxford Bible Series


Oriental Institute Seminars


Old Testament

List of Abbreviations


Rev Exp







Okumenischer Taschenbuch-Kommentar
Old Testament Library
Oxford Theological Monographs
Oudtestamentische Studien
Quaestiones disputatae
Revue biblique
Restoration Quarterly
Review and Expositor
Revista biblica
Regensburger Neues Testament
Revised Standard Version
Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series
Society of Biblical Literature Monograph Series
Society of Biblical Literature Resources for Biblical Study
Stuttgarter Bibelstudien
Schlachter Bibel
Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature
Scottish Journal of Theology
Serie monografica de estudios bfblicos y teol6gicos de la Universidad Adventista del Plata
Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series
Sacra pagina
Studies in Scripture in Early Judaism and Christianity
Studia theologica
Subsidia Biblica
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Edited by G. Kittel
and G. Friedrich. Translated by G. W. Bromiley. 10 vols. Grand
Rapids:Eerdmans, 1964-1976
Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Edited by G. J. Botterweck, H. Ringgren, and H.-J. Fabry. Translated by J. T. Willis
et al. 15 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974Theologisches Handwi:irterbuch zum A/ten Testament. Edited by E.
Jenni, with assistance from C. Westerman. 2 vols., Stuttgart,

Theologisches Begriffslexikon zum Neuen Testament. Edited by L.
Coenen and K. Haacker. 2 vols. Newly rev. ed. Wuppertal:
Brockhaus; Neukirchen: Neukirchener, 1997-2000


List of Abbreuiations


Theologischer Handkommentar zum Neuen Testament


Tyndale New Testament Commentaries


Trinity Journal
Theologische Rundschau
Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament. Edited by G.
Kittel and G. Friedrich. 10 vols. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 19321979
Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Edited by R. L. Harris
and G. L. Archer, Jr. 2 vols. Chicago: Moody, 1980
Tyndale Bulletin
Theologische Zeitschrift
Ugaritisch-biblische Literatur
United Bible Societies Monograph Series
Vetus Testamentum
Vetus Testamentum Supplements
Word Biblical Commentary
Westminster Theological Journal
Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen Textament
Zeitschrift far die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft
Zurcher Bibelkommentare
Zeitschrift far die neutestamentlichen Wissenschaft und die Kunde
der iilteren Kirche
The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. Edited by M. C.
Tenney. 5 vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975








Jack J. Blanco, Th.D., Professor emeritus of Theology and Ethics, Southern
Adventist University, Collegedale, Tennessee, USA
Jo Ann Davidson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theology, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA
Richard M. Davidson, Ph.D., J. N. Andrews Professor of Old Testament
Interpretation, Chair of the Old Testament Department, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA
Kwabena Donkor, Ph.D., Associate Director of the Biblical Research Institute, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
Rex D. Edwards, D.Min., Associate Vice President/Director of Religious
Studies, Griggs University, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
Mathilde Frey, Ph.D. cand., Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA
Norman R. Gulley, Ph.D., Research Professor in Systematic Theology,
Southern Adventist University, Collegedale, Tennessee, USA
Frank M. Hase!, Ph.D., Professor of Systematic Theology and Biblical Hermeneutics, Dean of the Theological Seminary and Director of the Ellen G.
White Study Center, Seminar Schloss Bogenhofen, St. Peter am Hart, Austria
Daniel Heinz, Ph.D., Director of the European Archives of Seventh-day
Adventist History, Friedensau, Germany
Hans Heinz, Th.D., Professor emeritus of Systematic Theology, Braunau,
Gerald A Klingbeil, D.Litt., Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near
Eastern Studies, Theological Seminary, Adventist International Institute of
Advanced Studies, Silang, Philippines
Martin G. Klingbeil, D.Litt., Vice-President: Academic Administration, Professor of Hebrew and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Helderberg College,
Somerset West, South Africa


Lisi of Contributors

Johannes Kovar, D.E.S.T., Professor of New Testament, Theological Seminary, Seminar Schloss Bogenhofen, St. Peter am Hart, Austria
Tarsee Li, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible, Oakwood College,
Huntsville, Alabama, USA
Jiff Moskala, Th.D., Ph.D., Professor of Old Testament Exegesis and Theology, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University,
Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA
Ekkehardt Miiller, Th.D., D.Min., Associate Director of the Biblical Research
Institute, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring,
Maryland, USA
Jon Paulien, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Religion, Loma Linda University,
Loma Linda, California, USA
Paul B. Petersen, Ph.D., Field Secretary of the South Pacific Division of the
Seventh-day Adventist Church, Wahroonga, Sydney, Australia
Martin Probstle, Ph.D., Professor of Hebrew Bible, Theological Seminary,
Seminar Schloss Bogenhofen, St. Peter am Hart, Austria
George E. Rice, Ph.D., Pastor, Triadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church,
Clarksville, Maryland, USA
Angel Manuel Rodriguez, Th.D., Director of the Biblical Research Institute,
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland,
Heinz Schaidinger, M.T., M.A., MMag., Professor of Church History, Theological Seminary, Seminar Schloss Bogenhofen, St. Peter am Hart, Austria
William H. Shea, M.D., Ph.D., Bristow, Virginia, USA
Carol M. Tasker, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Education, Pacific Adventist
University, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
David Tasker, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Theology, Pacific Adventist
University, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Alberto R. Timm, Ph.D., Rector of the Latin American Adventist Theological Seminary, Spirit of Prophecy Coordinator for the South American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, Brasilia, DF, Brazil
Ted N. C. Wilson, Ph.D., General Vice President of the General Conference
of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA



It is with appreciation that colleagues, friends, and former students con-

tribute their studies to the present Festschrift in honor of Gerhard Pfandl.

Sixty-five years after his birthday on January 7, 1943, is a good occasion to
look back on this vita.
Gerhard Pfandl, born in Zombkowic, Poland, is a native of Austria. His
father, Julius, an electrical engineer, had been transferred to Poland to manage an electrochemical factory, and he moved there with his wife, Johanna.
Gerhard was the fourth son in the family.
When the Russian army advanced to Poland, the mother fled with her
four sons from Poland to Bad Aussee in Austria. They left Zombkowic on
January 16, 1945, and arrived at Bad Aussee on February 19, 1945. That winter was extremely cold. And among other things they had to use cattle
wagons-unheated, of course-in order to flee. During their flight two-year
old Gerhard got an extremely bad double pneumonia which, having no
doctor at hand, was quite dangerous. His mother attributed it to the grace
of God that Gerhard survived the trip so well. Although his health was affected by the pneumonia, he became an enthusiastic soccer player.
Gerhard finished his training as an electrician, but at the age of twentytwo he felt the call of God to the ministry. He began his theological studies
at Newbold College in England where he met his future wife Maureen, a
nurse, who was taking the Bible Instructor course. They got married in
1966, and at the end of 1967 they emigrated with their firstborn son, Steven,
to Australia where Gerhard continued his studies at Avondale College. In
Australia their second son Robert was born. It was a great help that the
Australian government sponsored their flight in a campaign to allure students to the state down-under. Gerhard worked hard during his studies to
keep and support his young family-studying during the day and often
working at night, and vice versa. His perseverance and discipline were
well-tried but these Australian years only worked to enhance both of these
Upon graduation in 1970, Gerhard and his family accepted a call to the
Austrian Union where he started his ministry as an associate church pastor
in Vienna. During his time in Vienna, from 1971 to 1977, he studied Hebrew
at the university in Vienna under Kurt Schubert and attended several Andrews University extension courses in England. In 1977, he spent a quarter


A Tribute to Gerhard Pfandl

at Andrews University and graduated with an M.A. in Religion (Old Testament).

In the same year, he was called to serve as lecturer in the theological
seminary at Bogenhofen near Salzburg in Austria, as well as serving as the
dean of men and pastor for the Adventist church in Bogenhofen. Four years
later, he was asked to return to Andrews University to take up doctoral
studies. He completed the course work for a Ph.D. in Religion (Old Testament) before returning to Bogenhofen in 1983. For the next six years, he
taught classes and served as pastor for the church in Bogenhofen, as well as
serving a four-year-term (1983-1987) as Director of Education for the Austrian Union of Seventh-day Adventist Churches. At the same time he was
writing his dissertation during the summer months at Andrews University.
During these fruitful years at Bogenhofen he instilled the love for the Scriptures in an entire generation of students and at least eight of them completed or are about to complete their doctoral studies.
For health reasons, the family moved to Los Angeles in 1989 where
Gerhard served as church pastor in the Southern Californian Conference
from 1989 to 1992. During this time, he completed his dissertation "The
Latter Days and the Time of the End in the Book of Daniel" under his Doktoruater, the late Gerhard Hase), and graduated with a Ph.D. in 1990 from
Andrews University.
In 1992, he accepted a call to be the Field Secretary for the South Pacific
Division in Sydney, Australia. Among numerous responsibilities he again
enjoyed teaching Bible and theology at Avondale College. He served as
Field Secretary until 1999, when he was asked to become an Associate Director of the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference in Silver
Spring, Maryland, USA. In his present position, he promotes the study and
practice of Adventist theology and lifestyle as understood by the world
church and facilitates doctrinal and theological discussions within the Seventh-day Adventist theological community seeking to enhance the understanding of Scripture and the commitment to biblical truths. He also took
opportunities to serve as lecturer for Adventist Universities and Colleges in
Austria, Korea, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, and
Gerhard is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Adventist Theological Society. His more than 120 articles have been published
in books and in theological and popular journals in German, English, Spanish, and Polish.
Gerhard's life cannot be sketched by his curriculum vitae alone, however.
Maybe he is best described by a series of attributes that make him the person we know him to be.

A Tribute lo Gerhard Pfa11d/


Gerhard Pfandl-admirer of the written word and of the Word written.

Gerhard is a collector of many things-stamps, coins, precious stones-but
hardly one passion can be assessed higher than his love to collect theological books. At first, he did so for his own private library, but for the last several years he took it upon himself to personally enlarge the library at the
Biblical Research Institute, adding several thousand volumes to its collection. Even more than in the quantity, he is interested in the quality of written words. For him, any interpretation of a biblical text or theological
treatise must have depth and be based in every respect on the written Word
and sound hermeneutical principles. His admiration for the Word of God
expresses itself, for example, in his personal study habit of reading each day
a section of the Bible and of the writings of Ellen G. White.
Gerhard Pfandl-a conscientious servant of the Adventist church. Whether as
a pastor of a small or large church, as a dean of men, or as a lecturer at the
college or university level, Gerhard always offers his abilities and talents to
the Adventist church and understands his ministry to be a service to the
church he belongs to.
Gerhard Pfandl-life-long friend of his students. Gerhard goes to a lot of effort to keep in touch with his students, and he considers each one of his
former students as a protege(e). He accompanies them through major decisions, ready to give them a listening ear or thoughtful advice.
Gerhard Pfand/-the one who strengthens. One of Gerhard's best-loved
qualities seems to be his virtually endless source of encouragement. He is
not the type of person who likes to be in the public eye. He is more like a
silent powerhouse, willing to encourage others and to help them accomplish their goals.
It is because of this quality to encourage others that Daniel's words "for
you have strengthened me" (Dan 10:19) seem to fit as a title for the present
Festschrift. Gerhard has supported in some way or another each one of the
contributors. Ultimately, however, his strength comes from the One who
strengthens all of us- and thus Daniel's words become Gerhard's as well.

His special interests are in three major areas: (1) Old Testament, (2)
apocalyptic literature and prophecy, and (3) the writings of Ellen G. White.
Hence, the studies in his honor naturally concentrate on these areas.



The Time of the End in the Book of Daniel (ATSDS 1; Berrien Springs: Adventist
Theological Society, 1992).

Daniel: The Seer of Babylon (Hagerstown: Review & Herald, 2004).

The Gift of Preophecy in Schripture and History (Nampa: Pacific Press, 2008).

Books Edited
Interpreting Scripture: Bible Questions and Answers (Biblical Research Institute
Studies 2; Silver Spring: Biblical Research Institute, forthcoming 2008).

"Opposer of Spirit of Prophecy Now Supporter," Adventist Review 149, no. 31 (3
Aug 1972): 21.
"Studie i.iber Romer 7 + 8: Warum ich glaube, daJS Romer 7 vom bekehrten
Menschen spricht" (A Study on Romans 7 + 8: Why I believe that Romans 7
speaks about the converted man), Aller Diener, I/1973, 21-27.
"Eutychus," MV-]ugendnachrichten, 1/1974, 10--13.
"Die Vollkommenheit der letzten Generation" (The perfection of the last generation), Adventecho 73, no. 15 (Aug. 1, 1974): 4-6.
"Gottes Botschaft fur das 20. Jahrhundert" (God's message for the 20th century),
Zeichen der Zeit (Austria) 30, no. 5 (Sept.-Oct. 1974): 9-12.
"Nachstes Jahr in Jerusalem" (Next year in Jerusalem), Zeichen der Zeit (Austria)
31, no. 3 (May-June 1975): 14-16.
"Das Zeugnis Jesu" (The testimony of Jesus), Adventecho 74, no. 15 (Aug. 1,
1975), 9.
"7 Fakten i.iber Christus" (7 facts about Christ), Zeichen der Zeit (Austria) 32, no.
1 Oan.-Feb. 1976): 10.
"In der Herrlichkeit des Vaters und mit der Posaune Gottes" (In the glory of the
Father and with the trumpet of God), Zeichen der Zeit (Austria) 32, no. 2
(Mar.-Apr. 1976): 22-27.


Publications of Gerhard Pfandl

"Christsein - Fakt oder Fassade?" (Being a Christian-fact or facade?), MVfugendnachrichten, 2/1976, 7-9.
"7 Fakten iiber wahres Christentum" (7 facts about true Christianity), Zeichen
der Zeit (Austria) 33, no. 1 Oan.-Feb. 1977): 14.
"7 Fakten iiber die Bibel" (7 facts about the Bible), Zeichen der Zeit (Austria) 33,
no. 2 (Mar.-Apr. 1977): 16-17.
"Buried College Student Survives," Adventist Review 156, no. 2 (11Jan.1979): 26.
"Woher? Wohin? Wozu?" (Wherefrom? Whereto? Why?), Zeichen der Zeit
(Austria) 35, no. 1 Oan.-Feb. 1979): 4-6.
"Problemstellen im Schrifttum von E. G. White" (Problem passages in the writings of E.G. White), Aller Diener, III-IV/1980, 125-136.
"Studienhilfe fiir Daniel und Offenbarung" (Study helps for Daniel and Revelation), Aller Diener, III-IV/1980, 137-160.
"Die Schatze des Katharinenklosters" (The tresaure of St. Catherine's Monastery), Zeichen der Zeit (Austria) 37, no. 3 (May-June 1981): 10-11.
"Wissenschaft und Glaube" (Science and faith), in Klaus Zachhuber, Evolution

oder Schopfung? Wissenschaftliche Fakten und Argumente, Versuch einer Synthese

(Bern: Europaisches Institut fiir Fernstudium, 1983), 201-225.
"Abraham - Ein Biindel Unvernunft?" (Abraham-a bundle of unreasonanbleness?), Bagi 1, no. 3 (Summer 1983): 12-13.
"Sind wir Sektierer?" (Are we a sect?), Bogi 1, no. 4(Winter1983): 8.
"Das Ghettokind" (The ghetto child) Bagi 2, no. 5(Spring1984): 8.
"Reagan und der Vatikan" (Reagan and the Vatican), Bagi 2, no. 6 (Summer
1984): 12.
"Predigerinnen - Ja oder Nein?" (Women ministers-yes or no?), Bagi 3, no. 9
(Spring 1985): 12, 14.
"Die Andrews-Universitat im Blickfeld (Interview mit Richard Lesher)" (Andrews University in focus [interview with Richard Lesher]), Bagi 3, no. 11
(Autumn 1985): 15-16.
"Zionismus: Ein vielgeschmahtes Wort" (Zionism: a much maligned word),
Bogi 4, no. 16(Winter1986): 12-13.
"Antisemitisums: Das Reizwort des Jahrhunderts" (Anitsemitism: the emotive
word of the century), Bagi 5, no. 17 (Winter 1987): 12-13, 15.
"Vizeprasident der Generalkonferenz auf Besuch in Bogenhofen (Interview
with Robert Kloosterhuis)" (Vice President of the General Confernce visits
Bogenhofen [Interview with Robert Kloosterhuis]), Bagi 6, no. 21 (Spring
1988): 4.
"Die Botschaft von Minneapolis" (The message from Minneapolis), Bagi 6, no.
23 (Autumn 1988): 3-4.

Publications of Gerhard Pfand/


"Das Gesetz in Galater 3" (The law in Galatians 3), Aller Diener, IV/1990, 16-22.
"The Latter Days and the Time of the End in the Book of Daniel [Dissertation
Abstract],'' Andrews University Seminary Studies 29 (1991): 161-162.
"Daniel and His Interpreters," Adventist Perspectives 6, no. 2 (1992): 12-17.
"The Remnant Church and the Spirit of Prophecy," in Symposium on Revelation,
Book 2: Exegetical and General Studies (DARCOM 7; Silver Spring: Biblical Research Institute, 1992), 295-333.
"Watching for the Return," Signs of the Times (Australia) 108, no. 3 (1993): 25-28.
"Prophecy and Current Events," Record 98, no. 25 (3 July 1993): 6-7.
"Multicultural Challenges in the South Pacific Division," Adventist Professional 5,
no. 4 (1993): 18-20.
"Prophet without Loss," Record 98, no. 43 (6 Nov. 1993): 2.
"1844 and Beyond,'' Record 99, no. 6 (19 Feb. 1994): 2.
"Paul's Method of Dealing with Conflict in the Church," Adventist Professional 6,
no. 2 (1994): 26-28.
"Desert Passion Play,'' Signs of the Times (Australia) 109, no. 9 (1994): 45-47.
"The Sanctuary Is Still Central," Record 99, no. 38 (1 Oct. 1994): 6-7.
"How Shall We Use the Writings of Ellen White?" Adventist Professional 7, no. 2
(1995): 13-15.
"Where Was God?" Signs of the Times (Australia) 110, no. 7 (1995): 57-60.
"Pardoned!" Signs of the Times (Australia) 110, no. 9 (1995): 41-43.
'"Unser Mann in Sydney': Von Bogenhofen iiber Kalifornien in den Siidpazifik"
('Our man in Sydney': from Bogenhofen via California to the South Pacific),
Bagi 13, no. 51 (Autumn 1995): 6.
"What Is the Spirit of Prophecy?" Record 100, no. 44 (11Nov.1995): 6-7.
"Revelacion Progresiva" (Progressive revelation), Theologika 11, no. 1 (1996):
"Daniel's 'Time of the End,"' Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 7, no. 1
(Spring 1996): 141-158.
"Interpretations of the Kingdom of God in Daniel 2:44," Andrews University
Seminary Studies 34 (1996): 249-268.
"The Pilot," Record 101, no. 46 (23 Nov. 1996): 2.
"Supportive and Critical Ministries,'' Record 101, no. 48 (7 Dec. 1996): 6-9.
"When Probation Closes," Record 102, no. 2 (18 Jan. 1997): 8-9.
"The Crisis over Scripture," Record 102, no. 16 (26 Apr. 1997): 10.
"The Authority and Interpretation of Scripture," Supplement to Record 102, no.
16 (26 Apr. 1997).


Publications of Gerhard Pfandl

"The Remnant Church," Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 8, nos. 1-2
(Spring-Autumn 1997): 19-27.
"What Is New in the New Theology?" Supplement to Record 102, no. 36 (13
Sept. 1997): 6--10.
"The Year 2000? It's Already A.O. 2002,"Record 102, no. 45 (15 Nov. 1997): 8--9.
"A Prophet of the Lord?" Record 102, no. 46 (22 Nov. 1997): 2.
"Concerns About The Message [sidebar]" Record 103, no. 5 (14 Feb. 1998): 8.
"Talking About the End ofTime-1," Record 103, no. 12 (4 Apr. 1998): 6--7.
"Talking About the End of Time-2," Record 103, no. 14 (18 Apr. 1998): 6--7.
"Is Historicism Dead?" Record 103, no. 32 (22 Aug. 1998): 8.
"Meteor Showers and the Year 1833" Record 103, no. 41 (24 Oct. 1998):8.
"Laying the Foundation," in "Lest We Forget," Record Insert 103, no. 42 (31 Oct.
1998): 9-11.
"Should We Ever Stop Tithing," Adventist Affirm 12, no. 3 (Fall 1998): 40-43.
"Ellen White and Her Critics," Record 103, no. 45 (21Nov.1998): 2.
"Inspiration: What Is It?" Record 103, no. 48 (12 Dec. 1998): 2.
"Unity- But at What Cost?" Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 10, nos. 12 (Spring-Autumn 1999): 184-190.
"Como Elena G. de White us6 las Escrituras" (Ellen White's use of Scripture), in
Entender la Palabra: Hermeneutica adventista para el nuevo siglo (ed. M. Alomia
et al.; Cochabamba: Universidad Adventista de Bolivia, 2000), 49-57.
"Is There Really a Remnant Church?" Perspective Digest 5, no. 2 (2000): 18--25.
"The Doctrine of the Trinity in Scripture" Record 105, no. 27 (15 July 2000): 5-6.
"The Trinity and Adventists," Record 105, no. 28 (22 July 2000): 8--9.
"The Letter(s) of the Law," Perspective Digest 5, no. 4 (2000): 13-15.
"The Rapture: Why It Cannot Occur Before the Second Coming," Ministry 74,
no. 9 (Sept. 2001): 5--7.
"Interpretation von E. G. White" (Interpretation of E. G. White), in Biblische Orientierungshilfe 4 (Nov. 2001): 20-32.
"Independent Ministries," in Pensar la iglesia hoy: Hacia und ecclesiologia adventista. studios teologicos presentados durante el IV Simposio Biblico-Teologico Sudamericano en honor a Raoul Dederen (ed. G. A. Klingbeil, M. G. Klingbeil, and
M. A. Nunez; Libertador San Martin, Argentina: Universidad Adventista del
Plata, 2002), 445--453.
"Invitation to the Wedding," Perspective Digest 7, no. 1 (2002): 54-60.
"Israel and the Church," Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 13, no. 2 (Autumn 2002): 15--29.

Publications of Gerhard Pfandl


"Exegesis Is Digging Deep in the Word," Sabbath School Leadership 6, no. 10 (Oct.
2002): 9.
"General Principles of Interpretation," Sabbath School Leadership 6, no. 11 (Nov.
2002): 9.
"Guidelines for Exegesis," Sabbath School Leadership 6, no. 12 (Dec. 2002): 20.
"The Relevance of Seventh-day Adventist Eschatology for the 21st Century," in
The Cosmic Battle for Planet Earth: Essays in Honor of Norman R. Gulley (ed. R.
du Preez and J. Moskala; Berrien Springs: Old Testament Department, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, 2003), 383406.
"The New Covenant in the Book of Jeremiah," Sabbath School Leadership 7, no. 1
Gan. 2003): 26-27.
"Keep My Covenant," Sabbath School Leadership 7, no. 2 (Feb. 2003): 22-23.
"Ellen G. White and Earth Science," journal of the Adventist Theological Society 14,
no. 1(Spring2003): 176-194.
"The Forgiven, Part 3" Sabbath School Leadership 7, no. 6 Gune 2003): 22-23.
"Information on the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement," Reflections: A
BRI Newsletter 3 Guly 2003): 3-4.
"The Gentiles and God's Law," Sabbath School Leadership 7, no. 10 (Oct. 2003):
"The Time Prophecies in Daniel 12," Reflections: A BRI Newsletter 4 (Oct. 2003):
"The Trinity in Scripture," journal of the Adventist Theological Society 14, no. 2
(Autumn 2003): 80--94.
"The Pre-Advent Judgment: Fact or Fiction? (Part 1)," Ministry 75, no. 12 (Dec.
2003): 20, 22-23.
"Romans 2 and the Salvation of the Heathen," in The Word of God for the People of
God: A Tribute to the Ministry of jack]. Blanco (ed. R. du Preez, P. G. Samaan,
and R. E. M. Clouzet; Collegedale: School of Religion, Southern Adventist
University, 2004), 551-564.
"The Soteriological Implications of the Cities of Refuge," in Inicios, paradigmas y
fundamentos: estudios teol6gicos y exegeticos en el Pentateuco (ed. G. A.
Klingbeil; Serie monografica de estudios biblicos y teol6gicos de la
Universidad Adventista de! Plata 1; Libertador San Martin, Argentina:
Universidad Adventista de! Plata, 2004), 229-242.
"Abraham and Christ," Sabbath School Leadership 8, no. 2 (Feb. 2004): 26-27.
"The Pre-Advent Judgment: Fact or Fiction? (Part 2)," Ministry 76, no. 2 (Feb.
2004): 28-29, 38.
"The Authority of the Ellen G. White Writings," Reflections: A BRI Newsletter 6
(Apr. 2004): 3-4.


Publications of Gerhard Pfandl

"A Virgin Shall Bear a Son," Sabbath School Leadership 8, no. 4 (Apr. 2004): 22-23.
"A New Heaven and a New Earth," Sabbath School Leadership 8, no. 6 Oune
2004): 26-27.
"Ellen White as a Theologian," Reflections: A BR! Newsletter 7 Ouly 2004): 3-5.
"Conflict Resolution in the New Testament," Adventist Affirm 18, no. 2 (Summer
2004): 51-54, 61.
"Ten Big Ones," Adventist Review 181, no. 36 ([2] Sept. 2004): 29.
"The Stone Kingdom," Sabbath School Leadership 8, no. 11 (Oct. 2004): 26-27.
"The Center for Adventist Research," Reflections: A BR! Newsletter 8 (Oct. 2004):
"Did Jesus Have a Beginning?" Perspective Digest 9, no. 4 (2004): 38-51.
"70 Weeks and the Messiah," Sabbath School Leadership 8, no. 12 (Dec. 2004): 2223, 30.
"Ellen White and Hermeneutics," in Understanding Scripture: An Adventist Approach (ed. G. W. Reid; Biblical Research Institute Studies 1; Silver Spring:
Biblical Research Institute, 2005), 309-328.
With Angel M. Rodriguez, "Reading Psalms and the Wisdom Literature," in
Understanding Scripture: An Adventist Approach (ed. G. W. Reid; Biblical Research Institute Studies 1; Silver Spring: Biblical Research Institute, 2005),
"Our Redemption- I," Sabbath School Leadership 9, no. 1 Oan. 2005): 26-27.
"Our Redemption-3," Sabbath School Leadership 9, no. 3 (Mar. 2005): 22-23.
"Bible Conference in Hong Kong," Reflections: A BR! Newsletter 10 (Apr. 2005): 1.
"The Wicked Vinedressers," Sabbath School Leadership 9, no. 5 (May 2005): 22-23.
"In the Beginning God ... ," Ministry 77, no. 6 Oune 2005): 8-11, 13-15.
"God's Special Treasure," Sabbath School Leadership 9, no. 7 Ouly 2005): 26-27.
"Creation and the Adventist Church," Perspective Digest 10, no. 3 (2005): 57-59.
"God Your Father," Sabbath School Leadership 9, no. 8 (Aug. 2005): 22-23.
"A Light to the Nations," Sabbath School Leadership 9, no. 11 (Nov. 2005): 22-23.
"Passing through the Fire," Sabbath School Leadership 10, no. 3 (Mar. 2006): 22-23.
"The Doctrine of the Trinity among Seventh-day Adventists," Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 17, no. 1 (Spring 2006): 160-179.
"Decoding The Da Vinci Code," Perspective Digest 11, no. 2 (2006): .44-49.
"Judgment Favors the Saints," Sabbath School Leadership 10, no. 7 Ouly 2006): 2627.
"A Worldwide Flood?" Sabbath School Leadership 10, no. 11(Nov.2006): 20-21.
"Bible Translations," Adventist Affirm 20, no. 3 (Fall 2006): 44-50.

Publications of Gerhard Pfandl


"Seventh-day Adventists and Christmas," Perspective Digest 11, no. 4 (2006): 5254.

"The Year-Day Principle," Reflections: A BRI Newsletter 18 (Apr. 2007): 1-3.

Book Reviews
J.E. Goldingay, Daniel, Andrews University Seminary Studies 29 (1991): 91-93.
R. Stefanovic, Revelation of Jesus Christ, Reflections: A BRI Newsletter 2 (Apr. 2003):

Ph. C. Bailey, Topical Concordance of the Bible, Reflections: A BRI Newsletter 4 (Oct.
2003): 7-8.

Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine: Annotated Edition [2003],

Reflections: A BRI Newsletter 6 (Apr. 2004): 7-8.
Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine: Annotated Edition [2003],
Ministry 76, no. 8 (Aug. 2004): 30--31.
R. Stefanovic, Revelation of Jesus Christ, Dialogue 17, no. 3 (2005): 31, 34.

L. Brand and D. S. McMahon, The Prophet and Her Critics, Reflections: A BRI
Newsletter 12 (Oct. 2005): 9-10.
W. H. Shea, Daniel, Reflections: A BRI Newsletter 13 (Jan. 2006): 8.
G. M. Valentine, W.W. Prescott, Reflections: A BRI Newsletter 14 (Apr. 2006): 8.
S. Wohlberg, End Time Delusions, Reflections: A BRI Newsletter 15 Ouly 2006): 10.
Z. Szalos-Farkas, The Rise and Development of Seventh-day Adventist Spirituality,
Reflections: A BRI Newsletter 15 Ouly 2006): 10--11.
J. L. Dybdahl, A Strange Place for Grace, Reflections: A BRI Newsletter 16 (Oct.
2006): 10.
R. W. Schwarz, John Harvey Kellogg, Reflections: A BRI Newsletter 19 Ouly 2007):

The Time Prophecies in Daniel 12, Biblical Research Institute Releases 5 (Silver
Springs: Biblical Research Institute, May 2005).

Study Guides
"Study Guide for Jewish Apocalyptic Writings: Daniel" ([Silver Spring]: Griggs
University, 2001).
"Old Testament Exegesis" (Silver Spring: Griggs University, 2005).
"Issues in the Writings of Ellen G. White" (Silver Spring: Griggs University, in
press 2008).


Publications of Gerhard Pfandl

Sabbath School Study Guides (Principal

"Daniel," Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, no. 438 (Oct.-Dec. 2004).
"The Gift of Prophecy in Scripture and History," Adult Sabbath School Bible Study
Guide, no. 455 (forthcoming Jan.-Mar. 2009).




1. Introduction
It may seem like an anachronism to speak about the church in the Pentateuch, because when Bible scholars and theologians treat the topic of ecclesiology,2 they usually elaborate on the NT church. It is argued that the word
"church" does not even occur in the entire OT in our modem translations.
Even though this is true, it does not mean that the concept of the church is
absent there. I am convinced that the discussion about the nature of the
church must start with the "Gospel according to Moses" where the foundational teaching about the church can be found. Ecclesiology is a crucial topic

I dedicate this study (originally presented at the Sixth South American BiblicalTheological Symposium on the theme "Pentateuch-Going Back to the Origins," held
at Peruvian Union University, Lima, Peru, 23 July 2004) to Gerhard Pfandl whose
passion for truth, striving for excellence, and dedication to Christ and his cause have
been the constant motivations of his work and an encouragement for those working
closely with him. I present this study also as a token of deep appreciation for his
diligent and unselfish work for the Adventist Theological Society.
Insightful studies about the doctrine of the church include: Paul Basden and David S.
Dockery, eds., The People of God: Essays on the Believers' Church (Nashville: Broadman,
1991); G. C. Berkouver, Studies in Dogmatics: The Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1976); Donald G. Bloesch, The Church: Sacraments, Worship, Ministry, Mission (Downers
Grove: InterVarsity, 2002); Edmund P. Clowney, The Church: Contours of Christian
Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1995); Joseph E. Coleson, "Covenant Community in the Old Testament," Wesleyan Theological Perspectives 4 (1984): 3--25; Raoul
Dederen, "The Church," in Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology (ed. R. Dederen;
Commentary Reference Series 12; Hagerstown: Review & Herald, 2000), 538--81;
Millard J. Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), 329-57;
Everett Ferguson, The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1996); Wes Howard-Brook, The Church before Christianity (Maryknoll: Orbis,
2001); Veli-Matti Karkkainen, An Introduction to Ecclesiology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2002); John Lawson, Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids:
Zondervan, 1980), 126-54; James Wm. McClendon, Jr., Systematic Theology: Doctrine (2
vols.; Nashville: Abingdon, 1994), 2:327-72; Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An
Introduction (2d ed.; Cambridge: Blackwell, 1997), 461-93; and Robert L. Reymond, A
New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 805976.

Jii'i Moskala

and the Pentateuch is a cornerstone of all biblical teaching including the doctrine of the church. Where there are people of God, there is the church.
The doctrine of the church is a hot potato, and an interpretation of the
biblical teaching related to this matter is strongly contested. To demonstrate, it is sufficient to mention that the so-called first reformation Gohn
Wycliff and John Huss) occurred because of this doctrine. 3 John Huss was
the first one, to my knowledge, who wrote a publication about the church.
He finished his tractate De Ecclesia ("On the Church") in 1413. 4 Huss published his book in Latin in order to be widely read. He proclaimed his disobedience to the pope and accepted only Jesus Christ as the head of the
church, and he wanted the world to know why. The material he presented
was very explosive and cost him his life. 5
The basic ecclesiological questions can be formulated in simple terms:
What is the church, and what is its nature according to the Pentateuch? Is a
definition of the church related to the institution or to the people? Is it a
congregation of believers or an organization which holds people together?
What were the principles that governed the lives of God's people during
the OT period? These questions are not easy to answer, because in fact this
is the crux of the problem. We all have preconceived ideas about the
In this study, I argue that the main principles which governed the life of
God's people in the NT church are rooted in the Pentateuch and thus determined the life of the people of God before Christ. In this way I propose
that in the NT there is nothing radically or substantially new in the teaching
on the church which was not already present in core, type, or anticipation
in the experience of the OT church (God's people of the pre-Christ time period). In this sense there is a basic continuation between the Old and the
New Testament churches, and the Old and the New Covenant people (Rom
2:28-29; 9:6-8; 10:12; Gal 3:7, 26-29; Eph 3:6, 10; 1 Pet 2:9; compare with
Exod 19:5). There was always only one way of salvation; in all times people
were and are saved by the grace of God through faith in the Messiah, Jesus
(Gen 15:6; Hab 2:4; Ps 32:1-2; Acts 4:12; Rom 1:16-17; Gal 2:16; 3:10-14; Eph
Amedeo Molnar made the distinction between the first and second reformation. The
first reformation was more local: Valdenses, John Wycliff, John Huss; the second
reformation was broader in scope: Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldrich Zwingli
(from Molnar's lectures at Comenius Faculty of Protestant Theology in Prague, Czech
Republic, 1974). The first reformation was mainly about ecclesiology and the second
about soteriology.
Mistr Jan Hus, 0 Cirkvi (Prague: Nakladateltvi Ceskoslovenske Akademie Ved, 1965).
The first person who wrote about the church was not Johann of Rafusa in 1433/34 as
stated by Karkkainen, An Introduction to Ecclesiology, 11.
John Huss was burned at the stake in Constance, Germany, on July 6, 1415.

The Concept and Notion of the Church in the Pentateuclz

2:8--10; Titus 3:4-7; Heb 13:8). There is only one God, one Savior, one Intercessor, one faith, one baptism, one hope, one grace, one salvation, and one
church (see, for example, Rom 3:21-31; 12:5; 1 Cor 12:13; Eph 3:6; 4:4-6; Col
3:15; 1Tim2:5).

2. Basic Vocabulary, Data, and Statistics 6

Even though the OT does not use the word "church" like it is used in various modern language translations, the noun EKKAllOia (a dominant word in
the NT for the Christian church)7 is employed about 100 times in the LXX8
and almost always the term '?;;ii? is its Hebrew equivalent. 9
The Greek word employed in the LXX or in the NT for a congregation or
an assembly is EKKAllOia. It is worthwhile noting that in the LXX the word
ouvaywy~ is a synonymous term with much the same meaning as
EKKA'loia. 10 The word ouvaywy~, meaning "gathering," "assembly," "the
whole congregation," "the individual congregation," occurs over 200 times
in the LXX, mostly for il-f+.' (some 130 times) and '?;;ii? (some 35 times). 11 It is
significant that in the LXX the word ouvaywy~ is never used for a building
where people are gathered; not once is meant a synagogue as an edifice!1 2 It



For a more detailed discussion, see Karl L. Schmidt, "i:KKAr]cria," TDNT 3:501-36;
Wolfgang Schrage, "cruvaywy~," TDNT 7:798--841; Jack. P. Lewis, "?o;ii?," TWOT 2:78990.
In NT Greek EKKAr]cria appears 114 times, "90 percent are found in Paul's letters, the
book of Acts, and Revelation. From ten books (Mark, Luke, John, II Timothy, Titus, III Peter, I-II John, Jude) this word is absent" (cf. Paul S. Minear, "Church, Idea of,"
IDB 1:607). The most elaborate teaching about the church one can find in Paul's letters
to Ephesians and Colossians. The word EKKAr]cria occurs, for example, in Matt 16:18;
18:17; Acts 5:11; 7:38; 8:1, 3; 9:31; 11:22, 26; 12:1, 5; 13:1; 18:22; Rom 16:1, 4-5, 16, 23; 1
Cor 1:2; 4:17; 10:32; 12:28; 16:19; Eph 1:22; 3:10, 21; 5:23-32; Col 1:18, 24; 4:15-16; Rev
1:4, 11, 20; 2:1, 7-8, etc. For details, see John R. Kolenberger Ill, Edward W. Goodrick,
and James A Swanson, The Exhaustive Concordance to the Greek New Testament (Grand
Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 297-98; Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1941), 556-57. The word KUplCKOV (meaning "belonging to the LORD") for
the church is used only later in ecclesiastical Greek; it is interesting to know that from
this word is actually derived our English term "church."
Schmidt, TDNT 3:527; Minear, "Church, Idea of," 608.
Schmidt, TDNT 3:527. It is significant that the root ?:;ii? is always used in all Hebrew
equivalents of the Greek term i:KKAr]cria!
Schmidt, TDNT3:528.
Schrage, TDNT 7:802. Only 20 times are other Hebrew words translated as cruvaywy~
besides ?:;ii? and ;q (16 Hebrew words are employed).
Unlike the LXX, the NT uses cruvaywy~ especially in the local sense for the house of
meeting, i.e., the synagogue! See Schrage, TDNT 7:805, 807. Ibid., 830: "In the
overwhelming majority of instances cruvaywy~ in the NT means the Jewish building."

Jiff Moskala

signifies that "the word 'synagogue' was originally used to denote an assembly of people gathered together for a specific purpose." 13
On the other hand, in the NT the term cruvaywy~ means mainly a building, a house of meeting, that is, the Jewish synagogue (for example, Mark
1:21; Luke 4:16; 21:12; Acts 13:14), but sometimes also a Jewish congregation
(Acts 13:43). However, in James 2:2 the word cruvaywy~ describes the Christian assembly or community. 14
The following Hebrew vocabulary is employed for the concept of the
church or for a designation of the gathering of the people of God in the OT:

1. The word 7;;ii?: The noun ?;;ii?, meaning in general a "congregation,"

"assembly," "gathering," or "community," 15 occurs 122 times in the entire
OT; it is used 34 times in the Pentateuch (Genesis: 4 times; Exodus: 2 times;
Leviticus: 5 times; Numbers: 12 times; and Deuteronomy: 11 times). For the
first time this term occurs in Gen 28:3. 16 The verb ?;:ii? is employed 39 times
in the Niphal and in the Hiphil forms in the entire OT and from these occurrences it appears 16 times in the Pentateuch (Exodus: 2 times; Leviticus:
2 times; Numbers: 9 times; and Deuteronomy: 3 times).17 The term ?;;ii?, of
course, does not mean automatically the church, congregation, or assembly
of the people of God. It always depends on the context. The context determines the particular meaning of the term for the description of the assembly whether secular or religious (in the sense of assembling or of those
assembled). 18






G. W. Kirby, "The Church," ZPEB 1:846.

James 2:2 is the only NT usage of the word ouvaywy~ for a Christian community. The
word ouvaywy~ also describes the meeting places of the Christians by the postapostolic Christian fathers (e.g., in Ignatius, Hermas, Justin, etc.). For more details, see
Schrage, TDNT 7:840-41. "In most instances, however, ouvaywy~ is used in the early
Church to denote the Jewish synagogue (the building), and almost without exception
in more or less sharp polemic against it" (ibid, 7:838). The word ouvaywy~ occurs 57
times in the NT as, for example, in Matt 4:23; 10:17; Mark 1:21; Luke 4:15-16; John 6:59;
Acts 6:9; etc. For the details, see Kohlenberger III, Goodrick, and Swanson, The
Exhaustive Concordance to the Greek New Testament, 915-16.
See Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of
the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1951), 874-75; William L. Holladay, ed., A
Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1988), 314-15.
Exodus 32:1; 35:1; Lev 8:3, 4; Num 1:18; 8:9; 10:7; 16:3, 19, 42; 20:2, 8, 10; Deut 4:10;
31:12, 28. For the whole list of all biblical texts, see Abraham Even-Shoshan, ed., A New
Concordance of the Bible Oerusalem: Kiryat Sefer, 1990), 1006.
Ibid. In the Pentateuch the verb ?;:ii? is distributed in the following way: Exod 32:1;
35:1; Lev 8:3, 4; Num 1:18; 8:9; 10:7; 16:3, 19; 17:7; 20:3, 8, 10; Deut 4:10; 31:12, 28.
Minear, "Church, Idea of," 607-8; Coleson, "Covenant Community in the Old Testament," 5-6.

The Concept and Notion of the Church in the Pentateuch

There are no good reasons why ?;;ii? is sometimes translated EKKAl")Oia

and other times ouvaywy~ (but it is interesting that the term ?;;ii? is mostly
translated ouvaywy~ in the Pentateuch). Whereas ?;;ii? could be translated
equally by EKKAl")Oia or ouvaywy~, the word i11-l' was usually rendered
ouvaywy~ except for rare instances (i.e., Num 3:7; 4:34; 17:5; etc.). 19
"While EKKAl")Oia in the LXX is almost always a rendering of ?;;ij?, the
word ?;;ii? is not always translated EKKAl")Oia." 20 In Deuteronomy we find
EKKAl")Oia for ?;;ii? (with an exception for 5:22 where it is ouvaywy~), but
elsewhere in the Pentateuch-in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers-ouvaywy~ is the word for ?;;ii? (though normally it is used for the
word i1")'.\,l). In Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers the word i11:P is more
common than ?;;ij?. It is interesting that the word EKKAl")Oia is not used in
Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers at all! 21
It is highly significant that in Deut 23:2 the phrase ;ip ?;:ip or EKKAl")Oia
Kupiou is mentioned. This provides a significant insight into the discussion
about the nature of the OT church, because thus the main meaning of the
church is a congregation or an assembly in relationship to God and his revealed word. Therefore, this EKKAl")Oia is a community of faith in the LORD.
The LORD and his word give a specific flavor to this assembly of God's people.

2. The word i'l"W= The noun i11:P which has the same meaning as ?;;ii?
("assembly" or "community") occurs 149 times in the OT and of this number
109 times in the Pentateuch, however not once in Genesis or Deuteronomy,
but in Exodus, 15 times, in Leviticus, 12 times, and in Numbers, 82 times. 22
The verb i11lJ does not occur in the Pentateuch. Schrage claims that i11:P is the
priestly term "for the national, legal and cultic community of Israel gathered
around the ;:p;o ?vi-1."23
The expression i11i17 ?;:ip (Num 16:3; 20:4; Deut 23:2; compare with 1 Chr
28:8) is synonymous with the phrase i11i17 mP, (Num 27:17; 31:16; compare
with Josh 22:16). It is remarkable that in Acts 7:38 the wilderness community is described as EKKAl")Oia; however in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers
the word EKKAl")Oia is not used in the LXX, but rather the word ouvaywy~ is
employed. "The synagoge is the wandering desert community." 24 Thus, the
expression ouvaywy~ Kupiou (Num 16:3; 20:4; 27:17; 31:16) is identical with
tKKJ\l")oia Kupiou (Deut 23:2).



Schrage, TDNT7:803--4.
Schmidt, TDNT 3:529.
Ibid.; Schrage, TDNT 7:804.
See for details Even-Shoshan, A New Concordance of the Bible, 834.
Schrage, TDNT, 7:802.
Ibid., 7:804.

jiff Moskala

3. Additional vocabulary employs mainly the following words: CJ~,

i11~' Israel, Jacob, Judah, and Ephraim. 25 I will not engage in this
linguistic study, because it is very broad and quite obvious in meaning.
The above brief linguistic analysis demonstrates that there is no technical word in the OT for the expression "church." However, it is evident how
important it is to study each word in its context, because the meaning of
different words in Hebrew can only be determined in life. It is apparent
from our survey that there is room for the concept of the OT church.particularly in the expressions i11i1; 7;:ip or i11i1;
(and in their Greek equivalents
EKKAl']aia Kupiou or auvaywy~ Kupiou).



3. Pentateuchal Exposition of the Old

T estarnent Church in a Sketch
After the linguistic background, we proceed to the claim that the doctrine of
the church has its roots in the Pentateuch, particularly in the creation accounts (Gen 1-2).

3.1. The Church in the Garden of Eden

God created Adam and Eve in his image, in a total dependency on himself,
and for an intimate fellowship with him. To be made in the image of God
means (among other things) that humans are able to relate to God, enjoy his
presence, and communicate with him.
It is crucial to recognize that God did not call the first couple to a special
relationship with him after they had spent a busy week full of work. The
relationship was not a reward, but rather a prerequisite to all their activities
in life. They were created to have this intimacy with him. In reality, the first
Sabbath meant God in relationship with humans, 26 and was the first full
day they experienced with him and with each other. God first gave himself
to them as a gift, invited them to build a relationship with him, experience
rest in him, and then work during the week.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer eloquently explains: "In the Bible 'rest' really means
more than 'having a rest.' It means [... ] turning our eyes absolutely upon
God being God and toward worshiping him." 27 God is entering into his
rest, and he makes it possible for humans to rest. Walton correctly states,




See Coleson, "Covenant Community in the Old Testament," 8-9. In Modem Hebrew
the term knesiyah is used for the church.
Jifi Moskala, "The Sabbath in the First Creation Account," /A TS 13, no. 1 (2002): 55-66.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A T/1eological Interpretation of Genesis 1-3 (New
York: Macmillan, 1959), 40.

The Concept and Notion of the Church in the Pentateuch

"The divine Sabbath is seen as the cause of the human Sabbath." 28 When we
pause, we participate in divine rest; we rest in him. "God does the work,
human beings enjoy the results." 29 Karl Barth explains it so precisely by
pointing out that God's rest day is man's first full day, that man rests before
he works-man's life therefore begins with the gospel, grace and not the
law, in freedom to celebrate with joy the seventh day and not with an obligation to work.Jo
The Sabbath teaches us to enjoy fellowship and not performance. Relationship is what matters and not achievements. Sabbath is a deep lesson
that we as humans need to be God-oriented and people-oriented beings
and not thing-oriented or work-oriented. Sabbath helps us to start every
week refreshed, to start anew.
"God blessed the seventh day and made it holy" (Gen 2:3). Those who
observe the Sabbath participate in God's holiness, that is, they are strengthened and transformed by his presence in order to bring God's presence into
real life and to perform creative work as well. By living the Sabbath, believers are showing total devotion and respect to the holy creator.JI
The Sabbath thus establishes a relationship of dependency on God and
an attitude of gratitude. This is what worship is all about-maintaining a
relationship with God by responding to his gracious acts. Worship is a response to God for his loving leadership, guidance, and blessings. Sabbath is
thus a very precious gift from God to humans; it is a sign of his grace: He
offers himself to humanity. In other words, Sabbath means God in relationship with people. The Sabbath day was sanctified, made holy, was filled
with God's holiness which means that the Sabbath was filled with God's
presence (see Exod 3:5-God's holiness means his presence). Furthermore,



John H. Walton, Genesis (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 153.

Gregory P. Nelson, A Touch of Heaven: Finding New Meaning in Sabbath Rest (Nampa:
Pacific Press, 1999), 30. Samuel Bacchiocchi, Divine Rest for Human Restlessness (Berrien
Springs: Biblical Perspectives, 1988), 69: "Thus on and through the Sabbath, God
invites us to view our work in the light of His accomplishments."
Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics (transl. G. T. Thomson; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 19361962), III.4:52: "It is only by participation in God's celebrating that he [man] can and
may and shall also celebrate on this seventh day, which is his first day. But this is just
what he is commanded to do. Hence his hiJtory under the command of God really
begins with the Gospel and not with the Law, with an accorded celebration and not a
required task, with a prepared rejoicing and not with care and toil, with a freedom
given to him and not an imposed obligation, with a rest and not with an activity."
Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of the Book of
Genesis (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988), 114-15: "The believer enters into a life of Sabbath
rest from works and embarks on a life of holiness in that rest. [... ] Obedience to his
powerful Word, either the written Word or the living Word, our Savior, will
transform believers into his glorious image."


Jiff Moskala

in this way the day of worship was established. In other words, the basic
elements of the church were built and put together in the Sabbath: God,
people, and their mutual relationship in worship.
In the Garden of Eden, God also provided instructions for life: He gave
his first two commandments in order that humans could be happy and develop all their potential (the root ill!l is used for the first time in Gen 2:16;
from this root the word for commandments is derived). The first two commandments God formulated in a particular way: the first one in a positive
way and the second in a negative manner (the Ten Commandments contain
the same positive and negative features). In a paraphrase, the message was:
"You are free to eat from any tree, but one." God commanded freedom and
created a large space of happiness for humans, and then he gave them limits.
God put the two trees in the middle of the Garden of Eden - the tree of
life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They were actual trees
but also symbols representing realities which pointed beyond them, like the
bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. These two trees were important object
lessons. The tree of life sustained life (Gen 3:22b), and thus on the one hand
was a symbol of God himself who is the only source of life, and on the other
hand pointed out humanity's total dependence on God. The tree of the
knowledge of good and evil embodied our limits and was a constant reminder that we as created beings need to accept restraints and boarders,
because only when we respect these boundaries can we really grow, develop our full potentials, be truly happy, and live meaningful lives.
In 1979 Michael Fishbane published a study in which he demonstrated
that the language employed for the description of the Garden of Eden is
sanctuary language. 32 This recognition of the Garden of Eden as a sanctuary
was followed by Jon Levenson (1985), William J. Dumbrell (1985), Gordon J.
Wenham (1986), Eric Bolger (1993), Richard M. Davidson (2000), and Gregory Beale (2004). 33 Richard Davidson mentions 17 reasons why the language



Michael Fishbane, Text and Texture: Close Readings of Selected Biblical Texts (New York:
Schocken, 1979), 12-13.
Jon D. Levenson, Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible (Minneapolis: Winston,
1985), 142-45; William J. Dumbrell, The End of the Beginning (Homebush, New South
Wales: Lancer, 1985), 35--76; Gordon]. Wenham, "Sanctuary Symbolism in the Garden
of Eden Story," in Proceedings of the World Congress of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, August
4-12, 1985: Division A, The Period of the Bible (Jerusalem: World Union of]ewish Studies,
1986), 19-25; repr. in I Studied Inscriptions from before the Flood (ed. R. S. Hess and D. T.
Tsumura; Sources for Biblical and Theological Study 4; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns,
1994), 399-404; Eric Bolger, "The Compositional Role of the Eden Narrative in the
Pentateuch" (Ph.D. diss., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 1993); Richard M.
Davidson, "Cosmic Metanarrative for the Coming Millennium," /ATS 11, no. 1-2

The Concept and Notion of the Church in the Pentateuch


of Genesis 1-2 points toward the Garden of Eden as the earthly sanctuary
and the counterpart of the heavenly sanctuary. 34 This leads to a very insightful conclusion: the Garden of Eden is a place of worship. 35 One cannot
have a better symbol/place for the establishment of the OT church.
Adam and Eve were assigned a special work in the Garden of Eden (see
Gen 2:15): (1) tilling the garden and (2) taking care of it, keeping it. This second activity means guarding or "maintaining it as a sacred space," 36 because the Hebrew word il;lo/ means also "to guard" or "protect." In the
divine command for protecting the Garden of Eden, there is a hint of God
informing the first couple about the existence of evil and giving them insight into the great controversy theme. Adam and Eve were instructed
about their enemy, and that they needed to be watchful in order to protect
the Garden of Eden from it being damaged by evil, that is, to keep the
Paradise in its original stat~.
When all information from Genesis 1-2 is put together, one cannot escape the conclusion that the first church was established in the Garden of
Eden, where God and people met together in order to maintain a relationship. Adam and Eve received instructions (law) and were encouraged to
serve in order to accomplish a God-given mission. 37 Church is a result, a
response to him who is our creator. In this sense, the church is an invention
of God, not a human achievement. It is his gift to humanity.

3.2. Sin (Genesis 3)

Sin broke the relationship with God and consequently marred all other relationships, corrupted human nature, and put a barrier between the first couple. Because sin alienated humans from God, the meaningful relationship
had to be reestablished. The LORD as their creator took the initiative; he took
the first step. Evil needs to be defeated, but this goes beyond human possi-




(2000): 102-119; Gregory K. Beale, The Temple and the Church's Mission: A Biblical
Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004), 60-80.
Davidson, "Cosmic Metanarrative for the Coming Millennium," 109-11.
There is a significant stream of thoughts on the theme of the sanctuary as the place of
worship, for example, Jer 17:13; Gen 28:10-22; Exod 25:9, 40; r:!leut 26:15; 1 Kgs 8:22--66;
Ezekiel 40-48. See especially, Elias Brasil de Souza, The Heavenly Sanctuary/Temple
Motif in the Hebrrn.i Bible: Function and Relationship to Earthly Counterparts (ATSDS 7;
Berrien Springs: Adventist Theological Society, 2005).
Walton, Genesis, 185. See also ibid., 172-74; Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15 (WBC l;
Waco: Word, 1987), 67, 86.
God calls people to a personal, meaningful relationship with him. God first created
people and put them in a relationship with him and then gave them instructions on
how to stay in this intimate relationship. God did not create an idea, credo, or
institution, but rather established a relationship. He gave the time to be spent together.


Jiff Moskala

bilities; it is not in their power. Only God can do it by his accomplishment.

The promised seed will come and destroy the originator of our fall (Gen
3:15). Only in view of this redemption and victory can humans worship
God. And because of that God has the right to say how to approach him in
worship, how to be saved. The sacrifice (of Jesus Christ) will now be at the
center of the OT hope embodied in the tabernacle services. Walter Kaiser
has excellently demonstrated how the motif of the promised Messiah is
prevalent in the OT.3s

3.3. The Three Sons of Adam and the Quest for

Genuine Worship (Genesis 4)
Worship is a response to God's gracious activities. The important question
is what are the crucial elements in true worship? God teaches people how
to worship him through the biblical story of Cain and Abel. In order to
know the answer to this issue, one needs to ask another question: Why did
God accept the sacrifice of Abel but rejected the worship of Cain? There are
at least five hints in Gen 4:3--9 which give insight into the characteristics of
genuine worship:

1. The kind of sacrifice. Abel's sacrifice was a bloody sacrifice, but Cain offered only vegetation. It reminds the reader of Genesis of the situation after
sin (Gen 3:7, 21) when Adam and Eve made for themselves garments out of
fig leaves (vegetation), but God provided skin garments (a sacrifice of an
animal is anticipated). The first couple could not cover their nakedness (i.e.,
guilt) by their own works; they needed God's solution to their alienation
from God and their sin. Human self-righteousness is put against the righteousness of God which can be received only as a precious gift and needs to
be put on! Thus, true worship must always be theocentric in view of the
coming Messiah, the Savior (the symbolism of blood in animal sacrifice
plays the key role).
2. The nature of sacrifice. Cain brought only something from the products
of the land ("some of the fruits of the soil," v. 3), but Abel offered the best of
the best ("fat portions from some of the firstborn [animals]," v. 4). True
worship must be our best response to God's love, the submission of our
entire life to him, and not only a portion of it. Gratitude for his grace and
goodness leads us to give the best, that is, ourselves to him.
3. Genuine motivations. Verses 4b and Sa underline that.God looked first
upon the persons (Cain and Abel) and then upon their sacrifices. God's in38

See especially the pertinent studies of Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Messiah in the Old
Testament (Studies in Old Testament Biblical Theology; Grand Rapids: Zondervan,
1995); idem, Toward an Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978).

The Concept and Notion of the Church in the Pentateuch


terest is in people and not only in what they are doing! God looks first upon
our hearts in worship. True worship must be done from an unselfish heart,
from true motives. Acceptable worship must always be authentic, sincere,
and honest.
4. Willingness to obey. Cain played with God, he wanted to manipulate
God through his sacrifice. This is indicated by God's statement to Cain: "If
you do what is right, will you not be accepted?" (Gen 4:7a). The pagan
principle in worship can be summarized by the Latin phrase do ut des (I give
in order that you give)! Cain wanted to do things in his way without obedience, to manipulate God, to appease him; but Abel was willing to listen and
follow God's instructions. True worship must be connected with the willingness to obey.
5. Humble attitude. The whole story teaches that we can come to God as
we are but not in any manner-only with a contrite spirit and humble
heart. A right attitude toward God and consequently toward humans is the
key factor in worship.

Cain wanted to dismiss the "cause" of his trouble without repentance,

without changing his offensive attitude toward life. God "favored" Abel
according to Cain's view; and Cain envisioned that he needed to get rid of
Abel in order to again receive God's favor and blessing, so he killed his
brother. He wanted to force God to secure his acceptance. Note well that
the first murder was done in connection with worship. Worship is a matter
of life and death; and in the dramatic story of Cain and Abel, the false and
true systems of worship are introduced, but it also presents a difference
between true and false worshipers. There are two different attitudes toward
God, and the OT church needed to cultivate a wholehearted connection
with him in truth, because it was not enough to perform religious acts,
claim God's presence, and pray, yet not to be changed by his grace.
At the end of ch. 4 in the story of Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve,
true worship was strengthened when Seth had his son Enosh. The Gospel
according to Genesis mentions that "the name of the LORD was proclaimed"
or "called upon" (Gen 4:26b). There is a consensus among scholars that this
text refers to worship. 39 However, the biblical text is ambiguous, because it
can be translated in two different ways. The Hebrew phrase OWf N1i?'? ?JJm Tl;!
i1!i1: can be literally translated in two ways: (1) "In that tim~ [or then] it was
started [i.e., people started] to proclaim the name of the LORD [or to call on
the name of the LORD]." (2) "In that time [or then] he was started [i.e., Seth


Claus Westermann, Genesis 1-11 (CC; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994), 339-41; Victor P.
Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17 (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990),
243-44; Walton, Genesis, 279; Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 115-16.


Jiff Moskala

started] to proclaim the name of the LORD [or to call on the name of the
The first key word in this phrase is ?r:i1;i which is a Hophal imperfect
third person singular from the root ??n. The Hophal stem is a passive
(causative) form. The Hebrew word ?r:i~;i in Hophal means "he [was]
started" or "it [was] started." The second crucial word is Nip? (Qal infinitive
construct of the root Nip) and can be translated as "call," "proclaim," "read,"
"recite," "invoke," or more loosely "preach."
In the first translation one supplies a subject, "people" or "men," and
the result is that "in that time people [men, humans] started to proclaim the
name of the LORD" or they started to "call on the name of the LORD." In the
second possibility, one puts Seth as the subject of the phrase from the previous sentence (Gen 4:26a); 40 and the text reads: "Then Seth began to proclaim the name of the LORD" or "in that time Seth called on the name of the
LORD." The New Jerusalem Bible {NJB) renders this sentence aptly: "lhis
man [Seth] was the first to invoke the name Yahweh." I prefer this second
reading, because it better fits the immediate context with Seth proclaiming
the name of the LORD.
What does it mean practically? In simple terms, one can say that "to call
on the name of the LORD" does not merely mean to use or pronounce his
name in prayer, but to worship God, to acknowledge dependence on him,
to proclaim his character ("name" in the Bible means character), or to be a
witness for him. Seth proclaimed the name of the LORD, and he started this
activity after his son Enosh was born (Gen 4:26a). It was his new lifestyle.
He started to proclaim the name of the LORD in a family worship (teaching
his son how to walk with God), and consequently he became a witness for
God in public (first evangelist?) and taught others how to relate to the
LORD. Seth proclaimed truth in the name of the LORD, and he proclaimed
God's name, that is, he preached about God. is why Young translates:
"Then a beginning was made of preaching in the name of Jehova." 41 It is
interesting that Luther also translates this verse in the sense of preaching:
"Zu der Zeit fing man an, zu predigen von des Herm Namen." 42
Worship became a witnessing tool-first of all in a family setting and
then as a public act of witnessing to those who did not know the true God
of heaven (see later on Abraham and Isaac's practice of building altars and
calling on the name of the Lord; Gen 12:7-8; 13:4,18; 26:25).



Enoch's new experience with the Lord, i.e., his walking with God, was also marked by
the birth of his son Methuselah (Gen 5:22-24).
Robert Young, Young's Literal Translation of the Bible (rev. ed.; Edinburgh: G. A. Young,
Martin Luther, Die Bibel (St. Louis: Concordia, 1912).

The Concept and Notion of the Church in the Pentateuch


3.4. Noah (Genesis 6-9)

An introduction to the biblical flood account explains that even true worshipers of the line of Seth (named here "sons of God") apostatized (Gen 6:15). But God in his mercy gave to the sinful world an additional 120 years of
grace to repent (Gen 6:3) and sent to them the preacher of righteousnessNoah, the new Adam (1 Pet 3:20).
In the flood story, the word "covenant" is explicitly used for the first
time (Gen 6:18). God invites his people into a covenant relationship. 43 A

covenant is a legal form of establishing a relationship between two parties.

Covenant language is another close tie to the church, because the Old or
New Testament church is always in a covenant relationship with its God. In
the NT economy of time, there is no different covenant in contrast to the
OT, but a continuation of the one, eternal covenant of God, the covenant of
grace (Deut 7:9; Heb 13:20).
Peter states that the water of the flood is a symbol/type for baptism (1
Pet 3:21), the important rite of the NT church. Noah's ark can be seen as a
symbol/type for the church. Those who were inside were saved; outside
was only condemnation, destruction, and death related to God's judgment.
In the biblical flood story, the concept of the "remnant" is expressed for
the first time. Only eight people were saved; they were the only ones left
from the antediluvian world which was destroyed (see the key word i~o/
"to be left" or "remain" used in 7:23). Thus, the idea of the faithful remnant
is introduced in this account. It is worthwhile to note that the reformers
have made a distinction between the visible and the invisible church, but
this terminology reminds of the platonic categories of "ideal" and "real."
However, in the Pentateuch, the followers of God always form a visible
community. The church as a gathering of the believers in God cannot be
hidden. However, the Pentateuch made a clear distinction between the true
followers of God (remnant) and the others who somehow relate to Him by
name only but not in a genuine way or not at all. Later on the prophets will
vividly reinforce the concept of the remnant, 44 because as Paul puts it, not


About the covenant, see Gerhard F. Hase!, Covenant in Blood (Mountain View: Pacific
Press, 1982); Skip MacCarty, In Granite or Ingrained? What the Old And New Covenants
Reveal About the Gospel, the Law, and the Sabbath (Berrien Springs: Andre~s University
Press, 2007); Dennis J. McCarthy, Old Testament Covenant: A Suroey of Current Opinions
(Atlanta: John Knox, 1972); 0. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants
(Phillipsburg: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1980); John H. Walton, Covenant: God's
Purpose, God's Plan (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994).
See especially an excellent study by Gerhard F. Hase!, The Remnant: The History and
Theology of the Remnant Idea from Genesis to Isaiah (Berrien Springs: Andrews University
Press, 1974).


fii'i Moskala

all from ethnic Israel belong to the true Israel (Rom 9:6; compare with Rom
2:28--29; 1 Cor 10:32; Gal 3:26--29; 6:16).

3.5. Abraham (Genesis 12, 15, 17)

After God's judgment upon the proud builders of the Tower of Babel (Gen
11:1-9), God started to shape his community of faithful for the third time
from scratch; but this time with Abraham. God called Abraham away from
his cultural roots and led him to a foreign country in order to make him his
instrument of blessing to the whole world. His mission was a breath-taking
task on a worldwide scale. God gave him his sevenfold blessing in order
that he could be a real blessing to others (Gen 12:1-3). Through him "all
peoples on earth will be blessed." The mission of the Christian church is the
same, to be a blessing to the whole world (Matt 5:16; John 15:5, 16; Eph 2:10;
Abraham struggled with his unbelief, and God helped him to grow in a
trust relationship with him. Abraham had to be a genuine witness for him.
In many places where Abraham traveled and lived, he built altars and
called on the name of the LORD (Gen 12:7, 8; 13:4, 18; 22:9-13). In this way
he witnessed about his living and unique God and proclaimed God's existence and love.
God strengthened his relationship with Abraham and his posterity by
establishing a covenant with Abraham in a threefold way (see Genesis ch.
12, then ch.15, and finally ch. 17). The sign of this covenant between God
and Abraham was circumcision, an external expression of their total devotion to God.
Abraham gave his tithe to Melchizedek (Gen 14:18--24), who was a
priest and king in one person. This is the first biblical record of the tithe
practice. The LORD is acknowledged as the creator, which is why everything
belongs to him. God gave to Abraham victory over enemies, and even Melchizedek blessed Abraham; therefore, as an expression of his love and gratitude to God for all he received from him, "Abram gave him a tenth of
everything" (Gen 14:20).
Abraham was also a teacher of his children. He taught them about the
true God; he instructed them about God's ways and directed them to keep
his law in order that they might live in the way of the LORD and do everything according to the will of God (Gen 18:19). The OT church is built
around the family circle, and God's directions for life are very important for
all of them.
Thus, in the story of Abraham's life one can find crucial elements which
are related to the church. Abraham was called by God; he responded to him

The Concept and Notion of the Church in the Pentateuch


in faith; his mission was worldwide; he worshiped God, entered in a covenant relationship with him, taught others about him, and proclaimed his

3.6. Jacob-Israel (Genesis 28; 32:22-32; 35:10)

Jacob, after his many failures, met with God several times. God spoke to
him in a dream (Gen 28:12-15), and Jacob promised to give God a tenth of
everything (Gen 28:22). Later on Jacob struggled with God (Gen 32:30) and
won. His faith grew and as a special blessing, as a result of his faith, he received a new name-Israel (which means "he struggles with God"). Israel
is always there where people struggle for their faith. The name Israel carries
the dynamics of an unfinished process of growing in the LORD. The biblical
text gives a theological interpretation of the new name: "Your name will no
longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with
men and have overcome" (Gen 32:28). Israel is a victor, because God gives
him this victory. Faith always acknowledges God as the source of life, blessing, and victory.
In Jacob's story, the importance of perseverance is stressed as well as
humility and confession of sins. The church of God is a struggling and militant church, but it is under God's special protection, care, and guidance
even though it makes mistakes.

3.7. Moses and Israel (Exodus 3-Deuteronorny 34)

There are many elements in the story of Moses which relate to the idea of
the church. The main issues connected with the concept of the church can
be outlined in the following way:
a. God called Moses in a very dramatic situation to be a leader of his
people (Exodus 3).
b. Israel was established as a special people after the spectacular events
of the exodus45 when God delivered Israel out of slavery to be free to serve
him. On them God manifested his glory and brought them from Egypt to
himself, to a personal relationship (Exod 19:4). Then God made a covenant
with his people at Sinai (Exod 19:5-8 and 24:3-8; compare with 1 Pet 2:9)
and by it was established the actual beginning of the people of Israel as a
covenant community.


The exodus is characterized in the OT as the salvific and redemptive event par
excellence (Exod 6:6; 14:13, 30; 15:13; Deut 7:8; 9:4-6, 26; Pss 77:11-15; 111:9; Isa 43:1; cf.
also Act 7:35).


] ifi Mos/ca/a

c. The ten plagues were not directed against the Egyptians, but the
Egyptian gods (Exod 12:12). It was a manifestation of the LORD's supremacy. It was a very powerful message to all. The people of God needed also
to be free in their minds from the power of the Egyptian gods.
d. The celebration of the Passover (Exodus 12) will be from this time on
an integral part of the religious cycle of God's people. In this celebration,
the symbolism of the blood will play a very significant role. Theologically
speaking, the blood of the lamb was a sign of protection, salvation, and life
(Exod 12:13). A connection between the Passover and the Lord's Supper can
be drawn. 46
e. The Exodus was a demonstration of God's intervening grace for his
people. Their obedience should be motivated by their gratitude to God's
mighty saving acts.
f. The crossing of the Red Sea was a symbol/type for baptism (1 Cor
10:1-2), which is a very crucial institution of the NT church (Mark 16:16;
Matt 28:18--20).
g. Moses and Miriam sing about God's powerful deliverance (Exod 15).
h. God's blessing will be regularly pronounced upon the people of God
(Num 6:22-26).
i. The people of God were instructed by God through the gift of the
Decalogue and additional codes which revealed ethical and moral principles that needed to be an integral part of their lives. The law should not be
taken as a way to heaven or salvation, but should be a response of obedience to God's loving activity. The function of the Decalogue is primarily not
a fence, or a mirror for recognizing our sinfulness, or a signpost to Christ;
but it is especially God's promise of what he will do for and in his people if
they stay in a close relationship with him and allow him to change and lead
them. Thus the law of God becomes God's beatitude.

j. The OT church is a charismatic community, because God gave different gifts and skills to different people in order to perform the work of God
(see, for examples, Exod 19:19-26; 35:30--36:2).
k. The OT church was a well-organized community. On the one hand,
the priesthood of all believers was maintained; but on the other hand, the
church was organized hierarchically (high priest, priests, Levites, elders,
leaders, people).


A close relationship between the Passover and the Lord's Supper can be demonstrated
on several grounds. For an explanation of the relationship between these two crucial
events, see the study of Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 95567; and G. C. Berkouwer, Studies in Dogmatics: The Sacraments (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1969), 188-201.

The Concept and Notion of the Clwrch in the Pentateuch


I. The OT church was a giving community (tithe and offerings in Exod

35:5-29; Num 18:8-29; Deut 14:22-27).

m. The book of Deuteronomy contains three sermons of Moses presented in a covenantal form (with the preamble, historical prologue, stipulations, blessings and curses, witnesses, and special provision), 47 and they
are an excellent example of teaching methods. During the time of the Reformation, the sermon, as a true proclamation of the Word of God, became
the central part of worship. This practice is, of course, maintained and emphasized till today in the Protestant churches.
n. The OT church was a witnessing and serving community (Exod 18:911; Josh 2:8-11).
o. Discipline was practiced. One needs to remember that discipline in
the time of Moses was exercised under the theocratic system; this is why we
cannot apply it today on the scale of one to one, but only in principle. We
live in a different world and need, therefore, to apply cautiously and
prayerfully these principles which were revealed to Moses.
p. The OT church was an eschatological community-the Messiah was
expected, and with him also his kingdom. 48
q. The spiritual life of the OT church was concentrated around the tabernacle, the law of God, and different feasts/festivals during the year (= religious year) when the most important events from the story of redemption
were commemorated. The tabernacle was the object lesson of the plan of
salvation. God's attitude toward sin was revealed in its services, and God's
way for people to be saved. The church needs worship and a calendar, and
in Israel it was incorporated into the yearly circle around the spring and fall
festivals. Faith had to be lived, experienced (tangibly), and not only cohfessed.49




Deuteronomy is a covenant renewal document and can be divided according to the

following outline: (1) the preamble (1:1-5); (2) the historical prologue (1:6-4:43); (3) the
stipulations (4:44-26:19); (4) blessings and curses (chs. 27-30); (5) witnesses (30:19-20);
and (6) the special provision (31:9-13). Leadership succession under the covenant is
described in chs. 31-34.
For the eschatological focus of the Pentateuch, see Gerald A. Klingbeil, "Looking at the
End from the Beginning: Studying Eschatological Concepts in the Pentateuch," /ATS
11, nos. 1-2 (2000): 174--87.
I wish we had such a religious calendar in our church today which would be centered
on God's crucial activities; but instead we celebrate special days like Sabbath School
day, the Spirit of Prophecy day, 13th sabbath, religious liberty day, stewardship
sabbath, etc. All these days and programs are important, but the emphasis is on our
performance; thus activities in our religious year are anthropocentric and not
theocentric! I think our church needs to rethink this practice (for example, Christmas is
celebrated in many places in our church but on the wrong day, of course, because


Jiff Moskala

4. Conclusion
The OT church started as a family unit. It began with the first couple (Adam
and Eve) and continued in the line of families which wanted to build the
right relationship with God and serve others (like Seth, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). The church is a community of believers in one God,
the creator of the heavens and the earth; and its focus was on the people
(not on an individual or a hierarchy) 50 and on establishing a relationship
with God. One family witnessed to another family about the mighty acts of
God (Ps 145:4). The family was the foundation block of the church, and humans need to worship God in order to stay human, humane, and a family!
After the exodus from Egypt, Israel was formed as a nation and a
church at the same time, but was not "equivalent to the nation of Israel per
se." 51 This community of faith worshiped the LORD God who made a covenant with his people (Exod 19:4-6), was gathered together for a holy assembly on sabbaths (Lev 23:3), and came to the tabernacle to learn more
about God, his will, the plan of salvation, and how to follow him. Reymond
rightly states: "The church of God in Old Testament times, rooted initially
and prophetically in the protevangelium (Gen 3:15) and covenantally in
Genesis patriarchs (Rom 11:28), blossomed mainly within the nation of Israel."52
The basic definition of the OT church can be stated in simple terms: the
church constitutes people who are called by God to form a community of
believers in the LORD (Yahweh) and his promised Messiah. 53 These people
of God are called to live in fellowship with him, be his witnesses for truth,
and unselfishly serve others in order that they can also know the true God,
his message, and become his disciples. Worship is an integral part of the




Jesus was not born in Dec. 24/25), but the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, which
is celebrated on the right days, is often hardly mentioned during the Easter time. In
any case, the OT church had its liturgical calendar oriented on salvation events, and
we can learn much from it.
One needs to realize that the church started with the first marriage. It reminds us of
Jesus' statement that where there are two or three gathered in his name, he is in the
midst of that congregation (Matt 18:20). It is interesting to note that Jesus' first miracle
was performed in relationship to a marriage (John 2:1-11).
Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 806. Reymond correctly
explains: "The true covenant community of God was then, as it has ever been, the
remnant wit/1in the external community of the nation (Isa 10:22; Rom 9:27)." Ibid.
Ibid., 806.
Reymond provides an insightful definition of the church: "The church in Scripture is
composed of all the redeemed in every age who are saved by grace through personal
faith in the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ, 'the seed of the woman' (Gen 3:15) and
suffering Messiah (Isa 53:5--10)." Ibid. 805.

The Concept and Notion of the Church i11 the Pentateuch


church but not its goal per se, because the reason for the existence of the
church is in accomplishing its mission for others by serving them. True
worship is in response to God's love and is built on his presence and on a
true respect for his word/law.
The NT church is the basic continuation of the OT church (not a break
with it, its replacement, or supersession). The NT church is the remnant OT
church and its enlargement where the original intent of God is to be maintained and accomplished, where true followers of a living God are gathered
from all nations, tribes, peoples and languages, and where the original mission of service to the whole world is cultivated (Gen 12:2-3; 26:4; 28:14; Isa
42:6-7; Eph 3:6-12).54
The church is not yet triumphant but militant, and it is never called the
kingdom of God in the Bible. Its members are not building the kingdom of
God on earth, but they are expecting the kingdom of God which comes
from above. The OT church is the people of God living in a loving, dependant, and responsible covenant relationship with their creator in order to
worship him, witness about his goodness, and serve others in need. The OT
prophets, as servants of the covenant, called people to the original intent of
the covenant, to renew their right attitude to God, and accomplish its mission Oer 31:31-33; Ezek 36:22-32).
The Protestant Reformation came with a very important definition and
the marks of the true church. For the reformers, the Christian church is
primarily "the gathering of all believers, in which the gospel is purely
preached and the holy sacraments are administered in an accord with the
gospel." 55 To these two marks, later reformers added a third crucial characteristic-the exercise of discipline. Thus, three marks distinguish the true
from the false church, namely, the pure proclamation of the Word of God,
the right administration of the sacraments, and finally the faithful exercise
of church discipline. 56
These three elements-that is, (1) preaching of the Word of God (done
in different 1forms: by words of instruction, by the written law, by celebrating festivals, and by sanctuary services); (2) administration of the sacraments: baptism (in a typological sense: waters of the flood and waters of the
Red Sea; and maybe also the rite of circumcision as a sign for the dedication
of a child to the LORD) and the Lord's Supper together with a cup (relation
to the celebrations of the Passover); and (3) the exercise of discipline (very
large corpus of different law applications)-are all present in the OT church


Jacques Doukhan, Israel and the C/rnrc/1: Two Voices for the Sa111e God (Peabody:
Hendrickson, 2002).
Augsburg Confession 7:1.
See especially, Reymond, A New Syste111atic Theology of the Cliristian Faith, 849-60.


fifi Moskala

in core as described in the Pentateuch. The OT church was governed by the

same principles as it is in the NT. A relationship of love was always the
most essential constituent of the true religion because our God is a God of
love and of relationships (Deut 5:10; 6:4-6; 7:13; 33:3). Thus the unity between Old and New Testament churches is maintained and our own identity strengthened. The OT community of faith was truly a covenant,
worshiping, witnessing, and serving community.


GENESIS 49:8-12

1. Introduction
Blessings can be strange and surprising. 1 It is not such a surprise that near
the end of his days patriarch Jacob pronounces a blessing for each of his
twelve sons. Jacob had learned that patriarchs customarily extended their
testament (Gen 27:18--29; 28:3-4). What is surprising, though, is that Jacob is
resolved to tell what will happen to his sons at "the end of days" (49:1), and
strange is the fact that some of the blessings tum out to be curses. If one
looks at the text with "fresh eyes," the most unexpected tum in Jacob's testament is his blessing on his fourth son, Judah (49:8--12). It is the first that
focuses actually on the future and contains an obscure pronouncement
about "Shiloh," making this passage the most discussed and disputed text
in Gen 49. Although there is such an immense amount of literature on this
passage, I believe that a careful text-oriented analysis will facilitate the interpretation of the "lion of Judah" passage and bring light upon the question whether this passage contains any original messianic overtones.
In the first part of this essay I will briefly discuss the genre, setting, and
structure of the testament of Jacob in Gen 49. In the second part I will study
the structure of the blessing on Judah in Gen 49:8--12, especially its poetic
I vividly remember how Gerhard Pfandl's classes were a blessing to all of his students.
Under his guidance I learned how to closely examine a biblical passage; in his
Pentateuch class I wrote my first exegesis paper ever; and from him I inherited the
love for the Hebrew Bible-especially the book of Daniel (both of us know that this
book ignites our deepest passion)-for the Hebrew language, and for the church.
Many a times during my doctoral studies, which happened years after we met for the
first time, I could discuss textual issues with him-may it be over e-mail, crossing
several hundreds and thousands of miles, or over the lunch table in our small
apartment at Andrews University while he was visiting the campus-and he never
got tired of listening to my (sometimes far-fetched) ideas, always encouraging me to
dig deeper. I am honored to dedicate this essay to my friend and colleague Gerhard;
and since his own dissertation dealt with the expression l'i? n "time of the end" and
or;i:;:i n'lt)t:t:;i "in the end of days" (Gerhard Pfandl, The Time of tlie End in tlie Book of
Daniel [ATSDS l; Berrien Springs: Adventist Theological Society, 1992]), this essay
takes a closer look at one of the passages in the Pentateuch that deal with the n.,qt:t:;i
or:i:;:i. May Gerhard's days to come be even more blessed than his days past.


Martin Priilistle

arrangement. ln the third part a text-oriented analysis 2 will examine the

different words and phrases of the blessing on Judah, and will observe its
relationship to other passages in the Hebrew Bible. Finally, I will outline the
major theological themes present in the passage.

2. The Testament of Jacob in Genesis 49:2-27

2.1. Genre
The spectrum of literary genres attributed to Gen 49:2-27 ranges from
"blessing," 3 "tribal sayings" (Stammesspriiche) 4 to "testament" 5 and "farewell (speech)." 6 Although it is explicitly stated that Jacob "blessed them,
every one with the blessing appropriate to him" (49:28), some of the individual pronouncements are close to being real curses.7 The term "testament" is perhaps the best option with which to denote these sayings of
Jacob. Of course, the saying on Judah in vv. 8-12 can undoubtedly be called
a "blessing."
The testament of Jacob is one of the major poetic texts of the Pentateuch;
others are Exod 15:1-17; Num 23:7-10, 18-24; 24:3-9, 15-24; and Deut 32-33.
In short, by "text-oriented" I refer to a study of the linguistic and literary features of an
existent text (e.g., the Masoretic Text) as well as its textual relations (including intertextuality). For an overview of the vast field of text-oriented approaches and their
major contributions to exegesis see Martin Priibstle, "Truth and Terror: A TextOriented Analysis of Daniel 8:9-14," (Ph.D. diss., Andrews Universtiy, 2006), 8-30.
Helmuth Pehlke, "An Exegetical and Theological Study of Genesis 49:1-28" (Ph.D.
diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1985).
Hans-Joachim Kittel, "Die Stammesspri.iche Israels: Genesis 49 und Deuteronomium
33 traditionsgeschichtlich untersucht" (Ph.D. diss., Kirchliche Hochschule Berlin,
1959), 10~; Hans-Ji.irgen Zobel, Sta111111essprucl1 und Gescl1ichte: die Angaben der
Sta111111esspriicl1e van Gen 43, Din 33 und ]de 5 iiber die politischen zmd kultiscl1en Zustiinde
im damaligen "Israel" (BZAW 95; Berlin: Tiipelmann, 1965); Antonius H. Gunneweg,
"Uber den Sitz im Leben der sog. Stammesspri.iche (Gen 49, Dtn 33, Jdc 5)," ZAW 76
(1964): 245-46; Claus Westermann, Genesis: 3. Tei/band, Genesis 37-50 (BKAT 1/3;
Neukirchen: Neukirchener, 1982), 250-52; Horst Seebass, "Die Stammespri.iche Gen 49
3-27," ZAW 96 (1984): 333-50; George W. Coats, Genesis with an Introduction to Narrative
Literature (FOTL 1; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 310. The use of the term "tribal
sayings" often goes hand in hand with a certain understanding of the origin of Gen 49
according to which the individual sayings circulated independently before they were
collected and put together at some time in the history of Israel.
See, e.g., Cyrus H. Gordon, "Biblical Customs and the Nuzu Tablets," BA 3, no. 1
(February 1940): 8; E. A. Speiser, Genesis (AB l; Garden City: Doubleday, 1964), 370;
Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 16-50 (WBC 2; Dallas: Word, 1994), 468.
Benno Jacob, Das Buch Genesis (Berlin: Schocken, 1934), 890.
In fact, the root i,:i. appears only and repeatedly in the blessing on Joseph in the form
of n:i-9 (five times in vv. 25-26).

"Lion of Judah": The Blessing on Judah i11 Ge11esis 49:8-12


The suggestion by John Sailhamer that the poetic insets of the Pentateuchal
narrative are compositional devices functioning as seams in the text may be
seen by some as controversial, but there is no question that Gen 49 closes
the patriarchal narratives, along with the epilogue of Gen 50. 8 Interestingly,
the phrase C'r,i:;:i r1'!1'.)~.9 "in the end of days" connects three of the main poetic segments of the Pentateuch (Gen 49:1; Num 24:14; Deut 31:29), which
furthermore are linked by the fact that a central figure Oacob, Balaam,
Moses) calls an audience to assemble (imperatives: three different forms)
and declares (cohortative: three different forms) what will happen in future
times, blessing the people of Israel. 9
The poetic style in which Jacob's testament is composed marks it as one
of the oldest sections in the Hebrew Bible. Poetic features include the abundant use of parallelisms and figurative language, the archaic enclitic personal pronoun -oh (i1. -), which was later superseded by -8 (i-) in v. 11, 10 as
well as a limited use of the definite article (Gen 49:8-12 contains only three
definite articles, all occurring in v. 11).

2.2. Setting
The place and situation of Jacob's sayings in Gen 49 are obvious. 11 They are



John H. Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary

(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 35-37. He suggests a narrative-poetry-epilogue
scheme for Gen 1-2, Gen 3, Gen 4, and for the larger text blocs in Gen 37-48 and Gen
1-50, as well as for the Exodus narratives (concluded by the poetic section in Exod 15),
the wilderness narratives (concluded by the poetic section in Num 23-24), and the
entire patriarchal narratives (concluded by the poetic section in Deut 32-33 and_ the
epilogue in Deut 34).
Ibid., 36. For the different terminology cf. Gen 49:1; Num 24:14; and Deut 31:28-29.
The third masculine singular suffix -0/1 appears also on the Mesha stele, and is
regarded as 9th-6th century B.C. spelling practice; cf. Frank Moore Cross and David
Noel Freedman, Studies in Ancient Yahwistic Poetry (SBLDS 21; Missoula: Scholars
Press, 1975), 83. The date of origin of the poem in Gen 49 may be further pushed back
if several centuries are allowed for oral transmission, which regarding the nature of
poetry is expected to be more accurate. In 49:8-12 the old ending -oh appears two
times: i1'1']] (v. Ila) and ;itno (v. lld). For the latter, Samaritan manuscripts from the
4th century B.C. read 1mo:i "his clothing" adding a kaf and having the ending -6 instead
of the Masoretic -oh. But as the former shows no different reading in other versions the
latter is best retained as the MT reads it. Regarding the "oldness" of -oh the critical
voice of James Barr should be noticed who criticizes the view that the ending -oh is
evidence of very ancient origin. Instead, he argues, it shows only that the poem is old,
and that it escaped the later redactors from revision to -6. James Barr, The Variable
Spellings of the Hebrew Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 207-8.
Nevertheless, it is evident that -oh is older than -6.
For an overview of the discussion on Gen 49 regarding its unity or disunity, its date of
origin and Sitz i111 Le/Jen see Seebass, "Stammespriiche," 333-50; Joel 0. Heck, "A


Martin Priibstle

mentioned at the end of the patriarchic narratives of Gen 12-50. Before his
death, Jacob "blessed" his sons. The death of Jacob (49:2&-33), his burial in
Palestine (50:1-14) and Joseph's death (50:15-26) close the story of the two
pre-eminent characters of Gen 27-48. The testament of Jacob, therefore,
serves as transition, as link to the following books, 12 and is a prophetic-like
view of the future life of the tribes. Jacob's stated intention was to tell his
sons what shall happen to them in future days, or;i;;:i n'!r:)l'.t:;i (49:1). The expression may refer to the individual history of the twelve sons, to the history of the tribes, and may have eschatological overtones referring to the
messianic age, so that Pfandl infers that Jacob, under prophetic inspiration,
describes the future of his sons and their descendants "span[ning] the
whole period from the conquest to the appearance of the Messiah." 13 At the
same time, the testament of Jacob in its particular place and time encourages (most of) his sons and their families to look confidently ahead to the
future, knowing well that the exile in Egypt will not be their final destination. This will be the promised land, which is still awaiting them. In that
sense the testament of Jacob is a resumption and continuation of the divine
promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

2.3. Strncture
The testament of Jacob is easily divided into twelve parts delimited by mentioning the respective addressee, which starts a new pronouncement:
Ruben (v. 3), Simeon and Levi (v. 5), Judah (v. 8), Zebulun (v. 13), Yissaschar (v. 14), Dan (v. 16), Gad (v. 19), Asher (v. 20), Naphtali (v. 21), Joseph
(v. 22), and Benjamin (v. 27).
Comparing Gen 49 with the account of the birth of the sons in Gen
29:31-30:24; 35:18, one can detect that the order of the different pronouncements in Gen 49 depends on the birth and status of the sons. 14 The first six
are the sons of Leah (the first four in order of birth), the last two are the sons
of Rachel (in order of birth), and in between the sons of the maidservants



History of Interpretation of Genesis 49 and Deuteronomy 33," BSac 147 (1990): 16-31;
R. De Hoop, Genesis 49 in Its Literary and Historical Context (OtSt 39; Leiden: Brill, 1999);
Jean-Daniel Macchi, Israel et ses tribus selon Genese 49 (OBO 171; Fribourg:
Universitatsverlag; Gi:ittingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999), Kent Sparks, "Genesis
49 and the Tribal Tradition in Ancient Israel," ZAW 115 (2003): 327-47.
In Exod 1:1-4 the names of Jacob's twelve sons are repeated at the start of the Exodus
narrative, and thus the history of all twelve tribes, the people of Israel is continued.
Pfandl, The Time of the End, 141-44.
The usual order of the patriarchal blessing is simply the order of age. The reversed
order in Gen 27 (because of deception) and 48:15--20 (intentional) underlines that the
customary order of blessing was the order of birth (cf. 48:18).


"Lion ofludah": The Blessing on Judah in Genesis 49:8-12

are mentioned (from Leah's maidservant Zilpah in order of birth, surrounded by Rachel's maidservant Bilhah in order of birth). 15 The order may
thus form a chiastic arrangement: (a) Leah, (b) Bilhah, (c) Zilpah, (c') Zilpah,
(b') Bilhah, (a') Rachel. 16 The following chart illustrates the order in Gen 49:
Order of Blessing
in Gen 49

Order of Birth
(Gen 29-30; 35:18)

Issa char










Bilhah (Ra<hel)

} Zilpah (Lea)

Bilhah (Rachel)
} Rachel

3. Blessing on Judah: General Notes

The blessing on Judah is found in Gen 49:8--12. In the following, the text of
the blessing is reproduced: the left column offers the MT of Gen 49:8--12
according to Codex B 19 A divided into clauses, the middle column lists the
line reference with verse numbers, 17 and the right column provides a working translation, which, as far as possible, attempts to reproduce the Hebrew
word order.




For a discussion on the order and the following chart see Michael O'Connor, Hebrew
Verse Structure (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1980), 426-27.
Cf. Nahum M. Sama, Genesis: The Traditional Hebrew Text with New JPS Translation [The
JPS Torah Commentary; Philadelphia: JPS, 1989), 331).
One should note that the line numbering offered here is different from a clause
numbering insofar as line 9c contains two verbal forms and thus two clauses. A verbal
ellipsis occurs in vv. lOb, llb, and lld, which can be filled in by the verb in the
previous line.


Martin Priibstle
Masoretic Text



;ir;il'.I ;i1m'


Judah, you [are the one]

Your brothers shall praise you
Your hand (is) on the neck of your enemies
Your father's sons shall bow down to you



1':;i;iol 'l')P:;i 11:


1'::1~ 'J.:t 1? m:)Do/~




J;!'?l;' 'J.:;i 'l":)IP.Q


y:;q V!:;>


A lion's cob (is) Judah

From (the) prey, my son, you have gone up
He rests, he lies down, like a lion
And like a lioness-Who shall rouse him?


(The) scepter shall not depart from Judah

And (the) ruler's staff from between his feet


And to him (shall be the) obedience of peoples

ilh~ 'P ;ii?1Vf?1


Tying to the vine his foal (of a donkey)

And to the choice vine his she-ass's colt

iui::J.? e:;:i o:;:i:;i



l';Q O'J.'!J. '7'?:;>D


He cleanses in/with wine his robe

And in/with the blood of grapes his mantle

::i'?r;ir,;i O'~W-p?1




llr?'j?; 'Q N':l'?:;>1

;i11;i'Q o;iip ;10;16

i''?-n p:;i.Q i'i?.hr;n

;;?'IP 1-i::i:-':;i 11J
O'QIJ ni}jp' i?]
;i"l'IJ 1~(!? '!t;'N


Until Shiloh will come

Darker (his) eyes than vine

And whiter (his) teeth than milk

Usually, Sa and Sb are taken together as one line so that v. S comprises only
three lines. The resulting syllable count of v. 8 (11-8-11) and the synonymous parallelisms between the first and the third line support such a decision. Hoiwever, the arrangement of assonance between Sa, Sb, and Sc (and
Sd) and the prominent position of the pronoun i1J;l~ "you" at least warrant
the alternative arrangement that I suggest.
The blessing on Judah (vv. 8-12) comprises, together with the blessing
on Joseph (vv. 22-26), ten of the twenty-five verses of Jacob's testament. The
prominence of these two sons corresponds to their pre-eminent role in Gen
37-50. 18 Whereas the first pronouncements focus on past events and, with
regard to these events, determine the destiny of the tribe (49:3-7), the bless-


Cf. Jacob, Genesis, 890; Robert E. Longacre, Joseph: A Story of Divine Providence; A Text
Theoretical and Textlinguistic Analysis of Genesis 37 and 39-48 (Winona Lake:
Eisenbrauns, 1989), 53--54. To complement the key players in Gen 29-50, Gordon J.
Wenham likes to include the first five verses of Jacob's testament-the blessings on
Reuben and on Simeon (and Levi)-since Reuben, Simeon, Judah, and Joseph are the
only sons whose names are explained at their birth by reference to the divine name
YHWH, a sign of their importance in the narrative (Genesis 16-50, 468--69).


"Lion of Judah": The Blessing on fudal1 in Genesis 49:8-12

ing on Judah shows a specific orientation toward the future, except for the
fact that v. 8 contains probably several links to previous material. 19

4. Structure of the Blessing on Judah

As every other individual pronouncement this one starts with the name of
the addressee, ;ip;i:, in Gen 49:8. Unlike in other pronouncements, the name
of the addressee occurs three times in this blessing: in the beginning colon
of the first (v. 8), second (v. 9), and third section (v. 10). The repetition of
i111i1; is an indicator toward the subdivisions of the blessing. 20 The division
between v. 10 and v. 11 is not formally marked. It is based on key words
and on the thematic pattern of the blessing on Judah, which falls into four
parts of an ABAB pattern according to the terminology used. The use of
verbal elements also fits into the ABAB pattern. Moreover, the poetic structure of vv. 8-12 shows a remarkable symmetry. Whether one counts words,
accentual units, or pre-Masoretic syllables, the poetic pattern is obvious. 21
Verse Theme

Superiority of Judah:


Verbal forms

Praise, neck, bow down


Lion, prey, couch, crouch, lioness


Scepter, ruling staff, obedience,




Vine, ass, choice vine, she-ass




Imagery of Judah's superiority:



Superiority of Judah & Shiloh:






Imagery of Shiloh's superiority:

Abundance & beauty

darker than wine, whiter than milk qatal

See below. The blessing on Judah should not be regarded as a condemnatory and
deliberate ironic saying. The links between the blessing and Judah's failure concerning
Tamar in Gen 38, as suggested by Edwin Marshall Good, "The 'Blessing' on Judah,
Gen 49:8-12," /BL 82 (1963): 427-32, and Calum M. Carmichael, "Some Sayings in
Genesis 49," /BL 88 (1969): 438-44, strain the text and are questionable.
Pace Kittel, "Starnmesspriiche Israels," 15-16; Zobel, Stammesspruc/1 und Gesc/1ichte, 7280; Cross and Freedman, Ancient Yahwistic Poetnj, 70, 81; and Westermann, Genesis 3750, 259, who regard v. 9 as an independent saying. Rather the repetition of a key word
accompanied by a change in theme can be a poetic device to indicate subdivision.
For poetic analyses of Gen 49:8-12 see Cross and Freedman, Ancient Yal1wistic Poetry,
81-84 (metrical structure); Douglas K. Stuart, Studies in Early Hebrew Meter (HSM 13;
Missoula: Scholars Press, 1976), 140 (syllable count); O'Connor, Hebrew Verse Structure,
431-32 (line types and troping pattern); Raymond de Hoop, "Genesis 49 Revisited:
The Poetic Structure of Jacob's Testament and the Ancient Versions," in Unit
delimitation in biblical Hebmv and Nortl1west Semitic literature (ed. M. C. A. Korpel and J.
M. Oesch; Pericope 4; Assen: Van Gorcum, 2003), 1-32.


Martin Priibstle

That vv. 11-12 are a description of Shiloh and not necessarily of Judah can
be concluded from the anaphoric nature of vv. lOd-lld. If Shiloh is regarded as subject to N:::i:, as argued below, the masculine pronominal suffixes in vv. lOd, lla, llb, llc, and lld do all refer back to Shiloh.

5. Verse-by-Verse Analysis of the Blessing on Judah

5.1. Judah's Supremacy: Verse 8
The blessing starts with the word i1'Pi1> The following personal pronoun
i1J;ll:t "you" should not be elided as it serves the rhythmic alteration of the
assonance of the first words (i111i1;_ 11ii', and 11:) and of the last words (i1J;ll:t,
1'1)1'.t, and 1':;1-;N) in v. 8 (even the fourth line shows some assonance):










1? m:p:io/'
Furthermore, i1J;ll:t does have a specific function at this emphatic place. In no

other pronouncement of Jacob does a personal pronoun appear without

another noun or noun group at the beginning of the blessing. 22 The pronoun i1J;ll:t functions on the contextual level: it contrasts the former "blessings" on Reuben, Simeon, and Levi with the blessing on Judah, especially
since i1J;ll:t is only used in v. 3 (for the first-born Reuben) and v. 8. 23
Historically, Reuben, Jacob's oldest son, should have received the firstborn blessing. Jacob confirms the fact that Reuben is his firstborn (Gen
49:3a), but he does not extend the firstborn blessing to him: "Reckless like
water, you shall not have precedence/be first because you went up to your
father's bed" (v. 4a-b). Apparently, Jacob refers to Reuben's incestuous relationship as he lay with his father's concubine Bilhah (35:22). Since Gen 35
does not mention any rebuke by Jacob-only "Israel heard (of it)" (v. 22)-



To combine ;rp;i~ and '1f;lt:I would be another possibility. Jacob would then stress the
fact that Judah is praised alluding to the meaning of the name Judah: "You are Judah
(=praised)." But as each son is addressed by his name it seems that "Judah" in Gen
49:8 has the same function and serves only as an address. The '1f;lt:I in the blessing on
Reuben is different in syntactic function: it is the second part of the nominal sentence
"you (are) my firstborn" (v. 3).
Gerard van Groningen goes so far to note that "the unique exclamation of this phrase
particularly highlights Jacob's surprise" that "Judah was designated by God to be the
bearer of the covenant seed line" (Messianic Rroelation in the Old Testament [Grand
Rapids: Baker, 1990], 181). However, the text does not provide any indication for such
a psychological state of Jacob. On the contrary, the pronouncements for the first three
sons give the impression that Jacob knew exactly what he was saying.

"Lion of Judah": The Blessing on /uda/1 in Genesis 49:8-12


it seems that Jacob kept his reproof until his deathbed blessing, in spite of
some virtues of Reuben which had been reported in the Joseph story when
he saved Joseph's life (37:21-22, 29-30; cf. 42:22) or offered his own two
sons to Jacob instead of Benjamin (42:37).
Likewise, the pronouncement on the second and third oldest sons,
Simeon and Levi, does not grant the firstborn blessing, either, even though
they are next in line of the birthright. Instead, Jacob rebukes the two brothers "because in their anger they slew men" (Gen 49:6c), which most likely
alludes to the bloody massacre at Shechem (34:25--29). After the massacre
Jacob lamented only that his sons had brought trouble on him (v. 30). With
no word did he indicate if he detested their action or not. And after the
brothers' challenging defense (v. 31) he remained silent. Again it appears
that Jacob held his overt reprimand until he summoned his sons for the
blessing. He had not forgotten; and instead of a blessing he bestowed a
curse on them. In fact, this is the only instance in Jacob's speech that he explicitly cursed his sons (49:7), using the same language as when God cursed
the serpent (3:14) and Cain (4:11), or when Noah cursed Canaan (9:25). 24
The next in line was Judah. Jacob starts the blessing on his fourth oldest
son with "Judah, you!" Considering the historical background this exclamation is the appropriate introduction to mark the preeminent son who will
receive the firstborn blessing. 25 By i1J;i~ Jacob stresses the fact that Judah is
the one on whom the blessing as firstborn rests. It is also effective to reintroduce the address in the second person26 : After Jacob addressed Reuben
in the second person and Simeon and Levi in the third person, he switches
back to the second person in v. 8. However, in the middle of the blessing on
Judah, Jacob switches from the second to the third person (v. 9c) and continues in the third person for each of the other sons, except for the last part
in the blessing on Joseph (vv. 25--26).
The historical note in 1 Chr 5:1-2 does not abandon the firstborn blessing on Judah. Joseph received the "double portion," that is, the birthright,




For an interesting psychological viewpoint of Jacob's saying to his sons see Thomas
Blass, "The Tenacity of Impressions and Jacob's Rebuke of Simeon and Levi," journal
of Psychology and Judaism 7 (1982): 55--61.
It should not be overlooked that neither the blessing on Reuben nor the blessing on
Simeon and Levi are actually blessings. Rather they appear to be damnations for what
they had done. Also note the leadership position of Judah as reported in Gen 37:27;
43:3--13; 44:11-34 and 46:28 before he received the firstborn blessing; cf. David K.
Sykes, "Patterns in Genesis" (Ph.D. diss., Yeshiva University, 1985), 114--15. Judah
apparently developed a good character between Gen 38 and Gen 44. The turning
point in the life of Judah, if it is indeed mentioned, may be pinpointed at 38:26.
For this observation see Hamilton, Genesis: Chapters 18-50, 657.


Martin Probstle

but Judah prevailed over his brothers and became heir of the throne. 27 "Joseph may surpass Judah. But everlasting rule belongs to Judah." 28 Asaph
expresses in Ps 78:67-68 this very fact: YHWH "rejected the tents of Joseph,
he did not choose the tribe Ephraim; but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount
Zion, whom he loved."
':(ni' is a crucial term used in this blessing. The root i11' occurs 111 times
in the Hebrew Bible, 98 times (thereof 65 times in the Psalms) it has the
meaning of "to praise" and 13 times it means "to confess," if the object is sin
or the like. In 95 cases the object of praise is YHWH/God or his name. 29 People as object of praise are found only in Job 40:14; Pss 45:18; 49:19. Job 40:1014 reveals that only YHWH may be the appropriate object of i11'. In Ps 45:18
the Israelite king is praised by the nations-however, in the psalm the king
is described in divine-like terminology so that messianic overtones are recognized (e.g., vv. 7-8)-while in the wisdom context of Ps 49 men praise
the wicked but rich fool who prospered (v. 19). It is intriguing that in Gen
49:8 i11' takes a human object. Why should Judah be praised by i11' which is
only due to YHWH or once to the Israelite king? The text gives the impression that Judah is associated with both royal and divine connotations.
The only other passage in the Pentateuch in which the root i11' is used is
found in Leah's words at the birth of Judah:
She was again pregnant and bore a son and said: "This time I will praise
[i11'] YHWH." Therefore she called him Judah [;ip;i;J. (Gen 29:35)

Judah's birth is connected with praise to YHWH. The name "Judah" is attributed to the etymological meaning of "(YHWH is) praised." Without
doubt Jacob alludes to Judah's birth when he uses the same word to describe Judah's elevated position over his brothers. Yet, the very word i11'
belongs mainly to the praise of God. Thus, the terminology at the beginning
of the blessing anticipates the appearance of a divine-kingly figure in vv.



'llV:t "on the neck of your enemies"

is a typical expression of sub-

A detailed comparison between the blessing on Judah and the blessing on Joseph may
be fruitful, but is beyond the scope of this study. Not only are these blessings the
longest passages in Gen 49:1-27, but furthermore Judah occupies the central position
in the first six blessings on the sons of Leah, whereas Joseph occupies the central
position in the last six blessings.
O'Connor, Hebrew Verse Structure, 430.
YHWH's name is regarded as identical with YHWH himself. The occurrence in Ps 89:6
"heaven will praise your wonders, YHWH" may also be read as "the heavens, your
wonders, shall praise YHWH." Nevertheless, to praise YHWH's wonders means to
praise the one who performed these wonders.

"Lion ofludah": The Blessing on Judah in Genesis 49:8-12


jugation (Exod 23:27; 2 Sam 22:41=Ps18:41). 30 This language of war stresses

the victory and strength of Judah.
In the next colon, the root mn of m:p:iip "they shall bow down" 31 is
associated with the semantic meaning of "to worship" 32, but also with "to
pay respect" (e.g., Gen 23:7, 12). This expression appears to be a terminus
technicus in the firstborn blessing. Isaac blessed his son Jacob, who he
thought was his firstborn, with the words:
May peoples serve you,
And nations bow down to you [K 1? mr:iip-1, Q 1? 11t)T:ll.P'1l
Be master of your brothers [pl.],
And may your mother's sons [pl.] bow down to you [1'? m:)T:ll.P'1l (Gen
It seems to me that Isaac's blessing is formulated according to a specific
blessing formula. A clear indication of this is the use of the plural forms
"your brothers" and "sons of your mother," which in the specific situation
appears to be awkward since Isaac and Rebekah had only two sons.
The connection between Gen 27:29 and 49:8-12 is obvious, considering
the similar terminology. 33 Isaac's firstborn blessing is, therefore, another
indication that the blessing on Judah in Gen 49 should be considered a
firstborn blessing. However, not only the terminology but also the themes
are similar: 27:28-29 displays the themes of fertility of nature (v. 28) and
superiority (v. 29)-in contrast to the blessing on Esau, which shows neither
(27:39-40). The same themes appear in the blessing on Judah: superiority
(49:8, 10) and fertility of nature (49:11).
The attentive reader of Genesis recognizes another link hooked to the
expression ':f? m:)Do/'. In the initial story of Joseph in Gen 37 the Hishtaphal




Francis I. Andersen, "Orthography in Repetitive Parallelism," /BL 89 (1970): 344,

proposes that 'IT "your hand" should be read as the defective of '!1ii' "they praise" so
that v. Be repeats synonymously the idea of v. Sb. He claims that it is usually not the
hand but the foot that rests symbolically on the neck bf the enemy. However, in the
Dead Sea scrolls the idiomatic phrase "Place your hand on the neck of your enemies
and your foot on the piles of slain!" (lQM 12:11) shows that the figure of speech in
Gen 49:8c is indeed known, and thus the MT can be retained. On the basis of lQM
12:11 Stanley Gevirtz suggests that Gen 49:8c was originally a pair of two lines, but
there is no manuscript evidence supporting such a conjecture. Stanley Gevirtz,
"Adumbrations of Dan in Jacob's Blessing on Judah," ZAW93 (1981): 23--24.
Some Hebrew manuscript editions read 111:1i:np~ without dagesh in the consonant waw,
but in meaning there is no difference to the MT.
1his is the meaning of 'I'? m:p:np~ in Ps 66:4 which is exactly the same expression in Gen
49:8 as noted in the Masora parva.
The use of "your father's sons" in Gen 49:8 is "explained by the fact that Isaac was
monogamous, whereas Jacob had four wives and wished to indicate that all tribes
would acknowledge Judah's hegemony" (Sama, Genesis, 336).


Martin Priibstle

of i11n is used three times in regard to his two fateful dreams: "Your sheaves
surrounded and bowed down to [? ;nn] my sheaf" (37:7); "the sun, the
moon, and eleven stars bowed down to[? ;nn] me" (37:9); "Shall I and your
mother and your brothers really come to bow down to [? ;nn] you to the
ground?" (37:10).
More than twenty years later Joseph's dreams were fulfilled. 34 Again the
root i11n is used three times in two instances: Gen 42:6 and 43:26, 28. 35 Thus,
the reader of 49:8 recalls the story about Joseph and his brothers and remembers that Judah himself bowed down to Joseph. In contrast, the blessing on Judah reverses history and elevates Judah to superiority over his
brothers, including Joseph. 36 Joseph's role of leadership was fulfilled in his
time, but Judah's leadership will unfold in the future history of the people
of Israel. The bestowal of leadership on Judah and his descendants is not
totally surprising, for Judah has already been subtly presented as the leader
of the brothers in the Joseph story (cf. 43:8-9; 44:16-34; 46:28).

5.2. Lion of Judah: Verse 9

In this verse lies the origin of the "lion of Judah" symbol. The recurrence of
i111i1; in v. 9a marks a new subsection in which Judah's pre-eminence is described in metaphoric language. For the first time in Jacob's testament animal metaphors are used, which henceforth characterize five of the
remaining eight blessings; a fact that enhances the focus on the blessing on
Judah. The "lion of Judah" leads the parade of animal metaphors.
Three of eight terms for a lion are used metaphorically for Judah. 37 First,
Judah is classified as a i1~"'1~ iU "lion's cub," then as a i1~"'1~ "lion" and finally
as a N':;i.7 "lioness." The same imagery of a i1~~ iU "lion's cub" appears





Joseph was seventeen years old when he was sold into slavery (Gen 37:2) and thirty
years old when Pharaoh set him over all the land of Egypt at the beginning of the
seven year of plenty (41:46). Joseph's brothers came tu Egypt some time after the seven
years of famine started (41:53-54; 42:3).
One should note that Joseph himself at a again later stage "bowed with his face (to
him) to the ground" in front of his father Jacob (Gen 48:12).
L. A. Turner surmises whether a reader of Gen 49 might legitimately ask about the
efficacy of the various blessings: The blessing on Judah "reads like an attempt to
reverse Joseph's dreams. What will have precedence, boyhood dream or deathbed
blessing?" Laurence A. Turner, Genesis (Readings; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press,
2000), 202.
The eight terms are,,~ "lion," ;i~lt:I "lion," ,u "cub (of a lion)," ,,!l:;> "young lion," N':;i'?
"lioness," 1-1::;i'? "lioness" (only Ezek 19:2), ur'? "lion" (only Isa 30:6; Ps 30:30; Job 4:11);
and 7i:il!i "lion."

"Lion of Judah": The Blessing on Judah in Genesis 49:8-12


again in Deut 33:22 in Moses' blessing on Dan. 38 The best explanation for
the meaning of Gen 49:9b is the image of a lion that rises from his prey to
ascend to his mountain lair, an image which seems to be typical for the ancient Palestine fauna. The verbal root ;il;iy "go up" forms a pair with the
verbal root 01j? hif. "rouse" enclosing the verbs y;:i "bow down" and f::J.i
"lie down." 39 In v. 9c-d Judah is furthermore compared to a lion and to a
lioness40 so that the lines in v. 9 form a parallel terrace pattern. 41 The masculine pronominal suffix in 1l?;i'i?7 "(who shall) rouse him up?" refers immediately back to :i~-;itt "lion" in v. 9c, but extends metaphorically to Judah in v.
9a, strengthening the close association between the lion imagery and
Judah. 42
The lion imagery conveys the idea of strength and victory, a theme
clearly present in Gen 49:9 as an extension of the superiority theme of v. 8.
The text in Gen 49:9c-d is echoed in Num 24:9, where the imagery is applied to the whole nation of Israel and once more symbolically designates





The parallels in terminology between Gen 49:9 and Deut 33:22 lead Gevirtz to suggest
that the blessing on Judah describes in poetic language Judah's annexation of Dan's
territory(" Adumbrations of Dan," 21-37).
Others suggest that the verbal root ;iO,v refers to a lion's cub that has "grown up"; cf.
Sama, Genesis, 336; Hamilton, Genesis: Chapters 18-50, 653-54. The verb y:ii "lie down"
becomes a favorite in Jacob's testament (Gen 49:9, 14, 25), although it occurred only
twice before (4:7; 29:2). The verb in:i "bow down" occurs in 49:9 for the first time.
Some scholars regard N':;i'? as an "old lion" in order to find three different stages in the
blessing on Judah: Judah as cub refers to the early stage of the tribe, Judah as lion
refers to the time of David, and Judah as old lion to the time after Solomon's reign. Cf.
John Skinner, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis (2d ed.; ICC; Edinburgh:
Clark, 1930),519.
Wilfred G. E. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry: A Guide to Its Techniques GSOTSup 26;
Sheffield: JSOT, 1984), 212. Note that the Masoretes placed the disjunctive accent
Tifkha under N':;i'1~1 "and like a lioness" in v. 9d and a conjunctive Merkah under :i~/tt:;>
"like a lion" in v. 9c, which might indicate that N':;i?~1 stands in a closer relationship to
the previous word than to the next one. The sense of th~ bicolon in v. 9c and v. 9d
would support the arrangement: "(9c) he rests, he lies down like a lion and like a
lioness; (9d) who will rise him up?" If "lioness" is attached to the last colon in v. 9i.e., "like a lioness, who will rise him up?" -the clause seems to be awkward.
However, one could suggest a chiastic-like arrangement: (A) verbal element: rest, lie
down; (B) comparative element: like a lion; (B') comparative element: like a lioness;
(A') verbal element: rouse up. This might also explain the disjunctive Tifkha under
;.,~"')~;:>(masculine) and N':i'?:;i1(feminine) both refer to the resting and lying down of the
animal so that a pronominal suffix referring to the rousing of that animal would be
masculine. It is thus not necessary to explain a supposed gender disagreement
between N':;i'? (feminine) and ur;rp: (masculine pronominal suffix) because of an
intervening relative particle. So Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 18-50
(NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 654 n. 8.


Martin Priibstle

strength and triumph. Extended lion imagery is also found in Nah 2:12-13,
where four different terms are used for a lion (three of them are the ones
used in Gen 49:9), symbolizing the (once) formidable strength of the Assyrian city of Nineveh (cf. Joel 1:6, where the Assyrian might is compared to
the teeth of a lion [i1~!1'.l] and the fangs of a lioness [N':;i'?]).
The lion imagery has its roots in ancient Near Eastern culture where the
lion is regarded as a symbol of kingship and divinity. 43 In the Hebrew Bible
both concepts are present: on the one hand, the metaphor of a lion is associated with royalty (2 Sam 17:10; Jer 50:17; Ezek 22:25; Zeph 3:3--4; Prov 20:2),
on the other hand, a lion is used symbolically for YHWH (Isa 31:4; Jer 25:38;
49:49; Lam 3:10; Hos 5:14; 11:10; 13:7; Joel 3:16; Amos 1:2; 3:8). Again, the
thematic threads of both kingship and divinity appear to be interwoven in
the language of the blessing on Judah. It is no wonder that the lion became
an icon for King David and the Messiah (cf. Rev 5:5).

5.3. Shiloh's Supremacy: Verse 10

The theme of kingship is fully displayed in v. 10. The theme switches back
from imagery of superiority to plain superiority. In the Hebrew Bible the
term ";;iW "rod" is used at least twelve times in reference to a "scepter,"
which also seems to be the case in this verse. 44 The parallel expression j?i?.h'?
"ruler's staff" underlines this translation. Originally, ";;iW and i'i?.h'? were
the instruments of a shepherd which have since changed in meaning, thus
designating the instruments of royal kingship. 45 In the song of Deborah
both terms are again used in parallelism, where it has to be interpreted as
the one holding the ruling staff and the scepter:
From Machir came down commanders [O'i?i?h'?]
and from Zebulun those who wield the scepter [o;;iwl of office. Oudg

Therefore I translate Gen 49:10: "A scepter shall not depart from Judah and
a ruling staff from between his feet." 46





Cf. G. Johannes Botterweck, "'!!!!,'' TOOT 1:377--82; Roland K. Harrison, "Lion," ISBE
Genesis 49:10; Num 24:17; Judg 5:14; Isa 9:3; 14:5; Ezek 19:11, 14; Amos 1:5, 8; Zech
10:11; Ps 45:7 (twice). "Tribe" (156x) or "rod" (34x), the other possible meanings of
0;;11;.>, do not fit into the context of the sentence and the verse of Gen 49:10.
The king in the ANE was often understood as the shepherd of their people, the
protector of social values in his kingdom.
Cross and Freedman, Ancient Yahwistic Poetry, 82, give an alternative interpretation of
O;:)W and i'i?hr,>. They emend O;:)W to opi!i "judge, charismatic leader" following a
suggestion by Albright. Such an emendation is based on the similar appearance of !l
and :i in the early script and their phonetic alikeness, both of which could easily cause

"Lion of Judah": The Blessing on Judah in Genesis 49:8-12


The occurrence of 1':;:).W in Num 24:17 deserves special attention.47 Besides Gen 49:10 we have here the only other occurrence of 1':;:).W in the
Pentateuch. 48 Balaam, in prophetic vision, sees that "a star comes forth from
Jacob, and a 1':;1-W rises from Israel." Here, the LXX reads av8pwrroc; "a
man," the Syriac "prince/leader," and Targum Pseudo-Jonathan t-U;i'W'?
"Messiah." Both the ancient versions and the immediate context (vv. 17-20)
imply that Num 24:17 is a reference to the coming leader of Israel, to a coming king and/or the coming Messiah. This suggests that Gen 49:10 is also
written in a royal context, if not a messianic one.
The term 1':;:).W is paralleled in the next colon by pph9 "ruler's staff."
pph9 occurs eight times in the Hebrew Bible. 49 Again there is a reference
found in the blessing of Moses, this time on Gad (Deut 33:21). Psalms 60:9




confusion. Cross and Freedman refer to Ps 68:5, where an original !l may have been
confused with a J in niJl!J., and to the parallel texts 2 Sam 7:7 and 1 Chr 17:6, which
should show that in 2 Sam an original !l in 'i;>J;llzi (1 Chr 17:6) was erroneously rendered
with J resulting in i;i:;11p. However, while the !l/J exchange in Ps 68:5 is substantiated
by the text's affinities to the Ugaritic rkb 'rpt "rider of the cloud," designating Baal, the
MT in 2 Sam 7:7 may be explained as original and is certainly the lectio difficilior (see
Philippe de Robert, "Juges ou tribus en 2 Samuel vii 7," VT 27 [1977): 116-18). Cross
and Freedman further argue that the paradigmatic pphr,> in Gen 49:10 should mean
"commander" on the basis of Judg 5:14 and Isa 33:22. In fact, the LXX reads iipxwv
"ruler" and ~youEvoc; "chief" in Gen 49:10. However, as convincing as this argument
may seem, it demands a further emendation in Gen 49:10b so that the text remains
meaningful: 1?li "his feet'' needs to be read as 1?li "his tribal division" following
Samaritan manuscripts. Verse lOb would then read "a commander from between his
tribal division (or: banner)," which would match "a judge from Judah" in the parallel
colon lOa. Since the interpretation by Cross and Freedman is based on two tex_tual
emendations, and since in all other occurrences of O;!W and Pi?.hr,>, including the ones
cited by Cross and Freedman, the meaning "scepter" and "ruling staff" fits well into
the context, I do not see the necessity for emendation and prefer to retain the MT.
The two occurrences of O;!W in Ezek 19:11, 14 are intriguing since the context displays
similar metaphoric language as the blessing on Judah. Ezekiel 19 applies lion imagery
(vv. 2~) and vine imagery (vv. 10-14) to the kingship in Israel. Compare Gen 49:9-11
with the following words from Ezek 19: i13 "cub" (vv. 2, 3, 5), ni'll!! "lions" (vv. 2, 6),
'119 "prey" (v. 3), ;i?v "go up" (v. 3), fJi "lie down" (v. 2), N::;i'? "lioness" (v. 2), O;!W
"scepter" (vv. 11, 14), and 1;i~ "vine" (v. 10). The intertextual relationship between the
two texts is generally recognized. Pace Ingo Kottsieper, "'Was ist deine Mutter?' Eine
Studie zu Ez 19,2-9," ZAW 105 (1993): 455-56 n. 57, who believes that similar
terminology is in the nature of similar imagery, but that Gen 49,9 speaks about a
completely different matter, thus discarding any reference to the Genesis passage as
hardly helpful.
Another indication that there is some kind of relation between Gen 49:2-27 and Num
24:15-19 is the use of the expression or,i:;:i n'!t)t'.I~ as introduction to the prophetic
poetic section. For the first time in the Hebrew Bible it occurs in Gen 49:1, and the next
occurrence is in Num 24:14.
Genesis 49:10; Num 21:18; Deut 33:21; Judg 5:14; Isa 33:22; Pss 60:9; 108:9; Prov 8:15.


Marlin Priibstle

and 108:9, where God says that 'i?i?h'? ;ip;i: "Judah (is) my ruling staff,"
almost certainly allude to Gen 49:10. Interestingly, in Isa 33:22 YHWH is
called Ui?.i?h'? "our ruling staff." Thus, Pi?.hT?, too, belongs to royal language.
The verbal phrase ,~o:t-6 "shall not depart" occurs again in 2 Sam 7:15,
where YHWH confirms his covenant with David's son Solomon in order to
keep Judah's royal dynasty with the house of The locution )':;ll;l
1''?r1 "from between his feet" probably refers to a king sitting on a throne
with the ruling staff resting between or in front of his feet.s 1 There is nonecessity to understand the phrase euphemistically. 52
In colon lOc the most controversial term in the blessing on Judah is
found: ;;i,ip "Shiloh." Before discussing this term, the meaning of the
prepositional phrase ~ il} "until" needs to be determined. Often ~ il} is
regarded as a pointer to the end of what is described in v. lOa-b, that is, the
reign of Judah ends when ;;i,ip comes. But instead the Hebrew bears the
meaning of climax and fulfillment. In its five occurrences in the Hebrew
Bible ~ il} expresses some kind of superlative in which the former activity
or situation reaches a climax, but without ceasing it (Gen 26:13; 41:49; 49:10;
2 Sam 23:10; 2 Chr 26:15). 53 Genesis 49:10c means, therefore, that the royal
leadership of Judah will find its ultimate superior fulfillment when ;;i,ip
comes. In other words, ;;i,.ip is the climax of Judah's royal leadership.
The syntax of the prepositional clause with ~ "Tl} deserves a closer look.
After the preposition~ il;I follows a finite verb-a perfect form in a narrative (Gen 26:13; 41:49; 2 Sam 23:10; 2 Chr 26:15), an imperfect form in a future-time context (Gen 49:10)-and a subject, if explicitly expressed, follows
the verb (2 Sam 23:10; Gen 49:10). The prepositional phrase does not contain
any other elements. The subject is always personal, even "his hand" in 2
Sam 23:10 refers, by extension, to David. Though five instances do not form
a large corpus on which to establish syntactic rules, one should still note
that ;;;ip stands in a syntactic slot that is usually occupied by a person. The




The connection is pointed out by Jacob, Genesis, 901-2.

Cf. Pehlke, "Genesis 49:1-28," 167-68; Henri Cazelles, "Shiloh, the Customary Laws
and the Return of the Ancient Kings," in Proclamation and Presence: Old Testament
Essays in Honour of Gwynne Henton Davies (ed. J. I. Durham and J. R. Porter; London,
SCM, 1970), 249.
Pace Good, "The 'Blessing' on Judah," 429; Carmichael, "Some Sayings in Genesis 49,"
,,The man became rich, and continued to grow richer until (,:;> i.1;1] he became very
wealthy" (Gen 26:13); 'Thus Joseph stored up grain in great abundance like the sand
of the sea, until [';> 11J] he stopped measuring it, for it was beyond measure" (Gen
41:49); "He arose and struck the Philistines until [';> 11J] his hand was weary and clung
to the sword" (2 Sam 23:10); "Hence his fame spread afar, for he was marvelously
helped until [';> 11J] he was strong" (2 Chr 26:15).

"Lion of Judah": Tlze Blessing on Judah in Genesis 49:8-12

syntax of the prepositional phrase with

should refer to a person.

':;l 11}


therefore suggests that ii?'IP

A vast number of interpretations have been given for ii?'\P, a term acclaimed for its difficulty, which is partly due to the fact that it is a hapax legomenon.s.i Due to the limited scope of this essay I will only list them, but it
is not intended to give a summary of the different positions as this material
could easily grow to a "goodsized monograph" 55 itself.
There are four major interpretations of the term ii?'\1): 56
(1) ii?'IP is a personal name, a messianic title, or a messianic allusion to
David. 57 This interpretation is supported by Targum Pseudo-Jonathan and
Targum Jerusalem, which both read "until the time when the king Messiah
will come." From vv. 11-12 a reference to a person in v. 10 is indeed expected. However, Gen 49:10 would be the only reference in the Hebrew
Bible and the NT where Shiloh is used as a Messianic title.
(2) ii?'IP is a geographical name: "until he [i.e., Judah] comes to Shilo."
Shilo refers to the place where the ark was located (1Sam1-4). The Qere of
the Masoretes reads i?'\P, and some Hebrew and Samaritan manuscripts
have ;i?lz.i, that is, ii?IP "Shilo." The subject "he" (from the verb form 11-i:::i;)
may either refer to David 58 or to the tribe of Judah. 59 However, this sugges54





Somewhat overenthusiastically William L. Moran, "Gen 49:10 and Its Use in Ez 21:32,"
Bib 39 (1958): 405, designates ;i'ryi as the ,,most famous crux interprctwn in the entire
Speiser, Genesis, 372.
For views on :i"'1zi until the 16th century C.E. see Adolf Posnanski, Schiloh, ein Beitrag
zur Geschichte der Messiaslehre (Leipzig: Hinrich, 1904). For more recent views. see
Jacob, Genesis, 903-7; R. Martin-Achard, "A propos de la benediction de Juda in
Genese 49:8-12(10)," in De la Torah au Messie: Etudes d'exegi!se et d'hermeneutiquc
bibliques offertes aHenri Cazelles pour ses 25 annees d'enseignement al'Jnstitut catholiquc de
Paris, octobre 1979 (ed. M. Carrez, J. Dore, and P. Grelot; Paris: Desclee, 1981), 121-34;
and especially Hoop, Genesis 49, 122-48.
Cf. Jewish tradition (Gen. Rab 98:8; b. Sanh. 98b); Christian tradition (all church
fathers); Hans-Peter Mi.iller, "Zur Frage nach dem Ursprung der biblischen
Eschatologie," VT 14 (1964): 278, regards ;i'ryi as a messianic figure of David.
Of this opinion are Joh. Lindblom, "The Political Background of the Shiloh Oracle," in
Congress Volume: Copenhagen 1953 (VTSup 1; Leiden: Brill, 1953), 78-87, who suggests
that the blessing on Judah originates from the time of David; Eckart Otto, "Silo und
Jerusalem," TZ 32 (1976): 70-71; J. A. Emerton, "Some Difficult Words in Genesis 49,"
in Words and Meanings: Essays Presented to David Winston Thomas (ed. P. R. Ackroyd
and B. Lindars; Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1968), 83-88.
Zobel, Stammesspruc/1 und Geschichte, 75--76; Otto Eissfeldt, "Silo und Jerusalem," in
Volume du Congres: Strasbourg, 1956 (VTSup 4; Leiden: Brill, 1957), 138-47. Bruce
Vawter, "The Canaanite Background of Genesis 49," CBQ 17 (1955): 6, restores: "Judah
as the conqueror of the southern shrine of the lion-goddess." Liudger Sabottka, "Noch
einmal Gen 49:10," Bib 51(1970):226-27, renders v. lOc with the sense "his [taken from


Martin Priibstle

tion is not convincing for several reasons: the city of Shiloh is never spelled
i1?'11J in Hebrew, 60 there is no historical importance of Shiloh for the tribe of
Judah, and the following verses in Gen 49:11-12 speak of an individual person and do not, in any way, refer to a city.
(3) Revocalization of ii?w to ;il;iip = ;r,ip, "the one to whom it belongs" or
"that which belongs to him." 61 ;il;iip is a compound of the relative pronoun 'IV
"which," the preposition? "belonging to," and the masculine suffix ;i- or i"him." The majority of the versions support this rendering: 39 Hebrew
manuscripts, LXX, 62 Symmachus, Theodotion, Targum Onkelos, 63 eight Samaritan manuscripts, 4Q252, 64 Syriac, 65 and Vetu.s Latina. Often a comparison with Ezek 21:32 is suggested, where a similar phrase is found: N:ril,l
o~ipr;i;:i i n1p,~ "until he comes whose right it is." The main difficulty with
this proposal is to explain why the MT includes a yod in ii?w.

(4) ii?ip should be read as i? 'W "tribute to him" so that the prepositional
clause reads "until tribute comes to him." 66 The consonants of ii?-ip are di-






16 in the next colon] throne ('ad, Ugaritic] shall indeed [emphatic ki] come to Shilo"
with "Terminativsuffix" -ha, i.e. shiloha.
Variant spellings of the city Shilo are ;i?I!) (21 times), l?I!) (8 times), and 1.,,1,!i (2 times).
See HALOT 4:1479.
See, e.g., Kevin Smyth, "The Prophecy Concerning Juda: Gen. 49:8-12," CBQ 7 (1945):
295-98; Cazelles, "Shiloh," 248-49; Pehlke, "Genesis 49:1-28," 171-74; HALOT 4:147879; Roy A. Rosenberg, "Beshaggam and Shiloh," ZAW 105 (1993): 258--61 (who explains
the change to;;~ with gematria); Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 11:27-50:26 (NAC lB;
Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2005), 895.
LXX reads "until he comes for whom it was preserved," apparently with messianic
overtones. Cf. Laurent Monsengwo-Pasinya, "Deux texts messianiques de la Septante:
Gn 49,10 et Ez 21,32," Bib 61 (1980): 357-76; Martin Rosel, "Die Interpretation von
Genesis 49 in der Septuaginta," BN 79 (1995): 54-79, esp. 63-M; idem, "Jakob, Bileam
und der Messias: Messianische Erwartungen in Gen 49 und Num 22-24," in The
Septuagint and Messianism (ed. M. A. Knibb; BETL 195; Leuven: Leuven University
Press, 2006), 151-75.
Onkelos reads "until Messiah comes to whom the kingship belongs." Cf. Jan-Wim
Wesselius, "Biblical Poetry through Targumic Eyes: Onkelos' Treatment of Genesis
49:8-12," in Give Ear to My Words: Psalms and Other Poetn; in and around the Hebrew
Bible; Essays in Honour of Professor N. A. van Uchelen (ed. J. Dyk; Amsterdam: Societas
Hebraica Amstelodamensis, 1996), 131-45.
4Q252 reads "until the Messiah of righteousness comes, the branch of David.'' Cf. Curt
Niccum, "The Blessing of Judah in 4Q252," in Studies in the Hebrew Bible, Qumran, and
the Septuagint Presented to Eugene Ulrich (ed. P. W. Flint; VTSup 101; Leiden: Brill,
2006), 250--60.



The Syriac reads "until the One, whose it is, will come."
This is the old Midrashic interpretation. Cf. Cross and Freedman, Ancient Yahwistic
Poetry, 83; Moran, "Gen 49:10," 412; Speiser, Genesis, 365-66; Douglas K. Stuart,
"Shilo," ISBE 4:478-79; Sama, Genesis, 336-37; de Hoop, Genesis 49, 122-39; John H.

"Lion of Judah": The Blessing on Judah in Genesis 49:8-12


vided and revocalized. However, there is no support from the versions for
such a rendering. The rare noun 'W occurs only in Isa 18:7; Pss 68:30; 76:12. 67
In these texts 'W is always used with the verb ?:::i. "bring," and one would
expect the same for Gen 49:10.
Besides these four interpretations, several others have been suggested
that are based on textual emendation and/or debatable comparative Semitics and are, therefore, of secondary importance for a text-oriented analysis.
(5) ii?ip derives from Akkadian selu/sllu "prince, counselor." 68 However,
the Hebrew language would have alternative forms to express the idea of
"prince" or "counselor" instead of borrowing from the Akkadian, and the
meaning "prince" for Akkadian selu/sllu is uncertain at best. 69
(6) ii?-IP derives from Egyptian sr with Akkadian spelling siara "prince,"
which equals an Egyptian phonetic syr(w), which in Hebrew would be

(7) ii?-IP should be read as ii?o/IJ or i'?o/O "his Oudah's) ruler" (cf. Isa 52:5;

Jer 30:21). 71
(8) ii?ip is a noun from the root ;il;iu; "to be peaceful, to be at ease." ii'?IP
is the "man of peace." Comparison to Isa 9:5 oi?ipiw "prince of peace" is
suggested. Similarly, the suggestion is that ii?-IP derives from 1?ip "the oneof-peace."72






Walton, Genesis (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 716; and also Emerton,
"Some Difficult Words," 83--88 (possible).
De Hoop, Genesis 49, 137-38, suggests parallels between Gen 49:8--12 and Ps 72-a
psalm about Davidic kingship with messianic connotations-that would support the
idea that the phrase in Gen 49:10 is about offering tribute. The parallels are defeat of
the enemies (Gen 49:10; Ps 72:5, 17), perpetual rule (Gen 49:10; Ps 72:5-17), offering of
gifts and tribute (Gen 49:10; Ps 72: 10-11, 15), and prosperity (Gen 49:11; Ps 72:3, 6--7).
G. R. Driver, "Some Hebrew Roots and Their Meaning," /TS 23 (1921): 70; F. Notscher,
"Gen 49,10: ;i'ryi = akkad. selu," ZAW 47 (1929): 323--25; Ernst Sellin, "Zu dem Judaspruch im Jaqobssegen Gen. 49,8--12 und im Mosesegen Deut. 33,7," ZAW 60 (1944):
57-67; R. Eisler, "The Babylonian Word 'shilu' in Gen xlix 10," ExpTim 36 (1924--1925):
477; J. Coppens, "La benediction de Jacob: son cadre historique a la lumiere des
paralleles ougaritiques," in Volume du Congres: Strasbourg, 1956 (VTSup 4; Leiden: Brill,
1957), 112-13; and Sigmund Mowinckel, He I11at Cometh (trans. G. W. Anderson;
Oxford: Blackwell, 1959), 13 n. 2.
See the severe criticism by Moran, "Gen 49:10 and Its Use in Ez 21:32," 407-9, and the
entries selu/silu I in the Akkadian dictionaries AHw and CAD.
Seebass, "Stammespriiche," 346.
Hugo Gressmann, Der Messias (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1929), 221;
Gerhard von Rad, Das erste Buch Mose, Genesis (10th ed.; AID 2-4; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1976), 345; Westermann, Genesis 37-50, 248; H.-J. Zobel, "0:;11p,"
TOOT 14:310.
Hermann Gunkel, Genesis (5th ed.; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1922), 482.


Martin Priibstle

(9) ;;i,ip stands for the name ilbi,o/ "Solomon." 73

(10) ;;i,ip refers to Judah's son il'?W "Shelah" (Gen 38:5). 74 As the blessed
line goes through Tamar, Gen 49:10 would promise that Shelah finally
comes to his blessing.
(11) Restoration of ;;i,.ip to 'W'~:J "son-of-Jesse" (with the early
alternative form 'IP'~ instead of 'W') because of haplography of N:J. after N:i:. 75
Similar is the rendering N:i.:-:;i il,l ;;i,.ip lz.i'~ "until a man of Shiloh comes." 76
(12) ;;i,ip should be read as ini,ip "his offspring" (cf. Cant 4:13): "until
the coming of his offspring."77
With regard to such a variety of interpretations, the quest for a textoriented understanding of the term ;;i,.ip appears almost to be a hopeless
venture, although most of the interpretations agree that Gen 49:10a deals
with Judah's predominance as manifested in the rise of the Davidic monarchy. Still, several observations can be made. Syntactically, ;;i,ip is the subject
of the verb N:i.:,78 which indicates that ;;i,ip should refer to an individual.
Furthermore, both the immediate following ;i, as well as the suffixed pronouns in v. 11 and the description in v. 12 refer back to ;;i,ip. Most exegetes
agree that v. 10c refers, one way or another, to a king, but there are two major questions related to the interpretation. The first question is whether this
blessing is a true prophetic statement concerning a king coming from the
tribe of Judah or whether it is a vaticinium ex eventu. From a text-oriented
viewpoint it is clear that the text itself places the coming of the king in the
future. The second question is whether ;;i,ip refers to a messianic figure. So
far, the interpretation of vv. 8-10 has given us some clues that ;;i,ip may





Andre Cacquot, "La parole sur Juda dans le Testament lyrique de Jacob (Genese 49, 8-12)," Sem 26 (1976): 27-28.
W. Schroder, "Gen. 49, 10: Versuch einer Erklarung," ZAW 29 (1909): 186-98; Good,
"The 'Blessing' on Judah," 430; and Carmichael, "Some Sayings in Genesis 49," 440.
So Margulis, "Gen xlix 10/Deut xxxiii 2-3: A New Look at Old Problems," VT 19
(1969): 203-4, after employing three cardinal rules: (1) a minimum of violence to the
consonantal text; (2) idiomatic Biblical Hebrew; and (3) contextual aptness. However,
with such rules he could have done better: "Wenn Margulis allerdings in einer Zeile
von sieben Worten 2 falsche Worttrennungen, 1 Haplographie, 1 Dittographie und 1
Metathesis voraussetzt, dann ist das kaum ein 'minimum of violence to the consonantal text"' (Sabottka, "Noch einmal Gen 49:10," 225). Later, B. Margulis proposed
the reading \l)"t:t "man" for 'W't:t:J "son-of-Jesse" ("Emendation and Exegesis: A Reply to
L. Sabottka (Bib 51 [1970] 225-29)," Bib 52 [1971]: 227 n. 1).
Marco Treves, "Shiloh (Genesis 49:10)," /BL 85 (1966): 353-56.
H. Kruse, ,,David's Covenant," VT 35 (1985): 154-55.
Besides the syntax of the prepositional clause with':;> 11} (see above), ;i7'w follows the
verb N:i: without any preposition or particle in front of it, which possibly indicates that
it should be understood as the subject. However, this argument is not as tight as one
would wish since the text occurs in poetry.

"Lion of /udall": TI1c /3/cssi11g 011 /11d11ll i11Gc1lt'sis49:8-12


well be a messianic reference: (1) the root i1i' takes, with rare exceptions, a
divine object; (2) 111'.)J:lo/~ is often used in reference to YHWH; (3) the firstborn
blessing is connected to the idea that from this line comes the one who will
save and rule the nations (e.g., 12:3b). Furthermore, the description of the
coming king in vv. 11-12 inevitably leads to the conclusion that ;;r,.ip is not
only a royal figure, but a messianic type of king.
But why is the term ii'?ip used? The reason might be that ;;t,.ip derives
from the root i1'?1!1, which has the semantic range of peace, tranquility, and
positive unconcern. This would fit the three characteristics of the coming
king and his reign that are described in the following verses exactly:
(1) Peace because nations will obey him (v. lOd)
(2) Fertility and prosperity of the land (v. 11)
(3) Beauty of the king (v. 12)
The direct object with the suffixed pronoun ,r, "to him" in v. lOd stands in
emphatic position and can only refer to the subject of the former line, viz.
ii'?w, thus pointing to an understanding of ;;r,.ip as an individual person. 79
Also note the a-assonance 1t1; ,i'?] ;;r,.ip, which does not appear to be
incidental, but is rather tying these words together.
The nations' obedienceB0 is towards Shiloh. The plural of "nations"
should not surprise. It is used before in Gen 17:6; 27:29; 28:3; 48:4, each time
in the context of blessing. In Gen 27:29 and Deut 32:8 the "peoples" refer to
foreign nations.Bl The leadership of Judah in Gen 49:9 is obviously extended
in v. 10 beyond the people of Israel, when Judah is praised by his brothers,
to a kingship over the nations of the world that are obedient to the coming
king; a truly messianic concept.B2

5.4. Abundance in Shiloh's Reign: Verse 11

This verse exhibits splendid Hebrew poetry. Each of the two bicola forms a
synonymous parallelism with ellipsis of the verbal element in the second
colon, and the two bicola parallel each other in the syntactic structure. The
endings of the cola in v. 10 form a matching 6h-6-6-6h pattern.
The participle '!t?N "tying (to)" demands the same subject as the preceding verb 1t1:. Thus, it is Shiloh who ties his donkey to the vine.





Cf. Westermann, Genesis 37-50, 262--63.

The meaning of the rare n;:ip~ is certainly "obedience." The similar term n;:iR'7 in Prov
30:17 does not help in illuminating Gen 49:10.
Cf. Isa 2:3; 8:9; 12:4; etc.
Sailhammer, "Genesis," 2: 276; Mathews, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 896; contra the idea that
only kinsmen, clans, and relatives are involved (pace Pehlke, "Genesis 49:1-28," 179).


Martin Probstle

The words i1'1'l,l "his foal (of a donkey)" and iJh~ ~:;i.83 "colt of his sheass" provide another clue for a messianic understanding. i1'1'l,l (from III *;)
is a hapax legomenon, but the similar term i'.P occurs eight times in the Hebrew Bible, amongst others in the singular in Zech 9:9. 84 The two members
of the construct word group iJh~ ~:;i are found as parts of a construct word
group in only one other place in the Hebrew Bible: Zech 9:9 again. Indeed,
if one compares Gen 49:10-11 with Zech 9:9 one detects intriguing parallels
which bear an important impact on the interpretation of Gen 49:10-12: 85
Genesis 49:10-11

Zechariah 9:9

N:::i; "he comes"

Ni::i; "he comes"

i:;;i7r;i "your king"
ii'='"W "?"
i1'1'l,l "his ass"
i'l,l "ass"
ilh~ ~:;i "foal of his she-ass"
niJhWP. "foal of a she-ass"
The sequence of words and phrases is very similar. The only difference is
that the verb-subject order in Gen 49:10 (iii,ip N::i;) is reversed in Zech 9:9
(Ni::i; 1;;i?r;i). I have included the subjects of N::i; because I suggest that i;;i?r;i
and ;;i,ip match each other like the other terms. This throws some light on
the obscure meaning of ;;i,ip. As the corning king in Zech 9:9 rides on his
ass, on the foal of a she-ass, so does ;;i,ip bind his ass to the vine, the foal of
his she-ass to the choice vine. 86 I propose that Zech 9:9 points to a royal
messianic background of the term ;;i,ip in Gen 49:10, so that ;;i,ip refers to
the corning king, the future Messiah. The original royal language in Gen
49:8--12 is taken up by Zechariah. Moreover, as Zech 9:9-10 is often recognized as a passage related to the Messiah figure, 87 the messianic idea of the
scene might well have its origin in the messianic overtones of Gen 49:10-11.






The suffix -i at pis a suffix of connection, a genitive case ending. It occurs also at the
participle '1t;JN in v. 1la.
The other references are found in Gen 32:16; Judg 10:4 (twice); 12:14; Isa 30:6, 24; Job
11:12. The singular occurs only in Zech 9:9 and Job 11:12. To ride on an ass may have
royal connotations Oudg 10:4; 12:4; Zech 9:9).
The intertextual reception of Gen 49:8-12 in Zech 9:9 is often neglected by exegetes of
the Genesis passage, but evident for exegetes of the Zech 9:9 (cf. Michael Fishbane,
Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985], 501-2).
Carol L. Meyers and Eric M. Meyers, Zechariah 9-14 (AB 25C; New York: Doubleday,
1993), 130, stress that the occurrence oh~JJ in Gen 49:11 and Zech 9:9 is no coincidence;
they also point out that "Matthew and John adopt the Septuagint's use of polon [for
'ayir] in the Zechariah passage, which is also the Greek at Gen 49:11."
The NT regards Jesus' triumphal return to Jerusalem as fulfillment of Zech 9:9 (Matt
21:5; John 12:15). See Deborah Krause, "The One Who Comes Unbinding the Blessing
of Judah: Mark 11:1-10 as a Midrash on Genesis 49:11, Zechariah 9:9, and Psalm
118:25-26," in Early Christian Interpretation of the Scriptures of Israel: Investigations and

"Lion ofludah": The Blessing on /uda/1 in Genesis 49:8-12


The synonymous parallelism in v. lla-b shows that i1i?1iv and J-?~ match
each other. The meaning of "noble grape" or "choice vine" for i1i?1iv may be
inferred by comparison with Isa 5:2 and Jer 2:21 (i'!iv), both "choice vine."BB
The language in v. 1la-b portrays a scene of abundant fruitfulness.
Normally, an ass/she-ass is not bound to a choice vine for it could be destroyed, either because the vine stem is not so strong or the ass may feed on
the choice vine. In the imagery of Gen 49:11 such considerations do not play
any role. The comment of the Talmud may exaggerate but pinpoints the
intention of the text when it claims that the harvest of one vine needs one
foal to carry it away and the harvest of one tree (apparently the choice vine
is as huge as a tree) even two she-asses. 89
In the bicolon v. llc-d the verbal root KBS takes only here the object
"garments" and means to clean clothes by treading, kneading and beating.
The hapax legomenon i1i'HO stands in synonymous parallelism to iVi~7 and
should therefore mean "garment," too. 90
The clothes are washed in wine. 91 The expression D':;ltP,"01 "blood of
grapes" occurs in another construct word chain in the song of Moses (Deut
32:14) embedded in a description of the extreme fertility of both the fauna
and the flora of the land in which the people of Israel live, produced by
YHWH's blessing.92 The words i'!iv and D':;ltP, also occur together in the Song
of the Vineyard in Isa 5:2, 4 (cf. Isa 16:8; Jer 2:21), where they are used to
stress that Yttwtt's activity for Israel involves only the best material.
There is no indication of judgment in these verses, though Isa 63:1--6 and
Rev 19:11-16 take up similar imagery. In the context of Gen 49:8--12 the
figurative language in v. 11 does not refer to garments dipped in the blood
of enemies after their judgment.93 Rather v. 11 is a hyperbolic statement






Proposals (ed. C. A. Evans and J. A. Sanders; SSEJC 5; JSNTSup 148; Sheffield: Sheffield
Academic Press, 1997), 141-53.
Because in these parallel texts P!iv is masculine some argue that the final He on ;ii?!iv is
a mater lectionis for the old third masculine singular suffix. Cf. Cross and Freedman,
Ancient Yahwistic Poetry, 84; Stuart, Studies in Early Hebrew Meter, 148.
Cf. Marcus Jastrow, "Light Thrown on Some Biblical Passages by Talmudic Usage,"
/BL 11 (1892): 127.
The Samaritan 1mc:i is an ancient emendation and not necessary. Cf. Paul Joi.ion,
"Notes de lexicographie hebraique, XVI [Genese 49:11]," Bib 21(1940):58.
For the preposition :i as indicating localization ("in") see Ernst Jenni, Die hebriiischen
Priipositionen, vol. 1, Die Priiposition Beth (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1992), 208; for beth
instrumentalis ("with") see Cross and Freedman, Ancient Yahwistic Poetry, 84, who
suggest that the subject is dyeing his garments the color of wine, perhaps a royal red.
Cf. :llV 01 "grape blood" in Sir 39:26; and 11?l=il l?P "like a vine in your blood" in Ezek
Pace Robert Alter, TI1e Art of Biblical Poetn; (New York: Basic, 1985), 16.


Martin Priibstle

referring to the extraordinary agricultural fertility so that grape juice will be

as abundant as water. 94 The idea of such an enormous (grape) harvest is
taken up in several texts that describe the prosperity and fertility in the future blissful times. 95 Thus, Gen 49:11 becomes the fruitful soil on which the
image of the messianic golden age shoots up.

5.5. Shiloh's Beauty: Verse 12

Verse 12 describes the personal beauty of the coming king. 7'7~D is a hapax
legomenon. Three different interpretations have been given:
(1) "Sparkling": 77~D derives from a metathesis of the root 1m::i. 96
(2) "Dark": 77~D derives from the Akkadian eklu/ekelu "dark" or ekletu
"darkness." 97
(3) "Redness": In Prov 23:29 the phrase O't'-!:' m??~i:i "redness of eyes"
occurs in the context of J~~ (vv. 30-31). This is taken to be a possible explanation for '??~i:i. But there is neither an etymological nor a comparative
philological argument for the meaning "red."
The parallelism in v. 12 between 7'7~D and 1:;1-7 "white" suggests a semantic meaning of "dark."
The clue to the function of the preposition JQ, and thus to the understanding of v. 12, is found in v. 12b. There the preposition JQ has to be taken
as JQ comparative: "teeth whiter than milk." 98 To regard the preposition JQ as
a JQ of source is not tenable because the translation "teeth white from milk"
is far from being logical for teeth have a natural whiteness. 99 Verse 12 describes the coming king: dark eyes and white teeth. The colors red and
white are sometimes used in poetry to describe the surpassing beauty of a
human being (Cant 4:2-3; 5:10, 12; 6:6; Lam 4:7). 100 At the end of the blessing
on Judah, they describe the beauty of the coming king.







Antonine De Guglielmo, "Fertility of the land in the messianic prophecies," CBQ 19

(1957): 306, regards the extraordinary fertility as a typical aspect of the messianic age.
See, for example, Lev 26:5; Isa 25:6; 29:17; 32:15; 51:3; Jer 31:12; Ezek 47:12; Hos 2:23-24;
Joel 2:24; 4:18; Amos 9:13-14; Zech 8:12; Mal 3:10; Ps 72:16.
Gunkel, Genesis, 483; A. Demsky, '"Dark Wine' from Judah," IE/ 22 (1972): 233-34.
Cf. S. M. Paul, "Classification of Wine in Mesopotamian and Rabbinic Sources," IE/ 25
(1975): 42-44. The occurrence of o~~'!l m'7'7:;n:i in Prov 23:29 is then interpreted as
"darkness of eyes" (cf. Speiser, Genesis, 366).
Cf. Arvid S. Kapelrud, "Genesis XLIX 12," VT 4 (1954): 427.
The Talmudic translation of Gen 49:11 underlines this interpretation: "The sparkling
of the eyes, brighter than wine; the whiteness of the teeth, whiter than milk." Cf.
Jastrow, "Talmudic Usage," 128.
Pehlke, "Genesis 49:1-28," 184.

"Lion of Judah": The Blessing on Judah i11 Genesis 49:8-12


6. Theological Themes in the Blessing on Judah

At least three major theological themes stand out in Gen 49:8-12: the continuing divine promise, the seemingly erratic firstborn blessing, and the
eschatological hope centered on the future (messianic) king.
First, the blessing on Judah involves (1) assurance of strength and
power; (2) assurance of the reign of Judah until the coming king; (3) promise of posterity because of an unbroken line of descendants; and (4) promise
of the land, which is presupposed, as there is no ruler without a kingdom.
This blessing continues the line of promises given to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3;
15; 17), Isaac (26:3--6) and Jacob (28:13-14; 35:9-12), thus assuring the unceasing faithfulness of YHWH. The continuity of these promises reflects the
faithfulness of God, who is the guarantor of the promises. As Jacob was
blessed by his father Isaac (27:29), Jacob himself blessed his son Judah with
the patriarchal firstborn blessing. Such a type of blessing involved fertility
of nature and superiority as firstborn. When Jacob received the blessing of
Isaac it was exactly these two items of the blessings that were given to him:
(1) fertility of nature because of God's blessing activity (27:28), and (2) superiority over man (27:29). The same two themes appear in Jacob's own blessing on Judah. Particularly the promise of superiority is expressed in similar
language: "Peoples shall serve you, and nations bow down to you, be masters
of your brothers, and the sons of your mother shall bow down to you" (27:29).
Thus, Jacob is handing down the firstborn blessing to Judah.
Second, the blessing, which is ultimately bestowed by God, is not something one is able to inherit. Failure in behavior and breaking the relationship with God jeopardize, if not annul, the blessing. Because of their
failures, the "legitimate" heirs Reuben and then Simeon and Levi were all
rejected and Judah was given the firstborn blessing. In the line of promise
several other firstborn by age have been rejected and another one received
the blessing and the birthright (Isaac, Jacob, and later David). The firstborn
blessing which is given in an unusual order shows the sovereignty of God,
who, as the guarantor of the blessing, implicitly stands behind such a seemingly erratic action.10 1
A brief note on some implications of Gen 49:8-12 for the present time
may be added. It appears that this blessing gives reason to reflect on our
own personal roots. Neither the fact that we are direct descendants of a true
believer nor our own merits can assure us of the divine blessing. Rather,
divine blessing is only obtained by a personal divine-human-relationship.


Cf. Roger Syren, Tile Forsaken Firstborn: A Study of a Recurrent Motif in the Patriarchal
Narratives USOTSup 133; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993).


Martin Priibst/e

And third, the blessing on Judah encapsulates the eschatological and

messianic hope. 102 God reveals through the patriarch the or;i:;:i n',1'.)l'.9 "future days" (Gen 49:1). He declares the prospective role of Judah as the one
who prevails upon and rules over his brothers, thus referring in unequivocal terms to the royal task of Judah. The coming king has his roots in the
line of Judah. Clearly, the first was David, but at David's time there was still
a king to come who will rule over entire nations. The ultimate kingdom is
one of exceeding splendor, regarding the fruitfulness in the kingdom as
well as the mighty power and just rule over the nations. 103
The blessing on Judah also delineates the concept of a royal person connected with divinity-through such clues as the root iii', Hl'.)J:11p~, and the
various parallel texts, of which Zech 9:9 is most striking. The divine connotations in Gen 49,8-12 are the fountainhead for the concept that the Messiah
to come is of divine origin.

7. Conclusion
The blessing on Judah in Gen 49 is an extraordinary part of Jacob's testament. Several features stand out: First, the structure of this blessing reveals
an increasing ABAB pattern with emphasis on the future blessing. Verse 8
describes the superiority of Judah over his brothers (A); v. 9 figuratively
illustrates Judah's strength and power (B). Verse 10 moves from the superiority of Judah to the superiority of coming Shiloh (A), whose superiority is
again illustrated by imagery (B)-in v. 11 by a hyperbolic description of the
extraordinary agricultural abundance and in v. 12 by a sketch of Shiloh's
surpassing beauty. The greater dimension in the second half of the passage
is expressed by ':;> il,l "until," which denotes that the following is a climax
and a broader fulfillment of the former situation/action.
Second, the blessing on Judah is the firstborn blessing. Several reasons
elucidate this conclusion: (1) the emphatic ilJ;il'.I "you" (v. 8a), which has a
contrasting function to the first three blessings, stresses the fact that Judah is



For the question of the eschatological significance of blessing on Judah see especially
Hans-Christoph Schmitt, "Eschatologische Stammesgeschichte im Pentateuch: Zurn
Judaspruch von Gen 49,8-12," in Antikes Judentum und Friihes Christentum: Festschrift
fiir Hartmut Stegemann zum 65. Geburtstag (ed. B. Kollmann, W. Reinbold, and A.
Steudel; BZNW 97; Berlin: De Gruyter, 1999), 1-11. For a treatment that connects the
messianic hope with the theology of promise in the book of Genesis see T. Desmond
Alexander, "Messianic Ideology in the Book of Genesis," in The Lord's Anointed:
Interpretation of Old Testament Messianic Texts (ed. P. E. Satterthwaite, R. S. Hess, and G.
J. Wenham; Carlisle: Paternoster; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995), 19-39, esp. 32-37.
Cf. Ernst Jenni, "Messiah, Jewish," IDB 3:362, who advocates that Gen 49:10-12 refers
to a "new messianic ruler in a new era of paradisical fruitfulness."

"Lion of Judah": T/1e Blessing on Judah in Genesis 49:8-12


the receiver of the firstborn blessing; (2) the plural of "nations" is always
used in Genesis in the context of blessing; (3) linguistic parallels to the
blessing of Jacob (Gen 27:28-29), the blessing of Moses (Deut 33:21-22), and
the blessing of Balaam (Num 24:9, 17) underline the central position of Gen
49:8--12 in the line of blessing and promise; and (4) the use of typical blessing terminology, including fertility and superiority (e.g., 17 m:1r:11p; "they
shall bow down to you"}, shows the unique nature of this blessing.
Third, besides the passages just cited Gen 49:8-12 exhibits allusions to
several other texts: Verse 8 alludes to the birth of Judah (29:35); and 111'.)T:lo/'
17 reminds of the "bowing down" of the brothers to Joseph (37:7-10; 42:6;
43:26, 28). Since 49:10-11 shows strong terminological and thematic parallels to Zech 9:9, the latter text points to a royal-messianic interpretation of
the term ii'7ip "Shiloh."
Fourth, the term ii'71V is best identified as an individual person, a coming king, indeed, the messianic king. The syntax of v. lOc-d, the royal and
divine terminology of the blessing, the parallel to Zech 9:9, and the thematic
structure support such an understanding.
Finally, the theological themes present in the passage are (1) the continuing promise, which points to the faithfulness of YHWH; (2) the theology
of blessing, which illustrates the importance of the divine-human relationship; and (3) the eschatological, messianic hope, which distinguishes the
blessing on Judah as one of the earliest messianic prophecies that contain a
significant number of details. In the book of Genesis the passage in 49:8-12
balances the first promise of a future deliverer in 3:15. Both texts form a
type of "messianic inclusio" in Genesis that encloses the post-Eden and the
patriarchal narratives. The messianic king portrayed in the blessing on
Judah is one who arises from the tribe of Judah, is the victor, and receives
the obedience and homage of the nations. The code name inspired by this
blessing is, without doubt, an appropriate title for this person: Lion of Judah.


1. Introduction
Just a couple of blocks away from the "Advent House", the Seventh-day
Adventist congregation in modem Jerusalem, is the location of the "Hekal
Schlomo," or the "Temple of Solomon." This impressive white marble synagogue complex is the world headquarters of Orthodox Judaism. There, as in
any synagogue, the Sabbath worship service consists largely of the profound
prayers of repentance and rejoicing in Torah, sung and spoken by the cantor
and worshipers.
There are over 400 synagogues in Jerusalem alone. Since there is no motorized traffic in Jerusalem on Sabbath, the narrow streets are filled with the
sounds of praying by our Jewish brothers and sisters instead of the normal
overwhelming noise of buses, trucks and cars. The Jewish people have a
long tradition of praying, going back to the times of Scripture. The OT Psalter contains the classic collection. However, examples of biblical praying are
not limited to these prayers. Many people are seen praying all throughout
Scripture. 1 Let us look at one found in the OT.
When studying the historical books, it is often customary to pass over
the lengthy narrative of one woman, delving more into the life of her noble
son, Samuel. Three prominent persons certainly dominate the Samuel
books: Saul, David and Samuel. Yet these books open with a detailed picture of Hannah. In the pivotal shift of Israel's history from the period of the
Judges into the monarchy, Hannah is the key transitional figure. The historical books of the OT open with an extended portrait of this woman. 2 We

For an overview of these prayers, see, e.g., Herbert Lockyer, All the Prayers of the Bible
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959); Ronald E. Clements, The Prayers of the Bible
(London: SCM, 1986); and Moshe Greenberg, Biblical Prose Prayer: As a Window to the
Popular Religion of Ancient Israel (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983).
For a sensitive analysis of the Hannah narrative and its highlighting of the value of
this woman, see Trevor Dennis, Sarah Laughed: Women's Voices in the Old Testament
(Nashville: Abingdon, 1994), 115-39. See also Yairah Amit, "'Am I Not More Devoted
to You than Ten Sons?' (1 Samuel 1,8): Male and Female Interpretations," in A Feminist
Companion to Samuel and Kings (ed. A. Brenner; FCB 5; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic
Press, 1994), 68-76; Lillian R. Klein, "Hannah: Marginalized Victim and Social
Redeemer," in A Feminist Companion to Samuel and Kings (ed. A. Brenner; FCB 5;


Jo Ann Davidson

are told comparatively little about her husband Elkanah. It is Hannah who
inaugurates and anchors the outset of this time period. 3 The unusual
amount of detail involving Hannah presented in the opening records of the
era of the Monarchy invite our attention. The following study represents an
original "close reading" of the Hannah narrative. 4


Hannah's Prayer Habits

Attention to the "particulars" within the first two chapters of the Samuel
books yields impressive information of Hannah's life. First, a description of
her household is presented. Next, we find Hannah at the sanctuary praying.
In fact, we see her in prayer and worship more than any other activity. Her
initial petition to God is the first words we hear her say. And after this she
speaks more than anyone else in the first two chapters of the Samuel books.
Her initial prayer in First Samuel portrays Hannah crying to God in
"bitterness of soul and [... ] [that she] wept in anguish" (1 Sam 1:10, NKJV). 5
Hannah does not need her husband Elkanah to pray for her at the sanctuary-she prays. And the words of her prayer are the first by a woman recorded in the OT. We know that other women before her, such as Rebekah,
Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 77-92; Carol Meyers, "Hannah and Her
Sacrifice: Reclaiming Female Agency," in A Feminist Companion to Samuel and Kings
(ed. A. Brenner; FCB 5; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 93-104; Ken
Mulzac, "Hannah: The Receiver and Giver of a Great Gift," AUSS 40 (2002): 207-17;
and Adele Berlin, "Hannah and Her Prayers," Scriptura 87 (2004): 227-32.
The same phenomenon occurs at the outset of the Exodus. The women Jochebed,
Miriam, Shiphrah, Puah, and the Egyptian princess inaugurate the events leading up
to the exodus from Egypt, another major event in Israel's history. The opening
chapters of the book of Exodus feature five women. The name of the Egyptian king is
not even given. We hear of him only by his title "Pharaoh". Five women are the focus
of attention in the inaugural Exodus narratives. For literature, see, Dennis, Sarah
Laughed, 84-114; J. Cheryl Exum, "'You Shall Let Every Daughter Live': A Study of
Exodus 1:8-2:10," Semeia 28 (1983): 63-82; idem, "Second Thoughts About Secondary
Characters: Women in Exodus 1:8-2:10," in A Feminist Companion to Exodus to
Deuteronomy (ed. A. Brenner; FCB 6; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 75--87;
lrmtraud Fischer, Women Who Wrestled with God: Biblical Stories of Israel's Beginnings
(transl. L. M. Maloney; Collegeville: Liturgical, 2005), 113-28; Jacqueline E. Lapsley,
Whispering the Word: Hearing Women's Stories in the Old Testament (Louisville:
Westminster John Knox, 2005), 69-88; Moshe Reiss, "The Women Around Moses,"
JBQ 33 (2005): 127-30.
See Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic, 1981), and idem, The
Art of Biblical Poetry (New York: Basic, 1985), for recognized introductions that are
sensitive to the biblical text as it reads.
Hannah was praying with such intensity that Eli rebuked what he took to be drunken
behavior. It was a terrible mistake, but suggests something about the problems he
apparently had to contend with at that time.

Deep Breathing


prayed to God (Gen 25:22), but the actual words of their prayers are not
preserved. However, in this instance, we hear Hannah's prayer. She even
pledges to God that if he would grant her a son, that promised son would
be dedicated to Him as a Nazarite:
Then she made a vow and said, "O LORD of hosts, 6 if You will indeed
look on the affliction of your maidservant and remember me, and not
forget your maidservant, but will give your maidservant a male child,
then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall
come upon his head." (1 Sam 1:11, NKJV)
In Numbers 6 God had established the Nazarite vow to those who would

personally choose such consecration. However, here we find Hannah making this vow for her yet-unborn, and even unconceived, child.
Later Hannah brings Samuel to Shiloh in fulfillment of her vow to God.
Again the focus is solely on her. She travels with her husband, we are told/
but the worship experience is initiated solely by Hannah. The text specifies
that she is directly involved:
Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three
bulls, one ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and brought him [Samuel]
to the house of the LORD in Shiloh. And the child was young. (1 Sam
1:24, NKJV, emphasis added)
These actions of Hannah become even more significant when we recall that
Elkanah was a Levite (1Sam1:1; 1Chr6:33-38). However, Hannah went to
Shiloh expressly to fulfill her own vow. 8 The text specifically describes her
as the one who brought such expensive offerings to present at the tabernacle along with her own beloved promised son to dedicate him to God's service. Even the choice of bulls for offering, when smaller animals would
have been acceptable (Lev 12:6) is indicative of the deep gratitude of Hannah.
In a later century Mary will also present gifts with her son Jesus at the
Temple in Jerusalem. However, Mary returns home with her child after the

This name for God, "LORD of hosts,'' is first used in the OT here by Hannah and then
occurs frequently in the books of Samuel (1 Sam 1:11; 4:4; 15:2; 17:45; 2 Sam 5:10; 6:2,
18; 7:8, 26-27), Kings, Chronicles, and the prophets.
After Hannah presents Samuel at Shiloh: "Then Elkanah went to his house at Ramah"
(1 Sam 2:11). See also Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Boise: Pacific Press, 1958),
571: "Once more Hannah journeyed with her husband to Shiloh, and presented to the
priest, in the name of God, her precious gift."
Her husband supports her: "And Elkanah her husband said to her, 'Do what seems
best to you( ... ]" (1Sam1:23, NKJV).


]o Ann Davidson

ceremony. In this instance, Hannah will return home without her son. This
is an offering without parallel in all Scripture.9
Hannah's devotion did not diminish when her earnest prayer was
granted. At this moving moment, Hannah again pours out her soul to God.
This second prayer of Hannah is arresting. We do not hear the words of a
gentle lullaby as typically attributed to mothers. Instead we find a rather
"unladylike" vigorous shout of triumph! She begins with exuberant highly
personal expressions, using no less than four first-person statements expressing her great joy in the LORD: "My heart (... ] my strength [literally,
'horn') (... ] my mouth (... ] I rejoice" (1 Sam 2:1). Hannah's whole being
unites in praise because of what God has done. First of all she extols God's
holiness and knowledge (v. 2). Then she continues with examples of providential reversals that God has brought about, affecting: strong and weak;
full and hungry; barren and fertile; dead and alive; sick and well; poor and
rich; humble and exalted (vv. 4-7). She also speaks of war, announcing that
the enemies of the LORD will be broken in pieces (v. 10). Hannah praises
God for victory in the battles of life.
She concludes with a prayer for the king (2 Sam 2:10). However, in
Hannah's day there wasn't even a hint of the monarchy yet. Nevertheless,
Hannah's prayer includes mention of an anointed king! Even though Israel
did not have a king until some years after this, whom her son Samuel will
anoint, a promised king was part of the Abrahamic covenant where God
pledges: "I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of
you, and kings shall come from you" (Gen 17:6). Hannah prophesies about
the glorious Messiah king!
Hannah's earnest prayer life reveals her conscious, intimate relationship
with God. One cannot help but be impressed with the strength of this relationship as it is reflected in her prayers. Even praying in such a manner that
it constrained a presiding priest to chide her for being drunk.
What can we learn from Hannah about prayer? First of all, we find
Hannah going directly to God pouring out her pain and grief. She did not
think of prayer as merely a proper eloquent exchange between a polite, reverent believer and God. No, when Hannah ached, she cried out painful
words, the text records. For her, God is very real and her prayers are in earnest. Biblical prayer regularly reveals a depth and intensity that often separates it from our own present-day practices.

The contrast between Hannah's selfless devotion and the self-indulgence of the priests
at Shiloh (1 Sam 2:12) highlights further the cost to Hannah of leaving her son Samuel

Deep Breathing


Later we observe Hannah again praying to God, but this time it is to

praise him, showing that for her God is not merely a last resort, only in
times of crisis. She also offers prayers of joy and praise to God. However,
Hannah has not hesitated to beg God for help.

3. What We Can Learn

Hannah's two prayers are brimming with valuable instruction. Her first
prayer in extreme anguish can encourage us that God is not afraid of our
negative emotions, and that we do not need to "buck up" before we come to
him. In fact, God no doubt appreciates our complete honesty. He already
knows, even before we pray, what is in our most secret thoughts. Thus perhaps he rejoices when we finally face ourselves truthfully, and trust him
with our pain. We often discern this kind of integrity in biblical praying. The
Psalter includes many of these "daring" prayers: "Remove your plague from
me; I am consumed by the blow of your hand. When with rebukes you correct man for iniquity, you make his beauty melt away like a moth[ .. .]" (Ps
39:10-11, NKJV [ET 11-12]). It is instructing to note that over half of the
prayers in the Psalter deal with the protests and complaints of believers. 10
Hannah's second prayer reminds us of the attitude of thanksgiving. In
fact, this is one of the rare prayers in Scripture that doesn't petition God for
anything. Instead, Hannah's profound faith comprehends that God's mighty
sovereignty still directs all human history, and she exalts him in praise:
"My heart rejoices in the LORD;
My horn is exalted in the LORD.
I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.
There is none holy like the LORD,
For there is none besides you.
Nor is there any rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly;
Let no arrogance come from your mouth,
For the LORD is the God of knowledge;
And by him actions are weighed[ ... ].
He will guard the feet of his saints,
But the wicked shall be silent in darkness.


Though rarely referred to in modem Christian worship, many of the Psalter's prayers
are rugged. For example: "How long, 0 Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long
will you hide your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having
sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?" (Ps 13:1-2).
Some modem critics assail these types of prayers as signs of immaturity. But, perhaps,
it is modem Christianity that has not matured in its understanding of prayer and its
thinking about God.


Jo Ann Davidson

For by strength no man shall prevail.

The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces;
From heaven he will thunder against them.
The LOim will judge the ends of the earth.
He will give strength to his king
And exalt the horn of his anointed." (1Sam2:1-3, 9-10)
Hannah's prayer life also yields a vivid portrait of a person who maintains
a vital relationship with the God of heaven, even though struggling with
difficult personal problems. Moreover, she did this at a time when the
"church-at-large" was not healthy. Recall how Eli, the high priest, was soon
to be reprimanded by God and the ark captured by the Philistines. Yet
Hannah does not withdraw from the people of God just because there are
serious sins in his people. Instead we find her praying at Shiloh. Nor does
she give up her faith in despair. Hannah maintains a fervent communion
with God during very troubling times. She has obviously not reduced faith
to "positive thinking." Nor has she believed that it is better to be nice at the
throne of God than it is to be honest. She was not in the habit of denying
reality when approaching God.
To Hannah, God was not a personal valet or some celestial Santa Claus
doling out blessings upon request. Nor was God an impersonal "force"
maintaining the universe. No, he was someone very real to her, and apparently she often communed with him. Ellen White describes Hannah praying even when sewing:
When separated from her child, the faithful mother's solicitude did not
cease. Every day he was the subject of her prayers. Every year she made,
with her own hands, a robe of service for him; and as she went up with
her husband to worship at Shiloh, she gave the child this reminder of her
love. Every fiber of the little garment had been woven with a prayer that
he might be pure, noble, and true. She did not ask for her son worldly
greatness, but she earnestly pleaded that he might attain that greatness
which Heaven values-that he might honor God and bless his fellow
men. 11

4. Other Biblical Examples

All through the OT we find women and men often praying with intensity,
their prayers repeatedly displaying a fervor not often seen today. 12 We

White, Patriarchs and Proplzets, 572.

Note the prophet Jeremiah's outburst: "'O LORD, you induced me, and I was
persuaded; you are stronger than I, and have prevailed. I am in derision daily;
everyone mocks me. For when I spoke, I cried out; I shouted, 'Violence and plunder!'
Because the word of the LORD was made to me a reproach and a derision daily. Then I

Deep Breathing


surely can learn much from our forebears, including women like Hannah,
about approaching God with deep-felt convictions, honesty and emotion. If
prayer is the breath of the soul, as Ellen White suggests, we find Hannah
breathing deep. 13
The power of God has not been withdrawn. Rather, it is we who have
lost our energy to wrestle with God, as Jacob did, crying "I will not let you
go, except you bless me" (Gen 32:26). We become so absorbed in our tasks
and responsibilities that we feel there is little time to pray, and perhaps
have but little interest in prayer. However, this is not the picture we find in
Scripture. Even Jesus was much in prayer, and how earnest and fervent
were his petitions: "In the days of his flesh, he offered up both prayers and
supplications with loud crying and tears [... ]" (Heb 5:7). 14 If he, the divine
Savior, prayed so earnestly and often with such agony in our behalf, how
much more do we need to have our whole souls stirred to wrestle with
As mentioned above, Ellen White calls prayer "the breath of the soul."
But we must not let the familiarity of this phrase blunt its impact. For it is



said, 'I will not make mention of him, nor speak anymore in his name.' But his word
was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it
back, and I could not" (Jer 20:7-9, NKJV). Ellen White writes of Moses: "Moses had a
deep sense of the personal presence of God. [... ) God was real to him, ever present in
his thoughts. [... )Moses was full of confidence in God because he had appropriating
faith. He needed help, and he prayed for it, grasped it by faith, and wove into his
experience the belief that God cared for him. [... )The presence of God was sufficient
to carry him through the most trying situations in which a man could be placed [... ].
This faith was to Moses no guesswork: it was a reality." Ellen G. White, Our Fa.ther
Cares (Hagerstown: Review & Herald, 1991), 176.
Ellen White speaks eloquently of the necessity of prayer: "Prayer is the breath of the
soul. It is the secret of spiritual power. No other means of grace can be substituted,
and the health of the soul be preserved. Prayer brings the heart into immediate contact
with the Well-spring of life, and strengthens the sinew and muscle of the religious
experience. Neglect the exercise of prayer, or engage in prayer spasmodically, now
and then, as seems convenient, and you lose your hold on God. The spiritual faculties
lose their vitality, the religious experience lacks health and vigor." Ellen G. White,
Gospel Workers (Washington, D.C.: Review & Herald, 1948), 254.
Ellen White notes the many times in the Gospels where Jesus is described praying,
and fills in the picture more fully. See Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Boise: Pacific
Press, 1940), 111-13 (at his baptism), 379 (after feeding the five thousand), 419-20 (at
his transfiguration), 686-93 (Gethsemane). She describes the fervency of Christ's
prayers with phrases such as "He pleads," "In travail and conflict of soul he prayed
for his disciples." And "the Man of Sorrows pours out his supplications with strong
crying and tears." See also, "Jesus [... ) frequently devoted the entire night to prayer
just before he was called upon to work some mighty miracle [... ) with strong crying
and tears he poured forth the earnest petitions to God on behalf of humanity." Ellen
G. White, "Christ's Example in Prayer," Signs of the Times 19, no. 37 (24 July 1893), 6.


Jo Ann Davidson

not just a warm, poetic metaphor. Rather, it is an arresting analogy. Having

a desperate experience of gasping for air can assist us in grasping the meaning of this statement. As soon as we are born we need to start breathing
immediately or we will die. Many parents recall the dramatic moment
when their newborn infants take their first breath of air. They also recall
checking on their newborn babies in their cribs to be sure they are breathing. It is absolutely essential for human beings to breathe constantly. Without regular breathing a human life ends abruptly in just a few minutes,
though we can live days and even weeks without water and food. And
through this stark comparison with our critical physical need for air, Ellen
White instructs us concerning our spiritual need for prayer. The lives of
Hannah and Jesus along with many others in Scripture exemplify for us this
crucial deep breathing of the soul.



In working on his interpretation of Ps 127, Martin Luther extensively used

Rabbi Kimchi' s famous commentary on the Hebrew Psalter and came to the
conclusion: "Rabbi Kimchi est deus Rabinorum" [Rabbi Kimchi is the god
of the Rabbis]. 1 In writing an article on the Psalms in the context of a Festschrift for "Rabbi Pfandl," as he has been affectionately christened by some
of his former students, I would like to pay tribute to the fact that he also has
been and continues to be a deus Rabinorum, that is, a teacher of teachers who
has been able to impact on the lives of his students in a lasting manner.
While one should probably not hold him responsible for the content of this
article, I would like to express my gratitude for the fact that I have gone
through two years of his classes followed by years of interaction with him
as a colleague that in a way prepared me for what I am writing now.

1. The Relationship between

Image and Imagery
Imagery is the essence of biblical poetry. 2 However, studies on biblical imagery usually focus on the semantic value of words in their contexts and
rarely on the actual images that may lie behind the words. Ancient Near
Eastern iconography as a growing field in biblical studies provides a tool
through which the thought-world of the biblical authors may be accessed
not only via the literary poetic device, but also through a visual artifact that
can be related to the text. The Psalms need to be seen and not just read, as

Kommission zur Herausgabe der Werke Martin Luthers, eds., D. Martin Luthers Werke:
Kritische Gesamtausgabe (Weimarer Ausgabe): Abteilung 3: Die Deutsche Bibel (12 vols.;
Weimar: Bi.ihlaus Nachfolger, 1906-1961), 3:574.
"Images are the glory, perhaps the essence of poetry, the enchanted planet of the
imagination, a limitless galaxy, ever alive and ever changing." Luis Alonso Schi.ikel, A
Manual of Hebrew Poetics (SubBi 11; Rome: Pontificio Jstituto Biblico, 1988), 95.


Martin G. Klingbeil

Brown suggests in the title of his extensively reviewed work on the relationship between metaphor and icon. 3

1.1. Image and Text

The relationship between image and text can be manifold and complex.
Traditionally, Judea-Christian sources have given preference to the text
over the image, but at least since Gressmann's ABAT2 4 and Pritchard's
ANET5 there is an awareness that the OT has been written in a sociocultural context that was full of images and that these images have had an
impact on the biblical text. 6 A simple example may be found in Ps 65:10
(MT) where a somewhat enigmatic reference is made to the o;:i?~ l?-? "canal
of God" often translated erroneously as "river," which can better be interpreted as a conduit of water flowing downwards from the heavenly realm
to the earth. This represents an iconographic motif, which is known from
Middle-Assyrian and Middle-Babylonian times. Figure 1 shows a Kassite

William P. Brown, Seeing the Psalms: A Theology of Metaphor (Louisville: Westminster

John Knox, 2002). For a recent review, cf. Susan Gillingham, review of W. P. Brown,
Seeing the Psalms: A Theology of Metaphor, Biblnt 14, no. 3 (2006): 296-99. While the work
addresses the relationship between image and imagery, it does not sufficiently deal
with the ANE iconographic background of biblical imagery from a methodological
Hugo Gressmann, ed., Altorientalische Bilder zum A/ten Testament (2d ed.; Berlin: de
Gruyter, 1927).
James B. Pritchard, The Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1954).
For a short and critical history of pictorial Bible encyclopedias, see Silvia Schroer and
Othmar Keel, Vom ausgelienden Mesolithikum bis zur Friihbronzezeit (vol 1. of Die
Ikonographie Paliistinasllsraels und der Alte Orient: Eine Religionsgeschichte in Bildern;
Fribourg: Academic Press, 2005), 13-16. The authors furthermore provide a short
summary of publications from the so-called Fribourg-School of iconography which
outlines the development of iconographic studies throughout the last 20 years, since
Keel published his first work on the iconography of the Hebrew Psalter in 1972 in
which he focused on the Hebrew Psalter with the intention of surveying the
conceptual similarities between the biblical text and the ANE image, drawing mainly
on Mesopotamian and Egyptian monumental art. Cf. Othmar Keel, Die Welt der
altorientalischen Bildsymbolik und das Alte Testament: Am Beispiel der Psalmen (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1972). More recent publications have moved from mere
biblical theme-oriented studies toward a primary concern of the iconographic
evidence as such and its consequential bearing on the religious history of ancient
Israel. In the same way, the focus has shifted from exegetical issues to the synthesizing
and integration of iconographic evidence into an overall picture of the religious belief
of Ancient Israel. Thus, the attempt is to contribute to the reconstruction of the
religious conceptual world (Vorstellungswelt) of Israel through pictorial material. Cf.
Schroer and Keel, Mesolithikum bis Fri.ihbronzezeit, 11-13.

Image and Imagery in the Hebrew Psalter


cylinder-seal with an inscription

dated to the 14th century B.C.
On it there is the water-god Ea
surrounded by lush vegetation,
holding in each hand a vase
from which streams of water
flow downwards into receptacles on the ground.7
The predominance of text
over image in biblical scholarFigure/: Kassite cylinder-seal
ship has been criticized repeatedly and the argumentation, which is usually adduced, is that this has its
roots in a supposedly aniconic Judeo-Christian tradition. 8 However, archaeology and the study of imagery in the Bible points to the fact that the
biblical authors were well aware of and receptive to the images around
them. Iconographic studies, especially those from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, have recently taken this notion to its furthest conclusion in attempting a reconstruction of the religious history of Palestine/Israel based on images without any explicit reference to the Hebrew Bible.
Preference in this case is given to the image over the text, based on the
minimalist assumption that the text of the OT is only of limited value for
historical reconstructions. 9 A more differentiated approach would recognize text and image as two independent media that both have strengths and
weaknesses, and both need to be interpreted in their respective rights
within relevant hermeneutic parameters. Furthermore, both sources have to
interact with each other through comparison, whereas the point of departure for the comparative process within the context of OT studies needs to
be the biblical text.

For a more detailed description of the seal, cf. Martin G. Klingbeil, Yahwe/1 Fighting
from Heaven: God as a Warrior and as God of Heaven in the Hebrew Psalter and Ancient Near
Eastern Iconography (OBO 169; Fribourg: University Press, 1999), 205--6.
"Eine Folge der jiidisch-christilichen Wort- und Textzentriertheit [... ) ist die
ungebrochene Textfixierung groBer Bereiche der Altertums- und auch der modernen
Religionswissenschaften." Schroer and Keel, Mesolithikum bis Friihbronzezeit, 20.
In the introduction to the first volume, the authors outline their approach: "Der
Verzicht auf die Erwahnung der Bibel als ReferenzgroBe im Titel ist die Konsequenz
jiingerer Forschungsentwicklungen im Bereich von Bibelwissenschaft und
Archaologie Palastinas/Israels sowie der Diskussionen um Religionsgeschichte Israels
und Theologie des Ersten (Alten) Testaments." Ibid., 12.


Martin G. Klingbeil

1.2. Imagery in the Psalms

It is impossible to talk about imagery in the Psalms without touching on the
realm of metaphor. Metaphor, as suggested by Berlin, is almost intrinsic to
parallelism as the strongest expression of Hebrew poetry, which indicates
that imagery in the Psalms is usually transmitted via this literary device. 10
Although most scholars recognize the importance of metaphor in the Hebrew Psalter, there is little material that discusses the subject in a systematic
manner, taking into consideration modem metaphor theory and cognitive
linguistics. Most of the literature that is available on the subject follows in
the footsteps of Macky's interactive metaphor theory. 11 The recent discussion of metaphor criticism in the Psalms could possibly be summarized
under three emerging angles: (1) Semantics and Pragmatics: the study of
metaphor in the Palms has to be in reference to both semantics and pragmatics, taking into consideration both meaning and usage. This implies a
closer look at the cultural and social context of the metaphor, including the
iconographic ANE image as discussed in this article. (2) Cognitive Linguistics: metaphors transmit content but also no-content, drawing at the same
time on different domains of knowledge and combining them in a new and
creative way; they structure our thinking theologically through what they
tell us and what they do not. Metaphors in the Psalms can be cognitively
categorized and represent universal truths that cannot be expressed otherwise. Therefore, metaphors in the Psalms have a rhetorical or ideological
force that should not be underestimated. (3) Intertextuality: Metaphors
have a chronological aspect and appear on a time-line; they should be studied with reference to their usage and re-usage in biblical texts which
through intertextual markers indicate that they refer to the same metaphor,
possibly shifting or creating new meaning along the way. In this way, imagery in the Psalms can help us to gain a clearer understanding of the religious history of the OT and help us to understand our own modem and
personal religious histories. 12




Adele Berlin, The Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism (Bloomington: Indiana University

Press, 1985), 99-102.
Paul W. Macky, The Centrality of Metaphors to Biblical Thought: A Method for Interpreting
the Bible (Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity 19; Lewiston: Mellen, 1990).
Cf. my literature review of recent studies in biblical metaphor and more specifically,
metaphor in the Hebrew Psalter: Martin G. Klingbeil, "Metaphors that Travel and
(Almost) Vanish: Mapping Diachronic Changes in the Intertextual Usage of the
Heavenly Warrior Metaphor in Psalms 18 and 144" (paper presented at the annual
international meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature and European Association
for Biblical Studies, Vienna, 22-26 July 2007), 1-8.

Image and Imagery in the Hebrew Psalter


1.3. Literary and Literal Image

Athanasius (A.D. 293-373) in his letter to Marcellinus states that the reader
of the Psalms "is enabled to possess the image deriving from the words," 13
referring to expressions that can be realized in both image and language.
Cognitive linguistics has demonstrated the level of understanding (cognition) a metaphor is able to evoke, as the most prominent trope of biblical
imagery, through the incongruity between different domains of knowledge.14 The resulting new meaning is based on the reader/hearer's ability to
map from the known towards the Wlknown. While modem metaphor theory deals adequately with the issues of semantics and pragmatics, the question of the origin of the metaphor in the poet's mind is rarely addressed.
Images are derived from imagination and the imagery actually opens a
window into the poet's mind. While we often look through this window to
discern the meaning of the imagery, we frequently overlook the image behind the imagery. The iconoclastic debate of
church history has warned against the icon becoming the idol, which happens when the deity's
power is harnessed within the physical structure of
the image. 15 However, the fear of idolatry has impoverished the hermeneutical endeavor to discover the image behind the imagery. Mostly,
pictorial remains from the ANE have been treated
as illustrations of texts or described under arthistorical perspectives, but are seldom taken into
consideration when it comes to the reconstruction
of religio-cultural history. A stele (Figure 2) found
in a clear Iron Age I archaeological context near the
gate at Bethsaida showing a semi-abstract image of
an anthropomorphic figure with a sword and a
Figure 2:
bovine head which has been identified as a moonBethsaida-stele
deity, may actually tell us a great deal about prob-




Anasthasius, The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcel/inus (trans. R. C. Gregg; Classics
of Western Spirituality; New York: Paulist, 1980), 108.
For a recent perspective on cognitive linguistics and metaphor, cf. Olaf Jake!, "How
Can Mortals Understand the Road He Travels? Prospects and Problems of the
Cognitive Approach to Religious Metaphor," in The Bible Through Metaphor and
Translation: A Cognitive Semantic Perspective (ed. K. Feyaerts; Religions and Discourse
15; Oxford: Peter Lang, 2003), 55--86.
Cf. Moshe Barasch, "The Idol in the Icon: Some Ambiguities," in Representation in
Religion: Studies in Honor of Moshe Barash (ed. J. Assmann and A. I. Baumgarten;
Leiden: Brill, 2001), 1-26.


Martin G. Klingbeil

lematic cultic practices of OT times at the city-gate that motivated religious

reforms like the one mentioned in the short information provided in 2
Kings 23:8-"He broke down the shrines at the gates" {Nrv). 16 Goldwasser
goes further in establishing the cognitive relationship between the image
and imagery on the basis of Egyptian hieroglyphs where the relationship
between text and picture is probably the most intricate; stating that in this
pictorial form of writing the "intellectual leap" between icon and phonetic
metaphor has been accomplished.17 Thus, the biblical poets drew from a
conceptual stock of imagery that can and needs to be related to the images
of the ANE within the parameters of a balanced comparative methodology,18 whereas ANE iconography serves as the tool that facilitates the comparison.19

16 Othrnar Keel and Monika Bernett, Mand, Stier und Kult am Stadttor: Die Stele van



Betsaida (et-Tell) (OBO 161; Fribourg: University Press, 1998).

Orly Goldwasser, From Icon to Metaphor: Studies in the Semiotics of the Hieroglyphs (OBO
142; Fribourg: University Press, 1995).
Comparative Method in biblical studies refers to the comparison of biblical with other
phenomena that occur in the whole realm of the ANE setting in general. The
comparisons have to work on the level of cultural systems without isolating
individual phenomena from their respective cultural context. The underlying
principles of the comparative method are based on the assumption that there are
common characteristics between societies and cultures, which allow the researcher to
make valid comparisons. Early iconographic studies took place on a grand scale
(typological comparison) assurrring a general cultural uniformity in the ANE, e.g.,
liberally comparing a text from the Hebrew Psalter with an Old Babylonian cylinderseal. A more contextual approach focuses on both differences and similarities, trying
to strike a balance between contrasts and parallels and needs to be informed by the
two governing principles of the comparative method, that is, place and time or
geography and chronology. Without entering the discussion of dating the Psalms, there
seems to be sufficient evidence to propose a chronological framework from the Iron
Age I to the Persian Period for the Hebrew Psalter from which comparative material
could be drawn. Geographically, the period outlined above comprises such a number
of historical situations and locations that it appears advisable to advance the
geographical limitations beyond the immediate Palestinian/Israelite borders (e.g., Ps
68 presupposes a Trans-Jordanian locale, possibly, even reaching into Syria, while Ps
137 is set against the backdrop of the Babylonian exile). Cf. Meir Malul, The
Comparative Method in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical Legal Studies (AOAT 227;
Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1990).
As an evolving discipline within biblical studies, ANE iconography describes and
interprets the pictorial remains of ancient cultures. It focuses on the development of
themes and motifs throughout the material culture of the ANE and tries to establish
possible relationships with the cultural and religious history of the ancient world. Cf.
Othmar Keel, "Iconography and the Bible," ABO 3:358-74.

Image and Imagery in the Hebrew Psalter


2. A First and Second Looi~ at Images in the

Hermann Gunkel in his commentary on the Psalms recognized the contribution of ANE images to the study of the Psalms. In his interpretation of Ps
17:8 he makes reference to objects, especially from Egypt, that show divine
beings with wings spread protectively over humans. 20 The purpose was to
illustrate the integration of Israelite belief into ANE culture and the evolution of OT religious history out of it. While Gunkel's approach to iconographic interpretation and comparative method would deserve a closer
critical look, his interpretation demonstrates that most probably the first
look at images in the Psalms lies in the realm of searching for illustrations.
While one should not demerit this approach, there is a definite need for a
second look at the way in which ANE iconography can interface with the
biblical text of the Hebrew Psalter.

2.1. Lool~ing for Illustrations

Figures 1 and 2 have presented examples from ANE iconography to illustrate specific biblical texts, without paying attention to methodological issues. While this approach needs to be benchmarked with the parameters of
the comparative method, 21 there is a wide interest for this usage of iconography in biblical studies, since it can provide a snapshot of ancient cultures,
peoples or objects, which helps us to visualize and in tum contextualize the
biblical text. Keel's foundational work on iconography in the Psalms was
largely following this approach and still represents the most important reference work of its kind.
The following illustrations show the possibilities of this approach to
iconography. The expression in Ps 68:22 [ET Ps 68:21]-"Surely God will
crush the heads of his enemies, the hairy crowns of those who go on in their
sins" (NIV)-appears to be allusive to the familiar smiting-god motif from
ANE iconography. While the motif usually depicts weather- and war-gods
with different geographical and chronological characteristics, it is clear that
the gesture always indicates the supremacy of the god versus the subjugation of the enemy or animal respectively. As an example an ivory silhouette-inlay from Samaria may be taken, dating from the 8th century B.C.
(Figure 3), which shows a male figure standing in a striding position, wear-


Hermann Gunkel, Die Psalmen: Ubersetzt und erkliirt (5th ed.; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck
& Ruprecht, 1968), 57-58.


See above note 18.


Martin G. Klingbeil

ing the double crown of Upper and

Lower Egypt. 22 With his right hand
raised above his head, he is holding a
club ready to strike, while with his
left hand he is grasping the hair of an
enemy who is kneeling in front of
him with his hands raised toward the
standing figure. The detail of the
i.l;Jip iP"'fi? "hairy skull" mentioned in
Ps 68:22b is not a byproduct of the
psalmist's vivid imagination or an
exercise in parallelismus membrorum,
but serves as an important part of the
Figure 3: Ivory from Samaria
imagery, indicating the animal-like
character of the enemy. Thus, the subjugation of the enemy is closely associated with the triumph over the chaotic forces, represented by the hairy
skull. However, a closer look reveals that there are no distinct divine attributes present, so the figure could also be identified with the pharaoh in his
typical posture, denoting his dominion over the
enemies. Nevertheless, the king was often depicted in postures normally associated with the
iconography of deities and divine attributes
were frequently associated with him. Figure 4
shows a typical and rather unambiguous depiction of Ba' al-Seth, the amalgamation of a Semitic and an Egyptian deity. 23 It is found on a
steatite scarab from Lachish (Tell ed-Duweir)
corning from a Late Bronze grave which was
reused until the Iron Age IIC (720/700-600
B.C.). 24 Stylistically it belongs to the 19th-22d
Dynasty (1295-900 B.C.). Although the god is
found in a more passive stance, here he is
Figure 4: Steatite scarab
depicted as fighting the homed snake repre22



For a more detailed description of the object, see Klingbeil, Yahweh Fighting from
Heaven, 174. The line drawing was published in Othmar Keel and Christoph
Uehlinger, Gottinnen, Gotter und Gottessymbole: Neue Erkenntnisse zur Religionsgesc/1ic/1te
Kanaans und Israel aufgrund bislang unerschlossener ikonographischer Q11ellen (QD 134;
Freiburg: Herder, 1992), 299, fig. 262b.
Cf. Izaak Cornelius, The Iconography of the Canaanite Gods Reshef and Ba'al: Late Bronze
and Iron Age I Periods (c 1500-1000 BCE) (OBO 140; Fribourg: University Press, 1994).
See Klingbeil, Yahweh Fighting from Heaven, 171-72. The line-drawing is taken from
Keel, and Uehlinger, Gottinnen, Gotter und Gottessymbole, 87, fig. 87a.

Image and Imagery in tlte Hebrew Psalter


senting the Apophis-snake in Egyptian mythology, and the chaos-waters in

Canaanite myth. It is interesting to note that the enemy has been substituted by an animal which nevertheless exemplifies the equivalent threat. A
further modification of the smiting-god motif that may shed light on Ps 68:21
can be found in a number of objects that show the smiting-god without any
immediate context, that is, the smiting-god motif has been isolated from a
concrete situation of war or
struggle, reducing the gesture of the raised arm
holding the weapon to strike
at an enemy to a mere emblem, a symbol of victory
and dominion. Thus, the
smiting-god becomes the
menacing god without acFigure 5: Hematite cylinder-seal
tive involvement in the batof unknown provenance
tie, but portrayed in an
almost canonized position. Figure 5 shows a cylinder-seal (dated around
1750 B.C.) on which the Syrian weather-god Ba'al Zaphon is depicted in a
smiting-god posture in the middle of a holy wedding ceremony with a
banquet scene attached to it, but no enemy at all present. 25
Thus, the author of Ps 68:22 is not referring to a literal depiction of Yahweh's intervention in human warfare, but to God's subjugation of any type
of adverse forces that the psalmist may encounter. Three iconographic objects from quite diverse chronological and geographical origins illustrate a
text which otherwise would remain obscure. Our understanding of the
metaphor of God as a warrior, which constitutes an important part of the
imagery stock in the Psalms is thus enhanced.

2.2. Lool~ing for Meaning

The examples above have been employed as illustrations for a text in the
Psalms more or less along the lines of Keel's popular book, which provided
a limited number of categories (conceptions of the cosmos, destructive
forces, temple, conceptions of God, king, and man before God) for which
iconographic illustrations were presented. In comparison, a more system-


The scene is rather complex and on it the smiting-god is faced by a goddess extending a
vase towards him. A detailed description and iconographic analysis is found in
Klingbeil, Yaltwelt Fighting from Heaven, 247-48. The line-drawing was published in
Meindert Dijkstra, "The weather-god on two mountains," UF 23 (1991): 127-40, pl. 2:1.


Martin G. Klingbeil

atic approach to the usage of iconography in the exegetical process of a particular passage is demonstrated in the following example.
Since the discovery of Ugaritic literature and its comparison with the
biblical text, Ps 29 has been linked to a Canaanite background, and from
this perspective, it has served as a paradigm for the examination of Hebrew-Canaanite literary dependence and thus been the subject of numerous
studies. 26 Ginsberg in 1935 suggested a Phoenician origin for the Psalm,27
although a closer look at the text reveals that the Ugaritic parallels viewed
from the perspective of recent biblical scholarship may not present such a
strong case for a Phoenician origin of the Psalm as when Ginsberg, as a precursor of the Pan-Ugaritic school, originally formulated this hypothesis. The
geography of the divine thunderstorm described in Ps 29:3-9 of the poem
describes the movement of a thunderstorm from the Mediterranean toward
the coast and further inland. The first two toponomies represent few problems (Ps 29:3-6). However, the identification of Kadesh, or the "semi-desert
Kadesh," has been the subject of wide discussion, since it could refer to a
desert area close to Kadesh on the Orontes, as well as to the arid region in
the Southern Negev, close to Kadesh Barnea. While one cannot rule out an
underlying figurative meaning for the geographic allusions, it seems nevertheless clear, that in the poet's description of the thunderstorm, they follow
a geographical progressive pattern, and do not serve as a mythological depiction of the Yahwistic thunderstorm in general. It would then seem
thinkable that the author used imagery commonly known from its general
Syro-Palestinian background, but that he reworked it according to his rhetorical intentions and filled it with a new content. This line of interpretation
which has been motivated on exegetical grounds 28 can also be approached
from an iconographic comparative perspective, as will be demonstrated in
the following.
"The voice of Yahweh is upon waters, the God of glory thunders" (Ps
29:3a-b): The main motif of Ps 29, the ;ip '?ip "voice of the Lord" has been
identified as referring to the approaching sound of a thunderstorm moving
inland from the Mediterranean. It depicts Yahweh as storm- and weather26



"Mehr und mehr setzt sich die Meinung durch, daB er [Ps 29] sowohl an
Dberiieferungen zum Gotterkonig El wie zum dynamischen Wettergott Baal
ankni.ipft, sie auf seine Weise vermischt und auf JHWH i.ibertragt." Frank-Lothar
Hossfeld and Erich Zenger, Die Psalmen I: Psalm 1-50 (NEchtB 29; Wi.irzburg: Echter,
1993), 180.
Harold L. Ginsberg, "A Phoenician Hymn in the Psalter," in Alli del XIX Congresso
lnternazionale degli Orientalisti, Roma, 23-29 Settembre 1935-XIII (Rome: Tipografia de!
Senato, 1938).
For a complete exegetical discussion of the psalm, cf. Klingbeil, Yahweh Fighting from
Heaven, 84-99.

Image and Imagery in t/1e Hebrew Psalter


god, to which the well-known

iconographic motif of the god in
the winged sun-disk probably
comes closest. The audible sound
of thunder, obviously, cannot be
easily reproduced by an iconographic image, but the densely
feathered wings of the god in the
winged sun-disk motif from ANE
iconography have been identified
as symbolizing the dark clouds
Figure 6: Glazed tile from Assur
and stormy heavens associated
with a thunderstorm. 29 Figure 6 shows a glazed tile from Assur dating to the
time of Tukulti-Ninurta II (890-884 B.C.). 30 The sun-disk is depicted as encompassing the winged god completely, while there are rays or flames of
fire depicted within the sun nimbus. The bearded god has a large feathered
tail and a pair of large wings which go beyond the border of the sun-disk.
He is wearing a beard and a rounded crown. With his hand the god is holding a bow which he has stretched to its limits, pointing at an imaginary or
at least not visible enemy, since the scene has been broken off on the right
side. Below, a chariot scene appears of which only the head of the charioteer and the upper part of the horse's head is visible. Around the winged
sun-disk there are stylized clouds with raindrops suspended from the upper border. The association of the god with rain-clouds demonstrates his
identification with a storm- and weather-deity, while the wide wings symbolize the dark thundering heaven. The atmospheric phenomena are directed against the enemies of the Assyrian king, thus creating a complex
image of the god fighting from heaven with meteorological weapons. The
winged god in the sun-disk can be identified with the Assyrian sun- and
weather-god Samas.31
With regard to the thunder: the club which the smiting weather-god often holds in his hand has been associated with the sound of thunder in the
way of Ba'al beating the heavens like a drum with his club, but the club

Cf. ibid., 26CHil.

30 The line-drawing was published in Ruth Mayer-Opificius, "Die gefli.igelte Sonne:


Himmels- und Regendarstellungen im alten Vorderasien," UF 16 (1984): 189-236, fig.

There is certain ambivalence in the interpretation of the god in the winged sundisk:
while in most cases the deity can be identified with the Assyrian sun-god Samas (and
not with Asshur!), he often is found in contexts displaying storm- and weather-god
attributes. It is, however, of little consequence for the purpose of the present study, if
the god in the winged sundisk is to be identified with Samas or with Asshur.


Martin G. Klingbeil

should rather be understood as a weapon in

the fight against an enemy, and not be confused with the thunderbolt, viz., lightning.32
Figure 7 shows a stela from Ras Shamra (Ugarit), dated on the basis of comparative material
to the Late Bronze Age. 33 The relief shows a
barefooted male god in a passant position facing to the right. He is standing on three lines
under which a curved line can be seen. The
figure is wearing a short kilt which is ornamented with horizontal stripes and held together by a broad belt. A curved dagger or
sword is attached to the belt. The figure is
wearing a helmet with a high point from
which a pair of bull horns protrudes to the
Figure 7: Ste/a from
He has a long beard reaching to his
Ras Shamra (Ugarit)
chest, and his hair ends in long curls. The god
has his right hand raised above his head holding a club ready to strike,
while the other hand is holding a spear in a vertical position with the broad
blade pointing to the ground.
The shaft of the spear spreads out into a plant, and not into a shaft of
lightning as proposed elsewhere, 34 since the iconography of the weathergod with the bundle of lightning is completely different from this depiction.
The identification of the figure does not present major problems, and we
are confronted with a depiction of the weather-god Ba' al in his normal posture as the smiting god, but holding a vegetation-spear in his hand, thus
establishing his close affinity to fertility and vegetation. In Ugartic texts,
Ba' al is described as a god who possesses lightning and thunder (KTU 1.3
III 23, 1.101 obv 3-4) and he is the bringer of rain and fertility (KTU 1.4 VII
29-31 and 1.16 III Sff).
"Yahweh is over mighty waters" (Ps 29:3c): The c:;n cr;i "mighty waters" have repeatedly been associated with the chaotic forces represented
by the homed snake of Canaanite mythology. Various motifs of ANE iconography show the struggle of the Canaanite-Egyptian god Ba' al-Seth with
the spear against the homed snake. The depictions show him thrusting his
weapon in a downward movement into the body of the snake. Most of the
images depicting this motif originated during the Late Bronze Age and the
32 Cf. Keel, Altorientalische Bildsymbolik, 192.
33 The line-drawing has been originally published in Leonard Gorelick and Elizabeth

Williams-Forte, eds., Ancient Seals and the Bible (Malibu: Undena, 1983), 42, fig. 15.
Cf. Cornelius, Iconography of Reshef and Ba'al, 141.

Image and Imagery in the Hebrew Psalter


Iron Age I and a good example can be found

on Figure 8, a steatite scarab of unknown
provenance housed in the Musees Royaux,
Brussels. Stylistically it has been assigned to
the Ramessidian dynasties which correspond
to the period of 1300-1150 B.C. (Late Bronze
Age IIB). 35 Depicted on it there is a winged
figure wearing a short kilt with tassels. Although the body is anthropomorphic, the top
part depicts the head of the Seth animal with
long ears and a protruding snout. The figure
has a pair of wings attached to its back which
Figure 8: Steatite scarab
are typical of Ba' al and Seth and their combiof unknown provenance
nation during the Late Bronze Age. With his
one hand raised above his head, he is holding a long lance or javelin, thrusting it down into a homed snake which he is grasping with the other hand.
The tail of the snake is curved upwards behind the god. Although the depiction is clearly Egyptian in style and the streamers that often betray the
Egyptian-Canaanite combination of Ba'al-Seth are missing, the figure
should be identified with this god. However, in Ps 29, no direct struggle
whatsoever is indicated between Yahweh and the chaotic waters; a fact,
which necessitates caution toward an interpretation of the biblical text
along mythological lines.
"And he makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like the young of an
aurochs" (Ps 29:6a-b): The association of the weather-god with mountains
has been noticed in Figure 5. The god is standing on three mountain tops,
although there is no indication of a destructive earthquake-like event on the
seal from Northern Syria representing this motif. While in the iconographic
depictions of gods striding over mountains, the mountains are portrayed as
a constant and stabile factor supporting the mountain-god, 36 almost as a
cultic pedestal, the psalmist describes them as fragile objects subjected to
Yahweh's earthquake which causes them to skip uncontrollably. Although
the author of the psalm takes up the familiar mountain-motif, he does not
use the imagery in the expected manner, but fills them with a new content
which appears to be rather polemic for the ANE cultural context.
"The voice of Yahweh hews out lightning" (Ps 29:7a): In similar fashion
to Ps 18:15, Yahweh's appearance, in this case, Yahweh's voice, is associated


The line-drawing is taken from Othmar Keel, Menakhem Shuval, and Christoph
Uehlinger, Studien zu den Stempelsiegeln aus Paliistina!Israel III (OBO 100; Fribourg:
Universitatsverlag, 1990), 311, fig. 84.
Cf. Klingbeil, Yahweh Fighting from Heaven, 247-49.


Marlin G. Klingbeil

with lightning. While the imagery is that of the

effect of Yahweh's voice on the rocky surface of
the mountains, images showing the weather-god
using the bundle of lightning as a weapon may
serve as comparative material. Figure 9 is a
135cm high basalt stela found at Arslan-Tash. It
was found in the temple constructed by Tiglathpileser III (744-727 B.C.) which dates it with some
accuracy to the second half of the 8th century
B.C. 37 The image shows a god in a striding position facing to the right. He is standing on top of a
bull with his one foot on its horns, while the
other foot rests on the animal's back. The posture
is indicating a running motion, whereas the bull
Figure 9: Basalt stela
is depicted in a similar stance. The god is dressed
from Arslan-Tash
with a short kilt over which he is wearing a long
robe. On his head the god is wearing the high rectangular homed crown,
customary to depictions of Neo-Assyrian gods. Above the crown a disk is
visible with rays depicted in it. The god is armed with a long sword attached to his belt which is pointing toward the back. On his shoulder he is
carrying a bow and a quiver. His one arm is raised above his head in a
striking or throwing position, while the other arm is extended diagonally
downwards toward the front. In both hands he is holding a double threeforked bundle of lightning. From a Neo-Assyrian perspective the god can
be identified with the weather-god Adad, whereas the three-forked bundle
of lightning in the striking hand has replaced the weapon one would normally expect. He is now completely equipped with meteorological weapons
and the character of the lightning as an attacking weapon becomes increasingly evident. It is no longer held in a passive gesture in front of the god as
in other depictions, but raised above his head with the intention to strike
down on the imaginary enemy. The single most important element in the
identification of the weather-god remains the bundle of lightning, although
bull and other elements often also serve as indicators that a depiction of the
weather-god is intended.
The famous "Ba' al au foudre" (Figure 7) with the vegetation spear may
be an indicator for the combination of the imagery of lightning with fertility. However, while the iconographic depictions may picture the lightning
as a complementing factor to fertility, Ps 29 portrays its effects on fauna and

The line-drawing has been taken from Antoine Vane!, L'iconographie du dieu de l'orage
dans le Proche-Orient ancien jusqu'au VIie siecle avant J.-C. (Cahiers de la Revue biblique
3; Paris: Gabalda, 1965), fig. 71.

Image and Imagery in !lie Hebrew Psalter


flora in a rather destructive way, evoking rather an imagery of warfare:

"The voice of Yahweh breaks cedars, yes, Yahweh, shatters the cedars of
Lebanon" (Ps 29:5a-b), and: "The voice of Yahweh causes the desert to
writhe, Yahweh causes the desert Kadesh to writhe. The voice of Yahweh
makes the hinds to bring forth and lays bare the forests" (Ps 29:8a-9b).
The overall picture that emerges from a comparison of Ps 29:3-9 with
the iconographic evidence is a tendency toward using the prevalent iconographic motifs of particularly the Northern Syrian and Mesopotamian repertoire, but reapplying them polemically and subjecting them to the force of
Yahweh's voice as the ultimate controlling factor in the upheaval of nature.
The northern geography of the psalm furthermore contributes to such an
understanding, while the imagery employed in the psalm has been utilized
in such a way that it leads from the known to the surprising, that is, reinterpreting the imagery from the perspective and under the dominion of
Yahweh's voice. Thus on the basis of an iconographic approach to the interpretation it appears that Ps 29 is less a carbon-copy of Phoenician belief
than a strong monotheistically oriented polemic against Syrian and Mesopotamian religious beliefs.

3. Lool~ing at the Psalms through Iconography

While iconography can supply us with an illustration of the typical and
institutional, it cannot provide "historical photographs" on the basis of
which history can be reconstructed. 38 However, the study of ANE iconography can be used to reconstruct the religious concept world in which the
OT was written. Image and text have to be placed alongside each other continuously in order to create a more complete picture of the Hebrew Psalter,
which in itself represents a cross-section of OT religious thought. In comparing the biblical texts with the iconographic images, a number of parallels
as well as contrasts can be established. Overall, it appears that the authors
of the Psalms utilized imagery which was familiar to them from their general Syro-Palestinian environment, and which can be related to iconographic sources reflecting such imagery. However, one can by no means
talk of a one-to-one relationship, establishing a simple line of dependency.
There are distinct contrasts and variations of motif on such a scale that one
is compelled to assume a certain modification of the iconographic material
in accordance with the intentions of the respective psalmist. In interpreting
such a state-of-affairs we would assume that the biblical author utilized
imagery familiar from his ANE cultural background, and applied them to
Yahweh. During this process, a number of adaptations took place, and fa-


Keel, "Iconography and the Bible," 360.


Martin G. Klingbeil

miliar iconographic motifs were filled with new contents as they appeared
in literary form in the Psalms. The motivation for such a practice would be
the demonstration of the superiority of Yahweh over against the ANE pantheon, a notion that is clearly monotheistic in orientation.
An iconographic approach to the study of the Psalms is opening new
and unexpected vistas onto the Bible, which, although in literary form, usually communicates its eternal truths through a variety of imagery especially
when it comes to the description of God. 39


As an aside, it is interesting to note that most of the relevant comparative iconographic

material that can be related to the Hebrew Psalter stems from Late Bronze and Iron
Age archaeological contexts which may put into question the dating schemes of the



1. lntroduction1
The great Jewish philosopher, Abraham Heschel, said about the prophets
that they were "some of the most disturbing people who have ever lived." 2
Maybe this is so because they described a time when the relationship between God and His people seemed to be at its lowest ebb. In reality, the allencompassing nature of the divine-human covenant has some of its most
profound and intimate descriptions in the writings of the prophets. This
essay will discuss the unfolding nature of God's covenant relationship with
His people through successive prophets from the time before the Exile,
right through to the time of the Restoration. In the process, three main interconnected concepts of the land, the temple, and the people, are explored in
relationship to God. It is when these concepts intersect that we see God's
intimacy unfolding with His people.

2. The Land
Mention of the land immediately draws the mind back to Eden, a time
when the human race experienced intimate communion with the Creator.
At that time, God commissioned the primeval humans to extend the
realm-from the garden to the whole earth. The first biblical indication we
receive of human purpose, is in communion with God, to "have dominion
over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the
earth" (Gen 1:26).
Adam's commission before the Fall-"subduing and ruling" (Gen
2:15)-would have involved a display of sovereignty that included cultivating the ground and bringing all animals under his control, including the
serpent at the tree. 3 Therefore, the original human-divine connection seems

This essay is based on a paper presented at the International Bible Conference, Izmir,
Turkey, BJuly 2006.
Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets (Peabody: Prince, 1999), vii.
G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church's Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place
of God (NSBT 17; ed. 0. A. Carson; Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004), 113.


David Tasker

to be designed to protect the human race from the forces of evil through the
divinely-appointed duty of sovereignty over the land.
The reality of life during the prophetic era was very different from the
original ideal. God's people endured difficult times-"the bread of adversity, the water of affliction" (Isa 30:20). Rather than being sovereigns, God's
people were vassals to a number of successive foreign powers. Joel described the destruction by invading forces-the land was like the Garden of
Eden before them, and a desolated wilderness behind them (2:3).
It was the land, condemned for committing whoredom (Hos 1:2), and
for being defiled Oer 2:7), that would be first to feel the divine wrath. It
would be "blasted" with blight, mildew and hail (Hag 2:17), its surface
would not be "cleansed or rained on" (Ezek 22:24), its rivers would dry up,
and the ground become waste (30:12) and desolate (Zech 7:14). Its people
would then be gathered as sheaves for the threshing floor (Mic 4:11).
However, the prophets suggested that this era would form "part of the
divine plan for their renewal." 4 The destruction of the land would be followed by luxuriant and abundant growth in nature, together with "cosmic
beauty" that God would use to bind up "the hurt of his people." 5 A dramatic example of this is cited by Susan Niditch who draws on Ezekiel's
"most powerful vision experience," which describes the resurrection of
"bones as dry as the dust from which Adam was formed" (ch. 37). She observes that this is a "Creation account," 6 not merely an anthropocentric
event-a total new Creation. The land that had been made desolate now
becomes like the Garden of Eden again (Ezek 36:35).
Similarly, Isaiah's reference to an expanding tent (54:2) is a twin reference not just to the tabernacle but to the Eschatological Eden as well, expanding through Israel's land. This is echoed in 51:3: "For the LORD
comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness
like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD." 7 The restored land would
now "became the Garden of Eden on a grander scale," and the original
commission to have dominion is now focused in Israel's temple, representing God's rule over the cosmos. 8

Howard Clark Kee, Who Are the People of God? Early Christian Models of Community
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 32
Kee, Who Are the People of God?, 32
Susan Niditch, "Ezekiel 40-48 in a Visionary Context," CBQ 48 (1986): 223.
Beale, Temple, 131-32.
Ibid., 116.

The People of God in Prophetic Literature


3. The Temple
Just as the land is connected with Creation, so too is the temple. The verbs
cultivate and keep in God's commission to Adam (Gen 2:15) are applied later
to the work of the priests in the temple. They too were to cultivate and to
keep. 9 This suggests that Adam had a priestly role in the garden to manage
it and care for it, "maintaining its order and keeping out uncleanness," expanding its borders in ever widening circles until the earth was filled with
God's glory. 10 Ezekiel's concluding vision of the new temple is linked to the
notion of the renewal of the land, and only those who were ritually pure
and obedient to the commands of God would be able to enter that new
temple. 11 His theological emphasis here seems to closely correspond to the
holiness code of Lev 18-26, which covers the sexual, ritual and moral purity
of the people, the holiness of the priests, appropriate offerings for the sanctuary, and the festivals including the Sabbath of the land and the Jubilee
year. 12
Beale actually makes a strong case for the OT temple being a microcosm
not just of Eden, but of the whole of Heaven and Earth.13 The outer court
was a representation of the inhabited world, the holy place represented the
visible heavens with its light sources (the seven lamps paralleled the seven
heavenly bodies visible to the naked eye-sun, moon, and five planets 14),
and the holy of holies where God and the heavenly hosts dwell-each
sphere being reflected by an increasingly ornate gradation in dress and furnishings.
Both the sea (the !aver is referred to as sea in 1 Kgs 7:23) and the altar
appear to be cosmic symbols that may have been associated in the mind of
the Israelite with the seas and the earth respectively. The twelve bulls encircling the sea and the lily blossoms decorating its rim suggest (to Beale at
least) a coastal setting, while designs of lions and oxen on the wash basins
together suggest a "miniature model of land and life surrounding the seas
of the earth." 15 The sanctuary, therefore, had a "focal and unifying role" in
Israel right from the nation's very beginning. The 1+,liTJ ?tii-! "the tabernacle
of the congregation," as implied by its very name, unified the people and



Numbers 3:7, 8; 8:26; 18:7.

Beale, Temple, 85-86.
Kee, Who Are the People of God?, 20.
Ibid., 20-21.
Beale, Temple, 31-34.
Ibid., 34. Note that Gen 1 uses the word n'1Nr,> "lights" five times.
Ibid., 33.


David Tasker

became a rallying point for them, emphasizing the promise of the divinelygiven land. 16
To add significance to the land-sanctuary connection, the wilderness
sanctuary was very similar in dimensions and layout to an Egyptian military tent, which also had a three-part structure (courtyard, inner reception
area, and inner chamber with an effigy of the divine pharaoh flanked by
two winged creatures) that faced eastwards. This tent structure was flanked
by troops divided into four units, in similar fashion to the way Israel encamped around the sanctuary. So it appears that the Israelite encampment
and sanctuary structure sent a message to the Egyptians that God was directing His battle too, aiming to defeat His enemies and bring victory to His
people. Presumably, when this was accomplished, God would then move
into more permanent surroundings.17
Moving down into the prophetic era, the community was often described as the city where God dwells with His people-"a favourite image
for the renewed covenant community" -often referred to as Zion. 16 The city
became synonymous with the temple in describing the social structure or
the cultic life of the community, so when the people rebelled against God,
the prophets (especially Isaiah and Ezekiel) thundered their oracles against
the city/sanctuary.
In times of covenant renewal the city metaphor receives more attention,
for example in the later prophecies of Isaiah 40-66. Promises of covenant
renewal are explicitly addressed to Zion, Jerusalem, and to "the Holy City"
in Isa 52:1-9. 19 Similarly, the imagery of the city is a symbol of divine judgment and renewal. The "impending fall of Jerusalem is the primary sign of
God's judgment on his people, just as the restoration of the city is the sign
of their redemption" -as evident in the prophecies of Jeremiah (e.g., Jer
31:31-39). 20 "The loss of the temple meant nothing less than the loss of
God's presence" (Ezek 9:3; 10:4-5; 11:23). 21
The fact that Israel was able to survive the crisis of faith brought about
by the loss of the temple was due in large part to the prophets preparing the
people in advance for just such an event. They were first seen as "grossly
unpatriotic," "defeatist," and "irreligious," but as the people reflected on




R. J. McKelvey, The New Temple: The Church in the New Testament (OTM 3; London:
Oxford University Press, 1969), 3.
Beale, Temple, 64.
Kee, Who Are the People of God?, 17.
Ibid., 18.
McKelvey, The Nw Temple, 7.

The People of God in Prophetic Literature


the facts of history and mused over the prior warnings of the prophets,
"hope was born" as they "threw [themselves] on the mercy of God." 22
The restoration of God's people is, for Zechariah, linked to the rebuilding of Jerusalem, where God was pictured as dwelling in their midst (Zech
8:1-8). 23 Significantly, the restoration of the temple would refocus not just
Israel but the nations as well (Isa 2:2-4; Mic 4:1-3; Jer 3:17-18). 24 The result
would not just be a "cultic structure," but the entire city would be seen as
'the throne of the Lord" with the people of all nations gathering to it Ger
3:17). 25 Therefore, the conversion of the Gentiles would occur at the temple,
not in their own land. 26 The temple then truly becomes "a house of prayer
for all peoples" (Isa 56:7), 27 but beyond that, the cosmic goal for the temple
is described by Ezek 37:28: "Then the nations will know that I am the LORD
who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst foreverrnore." 28
The "mountain of the Lord's house" would be established as the highest
mountain, and all peoples will flow into it (Mic 4:1).
Temple worship thus became a "powerful factor assisting in the creation
of unity in Israel." 29 Not only was it a statement of military and political
superiority, social cohesiveness or even urban sophistication, but also the
destinies of the nations were determined there (Amos 1:2-2:16). So the temple became not just a symbol of the unity of Israel but of the whole of humanity (Isa 2:2-4; Mic 4:1-3; Zech 14:16-19).3
This all-encompassing influence is found in Daniel's apocalyptic description of the stone that shatters the image and then becomes a mountain
that fills the whole earth. Beale surmises that this becomes the true fulfillment of Gen 1:28, ("fill the earth and subdue it"), and stands in juxtaposition to Dan 2:38 which describes Nebuchadnezzar's dominion over all "the
children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens." 31 It
seems that Nebuchadnezzar succeeded where Adam failed. There is also an
intriguing link between the mountain that grows out of a threshing floor in
Dan 2 and Solomon's temple that arises from the site of the threshing floor







Ibid., 9.
Kee, Who Are the People of God?, 18.
McKelvey, The New Temple, 9. McKelvey calls this "an important new development."
Ibid., 12.
Beale, Temple, 113.
McKelvey, The New Temple, 15.
Beale, Temple, 134.
Ibid., 112.
McKelvey, The New Temple, 5.
Ibid., 6.
Beale, Temple, 144.


David Tasker

of Oman the Jebusite. 32 Andre Lacocque suggests that the stone "cut out
without hands" in Dan 2 is none other than "Mount Zion, the Temple not
built by human hands."33

4. The People
Kee identifies five models of community in Jewish writings: 1) the community of the wise; 2) the law-abiding, ritually pure community; 3) the community where God dwells with His people; 4) the community of mystical
participation; and 5) the community of ethnic inclusiveness and cultural
adaptation. 34 Each of these models is based on a different focal point: living
wisely rather than like the fool (the Wisdom tradition), the Levitical laws of
purity vs. impurity, the covenant, mysticism, or cultural identity.
But perhaps the most poignant metaphor of the relationship between
God and His people is that of the harlot, as described by Hosea. Israel's
infidelity as displayed in Hosea 1-3 finds a parallel in both Isaiah's and
Jeremiah's writings. Isaiah speaks of how the faithful city has become a
~hore (Isa 1:21), and Jeremiah asserts that Israel has played the role of a
whore with many lovers Oer 3:1-5). 35 The range of manifestations of this
aberrant behavior has been variously described as: ignorance worse than in
animals (Isa 1:3); robbing the needy of justice (Isa 10:2); the twin evils of
rejecting the "living water," replacing it with the stagnant water of selfmade leaky cisterns Oer 2:13); behaving as silly children Oer 4:22); forgetting
God Oer 18:15); becoming lost sheep-as their leaders lead them astray Oer
30:3); cruelty (Lam 3:48); showing much love with their words but pursuing
their own gain in their hearts (Ezek 33:31); being destroyed for lack of
knowledge (Hos 4:6); asking counsel from wooden idols (Hos 4:12); having
incurable wounds (Mic 1:9); idolatry and false prophecy (Zech 13:2-6); and
offering blemished and worthless sacrifices (Mal 1:6-2:9).
Just as Adam sinned and was cast out of the Garden, resulting in God
withdrawing His presence, so did the Israelites, resulting in God withdrawing from the temple and the people being thrown out of the land. 36 Despite
this apparent divorce, God still maintained relationship with them. For example, in the first six chapters of Daniel we see not only stories of Daniel's




Ibid., 147.
A. Lacocque, The Book of Daniel (trans. D. Pellauer; London: SPCK; Atlanta: John Knox,
1979), 124.
Kee, Who Are the People of God?, 55--178.
Ibid., 44.
William J. Dumbrell, "Genesis 2:1-17: A Foreshadowing of the New Creation," in
Biblical Theology: Retrospect and Prospect (ed. S. J. Hafemann; Downers Grove:
InterVarsity, 2002), 58--59.

The People of God in Prophetic Literature


courage, but also demonstrations of how God delivers His people when
they maintain fidelity to Him in the face of extreme trial. 37
Building upon the woman symbolism, the promise of renewal to the
people of God is personified as a barren mother in exile who is given many
children when she is restored to her homeland (Isa 49:19-22; 54:1-3)38 and
as woman in labor (Isa 66:8). 39 This hint of plenty is demonstrated when the
people are restored to the land, because "God will bring along with them
proselytes ('aliens') to join the community of God's people" (Isa 14:1-2). 40
When he finally comes to restore his people, there will be "unprecedented
plenty and rejoicing on 'the mountain of the Lord"' among those who
"have 'waited' for him" (Isa 25:6--9). 41 A return from captivity would involve the exiles (who have been scattered in the Diaspora) returning to
Zion, and from there spreading out to subdue the earth to fill it with God's
glory-Adam's commission and the patriarchal promise of Gen 28:14. 42
However, "the hope of a united people with Jerusalem at its centre was
short lived." Josiah died in 609 B.C.E. and the city was subsequently overrun by foreigners 43 -a reality to this day.

5. God
The interplay between the motifs of land, temple, and people becomes even
more poignant in interaction with the concept of God. In contrast to the
predominant pre-exilic prophetic theme of judgment and the post-exilic
focus of restoration, ideas of God remain largely the same. For example, J.
Alec Motyer observes that Isaianic literature is characterized throughout by
a tension anticipating the "not yet." 44 This is particularly noticeable in the
discussion of God being Father (cf. Isa 63:16; 64:7). The father-son relationship that the people enjoyed during the Exodus is recalled-God the Father
was the "eagle" carrying them, leading them through the divided waters
and desert waste, and the mountain quaking at God's presence. But now
there is silence, so where is that special relationship now?




Kee, Wlio Are the People of God?, 34.

Beale, Temple, 131.
Kee, W/Jo Are the People of God?, 18.
Ibid., 32.
Ibid., 33.
Beale, Temple, 143.
McKelvey, The New Temple, 4.
J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers
Grove: InterVarsity, 1993), 512.


David Tasker

This highlights an organic difference between the experience that Isaiah

describes and that of their forefathers (specifically Abraham and Israel). He
sets out to restore confidence in the Father-God by moving away from
covenant language (an argument based on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) focusing instead on creation. There is no point in appealing to a covenant that
is now broken (and the people freely admit their guilt in that), but there is
hope in appealing to God as their Maker. Here begins a restoration of hope
amidst hopelessness, together with a measure of submission and acceptance of the will of God- "we are the clay, and you are our potter." Besides
being created by God in the first place, the people acknowledge that God,
as their Father, still has the right to shape and form their destinies, for "we
are all the work of your hand" (Isa 64:7), "we are all your people" (v. 8).
Jeremiah introduces another strident metaphor in the figure of the two
debauched sisters. God is introduced as the father of two sisters, Judah and
Israel (3:4-5, 19-20; 31:7-9). "Unfaithful Judah" (considered in a more hopeless state than her "sister" -"faithless Israel" [3:6-11]) makes a pious pretense of loyalty to her "Father" while maintaining her "promiscuous"
lifestyle. So when she calls God "Father," it is only for the manipulative
purpose of maintaining the rains (3:3), the fertility of the crops, an abundant
income, and pampered living standards. In a slight change of metaphor, the
personified Judah becomes the unfaithful wife, claiming God as her '1171'.t
(intimate, close friend, spouse, v. 4), a shameless misuse of the intimate
bonds between them, and further evidence of the people's manipulation of
God. The contrast is drawn by the prophet between Judah's actions, and the
hypocrisy of her religious profession.
From v. 12 on, God turns the question round. Instead of Judah pleading
for God to do something, God pleads with Judah for action. "Return, faithless Israel," he pleads, calling on Judah to follow (3:18). The picture is of
two brazen young women being implored by their heartbroken father (or
husband) to return to the safety (and by implication, the purity) of the
home. He was standing by as a protective father to keep his "virgin"
daughters from being preyed upon by the "sons" of the land, yet the irony
is that the daughters are going out to prey upon the sons (3:2). This act of
rebellion has resulted in the land being "defiled" (3:1) so that its normal
processes ceased (3:3), and its wealth dried up (3:24).
Restoration is possible because of the initiative of the Father-God, who
wishes to welcome his rebellious family back home (3:19). He coaxes the
returning exiles back along a well-watered and level road (31:8--9) made
accessible for the most vulnerable of society-the blind, the lame, and the
pregnant. The rejoicing and restoration (31:4-5) contrast with the former
despair of his rebellious children. The impossibility of reconciliation (3:1-5)
is contrasted with the impossibility of breaking the intimate bonds that tie

The People of God in Prophetic Literature


the Father to his children (something as indestructible as the night-day cycle), because God had sworn in an oath that He would never reject the descendants of Jacob and David (33:23--26).
Similarly, Malachi draws on God as Father to contrast the faithfulness of
God and the faithlessness of his children (1:6; 2:10). The main issue that attracts Malachi's attention is the act of treachery that ruptures the covenant
between God and his people. Scholars will continue to argue over whether
this is divorce per se, or whether it is some complicity among the priests to
introduce some syncretistic practice among the returned exiles, or whether
it is a combination of the two with some sort of ritualistic marriage that fosters a value system akin to that of the idolatrous practices so severely denounced by preceding generations of prophets.
Therefore, during the prophetic era, with talk of judgment amidst corruption and restoration amidst desolation, the discussion of God becomes
more telling. In a period of human rebellion and fickleness the prophets
(especially Isaiah, Jeremiah and Malachi) focus clearly on the faithfulness
and covenant-keeping qualities of God. He would be the One to heal the
land, restore the people, and renew divine-human fellowship at the temple.

6. Conclusion
This paper has discussed three things: the land, the temple, and the people.
It also examined how God interacts with those various elements. We saw
that the Edenic perfection of the land was desolated through the peoples'
rebellion-the land was the first to suffer the consequences of human rebellion. But the prophets also pointed out that the land would be restored .to
Edenic beauty. Although it was polluted by the people, it would be sanctified by God's presence with his people.
Despite the people acting like a harlot, the prophets reassured them that
God not only remains loyal to his covenant but also redoubles his efforts of
restoration and renewal for them. Some of the greatest promises of restoration came at a time of greatest chaos and disruption - from the heart of the
great Father who would welcome back his rebellious children.
How do the prophets inform the biblical scholar and community of faith
today? There are a number of possibilities. The first could be recognition of
the human response in the face of human hopelessness-the theme of rejoicing. As the exiles returned home, festivals took on new significance.
Their new songs and liturgies acknowledged where they had come from,
and where they were going together. They may have found themselves
living among the ruins of former glory, but at least they were now rebuilding a God-centered community, encouraged by visions of restoration and
future glory.


David Tasker

Second, the temple may be recognized not only as a microcosm of the

whole of creation, but also as a metaphor of political/military strength with
God in its midst as a focal and unifying force. As the people returned from
exile, they rebuilt the temple. They were concerned about the full functioning beauty of that building in their midst-which symbolized God being
with them, legitimized their existence as a people, and provided roots to
establish them on their own land. But beyond that, the temple became a
unifying force for all people, for it was from the temple that God would
rule over all the earth.
Finally, people today can learn from these ancient people about eschatological hope-a hope based on the Creator, not on failed ideology. With the
distant echo of the ancient prophetic voice the modern community of faith
may regroup, look beyond the rubble and sand of failed and crumbling
human accomplishment and recognize God still working in their midst.




1. Introduction
Isaiah 7:14 has been called "the most difficult of all Messianic prophecies" 2
and is perhaps the most studied text in biblical scholarship.3 It is not possible
to delve into all the exegetical issues in this passage and its larger context of
Isaiah 7-12. 4 Rather, our focus is upon the question: Does Isaiah present the
messianic hope in 7:14, when viewed in light of its larger canonical context
of Isaiah 7-12?
Some years ago an article appeared entitled "Matthew Twists the Scriptures" in the Journal of Biblical Literature. 5 The author, S. Vernon McCasland,
insists that Matthew repeatedly misinterpreted OT passages, "twisting"
them to mean something entirely foreign to the original. One of his prime
examples is Matthew's interpretation of Isa 7:14. "It is well known,"
Mccasland writes, "that this saying of Isaiah refers to an event of his own
time, and that the Hebrew word 'almiih, for the mother of the child, does not
mean a virgin but only a young woman." 6 This assessment of Matthew's
"Scripture twisting" is still a common view within current critical scholarship, and also among many evangelical scholars. According to this view,
Jesus and the NT writers often took OT passages out of context, reinterpreted and reapplied them in the light of the Christ-event, and thus imposed a NT meaning upon the OT that was foreign to the original meaning.

I dedicate this study to my friend and colleague, Gerhard Pfandl, whose Christcentered, solidly exegetical approach toward the OT has been a blessing and
inspiration to me, both academically and spiritually.
Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics (New York: Phillips & Hunt, 1883), 331, cited by
J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973), 291.
For a representation of the immense bibliography, see John D. W. Watts, Isaiah 1-33
(WBC 24; Waco: Word, 1985), 95--103.
For further discussion of this passage, see especially John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah:
Chapters 1-39 (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 192-248.
S. Vernon Mccasland, "Matthew Twists the Scriptures," ]BL 80 (1961): 143-48.
Ibid., 144.


Richard M. Davidson

So, for example, the author of the Word Biblical Commentary on Isa 7:14
A second factor facilitated the use of Isa 7:14 in Matthew. A hermeneutical method was in general use which allowed verses to be separated
from their contexts. [... ]This kind of interpretation is subject to the criticism that it ignores the rightful demands of historical and contextual
exegesis [... ], which call for a meaning related to the Syro-Ephraimite
War in terms of v. 16.7
Again, a recent article in a well-known Seventh-day Adventist journal arrives at the same conclusion: "These [biblical] writers often interpreted the
scriptural texts in ways that deviated radically from their obvious meanings
in the original Old Testament settings." 8 The authors of this article spotlight
Matthew's alleged [mis]interpretation of Isa 7:14 as a case study to prove
their point.
Did Matthew really twist the OT Scriptures? Did he separate Isa 7:14
from its immediate context? I used to believe he did. But I have become
convinced by the biblical evidence that it is modem interpreters, not Matthew, who have separated Isa 7:14 from its context-who have not looked
closely enough to see the deeper meaning of Isaiah's message which is already present in the immediate context of this passage, and in the larger
context of chs. 7-12, the Volume of Immanuel. Let us take that closer look at
the evidence for messianic hope concentrated in Isa 7:14 and the Volume of
The interpretations of Isa 7:14 fall into three major categories: (1) those
which maintain only a local fulfillment in the time of Isaiah; (2) those which
posit a reference in the text only to the virgin birth of the Messiah; and (3)
those which argue for both. My interpretation falls within the third category of interpretation.
A careful examination of the immediate context of Isa 7:14 does seem
clearly to reveal a local dimension to the fulfillment of the prophecy. The
historical setting is the time of the Syro-Ephraimite war of ca. 734 B.C. The
northern kingdoms of Syria and Israel have banded together to attack their
southern neighbor of Judah (Isa 7:1, 4-6). Ahaz, king of Judah, is terrified of
the impending invasion, but God sends Isaiah with the comforting word
that the northern coalition will not succeed in their plans to overthrow
Ahaz (Isa 7:2-3, 7-9). In this situation God gives Ahaz a sign through Isaiah:

Watts, Isaiah 1-33, 103-4.

Warren C. Trenchard and Larry G. Herr, "The Interpretation of the Old Testament in
the New: Isaiah, Matthew and the Virgin," Spectrum 28, no. 1 (Winter 2000): 16.

The Messianic Hope in Isaiah 7:14 and the Volume of Immanuel


"Behold, the virgin/young woman [i197l,l] [shall be] pregnant and bear a
son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (v. 14). 9
The succeeding verses give the time frame of the local fulfillment of this
sign: "For before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the
good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted" (Isa 7:16). The
child clearly would be born in the time of Ahaz, and before he reached the
age of accountability, the Syro-Ephraimite coalition would be dissolved.
This local interpretation is confirmed in the succeeding chapter. Isaiah refers to "the prophetess" (his wife), who conceives, and bears a son (8:3). The
link between this son and the prophecy of Isa 7:14 is made in 8:4 by a
statement that clearly parallels 7:16 (the first four Hebrew words in both
verses are exactly the same): "For before the child shall know to cry 'my
father' and 'my mother,' the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria
will be taken away before the king of Assyria." The time elements implied
in Isa 7:16 and 8:4 were fulfilled precisely: In 732 B.C. (within two years of
the prophecy of 7:14, before the child could say "father" or "mother") Damascus fell, and in 722 B.C. (before the child was twelve and had reached
the age of accountability) Samaria fell.
Clearly, Isa 7:14 does have a local dimension of fulfillment. But is this all
that is implied in the text, and in the larger context? Let us look more

2. Evidence for the Messianic Hope in Isa 7: 14

2.1. Recipients of the Prophecy
The prophecy of Isa 7:14 is not addressed only to Ahaz, but to the "house of
David" (v. 13). When Isaiah records that "The LORD himself will give you a
sign," the word "you" is in the plural, not singular, implying a wider application than just to Ahaz, namely, to the whole line of the dynasty/house of
David (cf. Luke 1:27, 79; 2:4).

2.2. Temporal Ambiguity of Isa 7: 14

There is a surprising temporal ambiguity in the Hebrew text of Isa 7:14, that
allows for a present historical fulfillment as well as a future eschatological
fulfillment. I have provided a literal translation of this verse:
Therefore the LORD himself will give you a sign. Behold the maiden [... ]
pregnant (no verb, just the subject plus the predicate adjective, so the
time implied can be past, present, or future: "was/is/will be pregnant").

Translations of the biblical texts cited throughout this article are my own.


Richard M. Davidson

And she( ... ] bearing (active participle, which again can imply past, present, or future: "was/is/will be bearing") a son. And she has called/is calling/will call (the waw can be a waw conjunctive or a waw consecutive,
thus translating the perfect as completed action or as incompleted action) his name Immanuel (a nominal clause which can be translated in
the past, present, or future tense: "God was/is/will be with us").
No single element of the entire sign in this verse indicates whether the
pregnancy and birth is in the past, present, or future! Such ambiguity can
hardly be unintentional. It leaves room for a local immediate fulfillment, or
a future ultimate fulfillment.

2.3. Meaning and Usage of the Term i1T;l7lJ

In Isa 7:14 the Hebrew word ;,971}, translated in the LXX and Matt 1:23 by
rrap8tvoc; "virgin," in the context of this verse implies "virgin," and in fact,

more than just "virgin." There is another Hebrew word which means "virgin," namely il?mf. 10 But ;i71nf does not specify the age or marital status of
the virgin. The word ;,971}, however, means "young woman of marriageable age, sexually mature," who is unmarried, and therefore (unless she is
an immoral woman) a virgin. 11 Numerous scholars have examined the eight
other occurrences of il97lJ in the OT and cogently argued that in none of
them does the word refer to a married woman. 12 Likewise, in the ancient
Near East outside of the Bible, so far as may be presently ascertained, il97lJ
(or ANE cognate) is never used of a married woman. 13 Thus ;,971}, much
like the English terms "damsel" or "maiden," "has overtones of virginity
about it," 14 even though this is not the main focus. In the context of a virtuous woman, the term denotes a young, unmarried, sexually mature, virgin.



See especially Tom Wadsworth, "Is There a Hebrew Word for Virgin? Bethulah in the
Old Testament," ResQ 23 (1980): 161-71; and Duane Garrett, "Song of Songs," in
Duane Garrett and Paul R. House, Song of Songs, Lamentations (WBC 23B; Nashville:
Nelson, 2004), 164--68 (his excursus entitled "Virginity in the Bible and the Ancient
The eight other occurrences of ;i971,1 in the OT are in the following passages: Gen 24:43;
Exod 2:8; 1 Chr 15:20; Pss 46:2 (ET l); 68:26 (ET 25); Prov 30:19; Song 1:3; 6:8. Martin
Luther offered to give a hundred Gulden to anyone who could show that ;i971,1 was
ever used in Scripture to refer to a married woman, and he added in characteristic
fashion that the Lord alone knew where he would get that amount of money (cited in
Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah: Volume 1. Chapters 1-18 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1965), 287).



See, e.g., Oswalt, Isaiah 1-39, 210-12

J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove:
InterVarsity, 1993), 85; Young, The Book of Isaiah: Volume 1, 287-88.
Ibid., 210.

The Messianic Hope in Isaiah 7:14 and the Volume of Immanuel


If it did not have such overtones of virginity, the LXX translation by the
Greek word rrap8tvoc; "virgin" would be inexplicable. In the prophecy of
7:14, Isaiah utilizes a term that does not stress the virginity, and thus could

have significance for Ahaz' situation with a partial, local fulfillment. At the
same time the term has connotations of virginity, thereby pointing beyond
the local setting to the ultimate sign in the virgin birth of the Messiah.
The meaning of i1J??l,l is fully applicable to Mary, the mother of Jesus,
who at the time of her conception was indeed a young, unmarried, sexually
mature, virgin; but it does not easily fit all the circumstances of Isaiah's wife
or another particular maiden at the time of Ahaz. 15 Thus the use of the term
i1J??l,l seems to imply more than a local, partial fulfillment.
What is hinted at in Isa 7:14 and its immediate context is made more explicit in the larger context of Isa 7-12. It is widely recognized that Isa 7:14 is
part of a larger literary unit of Isaiah encompassing Isa 7-12, 16 which may
be called the "Volume of Immanuel." While scholars acknowledge this larger unit of Isaiah, they have often failed to view Isa 7:14 within the whole of
this larger setting. The following points draw attention to additional indicators within the larger context of Isa 7:14 that Isaiah intended a Messianic
interpretation of this passage.

2.4. Use (and Non-use) of the Name Immanuel

As another hint toward a messianic interpretation, it may be noted that
when Isaiah's son was born, he was not named "Immanuel" as the prophecy of Isa 7:14 predicted. God told Isaiah to name him t:;i llir;t ??iP 1iJl;l "Speed
the spoil, hasten the booty" (8:13). In naming the son whom the prophecy



It is possible that the ;ir;i?ll referred to in Isa 7:14 was an wunarried virgin at the time

the prophecy was given, and Isaiah subsequently married her. For support of this
view, see, e.g., Herbert Wolf, Interpreting Isaiah: The Suffering and Glory of the Messiah
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 91. But this interpretation also is not without
problems, inasmuch as Isaiah already had at least one child, Shear-Jashub, before the
incident reported in 7:14 (see 7:3). Did the mother of Shear-Jashub die, and Isaiah then
remarry, this time the ;ir;i?ll mentioned in 7:14 and called "the prophetess" in 8:3? For
an overview of other suggestions as to the historical identity of the ;ir;i?ll in 7:14, see G.
W. Grogan, "Isaiah," EBC 6:62-63. There is not enough evidence to decide for sure on
this point. But it is clear from the use of the article before the Hebrew word ;ir;i?ll in
7:14 ("the maiden" not "a maiden") that the Lord was referring to a particular maiden
in Ahaz' day, not just any ;ir;i?ll, and, as we argue in this article, also ultimately refers
to the particular maiden who was mother of the Messiah.
See, e.g., Oswalt, Isaiah 1-39, 192; cf. Franz Delitzsch, Isaiah: Two Volumes in One
(Commentary on the Old Testament; 10 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 7:206;
The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (7 vols.; Washington, D.C.: Review &
Herald, 1955), 4:91; and Wolf, Interpreting Isaiah, 42.


Richard M. Davidson

said would be called "Immanuel," the name Immanuel is not used, seemingly pointing to a yet future fulfillment.

2.5. Cosmic Setting of the Name Immanuel

The name Immanuel is used later in ch. 8 in a context that seems to move
from the local to the cosmic level of nature. Note v. 8: "He/it [the mighty
waters of the river, representing the king of Assyria] will pass through
Judah, overflow and pass over, he/it will reach up to the neck; And the outspreading out of his/its wings will fill the breadth of your land, 0 Immanuel." Such cosmic nature language seems to move beyond a totally
historical and local fulfillment by Assyria in the time of Ahaz, and the name
"Immanuel" here seems to signify more than a human child. As J. A. Motyer observes,
Nowhere else does the Old Testament exemplify 'land' with a possessive
pronoun accompanied by the subject of the pronoun in the vocative.[ ... ]
Immanuel cannot be simply any child whatever. Also, how could any
'ordinary' child become the ground of security of the Lord's people
against the onset of the nations (8:10)? 17
Likewise in v. 10, the term "Immanuel" takes on cosmic significance introducing the presence of divinity: "Take counsel together, but it will come to
nothing; Speak the word, but it will not stand, for 'Immanuel' -God is with

2.6. Signs and Wonders for the Future

In ch. 8 Isaiah and his sons are said to be nink "signs" in Israel for future
events to be brought about by God. Inv. 18 Isaiah states: "Here am I and
the children whom the LORD has given me! We are for signs [nink] and
wonders [O'D-?ir.l] in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells in Mount
Zion." The words nink ("signs") and O'D~ir.:i ("wonders") appear together
elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible with reference to supernatural events and
portents and not to the natural unfolding of historical events. 18

2.7. Movement from the Local to the Eschatological

The supernatural events depicted by Isaiah move from the local historical
level to the eschatological messianic level at the end of ch. 8 and the beginning of ch. 9. Isaiah 8:22 describes the local, historical level: "Then they will

Motyer, The Prvphecy of Isaiah, 86.

See, for example, Exod 7:3; Deut 4:34; 6:22; 7:19; 26:8; 29:3; 34:11; Neh 9:10; Pss 78:43;
105:27; 135:9; Jer 32:20-21.

The Messianic Hope in Isaiah 7:14 and the Volume of Immanuel


look to the earth, and see trouble and darkness [i1?W1'.)], gloom ['llP'?] of
anguish; and they will be driven into darkness." The land which was in
darkness [i1?WD,] and gloom ['llPT?] is described in the next verse in the
eschatological age to come, as becoming a land where the gloom ['llPT?] is
removed (8:23 [ET 9:1]) and "the people who walked in darkness [1ipn] have
seen a great light" (9:1 [ET 9:2]). Historical past is thus intertextually linked
to the eschatological future.

2.8. The Messianic Son

It is in the context of the eschatological Age to come that reference to the
Messiah comes most explicitly to the fore. In the description of the coming
Messiah in Isa 8:23-9:6 [ET 9:1-7]) there is direct intertextual allusion to the
prophecy of Isa 7:14. The son [P.] born in the time of Ahaz and the Syro-

Ephraimite War was a local sign to Israel, but in the messianic age Isaiah
predicts that the greater son [p.], the ultimate fulfillment of Isa 7:14, will
appear: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son [P.] is given, and the
government will be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called
Wonder of a Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace"
(9:6). The Messiah thus depicted is divine, with the descriptive terms and
appellations referring to a divine person: "Wonder" (as in Judg 13:18,
where the Angel of the LORD has this name and is identified as God),
"Mighty God," 19 "Everlasting Father,'' 20 and Prince of Peace. 21
This messianic son is not only divine, but also human, of the line of
David, as the next verse states: "Of the increase of His rule/dominion and of
peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and uphold it with justice and righteousness, from then on
and forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this" (Isa 9:6 [ET

This messianic motif of the Davidic messiah and his reign in the Age to
come is further expanded in Isa 11:1-4, with the description of the coming
and work of the Messiah:
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch
[1J] shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might,


In the OT ,l:u .,~ the theophoric element El, unlike Elohim, always refers to God, not
lesser beings than God; see other references to ,111 .,~in Isa 10:21; Deut 10:17; and Jer
Meaning "eternally a Father"; cf. Isa 63:16 referring to God as Father.
For insightful analysis of these descriptive appellations for the divine Messiah, see
esp. Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, 104-5; and Young, The Book of Isaiah: Volume 1, 33342.


Richard M. Davidson

the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. His delight shall be in
the fear of the LORD. And he shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the
poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the
earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall
kill the wicked.
Isaiah 11:5-9 continue with a glowing description of the Age to come, when
The wolf also will dwell with the lamb. The leopard shall lie down with
the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and
a little child shall lead them. [... ] They shall not hurt nor destroy in all
my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the
LORD as the waters cover the sea.

2.9. Messianic Typology

Within the wider context of Isa 7:14, Isaiah himself, under divine inspiration, indicates that although the prediction of the birth of a son will have
local fulfillment in the birth of a son in the time of Ahaz, yet this local fulfillment is a type of the ultimate messianic fulfillment in the divine Son,
Immanuel. We may diagram the typological relationships set forth in
Isaiah's Volume of Immanuel as following:

Isa 7:14 (Immanuel prophecy)

Isa 8:1-4 (local historical fulfillment of Isa 7:14)


Isa 9:1-7 (ultimate eschatological fulfillment in the Messiah)

Isa 11:1-9 (further description of the Messiah)

Figure 1: The Typological Relationships in the Volume of Immanuel

Matthew, therefore, far from taking Isa 7:14 out of context, as so many have
claimed, has actually recognized the larger messianic context of Isa 7-12,
which critical scholarship has usually ignored.

2.10. The Chiastic Strncture of Isaiah 7-12

A final indicator within Isa 7-12 of the messianic interpretation of Isa 7:14
may be grasped by seeing the overarching chiastic structure of the Volume
of Immanuel (Isa 7-12) that connects the various messianic elements within
these chapters (see Figure 2 below).


The Messianic Hope in Isaiah 7:14 and the Volume of Immanuel

The Davidlc Messiah

(Messianic Agel


Results of Refusal

Assyria: Agent of
Divine Judgment

Immanuel Prophecy

Promise of Salvation

Promise of Salvation



Figure 2: The Volume of Immanuel (Isa 7-12)

Notice that members A and A' both contain promises of salvation, with
allusions to water and salvation. Members B and B' (7:10-25 and 11:1-16)
are both messianic, one containing the Immanuel prophecy, the other the
prophecy of Messiah the Branch. Members C and C' both describe Assyria,
first as the agent of divine judgment, and then when she has overstepped
her bounds, as being herself judged. Members D and D' focus upon seeking
God, and the results of refusing to seek God. And the climax of the Volume
of Immanuel, depicts the Davidic Messiah, the ultimate son [P.] who ushers
in the messianic age. Such literary structure verifies that in the intention of
the author, revealed in his carefully wrought chiastic arrangement of the
whole volume of Immanuel, the prophecy of 7:10-25, like its chiastic counterpart, 11:1-16, is to be taken ultimately as messianic.

3. Isaiah 11:1 and Matthew 2:23

One more aspect of the messianic hope in the Volume of Immanuel has
been alluded to by the apostle Matthew, but ignored or denied by critical
Matthew 2:23 reads: "And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth,
that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, 'He shall be


Richard M. Davidson

called a Nazarene."' In the case of this citation, no specific OT passage is

cited. Many scholars have seen here a reference to the law of the Nazirite in
Num 6 (cf. Judg 13:4-5), and they have pointed out how the context simply
does not fit the situation of Jesus. Thus Matthew is castigated for once again
reading into the OT what is not there; making mistaken identifications of
Jesus with OT verses.
It is true that Jesus was no Nazirite! He did not refrain from drinking the
juice of the grapes nor from shaving his head. But the problem of this passage is not with Matthew in mistakenly connecting Nazareth with the Nazirites; it is rather with those scholars who mistakenly see Matthew making
such a connection.
What needs to be recognized is that the Greek letter zeta or ~ is used to
transliterate two Hebrew letters, zayin (or t) and tsade (or ll). The Hebrew
word for "Nazarite" comes from the root ,tJ. But the town Nazareth comes
from the Hebrew root ,llJ, not ,TJ. The OT noun built on this stem is ilp,
which means "sprout, shoot, branch." As we noted above, this Hebrew
word is the technical term for the Messiah utilized in the prediction of Isa
11:1: "There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch
[iJ] shall grow out of his roots." The "Branch" motif is utilized frequently
by OT writers to refer to the coming Messiah (e.g., Isa 4:2; Jer 23:5; 33:15;
Ezek 17:22-23; Zech 3:8; 6:12; cf. Isa 60:21).
Matthew, far from positing a false connection between Jesus and the
Nazirite, is instead pointing out the linguistic connection between the name
of the town "Nazareth" and the title of the Messiah in Isa 11:1, used specifically in the context of the Messiah's growing up! Messiah, the Branch [iJ],
grows up in the City of the Branch [nl~]! Matthew does not give reference
to a specific prophet, but rather states that "it might be fulfilled which was
spoken by the prophets," since he is alluding to the whole messianic
"Branch" motif in the OT. But the specific Hebrew word iJ, used in Isa
11:1 for the Messiah, is recognized by Matthew as linguistically adumbrating the name of Nazareth [nl~], the city where the Messiah would grow
up. Although the Volume of Immanuel (Isa 7-12) does not explicitly mention the city of Nazareth by name, it does indicate "the land of Zebulun and
the land of Naphtali [... ] Galilee of the Gentiles" -the general region in
which the city of Nazareth was located (Isa 8:23 [ET 9:1]). Again, Matthew is
remaining faithful to the original wider messianic context of the Volume of
Immanuel in his allusion to Isa 11:1 in Matt 2:23.

The Messianic Hope in Isaiah 7:14 and the Volume of Immanuel


4. Isaiah 7-12 in the Overall Literary

Strncture of the Book of Isaiah
The messianic nature of Isa 7-12 is further highlighted as one visualizes the
Volume of Immanuel within the larger context of the chiastic structure of
the entire book of Isaiah (see Figure 3). 22
Nature of Trust

Volumes of

Volumes of





Babylon and Other


Oracles to Forelsn Notions


Early Oracles

late Oracles
Ruin and Restoration

Figure 3: Chiastic Structure of Isaiah

In my tentative analysis of the chiastic structure of Isaiah, 23 members A and
A' represent early and late oracles, with common themes such as ruin and
restoration. Member B, the Volume of Immanuel, is placed in chiastic parallel with member B', the other major section of messianic prophecy in the
book of Isaiah, namely, the Book of the Suffering Servant (Isa 49-55). Members C and C' deal with foreign nations, especially Babylon. Members' D
and D' move to the universal realm, describing on one hand universal deso22


In this study I assume a unified book of Isaiah with a single human writer, Isaiah of
Jerusalem. For defense of this position, see, e.g., 0. T. Allis, The Unity of Isaiah
(Philadelphia: Presbyterian & Reform, 1950); Rachel Margalioth (Margulies), The
Indivisibility of Isaiah (New York: Yeshiva University, 1964); Oswalt, Isaiah 1-39, 17-28;
E. J. Young, Who Wrote Isaiah? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958); and Wolf, Interpreting
Isaiah, 27-38.
This literary structural analysis of Isaiah represents a work in progress; I plan to
publish a separate study on the literary structure of Isaiah in the near future.


Ric/Jard M. Davidso11

lation, and on the other hand, universal restoration. Members E and E' are
the Volume of Woes and Volume of Comfort respectively, both with another minor section dealing with the messiah (33:17-24 and 42). Finally, the
center of the book, Member F (chs. 36-39), is the only sustained section of
the book in prose. Here Isaiah presents an example of a time in history
when Israel dared to take God at his word, and the resultant deliverance
from the Assyrians by the mighty hand of God. It demonstrates the nature
of trust that God is seeking of his people. 24
Within the overall literary structure of Isaiah, the messianic passages
play a major role, and within the messianic passages, the Volume of Immanuel takes a significant place beside its chiastic counterpart, the Songs of
the Suffering Servant, in detailing the identity and work of the coming Messiah. The messianic hope burns brightly in Isaiah, particularly in Isa 7:14
and its larger context of the Volume of Immanuel!


For insights into the central, narrative section of Isaiah, I am indebted to Oswalt, Isaiah
1-39, 56-57, and Wolf, Interpreting Isaiah, 39-41.



1. Introduction
This study in honor of Gerhard Pfandl is a contribution to our understanding of the composition and unity of the book of Daniel. The editing process
of Daniel is by critical scholars commonly regarded as extremely complicated.1 At first glance, the book may indeed leave an inhomogeneous impression. It combines at least two major genres, tales in chs. 1-6 and visions
in chs. 7-12; it is written in two languages, and presented from two narrative aspects. The various chapters also appear as separate sections, introduced by a chronological reference and containing a natural closure. 2 At the
same time, however, the book presents itself as a functional unity and is by
many readers conceived as a coherent literary work. 3
Moreover, several of the seemingly incoherent features may, at a closer
look, be perceived as strengthening the overall sense of theological unity
and coherence. The combination of genres, for instance, deals with far more
than just the move from court narrative in chs. 1-6 to apocalyptic visions in
As indicated by the introductory notes in the best major commentaries, such as John E.
Goldingay, Daniel (WBC 30; Dallas: Word, 1989), 320-24, 326-29; John J. Collins, Daniel
(Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 24-38; and more recently Paul L. Redditt,
Daniel (NCBC; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 11-34. The critical issues are
also highlighted by several significant articles in the two-volume work edited by John
J. Collins and Peter W. Flint, The Book of Daniel: Composition and Reception (VTSup 83;
Leiden: Brill, 2001); among these the articles by Reinhard G. Kratz, ("The Visions of
Daniel," 1:91-113) and Rainer Albertz ("The Social Setting of the Aramaic and Hebrew
Book of Daniel," 1:171-204) are particularly good illustrations of the challenges of the
final composite work.
Due to these features as well as the difficulty of correlating, for instance, the narratives
in Dan 1 and 2, Daniel L. Smith-Christopher concludes "that these stories once
circulated independently of one another and that the editor of the collection that now
comprises Daniel 1--6 chose to leave some of the enigmatic chronological notes alone,
rather than straightening them out'' ("Daniel," NIB 7:49). One of the exceptions
creating some confusion is the introduction to ch. 4 which when chapter divisions
were made in the 13th century came to be placed at the end of ch. 3. The last three
chapters, though long, naturally belong together as one unit.
The tendency to read the final canonical product as a literary unit is exemplified by
the recent commentary by Ernest C. Lukas, Daniel (AOTC; Downers Grove:
InterVarsity, 2002).


Paul B. Petersen

chs. 7-12. The book also contains prayers in poetry and prose, poems, royal
decrees, appearances of heavenly beings, visionary prophecies, dynastic
oral prophecies, etc. John J. Collins, a long time ago, pointed to this fact as
typical for apocalyptic literature, mixing elements from other genres into a
new type of literature. 4 So, being typical for its genre, the apparent inhomogeneous features do not necessarily imply incoherence. Discussion is still
ongoing in regard to both origin and function of the language shifts as well
as the impact of the change of narrative aspect from third to first person. 5
More detailed investigation also undermines the apparent independency of each narrative and vision. The book follows a continuous story line,
and consecutive chapters or major units are linked by historical, linguistic,
literary, and theological connections which serve to lead the reader onwards. At times these connections may indicate close theological continuation, at times they are primarily literary allusions or terminological echoes. 6

"The Jewish apocalypses commonly embrace various distinct literary forms-visions,

prayers, legends, etc.( ... ] The complexity of the apocalypses has two distinct aspects.
First, literary forms are used in a subordinate way within a larger whole-e.g., prayers
and exhortations within a vision. Second, many apocalypses juxtapose formally
distinct units which are not clearly subordinate to each other (e.g., the visions in
Daniel 7-12 and the Similitudes of Enoch). [... ] Such complexity is the norm rather than
the exception, at least in Jewish apocalypses. It cannot be adequately explained by
source-critical theories. Even where independent sources are incorporated, we must
still account for the composition of the final work. The complex apocalypse is a
literary phenomenon in its own right." John J. Collins, Daniel with an Introduction to
Apocalyptic Literature (FOTL 20; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 3.
I briefly touch upon the significance of the reversal of the role of Daniel in the book in
Paul Birch Petersen, "The Theology and the Function of the Prayers in the Book of
Daniel" (Ph.D. diss., Andrews University, 1999), 334-37.
Some of these chapter connections have been commonly recognized, such as elements
linking ch. 3 with ch. 2, the statue covered partly or fully with gold, the use of the
significant verb cip in the Haphel conjugation (nine times in ch. 3, accentuating the
enterprise of the king [vv. 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 12, 14, 15, 18], cp. its usage in 2:21, 44, 45), and
the expression "the province of Babylon" (3:7, cf. 2:49) etc. Other connections are less
noticed, such as links between chs. 6 and 7, lions (6:22; 7:4) and the use of the verb p7o
"ascend" in the closing of ch. 6 and the opening of ch. 7. In 6:24 the king orders Daniel
to be "lifted up" (Haphel) from the lions, which he consequently is (Hophal). In 7:3 it
describes how the beasts "came up" (Peil) from the sea, the first of them likened to a
lion. The morphologically unusual forms of this verb in 6:24 are due to two factors: in
the Haphel and Hophal conjugations, (1) the lamed is assimilated with the samekh, and
(2) gemination of samekh may occur by nasalation, i.e., by adding the letter nun. See
Franz Rosenthal, A Grammar of Biblical Aaramaic (Porta linguarum orientalium NS 5;
Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1983), 54 (172); Ernest Vogts, Lexicon linguae Veteris
Testamentii documentis antiquis illustratum (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1971),
llB--19; and Stanislav Segert, Altaramiiische Grammatik (Leipzig: VEB, 1975), 113--14
( Petersen presents a number of connections between chs. 8 and 9 related to

God- The Great Giver


In this short article I focus on theological links between chs. 1 and 2. I

have chosen to follow the perspective of prayer and in a sense begin from
the end by looking at the function of the first recorded prayer of the book in
Dan 2:20-23. This method may seem unusual, but I want to invite readers
to follow me in detecting previously unnoticed theological connections between the opening chapters of the book of Daniel. It is my contention that
the questions raised by the study of the function of prayer open new doors
for understanding the literary and theological links between these two
chapters of the book. 7


Nature of Prayer

The presence of prayer contributes to our understanding of a narrative text

in several ways. 8 First, prayer plays a literary role in the plot and structure
of the narrative. Second, a recorded prayer is linked to its narrative setting
by its themes and by its depiction of characters, both of the addressee, the
pray-er, and other characters referred to in the prayer. Third, prayer by being prayer functions as part of the interaction and dialogue between God
and humans. 9 In the following sections I will highlight the function of
prayer in the narrative of Dan 2 in these three areas before turning the attention to the relationship between ch. 2 and ch. 1.

words and terminology, echoes, themes, and the process of communication or

dialogue between God and Daniel (Petersen, "Prayers in the Book of Daniel," 197217).

Major elements of this article are presented in my Ph.D. dissertation (ibid., 106-11).
Biblical prayers in narrative contexts have been the object of a number of studies, at
times in conjunction with other genres, such as speeches or poems. Significant
examples include Oscar Harris, "Prayer in Luke-Acts: A Study in the Theology of
Luke" (Ph. D. diss., Vanderbilt University, 1966); Otto Pliiger, "Reden und Gebete im
deuteronomistischen und chronistischen Geschichtswerk," in Aus der Spiitzeit des A/ten
Testaments: Studien (Giittingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1971), 50-66, repr. of
Festschrift far Gunther Dehn: Zurn 75. Geburtstag am 18. April 1957 dargebracht von der
Evangelisch-Theologischen Fakultiit der Rheinischen Friedrich Wilhelms-Universitiit zu Bonn
(ed. W. Schneemelcher; Neukirchen: Erziehungsverein, 1957), 35-49; Edwin Elias
Staudt, "Prayer and the People in the Deuteronomist" (Ph.D. diss., Vanderbilt
University, 1980); Patrick J. Griffin, "The Theology and Function of Prayer in the Book
of Tobit" (Ph.D. diss., The Catholic University of America, 1984); Sharyn Echols
Dowd, Prayer, Power, and the Problem of Suffering: Mark 11:22-25 in the Context of Markan
Theology (SBLDS 105; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988); and James W. Watts, Psalm and
Story: Inset Hymns in Hebrew Narrative CTSOTSup 139; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic
Press, 1992).
The specific methodology applied when studying the function of prayers in narrative
contexts is described and justified in Petersen, "Prayers in the Book of Daniel," 38-44.


Paul B. Petersen

3. Prayer in the Narrative of Daniel

As the events unfold in Dan 2, three major questions arise from the tension
and create the plot. 10 The first question is factual and due to the natural curiosity of the reader. What is the content of the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar which is able to create such emotional disturbance to a powerful
ruler? The second question is theologically decisive. Is anyone able to reveal
the secret? The third question is existential as the lives of Daniel and his
friends are threatened, and as the reader identifies with these young men.
Will they be saved from execution? The answer to the third question is dependent on the answer to the second. God is able to reveal. Through Daniel
God presents the content of the dream to the king, and the four Hebrews
are in the end not only saved, but honored.
Looking at the narrative from the end, we find the structure of the story.
As prayer is my chosen perspective, the structure presented in the following table is based on the interpersonal relations in the narrative. 11 This structure highlights the elements of the plot mentioned above and further
emphasizes the centrality of the revelation of God. Most importantly, it reveals the central function of prayer within the narrative. 12




"Plot structure simply refers to the pattern of events that take place in the storyworld." Danna Nolan Fewell, Circle of Sovereignty: A Story of Stories in Daniel 1-6
OSOTSup 72; BLS 20; Sheffield: Almond Press, 1988), 19. Plot refers to the tensions
created by the events described, the questions raised, and the solution and answers
given in the course of the narrative.
This structure is from Petersen, "Prayers in the Book of Daniel," 52. Different
structures may be detected in any given body of literature or art, depending on the
chosen perspective. An analogy from physiology may serve to illustrate: depending
on perspective, the skeleton and bone structure, the heart and blood circulation
system, and the nervous system may all be understood as structures of the human
body. They are not mutually exclusive, but complement each other.
Critical scholars have at times perceived internal discrepancies due to the supposed
prehistory of the story of Dan 2, primarily related to the different roles of Arioch and
changed manner of Daniel's approach to the king in vv. 16 and 25. So, e.g., Louis F.
Hartman and Alexander A. Di Lella, The Book of Daniel (AB 23; New York: Doubleday,
1978), 139; Collins, Daniel, 153; T. J. Meadowcroft, Aramaic Daniel and Greek Daniel: A
Literary Comparison OSOTSup 198; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), 164;
Redditt, Daniel, 50. This is unnecessary, and a number of scholars disagree with this
criticism and find the supposed discrepancies perfectly explainable by the literary art
of the narrative. See, e.g., Fewell, Circle, 52-53; Norman W. Porteous, Daniel (2d ed.;
OTL; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1979), 43; Goldingay, Daniel, 34, 46; Lucas, Daniel, 7172. The difference in the role of Arioch underlines the function of his character; the
emphasis in this section of the narrative is on speed; the reader is naturally supposed
to fill in what is lacking in the description of court etiquette in v. 16; see also the
discussion in Petersen, "Prayers in the Book of Daniel," 58-60.


God- The Great Giver




The problem stated: the dream

Emotional reaction of Nebuchadnezzar
Calling upon the wise men


King and wise men

What is the content of the dream and its interpretation?


King and wise men (continued)

Who is able to reveal the secret?


Closing with the emotions of the king: the death decree


Death decree against the wise men

Postponed by the intervention of Daniel
To Arioch and the king


Prayer to God: petition

Revelation of the secret


Prayer to God: thanksgiving


Intervention by Daniel to Arioch and the king

Removes the death threat
King and Daniel
God is able to reveal the secret
Closing with the emotions of the king





King and Daniel (continued)

Disclosing the content of the dream
and its interpretation



Reaction of Nebuchadnezzar to the dream,


Honoring Daniel and his friends

Table: Interpersonal Structure of Daniel 2

Central in this well composed chiastic structure stands the dialogue between Daniel and his friends and God (sections E-F-E'). An unrecorded
petition for mercy and illumination of the secret and an individual thanksgiving encircle the sentence that "the secret was revealed to Daniel in a
nightly vision" (v. 19). This sentence expresses the major theological point
of the narrative as a whole. In contrast to the gods of the Babylonians, God
is able to reveal (their gods "do not live among mortals", v. 11). In contrast
to the (un-)wise men of Babylon, 13 Daniel is in communication with his God
through prayer.

I credit this expression to G. T. M. Prinsloo, "Two Poems in a Sea of Prose: The

Content and the Context of Daniel 2:20-23 and 6:27-28," JSOT 59 (1993): 99.


Paul B. Petersen

4. Themes and Characters in Daniel 2

The recorded prayer in vv. 20-23 encapsulates the basic themes of the narrative. God owns all power and wisdom (v. 20). He delegates power to
kings (v. 2la, cf. Daniel's explanation to Nebuchadnezzar in v. 37). He
shares His wisdom with wise men (v. 21b), and He has now, in specific,
given Daniel wisdom and power by revealing the secret of the dream to
him (v. 23). The basic verb is "to give", Aramaic ::J.i1'. God is the great giver.
The words of the prayer depict the characters of the narrative in a way
fully congruent with events. God, the addressee of the prayer, shows Himself to be exactly as portrayed by its words. Daniel, the pray-er, is the humble receiver of wisdom only God can provide, his attitude of humility is
exemplified also in his words to the king in vv. 27-30 and of course in the
very fact that he offers his prayer of thanksgiving. The friends occupy a
supporting role in the prayer as well as in the narrative.

5. The Divine-Human Dialogue

By its very nature, prayer functions differently in narrative contexts from,
for instance, speeches. Both these genres are able to encapsulate, complement, or modify their narrative contexts by the recorded words. Both genres are able to further depict the characters of the narrative, the speaker and
the audience/addressee. Prayer, however, is also part of a dialogue between
God and humans. In prayer people respond to their perception of God's
activity or inactivity, expressing their expectations to God of His intervention. To understand prayer in a narrative context it is, therefore, necessary
to investigate the interactions between God and humans. Who is the God to
whom people pray? What is He like? 14
From a literary perspective this question is not simply answered in our
case by referring to general theological perceptions of God in the OT. While
such provide a historical framework for the concept of God also in Daniel, a
literary study concentrates on what is explicitly said in the book of Daniel
itself about the God to whom Daniel prays.
In the narrative in Dan 2 the Babylonian sages describe their gods negatively in v. 11. We only learn about the nature of God from the words of
Daniel in prayer and explanation. In his acknowledgement Nebuchadnezzar (v. 47) only repeats what we already know from Daniel's speech (vv.
28-31). It is from these statements that we realize that God sent the dream

Samuele E. Balentine, Prayer in the Hebrew Bible: The Drama of Divine-Human Dialogue
(Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993) provides profound theological rationale for understanding the function of prayer this way.

God- The Great Giver


to Nebuchadnezzar, and that He was the one who revealed the secret to
Chapter 2 thus only explicitly describes God through the words of the
characters. That is, however, not the case for the previous chapter to which I
will now tum.

6. Against the Background of Daniel 1

Hardly any scholar disagrees that ch. I provides an introductory framework-not only to the Aramaic chs. 2-7, but to the book of Daniel as a
whole, 15 and from a literary perspective we naturally read ch. 2 as a continuation. However, the reference to the second year of Nebuchadnezzar
(2:1) has often caused scholars to see a contradiction between the two narratives on a historical level. Proper understanding of the ancient ways of
reckoning time, however, clearly solves that problem. 16 The shift in languages also represents a significant difference between the two chapters,
but that shift actually occurs inside ch. 2 itself, namely in v. 4.



See Collins, Daniel, 38; Andre Lacocque writes that "The first chapter of Daniel
constitutes an introduction to the whole book, and in particular to its first part
(chapters 1-Q)." Andre Lacocque, The Book of Daniel (London: SPCK, 1979), 24.
Already S. R. Driver solved the chronological tension by acknowledging the use of
accessing year reckoning, explaining how Daniel and friends could have finished their
three year training in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar (The Book of Daniel [5th ed.;
Cambridge University Press, 1922], 17); see also the graphic chart by Stephen R.
Miller, Daniel (NAC 18; Broadman & Holman, 1994), 76. Driver is followed by most
conservative scholars, e.g., Edward J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1949), SS-56; Gerhard F. Hase!, "The Book of Daniel: Evidences Relating to
Persons and Chronology," AUSS 19 (1981), 47-49; Gleason L. Archer, Jr., "Daniel,"
EBC 7:41-42; Gerhard Maier, Der Prophet Daniel (Wuppertaler Studienbibel; Wuppertal: Brockhaus, 1982), 92-93. With Goldingay (6) and Lacocque (40), but contrary to
Fewell (43) and Collins (Daniel, 145, 155), not only 1:21, but also 1:20 should be
considered as part of the frame for the entire narrative section of the book. This fact is
indicated by the preceding sentence in the end of v. 19, in which the four Jews
following their test enter the service of the court. Contrary to Collins (Daniel, 155), I
find nothing in 2:25 to indicate that Daniel was previously completely unknown to the
king and that the examination at the end of his schooling could not have taken place
already. The last issue to be touched upon in this context is the question why Daniel
and his friends did not attend the first meeting with the king in 2:1-12, see Collins
(Daniel, 158). Close reading reveals, however, that the text never states that all wise
men of Babylon were summoned to the king. Whether Daniel at this stage of his
service had not yet reached a sufficient rank, is an option, but may be the historical
explanation. Nothing is stated except the fact that, as a result of the dialogue between
the king and some (but not all) of his magicians, sorcerers, etc., Nebuchadnezzar
ordered all wise men (now using the term rr;i:;n:i, which included Daniel and his
friends) to be killed.


Paul B. Petersen

What is significant for the particular question raised in this article? It is

the fact that ch. 1 describes God explicitly and thus provides a theological
framework for the image of God in the narrative in ch. 2. The God to whom
Daniel prays has already been characterized in ch. l, not by the characters
within the story, but by the narrator himself. Daniel 1 contains the following three specific references to God.
"And the Lord gave (nathan) Jehoiakim, king of Judah, into his hand."
"And God gave (nathan) Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the
chief of the eunuchs." (1:9)
"As for these four youths, God gave (nathan) them learning and skill in
all literature and wisdom, and He gave Daniel special ability in understanding the meanings of visions and dreams." (1:17) 17
It is remarkable that the three explicit actions attributed by the narrator to
God in Dan 1 are expressed by the same verb !nl nathan "to give." The

Aramaic equivalent is the central verb in Dan 2, describing God as the great
giver. Furthermore, the three actions mentioned in ch. 1 are in content directly related to the characterization of God in the subsequent chapter.
In ch. 2 we identified God as the giver of wisdom to wise men, stated in
the prayer in 2:21b and in Daniel's exposition of the dream in 2:27-28, 30.
This is exactly what is said in Dan 1:17. We also saw that God gives or delegates power to kings and rulers, expressed in the prayer in 2:21a and in the
explanation in 2:37-38. The similar thought and wording is found in Dan
1:2, "giving into the hand/power" of Nebuchadnezzar. The third action explicitly mentioned in Dan 1 is the giving of compassion or favor (Hebrew
O'Ql'.)'"! rachamim) in personal relationships (1:9). This trait of the character of
God is highlighted also in Dan 2. The petition to God from Daniel and his
friends asks God for mercy or compassion (Aramaic rOI'.)'"! rachamin, 2:18).

Thus, the God to whom Daniel sends his petition and expresses his
gratitude during the course of the events in ch. 2 is precisely the God who is
described in the opening narrative of the preceding ch. 1. 18 He is in charge

While the translations of vv. 2 and 9 are undisputed, I prefer to translate the Hiphil of
the ancient translations of both LXX and Vulgate.
In my view this is the natural understanding in the context, underlining the fact that
Daniel had received this gift from God; it was not a natural, inherent quality. Of
modem English versions, only the paraphrase of the New Living Translation follows
the ancient versions!
The question raised by the prayer perspective is, of course, a very simple one. To what
kind of God does Daniel pray? Nevertheless, the significance of the question and,
consequently, the importance of viewing the narratives in light of the ongoing divinehuman dialogue, are well illustrated by the fact that in spite of the simplicity of the
question, no modem commentary has ever raised it, and none of them has taken note

r:i. in v. 17b as causative, following


God-The Great Giver


of human history; he reveals secrets to wise men who in humility seek Him
in prayer; and He shows compassion by extending favor to individuals in
their personal relationships.



The two opening chapters of the book of Daniel are not accidentally put
together in the process of redaction. From a literary aspect they are carefully structured and harmoniously composed. In spite of the change of language, and in spite of the seemingly chronological independence of the two
narratives, the second chapter is a natural continuation of the first. When
read from the perspective of prayer as part of a divine-human dialogue,
these chapters are also seen to be closely connected and united in the depiction of characters as well in theology and thought. The observations in this
study testify to the literary coherence and the overall theological unity of
the book of Daniel.

of the similarity between the three explicit statements about God in ch. 1 or their
connection to the narrative in the subsequent chapter.



1. Introduction
It is my pleasure to contribute to a volume honoring Gerhard Pfandl, who

has always been an example of a Christian and a scholar.

The present study endeavors to apply some of the insights of narratology/narrative criticism to the Aramaic chapters of Daniel. In particular, I
will focus on the characterization of God. It is necessary to begin this article
by stating two premises relevant to what follows. First, this study is based
on the finished form of the Masoretic Text (MT) of Daniel. Although I do
recognize the importance source-critical issues, I will not address them
here, because narrative criticism requires an extant finished form of a text as
a starting point. That is, the narrative analysis of all hypothetical sources
will not yield the same results as the narrative analysis of a finished/extant
product. The same can be said regarding issues of textual criticism. No
doubt, the Old Greek (OG) and Theodotion (Th) versions of the Septuagint
(LXX) are also extant "finished" text forms, or translations of such, and they
are important sources for the history of the text. 1 However, the differences
between the MT and the LXX, especially the OG, are significant enough that
narrative analysis of these different textual witnesses may yield different
conclusions. For example, both the OG and the Th include a lengthy passage in ch. 3, which is not found in the MT, consisting of a prayer by
Azariah and a song of praise by the three young men in the fiery furnace.
Therefore, my choice of the MT as the basis for this present study is not intended to ignore text-historical issues, but is necessary because each of the
finished forms of the text is eligible for independent narrative analysis. A
second relevant premise is that there is a distinction between narrative and
history. That is, a narrative is like a two dimensional photograph of a three
dimensional reality taken from a specific point of view. Thus, a narrative,
including an apocalyptic one, is by necessity selective in what and how
events are told or not told. A narrative is a work of art, and it must be interpreted as such. Therefore, the interpretation of a narrative does not focus on
For an assessment of the relationship between the OG and Th, see Tim McLay, The OG
and Th Versions of Daniel (SBLSCS 43; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997).


Tarsee Li

the reconstruction of actual history, important as that is, but on the study of
how and why the narrative is told.
One important dimension of narrative literature is "characterization."
Characterization refers to the depiction of individual protagonists and their
personalities. They may be characterized directly by explicit statements,
indirectly by implication (actions, appearance, etc.), or by analogy. Direct
characterization involves listing an individual's traits. Indirect characterization involves metonymy, that is, the narration of specific actions, speeches,
dress, or situations to imply more general traits of personality or character.
Characterization through analogy involves comparisons and contrasts. 2
Characters are depicted along a continuum that ranges from "round" on
one end and "flat" on the other. Round characters reveal multi-faceted personalities including emotions and motives, whereas flat characters are only
introduced to the extent necessary for the plot. Since characterization involves a continuum, most characters in a story are not completely round or
flat. Adele Berlin proposed at least three recognizable points along the continuum:
One might think of them as points on a continuum: 1) the agent, about
whom nothing is known except what is necessary for the plot; the agent
is a function of the plot or part of the setting; 2) the type, who has a limited and stereotyped range of traits, and who represents the class of
people with these traits; 3) the character, who has a broader range of
traits (not all belonging to the same class of people), and about whom we
know more than is necessary for the plot. 3
This continuum may be illustrated by a number of characters presented in
the book of Daniel. On the round end of the spectrum, there is Daniel, the
central human character of the book. Yet, even Daniel is not a fully round
character, since references to him sometimes only serve as a background to
a prophecy (e.g., chs. 7, 8). At the other end of the spectrum are the Babylonian wise men. Although they are mentioned as a group quite frequently in
chs. 1-5, they never appear as individuals. Nor do we know any of their

For further discussion on characterization, see (not an exhaustive list) Seymour

Chatman, Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film (Ithaca: Cornell
University Press, 1978), 107-37; Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York:
Basic, 1981), 114-30; Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics
(New York: Methuen, 1983), 29-42; Adele Berlin, Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical
Narrative (Sheffield: Almond, 1983), 23-42; David M. Gunn and Danna Nolan Fewell,
Narrative in the Hebrew Bible (OBS; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 46--89; and
Luc Herman and Bart Vervaeck Handbook of Narrative Analysis (trans. by authors from
Vertelduivels: Handboek verhaalanalyse, 2001; Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press,
2005), 67-70.
Berlin, Poetics and Interpretation, 32.

TI1e Characterization of God in the Aramaic Daniel


names. Their role is rather stereotypical. That is, they are supposed to interpret dreams and mysteries, but are never able to. Thus, they function as
agents in the plot, whose role in the narrative is to highlight the fact that it
is God who gives wisdom and reveals secrets. Somewhere in the middle
between the two ends of the continuum are Daniel's three friends, who only
appear in the first three chapters of the book. Unlike the Babylonian wise
men, they are named. Not only do we know their Hebrew names,
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, but also their new Babylonian names,
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Yet, unlike Daniel, in the MT version of
the story they never function individually, but only as a threesome. Even in
ch. 3, where they play a central role, they only function as a group. The narrative never develops the individuality of Daniel's friends. It reveals little of
their character and personality beyond what is characteristic of those who
remain faithful to God under oppression in any age of history. 4
Narrative studies of the Bible have flourished since the 1980's, including
the study of characterization. 5 Several articles have also appeared on the
subject of the characterization of God in various biblical passages. 6 Yet,
there are very few studies on the characterization of God in the book of
Daniel. For example, I noticed that in one book where the depiction of God
in the Old Testament is one of its two main topics/ less than one page was
devoted to the book of Daniel-and even then, only one sentence dealt with

"Consequently, we may decide that their story is not their story. It is not a story of
their heroism." Dunn and Fewell, Narrative, 185. Neither is it a story about "the effect
of their heroism on the world around them" (ibid.), but, as I will argue below, it is a
story about God's power to deliver.
In addition to the already cited works of Alter, Berlin, Gunn, and Fewell, there was,
for example, an entire issue of Semeia devoted to this topic: Elizabeth Struthers Malbon
and Adele Berlin, eds., Semeia 63 (1993). More recent examples include several articles
dealing with characterization in Camille Focant and Andre Wenin, eds., Analise

narrative et Bible: Deuxeme colloque international du RRENAB, Leuven-la-Neuve, avril 2004

(Leuven: Peeters, 2005). For examples of treatments that include the book of Daniel,
see Danna Nolan Fewell, Circle of Sovereignty: Plotting Politics in the Book of Daniel
(Nashville: Abingdon, 1991); Bill T. Arnold, "Word Play and Characterization in
Daniel l," in Puns and Pundits: Word Play in the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern
Literature (ed. 5. B. Noegel; Bethesda: COL, 2000), 231-48.
For example: John 0. W. Watts, "The Characterization of Yahweh in the Vision of
Isaiah," Review & Expositor 83 (1986): 439-50; Paul Danove, "The Narrative Function of
Mark's Characterization of God," NovT 43 (2001): 12-30; idem, The Rhetoric of the
Characterization of God, Jesus, and Jesus' Disciples in the Gospel of Mark OSNTSup 290;
London: Clark, 2005).
Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Robert K. Johnston, and Robert P. Meyer, eds., Studies in Old
Testament Tiieology: Historical and Contemporary Images of God and God's People (Dallas:
Word, 1992).


Tarsee Li

a description of God. 8 It is my hope that this short study will serve as a

modest contribution to a field that deserves much more research.
In the rest of my comments I will focus on the Aramaic portion of the
book of Daniel, consisting of chs. 2 to 7 (which, except for the Hebrew introduction in 2:1-4a, are written in Aramaic). This choice is not based on
common scholarly views concerning the provenance of the book. Rather, it
is because the narratives occur mostly in the Aramaic section, and because
it is generally recognized that the Aramaic chapters form a distinctive unit
within the overall structure of the book of Daniel. 9

2. Characterization of God
One of the clues to the importance of the characterization of God in the
book of Daniel consists of the many epithets/titles ascribed to him. Meir
Sternberg suggested that for biblical figures "to bear a name is to assume an
identity." 10 In the book of Daniel, no human protagonist receives more
names/designations than God. In addition to "God," the author of Daniel
uses several expressions to refer to him. Most of these could be grouped
into two types. One group emphasizes the superiority of God over human
powers by expressions that connote some aspect of height. He is "the God
of heaven" N:Oo/ i1?!:! (2:44), "the Lord of heaven" N:OVN!.'? (5:23), "the Most
High God" ~''?!?Ni!?!:! (3:26, 32 [ET 4:2]; 5:18, 21), or simply "the Most High"
~''?!? (4:14, 21, 22, 29, 31 [ET 4:17, 24, 25, 32, 34]; 7:25) 11 and its synonym, "the
Most High/Highest" r~i?~ (7:18, 22, 25, 27). 12 "Heaven" N:Oo/ (4:23 [ET 4:26])
is also used as an indirect reference to God (cf. v. 22 [ET 25]). The other
group of designations emphasizes the eternity/perpetuity of God. He is "the
Living God" N:D Ni!?!:! (6:27 [ET 6:26]}, "the One Who Lives Forever" N'?'?l:' 'D
(4:31 [ET 4:34]}, "the Ancient of Days" rr;ii' i''l'll,! (7:9) or N:Oi' i''l'll,! (7:11, 22).
God's eternity is explicitly linked to the fact that his kingdom will be eternal, that is, he "is the living God, enduring forever, and his kingdom that



"Despite the tribulations of the faithful, God remains in control of history." Roland E.
Murphy, "Images of Yahweh: God in the Writings," in Studies in Old Testament Theology
(ed. R. L. Hubbard, Jr., R. K. Johnston, and R. P. Meyer; Dallas: Word, 1992), 197.
This was first recognized by A. Lenglet, "La structure litteraire de Daniel 2-7," Bib 53
(1972): 169-90. Lenglet described the chiastic structure of chs. 2-7 in terms of
concentric circles.
Meir Sternberg, The Poetics of Biblical Narrative: Ideological Literature and the Drama of
Reading (ISBL; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985), 331.
Kethib N''7V, Qere ;it;t?l,l.
The latter occurs only in the plural in the expression "the saints of the Most High" in
ch. 7.

The Characterization of God in the Aramaic Daniel


which will not be destroyed" (6:27 [ET 6:26]). 13 In fact, there is a connection
between the expressions used to refer to God and some of the themes developed in Daniel. The fact that he is the Most High means that he rules
over human beings (e.g., 4:14 [ET 4:17]), and the fact that he is eternal means
that his kingdom will have no end (e.g., 2:44; 7:14).
Two other techniques used to characterize God in Daniel are often employed in combination, that is, narration of his actions and explicit direct
statements. In ch. 2, God is characterized as the giver of knowledge and
wisdom, especially knowledge about the future. He is the "Revealer of
mysteries" 1'!) N]~ (2:28), N:!) N]~ (v. 29), !'!) i1]~ (v. 47). God's action in the
chapter consists of revealing Nebuchadnezzar's dream to Daniel (v. 19).
There are many direct statements scattered throughout the chapter that
connect this narrative event with a more general characterization of God.
The narrative contrasts God's revelation with the inability of the wise men
to reveal and interpret the dream.
The Chaldeans answered before the king and said: "There is no man on
the earth who is able to disclose the king's matter, for no great king or
ruler has asked a matter such as this of any magician, exorcist, or Chaldean. And the matter that the king is asking is difficult, and there is not
another who can disclose it before the king, except the gods whose
dwelling is not with flesh." (2:10-11)
The same is emphasized in Daniel's words:
Daniel answered before the king and said: "The wise men, exorcists,
magicians, and diviners cannot disclose to the king the mystery that the
king is asking. But there is a God in heaven, a revealer of mysteries. And
he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen at the
end of the days." (2:27-28)
Thus, when Daniel acknowledges, "as for me, not by wisdom that is in me
above any living being was this mystery revealed to me" (v. 30), it is not
merely an expression of humility on his part, but a reiteration of the narrative theme that the revelation of secrets is God's prerogative and not a human power. The same theme breaks through in Daniel's poetic praise: God
is "the one who gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who
know understanding" (v. 21).
"To you, God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, because you have
given me wisdom and power. And now you have made known to me
what we requested of you, for you have made known to us the matter of
the king." (2:23)


Bible passages cited in this article are rendered with my own translation, except where
otherwise stated.


Tarsee Li

This theme is further reinforced in the words of Nebuchadnezzar to Daniel:

"Truly, your God is a God of gods, and lord of kings and revealer of mysteries, because you have been able to reveal this mystery" (v. 47).
In ch. 3, although the plot involves Nebuchadnezzar's golden image and
the refusal of the three Hebrews to worship it, I suggest that the aim of the
story is the characterization of God. That is, God is able to deliver those
who trust in him. The challenge is set by none other than the king himself:
"But if you do not worship it, at that moment you will be thrown into the
furnace of burning fire. And who is the god who will rescue you from my
hand?" (3:15). The answer of the three Hebrews has been variously interpreted. Grammatically, :ir.W; ... Nm1:irw? '7?.: !'D?~ N1r:1}.W'1 N16'?tl 'D'N JD in v.
17 can be translated either "If it is so, our God ... is able to deliver us ... ,
and he will" or "If our God ... is able to deliver us ... , then he will." 14 In
additibn, Wesselius suggested the possibility that the apodosis in v. 16 precedes the protasis in v. 17: "We do not need to answer you ... , if our God ...
is able to deliver us ... and (if) he delivers us. But if not (i.e., 'in any case')
... " 15 It is beyond the scope of this article to settle the issue of how to interpret the passage. Suffice it to say that either interpretation fits the theme of
the chapter. That is because the focus of the narrative is on God's power to
deliver, rather than on whether the three Hebrews were certain of his
power. As argued earlier, the three Hebrews are not fully round characters
in the plot. Their answer is not as central to the narrative as is Nebuchadnezzar's question, "Who is the god who will rescue you from my hand?"
That question, in tum, is soundly answered not only by the events of the
narrative, but in the words of Nebuchadnezzar himself: "Blessed be the
God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him" (3:28). The king then issues his
decree forbidding any disrespect toward this God, "inasmuch as there is no
other god who can deliver like this" (v. 29).
Chapter 4 is a first person narrative of how God humbled a proud king.
The chapter appears to be structured around three poetic foci. Some of the
poetry describes the greatness of the tree (4: 7-9 [ET 4:10-12], loosely quoted
in vv. 17-18 [ET 20-21]), which aptly symbolizes the king who said, "Is this
not Babylon the great, which I have built for a royal residence by the
strength of my might and for the honor of my glory?" (v. 27 [ET 30]). Other



For a brief summary and discussion of various views, see Ariel A. Bloch, "Questioning
God's Omnipotence in the Bible: A Linguistic Case Study," in Semitic Studies in Honor
of Wolf Les/au on tile Occasion of His Eiglity-Fiftli Birthday November 14tli, 1991 (ed. A. S.
Kaye; 2 vols.; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1991), 1:174-88.
Jan-Wim Wesselius, "The Literary Nature of the Book of Daniel and the Linguistic
Character of Its Aramaic," Aramaic Studies 3 (2005): 262---M.

The Characterization of God in the Aramaic Daniel


poems describe the heavenly judgment on the tree (vv. 11-14 [ET 14-17],
loosely quoted in vv. 22, 28--29 [ET 25, 31-34]). The purpose of the ordeal
was "so that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the human kingdom" (v. 14 [ET 17]; see also vv. 22, 29 [ET 25, 31]). Finally, the poetry at the beginning and end of the chapter form an envelope of praise
around the narrative (3:31-33; 4:31-32, 34 [ET 4:1-3, 34-35, 37]). 16 At the beginning, God is praised both for his mighty works and because:
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and his dominion from generation to generation. (3:33 [ET 4:3])
At the end, Nebuchadnezzar again acknowledges the sovereignty of God,
"whose dominion is an everlasting dominion" (4:31 [ET 4:34]), and who acts
"according to his will" (v. 32 [ET 35]). His final words acknowledge that
"those who walk in pride he is able to humble" (v. 34 [ET 37]). Therefore,
although the story is told from the point of view of its main human character, King Nebuchadnezzar, the structure of the chapter suggests that the
aim of the narrative is to highlight the superiority of the heavenly king.
Chapter 5 narrates God's judgment on King Belshazzar. The narrative
brings to light Belshazzar's prior knowledge of the story of his predecessor
(5:18--21). Although ch. 4 ends stating that God is able "to humble" the
proud (t,!llV is the last Aramaic word in ch. 4), Belshazzar did not "humble"
(t,!llV 5:22) his heart before him. The verdict on Belshazzar consists of a word
play involving words from roots related to measurements (vv. 24-28}-i1l0
"to count," t,pn "to weigh," and oi!l "to divide/to halve." Thus, God is
depicted as a judge who measures and evaluates human actions. In both
chs. 4 and 5, God's judgment and his sovereignty are connected together. It
is because he is the supreme ruler in control of all things that he can pass
judgment on proud earthly monarchs. He is described as "the God in
whose hand your breath is and all your ways" (5:23).
In ch. 6, Daniel was thrown into a den of lions. As in ch. 3, "professional
jealousy" 17 seems to be the motivating factor behind the actions and words
of the accusers (cf. 3:12 and 6:4-5 [ET 6:3--4]). Unlike chs. 2, 4, and 5, God's
power in ch. 6 is contrasted with the powerlessness of the king himself,
rather than that of his wise men. As in ch. 3, the theme of ch. 6 is God's
power to deliver. As Daniel is thrown into the lion's den, the powerless
King Darius can only express his wish to Daniel: "Your God, whom you


The passage in 3:31-33 (ET 4:1-3) was originally assigned to the end of ch. 3 in the
Vulgate by the thirteenth-century archbishop Stephen Langton, and retained in the
modern editions of the MT. However, "this division of the material is not ancient and
does not reflect any traditions from antiquity." John J. Collins, Daniel: A Commentary
on the Book of Daniel (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 221.
Tremper Longman, III, Daniel (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 100.


Tarsee Li

serve continually, may he deliver you!" (6:17 [ET 6:16]). The narrator does
not directly tell the readers what transpired the night that Daniel spent with
the lions. Instead, he reports the king's question the next morning: "Daniel,
servant of the living God, was your God, whom you serve continually, able
to deliver you from the lions?" (v. 21 [ET 20]). Though the questions were
differently asked, there is a common theme between King Darius' question
and that of King Nebuchadnezzar in ch. 3. That is, in both chapters, a king
asks a question about God's ability to deliver. In ch. 6, the narrator places
the answer in Daniel's mouth: God "sent his angel and closed the mouth of
the lions" (v. 23 [ET 22]). 18 As in ch. 3, the question is also answered in the
king's own words of praise, "He delivers and rescues and does signs and
wonders in heaven and on earth, for he delivered Daniel from the power of
the lions" (v. 28 fET 27]). In ch. 3 the question regarding God's ability to deliver is given in the form of a challenge by a defiant king, whereas in ch. 6 it
is expressed as the wish of a helpless king. Nevertheless, both chapters ask
the same question and give the same answer. God is able to deliver those
who are faithful to him.
Chapter 7 is unique in the richness of its indirect characterization of
God, including not only actions, but also appearance and setting. This may
be due to the fact that, unlike previous chapters, virtually all its narrative
material consists of an account of a prophetic vision. There are some interesting contrasts between the descriptions of the Ancient of Days and the
animals in this chapter. Although the Aramaic word i11'D simply means an
animal or living creature, the common translation "beast" appropriately
reflects their characterization. Whereas the animals arise out of the windy
stirring of the great sea (7:2-3), a river of fire proceeds from the throne of
the Ancient of Days (v. 10). That is, his throne is the source of the fire,
whereas the animals are the product of the struggle of the winds and the
sea. The animals are described by features that enable them to fight, such as
teeth, claws, and horns (vv. 3--8). In contrast, the description of the Ancient
of Days is both stately and orderly. He is dressed in white clothing, there is
fire around him, and an innumerable company stands to do his bidding
(vv. 9-10). The actions of the animals include devouring and stamping,
whereas the action ascribed to the Ancient of Days is that of passing judgment. Thus, whereas the animals are characterized as fierce and ferocious in
their struggle for control, the Ancient of Days does not need to struggle, for


Daniel's answer continues with the explanation: "and they have not hurt me,
inasmuch as before him innocence has been found in my favor, and also before you, o
king, I have done no harm." His answer alludes to another theme in the book of
Daniel, i.e., judgment. "Daniel's survival, then, is God's judgment of innocence on
Daniel." Longman, Daniel, 163.

11ie Characterization of God in the Aramaic Daniel


he is already in control. God is depicted as one who is above the human

struggle for power, the ultimate judge, and the eternal king.
Central to the prophetic narrative of ch. 7 is the little horn's opposition
to God and his saints and God's judgment of the little horn. There is a disparity between the "little" horn's actual size and its "great words" (7:11, cf.
vv. 8, 20, 25), implying arrogance and pride. Not only did it have "a mouth
speaking great things," but "its appearance was greater than its companions" (v. 20). In contrast, the Ancient of Days is portrayed as a judge (vv. 910, 13-14). Whereas the little horn makes "war" (:::J."')i? v. 21) with the saints,
God is not depicted as fighting, but rather issuing a verdict (v. 22). Furthermore, in contrast to the measured length of the little horn's rule, "a
time, times, and half a time" (v. 25), God' kingdom is eternal (vv. 26-27). As
in chs. 4 and 5, the themes of judgment and sovereignty are linked together.
God passes verdicts on earthly kings because he is the King of kings.

3. Conclusion
Although narratology/narrative criticism is not primarily a theological endeavor, it is obvious that it can contribute relevant insights to biblical theology. The narratives of the book of Daniel are composed with aesthetic
artistry. As any work of art, they can be studied from many perspectives.
Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan remarked:
The reversibility of hierarchies is characteristic not only of ordinary reading but also of literary criticism and theory. Hence it is legitimate to subordinate character to action when we study action but equally legitimate
to subordinate action to character when the latter is the focus of our
study. 19
The above observation combines the perspectives of both narrative criticism
and reader response theory. I suggest, however, that this reversibility of
hierarchies exists not only in the process of reading and narrative criticism,
as Rimmon-Kenan suggested, but also in the artistry of the author himself,
and is therefore also exegetically valid. That is, the author has at his disposal the choice of depicting individuals as a means of advancing the plot
or telling a story as a means of characterizing an individual. In the narratives of Daniel, the characterization of God seems to have a more prominent
role than the narration of events in the plot.
It is clear from the foregoing study that, despite appearances to the contrary,20 the central character in the book of Daniel is not Daniel, but God. In

Rimmon-Kenan, Narrative Fiction, 36.

For example, Fewell, Circle of Sovereignty, 118: "Daniel himself will always eclipse
Daniel's god.''


Tarsee Li

the Aramaic chapters of Daniel, God is characterized both directly and indirectly by his epithets/titles, his actions, his appearance and even his surroundings. He is the Most High God who rules above human powers. He is
also the living, eternal God. These two qualities combine to assure us that
his kingdom will have no end. In addition, he is also the omniscient God
who imparts wisdom and reveals secrets, he is the omnipotent God who is
able to deliver those who remain faithful to him in oppressive circumstances, and he is the ultimate judge who decides the destinies of all.
Finally, the study of characterization in the book of Daniel suggests that
the book is intended not only as a prophecy of future events, but also as an
invitation to worship and praise the God of Daniel.



1. Introduction or A Quick Glimpse into

Daniel Studies
The title of this study sounds surprising-especially considering the fact
that this is a contribution to a collection of essays honoring a Bible scholar
with no particular inclination toward the more modem forms of contemporary music styles. Indeed, this is not meant to "rock the boat," but instead
seeks to provide a close-reading of a well-known text from the book of
Daniel, looking through different lenses to better understand the communicative thrust of the basic prophetic springboard of the foremost apocalyptic
text of the Hebrew Bible. 1
The book of Daniel has always been a very important section of Scripture in the ministry and professional interests of Gerhard Pfandl. His own
dissertation focused upon the crucial concept of the yp-n~ "time of the end"
See Kenton L. Sparks, Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible: A Guide to the
Background Literature (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2005), 240. For a concise introduction to
the apocalyptic literature of the Hebrew Bible and apocalypticism per se see
Christopher Rowland, "Apocalypticism," in The Biblical World: Volume I (ed. J. Barton;
London: Routledge, 2002), 129-48; Paul D. Hanson, "Apcalypses and Apocalypticism
(Genre)," ABO 1:279-80; idem, "Introductory Overview," ABO 1:280-82; John J.
Collins, "Early Jewish Apocalypticism," ABO 1:282-88. More extensive introductions
include Stephen L. Cook, The Apocalyptic Literature (Interpreting Biblical Texts;
Nashville: Abingdon, 2003); Andreas Bedenbender, Der Gott der Welt trill auf den Sinai:
Entstehung, Entwicklung und Funktionsweise der friihjiidischen Apokalyptik (ANTZ 8;
Berlin: Institut Kirche und Judentum, 2000); or John J. Collins, The Apocalyptic
Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature (2d ed.; The Biblical
Resource Series; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998). Apocalyptic concepts can be found
frequently in Jewish texts from the intertestamental period. For a discussion of the
importance of apocalyptic thoughts at Qumran see James C. VanderKam,
"Apocalyptic Tradition in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Religion of Qumran," in
Religion in the Dead Sea Scrolls (ed. J. J. Collins and R. A. Kugler; SDSSRL; Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 90-112. The initial idea for this study originated in a
graduate class on Biblical Aramaic in the Theological Seminary of the Adventist
International Institute of Advanced Studies, Silang, Philippines, in June-August 2007.
I would like to thank my students for their critique and interaction with the basic
concepts of this study.


Gerald A. Klingbeil

(Dan 8:17; 11:35, 40; 12:4, 9) and N:Q\' n'!t:)l::t:;i "the latter days" (Dan 2:28-29
[Aramaic] and Dan 10:14 [Hebrew]) as used in the book of Daniel2 and since
then he has published a number of studies focusing on the book of Daniel
and has taught many classes and seminars dealing with this book. 3 I first
met Gerhard in August of 1986 at Seminar Schloss Bogenhofen, St. Peter,
Austria, when I began my theological training under his guidance. Gerhard
was our principal professor and instilled in our small band of students a
deep love for Scripture, and particularly the text and language of the Hebrew Bible.4 He was (and still is) an inspiring teacher, well organized, always challenging us to dig deeper and find out for ourselves. However, he
was also a wise mentor who would guide his (sometimes wayward) students in their personal, emotional and spiritual journey beyond academia.
It is an honor to contribute the present study to this collection.
The past two hundred years of critical research in the book of Daniel
have been marked by often heated debates about the d~te and origin of the
book, as well as the general hermeneutical approach to be taken to the
book. 5 More often than not, these issues were not only influenced by the
Gerhard Pfandl, The Time of the End in the Book of Daniel (ATSDS 1; Berrien Springs:
Adventist Theological Society, 1992), which is a revised version of idem, "The Latter
Days and the Time of the End in the Book of Daniel" (Ph.D. diss., Andrews
University, 1990).
Gerhard Pfandl, "Daniel's 'Time of the End'," /ATS 7, no. 1 (1996): 141-58; idem,
"Interpretations of the Kingdom of God in Daniel 2:44," AUSS 34 (1996): 249--68; idem,
Daniel the Seer of Babylon (Hagerstown: Review & Herald, 2004). The Adult Sabbath
School Bible Study Guide, no. 438, entitled "Daniel" (Oct.-Dec. 2004), has also been
authored by Gerhard Pfandl.
In order to gage the important influence of Gerhard Pfandl it should be remembered
that out of the small group of eight theology majors in 1986--1988 five have completed
(or are in the process of completing) a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible. Compare (in
chronological order): Gerald A. Klingbeil, "Ordination and Ritual. On the Symbolism
of Time, Space, and Actions in Leviticus 8" (D.Litt. diss., University of Stellenbosch,
1995); Martin G. Klingbeil, "Yahweh Fighting from Heaven: God as a Warrior and as
God of Heaven in the Hebrew Psalter and in Ancient Near Eastern Iconography"
(D.Litt. diss., University of Stellenbosch, 1995); Jiirg Eggler, "Iconographic Motifs from
Palestineflsrael and Daniel 7:2-14" (D.Litt. diss., University of Stellenbosch, 1998);
Martin Probstle, "Truth and Terror: A Text-Oriented Analysis of Daniel 8:9-14" (Ph.D.
diss., Andrews University, 2006); Mathilde Frey, "The Sabbath in the Pentateuch"
(presently working on a Ph.D. dissertation in Hebrew Bible at Andrews University).
For more literature see the helpful (but definitely tendentious) introduction to some of
the major issues in John J. Collins, Daniel (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 189. More recently (and as part of a new commentary series), Lucas in the introduction
and epilogue to his Daniel commentary has also taken up some of these critical issues,
finally opting to date the narratives of Dan 1-6 during the Persian period, while the
later apocalyptic section (Dan 7-12) is to be dated to the second century B.C. Cf. Ernest
C. Lucas, Daniel (AOTC 20; Leicester: Apollos, 2002), 17-44; 306--16. Compare also

"Rocking the Mountain": Text, Theology, and Mission in Daniel 2


textual or exegetical data, but were determined by hermeneutical presuppositions, involving crucial issues such as revelation and inspiration. 6 However, over the past decades a general paradigm shift seems to have
occurred from a predominantly historical (including critical) reading of the
Hebrew Bible towards a more text-oriented reading of the text,7 involving
particular focus on linguistics, 6 pragmatics,9 intertextuality, 10 narrative reJohn Goldingay, Daniel (WBC 30; Dallas: Word, 1987), x-liii. An introduction to the
book from a conservative perspective with many references can be found in Stephen
R. Miller, Daniel: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (NAC 18;
Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 21-53. From the perspective of research of
Seventh-day Adventist scholars concerning the critical issues of the volume see the
classic contributions of Gerhard F. Hase!, "Establishing a Date for the Book of Daniel,"
in Symposium on Daniel (ed. F. B. Holbrook; DARCOM 2; Washington, D.C.: Biblical
Research Institute, 1986), 84-164; and Arthur Ferch, "The Book of Daniel and the
'Maccabean Thesis'," AUSS 21(1983):129-41.
For a helpful introduction to the issues of these important theological concepts see
Peter M. van Bemmelen, "Revelation and Inspiration," in Handbook of Seventh-day
Adventist Theology (ed. R. Dederen; Commentary Reference Series 12; Hagerstown:
Review & Herald, 2000), 22-57. Specific links between inspiration and revelation and
the book of Daniel have been discussed by Gerhard F. Hase!, "Fulfillments of
Prophecy," in 70 Weeks, Leviticus, Nature of Prophecy (ed. F. B. Holbrook; DARCOM 3;
Washington, D.C.: Biblical Research Institute, 1986), 288--322. More recently, Scherer
discussed the often quoted vaticina ex eventu principle (i.e., "prophesying after the
event has already taken place" against the larger issue of prophetic language of the
Hebrew Bible per se, recognizing the existence of the genre and its general
appreciation and consideration in other ANE cultures. Andreas Scherer, "Yorn Sinn
prophetischer Gerichtsverkiindigung bei Amos und Hosea," Bib 86 (2005): 1-19.
Cf. Probstle, "Truth and Terror," 1-3, and further bibliographic references there. I
have noted a similar development in the discussion of biblical ritual, even though I
used a different terminology; cf. Gerald A. Klingbeil, Bridging the Gap: Ritual and Ritual
Texts in the Bible (BBRSup 1; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2007), 50--51, where I called
this approach "meaning-oriented" over against the more "text-oriented" approach
which I have described as focusing primarily on different text layers and editorial
Cf. Christo H.J. van der Merwe, "Some Recent Trends in Biblical Hebrew Linguistics:
A Few Pointers towards a More Comprehensive Model of Language Use," HS 44
(2003): 7-24, who describes some of the issues of Hebrew linguistics and their impact
on biblical interpretation. Cf. also Susan Anne Groom, Linguistic Analysis of Biblical
Hebrew (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2003). A good resource with many helpful bibliographic
references can also be found in the volume edited by Craig G. Bartholomew et al.,
After Pentecost: Language and Biblical Interpretation (The Scripture and Hermeneutics
Series 2; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001).
Good introductions to the larger field of pragmatics and its integration in linguistic
and interpretational work of the Hebrew Bible can be found in William M.
Schniedewind, "Prolegomena for the Sociolinguistics of Classical Hebrew," Journal of
Hebrew Scriptures 5 (2004). [Online:]; Chantal J. Klingbeil, "Mirando
mas alla de las palabras: pragmatica lingiiistica y su aplicaci6n a los estudios biblicos,"


Gerald A. Klingbeil

search, 11 etc. Considering more specifically the book of Daniel, important

research has been produced over the past decades, including two major
collections of articles by scholars from different theological backgrounds. 12
A quick review of Ph.D. dissertations 13 or M.A. theses 14 dealing with the





in Entender la Palabra: Hermeneutica adventista para el nuevo siglo (ed. M. Alomia et al.;
Cochabamba: Universidad Adventista de Bolivia, 2000), 123-35; Horacio SimianYofre, "Pragmalingilistica: comunicaci6n y exegesis," RevistB 50, nos. 2-3 (1988): 75-95; and E. R. Hope, "Pragmatics, Exegesis, and Translation," in Issues in Bible
Translation (ed. Ph. C. Stine; UBSMS 3; London: United Bible Societies, 1988), 113-28.
Helpful introductions (in chronological order), including further bibliographical
references, can be found in Probstle, "Truth and Terror," 565--74; William M.
Schniedewind, "lnnerbiblial Exegesis," DOTHB, 502-9; Craig C. Broyles, "Traditions,
Intertextuality, and Canon," in Interpreting the Old Testament: A Guide for Exegesis (ed.
C. C. Broyles; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 157-75; Kirsten Nielson, "Intertexuality and
Hebrew Bible," in Congress Volume Oslo 1998 (ed. A. Lemaire and M. S.eb0; VTSup 80;
Leiden: Brill, 2000), 17-31; Patricia Tull, "Intertextuality and the Hebrew Scriptures,"
CurBS 8 (2000): 59-90; and idem, Remember the Former Things: The Recollection of
Previous Texts in Second Isaiah (SBLDS 161; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997), 57-84.
This particular methodological perspective has seen a huge growth over the past
decades. Some relevant and readable introductions to the topic include Yairah Amit,
Reading Biblical Narrative: Literary Criticism and the Hebrew Bible (trans. Y. Lotan;
Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001); Jerome T. Walsh, Style and Structure in Biblical Hebrew
Narrative (Collegeville: Liturgical, 2001); David M. Gunn, "Narrative Criticism," in To
Each Its Own Meaning: An Introduction to Biblical Criticisms and Their Application (ed. S.
L. McKenzie and S. R. Haynes; rev. ed.; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1999),
201-29; Tremper Longman III, "Literary Approaches to Old Testament Study," in The
Face of Old Testament Studies: A Survey of Contemporary Approaches (ed. D. W. Baker and
B. T. Arnold; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 97-115; or Jean Louis Ska, "Our Fathers Have
Told Us": Introduction to the Analysis of Hebrew Narratives (SubBi 13; Rome: Editrice
Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1990).
Cf. John J. Collins and Peter W. Flint, eds., The Book of Daniel: Composition and Reception
(2 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 2001), and Adam S. van der Woude, ed., The Book of Daniel in the
Light of New Findings (BETL 106; Lou vain: Leuven University Press, 1993), covering a
total of 1250+ pages.
The dissertations and theses mentioned here have been submitted to academic
institutions not associated with the Seventh-day Adventist church. Traditionally,
studies in Daniel have enjoyed a wide interest in denominational institutions and over
the past years significant contributions to biblical studies have been undertaken,
which, however, will not be the center of our focus here. The Ph.D. dissertations
include (in chronological order, beginning with the most recent): Rafael Rodriguez da
Silva, "Edic;ao e heresia: o livro de Daniel" (Ph.D. diss., Pontifical Catholic University
of Sao Paulo, 2005); David M. Valeta, "Lions and Ovens and Visions, oh my! A
satirical Analysis of Daniel 1-6" (Ph.D. diss., The Iliff School of Theology/University of
Denver, 2004); Anathea Portier-Young, "Theologies of Resistance in Daniel, the
Apocalypse of Weeks, the Book of Dreams, and the Testament of Moses" (Ph.D. diss.,
Duke University, 2004); Daniel R. Watson, "The Writing on the Wall: A Study of the
Belshazzar Narrative" (Ph.D. diss., Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of
Religion, 2004); Birte Braasch, "Die LXX-Ubersetzung des Danielbuches-eine

"Rocking the Mountain": Text, Theology, and Mission in Daniel 2


book of Daniel over the past decade (1996-2006) suggests a high level of
interest in this important book. The trend already alluded to above (i.e.,
move from historical questions to textual questions) can also be noted in the
topics of Ph.D. dissertations and M.A. theses, which often focus on reception history (such as the milieu of the LXX translators [Braasch, Obiajunwa]
or other Jewish, Greek, or Christian interpreters [Walsh, Oliveira Soares,


Orientierungshilfe das religiiise und politisch-gesellschaftliche Leben in der

ptolemaischen Diaspora: Eine rezeptionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung von Dan 1-7"
(Ph.D. diss., Universitat Hamburg, 2004); Regis Courtray, "'Le commentaire sur
Daniel' de Jerome: traduction, notes et commentaire: edition critique du 'De
Antechristo"' (Ph.D. diss., Universite Lurniere de Lyon, 2004); W. Brian Shelton,
"Exegesis and the Role of Martyrdom in Hippolytus' 'Commentary on Daniel"' (Ph.D.
diss., Saint Louis University, 2003); Marius Ne!, "A Theological-Hermeneutical
Investigation of Daniel 1 and 2" (Ph.D. diss., University of Pretoria, 2001); Shawn
Clarke Madden, "Josephus's Use of the Book of Daniel: A Study of Hellenistic-Jewish
Historiography" (Ph.D. diss., The University of Texas, 2001); John Makujina, "Old
Persian Calques in the Aramaic of Daniel" (Ph.D. diss., Westminster Theological
Seminary, 2001); Janet L. R. Melnyk, "The Four Kingdoms in Daniel 2 and 7: Chapters
in the History of Interpretation" (Ph.D. diss., Emory University, 2001); Paul Vincent
Niskanen, "The Human and the Divine in History: Herodotus and the Book of
Daniel" (Ph.D. diss., Graduate Theological Union, 2001); Chong Hun Pae, "The 'Book
of Watchers' and the 'Book of Daniel': Apocalypses Engaged in the Interpretation of
the Canonical Torah" (Ph.D. diss., Graduate Theological Union, 2000); Arianne B.
Schneider, "Jiidisches Erbe in christlicher Tradition: eine kanongeschichtliche
Untersuchung zur Bedeutung und Rezeption der Makkabaerbiicher in der Alten
Kirche des Ostens" (Ph.D. diss., Universitat Heidelberg, 2000); Chukwudi J.
Obiajunwa, "Semitic Interference in Theodotion-Daniel" (Ph.D. diss., The Catholic
University of America, 1999); Paul Joseph Lambach, "A Detailed Comparison of
4QDan' and the Other Qumran Texts of Daniel with the Masoretic Text of Daniel"
(Ph.D. diss., Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, 1997); Tawny L. Holm, "A
Biblical Story-Collection: Daniel 1--6" (Ph.D. diss., The Johns Hopkins University,
1997); Viktor Rebrik, "Untersuchung der Textiiberlieferung von Daniel 2 und 7 von
aramaischen Text bei Hieronymus" (Ph.D. diss., Universitat Tiibingen, 1997); and
Charles Lynn Aaron, Jr., "Loosening a Knot: Theological Development in the Book of
Daniel" (Ph.D. diss., Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, 1996).
M.A. theses include (in chronological order, beginning with the most recent): Matthew
Leland Walsh, "Individualistic use of Daniel 7 in early Judaism and Christianity"
(M.A. thesis, Acadia University, 2006); Dionisio Oliveira Soares, "Hesiodo e Daniel: as
rela.;6es entre o rnito das cinco ra.;as e o sonho da estatua de Nabucodonosor" (M.A.
thesis, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, 2006); Ariane Magny,
"Porphyre et le 'Livre de Daniel': Reaction a la tradition exegetique chretienne du IIIe
siecle" (M.A. thesis, McGill Unversity, 2005); Paul Lasante, "A King's Dreams: A
Study of the Second Chapter of Daniel within the Context of Dreams in Canonical and
Non-Canonical Sources" (M.A. thesis, McGill University, 2001); Florin Gheorghe Laiu,
"An Exegetical Study of Daniel 7-9" (M.A. thesis, University of South Africa, 2000);
Angeline Janel Falk Schellenberg, "The Development of the Divine Warrior Motif in
Apocalyptic Literature" (M.A. thesis, Providence College and Seminary, 1999).


Gerald A. Klingbeil

Magny, Courtray, Shelton, Madden, Melnyk, Niskanen, Schneider, and

Rebrik]) or study particular theological motifs or themes [Portier-Young,
Hun Pae, Holm, and Aaron]).
In the context of this academic Zeitgeist, and remembering the insistence
with which Gerhard reminded his students time and again to return to the
text, I would like to attempt a closer reading of the rock and mountain
symbolism employed in Dan 2. Following this close reading (which will
pay attention to issues of syntax and semantics), I will try to look beyond
the limits of the Hebrew Bible and see if echoes of ancient Babylonian (or
Mesopotamian) motifs and themes can be found in the narrative as well as
a conscious use of these motifs for the purpose of reaching out to somebody
searching and seeking for truth. As is evident, the concerns in this section
engage missiological issues, a topic which lies close to my heart15 and which
in my mind cannot (and should not) be separated from biblical interpretation. Finally, a concise conclusion summarizes the findings of this study.



the Mountain: The Text

In the following section I will present the relevant texts of Dan 2 which include a reference to the "stone" and the "mountain." I will provide my own
translation and will give a concise review of how modem commentators
have interpreted the texts.
The references to the stone and the mountain occur in two specific sequences in the Aramaic section of Daniel (Dan 2:34-35, 44--45), once in the
description of the dream which is then followed by the interpretative section.16 As has been argued by Schniedewind, the profound linguistic, cul15 I have spent the last eighteen years abroad and have lived on four continents, i.e.,


Europe [Germany/Austria), Africa [South Africa], South America [Peru and

Argentina], and Asia [Philippines). Cf. Gerald A. Klingbeil, ed., Misi6n y
contextualizaci6n: llevar el mensaje biblico a un mundo multicultural (SMEBT 2; Libertador
San Martin: Editorial Universidad Adventista del Plata, 2004) which contains a
number of important contributions dealing with biblical, theological, or exegetical
issues involving the question of contextualization. I am delighted to see that other
scholars also emphasize the close link between mission and biblical hermeneutics in a
systematic way. Cf. Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's
Grand Narrative (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2006), who suggests that the topic of
Bible and mission must move beyond the biblical foundations, multicultural
hermeneutical perspectives, contextual theologies and postmodern hermeneutics.
Wright considers this the integrating motif or theme of the Bible.
Wesselius has studied the literary structure of the book of Daniel and has suggested
its inherent unity, including also the transition from the Hebrew section (l:l-2:4a) to
the Aramaic section (2:4b--7:28). "Thus we may see that the book of Daniel, instead of
resulting from a gradual process of collecting and redacting of various texts, is a well-

"Rocking the Mountain": Text, Theology, and Mission in Daniel 2


tural, and political changes affecting Yehud during the Persian period resulted in a large-scale adoption of Aramaic at the expense of Hebrew and is
also reflected in the inclusion of Aramaic in the canonical book of Daniel in
the Hebrew Bible. 17
The MT of Dan 2:34-35 with English translation:
N~t?D1 N?n~ ,,. ;:i1'7.n-'7l} Nr?'tb nt;ir;l1 rT':;i N?-1 p.~ n-:i_pi;i;:i '1 il} i;i:1q ;ir.t;i34
O'ir'Tf WJQ ,lV:p 11[)1 N:;i,t)'T) N~t;>:;> N~t;J~ N~t;'D N?n;i ;i"!r):;l li'l r'!N'.;135 Jlr!l;:J np1::q
n?r;i1 :r1 ,,,,7 nJ::) Nf?77 nryrr1 N~:;i.1:111;;,7 n:;iJ:)~;:i-N? ,1:111r'7:;i.1 Nt;Jl, 11rzi;:i No/~l

You watched until a stone [indeterminate] was cut-not by human

hands-and smote the image at its feet of iron and pottery and crushed
them. 35Then the iron, the pottery, the bronze, the silver and the gold
were crushed altogether and they were like chaff from the summer
threshing floors; and the wind lifted them up and no place could be



composed literary unity that was most likely written as a whole( ... ). It is now possible
to achieve a clearer picture of its literary structure than we had previously. First, the
continuity of the book is provided through deliberately achieved unity of style and
language both in the Hebrew and in the Aramaic sections, through references to
earlier episodes, through the supplementary character of the visions, and through the
chiastic structure of the Aramaic part. Second, another, hitherto unrecognized, factor
of continuity is the connection between the book's structure and that of Ezra and of
the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50. Taken together, these two factors offset the
deliberate lack of continuity between the eleven episodes of Daniel with their
variegated character with regard to language, contents, narrator and main person."
Jan-Wim Wesselius, "The Writing of Daniel," in The Book of Daniel: Composition and
Reception (ed. J. J. Collins and P. W. Flint; 2 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 2002), 2:309. For more
discussion about the bilingualism of Daniel see Bill T. Arnold, "The Use of Aramaic in
the Hebrew Bible: Another Look at Bilingualism in Ezra and Daniel," JNSL 22, no. 2
(1996): 1-16; and Jan-Wim Wesselius, "Language and Style in Biblical Aramaic:
Observations on the Unity of Daniel II-VI," VT 38 (1988): 194-209. Concerning the
intriguing issue of bilingualism in the ANE see Gonzalo Rubio, "Writing in Another
Tongue: Alloglottography in the Ancient Near East," in Margins of Writing, Origins of
Cultures (ed. S. L. Sanders; OIS 2; Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of
Chicago, 2005), 33--66; Christopher Woods, "Bilingualism, Scribal Learning, and the
Death of Sumerian," in Margins of Writing, Origins of Cultures (ed. S. L. Sanders; OIS 2;
Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 2005), 91-120; Paul-Alain
Beaulieu, "Official and Vernacular Languages: The Shifting Sands of Imperial and
Cultural Identities in First Millennium B.C. Mesopotamia," in Margins of Writing,
Origins of Cultures (ed. S. L. Sanders; OIS 2; Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the
University of Chicago, 2005), 187-216; and Theo van den Hout, "Institutions,
Vernaculars, Publics: The Case of Second-millennium Anatolia," in Margins of Writing,
Origins of Cultures (ed. S. L. Sanders; OIS 2; Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the
University of Chicago, 2005), 217-56.
Cf. William M. Schniedewind, "Aramaic, the Death of Written Hebrew, and Language
Shift in the Persian Period," in Margins of Writing, Origins of Cultures (ed. S. L. Sanders;
OIS 2; Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 2005), 137-48.


Gerald A. Klingbeil

found for them. However, the stone that smote the image became a huge
mountain [indeterminate] and filled all the earth."
The MT of Dan 2:44-45 with English translation:
;11;11:::i791 '7:;11:11;11:i N? r9?'J1? 11:::i79 N:l;ll. ci?tl op; !1l~ N::;i?T,l '1 !l'1'7;li':;i'144
'7:;>i?,-'?:;r'5 N;l;l?'J1? 01PT;l N'i11 Ni;ip?T,l r?w"f '1'\:.lI;\1 P"!T:l p:;ir;ii.i:i N7 m11:1 01,17
N~i;>:;> N~l;>IJ Nl.1:1~ N711;1 np":F'.11 r"!':;i N?-'1 p.~ nwi;i~ Nl1'07;l '"! J;l;!tr'"!
"11lp1 !7;l'i17fl Nr,i?ry ::l'~1 '1rf '11'.)l'.I NF!?. '"! '19 N'f?T,l? Y"'!i'1 :::i1 ci?tl N:tQ11

And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will establish an eternal kingdom, which will not be destroyed; and the kingdom will not be
left to another people; it will smite and put an end to all these kingdoms
and will be established forever; 45just as you saw that the stone [dete;minate] was cut off from the mountain [determinate]-not from human
hands-and crushed the iron, the bronze, the pottery, the silver and the
gold; the great God has made known to the king what will be after this
and (be assured), the dream is certain and its interpretation is trustworthy.
The Aramaic text of both sections is marked by a number of text-critical
notes included in BHS. 18 In 2:34 the editor of the BHS of the book of Daniel
(W. Baumgartner) proposes to insert Nl1'0Q following Ptt in the first section
of the verse. However, he does not provide any supportive textual data
from the versions, arguing only in terms of a harmonization with 2:45. It
seems as if he is basing this suggestion on the evidence from the LXX, since
both Theodotion and the Old Greek include here t~ opouc; "from the mountain" (as does the Vulgate) which seems to me rather an attempt to harmonize this section with the explanatory section in 2:44-45. 19 Some Hebrew
manuscripts prefer the pointing of n1Jr;i1 instead of MT ni:ir;i1 which would be
grammatically preferable (= G perfect 3.f.s.). The same applies also to the
appearance of the verbal form in 2:35. However, since N'OO is a doubly weak
verb, the use of the qametz may be due to particular phonetic considerations
designed to compensate for the missing consonant. 20 Additionally,
Theodotion adds Eic,; rO,oc; "to the end/completely" at the end of v. 34,
which is missing both in the MT as well as the Old Greek and underlines




A recent discussion of the text-critical issues of Dan 2, arguing for the basic narrative
unity of ch. 2 can be found in Augustinus Gianto, "Notes from a Reading of Daniel 2,"
in Sofer Mahlr: Essays in Honour of Adrian Schenker offered by Editors of Biblia Hebraica
Quinta (ed. Y. A. P. Goldman, A. van der Kooij, and R. D. Weis; VTSup 110; Leiden:
Brill, 2006 ), 59-68.
Cf. Collins, Daniel, 165. Braasch thinks that this Greek addition is suggestive of a
particular interpretation of the mountain, as referring to Mount Zion. Cf. Braasch,
"Die LXX-Ubersetzung des Danielbuches," 88-89.
A similar phonetic variant is found in many Hebrew manuscripts and concerns MT
ni?."!;:11 which is pointed as "i?.'101 as in Dan 2:45.

"Rocking the Mountain": Text, Theology, and Mission in Daniel 2


the interpretation of the translator that the destruction of the image by the
stone is so complete that nothing can be "re-assembled" again. 21 The first
variant of 2:35 marked by the critical apparatus of the BHS involves a repainted form of the first verbal form li'l as li'l Morphologically, this
should be the expected form, since it compensates the missing final consonants of the geminate verbal form. Theodotion also changes the order of the
metals mentioned in the list in 2:35, inverting "pottery" for iron, thus harmonizing the list with what follows.
In 2:44 the Old Greek adds the adjective aMriv "different, other" to underline the completely distinct nature of the kingdom ushered in by the
divine judgment. 22 In v. 45 some manuscripts (following the LXX) again
have a different order for the destroyed materials, that is, pottery, iron,
bronze. 23
Daniel 2 is one of the key chapters for the interpretation of the book as
whole. 24 While it is part of the narrative section of the book (after all, this is
a story about desperate astronomers and courtiers, an upset and dangerous
king, God's answer to prayer and, finally, the deliverance of the Babylonian
intellectual elite), it also introduces some of the major themes of the prophetic and apocalyptic section of Dan 7-12. 25 One of the links connecting





See also Braasch, "Die LXX-Dbersetzung des Danielbuches," 82.

Ibid., 88.
Theodotion has pottery, iron, bronze, silver, gold, which corresponds to the sequence
of the sections of the statue. The order that MT has is not sequential and it seems as if
many translators tried to harmonize the order with the preceding section. Compare
for further discussion Collins, Daniel, 152.
The unity of the book of Daniel has generally been questioned in modem scholarship
and a developmental theory has been suggested in its stead, arguing for several stages
in the literary development of the book that spanned several centuries. Cf. Collins,
Daniel, 24-38. However, as already pointed out above, recently Wesselius, "The
Writing of Daniel," 291-310, has argued convincingly for the literary unity of the
book. Other relevant studies arguing for this unity include William H. Shea, "Unity of
Daniel," in Symposium on Daniel (ed. F. B. Holbrook; DARCOM 2; Washington, D.C:
Biblical Research Institute, 1986), 165-255; David W. Gooding, "The Literary Structure
of the Book of Daniel and its Implications," TynBul 32 (1981): 43--79; and Branson L.
Woodard, "Literary Strategies and Authorship in the Book of Daniel," JETS 37 (1994):
39-53, all written from a theologically conservative perspective. Matthias Henze, "The
Narrative Frame of Daniel: A Literary Assessment," /SJ 32 (2001): 5-24, reviews the
narrative structure of Daniel based upon the presupposition of a second century B.C.
setting and suggests that the stories reflect the aspirations of Diaspora Judaism.
Roy Gane, "Genre Awareness and Interpretation of the Book of Daniel," in To
Understand Scriptures: Essays in Honor of William H. Shea (ed. D. Merling; Berrien
Springs: Institute of Archaeology, Siegfried H. Hom Archaeological Museum,
Andrews University, 1997), 137-48, has cogently discussed the issue of genre and
unity in the book of Daniel. He accepts the general classification of the book as


Gerald A. Klingbeil

Daniel ch. 2 with ch. 7 is also the important motif of the establishment of the
rule of God which has recently been the subject of a study by Seow. 26 The
description of the future in terms of a sequence of kingdoms with the final -clearly eschatological-establishment of the kingdom of God is evidently paralleled by Dan 7 and 8 in the prophetic section.27 This has been
described as "recapitulation," whereby a specific motif, literary design or
linguistic element is taken in by a later section and (often) developed further. 28 One particular outstanding motif, that is, the four kingdom motif, 29





"Apocalypse", even though other genres may have been used. His comparative study
is insightful, but I wonder if the book can be reduced to one single genre. Similar
discussions have taken place in NT studies and it seems that a multiplex approach to
genre identification in the major biblical apocalypses should be considered. For the
NT angle of the discussion see Dave Mathewson, "Revelation in Recent Genre
Criticism: Some Implications for Interpretation," TJ 13 (1992): 193-213, and Joel N.
Musvosvi, "The Issue of Genre and Apocalyptic Prophecy," AASS 5 (2002): 42-59.
Compare also most recently Clinton Wahlen, "Heaven's View of the Church in
Revelation 2 and 3," /AAS 9 (2006): 146, who suggests that "Revelation is a deliberate
attempt by the author to make an ecclesiological statement in apocalyptic terms."
C. L. Seow, "The Rule of God in the Book of Daniel," in David and Zion: Biblical Studies
in Honor of J. J.M. Roberts (ed. B. F. Batto and K. L. Roberts; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns,
2004), 219-46. Seow interprets the four kingdoms described in Dan 2 as references to
individual kings following Nebuchadnezzar.
Shea, "Unity of Daniel," 165--203, has discussed numerous linguistic, thematic,
structural, and terminological links between Dan 2, 7, and 8, which do not need to be
repeated here. Compare also the insightful comments of Tim Meadowcroft, Aramaic
Daniel and Greek Daniel: A Literary Comparison GSOTSup 198; Sheffield: Sheffield
Academic Press, 1995), 238 [link between Dan 2 and Dan 7 due to the four empire
structure] and 242 [building of suspense, focus on what's happening towards the
"end"]. Meadowcroft also rightly suggests that recapitulative links (even though he
does not use that term) are also dynamic and often involve further development of an
earlier theme. Cf. also Miller, Daniel, 192.
A helpful discussion of the principle of "recapitulation" outside the book of Daniel
can be found in Jopie Siebert-Hammes, "'With Bands of Love': Hosea 11 as
'Recapitulation' of the Basic Themes in the Book of Hosea," in Unless Some One Guide
Me ... : Festschrift for Karel A. Deur/oo (ed. J. W. Dyk et al.; ACEBTSup 2; Maastricht:
Shaker, 2001), 167-73.
Much work has been done concerning the four kingdom motif. Compare, for example,
the Emory University Ph.D. dissertation by Melnyk, "The Four Kingdoms in Daniel 2
and 7: Chapters in the History of Interpretation," which focuses on the reception
history of Dan 2 and 7 in Western Christian interpretation. Another Ph.D. dissertation
by Paul Niskanen suggests that Herodotus' histories should be understood as the
likely background for the four kingdom scheme found in Dan 2 and 7. Cf. Niskanen,
"The Human and the Divine in History: Herodotus and the Book of Daniel," who also
explores Herodotus' possible contribution to Jewish historiography. However,
important arguments have supported the literary independence of Dan 2 (and also
Dan 7) from later Greek historiographical literature, particularly considering the four
kingdom sequence. Compare here, Ernest C. Lucas, "The Origin of Daniel's Four

"Rocking the Mountain": Text, Theology, and Mission in Daniel 2


reappears in Dan 7 and further develops the prophetic outlook of the book
of Daniel as a whole.Jo In this sense, it could be described as the "springboard" of Daniel's prophetic sections.
Interestingly (and to be expected in the narrative section of the book of
Daniel), prophecy is closely linked to narrative in Dan 2. King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that perturbs him (2:1) and as is customary, he summons his intellectual and religious specialists in order to understand this
disturbing dream that appears to be somewhere in his sub-conscience, just
waiting to be called up.J 1 Scripture as well as extrabiblical literature includes numerous examples of individuals (mostly leaders) wanting an authoritative explanation of a dream.J2 Since none of his scholars or religious
specialists is able to re-tell and explain the dream, in a rash action the king
promulgates a harsh death sentence against his leadership elite (2:5, 9, 1213). When Daniel (who appears to not have been present at the royal audi-




Empires Scheme Re-examined," TynBul 40 (1989): 185-202 [doubts that Hesiod's four
metal sequence as found in the Sybilline Oracle 4 formed the basis for Dan 2), and
Gerhard F. Hase!, "The Four World Empires of Daniel 2 against Its Near Eastern
Environment," ]SOT 12 (1979): 17-30 [argues that the underlying literary genre of Dan
2 should be connected to Mesopotamian dynastic prophecy, even though it adds
creatively apocalyptic dimensions].
This link between Dan 2 and 7 has been noted by most commentators. See, for
example, Collins, Daniel, 277; Lucas, Daniel, 195; Miller, Daniel, 191-92; Desmond Ford,
Daniel (Nashville: Southern Publishing, 1978), 138; Pfandl, Daniel: The Seer of Babylon,
59. On the other hand, Robert A. Anderson, Daniel: Signs and Wonders (ITC; Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 75, suggests that, even though a number of similarities exist
between Dan 2 and Dan 7, one should not overlook the differences. However, his
arguments are not overly convincing or developed.
Ferdinand 0. Regalado, "The Meaning of Nl!ltt in Daniel 2:5, 8 and its Implications for
Nebuchadnezzar's Dream," DavarLogos 4 (2005): 17-37, has recently argued that
Nebuchadnezzar most likely had not forgotten his dream (after all, how would he
have known if a particular recounting would have been correct?), but rather that this
was intended to be a drastic security and authenticity check of his intellectual elite.
See, for example, the dreams of the chief baker and the chief cupbearer (Gen 40),
Pharaoh (Gen 41), an anonymous Midianite warrior Qudg 7:13--14) or Nebuchadnezzar on a later occasion (Dan 4). For extrabiblical data see A. Jeffers, "Divination by
Dreams in Ugaritic Literature and in the Old Testament," JBS 12, no. 4 (1990): 167-83,
and Robert Gnuse, "The Jewish Dream Interpreter in a Foreign Court: The Recurring
Use of a Theme in Jewish Literature," ]SP 7 (1990): 29-53. The most comprehensive
treatment of the subject can be found in a 2001 M.A. McGill University thesis by
Lasante, "A King's Dreams: A Study of the Second Chapter of Daniel within the
Context of Dreams in Canonical and Non-Canonical Sources." Classic treatments of
biblical and ANE dreams and their interpretation include A. L. Oppenheim, The
Interpretation of Dreams in the Ancient Near East with a Translation of an Assyrian DreamBook (Philadelphia: Transactions of the American Philological Society, 1956) and E. L.
Ehrlich, Der Traum im A/ten Testament (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1956).


Gerald A. Klingbeil

ence with the astronomers) hears about the sentence he intervenes with the
person in charge and requests additional time (2:14-16). The following section describes the prayer of Daniel and his friends (2:17-18), followed by
the divine revelation of the dream and (most likely) its interpretation. 33 In
return a large chunk of narrative real-estate is given to describe the prayer
of thanksgiving of Daniel and his friends (2:20-23) which in a small way
already prefigures the philosophy of history (cf. 2:21) that becomes obvious
in the later section dealing with the interpretation of the dream. Daniel is
then brought before king Nebuchadnezzar and after the theological anchor
of the chapter ("but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he
has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days"
[2:28]) is again brought to the fore, Daniel describes first the dream (2:3135), which is then followed by its interpretation (2:36-45). 34 It is in these final two sections that we find the stone and mountain imagery.

3. Rocking the Mountain: The lnterpretation(s)

As we have already seen in the discussion of some of the text-critical issues
of the two short sections under consideration, the translators of the LXX
tried to harmonize the descriptive section of the dream with the interpretative. For this reason they included in 2:34 t~ opouc; "from the mountain"
and is followed here by its daughter translation the Vulgate. BHS makes a
suggestion to include it there too, but no textual arguments are provided. A
quick glimpse at the preliminary edition of 4QDana by Eugene Ulrich tells
us that the fragmentary text of 2:34-35 does not include the relevant section
and is of no help to this issue. The same is also true for 2:44-45. 35
As has been marked in the translation of the section above, the Aramaic
text makes reference to a stone, not the stone (Ptt [2:24]) which is broken off
of something bigger (not mentioned) and goes on to hit the feet of the




The Aramaic text has here n,, "secret". Aron Pinker, "A Dream of a Dream in Daniel
2," /BQ 33 (2005): 231-40, suggests that one of the key elements highlighted especially
in Daniel's prayer of thanksgiving the wisdom element, particularly Daniel's wise
"reading" of the king. Pinker seems to deny divine revelation and rather understands
Daniel as a shrewd, wise and analytical "mind reader.''
It is intriguing to note that the description of the dream requires only five verses while
its interpretation is described in double the amount, i.e., ten verses. The dreamwhich was given by the God of heaven to the pagan king-is in itself already an
extraordinary occurrence. However, the ultimate revelation of God's will is not
contained in the dream itself, but rather in its divine interpretation (and future
execution and fulfillment).
Cf. Eugene Ulrich, "Daniel Manuscripts from Qumran. Part 1: A Preliminary Edition
of 4QDana," BASOR 268 (1987): 17-37.

"Rocking the Mountain": Text, Theology, and Mission in Daniel 2


dream image, smashing and completely destroying it. 36 The following v. 35

describes the events again in more detail, 37 focusing on the outcome of the
smashing action of the rock, that is, ,i:ur?~1 NQ1, Jio;:i No/~1 'O'iT'11~-1r,i ,1Vf ili'.')1
J\il? n:;iJ:)\fi0-N7 "and they were like chaff from the summer threshing floors;
and the wind lifted them up and no place could be found for them". In the
following clause the dramatic transformation of the rock is described which
becomes a ::i.1 ,1'0 "huge mountain" (indeterminate) that filled the whole
earth. This supernatural "growth" of the stone has been understood as a
reference to a kingdom which is beyond this world, since it does not depend on the earlier kingdoms but rather introduces something new into the
In the section that belongs to the interpretative section of Daniel's
speech before the Babylonian king (even though it seems that v. 35 already
contains quite a number of interpretive clues which are being taken up in
the later section in 2:44-45) the stone and the mountain reappear. The introductory formula Jll~ N::;i?r;i '1 Jiil'Qi:;n "in the days of these kings," refer36



The verb ppi "shatter, smash" suggests complete destruction. In biblical Aramaic it
appears ten times in nine verses in the book of Daniel, mostly in the context of the
destruction of the image of Dan 2 (cf. 2:34, 35, 40 [2x) 44, 45). It is also used to describe
the utter destruction of the scheming opponents (and their families-collective
punishments were the common thing in the ANE) of Daniel in 6:25 at the gnashing
teeth of the lions in the palatial royal pit. The last references can be found in Dan 7 and
describe the action of the fourth beast which crushes everything with its terrible teeth
(7:9, 19, 23). The root dq is used as an adjective in later Punic inscription with the
meaning of "pulverized, fine" as is the root dqq which also appears in Official Aramaic
as an adjective with the meaning of "fine" (said of salt). See DNWSI 1:257-58.
The principle of recapitulation has already been mentioned. This principle is not only
found in prophetic texts, but I venture to say that it is also one of the guiding
principles of narrative texts. A good example of this can be found in creation accounts
of Gen 1 and 2 or the wife-sister incidents of Gen 12, 20, 26. Historical-critical scholarship has dubbed many of these instances as doublets, even though they may actually
represent conscious literary constructs, designed to make particular point. I have
discussed the wife-sister incidents of Genesis elsewhere with further bibliography. See
here Gerald A. Klingbeil, "Historical Criticism," DOTP, 410.
Pfandl has provided a comprehensive discussion of the interpretation of the stone
kingdom that does not need to be repeated here. Many early Christian interpreters
understood this stone as a reference to Christ's incarnation, while others applied it to
the future Second Coming of Christ. Pfandl does a fine job of linking hermeneutical
presuppositions with actual interpretations, particularly when he discusses the
modem period and the three major schools of prophetic interpretation (historicism,
preterism, and futurism [including dispensationalism)) and concludes that "the
interpretation of the stone-kingdom does not depend primarily on the textual exegesis
of Dan 2:44. Rather, to a large degree, it hangs on the overall understanding of the
book and the presuppositions the interpreter brings to the text." Pfandl, "Kingdom of
God in Daniel 2:44," 268.


Gerald A. Klingbeil

ring to the toes of iron and pottery which will not mix and mingle consistently, underlines the chronological sequence in relation to the previous
kingdoms. Some time after "these kings" God will set up a kingdom that is
characterized by different qualities from the ones described earlier in king
Nebuchadnezzar's dreams: first, it shall never be destroyed; second, it will
not be left to another people (following it as the previous kingdoms); third,
it will destroy and shatter all the previous kingdoms and, fourth, it shall
last forever. Thus, the text suggests a close link between the rock and the
eternal kingdom. Verse 45 drives this point home with additional information. The rock has been cut off from the mountain [determinate], but not by
human intervention. Finally, the truthfulness of the account is underlined
by Daniel before king Nebuchadnezzar by the formula 1r;r:::ir?1 NT??IJ ::1':1
i'l"l.i;i.!;l "the dream is certain, and its interpretation is trustworthy." 39
The identity of the rock and above all its origin ("where did it suddenly
come from?") is of particular interest to biblical interpreters and many diverse interpretations have been suggested. 40 However, taking a hint from
socio-linguistics and pragmatics 41 I would like to take a closer look at the
reason why the rock and mountain imagery was used in Dan 2 and what
function they played in the communication strategy of the author, which in
tum will provide a clue as to the intended meaning. 42 Approaching this
interpretive crux from this particular angle requires a look at communication strategy. Often, readers (and interpreters), when confronted with a
difficult text, begin to read from their own situation, experience or conceptual world. Over the past decades, against the backdrop of the "explosion"
of hermeneutical methods, the focus upon the world, values, attitudes and
responses of the contemporary reader has been generally categorized as




The term :ii,i~ is used several times by Daniel in the Aramaic section and always
indicates truthfulness and certainty (2:8, 45; 3:24; 6:13; and 7:16).
Seow, "The Rule of God in the Book of Daniel," 224-26, for example, suggests that the
rock/mountain symbols point to Abraham's descendents who will mediate divine
sovereignty on earth. Furthermore, Seow argues that the mountain is a reference to
the coming of the nations to Mount Zion (Isa 2:1-4; Mic 4:1; Ps 22:28-29). Cf. Pfandl,
"Kingdom of God in Daniel 2:44," 249-68, for a concise history of interpretation.
See note 9 above for some introductory literature.
I wonder about some of the proposed interpretations ascribed to Dan 2, some of
which seem to be far removed from the intended meaning of the passage and depend
more on the viewpoint of the current interpreter. An example of this can be found in
M. C. Thomas, "The Book of Daniel: The Apocalypse with a Distinct Charter for
Liberative Praxis and Theological Vision," A/T 19 (2005): 300--301, who interprets the
rock and the mountain in the larger context of liberation theology, as an important
symbol indicating the end of oppression.

"Rocking the Mountain": Text, Theology, and Mission in Daniel 2


reader-response criticism. 43 In opposition to classic historical-centered approaches, reader-response criticism focused attention not on the ancient
author(s) or the text itself or even the environment which shaped the ancient author, but began by looking at the contemporary reader (or other
readers throughout the centuries of biblical interpretation, even though this
is also a domain of reception history). In the present study, I am not attempting such a reading, which may be interesting and novel, but-in my
mind - does not take into consideration the tremendous importance of history for the biblical authors or ancients in general. Rather, I would like to
ask the question that socio-linguistics and pragmatics would direct at a specific text: "what are you telling me by saying it the way you do?" More particularly, I am interested in discovering how a Neo-Babylonian king, living
in the sixth century B.C. would understand the text and-more importantly-the rock and mountain symbols. 44
As has been noted by Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas there are few
references in Mesopotamian literature to rocks used in a similar dominant
sense as in Dan 2. 45 In the Gilgamesh epic the protagonist has a dream



Cf. Bernard C. Lategan, "Reader-Response Theory," ABO 5:625-28; Edgar V.

McKnight, "Reader-Response Criticism," in To Each Its Own Meaning: An Introduction
to Biblical Criticisms and Their Application (ed. S. L. McKenzie and S. R. Haynes; rev. ed.;
Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1999), 230-52, for readable and concise introductions to the wide variety of what has been classified under "reader-response
criticism." I am only aware of one particular study which applies the questions and
methodology of reader-response criticism to ANE material (and more particularly,
Ugaritic material), namely Edward L. Greenstein, "The Role of the Reader in Ugaritic
Narrative," in 'A Wise and Discerning Mind': Essays in Honor of Burke 0. Long (ed. S, M.
Olyan and R. C. Culley; BJS 325; Providence: Brown Judaic Studies, 2000), 139-51.
It is clear from this statement that I favor a sixth century date for the book of Daniel. I
recognize that this is a controversial issue, but feel that an adequate number of
arguments would support a sixth-century B.C. date for the book of Daniel. Cf. Hase!,
"Establishing a Date for the Book of Daniel," 84-164, and Ferch, "The Book of Daniel
and the 'Maccabean Thesis'," 129-41. Additionally, when one considers the internal
narrative sequence of Daniel, it seems as if the book itself would locate most of the
action in sixth century B.C. Mesopotamia.
Concerning the general Babylonian or Mesopotamian background of the book of
Daniel in current scholarship see the important contributions of Shalom M. Paul, now
conveniently republished in a single volume. Cf. Shalom M. Paul, "From Mari to
Daniel: Instructions for the Acceptance of Servants into the Royal Court," in Divrei
Shalom: Collected Studies of Shalom M. Paul on the Bible and the Ancient Near East 19672005 (ed. S. M. Paul; CHANE 23; Leiden: Brill, 2005), 205-11; idem, "Daniel 6:20: An
Aramaic Calque on an Akkadian Expression," 329-31. Additional relevant material
includes Shalom M. Paul, "Daniel 12:9: A Technical Mesopotamian Scribal Term," in
Sefer Moshe: The Moshe Weinfeld Jubilee Volume; Studies in the Bible and the Ancient Near
East, Qumran, and Post-Biblical Judaism (ed. C. Cohen, A. Hurvitz, and S. M. Paul;
Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2004), 115-18; Ernest C. Lucas, "Daniel: Resolving the


Gerald A. Klingbeil

about the coming of Enkidu in which Enkidu is represented as a meteor

that lands at Gilgamesh's feet. However, the stone does not destroy anything or become the centerpiece of the story. 46 In Mesopotamian cosmology,
the three heavens are represented by stones, even though one may imagine
here stone slabs and not necessarily loose rocks. I am quoting from two
short lists, published by Wayne Horowitz:
30'fhe Upper Heavens are luludadanftu-stone. They belong to Anu. He
settled the 300 Igigi inside. 31 The Middle Heavens are saggilmud-stone.
They belong to the Igigi. Bel sat on the high dais inside, 32in the lapis lazuli sanctuary. He made a lamp of electrum shine inside. 33The Lower
Heavens are jasper. They belong to the stars. He drew the constellations
of the gods on them. [KAR 307.30-33]47
The close association of stones with deities and sacred space will become
even more important when we consider the "mountain" symbol of the



Enigma," VT 50 (2000): 6Cr80; Hector Avalos, "Daniel 9:24-25 and Mesopotamian

Temple Rededications," /BL 117 (1998): 507-11; Jack N. Lawson, '"The God Who
Reveals Secrets': The Mesopotamian Background to Daniel 2.47," /SOT 74 (1997): 6176; Paul Ferguson, "Nebuchadnezzar, Gilgamesh, and the 'Babylonian Job'," JETS 37
(1994): 321-31; Daegeuk Nam, "The 'Throne of God' Motif in the Hebrew Bible"
(Th.D. diss., Andrews University, 1989), 61-84; Thome Wittstruck, "The Influence of
Treaty Curse Imagery on the Beast Imagery of Daniel 7," /BL 97 (1978): 100-102.
John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews, and Mark W. Chavalas, The !VP Bible Background
Commentan;: Old Testament (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000), 733. The references to
a meteorite falling at the feet of Gilgamesh can be found on tablet 1: "Gilgamesh got
up and revealed the dream, saying to his mother: 'Mother, I had a dream last night.
Stars of the sky appeared, and some kind of meteorite(?) of Anu fell next to me. I tried
to lift it but it was too mighty for me, I tried to tum it over but I could not budge it.
The Land of Uruk was standing around it, the whole land had assembled about it, the
populace was thronging around it, the Men clustered about it, and kissed its feet as if
it were a little baby (!). I loved it and embraced it as a wife. I laid it down at your feet,
and you made it compete with me." In her answer Gilgamesh's mother interprets the
dream as a reference to a mighty man who would be come a comrade of Gilgamesh
who saves his friends. The translation is from Maureen Gallery Kovacs, "The Epic of
Gilgamesh," adapted for the electronic edition by Wolf Carnahan. N.P. Cited 12 July
2007. Online: l .htrn.
Wayne Horowitz, Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography (MC 8; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns,
1998), 4. A similar list is also found in AO 8196 iv 20-22: "20The Upper Heavens are
luludiidanit-stone. They belong to Anu. 21 The Midle Heavens are saggilmud-stone. They
belong to the Igigi. 22The Lower Heavens are jasper. They belong to the stars."
Horowitz goes on to discuss the description of the heavenly realm according to the
Mesopotamian texts and suggests that the color of the stone was the most important
element of the comparison. Abbreviations used in Horowitz are taken from The
Assyrian Dictionary of The Oriental Institute of The University of Chicago (CAD), including
AO = tablets in the collection of the Musee de Louvre; and KAR = Keilschrifttexte aus
Assur religiosen Inhalts.

"Rocking the Mountain": Text, Theology, and Mission in Daniel 2


dream of the Babylonian king. Mountains play a considerable role in most

of the religions of the ANE, 48 a fact which can also be seen in the architecture of many ANE temples or tombs. 49 The structure of the Mesopotamian
ziggurat seems to represent an artificial mountain, 50 similar to the shape
and design of the Egyptian pyramids which may reflect the idea of the
"primeval hill" as used in ancient Egyptian mythology. 51 Early Sumerian





See, for example, Bruno Jacobs, "Bergheiligtum und Heiliger Berg: Uberlegungen zur
Wahl des Nemrud Dagi-Gipfels als Heiligtums- und Grabstatte," in Religiiise
Landschaften (ed. J. Hahn; AOAT 301; Munster: Ugarit, 2002), 31-47 [Greek religion);
Juan M. Gonzalez Salazar, "El simbolismo religioso de las elevaciones montaftosas en
el mundo hitita: su denominaci6n e iconografia," 'Ilu 3 (1998): 109-31 [Hittite religion];
Albert F. H. Naccache, "El's Abode in his Land," in Ugarit, Religion and Culture:
Proceedings of the International Conference on Ugarit, Religion and Culture, Edinburgh, July
1994; Essays Presented in Honour of Professor john C. L. Gibson (ed. N. Wyatt, W. G. E.
Watson, and J. B. Lloyd; UBL 12; Munster: Ugarit, 1996), 249-71 [Ugaritic religion);
Terry L. Fenton, "Baal au Foudre: of Snakes and Mountains, Myth and Message," in
Ugarit, Religion and Culture: Proceedings of the International Conference on Ugarit, Religion
and Culture, Edinburgh, July 1994; Essays Presented in Honour of Professor john C. L.
Gibson (ed. N. Wyatt, W. G. E. Watson, and J.B. Lloyd; UBL 12; Munster: Ugarit, 1996),
49--64 [Ugaritic religion/iconography]; Nicolas Wyatt, "Le centre du monde dans Jes
litteratures d'Ougarit et d'Israel," ]NSL 21, no. 2 (1995): 123-42 [Ugaritic religion]. A
general comparative discussion of sacred mountain symbolism in religion can be
found in Christian Salenson, "La montagne, symbole sacre," Chemins de dialogue 16
(2000): 148-64.
A good introduction to the iconography of temple and mountain in the ANE can be
found in Othmar Keel, Die Welt der altorientalischen Bildsymbolik und das Alie Testament
(5th ed.; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996).
Hartrnut Waetzoldt, "Tempelterrassen und Ziggurrate nach der sumerischen
Uberlieferung," in An Experienced Scribe who Neglects Nothing: Ancient Near Eastern
Studies in Honor of Jacob Klein; Essays on the Ancient History, Culture, and Literature of
Sumer, Babylonia, Assyria, and Israel (ed. Y. Sefati et al.; Bethesda: COL, 2005), 322-42,
has recently provided a helpful discussion of the relevant lexical data. Cf. also John F.
Roberston, "Temples and Sanctuaries (Mesopotamia)," ABO 6:372-76; and Michael
Roaf, "Palaces and Temples in Ancient Mesopotamia," CANE 1:423-31. I would like to
express my appreciation to Mark Cohen, owner of COL Press, for providing me with a
copy of some of the chapters of the Klein Festschrift, which had not been available to
me locally. Prof. Victor Hurowitz of Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, first
called my attention to Waetzoldt's and Katz' studies.
David O'Connor, "The Interpretation of the Old Kingdom Pyramid Complex," in
Stationen: Beitriige zur Kulturgeschichte A.gyptens; Rainer Stadelmann gewidmet (ed. H.
Guksch and D. Polz; Mainz: von Zabem, 1998), 135-44, has suggested that not only
the visible pyramid structure should be looked at when one seeks to interpret the
phenomenon of the pyramids, but the complete pyramid complex, including temple,
causeway, subterranean funerary chambers, etc. O'Connor argues that this complex is
a reflection of the cosmic processes of cosmogony, renewal and governance. In this
scheme, the pyramid structure itself may reflect the primeval mound. Concerning the
meaning of the "primeval mound" see earlier Abdel-Aziz Saleh, "The So-called


Gerald A. Klingbeil

texts underline the importance of the mountain as the spatial marker of the
afterworld, represented by the use of the Sumerian sign kur. 52 Mesopotamian ziggurats were considered to be the living abode of the deity 53 and the
name of these temples illustrates the conceptual framework of the nexus
between man and deity. For example, the ziggurat of Larsa is called "House
of the link between heaven and earth," while the ziggurat of Kish is known
as "Exalted dwelling place of Zababa and Inanna, whose head is as high as
the heavens," and the name of the ziggurat of Nippur is "house of the
mountain". 54 The name of the Babylonian ziggurat was Etemenanki, "The
building which is the foundation of heaven and earth," 55 and-as been recently argued by Radner-the function of names in Mesopotamia was to
guarantee "eternity" (i.e., a future beyond the material presence) to the
name bearer (or building).56
While not directly belonging to Mesopotamia, Ugaritic texts link the
abode of the gods with the term DPN, 57 which is generally understood as a
reference to mount Saphon, a term which also appears in the Hebrew Bible



'Primeval Hill' and other Related Elevations in Ancient Egyptian Mythology,"

MDAIK 25 (1969): llG--20. Another link between elevations and deities has been
discussed in V. A. Donohue, "The Goddess of the Theban Mountain," Antiquity 66
(1992): 871---85, who interprets the Libyan mountains on a relief at Deir el-Bahari as the
embodiment of divine femininity and which manifested itself in the goddess Hathor.
A very helpful discussion of the interaction between Egypt and Mesopotamia during
the third millennium B.C. regarding material culture and conceptual system can be
found in Oskar Kaelin, 'Model/ Agypten': Adoption van Innovationen im Mesopotamien des
3. Jahrtausends v. Chr. (OBO.SA 26; Fribourg: Universitatsverlag, 2006).
See the important study of Dina Katz, "Eternal Rest at the Foot of the Mountain," in
An Experienced Scribe who Neglects Nothing: Ancient Near Eastern Studies in Honor of Jacob
Klein; Essays on the Ancient History, Culture, and Literature of Sumer, Babylonia, Assyria,
and Tsrael (ed. Y. Sefati et al.; Bethesda: COL, 2005), 179-98, esp. 196--98.
Waetzoldt, "Tempelterrassen und Ziggurrate nach der sumerischen Oberlieferung,"




Keel, Die Welt der altorientalischen Bildsymbolik, 100.

Donald J. Wiseman, Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon (The Schweich Lectures in Biblical
Archaeology 1983; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 68.
Ellen Radner, Die Macht der Namen: Altorientalische Strategien zur Selbsterhaltung
(SANTAG. Arbeiten und Untersuchungen zur Keilschriftkunde 8; Wiesbaden:
Harrassowitz, 2005), 40--42, and passim.
See Richard J. Clifford, The Cosmic Mountain in Canaan and the Old Testament (HSM 4;
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972); Nicholas Wyatt, "The Significance of
OPN in West Semitic Thought: A Contribution to the History of a Mythological
Motif," in Ugarit: Ein ostmediterranes Kulturzentrum im Allen Orient; Ergebnisse und
Perspektiven der Forschung (ed. M. Dietrich and 0. Loretz; Ugarit und seine
altorientalische Umwelt 1; Munster: Ugarit, 1995), 213-37; Nicolas Wyatt, Myths of
Power. A Study of Royal Myth and Ideology in Ugaritic and Biblical Tradition (UBL 13;
Munster: Ugarit, 1996), 27-48.

"Rocking the Mountain": Text, Theologtj, and Mission in Daniel 2


(Ji.!llf} and is often used as a reference to the north. 58 There is no need here to
discuss the question of whether the use of ?i.!llf in the Hebrew Bible refers

principally to the mythic mountain of divine congregation. However, the

fact that all through the ANE, in different time periods, mountains and
natural or artificial elevations were associated with divine presence or
places of divine congregations should be noted and kept in mind when
considering the following interpretation.

4. Rocl~ing the Mountain:

Between Theology and Mission
I would like to suggest that our quest to understand the two key symbols of
rock and mountain should begin with understanding the religious world of
first millennium Mesopotamia. According to the biblical text, king Nebuchadnezzar, absolute monarch of Babylon, the undisputed superpower of its
time, is concerned about a dream. 59 As was already noted, dreams played an
important role in ancient Mesopotamia (and the ANE as a whole) and often
functioned as a means of receiving "divine guidance." 60 Once the king has
established that his carefully selected intellectual elite is not able to, first,
recount the dream, and, second, provide an adequate interpretation (which
is due to their lack of capability on the first requirement) he acts as a true
and frustrated despot would: if you cannot do what I need right now, you
are not worth anything to me. The death sentence is pronounced and an
official is put in charge of its execution. It is interesting to have a closer look
at the exasperated reply of the N~~~ "Chaldeans" in Dan 2:11 which in a
subtle way prepares the way for the active intervention of the God of Daniel
in the narrative as it develops further: ;:iim:t N? N"1o/:;l"Ol,l 7ii1Ti'? 'l NJ;1'?r;i1
l'i'.1?~ m? N:;>'(r,i Oli?, i'1~1D; 'l 'D't:t N? ni:Ji:t1 i1Ti?~ '71'.to/ i1:;>?r;i-'! "the thing that the
king has requested is (too) difficult and there is no-one who could make it
known to the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with mortal beSB



Compare Cleon L. Rogers, Jr., "Ji!!)/," NIDOTTE 3:834-37.

A similar motif can also be found in the famous Aramaic "dream ostracon from
Elephantine which has been dated paleographically and contextually between the fifth
and the third century B.C. The text reads: Now, indeed, I beheld a dream, and from
that time on, I was exceedingly feverish. Then a vision appeared; its words: 'Peace'
[... ]."See Baruch A. Levine and Anne Robertson, "An Aramaic Dream Report from
Elephantine," COS 3.88:218.
See Lasante, "A King's Dreams," for a detailed study of canonical and non-canonical
dream narratives. Other dream omens or narratives are known from Egypt (Robert K.
Ritner, "Dream Oracles," COS 1.33:52-54), Ugarit (Dennis Pardee, "Ugaritic Dream
Omens," COS 1.93:293-94), and also the already mentioned Aramaic ostracon from
Elephantine (Levine and Robertson, "An Aramaic Dream Report from Elephantine,"

cos 3.88:218).


Gerald A. Klingbeil

ings." The reference to the gods, not living where mortal beings live, introduces one of the main themes of Dan 2. While the God of Daniel is interested
in communicating the future and guides those who trust in him (i.e., Daniel
and his three friends as part of the intellectual elite threatened by the execution order) through difficult times, the gods of the Chaldeans (or rather the
Babylonians, including king Nebuchadnezzar) are not able (or willing) to do
the same, since they live far removed from humanity-and one could add
here-somewhere in the north on the mountains or the heavenly sphere
where they celebrate their congregations, feast, drink and play, unconcerned
about humanity.
Different from the gods who do not seem concerned about the fate of
the Neo-Babylonian intellectual elite or even the king himself, the N~T;lo/ n7~
"God of heaven" (2:18, 19, 37, 44) 61 is able and willing to reveal the future to
the king (2:28). The metaphor of "God in heaven" is used frequently in the
Hebrew Bible and, as shown by Martin Klingbeil, 62 represents an important
category of God-talk in the Psalms and is often (though not always) associated with the "God-as-a-warrior" metaphor. 63 The frequent use of the concept in the Aramaic sections of the Hebrew Bible could be understood as a
conscious effort to employ religious terminology that is easily understood
by the people that Judah or later Yehud were dependent upon. It is most
likely that king Nebuchadnezzar associated the term "god of heaven" with
An (Sumerian) or Anu (Akkadian}, the sky god, or "god of heaven" and the




Daniel 2:28 has a slight variation in the terminology and reads 11:r,iip:;i ci~~ "a God in
heaven." The phrase appears also several times in the Aramaic section of Ezra (5:11,
12; 6:9, 10; 7:12, 21, 23) and thus seems to have played an important role in the NeoBabylonian/Persian period. Cf. Hugh G. M. Williamson, Ezra, Nehemiah (WBC 16;
Dallas: Word, 1985), 11-12, who speculates that this may be a particular development
that occurred during the Persian period and may represent a conscious effort to bring
the terminology of divine names in line with the use of the phrase in our religious
contexts. Similar also Herbert Niehr, "God of Heaven cr.:iu>;i ''1JN," in Dictionary of
Deities and Demons in the Bible (ed. K. van der Toom, B. Becking, and P. W. van der
Horst; 2d ed.; Leiden: Brill, 1999), 370-72, who links the biblical phrase to the concept
of a god of heaven which was developed in the Northwest Semitic religions of the first
millennium B.C. Obviously, most critical scholars would understand the appearances
of the term in the Pentateuch (esp. Genesis) as another indication of a later date for the
Pentateuch sources.
Martin G. Klingbeil, Yahweh Fighting from Heaven: God as Warrior and as God of Heaven
in the Hebrew Psalter and Ancient Near Eastern Iconography (OBO 169; Fribourg:
University Press, 1999).
Ibid., 304--5. Klingbeil has also noted the fact that throughout the five books of the
Psalter one can observe a noticeable decrease in the use of the two metaphors, which
may be due to changed political or social circumstances and historical development.

"Rocking the Mountain": Text, Tlieology, and Mission in Daniel 2


prime mover in creation and a distant supreme leader of the gods. 64 While
throughout the entire conversation between Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar
the "god of heaven" terminology is consistently used, at the end of the explanation in 2:45 Daniel employs another phrase, :::i1 i1'?~ "a great god,"
which may also be understood as a reference to the head of the pantheon.
Together with the rock and mountain imagery, the use of a particular
divine epithet seems to point to a particular strategy of the biblical author,
namely, to guide the Neo-Babylonian king from something known to something new. However, at the same time, one can also note a subtle, but consistent, undermining of familiar religious concepts. The gods do not
respond and do not give the necessary wisdom to know the dream of king
Nebuchadnezzar or supply the needed interpretation. The statue (so well
known in Mesopotamian religious practice), so important to the dream and,
as can be seen later in Dan 3, also to king Nebuchadnezzar, is smashed by a
rock that has been cut off from a mountain. Considering the fact that high
elevations and mountains were regarded as divine meeting places, who
would be able to cut off a sizable rock that can hit the statue and not only
topple it over, but transform it into powder? Who would be stronger than
the gods that meet on the mountain? Who would be powerful enough to
transform a rock into a tool of complete destruction which, however, then
becomes a huge mountain that fills all the earth (2:35)? It is this great God of
heaven, the god of Daniel and once Nebuchadnezzar has understood the
meaning of the dream he falls on his face and orders incense brought and
sacrifices to honor Daniel (2:46). He expresses his recognition of this God
that seems to be so different from the gods that he knows and worships
(even though similar terminology has been used!): i1'?t! Nli1 Ti:>;:)'?!:! '1 tliVi?-lQ
l'n i11?1] !':;i'?r;i N!'?l l'i'.1'?!:! "truly, your [pl.] God he is the God of gods and the
Lord of kings and the revealer of secrets" (2:47).

5. Rocking the Mountain: And the

Conclusion of the Matter Is ...
As has been argued above, the importance of Dan 2 in the overall structure
and interpretation of the book of Daniel is immense. This chapter introduces one of the key concepts of biblical prophetic literature, namely the
focus towards the end and towards the establishment of a kingdom which


Jeremy Black," Anu/An," in Dictionary of the Ancient Near East (ed. P. Bienkowski and
A. Millard; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), 22-23. Cf. also M.
Hutter, "Heaven cr.iu>;i oupav6c;," in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (ed. K.
van der Toorn, B. Becking, and P. W. van der Horst; 2d ed.; Leiden: Brill, 1999), 388,
for a concise summary of the function and role of An/Anu in Mesopotamian religion.


Gerald A. Klingbeil

is different from all previous and existing kingdoms. This kingdom is not
made by human hands and seems to usher in a completely different age. As
one considers the theological implications of Dan 2, there can be no doubt
as to its importance and impact-both on King Nebuchadnezzar, as well as
on ancient and modem readers. However, this chapter goes beyond clearcut theology or precise history. It tells a story of how this God of heaven
communicates with individuals living outside the community of faith that
was usually the recipient of divine revelation. And when the story is told,
Daniel uses terminology that must be known to anyone living in the second
half of the first millennium B.C. in the ancient Near East. Yet, these concepts
and terminology are not just being used uncritically. Rather, the biblical
author employs subtle nuances of criticism and polemic, unexpected outcomes and surprising effects. Missiologists call this process "contextualization" and focus upon the process of "translating" a particular (foreign)
concept into a different culture, using concepts and elements that are familiar to this culture.65 To be sure, the rock and mountain symbolism in Dan 2
is not the only biblical text that uses this strategy of employing familiar
terminology and setting it into a framework with an unexpected end. The
reference to the inability of the sun and moon to strike those who trust in
YHWH (Ps 121:6) should be understood as some type of setting in opposition of YHWH with the astral deities of the ANE that were so important in
any ancient religion. 66 At the end of the day, Nebuchadnezzar falls to the
ground and recognizes the power and strength of this god of Daniel, the
god of heaven, so different from his own gods. This is not the end of the


Cf. Gerald A. Klingbeil, "Looking over the Shoulders of Ancient Translators:

Contextualization and Ancient Translation Techniques," in Misi6n y contextualizaci6n.
Llevar el mensaje biblico a un mundo multicultural (ed. G. A. Klingbeil; SMEBT 2;
Libertador San Martin: Editorial Universidad Adventista de! Plata, 2005), 3-21, for a
discussion of theological contextualization in the translation of the Targums. Ortwin
Dally, "Alte Rituale in neuem Gewand? Zu Fortleben und Umdeutung heidnischer
Ritual in der Spatantike," in Rituale in der Vorgeschichte, Antike und Gegenwart: Studien
zur Vorderasiatischen, Priihistorischen und Klassischen Archiiologie, Agyptologie, A/ten
Geschichte, Theologie und Religionswissenschaft (ed. C. Metzner-Nebelsick; Internationale
Archaologie: Arbeitsgemeinschaft, Symposium, Tagung, Kongress 4; Rahden: Leidorf,
2003), 171--81, has discussed some interesting adaptations of earlier (pagan) rituals in
later Christian religion.
I have argued this in more details in another Festschrift, published in 1997 in honor of
William H. Shea. Cf. Gerald A. Klingbeil, "Sun and Moon in Psalm 121:6: Some Notes
on their Context and Meaning," in To Understand Scriptures. Essays in Honor of William
H. Shea (ed. D. Merling; Berrien Springs: Institute of Archaeology/Siegfried H. Hom
Archaeological Museum/Andrews University, 1997), 33-43. See also the discussion by
Hase! concerning the polemic nature of the Genesis cosmology in Gerhard F. Hase!,
"The Polemic Nature of the Genesis Cosmology," EvQ 46, no. 2 (1974): 81-102. More
references could be added here.

"Rocking the Mountain": Text, Theologij, and Mission in Daniel 2


story of the interaction of YHWH and Nebuchadnezzar. According to the

book of Daniel, there was still a long journey ahead of the Neo-Babylonian
monarch that would ultimately result in his recognition of YHWH not only
as the God of heaven, but as N:7 "the Most High" (4:31), the one above
everything, the one who is actively involved in human history and appoints
and removes kings. It was to be an interesting journey, but that was still
somewhere in the future.



1. Introduction
Zechariah 9-14 is commonly referred to as the Zechariah Apocalypse and
as such it is one of the most difficult passages in the Hebrew Bible to interpret. Within its confines, chapter 11 is one of the more difficult of its already
enigmatic narratives to deal with. Thus, one could call Zech 11 one of the
most difficult narratives in the entire Hebrew Bible. Meyers and Meyers
have characterized this narrative in their commentary accordingly:
Long regarded by commentators as one of the most difficult passages in
all of Hebrew Scripture, Zechariah 11 has an overall structure that is almost deceptively simple and straightforward [... ] In addition the oracles
provide the overall mood of the chapter, which is among the most
gloomy and negative in Hebrew prophecy. They both involve the presence
of shepherd imagery, which is the dominant literary vehicle for the
complex messages of the whole chapter.
Although the organization of the chapter is clear, the overall mood painfully visible, and the symbolic figures familiar enough, the underlying
meaning and motivation for Zechariah 11 pose seemingly insoluble difficulties. Indeed, the enormous variety of scholarly claims or interpretations signifies the problematic nature of the material; any number of
thorny exegetical questions frustrate attempts to make sense of them. 1
In broad outlines the contents of Zech 11 are relatively clear. After a poetic
parable about the cedars of Lebanon, the text takes up the subject of the bad
shepherds who victimize the sheep. Then along comes a good shepherd who
has the interest of the sheep at heart. But he is not welcomed by the sheep
and they become antagonistic to him. Therefore, he breaks his covenant
with them; and after his departure, they fall once again into the hands of a
bad shepherd or shepherds and they suffer accordingly. The prophetic narrative ends with a poem of judgment upon the last of the bad shepherds.

Carol L Meyers and Eric M. Meyers, Zechariah 9-14 (AB 25C; Garden City: Doubleday,
1993), 293.


William H. Shea

Thus the broad outline of this prophetic narrative is relatively clear. It is

when one comes to interpret and apply the details present within this outline that serious problems arise. The difficulty of the text, however, should
not deter us from attempting to understand it. What follows below is an
attempt to search out bona fide historical applications that make sense of this
overall outline and its more difficult details.

2. Zechariah 11:1-3: The Parable of the Cedars

The Decline of the Seleucids
When one comes to the shepherds in the body of this narrative, these shepherds should be, in one way or another, rulers over the Jews in Judea, farther on in history, beyond the time of Zechariah in the late 6th century B.C.
From the time of Zechariah until the end of the first half of the 2d century
B.C., Judea was under foreign rule. It was only at that time that Judea came
to have its own national rulers or shepherds. Prior to that time there was a
succession of Persian rulers followed by Hellenistic rulers, the latter beginning with Alexander the Great and then dividing into the Ptolemies in
Egypt and the Seleucids in Syria. As foreign rulers they should not be classified as national shepherds in this narrative, but their final stage under the
Seleucids may be described here with this parable about the cedars of
The final stage of this period of foreign rulers took place under the Seleucid rulers from Syria, especially Antiochus III (223-187 B.C.) and Antiochus IV (175-164 B.C.). With the aid of Phillip V of Macedon, Antiochus III
took Judea away from Ptolemy V of Egypt at the battle of Panium near
Mount Hermon in 201 B.C. It was Antiochus IV who was responsible for
oppressing the Jews in such a way that they rose up in revolt and eventually became independent. In this way the final phase of this period of foreign rule over Judea came to an end, bringing the brief Syrian rule to an end
after little more than half a century of control.
The phase of Syrian rule began to decline under Antiochus III when he
experienced a massive defeat at the hands of the Romans in the Battle of
Magnesia in 190 B.C. Antiochus IV attempted to regain some of the territories in the east that Antiochus had lost but it was on that campaign that he
lost his life in 164 B.C. After this, Syrian control over Judea weakened until it
finally became fully independent in 142 B.C.
Syria, with its capital in Antioch, lay to the north of Judea. More immediately, on its very border, was Lebanon. Lebanon was widely known in
ancient times for its highly valued cedar trees. Even today that symbol still

Cedars and Shepherds in Zechariah 11


appears on the nation's flag even though the actual trees have been reduced
to a small grove.
The poetic and prophetic lament in Zech 11:1-3 is not dealing with deforestation which is even more severe today than it was in ancient times.
These noble cedar trees stand as a symbol of the might and power that
ruled over this and adjacent lands. In late Hellenistic times that symbol for
might, power and rule was centered in Antioch in Syria, with the Seleucid
dynasty. But that power was on the wane in the 2d century. The Roman
general Pompey who conquered Syria also conquered Jerusalem and Judea
in 63 B.C. As a result of that Roman conquest, the independence of both
Syria and Judea came to an end.
While there was to be a lament over the fall of the cedars by both the
oaks of Bashan and Trans-Jordan according to this poem, there is no lament
mentioned as coming from Galilee or Judea or Cis-Jordan. The inhabitants
there were certainly happy to see the Syrian Seleucids go. But with the passing of those rulers they traded a smaller oppressor for a larger one. Less
than a century and a half later this Roman rule brought about the destruction of Jerusalem in A.O. 70.
For the moment, however, the decline of the Seleucids provided Judea
with a brief period of independence, allowing their own shepherds to take
over the rule of their own country. Thus the prophetic parable of the decline and destruction of the cedars is taken here as representing the decline
of that phase of foreign rule from the north and it serves as an introduction
to the rise of Judea's own shepherd rulers.

3. Zechariah 11 :4-6a: A Brief Statement about

the Nature of Hasrnonean Rule
The passage in Zech 11:4-6a reads as follows:
This is what the Lord my God says: "Pasture the flock marked for
slaughter. Their buyers slaughter them and go unpunished. Those who
sell them say, 'Praise the Lord, I am rich!' Their own shepherds do not
spare them. For I will no longer have pity on the people of the land!" declares the Lord. (Zech 11:4-6a, NIV)
The sad state of affairs described here is amply illustrated by events during
the rule of the Hasmonean house. While the latter end of the Hasmonean
dynasty was worse than its earlier period, problems of various types had
already arisen even before the war of independence. Even at this time while
still under Seleucid rule, according to Russell, "there were some in Jerusalem who were ready to raise or offer money in return for positions of


William H. Shea

power." 2 He cites the example of Simon the Tobiad. Partisan strife soon
broke out with Jason bribing his way into the office of the high priest to
oust the more legitimate Onias III (2 Mace 4:7-10). He in turn was ousted by
Menelaus who offered the king an even larger bribe (2 Mace 4:23-28). Fighting soon broke out between the two parties.
Russell points out that the problems of this period were not just "Jew
versus Syrian" but "Jew versus Jew." He cites the words of Oesterly that
this was a case of "Jerusalem versus Judea.'' 3
After the first phase of the successful revolt against Syria, more of this
type of partisan strife occurred. The orthodox withdrew their support from
the Maccabeans and supported a man named Alkimus. Now intrigue at the
Syrian court intruded into the affairs of Judea. Of the two men contending
for the Syrian throne, Alexander Balas outbid Demetrius I for the support of
the Maccabean Jonathan, and he rewarded him by appointing him high
For territorial aggrandizement the campaigns of John Hyrcanus subjugated both Samaria and Idumea. During his time there was a growing disenc~antrnent with the Hasmonean house because under them the high
priesthood had become increasingly worldly and irreligious. From this time
the more distinct parties of the Sadducees and Pharisees emerged.
Taking the title of "king," Aristobulus I offended the Pharisees who also
detested his love of Greek culture. He was also implicated in the murders of
his mother and his brother.
Things went from bad to worse under Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 B.C.).
He undertook military campaigns as a means of aggrandizement. He further secularized the priesthood and when the people objected to his pouring out the drink-offering on the ground instead of on the altar during a
Feast of Tabernacles, he had the crowd of people in the courts of the temple
slaughtered. This resulted in a civil war that lasted for six years, at the conclusion of which he had 800 of his opponents crucified.
At the end of his life he named his wife Alexandra as queen and when
he died she appointed her son Hyrcanus II to the office of high priest. The
Sadducees, on the other hand supported Aristobulus who, when his mother
Alexandra died, raised an army and defeated his brother Hyrcanus and
took over the office of high priest. In return Hyrcanus appealed to Aretas III
of Arabia who supported his siege of Aristobulus in Jerusalem. It was at
this point that the Romans intervened and put an end to this sectarian and
partisan strife.

David. S. Russell, Between the Testaments (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1965), 26.

Ibid., 27.

Cedars and Shepherds in Zechariah 11

145 whole tide of events illustrates well the fulfillment of Zech 11:4-5a.
While some of the early Maccabees started out well, the dynasty descended
into partisan strife and fighting for control of high offices. The ones who
suffered most from all this were the common people. Those who were governed by these profligate rulers were the sheep rendered for the slaughter
at the hands of, and for the profit of, their Hasmonean shepherds.

3. Zechariah 11 :6b: Death of the First Two

Maccabean Rulers, Judas and Jonathan
I translate Zech 11:6b as follows:
But behold, I will cause the man [Oli;t;;i], each one [Ul'~] to fall into the
hand of his friend [lil~,l"1] and into the hand of his king. (Zech 11:6b, my
The "man" who is the shepherd leader is thus stated to come to his end by
the actions of his friend. The word used here can mean "friend, neighbor,
companion, comrade," etc. That more than one ruler was to suffer this fate
is indicated by the word for "each one" used after the word for man. So we
have at least two of these shepherd rulers that suffered this fate. Once having been betrayed by their friends they then fall into the hands of their king.
The king at the time of the Maccabean revolt was in Syria, the ruler of the
Seleucid dynasty.
The Maccabean revolt was raised initially by an elderly man named
Mattathias. He had five sons who joined him in this enterprise. Three of
those sons came to lead the people of Judea in succession. The first was Judas and he was in command as early as 166/165 B.C. when Mattathias died.
A great achievement during his leadership was the liberation and restoration of the temple in Jerusalem (1 Mace 4:36--61). At the conclusion of these
events they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days and it was
decreed that this event should be celebrated annually. This occurred in the
fall and early winter of 164 B.C., during a Sabbatical Year that began late in
the summer of that year.
Another major event of Judas' rule was the alliance with Rome which is
recited in 1 Mace 8:1-22. The text of the alliance is given in 1 Mace 8:23-32. alliance was concluded in the year 161 B.C. and a part of the agreement
involved a warning by Rome to Demetrius I of Syria not to oppress the
Jews. He paid little attention to that warning and the ensuing battle led to
the death of Judas.
The question then is how the actions of the friends and compatriots of
Judas did lead to his falling into the hands of the forces of the king and to
his death, in order to fulfill this part of the specification of the prophecy?


William H. Shea

3.1. The Death of Judas

The death of Judas is narrated in 1 Mace 9:1-22. When Demetrius I of Syria
received news that the Jews had defeated Nicanor and his army in battle, he
responded by sending another army, this one lead by Bacchides. The force
that he was in command of consisted of 20,000 foot soldiers and 2,000 cavalry. They marched by way of Galilee to the site of their encampment a
short distance north of Jerusalem. Judas had only 3,000 men encamped at
Elasa and they were terrified of the great number of troops in the Syrian
army and they melted away and fled until there were only 800 soldiers left
with Judas. In this way his "friends" had betrayed him, in essence, handed
him over to the Syrians.
Undeterred by the loss of his troops who fled, Judas admonished his
men, "Up, let us advance against our foes. Perhaps we may be strong
enough to fight them!" (1 Mace 9:8). His soldiers tried to talk him out of the
engagement, saying that they were too few. But Judas would not tum back.
Once again he exhorted them, "If the time has come, let us die bravely for
the sake of our brothers and not leave behind a stain upon our glory!" (1
Mace 9:10, emphasis mine).
Both armies sounded their trumpets and "they were locked in battle
from morning to evening" (1 Mace 9:13). Judas was successful in routing
one wing of the Syrian army, but the other wing pursued them and came
up behind them from the rear. "Many fell on both sides" (1Mace9:17). "Finally Judas fell, and the surviving Jews fled" (1 Mace 9:18). Jonathan and
Simon, his brothers, took the body of Judas to Modein for burial and all
Judea observed a period of mourning for him.
One can see, therefore, how the cowardice of the "friends" and fellow
soldiers of Judas led to his death. 2,200 fled and only 800 remained to stand
with him and fight. He might have fallen anyway if the whole army had
been there, but his fate was sealed when the majority of his troops fled before the battle. In that way he fell into the hands of the forces of the king of
Syria and died.

3.2. The Death of Jonathan

The prophecy of Zech 11:6b says that there would be at least one more of
these ruler-shepherds who would fall in this same way. That leads us to
examine the way in which Jonathan, the successor of Judas, died. His death
came about in a similar way but in his case the treachery was even greater.
There were several events of importance, however, before we come to the
death of Jonathan.
First, there was an interregnum and a period of peace. This is mentioned

Cedars and Shepherds in Zechariah 11


in 2 Mace 9:57 and 10:21 and is also mentioned by Josephus (Ant. 20.10.237).
After his victory Bacchides left and there was a period of two years of
peace, from May of 159 B.C. to May of 157 B.C. The Syrian king, however,
made no appoinhnent to the office of high priest for a total of seven years.
In this way he avoided provoking the anger of the Jews who did not like
the idea of a foreign king appointing their high priest. Finally, "Jonathan
puts on sacred veshnents in the seventh month of the year 160, on the festival of Tabernacles. He also raised troops and manufactured large quantities
of arms." 4 According to Goldstein's chronology, this fell in the time between September 20, 153 B.C., and October 9, 152 B.C. 5
The next event of major importance here is what may be called Jonathan's circle tour of conquest, his conquests in the countries surrounding
Judea. This is recited in 1 Mace 11:60-74. Since this history of the rule of
Jonathan is recited here with Zech 11, it is interesting to see the link made in
Goldstein's commentary on 1 Maccabees between these events and those
recited in the prophecy of Zechariah, "Here and in 12:1-38 our author or his
source may have seen the acts of Jonathan and Simon as fulfilling prophecies of Zechariah." 6 He goes on to cite the victories over Hamath and Damascus (Zech 9:1-2), Tyre and Sidon (Zech 9:2-4), Gaza and Ascaton (Zech
9:5-6), up to the Euphrates (Zech 9:10) and even to the Greeks (Zech 9:13).
Perhaps this could have been taken as referring to the Greeks or Seleucids
who ruled Syria.
Then came the renewal by Jonathan of the treaty with Rome and the
making of a treaty with Sparta (1 Mace 12:1-23). Goldstein notes a similar
potential connection between these events and the prophecies of Zechariah
in the mind of the author of First Maccabees. 7
This rise in power on the part of Jonathan alarmed the Syrians and this
led them to bring him down. The story of the death of Jonathan is told in 1
Mace 12:39-53. At first the thought was to attempt to defeat him in battle.
But when Tryphon marched to Beth-shean he was met there by Jonathan
with 40,000 men ready for battle. Inhibited by confronting such a large
force, Tryphon changed his strategy and "sought a way to capture Jonathan
and slay him" (1 Mace 12:40).
"He (Tryphon) received him Oonathan) with honor and introduced him
to all his friends, giving him gifts and ordering his friends and soldiers to
obey Jonathan as they would himself" (1Mace12:43, emphasis mine). In the
ensuing conversation Tryphon suggested to Jonathan that it was not necesJonathan A. Goldstein, 1 Maccabees (AB 41; Garden City: Doubleday, 1976), 397.
Ibid., 442.
Ibid., 445.


William H. Shea

sary to bring out all these men of war that he should pick just a few men
and send the rest home and go with him to Ptolemais. He said that he
would tum Ptolemais and some other strongholds over to Jonathan and
then he would march home. "Indeed, that is the purpose of my coming" (1
Mace 12:45).
Jonathan, trusting him, did as he suggested. The great body of his
troops went home. He still had 3,000 men with him but he dropped off
2,000 men in Galilee, leaving him with an escort of just 1,000 men. "However, as soon as Jonathan entered Ptolemais, the citizens of Ptolemais closed
their gates, seized him, and put all who had entered with him to the sword"
(1 Mace 12:48). Once again, all Judea was in mourning.
Late in 143 B.C., when there was snow in Judea, Tryphon put Jonathan
to death at Baskama in the Galaaditis (1 Mace 13:23). For a second time a
Maccabean ruler had been betrayed by his "friends," fell into the hands of
the power of the king of Syria, and had been killed. Both the experiences of
Judas and Jonathan fulfill this specification of the prophecy of Zech 11:6b.

4. Zechariah 11: 7: The First Appearance of

the Good Shepherd
This verse is enclosed by the same statement at the beginning and its end,
"and I shepherded the sheep." In the first instance the sheep are specified as
the sheep that were doomed for the slaughter, which is a reference back to 1
Zech 11:4-Sa that gives the general fate of the sheep. Those sheep-people
who have been abused by their shepherd-rulers now come under the care
of the good shepherd who is more interested in their welfare. His care contrasts with the care given to them by the bad shepherds, especially those
who immediately follow.
The symbolic action described here has to do with the good shepherd
taking two staffs with which to shepherd the sheep. Like the good shepherd
in Ps 23 he has two of these instruments, even though the Hebrew word
used here is not the same as those used in that psalm. Here the word refers
to a twig, stick or branch broken off a tree that is used as a walking stick or
as a staff for the shepherd's use. There may be an indirect connection back
to Zech 6:12 where the Messiah to come is referred to by his prophetic title
of the Branch (also a different word than the one used here). The two-fold
nature of the rule of that Messiah as both priest and king is clearly stated in
Zech 6:13. The word used for staff here is also used elsewhere for a shepherd's staff (1Sam17:40).
The symbolic action present here involves the names that were given to
the two staffs that the good shepherd uses to shepherd the sheep. The first

Cedars and Shepherds in Zechariah 11


is named CJJ,lt This word has a rather broad range of meaning that includes
"agreeable, pleasant, favorable, beautiful," or "kindly" speaking of actions
taken. Translations commonly make use of the idea of favor or God's grace
that comes to the sheep through the shepherd here and that is a sound connection. In addition one can make use of the idea of agreeable, in that at this
time the sheep and the shepherd are in agreement, that is, they are in a
covenant relation. Soon, however, that agreeable relationship sours and the
sheep part company from the good shepherd and that signifies that the
covenant between them is broken (Zech 11:10).
The name given to the other staff, c?:;in, literally translates as "cords" in
the plural. The significance appears to be that the cords bind two parties
together and for this reason the name of this staff is commonly translated as
"Union." The union in this case is not so much between the shepherd and
the sheep as between two groups of sheep, Israel and Judah. This becomes
evident when that Union is broken in Zech 11:14.
For the time being, however, the shepherd and the sheep are on good
terms, that is, in a covenant relationship and all is temporarily well. But that
relationship soon falls apart. It is interesting to note the point in time at
which this comment about union and covenant appears. It comes at the
juncture, in historical terms, between Jonathan and his successor Simon.
This is an appropriate juncture in terms of political history because it was
with the rule of Simon that Judea became truly independent. Under Judas
and Jonathan they had a quasi- or partial independence but, as can be seen
from the description of their fates given above, they were still ultimately
under the control of Syria. Now with true and full independence under
Simon, the old covenant relationship between God and His people could go
into full effect.

5. Zechariah 11 :8: The Death of Three

Shepherds-Simon and His Two Sons
I destroyed three shepherds in one month. My soul became weary with
them and their soul became weary with me. (Zech 11:8, my translation)
Jonathan was killed by Tryphon in 143 B.C. Simon, another brother, took
over the rule, succeeding him. In the year of his accession, in 142 B.C., he
won immunity from taxes from Demetrius II, the Syrian ruler (1 Mace
13:41). The next year a further step was taken. A decree in bronze was set
up in the temple, conferring on Simon the office of high priest with hereditary rights, "until a faithful prophet shall arise" (1Mace14:41, 47). The high
priesthood which had been hereditary in the House of Onias and had been
usurped since the deposition of Onias III was now made hereditary in the
Hasmonean line. Here, then, we see the emergence of an independent Jew-


William H. Shea

ish state in which the civil head and the military leader were at the same
time the high priest. This union was to continue throughout the life of the
Hasmonean House. 8
The death of Simon and his two sons is described in 1 Mace 15:11-24. It
took place not through the agencies of a Syrian king, as in the cases of Judas
and Jonathan, but at the hands of one from his own house, his son-in-law
Ptolemy. He was commander of the plain of Jericho and a particularly ambitious man. "Intoxicated with his own success, he formed the desire to
seize control over the country and treacherously do away with Simon and
his sons." 9 Accordingly, he invited Simon and his two sons-Mattathias
and Judas-down to Jericho.
[Ptolemy] treacherously received them in the castle called Dok, which he
had built; there he concerted men while he set a sumptuous banquet before his guests. When Simon and his sons became drunk, Ptolemy and
his men emerged from hiding, seized their arms, and rushed into the
banquet hall upon Simon and killed him and his two sons and son of
their servant. Thus Ptolemy committed high treason and returned evil
for good. 10
This occurred in the "Year 177" which equals 134 B.C., in the 11th month,
the month of Shebat. Goldstein notes that the text does not have the day of
the month on which this occurred and he interprets this to mean that they
began their journey down to Jericho on the day of the new moon. 11 This
month of Shebat extended from January 27 to February 25 of 134 B.C. It was
during that "one month" that these three shepherds fell, as the prophecy
It is interesting to note the follow up from these events. Ptolemy also intended to kill John Hyrcanus, another son of Simon, but that plan was
thwarted. He sent men to Gazara to do away with John, but a man ran to
John and told him what had happened to his father and his two brothers.
When the men who had come to kill him arrived, he in tum slew them because he knew their purpose in coming. The prophecy had foreseen that
only three shepherds would fall in that month, not four.
By this time the dice had been cast for the Hasmonean house and its
subjects. Now came about the conditions described in the general introductory statement of Zech 11:4-5a. The ruling house descended into a maelstrom of petty but sometimes vicious and violent politics that have been
described in the historical comments alongside that passage. Basically one


Russell, Between the Testaments, 31.

Goldstein, 1 Maccabees, 524.

Cedars and Shepherds in Zechariah 11


can divide this dynasty into halves. The first three rulers were national heroes who led the fight for independence but were cut down by treachery of
one kind or another. The last half of the dynasty was led by tyrants who
imposed their ever more dictatorial will upon the people or ended up fighting with each other for the highest positions. This was not a time when faith
and truth or mercy and justice were exercised. As a consequence the separation between the good shepherd and his sheep that is described in the last
part of Zech 11:8 developed. In spite of their religiosity the people drifted
away from the true God and as a consequence he began the process of
separating himself from them.

6. Zechariah 11 :9: The End of the

Hasmonean House
Then I said, "I will not pasture you. What is to die, let it die. What is to
be destroyed, let it be destroyed, and let those who are left eat one another's flesh." (Zech 11:9, my translation)
As a result of the separation described in the previous verse there now
comes about an end of this line of shepherd-rulers. The way in which they
were to depart from the scene of action is described here and the fate of the
last rulers of this royal house followed in this order. The phrase, "What is to
die, let it die," should not be taken in an entirely pejorative sense. It stands
in contrast to what follows, which tells about what was to be destroyed.
Those who were to die were to die a natural death, which was good. Those
who were to be destroyed would be destroyed at the hands of other persons, they were to be killed. That is the order in which the Hasmonean
house came to an end.

6.1. "What Is to Die, Let It Die"

Three rulers in a row suffered this lesser fate. They were John Hyrcanus
(134-104 B.c.), Aristobulus (104-103 B.C.), and Alexander Jannaeus (103-75
B.C.). John Hyrcanus was greeted with victories abroad but partisan conflicts within. Nevertheless he died a natural death after a reign of 30 years.
Although he assassinated various members of his own household, Aristobulus died a natural death, after a short reign.
Aristobulus' widow released Alexander Jannaeus from prison and she
married him. He became high priest and ruler. He was detested by his own
people. On the occasion of a riot he slaughtered 6,000 of his own people, an
echo of Zech 11:4-5a. A civil war broke out later in his reign. In spite of the
problems during his reign he died a natural death in 76/75 B.C.


William H. Shea

These three rulers in a row thus fulfilled the statement, "what is to die,
let it die."

6.2. "What Is to Be Destroyed, Let It Be Destroyed"

Alexandra, the widow of Alexander Jannaeus, had two sons, Hyrcanus II
and Aristobulus II. The division between them led to major difficulties.
Hyrcanus sided with the Pharisees and Aristobulus sided with the Sadducees. Hyrcanus drove the Sadducees and Aristobulus out but they attempted a comeback that resulted in a war, which led to intervention by
Rome and the conquest of Jerusalem by Pompey in 63 B.C. Aristobulus was
captured and imprisoned but escaped and raised up revolts on three different occasions. This led Rome to redraw the lines of the territories.
In the meantime Hyrcanus II who had called upon Antipater the Idumean for support was supplanted by him under the Romans. Herod the
Great came from his line and he was the one who brought the Hasmonean
house to an end by basically killing all of their descendants who could potentially threaten him for the throne. The first one whom Herod killed was
Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus II, who had led a battle in opposition to
Herod. He was killed in 37 B.C. That ended the line of Aristobulus II, one of
the sons of Alexander Jannaeus.
Herod killed quite a few more people from the line of Hyrcanus II. He
killed Hyrcanus himself in 30 B.C. He also killed Hyrcanus' daughter Alexandra. She was the mother of Aristobulus III, a high priest, and Herod
killed him in 35 B.C. One of Herod's wives was Mariamne, the granddaughter of Hyrcanus II, but after she bore him two sons, he had her too killed in
29 B.C. Finally, he executed his two sons by Mariarnne-Aristobulus and
Alexander-in 7 B.C.
In all, therefore, Herod killed six persons from the line of the Hasmonean house through the line of Hyrcanus II and he killed one from the
line of Aristobulus II, his son Antigonus. Since the line of Aristobulus was
ousted by the Roman-Herodian victory, it was natural that he had to pay
more attention to the line of Hyrcanus because they were still on the scene
of action, whereas the line of Aristobulus had been eliminated earlier.
With the death of all seven of these Hasmoneans, the line of that royal
house came to an end. Since all seven of these deaths were violent, at the
hands of someone else, this part of the royal line fulfilled the last prophetic
statement about the Hasmoneans in Zech 11, "what is to be destroyed, let it
be destroyed." The three rulers before them died natural deaths and they
fulfilled the earlier statement about "what was to die, let it die."

Cedars and Shepherds in Zechariah 11


7. Zechariah 11:10-11: The Brol~en Covenant

I took my staff Favor and cut it into pieces, to break the covenant which I
had made with all peoples. So it was broken on that day and thus the afflicted of the flock who were watching me realized it was the word of the
Lord. (Zech 11:10-11, NASB)
The prophet now takes part in a prophetic parable and his action is that
of breaking the first staff of the two that he took earlier in the prophecy. The
action here is interpreted in the verse itself, so the breaking of the staff signifies the breaking of the covenant. The major question here is, Which
One might readily specify the covenant broken here as the old covenant,
the one between God and Israel that was made especially at Sinai. The Messianic prophecy in the immediately succeeding verses might convey indirectly the idea that the broken old covenant was to be replaced by the new
covenant to be made by the good shepherd in his blood, with the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.
This interpretation of the broken covenant as the old covenant with Israel and Judah is certainly a prominent and direct possibility. There is one
minor problem with it however, in that the breaking of the staff and the
covenant come before, and not after the Messianic prophecy that was fulfilled before Jesus died on the cross. One could say here that the breaking of
this covenant in that case was prospective or proleptic, prophesying something that would take place later in the course of historical events. That remains a strong possibility as to the application of this symbol.
There is another possibility here, however, and that is that the broken
covenant is the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 23:5). It was God's intent that descendants of David from the tribe of Judah would rule over His earthly
kingdom in perpetuity. That promise or prophecy came to a temporary end
with the apostasy of the last kings of Judah. The Maccabees who started up
a new independent kingdom of Judea had the opportunity to pick up
where the last kings of Judah left off. In part, that was their purpose. The
conquests of John Hyrcanus and especially those of Alexander Jannaeus
were carried out with the intent to extend the borders of Judea to include all
that originally belonged to the kingdom in the time of David.
Zechariah 11:10-11 come at the end of the section where the Hasmonean
house has come to an end, before the direct appearance of the Messiah in
what follows. At this juncture, this broken covenant could signify once
more, like the fall of the last kings of Judah, the end, not so much of the Sinaitic covenant as the Davidic covenant. The rulers of the Hasmonean
house had an opportunity to restore the kingdom that had once belonged to


William H. Shea

the house of David. Unfortunately, their military conquests were not

matched by a corresponding righteousness in a rule that could have paved
the way for a greater fulfillment of that promise with the coming of the
Messianic kingdom. But now, because of their perfidy, intrigue and assassinations, the opportunity had passed from them. One can only look upon
this course of events and lament over what could have been.
While either one of these historical applications fulfills the prophetic requirements satisfactorily, at present I lean toward the latter of the two possibilities.

8. Zechariah 11:12-13: Rejection

of the Good Shepherd
We come here to the heart of the Messianic prophecy in the center of this
prophetic parable. There are two main issues here. The first is, What does
Zech 11:12-13 say in its own right? The second issue is, How does Matt
27:3-10 apply this to the historical fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecy? We
can begin with Zechariah on its own merits.
The translation and significance of Zech 11:12 are clear. The good shepherd has worked long and hard on behalf of the sheep and even though the
sheep have rejected his care, he still deserves his wages for the long and
hard work that he has done. He puts this as a challenge to an unnamed
overseer or overseers. It is fair that I receive my wages, but if you are not
going to pay me, so be it, that is on your account, not mine. That is the sense
of what the prophet standing in for the shepherd says here. They decide to
go ahead and pay him his wages and they pay him 30 shekels of silver.
This payment is probably of symbolic significance. It was the price of a
household slave according to Exod 21:32. The shekel in the time of the Exodus, however, was smaller than the weight of the shekel in the time of
Zechariah, so the payment at that time would have been a little more. In
addition, the price of a slave varied from time to time. The prophecy goes
back to the time of the Exodus for the price of a slave then and this price
comes from the passage known as the Covenant Code (Exod 21-24), the
commentary or elaboration of the Ten Commandments at the time those
commandments were given. The context of the covenant makes a fitting
application here because this pay-off to the shepherd comes in the context
of the broken covenant, stated in the preceding verse.
The translational and interpretational problems arise here in Zech 11:13.
Verse 12 contains a statement by the shepherd and action by his overseer/s.
Verse 13 contains a statement by the Lord. The Lord now puts his instruction or interpretation on these events.

Cedars and Shepherds in Zechariah 11


And the Lord said unto me, "Cast it unto the potter, the magnificent
value with which I am valued by them." (Zech 11:13a, my translation)
Three main points need to be noted here in this half-verse. First, there has
been confusion about whether the word used here is the word for "potter"
(i,i') or "treasury" (iiN with an initial N), or whether there is a play on
words here between these two words. There is no confusion about which
word was written here because it was written twice in this verse, the same
way both times and the word is clearly that for "potter" not for "treasury."
While there could be confusion between a yod and a waw because their form
is so similar, there are no grounds for confusion between a yod and an
'aleph. Nor is there any play on words here, as can be seen from the further
translation below.
The second main point here is that the Lord clearly says that the value
that the overseer/s placed upon the shepherd was the value that they were
putting upon him, the Lord himself. This is clear from the morphology of
the verb that is used for the valuation - a first person perfect ('l'lli?:). It
coincides with the root of the noun which precedes it, so it is the "value"
with which "I was valued." In rejecting the shepherd, they have rejected the
Lord of the shepherd.
This second point leads to the third, and that is the sarcasm that is employed here and it is found in the modifier for the "value." It is a "lordly,
magnificent, glorious" value that was placed upon the shepherd. This is
obviously not true, hence the sarcasm involved. They should have paid a
much greater price for the labor of the shepherd, but they did not, they only
paid an under-valued price, and it is mocked with this modifier.
"And I took the thirty (shekels) of silver and I cast it [ ... ] the house of the
Lord unto the potter." (Zech 11:13b, my translation)
I have provided a literal translation here because it is vital to one's understanding of what is going on. There is a preposition missing, or rather implied, immediately before the phrase, "house of the Lord." The main
English versions have assumed that the intended preposition that was
meant here was either a beth for "in, into" or lamed, 'to, unto." That is the
way this phrase is translated in the NIV, the KJV, the NASB, and the RSV. Thus
they generally translate "and I cast it unto the potter/treasury of/in the
house of the Lord." But this inverts the syntax of the latter part of this
phrase and this also assumes that they have supplied the correct preposition.
The syntax indicates otherwise. In order it should be translated, "and I
cast it from the house of the Lord unto the potter." The phrase "house of the
Lord" precedes the phrase "unto the potter" where the preposition i,~ is
expressed. The sense is not that he cast it to the potter or the treasury but


William H. Shea

rather that, after having received his payment in the temple, he took it outside and cast it to the potter. It is an expression of disgust with the poor pay
that he had received. The real connections here are, "the thirty (shekels) of
silver of the house of the Lord." This is a construct chain and this construct
chain is broken by the verb and object pronoun, "and I cast it." Since he
received his payment in the house of the Lord he undoubtedly received his
payment from the priests who were the officials of that house. It is they
who have undervalued the shepherd, his work for the sheep, and the Lord
for whom he worked.

8.1. The Historical Application-Matthew 27:3-10.

Matthew is the only gospel that records the remorse of Judas and his suicide and it is recited in the context of the prophecy from Zechariah. The
record of Judas' actions covers Matt 27:3-8 where he now plays the part of
the prophet in the parable. Having received the thirty shekels of silver as
the price for betraying Jesus into the hands of the priests, he is now stricken
with remorse and takes his payment-the low value they placed upon Jesus-back into the temple (va6<;) and casts the shekels down upon the floor.
The priests, not willing to go to Pilate to show that they have both seized
and accused Jesus falsely, say to Judas that he must see to it himself. That is
when he casts the coins down. The priests then say that they cannot add
this payments to the gifts (Kop13avav) given to the temple because it is
blood money. The word used here is not the more common word used for
the treasury of the temple (ya~ocpuAaK1ov, Mark 12:41,43; Luke 21:1; John
8:20). Since this is contaminated "blood money" they purchase the Potter's
Field (aypov TOO KEpatw<;, Matt 27:7). This field was to be used as a place
where strangers, foreigners and indigents would be buried. As a result of
the way this came about, the name of the field was changed from the Potter's Field to the Field of Blood.
So the outlines of the prophetic parable in Zechariah are now clear and
the course of events that led to its fulfillment have been described by Matthew. The remaining task is to see how Matthew used Zechariah's prophecy. This he quotes, or perhaps it would be better to say, paraphrases, in
Matt 27:9-10. There are several elements that require discussion here.
First, Matthew credits Jeremiah with this Old Testament quotation.
While the specific element of the thirty pieces of silver comes from Zechariah, there are interesting and important elements here that correspond
with Jeremiah. These are discussed after the quotation itself has been examined.
The first phrase from Matt 27:9 quotes, "and they took the thirty pieces
of silver." This relates directly to Zech 11:12a. The second phrase is explana-

Cedars and Shepherds in Zechariah 11


tory as to why thirty pieces of silver were used in this connection, "the price
of one whose price has been set by the sons of Israel." This looks like it relates directly to the legislation in Exod 21:32. It was there that the price of a
slave was set in legislation for the sons of Israel.
The next phrase, at the beginning of Matt 27:10 indicates that "they gave
them for the Potter's Field." This phrase relates to both Zech 11:13a and
Zech 11:13c. In the first instance Zechariah was instructed to throw 'the
money' to the potter and in the second instance he says that he did so. As
we have seen in the preceding discussion of Zechariah, the reading of 'the
potter' and not 'the treasury' is correct, and it is also correct that the potter
was not in the temple-he should be where potters were normally located.
That is where Jeremiah comes in.
There are three passages in Jeremiah that relate to this episode and they
are found in Jer 18, 19, and 32. The last instance has to do with Jeremiah
purchasing a field in his home town of Anathoth, just north of Jerusalem.
The potter is not specifically mentioned in that connection but the idea of
buying a field just outside of Jerusalem is. Jeremiah 18 tells about how the
prophet "went down" to observe the potter. "Going down" means that he
went down geographically, that is, probably from the city down into a valley. There he saw the potter throw an imperfect pot and then rework it to
make it better. This was what the Lord was about to do with Judah.
Jeremiah 19 is the episode that is most closely connected with Matt 27:3-10.
In that narrative Jeremiah was instructed to take an earthenware jar of the
"potter" (illi') and take some of the elders of the people and some of the
leading priests with him Oer 19:1-2). He was instructed to go out the gate of
the "potsherds" (mt;rp:i, sometimes translated "clay-pit") into the Hinnom
Valley, which was on the south side of Jerusalem. There he was to proclaim
his judgment upon Jerusalem (Jer 19:3-9) and then smash the jar as a symbolic action demonstrating what would happen to the city and people of
This can be linked to Matt 27 to inform us where the field was that the
priests purchased with the 30 pieces of silver that Judas returned to them. It
was formerly called the Potter's Field. This should have been located in the
Hinnom Valley either because of the clay beds there that they used to make
their pots or because of the large number of potsherds from their discards.
It was also the location of the city dump of Jerusalem which gave an additional reason for potsherds to accumulate there.
There is a reason why the burial field that they purchased was located
there and not elsewhere. The main burial valley for Jerusalem was the
Kidron on the east side of Jerusalem. That would not have been an appropriate area for a burial field defiled by the blood money of Judas and also


William H. Shea

by the presence of the bodies of foreigners. The breaking of Jeremiah's pot

added to the abundance of potsherds that were already there and this also
indicated indirectly the fate of Jerusalem because of its rejection of the good
shepherd that was symbolized by this action.
The final phrase in Matt 27:10 is "as the Lord directed." This points back
directly to the introductory phrase in Zech 11:13a where those instructions
were labeled as coming from the Lord.
Thus the text in Matt 27:9-10 is a composite text. Three of its phrases, vv.
9a, lOa, and lOc come from Zechariah. The second phrase in v. 9 comes
from Exod 21:32. But the resultant action, the purchasing of the Potter's
Field, relates most directly to Jer 19:1-10. The dominant action here are
those historical events in the time of Jesus of Nazareth and Judah as they
relate to the prophecy of Zechariah; but there is a thematic reason why they
are also related to Jeremiah which has to do with the end result.

9. Zechariah 11:14: Breaking the

Shepherd's Second Staff
Then I broke my second staff called Union, breaking the brotherhood between Judah and Israel. (Zech 11:14, my translation)
There had been attempts by some of the rulers of the Hasmonean house to
put the whole kingdom of David back together again, especially under John
Hyrcanus and Alexander Jannaeus. With the fall of the Hasmonean house
that goal looked more remote. Then the Romans broke the kingdom up into
separate provinces ruled by different types of rulers. After the death and
resurrection of Jesus there was one more final attempt to reestablish the
kingdom, 12 but that brief attempt failed and the kingdom was rendered
asunder with finality. Simultaneous and subsequent events led to a major
diaspora of the people. The long desired union was to be no more until God
would bring about a kingdom of an entirely different nature.

10. Zechariah 11:15-17: The Final

Bad Shepherd-Herod Agrippa I
The first two verses of this part of the passage tell of the neglect of the sheep
by the worthless shepherd who succeeded the good shepherd who was
rejected by the sheep. The negatives given here are fourfold in describing
his neglect of the sheep and then finally it tells how he would tear at the


See below in the next section.

Cedars and Shepherds in Zechariah 11


flesh and hooves of the sheep. Having rejected the good shepherd, the
sheep are now surrendered into the hands of this bad shepherd.
The first question about this passage is, if this description serves as a collective for the conduct carried out by a series of bad rulers, or if it refers to
just one ruler? My initial impression was the former. After the departure of
the good shepherd, Jesus of Nazareth, the people of Judea were left with a
series of Roman procurators who ranged from bad to worse. Jesus was crucified and rose again during the procuratorship of Pilate and he governed
in Judea until A.O. 36, when he was recalled.
Between the time of Pilate and the full-fledged outbreak of the war in
A.O. 66 there were nine Roman procurators who governed Judea and they
ranged from bad to worse. They were Marcellus (A.O. 36-38), Marullus (A.O.
38-41), Cuspius Fadus (A.O. 44--45), Tiberius Alexander (A.O. 45--48),
Cumanus (A.O. 48-52), Antoninus Felix (A.O. 52-60), Porcius Festus (A.O. 6062), Albinus (A.O. 62-64), and Gessius Fiorus (A.O. 64-66). Then Cestius Gallus the governor of Syria had to intervene and marched on Jerusalem in A.O.
66 and thus began the war.
Of the governors, only one could be described as morally honest and
that was Porcius Festus. Unfortunately, he came on the scene of action far
too late to affect the downward course of events. One was incompetent
(Cumanus) and the rest ranged from bad to terrible. Josephus evaluated
Felix, Albinus, and Gessius Rorus as being among the worst. One was removed before he could do too much damage (Marcellus).
Corporately the Roman procurators could fit the picture described in
this prophetic passage very well, but the text seems to focus specifically
upon one individual, especially in his punishment that is announced in the
poetry of Zech 11:17. If we look for an individual to fit this category, there is
only one who fits it and he was not a Roman procurator. He was the only
person to interrupt this line of incompetence. That individual was Herod
Agrippa I.
All of the procurators who are named as governing Judea above were
foreigners, that is, government officials who were sent to this post. Thus
they were not native shepherds. Like the Persian and Greek kings before
them, they do not qualify as shepherds who arose within the ranks of the
shepherd-rulers that came from Judea itself. This long line of foreigners was
interrupted by only one native ruler and that was Herod Agrippa I. He then
qualifies at best as a native and national shepherd.
He came in part from the line of the Hasmonean house of native rulers.
He was the grandson of Mariamne. Mariamne was the granddaughter of
Hyrcanus II who has been mentioned above. She was married to Herod the
Great, One of her two sons was Aristobulus and he was the father of Herod


William H. Shea

Agrippa I. He was born about 10 B.C. and was sent to Rome for education
and to keep him out of the local intrigues in Judea. When he returned from
Rome he lived for a time in Damascus and was given the job of being the
overseer of the markets in Tiberius. When he returned to Rome in A.O. 37 he
was promptly imprisoned by Tiberius for siding with Caligula as the successor to Tiberius. Tiberius, however, lived only six months more and when
he died, Caligula became emperor and liberated Agrippa from prison.
As a reward for being his supporter, Caligula appointed Agrippa to
various posts of rule in the east. He was first made ethnarch of Lysanias in
the northeast in A.O. 37. Then he was appointed to be ethnarch of Galilee
and Perea in A.O. 39. Finally, he was named to be ruler of Samaria and
Judea in A.O. 41 and he was given the title of "king" This is the title by
which he is referred to in Acts 12:1. With this final appointment, all of the
lands that had been under the control of Herod the Great were restored to
him. Once again there was a situation where a partially Jewish ruler ruled
over all of these lands, a final case in which there was this type of a king
from that line.
How well or poorly did Herod Agrippa I fulfill the requirements of that
office? It depends upon the point of view from which he is judged. From
the Jewish point of view he was an excellent ruler. He was observant of the
rules of Judaism, he participated in the rituals of the festivals and he also
offered sacrifices. He was so much aligned with them that on one occasion
the Pharisees referred to him as a "brother." If Agrippa is judged from the
standpoint of Greek people and culture he qualifies with good marks. In
Beirut he built a theater and an amphitheater and called for the commencement of the Greek games. He was generally supportive of Greek culture in non-Jewish territories.
How then did he do damage to the sheep, as is stated in Zech 11:16? It
was the Christian sheep that suffered under him. Acts 12 points out that he
had James the brother of John, a son of Zebedee, executed. He was the first
of the apostles to fall by the sword (12:1-2). He imprisoned Peter and intended to do the same thing to him. Only through angelic intervention did
Peter escape (12:3-11). These acts Agrippa carried out because they pleased
the Jews. When he found out that Peter had escaped he executed the soldiers who had been guarding him. Thus, while one could say that Agrippa
was fairly benign to the Greek and Jewish sheep, he was very malignant to
the Christian sheep. The Christian sheep at this time were, of course mainly
Jews, so there was a segment of the Jewish sheep that suffered at his hands.
The end of the life of Herod Agrippa I is told briefly in Acts 12:20-23
and the same events are recited by Josephus (Ant. 19.8.2). The two sources
agree on all major points about the event though each adds their own de-

Cedars and Shepherds in Zecliariah 11


tails to it. Agrippa had left Jerusalem where he had been at the time of the
Passover, when he put James to death and when he intended to do the
same to Peter. He returned to Caesarea on the coast where the Roman capital of Judea was located. On a certain day, probably late in the spring of the
year 44, a banquet was held. It was attended by, amongst others, delegates
from Tyre and Sidon. Josephus mentions that a point of friction had arisen
between them and Agrippa and they came to present their petition.
During the course of the banquet Agrippa arose in royal robes decorated with silver to give an oration. At the time of his oration the sun shone
down upon him, adding to the strong impression that his figure made. In
the course of his oration he was cheered, apparently by the Phoenicians
who thought that he was speaking with the voice of a god and not of a man.
The Jews present probably did not participate in this blasphemous salutation. At that time Agrippa was struck down by a sudden illness. He lived
for five days after the banquet and then died. Josephus does not describe
the nature of the affliction but he says that he was not expected to live at the
time he was struck down. He also says that Agrippa acknowledged that it
was a judgment from God for accepting the blasphemous acclamation.
Luke says that he died from "worms." The nature of those "worms" is not
Now we can compare this course of events with the prophetic poetic
judgment pronounced upon the worthless shepherd in Zech 11:17. First it
says that the sword would strike his right eye and his arm. Then it goes on
to tell how it would strike: he would be blind in his right eye and his arm
would wither, indicating that this is not a literal sword strike. The poem of
judgment in Zechariah does not say which arm was to be stricken but we
may guess that it was the right, in other words, he had a right hemiplegia. If
this diagnosis is correct then he had a stroke, a cerebral vascular accident.
How does this correspond with what Luke records in Acts 12:23? It depends upon what is meant by those "worms." It could be that what is
meant in this case is that when his arm and the right side of his face shriveled from the stroke that the cords of spastic flesh under his skin looked like
strings of "worms." Or it may be that he had an accompanying paralytic
ileus of his intestinal tract that was provoked by or accompanied by the
action of intestinal parasites.
In sum, there is one period in the long succession of incompetent Roman

procurators during which Judea and surrounding territories had their own
native ruler from the line of the Hasmonean house, and that was with the
brief reign of Herod Agrippa I from A.O. 41 to 44. It was a time of opportunity but it became a time of tragic loss, especially for the apostles of the
Lord. While on his final ego trip Agrippa was stricken with a disastrous
health accident that Luke attributed to a judgment from God and which,


William H. Shea

according to Josephus, Agrippa himself saw in the same light. Prophetically, Zechariah talks about the same occasion in an identical manner, that
is, as a judgment from God. There are some potential ways in which the
account of Zechariah and Luke may correspond, or Zechariah may be
speaking here with poetic hyperbole, as he does with the description of the
tearing of the flesh and the hooves of the sheep. Herod Agrippa I, the king
of Judea and adjacent lands, fits best as this final bad shepherd of Zech 11,
rather than the almost universally bad Roman procurators of the time.

11. Summary
The general outline of this prophetic narrative is clear. It goes from a series
of bad shepherds to a good shepherd and, with the rejection of the good
shepherd, back to one final bad shepherd. From an analysis of the details of
this narrative the following historical succession of rulers can be suggested
as fitting into the details of this broad outline of Zech 11:

Bad Shepherds-the Hasmonean Dynastic House

A. Betrayed by Friends into the hands of the King (Zech 11:6)

1. Judas-abandoned by his own troops into the hands of the Syrian king
2. Jonathan-tricked into leaving his troops behind at Ptolemais
B. Three Shepherds Destroyed in One Month (Zech 11:8)
3. Simon-murdered with his two sons at Jericho in Shebat of 134

C. "What is to die (naturally), let it die" (Zech 11:9a)

4. John Hyrcanus (134-104 B.C.)

5. Aristobulus (104-103 B.C.)
6. Alexander Jannaeus (103-75 B.c.)
D. "What is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed (Zech 11:9b)
The following Hasmoneans were murdered by Herod the Great
7. Antigonus (d. 37 B.c.)
8. Aristobulus III (d. 35 B.C.)
9. Alexandra
10. Hyrcanus II (d. 30 B.C.)
11. Mariamne, Herod's wife (d. 29 B.C.)
12. Aristobulus, Herod's son (d. 7 B.C.)
13. Alexander, Herod's son (d. 7 B.C.)

Cedars and Shepherds in Zechariah 11


II. The Good Shepherd Rejected (Zech 11:10-14)

A Jesus of Nazareth-betrayed by Judas Iscariot for 30 shekels of silver

Ill. The Final Bad Shepherd, struck down (Zech 11:15--17)

A. Herod Agrippa I (d. 44 B.c.)




It is a great honor to be involved in this tribute to Gerhard Pfandl. It is my

fervent wish that he will live long and prosper. He and I pursued our doctorates at Andrews in neighboring library carrels. In fact, some of the best
learning that took place in the course of the program occurred in casual
conversation between us. Gerhard is known for his passionate commitment
to Scripture as a guide to faithful living. This study explores an aspect of
Scripture's own inner interpretation.

1. Introduction
The issue of the NT use of the OT is a major one, affecting every single book
of the Bible. It also happens to be my professional specialty, as it pertains to
the book of Revelation. In this paper, therefore, I focus on the scholarly debate as it pertains to Revelation, and then ponder the implications of that
debate for the other books of the NT. I use a well-known passage in Matt 2
as a test case.
The NT use of the OT involves "intertextuality," the interplay between
written texts. The writers of the NT were conscious of the OT as they wrote.
It was, after all, their Bible. They often pointed readers to significant background texts to support and clarify points they were making. When I use
the term "intertextuality" I mean seeking to identify and understand the
biblical author's intention in the use of earlier literature.
Within the last ten years, however, the understanding of intertextuality
in biblical studies has expanded as NT scholars began to employ literary
critical strategies, categories, and understandings. The appropriateness of
this expansion has been the subject of an ongoing debate between two
friends of mine, Steve Moyise and G. K. Beale. After a brief review of the
broader field, specific attention needs to be given to that debate and its impl\cations for future study of the NT in general and Revelation in particular.

2. The Old T estarnent in Revelation

I know of no one who would argue that an understanding of the OT is irrelevant to an understanding of the Apocalypse. When reading the book


/on Paulien

one is plunged fully into the atmosphere of the OT. 1 No other book of the
NT is as saturated with the Old. 2 One cannot expect, therefore, to penetrate
the symbolism of Revelation, therefore, without careful attention to its OT
Revelation seems, on the other hand, to resist efforts to understand its
relationship to the OT. Rather than quoting or citing the OT, the book interacts with it in the most allusive manner. A word here and a phrase there,
the barest hint of an echo in another place, this is the substance of how
Revelation evokes the OT. And that is only the beginning of complications.
While there is general consensus that Revelation was written in Greek, 3
there is much dispute with regard to the language and text tradition of the
OT that John utilized. 4 The difficulty is compounded by the fact that there
are a number of striking irregularities in the Greek grammar of the Apocalypse. 5 So having granted the central place of the OT in the book of Revelation, it is still difficult to determine exactly how it is being used there.

To borrow language from Henri Stierlin, La verite sur L'Apocalypse (Paris:

Buchet/Chastel, 1972), 55.
Pierre Lestringant, Essai sur !'unite de la revelation biblique (Paris: "Je Sers," 1942), 148,
suggests that one-seventh of the substance of the Apocalypse is drawn from the words
of the OT.
David Tabachovitz, Die Sept11aginta und das Neue Testament (Skrifter Utgivna av
Svenska Institutet I Athen 8:4; Lund: Gleerup, 1956), 125-26; see further Raymond E.
Brown, The Gospel According to John (2 vols.; AB 29 and 29A; Garden City: Doubleday,
1966-1970), l:cxxix; Joseph A. Fitzmyer, A Wandering Aramean: Collected Aramaic Essays
(SBLMS 25; Missoula: Scholars Press, 1979), 6-8, 38--43.
Selected literature reflective of the debate: R. H. Charles, The Revelation of St. John (2
vols.; ICC; Edinburgh: Clark, 1920), l:lxvi; Ugo Vanni, "L' Apocalypse johannique. Etat
de la question," in L'Apocalypse johanniq11e et L'Apocalyptique dans le Nouveau Testament
(ed. J. Lambrecht; BETL 53; Gembloux: Leuven University Press, 1980), 31; Charles C.
Torrey, The Apocalypse of John (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1958), 27-48;
[Leonhard] P. Trudinger, "Some Observations Concerning the Text of the Old Testament in the Book of Revelation," /TS 17 (1966): 82-88; G. Mussies, The Morphology of
Kaine Greek as Used in the Apocalypse oflohn (NovTSup 27; Leiden: Brill, 1971), 10-11;
Adela Yarbro Collins, Crisis and Catharsis: The Power of the Apocalypse (Philadelphia:
Westminster, 1984), 47-49; Henry B. Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John (London:
MacMillian, 1906), cl, clv; Pierre Prigent, Apocalypse et liturgie (CahT 52; Neuchatel:
Delachaux et Niestle, 1964), 10; James A. Montgomery, "The Education of the Seer of
the Apocalypse," /BL 45 (1926): 73--74; D. Moody Smith, Jr., "The Use of the Old
Testament in the New, in The Use of the Old Testament in the New and Other Essays (ed. J.
M. Efird; Durham: Duke University Press, 1972), 61; A. Vanhoye, "L'utilisation du
livre d'Ezekiel dans l' Apocalypse," Bib 43 (1962): 436-76.
Note the following discussions on this issue: R. H. Charles, Studies in the Apocalypse
(Edinburgh: Clark, 1913), 79-102; Heinrich Kraft, "Zur Offenbarung des Johannes,"
TRu 38 (1973): 93; G. Mussies, "The Greek of the Book of Revelation," in L'Apocalypse
johannique et L'Apocalyptiq11e dans le Nouveau Testament (ed. J. Lambrecht; BETL 53;

New Testament Use of the Old Testament


While various aspects of the above have been addressed in scores of

books, articles and commentaries, a number of major specialized works
have addressed the larger picture. According to G. K. Beale, 6 the most significant of these works are those of Beale/ Jeffrey Marshall Vogelgesang, 6
Jon Paulien,9 Richard Bauckham, 10 Jan Fekkes, 11 and Jean-Pierre Ruiz. 12
These works all focused on John's intentions with regard to his use of the
OT. In spite of the allusive nature of the evidence, attempts were made to
catalog John's allusions to OT texts and consider the impact of such allusions on his purposes for the book. 13 Increasing attention was also given to
the criteria for determining when and where the author intentionally alluded to portions of the OT. These concerns seemed weighty enough and
problematic enough to engage teams of scholars for generations to come.
But, as has already been mentioned, the enterprise was further complicated
by the arrival of new literary approaches to the topic.
This new direction was signaled by the research of Devorah Dimant on
the use of the OT in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. 14 Her research led
her to the conclusion that these Jewish writers utilized the OT in two dis-





Gembloux: Leuven University Press, 1980), 167-70; idem, Morphology of Koine Greek, 6;
Tabachovitz, Septuaginta, 125-26; Torrey, Apocalypse, 13-58. Martin McNamara, for
example, points to the Aramaic Targums as the explanation for Rev 1:4 and many
other irregularities. Martin McNamara, The New Testament and the Palestinian Targum to
the Pentateuch (2d print. with suppl.; AnBib 27A; Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute,
1978), 109-17, 124-25, 189-90.
G. K. Beale, John's Use of the Old Testament in Revelation CTSNTSup 166; Sheffield:
Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 13-59.
G. K. Beale, The Use of Daniel in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature and in the Revelation of St.
John (Lanham: University Press of America, 1984).
Jeffrey Marshall Vogelgesang, "The Interpretation of Ezekiel in the Book of
Revelation" (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1985).
Jon Paulien, Decoding Revelation's Trumpets: Allusions and the Interpretation of Rev 8:7-12
(AUSDDS 11; Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1988).
Richard Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation (Edinburgh:
Clark, 1993).
Jan Fekkes, III, Isaiah and Prophetic Traditions in the Book of Revelation: Visionary
Antecedents and their Development CTSNTSup 93; Sheffield: JSOT, 1994).
Jean-Pierre Ruiz, Ezekiel in the Apocalypse: The Transformation of Prophetic Language in
Revelation 16,17-19,10 (EHS.T 23/376; Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 1989).
All of the specialized works address these issues to one degree or another.
Devorah Dimant, "Use and Interpretation of Mikra in the Apocrypha and
Pseudepigrapha," in Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation of the Hebrew
Bible in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity (ed. M. J. Mulder; Philadelphia: Fortress,
1988), 381-84. My attention was drawn to Dimant's work by the article of Louis
Painchaud, "Use of Scripture in Gnostic Literature," JECS 4, no. 2 (1996): 129-46, to
which I was pointed in conversation with Leonard Thompson.


/on Paulien

tinct ways that she categorizes as "compositional use" and "expositional

use." According to her, these two categories represent "fundamentally different attitudes to the biblical material," leading to correspondingly different literary genres and styles. 1s
Dimant defines "expositional use" as a literary strategy in which the OT
text is presented explicitly, with a clear external marker. 16 In expositional
use the biblical text is introduced in order to be the object of interpretation. 17
The aim of the writing is to explain the biblical text. This usually involves a
fixed terminology and special syntactical patterns, in order to separate the
biblical element from the author's exposition. Genres utilizing this category
include rabbinic midrash, Qumranic pesher, the commentaries on the Torah
by Philo and certain types of quotations in the NT. 18
"Compositional use," on the other hand, occurs when the biblical elements are interwoven into the work without external formal markers. 19 The
biblical element is subservient to the independent aim and structure of its
new context. Genres employing compositional use do not have the same
exegetical or rhetorical aims as exposition, but instead create a new and
independent text. The biblical material becomes part of the texture of these
works. Typical compositional genres include narratives, psalms, testaments,
and wisdom discourses, which incorporate biblical elements into their own
patterns, style and terminology.20
While Dimant does not mention the apocalyptic genre among the genres in which compositional use is employed, studies in Revelation clearly
demonstrate that John was utilizing the OT compositionally, rather than
expositionally. While a handful of scholars argue for anywhere from one to
eleven "quotations" of the OT in the book of Revelation,2 1 the overwhelm1s






Dimant, "Use and Interpretation," 382-83.

This would seem to correspond to what I call a citation, (see Paulien, Decoding, 102), of
which a number of instances can be seen in the Gospel of Matthew, for example. Some
have called these citations in Matthew "Formula Quotations." Cf. Merrill C. Tenney,
Interpreting Revelation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957), 102; Richard B. Hays and Joel
B. Green, "The Use of the Old Testament by New Testament Writers," in Hearing the
New Testament: Strategies for Interpretation (ed. J. B. Green; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1995), 226.
Dimant notes that similar distinctions have been made by Heinemann and Perrot, cf.
Dimant, "Use and Interpretation," 382, n. 16.
Ibid., 382-83.
This corresponds roughly to the categories of direct allusion and echo that I worked
with in my dissertation on Revelation (Paulien, Decoding, 175-78).
Dimant, "Use and Interpretation," 382-83.
See, for example, Robert G. Bratcher, ed., Old Testament Quotations in the New
Testament (London: United Bible Societies, 1967), 74-76; Johann Christian Carl Dopke,
Hermeneutik der neutestamentlichen Schriftsteller (Leipzig: Vogel, 1829), 288; David

New Testament Use of the Old Testament


ing majority of scholars conclude that there are none. 22 And there are certainly no explicit citations of the expositional type. 23 If Dimant's observations can be verified within the context of NT studies, therefore, they would
have large implications for our understanding of John's use of the OT. 24
Regardless of the degree to which other NT writers respect the context of
their OT antecedents,25 the author of Revelation may be signaling a generic
preference for creativity in his use of Scripture.

3. Recent Developments
While Dimant's distinctions and their potential significance do not seem to
have impacted studies of Revelation until now, the debate regarding John's
use of the OT in Revelation broke new ground with the published monograph by Steve Moyise in 1995. 26 Moyise provides the first serious attempt






McCalman Turpie, The New Testament View of the Old (London: Hodder & Stoughton,
1872), 323.
Selected examples: Kurt Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament (3d ed.; New York:
United Bible Societies, 1975), 903; Werner Foerster, "Bemerkungen zur Bildsprache
der Offenbarung Johannis," in Verborum Veritas: Festschrift fiir Gustav Stiihlin (ed. 0.
Bocher and K. Haacker; Wuppertal: Brockhaus, 1970), 225; Roger Nicole, "A Study of
the Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament with Reference to the Doctrine of
the Inspiration of the Scriptures" (M.S.T. Thesis, Gordon College of Theology and
Missions, 1940), passim; Ernest Leslie Peerman, Living Messages from Patmos (New
York: Pyramid, 1941), 51; Pierre Prigent, L'Apocalypse de Saint Jean (2d ed.; CNT 11/14;
Geneva: Labor et Fides, 1988), 368; Jurgen Roloff, Die Offenbarung des Johannes
(ZBK.NT 18; Zurich: Theologischer Verlag, 1984), 20; F. Stagg, "Interpreting the Book
of Revelation," RevExp 72 (1975): 333; Henry B. Swete, An Introduction to the Old
Testament in Greek (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1902), 392; R. V. G.
Tasker, The Old Testament in the New Testament (London: SCM, 1946), 168; Vanhoye,
"L'utilisation du livre d'Ezekiel," 436-37; Yarbro Collins, Crisis and Catharsis, 42.
The only "citation" of the OT occurs in Rev 15:3, the "song of Moses," which seems an
evident reference to Exod 15. But the content of the "song" in Rev 15:3-4 is a mosaic of
language from the Psalms and the prophets, not Exodus. There are, therefore, no
expositional citations of the OT in the book of Revelation.
Cf. the detailed evidence for Dimant's theory in Dimant, "Use and Interpretation,"
Beale offers a representative anthology of the literature on this topic with some bias in
favor of respect for context. G. K. B~ale, ed., The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts?
Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994).
Steve Moyise, The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation (JSNTSup 115; Sheffield:
Sheffield Academic Press, 1995). Beale chose to review Moyise in John's Use precisely
because Moyise was the first to apply post-modem herrneneutical perspectives to the
debates surrounding John's use of the OT. G. K. Beale, "Questions of Authorial Intent,
Epistemology, and Presuppositions and Their Bearing on the Study of the Old
Testament in the New: A Rejoinder to Steve Moyise," IBS 21 (1999): 152. I have not
included Beale's 1994 book (The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts?) because it is an


Jon Pau/ien

to apply the literary perspective of intertextuality to the use of the OT in

Revelation. 27 The literary perspective broadens the process of intertextuality
by a concern for the impact of the reader on the process of intertextual interpretation.
According to Moyise, "The task of intertextuality is to explore how the
source text continues to speak through the new work and how the new
work forces new meanings from the source text." 28 "By absorbing words
used in one context into a new context or configuration, a metaphorical relationship is established." 29 "The reader 'hears' the Old Testament text but
its meaning is affected by the new context or configuration." 30 When a




anthology of earlier works regarding the degree to which NT writers respected the
original context of the OT writers. That volume contains an excellent short summary
of Beale's perspective, published at greater length in his monograph of 1998 and his
commentary of 1999.
Literary approaches to the book of Revelation have been around for about fifteen
years, beginning with the work of David Barr in the mid-80s. Cf. David L. Barr, "The
Apocalypse as a Symbolic Transformation of the World: A Literary Analysis," Int 38
(1984): 39-50; idem, "The Apocalypse of John as Oral Enactment," Int 40 (1986): 24356; idem, Tales of the End: A Narrative Commentary on the Book of Revelation (Santa Rosa:
Polebridge, 1998); note also the work of Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Revelation: Vision
of a Just World (Proclamation Commentaries; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991), and Tina
Pippin, Death and Desire: The Rhetoric of Gender in the Apocalypse of John (Louisville:
Westminster, 1992). Barr argued for a more oral and narrative approach to the book in
contrast to its critical analysis as a historical document. In doing so he helped open the
field to literary and social approaches to the book. In 1990, under the auspices of the
Society of Biblical Literature, he guided the establishment of the "Literary Criticism
and the Apocalypse Consultation," which was replaced after two years by the
"Reading the Apocalypse Seminar." The two groups were largely made up of
younger scholars eager to move the debate forward. The purpose of the seminar was
to explore the "intersection between literary and social readings of the Apocalypse." I
sense that Barr was hoping to avoid the quagmires of both pre-critical and critical
readings of the Apocalypse and develop some consensus among those advocating
more contemporary approaches to the book. As the years went by, however, I sensed
his increasing frustration (confirmed privately) as the fifteen to twenty members of the
group seemed to fragment in a variety of directions; literary, structuralist, feminist,
rhetorical, theological, liturgical, and so on. A book was published, illustrating the
variety of readings: David L. Barr, ed., Reading the Book of Revelation: A Resource for
Students (SBLRBS 44; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003). With regard to the
issue that has exercised Beale and Moyise, the group seemed to divide almost 50/50
between those who preferred to retain an interest in the original author's intention,
and those who are primarily interested in how contemporary readers respond to the
book. The work of the group did not cover the area of intertextuality, however, so I
have not chosen to highlight its literary critical work in this article.
Moyise, The Old Testament, 111.
Ibid., 110.
Ibid., 110-11.

New Testament Use of the Old Testament


reader of Revelation is not conscious of an allusion, that reader will naturally read connotations into the text that were not present in the OT context.
But when the reader becomes aware of the allusion, a "cave of resonant
signification" 31 is opened up that affects the reading of that part of Revelation.32
Moyise then compares the use of the OT in Revelation with Thomas
Greene's four "forms of imitation." 33 Based on this research he argues that
John deliberately leaves his use of OT allusions open-ended. He invites the
reader to engage in thought and analysis of his text (Rev 13:8; 17:9). Thus,
there may be no gap between the author's intention for Revelation and the
process of reader response to the cave of resonant signification. 34
Moyise' approach was quickly called into question by G. K. Beale in the
most comprehensive single work ever written on the subject of allusions to
the OT in Revelation. 35 The main purpose of the book seems to be an extension of the thesis that drove Beale's 1994 anthology. 36 Beale argues that John
uses the OT with sensitivity to its original context. The OT is not just the
servant of the gospel, as Barnabas Lindars has expressed it, but is also a
guide. In other words, NT writers did not simply impose their understanding on the OT text; it also became a source of their understanding of the
events they had experienced.
Beale develops the analogy of a basket of fruit to express his viewpoint.
He argues that while an apple in a basket of fruit has been removed from its
original context, it has not lost its identity as an apple. It has simply been
placed in a new context. So when NT writers quote the Old they are placing
such texts in a new context and giving them new significance within that
new context, but they are not altering what the original writer meant.37

31 Quoted from John Hollander, The Figure of Echo: A Mode of Allusion in Milton and After
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981), 65.

32 Moyise, The Old Testament, 118.





Ibid., 118--32. Based on Thomas M. Greene, The Light in Troy: Imitation and Discovery in
Renaissance Poetry (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), 16-53. 1Greene's four
categories are reproductive, eclectic, heuristic, and dialectic. Moyise concludes that
there is nothing in Revelation that could fairly be described as reproductive, and little
that fits the eclectic category (Moyise, The Old Testament, 120-23). The heuristic and
dialectic categories seem worthy of exploration with regard to Revelation (ibid., 12332).
Ibid., 133-34.
G. K. Beale, John's Use of the Old Testament in Revelation.
Beale, ed., The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? The book John's Use of the Old
Testament in Revelation is an expansion of the ideas laid out in Beale's chapter of the
anthology: "The Use of the Old Testament in Revelation," 257-76.
Beale, John's Use, 51-52.


Jon Paulien

While others have articulated such a viewpoint with respect to the NT as a

whole, 38 no one else has articulated it in such detail with regard to Revelation.39 Beale considers his position in serious disagreement with Moyise. 4o
In a short response article Moyise expressed puzzlement regarding this
disagreement. 41 He felt that Beale's distinction between meaning and significance is a hermeneutical cover-up. 42 He went ahead to articulate a threefold difference between his position and that of Beale. (1) They differ over
whether or not NT writers give OT texts new meanings; Moyise believes
they do. (2) They differ over whether or not NT authors take OT texts out of
context; Moyise believes they do. (3) Beale insists that meaning derives
solely from an author's intention; Moyise believes that meaning also derives from the creative processes of readers. 43
Moyise prefers the analogy of a fruit salad to Beale's fruit basket. In a
fruit salad there are no more shiny apples, but pieces of apple mixed with
other fruits and covered with syrup. While the connection remains between
the apple on the tree and the apple in the fruit salad, one is more struck
with the differences between the two forms of apple than one is in the fruit
basket analogy.44
Moyise seems to believe that he has been unfairly characterized as a
radical reader-response critic who believes that a text can mean whatever a
reader wants it to mean. 45 He argues instead that readers are not free to
make a text mean whatever they like, but in order to arrive at a coherent
interpretation, readers must make choices regarding what constitutes evidence and how it should be construed. He feels that the differences between himself and Beale demonstrate that there is no consensus on how to
38 In his anthology (The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts?) Beale includes articles




favoring respect for context by C. H. Dodd, I. Howard Marshall, Beale himself, and
David Seccombe.
I have benefited from the brief summary in Kenneth Newport, review of Gregory K.
Beale, John's Use of the Old Testament in Rroelation, Rroiew of Biblical Literature
[] (22 May 2000).
Beale, John's Use, 50-59.
Steve Moyise, "The Old Testament in the New: A Reply to Greg Beale," /BS 21 (1999):
Ibid., 55.
Ibid., 54.
Ibid., 55-56. As Moyise himself acknowledges, both analogies break down as attempts
to explain what is happening in the interpretation of texts. Regardless of how it is
interpreted, the original text remains intact. Once removed from a tree, however, an
apple can never be replaced. The tree is fundamentally changed by the
"interpretation" whether it is a fruit basket, a fruit salad, or applesauce that results!
He expresses some doubt that such radical reader-response critics actually exist (ibid.,

New Testament Use of the Old Testament


make such choices. More often people such as Beale interpret according to
their own presuppositions and presume that they have attained the author's intention. 46
A few months later Beale responded to Moyise with a vigorous and
lengthy defense of his position on authorial intention and respect for context.47 He argued that the debate is fundamentally about epistemology,
which would require specific book-length treatments. 48 He sought to summarize the parameters of such a lengthy treatment in his 29-page article.
Beale clarified that his approach is based on the work of E. D. Hirsch, K. J.
Vanhoozer and N. T. Wright. 49 He argues that while no interpretation ever
reproduces an author's original meaning in full, adequate understanding is
possible. 50 While understanding can never be fully certain, it is not impossible either. 51 Beale insists on maintaining Hirsch's distinction between meaning and significance. 52 He considers it critical that good interpretation be
judged by the degree to which it conforms to essential elements of the author's original meaning.s3
I sense a certain amount of frustration in Beale's response article. He believes that Moyise' own statements rank him with the more radical readerresponse critics that can make a text mean whatever they like. 54 For Beale
this is an unnecessary abandonment of "commonsense," which implies that
the probability of one interpretation being superior to another consists in
the degree to which there are fundamental correspondences between that
interpretation and its source text. 55
With regard to respect for context, Beale lays out a number of arguments against Moyise' position. (1) In a number of instances it can be demonstrated that NT writers did interpret an OT text in harmony with its


Ibid., 57-58.

47 G. K. Beale, "Questions of Authorial Intent," 152-80.


Ibid., 153, 173.

49 E. D. Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967); K. J.






Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text? The Bible, The Reader, and the Moralihj of
Literary Knowledge (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998); N. T. Wright, The New Testament
and the People of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God l; Minneapolis:
Fortress, 1992), passim.
Beale, "Questions of Authorial Intent," 155.
Beale takes up Wright's analogy of the historian (ibid., 161). Historians do not record
events fully as they actually happened. Neither are they unable to record anything
that happened. Wright calls this "critical realism."
Ibid., 155-59.
Ibid., 159.
Ibid., 162-63, 173-74.
Ibid., 164-66, 175-78.


/on Paulien

original intention. (2) Twenty years of detailed research have led Beale to
the conclusion that John generally and consistently uses the OT with significant recognition of its context. (3) When NT writers do shift from the
exegetical meaning, they often do so using presuppositions that are rooted
already in the OT itself. (4) Allegory, as a method, is not found in the NT;
therefore its writers were not haphazard in their methodology.s 6 He notes
that Moyise has done little exegesis of Revelation in the public arena and
implies that the burden of proof is on him to show that the results of Beale's
textual observations are incorrect.s7
Beale also challenges Moyise to show that his rejection of authorial intention is not tied to a rejection of a faith-based perspective on the claims of Ultimately texts need to be approached from a "hermeneutic of
love" that avoids the twisting of another author's perspective to serve one's
own selfish ends or to caricature the other's position to enhance one's
own.s9 A "loving" approach to Scripture would be to take seriously its
claim on a comprehensive world-view in which both Old and New Testaments are the product of a single, divine, authorial purpose. 60
We gain some insight into Moyise' response to the above from an even
more recent article. 61 He has also responded to me personally by email. 62
Moyise believes confusion has arisen because "intertextuality" has become
a generic label for a lot of different practices in NT scholarship regarding
the use of the OT. 63 Instead of its technical meaning in the world of literature, it has become an umbrella term, requiring the use of sub-categories in
order to be rightly understood. 64
Moyise offers three such sub-categories in the article. The first he calls
"intertextual echo." Grounded in the work of Richard Hays, 6s this approach
demonstrates that a particular allusion or echo can be more important to
the meaning of a text than its minor role in the wording might indicate. 66





Ibid., 167-70.
Ibid., 166.
Ibid., 171-72.
Ibid., 178--79.
Ibid., 165.
Steve Moyise, "Intertextuality and the Study of the Old Testament in the New
Testament," in The Old Testament in the New Testament: Essays in Honour of]. L. North
(ed. S. Moyise; JSNTSup 189; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 14-41.
Friday, August 4, 2000.
Moyise, "Intertextuality," 16.
Ibid., 17.
Richard Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1987).
Moyise, "Intertextuality," 17.

New Testament Use of the Old Testament


The second category he proposes is "dialogical intertextuality." In this category the interaction between text and subtext operates in both directions. 67
The third proposed category is "postmodern intertextuality." Postmodern
intertextuality seeks to demonstrate that the process of tracing the interactions between texts is inherently unstable. While meaning can result from
interpretation, it only happens when some portions of the evidence are
privileged and other portions are ignored. 68 While Beale would appear to be
comfortable with the first two categories, 69 it is the third that troubles him.
Beale's great fear, according to Moyise, is the suggestion that readers "create" meaning. 70
Moyise attempts to bridge the gap by elaborating "postmodern intertextuality" in the light of John 4:16-20. 71 He is aware that many will ask the
question, "What possible benefit is it to show that all interpretations are
inherently flawed?" 72 He offers three answers to the question. (1) Postmodern intertextuality is not saying that meaning, in the sense of communication, is impossible, but that it always comes at a price. Interpretation is not
arbitrary, but the openness of texts like John 4:16-20 allow for interpretational choice. (2) In showing that a text can point to a number of directions
one reveals something about the potentiality of the text. There is more than
one valid reading possible. All serious readings tell us something about the
text as it really is. This is different from making a text mean whatever one
likes. (3) Since it is clearly impossible for any one individual to perfectly
grasp the meaning of a text, particularly a text like Revelation, it seems to
Moyise inescapable that postmodern intertextuality must be true "to some
degree" (emphasis his).
Moyise concludes with a fresh analogy, this time from the world of music. Every performance of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony will be different.
Regardless of the extent of the differences, however, there will be no doubt
that one is listening to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and not his Sixth. The
differences are real and worthy of study, since they affect one's enjoyment
of the performance, but they should not be used to suggest that one can
know nothing about the symphony! Likewise, postmodern intertextuality




Ibid., 17-18.
After all, for him the OT is both servant and guide to the writers of the NT. Among
many occurrences of this expression in Beale, note John's Use, 127, in context.
Moyise, "Intertextuality," 31.
Whether one blames the Samaritan woman for exploiting the six men in her life or the
men for exploiting her depends on the standpoint from which one views the text. The
text itself is silent on the matter, invoking the reader's involvement.
Moyise, "Intertextuality," 37-40.


Jon Paulien

can contribute a great deal to our understanding of text without eliminating

all meaning or understanding. 73
In an email, Moyise suggests four points of difference between himself
and Beale. (1) He is attempting to describe the product that John has produced; Beale seeks to describe the author's intention for that product. (2)
Moyise sees himself in the middle between Beale, who sees John as a serious exegete of the OT, and Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, who sees John
"using scripture as a language arsenal for rhetorical purposes." 74 (3) Beale
believes that John's four "presuppositional lenses" produce a true meaning
for the text; Moyise sees those various lenses providing the basis for multiple readings of the text, none having preference over the others. (4) Moyise
sees himself as seeking to describe texts as dynamic entities, interacting
with each other; he believes that Beale is describing "a static reality, how
things are." Moyise allows for the possibility that these differences might
reflect differences in personality, Beale has more of an either/or approach
(my words) to textual options by nature and Moyise has a natural preference for a both/and approach (again my words).75

4. Mal~ing Sense of the Debate

It is difficult to say how much the discussion between Beale and Moyise is
semantic or real.76 In some ways it seems to be a replay of the epistemological debate framed by Hirsch on the one hand and Martin Heidegger and
Jacques Derrida on the other.77 Beale and Moyise are each defending against





Ibid., 40. entire paragraph is drawn from the email of Steve Moyise to Jon Paulien on
August 4, 2000. I use quotations when I reproduce Moyise' exact wording.
I had the privilege of introducing Moyise and Beale to each other in person at the
Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Denver (November, 2001). My
somewhat risky move (they had only known each other through the reading of
scholarly literature up until that point) of inviting both to lunch on the same day was
rewarded with deeper understanding all around. While wary of each other at first
both conceded afterward that the differences between them might not be as great as
they had thought. For me it was a first-hand experience in how an author's intention
is best ascertained in personal conversation. The experience has led me to be a bit
more humble about my own conclusions regarding ancient texts. While we can
"converse" to some degree with biblical authors through the Holy Spirit, that
experience is a bit more indirect and subjective than a rousing debate over spaghetti!
At the root of the debate seems to be the "meaning of meaning." Beale defines
meaning as the intention of the author. Moyise defines meaning as communication.
E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Validity in Interpretation; idem, The Aims of Interpretation (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1976); Martin Heidegger, Poetnj, Language, Thought (trans.
A. Hofstadter; New York: Harper & Row, 1971); Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology
(trans. G. C. Spivak; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976); idem, Writing

New Testament Use of the Old Testament


perceived extremes of the other which they believe, if left unchecked,

would undermine their own contribution to scholarship. Each, to some degree, seems to be reacting to a caricature of the other's position. Beale fears
the rebirth of allegory, which he would understand as the indiscriminate
"creation of meaning" when interpreting texts. Moyise also fears allegory,
which he would understand as the indiscriminate bias of interpreters who
pick and choose textual evidence that fits their presuppositional lens and
then declare that their resulting generalizations reflect the author's intention.
Beale is afraid that in approaching texts without the goal of attaining the
author's intention, interpreters will be mired in a sea of subjectivity where
any interpretation of the text will be of equal validity. Moyise, on the other
hand, is concerned that we pay serious attention to literary critics who caution against arbitrary and totalizing interpretations that draw their authority from overconfidence in having attained the author's authoritative
intention. Could it be that this is one of those times when both sides are
right, at least in part? Read separately, one can easily get the impression
that the issue between them is life and death. Read together, one wonders
at times if it is much ado about nothing. While both seem to agree that the
nature of the issue is difficult to grasp, my impression is that each is right in
what he affirms, but wrong in what he denies.
Does anyone, even Beale, seriously argue that indisputable and complete access to an author's intention can be achieved, even by the author?
Does anyone, including Beale, seriously argue that NT writers were doing
academic exegesis when they "respected the context" of OT antecedents?
On the other hand, does anyone, including Moyise, seriously think that all
interpretations are equally valid (that the seven seals could be seriously
interpreted as aquatic animals, for example)?78 Do any literary critics seriously apply such an extreme view of reader response to their students' papers? Are life and death issues really at stake here?
When the debate is approached from a positive direction rather than a
"hermeneutic of suspicion" Beale and Moyise don't seem so far apart. My


and Difference (trans. A. Bass; London: Routledge & Paul, 1978). For a general
introduction to the complexities of Derrida's thought see Jonathan Culler, On
Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism after Structuralism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press,
1982). On the relationship between Heidegger and Derrida see Herman Rapaport,
Heidegger and Derrida: Reflections on Time and History (Lincoln: University of Nebraska
Press, 1992). On the tension between the thought of Hirsch and Derrida see Kevin J.
Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text?
For this pointed illustration I am indebted to Leonard Thompson, "Mooring the
Revelation in the Mediterranean" (paper presented at the annual meeting of the SBL,
San Francisco, 23 Nov. 1992).


Jon Paulien

sense is that if Moyise were to write a commentary, it would not differ

hugely from Beale's. The differences between them may be more on points
of emphasis than a serious divide. It seems to me that the real division between Beale and Moyise arises from another place. While Hirsch's defense
of authorial intention makes a lot of sense to me, I'm not sure he would
agree with the specific use that Beale has made of his work in relation to
Revelation. Let me explain.
If by "meaning" we are speaking of an author's intention, how can NT
writers be said to respect the original meaning and intention of Jeremiah as
a human author, for example? They are clearly not "exegeting" Jeremiah in
the sense that we would do so today. New Testament writers had an immediate and pragmatic purpose in their use of the Old, rather than a scientific, descriptive and exegetical one. When they studied the OT, they were
not driven by the need to understand the human intentions of an Ezekiel or
a Jeremiah, but by the desire to be more effective in communicating the
gospel as they understood it.79 At the same time, they were not reckless in
their reading, as Beale has pointed out. They were operating under consistent principles and assumptions that were not radically different from those
of similar groups in the Jewish environment of the Roman world.
I believe that Beale is right when he says that the NT writers respect the
larger context of OT writings provided we acknowledge two qualifications.
(1) They were reading OT writers in terms of the total context of "Scripture"
as they perceived it, not primarily in terms of an individual writer's intention for a specific time and place. (2) They were reading the OT from the
perspective of where they understood themselves to be in the context of a
divine plan for history. Given the belief that Jesus of Nazareth was the fulfillment of a divine plan announced in the context of Scripture as a whole,
the NT writings are a reasonable and contextual reflection on that whole, as
C.H. Dodd among others has pointed out. 80 New Testament writers were
offering an interpretation of the OT that they believed the OT writers would
have given had they been alive to encounter Jesus.
Here is where I think the disconnect is based. For Beale the "author's intention" is not limited to the perspective of the individual OT author, but
includes the divine superintendence and authorship of Scripture as a
whole. So his approach to the NT use of the Old is normative, comprehensive and global. For Moyise, on the other hand, the concept of "author's
intention" is limited to what a human writer intended at a specific tum of


Norman R. Ericson, "The NT Use of the OT: A Kerygmatic Approach," JETS 30 (1987):
C. H. Dodd, According to the Scriptures (London: Nisbet, 1952). I have wondered at
times whether Moyise discounts this "christocentric" principle in the NT too much.

New Testament Use of the Old Testament


events in history. His approach to the OT text, therefore, is descriptive, immediate and local. Given these differing definitions it is not surprising that
Beale and Moyise would disagree on whether or not NT writers respected
the context of the Old.
Beale seems to imply, therefore, that the divide between him and Moyise is grounded in a different faith perspective. 81 He accepts the idea of divine superintendence in Scripture, Moyise (by implication) does not. I do
not think this assumption is accurate. In my own contacts with Moyise I
have found him to be a man of vibrant faith. Most faith-based scholars
would agree that there is a human element in the Scriptures and that this
human element is an important aspect of the Scriptural message. A believer
in the divine superintendence of Scripture can also be interested in the human writer's intention, without denying the more global insights of a Dodd
or a Beale. I believe that what we are dealing with, then, is more a matter of
semantics than a real divide.
I must admit that I am naturally attracted to Hirsch's position, and
therefore, that of Beale. It seems to me that all genuine human knowledge is
a reflection of past experience. Our own personal experiences are expanded
by the experiences of others, which we can gather through conversation,
observation and reading. The collective wisdom of the human race comes
to us in books and other media. For us to truly learn from reading it is imperative that we go beyond our own impressions of the text and ascertain
something of the understanding and intention of the author. The experiences of others will be worthless to me unless they are, to some degree, understood and appreciated. The human race progresses from generation to
generation as the learning, experience, and values of earlier generations are
accurately passed on. An understanding and appreciation of authorial intention, therefore, seems to me a critical part of this process.
That there is a strong element of common sense in the previous paragraph is underscored for me by the very debate we are summarizing here.
Moyise is just as eager as Beale to understand the intention of the other and
also to be understood. He expresses frustration at Beale's lack of comprehension of what he is trying to express. He also is concerned about the misuse of the term "intertextuality" within NT scholarship. 82 "Reader
response" as a literary approach is very compelling in the abstract, but
when one's own work is at stake at a practical level, one's intentions as an
author resist open-ended interpretation as if by reflex.



Beale, "Authorial Intent," 165, 171-72.

Moyise, "Intertextuality," 15-17.


Jon Paulien

Having said this, I have come to appreciate that we cannot live as

though Derrida (or Moyise) had never existed. 83 Far too often authoritative
appropriations of Scripture or other significant texts are based not on careful exegesis but on presupposition-laden "reader responses," treated as
accurate reflections of the text's intent. The ground of such readings has
often been the drive for power and control more than faithfulness to the
authoritative text. Calling attention to such abuse of texts is a valuable contribution to human experience. By increasing our awareness of human limitations to understanding, and of the effect that readers have on texts,
literary critics have instilled a greater degree of humility into the process of
interpretation. While I find Beale's fears understandable, Moyise' brief
scholarly contributions to the exegesis of Revelation thus far have been insightful and not far different from the kind of work Beale has done. Leaming to profit from the experiences of others, therefore, not only requires us
to seek authorial intention but also to learn the limits of our ability to learn.
The ultimate goal, authentic existence, can be enhanced by both attention to
authorial purpose and attention to reader limitations. 84
I would conclude that Beale and Moyise have brought to the topic two
sides of a necessary dichotomy. Both a hermeneutic of suspicion and a
hermeneutic of retrieval85 are needed and provide a necessary balance for
interpretation. While a given interpreter may prefer to spend more time on
one side or the other of the dichotomy, awareness of both sides is valuable
to developing understanding. We all want to be understood and to make a
contribution to the human endeavor. We all want our ideas and intentions
to be heard and taken seriously. At the same time we must acknowledge
that authorial intention will always remain a goal of interpretation. We will
not fully arrive; seeking authorial intention will always be a process (cf. 1
Cor 13:9-12).




Kirsten Nielsen, "Shepherd, Lamb, and Blood: Imagery in the Old Testament-Use and
Reuse," ST 46 (1992): 126.
Kirsten Nielsen offers a fascinating observation that mediates the divide in a unique
way for the study of Revelation. She argues that in a book like Revelation, where
allusion is central to the imagery, the concepts of authorial intention and reader
response come together. In other words, whenever we are dealing with allusion, we
are dealing with an author that is also a reader (ibid., 126--27). The author of an
allusive text begins as reader of an earlier text. For Nielsen, then, "we cannot proclaim
the death of the author without proclaiming the death of the reader, because every
author is a reader as well. And conversely, if we claim the existence of the reader, we
must accept the author as well" (ibid., 127).
I was intrigued by this pair of phrases in a listserve reply to David Barr by Ian Paul at on 24 Aug. 2000. Paul stated there that the language was based
on the work of Paul Ricoeur.

New Testament Use of the Old Testament


5. Matthew 2: 12-15: A Case Study

My colleague at Andrews University, Richard Davidson, has at times in the
past expressed the concern that I give too much credence to the human
element in Scripture. I have been known to say that NT writers rarely use
the OT in an exegetical way. Davidson, on the other hand, prefers to say NT
writers use the OT in harmony with its context. It is not surprising, therefore, that students have sometimes felt our views were diametrically opposed. As with Beale and Moyise above, I do not believe that this is the
I would like to illustrate how the above debate affects Adventist interpretation by taking a fresh look at the text most widely cited by NT scholars
on the Moyise side of the debate, Matthew's use of Hosea in Matt 2:14-15.
There it tells us that Joseph got up during the night and took the baby Jesus
and His mother to Egypt in order to avoid the threat of Herod. Matthew
concludes, "And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the
prophet: 'Out of Egypt I called my son."' The phrase, "Out of Egypt I called
my son," is clearly a quotation from Hos 11:1. Matthew seems to clearly
imply a prophetic purpose in Hosea 11. But a look at that verse in its immediate context suggests that it is not a direct prophecy about Jesus.
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.
But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught
Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it
was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with
ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.
(Hos 11:1-4)
Is Matt 2:14-15 an exegesis of the immediate intention of Hosea (my definition of exegesis86 )? I don't think so. Hosea 11:1-4 is not a prophecy of the
Messiah, it is a summary description of the Exodus using an analogy based
on the parenting of a small child. The image is similar to the narrative of
Matthew 2, but it seems a stretch for anyone to say Hosea was discussing a
future Messianic figure in this passage.
Is Matthew's use of Hosea inappropriate, therefore, and completely out
of context? No. While Matthew is not doing exegesis of Hosea in the narrow sense of focusing on the human intention of a writer in the immediate
situation, he is working appropriately from a broader, more theological
perspective. In other words, Matthew's use of Hosea sees the passage (11:1-


Jon Paulien, The Deep T/1ings of God: An Insider's Guide to the Book of Revelation
(Hagerstown: Review & Herald, 2004), 65--{)7.


Jon Paulien

4) in the light of the entire theological context of the OT. This will become
plain as we look further into Hosea 11.
Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent? Swords will flash in their cities, will destroy
the bars of their gates and put an end to their plans. My people are determined to tum from me. Even if they call to the Most High, he will by
no means exalt them. (Hos 11:5-7)
Notice in the above passage that Hosea has switched from the past tense of
vv. 1-4 to a future focus. If the people continue to turn away from Yahweh,
enemies will come to destroy their cities and kill the people. So Hosea 11 is
not merely a summary of the Exodus experience, the captivity in Egypt is
mentioned as a model for the return to captivity that will occur if Hosea's
message is not heeded. But like the first captivity in Egypt, this second captivity will not last forever.
"How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My
heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not
carry out my fierce anger, nor will I tum and devastate Ephraim. For I
am God, and not man-the Holy One among you. I will not come in
wrath. They will follow the LORD; he will roar like a lion. When he
roars, his children will come trembling from the west. They will come
trembling like birds from Egypt, like doves from Assyria. I will settle
them in their homes," declares the LORD. (Hos 11:8--11)
Hosea 11:1-4 is one of the many places in the OT prophets where the Exodus experience is recalled. 87 The Exodus, God's mighty act at the founding
of the nation, becomes the model for His next mighty act, the exile to Babylon and the subsequent return. While Israel has failed God He retains his
passion for them, like a loving husband for a wayward wife (2:8--15) and
like a parent for a wayward child (11:1-11). He will bring them back from
far away places, just as He once brought them out from Egypt.
But the spectacular New Exodus predicted by the prophets never happened. The actual return bore few direct resemblances to the Exodus. A
handful of exiles returns to a broken-down city with a pitiful new temple
that evokes only disappointment (Hag 2:1-4). God nevertheless assures
them that the fulfillment has occurred, and that an even greater fulfillment
lies ahead (Hag 2:5-9). This greater fulfillment is what Matthew is inviting


I cover the Exodus theme in the prophets in some detail in my book Meet God Again for
the First Time (Hagerstown: Review & Herald, 2003), 45--54. See a broader, less specific
treahnent in Jon Paulien, What the Bible Says about the End-Time (Hagerstown: Review
& Herald, 1994), 55--64.

New Testament Use of the Old Testament


the reader to embrace when he quotes the text, "Out of Egypt I called my
Son" (Matt 2:15).
For Matthew, Jesus is the New Moses who brings a New Israel out of
spiritual Egypt to the promised Kingdom of Heaven. Like Moses, Jesus experiences an attempt on His life as an infant (Exod 1:15-2:10; Matt 2:16-18the immediate context after the comment about bringing God's Son out of
Egypt). Interestingly enough, in both cases it was a hostile king and not just
a random mugger. In each case the child was seen in some way as a threat
to the throne. In each case, many babies were destroyed in order to destroy
that one, and the one who was targeted escapes. The two stories are remarkably parallel and the only stories quite like that in the entire Bible.
Moses fasted for forty days and then gave the law on a mountain (Exod
24:18; 34:28). Jesus fasted for forty days in the wilderness and then He went
up on a mountain and gave the law of His new kingdom, the Sermon on
the Mount (Matt 4 and 5). Both Moses and Jesus were glorified on a mountain (Exod 34:29-35; Matt 17:1-8). In the OT, the writings of Moses are collected into five books and in Matthew-it's easy to see if you have one of
those red-letter editions-Jesus' sayings are collected into five sermons
(Matt 5-7, 10, 13, 18 and 24-25). This is not the case in Luke, many of the
same sayings are scattered all through the book there. But, in Matthew,
they're grouped into five distinct messages. For Matthew, Jesus is clearly a
new Moses who reveals the ways of God as Moses did.
For Matthew, however, Jesus is not merely a New Moses, in His person
He is also a New Israel. Jesus is Mary's firstborn son, for she was a virgin
before this (Matt 1:18-25: In the Exodus story Israel as a people is described
as God's firstborn, Exod 4:22-23). Like Israel Jesus is brought up out of
Egypt in order that the prophecy might be fulfilled, "Out of Egypt I called
my Son" (Hos 11:1). Jesus passes through the waters of baptism just as Israel passed through the waters of the Red Sea (Exod 14:10-31; Matt 3:1317). And just as Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness, Israel spent forty
years in the wilderness (Num 14:33-34; Matt 4:1-2). In the original experience, the law was given on a mountain (Exod 19)-Jesus does the same in
Matt 5-7. And He feeds 5,000 in the desert, just as Moses gave Israel manna
in the desert. Matthew is using the language of the past-the mighty act of
God in the Exodus-to set the tone for God's mighty actions in Jesus Christ.
So Jesus is the new Israel as well as the new Moses. He lives the experience of OT Israel all over again. He is faithful to God where Israel was unfaithful. Jesus also reaps the consequences of Israel's failure. Deuteronomy
28 offers a long list of the consequences if Israel as a nation disobeys God.
Interestingly, most of the bad things that happened to Israel are found in
the experience of Jesus as well.


/on Paulien

Deuteronomy 28 predicted that a disobedient Israel would be stripped

of its wealth and forced to live in poverty (Deut 28:15-20). Matthew 8:20
tells us that Jesus had nowhere to lay His head. He was a homeless wanderer through much of His ministry. The cursed ones of Deuteronomy 28
were to be "smitten before your enemies" (v. 25), this certainly took place
on the cross. Among the other curses of Deuteronomy 28 were darkness
(Matt 27:45), being mocked (Mark 14:19, 31), hunger (Matt 4:2), thirst Gohn
19:28), and nakedness (Matt 27:35). With the exception of hunger, all of
these were fulfilled in Jesus experience at the time of the cross.
The climax of the curses in Deut 28 is found in vv. 65-67. It is to suffer
with an anxious mind and a despairing heart. In the middle of the night the
Israelites would be groaning and saying, "Oh, I wish it were morning," and
in the middle of the day they would be saying, "Oh, I wish I could go to
bed," life is just not worth living anymore. Did Jesus ever experience an
anxious mind and a despairing heart? I believe He did, at a place called
Gethsemane. So we see powerful connections between the curses of the
covenant and the experience of Jesus. Jesus not only relives the life of Israel
and redeems it, He also takes up the curses of Israel and experiences them.
So when Matthew calls on Hos 11:1 as a prophecy of an event in Jesus'
life as an infant he is not treating Hos 11:1 as a direct prophecy. Instead he
is using Hos 11:1 as a pointer to the whole OT pattern of seeing the Exodus
as a model for God's future saving activity. Time after time in the OT
prophets the Exodus becomes the model for what God will do in Babylon
and beyond. So when Hosea recalls the Exodus in the context of a prediction of future exile and return, Matthew is not out of line to see echos of
Jesus' experience in the language of Hosea.
Hosea himself may not have understood the full significance of what he
wrote. But subsequent history and the guiding hand of God opened up the
deeper meaning of Hosea's language. Hosea's words, "Out of Egypt I called
my Son," provided an excellent pointer to a theological reading of the Exodus in the OT.BB Matthew consistently applies that Exodus motif to the experience of Jesus. While not an exegetical use in the way I have defined it, it
is a use of Scripture in the theological sense, an exercise in biblical theology. s9
There is one final dimension in this Matthew text I'd like to note. Hosea
refers to Israel as God's son (Hos 11:1), an individualization of the concept
of Israel as a nation. This designation is not original with Hosea. As we


As mentioned earlier, the NT scholar who first noticed how NT writers use OT
wording as pointers to the larger context was C. H. Dodd, According to the Scriptures;
see also idem, The Old Testament in the New (London: Athlone, 1952).
Jon Paulien, Deep Things, 64-71.

New Testament Use of the Old Testament


noted in passing above, God referred to Israel as His "first-born son" already in Exodus 4:22-23. Embedded deep within the Pentateuch is the Hebraic tendency to corporate thinking. The entire nation can be represented
by a single individual and the individual can stand for the whole. 90 This
paves the way for the NT, which sees in the person of Jesus one who represents the entire people of God, including OT Israel. 91 His life relives the experiences of the nation (Matt 2:14-15 is a marvelous example of this). His
death reaps the consequences of the whole nation's failure (Luke 9:31; 1 Cor
5:7; Gal 3:6-14). 92
So when Hosea depicts God saying, "Out of Egypt I called my son," he
is individualizing the whole nation in a way natural to the theology of the
entire OT, beginning with the Pentateuch. While Matt 2:14-15 is not an exegetical reading of Hosea 11 in the narrow sense, it is a natural extension of
the theological purpose of the Exodus motif throughout the OT. The wording of Hosea becomes a pointer to that entire context. Matthew has properly
understood the inspired trend of the Law and the Prophets.93

6. Conclusion
In conclusion I would like to reaffirm that both Beale and Moyise are right

with regard to the NT use of the OT. Beale is correct that, in a broad theo-





I am indebted to Jii'i Moskala for the following list of helpful resources on the subject
of corporate thinking. The concept hit the scholarly scene with a lecture by H. Wheeler
Robinson published in Werden und Wesen des Allen Testaments (ed. P. Volz, F.
Stummer, and J. Hempel; BZAW 66; Berlin: Topelmann, 1936); reprinted with an
introduction by Gene M. Tucker as Corporate Personality in Ancient Israel (Philadelphia:
Fortress, 1980). While Robinson's thesis was based on some questionable
socio/psychological assumptions, most scholars continue to see the concept of
"corporate representation" as having validity with reference to the biblical materials.
The following represent various sides of the ongoing debate. J. W. Rogerson,
"Corporate Personality," ABO 1:1156--57; Philip Kaufman, "The One and the Many:
Corporate Personality," Worship 42 (1968): 546--58; Cuthbert Lattey, "Vicarious
Solidarity in the Old Testament," VT 1 (1951): 267-74; J. R. Porter, "Legal Aspects of
'Corporate Personality' in the Old Testament," VT 15 (1965): 361~0; Stanley E. Porter,
"Two Myths: Corporate Personality and Language/Mentality Determinism," SJT 43
(1990): 289-99.
For a detailed outline of the NT application of OT history to Jesus see my book Meet
God Again for the First Time, 55-75.
For an excellent but challenging outline of this corporate understanding of Jesus and
Israel see N. T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992).
Although I came to this understanding of Matt 2:14-15 on my own and don't agree
with everything Walter C. Kaiser says on this subject, I am indebted in a couple of
places to Kaiser's book, The Uses of the Old Testament in the New (Chicago: Moody,
1985), 47-53.


Jon Paulien

logical sense, Matthew and Revelation use the OT with sensitivity to its
overall inspired context. Moyise is also correct that NT writers do not use
the OT in the sense of the human author's original setting and explicit intention.
Through their debate Beale and Moyise have highlighted the two great
dangers of intertextual study. On the one hand is the tendency to assume
that all NT use of the OT is fast and loose, raising doubts about the integrity
of the NT writers. On the other hand is the tendency to claim an exegetical
precision in such use that doesn't hold up to careful scrutiny. While the
latter position may seem to be faithful to a high view of Scripture, it too
raises doubts in the minds of those who can't buy the overstatement.
A balanced view of intertextuality allows both the human and the divine authors of Scripture to assume their proper roles. It invites careful and
prayerful study. It respects the integrity of Scripture, including its human
elements, while inviting obedience to the divine intention of the Word. A
balanced view of intertextuality also allows that many passages of Scripture
will not be fully understood until we reach the heavenly kingdom. It is content to rejoice in what we know, while acknowledging with Paul, "We
know in part,[ ... ] we see through a glass darkly" (1Cor13:9, 12).



1. Introduction
While writing about the marriage vow, Elizabeth Achtemeier states:
I will be with you, no matter what happens to us and between us. If you
should become blind tomorrow, I will be there. If you achieve no success
and attain no status in our society, I will be there. When we argue and
are angry, as we inevitably will, I will work to bring us together. When
we seem totally at odds and neither of us is having needs fulfilled, I will
persist in trying to understand and in trying to restore our relationship.
When our marriage seems utterly sterile and going nowhere at all, I will
believe that it can work and I will want it to work and I will do my part
to make it work. And when all is wonderful and we are happy, I will rejoice over our life together, and continue to strive to keep our relationship growing and strong. 1
When husband and wife make such a commitment, it is oftentimes called a
marriage covenant. In the OT marriage is regarded as a covenant (Mal 2:14).
Furthermore, the covenant that God made with his people is compared to a
marriage relationship. God is the husband; the people are his wife (Ezek

Unfortunately, people today have such a poor idea of a covenant that

they oftentimes believe a covenant is something they can just walk away
from. But this is not true and it is not the intention of a covenant. A covenant is a lasting agreement between two parties. Certainly, God's people in
OT times broke the covenant that God had made with them, but the Lord
would not desert them, although they had to suffer the consequences of
their unfaithfulness. He would not give up his covenant. He would not become unfaithful. God remained committed.
One of the important topics in Hebrews is the concept of the covenant.
In this case it has nothing to do with a marriage relationship between two
humans, but a relationship between God and his people. The apostle knows
that the old covenant was not an end in itself. He knows that a new covenant had been predicted. He also informs us that his new covenant has
been inaugurated and is administered by Jesus Christ.
Elizabeth Achtemeier, The Committed Marriage (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976), 41.


Ekkehardt Muller

In this paper we will take a look at covenants mentioned in the OT, a

typical covenant form, and covenant promises. Then we will move on to the
issue of the covenant in the Letter to the Hebrews and will discuss the new

2. Covenants in the OT and in Hebrews

2 .1. Different OT Covenants
A number of covenants are mentioned in the OT. 2 In Gen 6:18 the word n'"'P
"covenant" is found for the first time.
God's judgment would come in the form of a world-wide flood. Yet God
had still committed himself to the world he had created. He had not forsaken those who had not forsaken him. So God, in fulfilling his divine
purpose, made a covenant as an expression of his relationship with
Noah[ ... ] The divine, redemptive purpose of the covenant relationship
that had been in operation since the fall (Gen 3:15) is here renewed by
God taking the initiative. 3
In Gen 9:11-13 we find the Noachic covenant after the flood. A little later
we encounter the Abrahamic covenant. Obviously, different stages were
involved with this covenant. In Gen 12:1-3 we already encounter several
covenant blessings. The covenant is ratified in Gen 15:18. A further discussion on the covenant is found in Gen 17. Obviously, the previously made
covenant was reinforced more than a decade later. Several blessings are
mentioned. Abram and Sarai received new names, and circumcision as a
covenant sign was introduced.
Exodus 19:5 and 24:7-8 throw light on the Sinaitic covenant. This covenant was established after Israel had been saved from slavery in Egypt. Salvation precedes covenant-making. Both are God's gracious acts, in which
he takes the initiative. Humans cannot and do not propose to God to establish a covenant. And God does not gain much by making a covenant with
us. He showers his blessings upon us, and we-in response-are obedient
to his commandments. But if we were not obedient, would this lessen his
power and glory? Certainly not! We are the beneficiaries of a covenant that
he establishes with us.
Psalm 89:3-4 reminds us of the Davidic covenant also found in 1 Sam 7.
The most important aspect of this covenant is the promise of the Davidic
King and seed, a blessing that was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ. This
promise lines up with the other seed promises starting with Gen 3:15 and
Cf. Craig R. Koester, Hebrews (AB 36; New York: Doubleday, 2001), 384.
Gerhard F. Hase!, Covenant in Blood (Mountain View: Pacific Press, 1982), 19.

Jesus and the Covenant in Hebrews


found again with Abraham (Gen 12:7), Isaac (Gen 18:19), and Jacob (Gen

Finally, a new covenant was promised in Jer 31:31-34. This covenant

was not established during OT times. The fulfillment of this covenant
promise happened only during NT times. This is the starting point for
Paul's deliberations on the covenant as found in Heb 8, 9, and lOa. Hebrews
quotes Jeremiah's promise of the new covenant and shows what the implications are. Although the "first covenant" is mentioned (Heb 9:15), the focus of Hebrews is clearly on the new covenant and the mediator of this new
covenant, Jesus Christ. The old and the new covenants are compared and
the new covenant is called the better covenant (Heb 7:22; 8:6).

2.2. Covenant Forms

In the Ancient Near East covenants played an important role. They describe

the relationship either between a superior power and a subordinate people

or between equals. Hittite covenants between superiors and inferiors normally contain the following elements:
1. Preamble introducing the sovereign. 2. The historical prologue describing previous relations between the contracting parties. 3. The stipulations which outline the nature of the community formed by the
covenant treaty. 4. The document clause providing the preservation and
regular rereading of the treaty. 5. The lists of gods who witnessed the
treaty. 6. The curse and blessings, or blessing formula-curses depending upon infidelity and blessing upon fidelity to the treaty. 4
A ratification ceremony made the covenant binding. Oftentimes the sacrifice of an animal was involved. 5
Biblical covenants are oftentimes similar to the covenant form just described. We find, for instance, blessings and curses (Exod 23:20-33; Lev 26;
Deut 28). Yet, we must allow the Bible to speak for itself and avoid pressing
it in preconceived molds. Therefore, similarities and differences between
covenants must be recognized. The main point is not a certain form in
which a covenant is cast but the relationship between God and his people.
The divine-human covenants mentioned above are clearly covenants between a superior power and inferiors. A covenant between equals is mentioned in Gen 31:43--44.
Hase!, Covenant, 18. Cf. George E. Mendenhall and Gary A. Herion, "Covenant," ABO
It has been suggested that the animal represented the vassal with whom the treaty
was made. He would experience the fate of the animal, namely death, if he decided to
violate the covenant. Cf. ABO 1:1182. The NT, and especially Hebrews, understands
Jesus and not the covenant partners as the sacrifice.


Ekkehardt Muller

2.3. Covenant Promises

An important element is the covenant promises. In Abraham's case they
included the promise of God's constant presence, the messianic promise as
a blessing for all peoples of the earth, and the promise of the land and of a
great nation. The Mosaic or Sinaitic covenant was an enlargement of the
earlier covenants and was addressed to the entire people of Israel. Only
after having saved the Israelites from Egypt, did God graciously offer them
his covenant and promised then to make Israel his treasured possession, a
kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.

2.4. The Covenant in Hebrews

In Hebrews the term 51a8~K'l "covenant" is mentioned seventeen times.
The word is found 33 times in the NT. However, there is no NT book which
comes even close to Hebrews with regard to the frequency of usage of the
term. 6 In the Gospels, three out of four times the covenant is connected to
the blood of Jesus in the context of the Lord's Supper (Matt 26:28; Mark
14:24; Luke 22:20). 7 The idea that sacrifice and covenant belong together
contained in these verses will be discussed extensively in Heb 9-10. A
number of times OT covenants are mentioned in the NT, sometimes without direct reference to the new covenant (Luke 1:72; Acts 3:25; 7:8; Rom 9:4;
Eph 2:12). In 2 Cor 3 new and old covenants occur in close proximity (2 Cor
3:6, 14). There is some discussion among scholars whether the unique expression "old covenant" in 2 Cor 3:14 refers to the Mosaic covenant, especially the Law, 8 or to OT Scriptures. 9 In Galatians a man's covenant (Gal
3:15), the covenant with Abraham (Gal 3:17) and two contrasting covenants
(Gal 4:24) are mentioned. The issue is the role of the law in salvation, and
the covenants are discussed from that perspective. The outlook of Hebrews
is different. "Hebrews emphasizes covenant in relationship to the sanctuary, its services, and the promises connected to those services rather than in
relationship to legalism versus grace as two ways of salvation." 10


Galatians with three references comes next. Carey C. Newman, "Covenant, New
Covenant," DLNT, 248, states: "No NT document so extensively reflects upon the new
covenant as does Hebrews."
A parallel statement is found in 1 Cor 11:25.
Cf. Ben Witherington, Conflict and CommunihJ in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary
on 1 and 2 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 379.
Cf. Jan Lambrecht, Second Corinthians (SP 8; Collegeville: Liturgical, 1999), 53.
George R. Knight, Exploring Hebrews: A Devotional Commentary (Hagerstown: Review
& Herald, 2003), 142.

Jesus and the Covenant in Hebrews


The covenant is first mentioned explicitly, but in passing, in Heb 7:22.

The term is found most frequently in Heb 8-10. 11 We should mention that
the covenant concept is not limited to the term "covenant." It can be discussed without the specific word being used. For instance, in Heb 6:13-14
covenant blessings made to Abraham are mentioned. The same is true for
Heb 11:8-9, 12, 17, where Abraham responds by faith to the covenant promises. However, our discussion of the covenant in Hebrews will focus on the
term "covenant" and particularly on the new covenant.
The climax of the Letter to the Hebrews is reached with chs. 8-lOa.
While Heb 8 stresses the importance of the new covenant which allows Jesus to be high priest and which surpasses the old covenant, for instance,
through the internalization of the law in the heart of the believers, Heb 9
contrasts the old tabernacle and its service with the heavenly sanctuary and
Jesus' sacrifice. It is the sacrifice of Jesus only that can atone for sins. This
sacrifice is unique, unrepeatable, and sufficient. Although introduced in
Heb 9, it is the central theme of Heb lOa. Complete forgiveness of sins is
now possible. Since different themes such as covenant, priesthood, and sacrifice are joined together in Hebrews, the theological concept of the new
covenant found especially in Heb 8 is not limited to this chapter.
In Heb 8 the longest OT quotation in the NT occurs (8:8-12), 12 and a
brief comment on the covenant is made. The crucial text dealing with the
new covenant, Jer 31:31-34, is quoted in Hebrews only, although allusions
are found, for instance, in Rom 2:15 and 11:27. Furthermore, "only here in
the entire New Testament do we find the language of 'first' and 'second' in
relation to the old and new covenants." 13
Why is the concept of the covenant introduced in Hebrews? The first
seven chapters of Hebrews are dealing with the priesthood of Jesus. Chapters 8-10 tell us about the accomplishments of Jesus. However, the author
has to show that Jesus is the legitimate priest and high priest, although he is
not a descendant of Levi. Therefore, in Heb 7 he points to the priesthood of
Melchizedek and the prediction of a priest-king according to the order of
Melchizedek as found in Ps 110. In Heb 8 he adds another argument. He
quotes the biblical promise of a new covenant which requires a new priesthood and a better sanctuary and claims that the new priesthood has come
in the person of Jesus and the better sanctuary is the heavenly sanctuary.
"The two themes indeed belong together: Christ's high priestly ministry is



That is 14 times.
Cf. Victor C. Pfitzner, Hebrews (ANTC; Nashville: Abingdon, 1997), 120.
Donald A. Hagner, Encountering the Book of Hebrews (Encountering Biblical Studies
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 113.


Ekkehardt Muller

the heart of the new covenant (8:6)." 14 The term "covenant" occurs five
times in Heb 8. 15
In Heb 9:4 we hear about the ark of the covenant and the tables of the
covenant, namely the Ten Commandments. Jesus is called mediator of the
new covenant (9:15). In the same verse there is also a reference to the old
covenant. According to Heb 8:6, Jesus was already the mediator of a better
covenant, but while in Heb 8 the concepts of covenant and priesthood are
related, in Heb 9 a new dimension is added, namely the covenant and the
sacrifice (e.g., 9:12-14, 18). 16 The better covenant requires a better sacrifice,
which in turn will allow for a better priesthood. In Heb 9:20 we find a quotation from Exod 24:8. This quotation connects blood-and thus sacrificeto the covenant, which is not found in Jer 31. 17 In developing a larger picture of the covenant, Paul had to introduce this quotation. Now clearly
blood and covenant are linked. This is further underlined in ch. 10. In Heb
lO:lfr.17 another quotation is found. Whereas the quotation of Jer 31:31-34
in Heb 8 opens the main discussion on the covenant in Hebrews, the quotation of Jer 31:33-34 in Heb lO:lfr.17 concludes it.
In the practical application section of Heb 10 the apostle briefly mentions the blood of the covenant. The mediator of the new covenant occurs in
Heb 12:24 and the blood of the eternal covenant in Heb 13:20. 18

3. The Old Covenant and the New Covenant

In Hebrews, the Mosaic covenant is called the first covenant. It has grown
old. A sharp contrast is portrayed between this old covenant and the new,
better, and eternal covenant (8:6, 13; 9:15; 13:20). However, in no place does
the apostle say that the old covenant was bad or detrimental. The old covenant was inadequate. 19 Therefore, it needed to be replaced. But the author





Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993),
Hebrews 8:6, 8, 9 (2x), 10. Four of the five references are part of the OT quotation.
However, the covenant is implied in other places. Must translations add the word
"covenant" in v. 13, although the Greek uses only the adjective "new."
The seven references to "covenant" in Heb 9 are 9:4 (2x), 15 (2x), 16, 17, 20.
Ellingworth, Hebrews, 413, notes: "The Jeremiah passage is insufficient in itself to bear
the weight of the author's rmderstanding of the death of Christ. It speaks only of the
newness of the second covenant, and of its nature and purpose. Two other elements,
complementary to one another, must be supplied from other scriptures, namely
violent death (blood) as the physical substance of the sacrifice, and submission to
God's will as its inner significance."
For a short summary of the covenant in Hebrews see ibid., 413.
Cf. Pfitzner, Hebrews, 120; Knight, Exploring Hebrews, 144. On page 147 Knight states:
"In the long run the problem was not in God's everlasting covenant, but in the people

Jesus and the Covenant in Hebrews


does not regard it with contempt. An outline of Heb 8 by Gourges supports

these observations:20
A. Christ, the ministering priest (8:1-5)

1. A new ministry (8:1-2)

2. which is set in opposition to the old (8:3--5)
B. Christ, the mediator of the new covenant (8:6--13)

1. The new ministry is associated with a better covenant (8:6)

2. which is set in opposition to the old (8:7-13)

Some scholars suggest that the problem was not so much with the old
covenant, but-according to the text-with Israel, who did not keep it. 21
Koester, however, argues that it was both: The people failed, and the old
covenant with the Levitical priesthood and its sacrificial system was inadequate. 22
The old covenant and the new covenant are similar and at the same time
dissimilar. 23 We detect elements of continuity and discontinuity between
them. What is similar between the divine covenants?
(1) The partners in both covenants are the same: God and his respective
(2) In each case, God takes the initiative by establishing the covenant.
"The covenant can thus be regarded as God's gracious gift." 24 The covenants are also "lawfully instituted." 25
(3) All covenants rest on the saving activity of God. He saves his people
before he enters into a covenant with them. Therefore, it cannot rightfully






(Heb 8:8). As Hebrews noted in chs. 3 and 4, they stepped out of a faith relationship
with God and concluded that He couldn't lead them into the Promised-land rest (see
3:7-19; 4:2, 6, 11; 8:9).''
Quoted in William L. Lane, Hebrews 1-8 (WBC 47A; Dallas: Word, 1991), 204.
For example, Hagner, Hebrews, 113-4; Frederick F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews
(NICNT; rev. ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 190; David A. DeSilva, Perseverance
in Gratitude: A Social-Rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle "to the Hebrews" (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 284-85.
Cf. Koester, Hebrews, 385, 389. Consequently, he rejects the idea that the new covenant
"might be considered a 'renewal' of the old covenant rather than its replacement." The
reason he states is that "the covenants differ fundamentally in their ability to deal with
sin" (ibid., 390). However, the sacrificial system of the OT pointed already to the real
sacrifice, Jesus Christ. Cf. Lane, Hebrews 1-8, 209.
Cf. Koester, Hebrews, 390-91. See also Michael G. Hase!, "Old and New: Continuity
and Discontinuity in God's Everlasting Covenant," Ministry 79, no. 3 (March 2007):
lS-21, 23.
Barnabas Lindars, The Theology of the Letter to the Hebrews (New Testament Theology;
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 80.
Koester, Hebrews, 390.


Ekkehardt Muller

be claimed that the OT covenants were based on justification by works and

salvation by means of the law, while the new covenant rests on salvation by
grace. All divine covenants are preceded by grace and God's intervention
bringing about salvation for his people apart from the law.
(4) Although salvation by the means of the law was never an option under any of the covenants, they nevertheless maintain that the saved have to
keep God's law as a response to the gift of salvation and the covenantal
relationship between God and them. "Just as the Mosaic covenant was
predicated upon God's saving action on behalf of Israel (Exod 20:2), the
new covenant is predicated upon the death and exaltation of Christ." 26
(5) In both the old and the new covenants "it is blood, shed by the sacrificial victim and applied by the priest, that works forgiveness." 27
(6) Furthermore, all covenants contain promises of blessings and certain
duties, namely obedience to God's will, as just mentioned. This has nothing
to do with legalism.
(7) The presence of God amidst his people is the goal of the covenants.
This is emphasized in Heb ~2:22-24, when the author states that his audience has "come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and
church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of
all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than
the blood of Abel." This passage seems to talk about a present reality "under the new covenant, where fear is replaced with festivity." 28 It may also
have a future dimension, especially in light of Heb 12:28 and 13:14. 29
Gane has suggested that "the main differences between the covenant
phases are in terms of emphasis" 30 and that "the 'new covenant' builds on
the earlier covenant phases, but it does not supersede them in terms of introducing a different way of salvation." 31
The new covenant is different from the old covenant and better than the
former, because (1) a new priesthood, (2) a better and once for all sacrifice,
(3) a better sanctuary, and (4) a new worship service or liturgy are provided. (5) Whereas the Sinaitic covenant was made with a nation, the new




Ibid., 391.
Pfitzner, Hebrews, 135.
Ibid., 184.
Cf. ibid., 186--87.
Roy Gane, "The Role of God's Moral Law, Including Sabbath, in the 'New Covenant'"
(unpublished paper, Andrews University, 2003), 3. This paper is made available by
the Biblical Research Institute (
Ibid., 5.

Jesus and the Covenant in Hebrews


covenant is universal. (6) With the new covenant there is total forgiveness
and assurance. (7) The law is internalized, and therefore the response of the
new covenant community is different from that of the OT. (8) The new
covenant is permanent. (9) It has been ratified with the blood of Jesus, who
is the center of this covenant. (10) The new covenant offers real hope and
real salvation. "The new covenant rests squarely on the finished work of
Christ, who is the mediator of that covenant (v. 6)." 32 As already mentioned,
the quotation from Jer 31 is found twice in Hebrews, a longer version in
Heb 8:8--12 and a shorter in Heb 10:16--17. Like a parenthesis these quotations encompass Hebrews' center part and set the tone. The contrast between the two covenants as portrayed in Hebrews has been aptly described
by Newman. 33 He continues by saying:
Hebrew's valuation of the new covenant over the old was not a calculated anti-Jewish polemic [... ] but a natural consequence of the new
covenant's eschatological character. The old covenant, tied to this "present age" (Heb 9:9), was seen as "growing old" and "passing away"
(Heb 8:13); the new covenant excels because it is founded on "better
promises" (Heb 8:6), those of resurrection life. The resulting contrast is
not between something evil (old covenant/Judaism) and something good
(new covenant/Christianity) but between something good (old covenant)
and something better (new covenant). This is a very Jewish way of reasoning known as Qal wahomer, the argument from the lesser to the
greater: if the old covenant was good, then how much better will the
new be?[ ... ] The elaborate analogies between the earthly and heavenly
elements of the old and the new covenants work to show similarity,
while the strategic citations of Jeremiah 31 demonstrate that a new day
in salvation history has dawned. 34
We summarize: The main section of the Epistle to the Hebrews comprises
Heb 8--10. Whereas Heb 8 proves the legitimacy of Jesus' priesthood by
pointing to the new covenant and presenting covenant blessings, Heb 9 and
lOa focus on one aspect, the forgiveness of sins and therefore point to the
sacrifice of Jesus. In this context the term "blood" is crucial. When it comes
to the old and the new covenants, we found continuity and discontinuity.
Some scholars stress one more than the other. We would suggest that the
former covenants contained major elements of the new covenant and were
pointing to this new covenant. From that perspective the new covenant was
a logical extension of the earlier ones. 35 What is unique about the new is the


Hagner, Hebrews, 115-16.

Cf. Newman, "Covenant," 248.
Ibid., 248-49.
Knight, Exploring Hebrews, 148, writes: "As a result, the heart of the covenant for both
Israel and the Christian church is the same. Yet there is also a sense in which God's


Ekkehardt Muller

Christ event which-although foreshadowed-surpassed and still surpasses all other institutions and persons.

4. The New Covenant and Related Concepts

4.1. The New Covenant and Sacrifice,
Priesthood, and Sanctuary
In the context of the Abrahamic covenant a sacrifice was already mentioned

(Gen 15). After God had saved Israel from Egypt he offered them his covenant, and they responded: "All that the LORD has spoken we will do!"
(Exod 19:8; 24:7). He explained the promises and gave his law, which they
were obliged to keep. Sacrifices were offered, and the covenant was ratified
by blood (Exod 24:8). The covenant laws included the establishment of the
sanctuary, the installation of the priesthood, and the formal institution of
the sacrificial system (Exod 25-31). In Exod 34:27 God refers back to the
covenant with Moses and Israel. Thus, covenant, sacrifices, priesthood, and
sanctuary belong together. A new covenant requires also a renewal or replacement of these elements: sacrifice, priesthood, and sanctuary (Heb 9:1115).

4.2. Covenant and Testament

In Heb 9:16--17 a number of translations use the terms "testament" or "will"
instead of "covenant." Why does the apostle in Heb 9:16--17 suddenly
switch to "testament," only to return to "covenant" later (9:20)? In Greek
the word for "covenant" or "testament/will" is the same. The author's basic
argument seems to be that as death is required to set a testament/covenant
in force, so the death of Jesus was necessary for the new covenant to be established. The quotation from Exod 24:8 emphasizes the blood of the covenant.

4.3. The Eschatological Nature of the New Covenant

In the NT, and especially in Paul's writings, we find the concept of the "already/not-yet" -for example, we are already, yet not finally saved (Eph
everlasting covenant is 'not like' the covenant that He made with the Siniatic [sic]
generation (Heb. 8:9). The core of that difference had to do with the Levitical system,
which could make nothing perfect (7:11, 19) and was passing away (8:13)." And Bruce,
Hebrews, 190, states: "The new covenant was a new one in that it could impart this
new heart. It was not new in regard to its own substance [... ]But while the 'formula'
of the covenant remains the same from age to age, it is capable of being filled with
fresh meaning to a point where it can be described as a new covenant."

Jesus and the Covenant in Hebrews


2:~; Rom 8:23). Hebrews contains the same concept. According to Heb 6:4,
Christians "have [already] been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit." However, according to Heb 12:28, they will receive an unshakable kingdom.

This concept seems also to apply to the new covenant giving it an eschatological dimension. The Jeremiah passage quoted in Heb 8:8-12 contains elements that may be subject to the already/not yet tension.
God promises, "I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Heb
8:10), but he will also judge his people (Heb 10:30). While they are his here
and now, they will finally be his after the judgment process. It has already
been pointed out that the coming of the new covenant-community to Mt.
Zion in Heb 12:22-24 describes the presence of God as a present and future
reality. Mt. Zion seems to be a synonym for the terms "the city of the living
God," "the heavenly Jerusalem," and may describe the heavenly assembly
and the invisible church including the Godhead. In the context of an "approving judgment,'' a festal gathering of angels and the people of God takes
place in the immediate presence of the divine judge. Thanks to Jesus, believers are portrayed as having already come to that city of God. "The new
covenant people [... ] [have] already arrived at the gates of the heavenly
Jerusalem and [... ] are only waiting for the revelation of the 'unshakable
kingdom' (v 28) they are about to receive." 36
Another divine statement promises knowledge of God: "They shall not
teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, 'Know
the LORD,' for all will know me, from the least to the greatest of them" (Heb
8:11). DeSilva notes:
In one sense, of course, the author does urge the believers to teach one
another. Hebrews 5:11-14 explicitly exhorts the believers to teach one
another, to continue to reinforce for one another the worldview and
ethos of the Christian culture, and the author calls for mutual exhortation throughout the sermon (e.g., 3:12-13; 10:25).37
Furthermore, Hebrews states that believers may "be carried away by varied
and strange teachings" (Heb 13:9). On the other hand, DeSilva holds:
In the experience of the Holy Spirit, the recipient comes to have direct
and intimate knowledge of God [... ] The members of the Christian
community already enjoy this knowledge of God through the distribution of the Holy Spirit, and they have no need to "teach" one another


William L. Lane, Hebrews 9-13 (WBC 47B; Dallas: Word, 1991), 466, 470.


DeSilva, Hebrews, 286.


Ekkehardt Muller

(their fellow citizens with regard to the city of God; 11:10, 16; 13:13-14)
on this level. 38
We would suggest that this knowledge among the members of the covenant community is also related to the present and future function of the
covenant. Believers already know the Lord, but yet there is much more to
be known.
Finally, Heb 8:12 addresses the issue of sin and mentions that God "will
remember their sins no more." As shown above, forgiveness of sins is the
issue the author is concentrating upon. He elaborates on it in Heb 9 and
lOa, repeating Heb 8:12 almost literally in Heb 10:17. Jesus has become the
sacrifice (9:14) and the mediator of the new covenant. His "death has taken
place for the redemption of the transgressions" so that "those who are
called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance" (9:15), a future
blessing. In the context of the covenant Heb 9:24-28 connects the sanctuary
to the sacrifice of Christ, his ministry in heaven, and his second coming. (1)
1hrough his sacrifice sin is put away (9:26, 28). (2) In heaven he "appear[s]
in the presence of God for us" (9:24). (3) Death and judgment are mentioned
in Heb 9:27, followed by salvation which comes to full fruition at Jesus' second coming only (9:28). Christ's second coming will bring salvation "to
those who eagerly await him" (9:28). In addition, it is probably only after
the judgment that God can "forget" our sins which he has already forgiven.
These different covenant promises make it clear that the new covenant
has an eschatological dimension. Believers enjoy its blessings here and now.
Full realization of most covenant blessings is still future.

4.4. The New Covenant and the Law

What about the law in the setting of the new covenant? On one hand, the
apostle stresses the necessity of a change of the law (Heb 7:12), namely the
Mosaic law, which was only a shadow of the things to come (Heb 10:1,
28). 39 That specific system of law was fulfilled in Jesus and done away with
after his death. The many sacrifices offered year after year were not able to
make perfect those who offered them, but the sacrifice of Jesus is allsufficient. On the other hand, in the old covenant as well as in the new
covenant another particular law is included and is valid. Under the new


The term EVTOA~ is found four times in Hebrews and seems to refer to the Mosaic law:
7:5, 10, 18; 9:19. The term v6o~ occurs fourteen times in the epistle: 7:5, 12, 16, 19, 28
(2x); 8:4, 10; 9:19, 22; 10:1, 8, 16, 28. Quite frequently it also points to the Mosaic law.
However, the central part of the letter contains two references to the law being written
in the hearts of the believers.


Jesus and the Covenant in Hebrews

covenant the law is now written on the hearts, is thus internalized, and is
not abolished (Heb 8:10).
Hasel suggests: "The giving of the law is as much an act of grace as
God's gift of election. The giving of the law is as much an act of mercy as
the deliverance from Egyptian slavery. The gift of the law is just as much an
act of God's love as the making of the covenant to which the law belongs
[... ] God does not speak of a new law, but of a new covenant." 40 Pfitzner
talks about believers doing "the will of God not by external compulsion,
but from a willingness that arises from the heart." 41 He mentions inner obedience and states: "That he has done God's will in offering himself makes it
possible for the people of the new covenant to do God's will (10:7, 9, 16)."42
ln Hebrews we find evidence for the existence of a law which is still
valid: (1) The reality of sin requires a law which can judge what is sin and
what is not sin (8:12; 12:1). (2) The author repeatedly mentions a good conscience. To have a good conscience is dependent on the existence of some
kind of standard or yardstick. This is not only an inner feeling but an external law. It is possible to have a good conscience, when an existing law is
being obeyed (9:9, 14; 10:2; 13:18). (3) Disobedience (3:18; 4:6, 11) and obedience (5:9) as well as doing God's will (10:7; 13:21) presuppose the existence
of a law that should be kept. (4) Since lawlessness is criticized (10:17), God
wants his law to be observed.

This is generally recognized. "Placing his 'laws' within people, God

overcomes human 'lawlessness" (10:17; cf. 1:9) by bringing about complete
trust in and obedience to his will." 43 "The quality of newness intrinsic to the
new covenant consists in the new manner of presenting God's law and not
in newness of content. The people of God will be inwardly established in
the law and knowledge of the Lord." 44 Finally DeSilva observes that Heb

clearly resonates with his interest throughout the sermon in the believers' living so as to "please" God and to avoid what he hates (12:16-17,
28; 13:15-16, 21), fixing their hearts on God and his favor in loyal trust
(3:12-13; 13:9), obeying God's commands to them (4:11), and living out
the love of neighbor that is at the heart of God's law (6:9-12; 10:24-25,
32-36; 12:14; 13:1-3).45


Hase!, Covenant, 77, 106.


Pfitzner, Hebrews, 139.


Ibid., 140.
Koester, Hebrews, 391.



Lane, Hebrews 1-8, 209.


DeSilva, Hebrews, 285.



Ekkehardt Muller


This law cannot be the Mosaic law, since the author indicated that it was
just a shadow and was insufficient. However, the author of Hebrews recognizes that the saved will keep God's law and he alludes to commands
that are still valid. It seems that he had in mind at least the Decalogue and
its summary in the commandments to love God and one's neighbor:
(1) Falling away from God and godlessness (Heb 3:12; 6:6; 12:16) may
indirectly point to a violation of the first and maybe even the second commandments which call the audience not to have any other god beside the
Almighty (Exod 20:2-3) and not to create any image of God (Exod 20:4-6).
(2) In Heb 4:4 the Sabbath is indirectly mentioned. The verse contains a
quotation from Gen 2:2 which in turn is taken up again in Exod 20:11. God
rested on the seventh day, the Sabbath. Heb 4:9 introduces the word
cra1313ar1cr6c; rendered as "sabbath rest," 46 "sabbath observance," 47 or "sabbath-keeping."48 The paragraph talks about Sabbath rest for God's people
which certainly is more than resting on the seventh day, 49 but does not ex-


Cf. Robert H. Smith, Hebrews (ACNT; Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1984), 65.

166, writes: "The Sabbath had been regarded as a type of the
eschatological 'rest,' which would come after God's rule was established on earth but
before the new creation. It was a symbol of the resurrection at the end of time (Adam
and Eve 51.2-3) and also the millennial kingdom (Barn. 15.3--8)." See also Koester,
Hebrews, 272, who points to Isa 58:13--14; 66:23 as well as to Rabbinical and deuterocanonical sources when dealing with Sabbath observance and rest. Lane, Hebrews 1-8,
101-2, states that in its only non-Christian appearance, craJ3J3ar1cr6<; means Sabbath
observance. "In four other documents from the patristic period that are independent
of Heb 4:9, the term denotes the celebration or festivity of the Sabbath Gustin, Dialogue
with Trypho 23.3; Epiphanius, Against All Heresies 30.2.2; The Martyrdom of Peter and
Paul, chapt. 1; Apost. Const. 2.36.2; discussed by Hofius, Katapausis, 103--6). The term
received its particular nuance from the Sabbath instruction that developed in Judaism
on the basis of Exod 20:8--10, where it was emphasized that rest and praise belong
together.'' Pfitzner, Hebrews, 80--81, suggests "that God's own resting from the work of
creation is an archetype for the final rest promised to Christians (see vv. 9-10). The
two texts, linked through the common word 'rest,' were already associated in the
sabbath liturgy of the Greek-speaking synagogue; Ps 95:1-11 and Gen 2:1-3 were
readings on the sabbath eve (... ] Jewish tradition saw the sabbath as a symbol of
eschatological salvation."
Cf. Ellingworth, Hebrews, 255; Bruce, Hebrews, 109.
Opinions differ if (1) the rest is a present reality for believers pointing to salvation, (2)
the eschatological rest in the future kingdom of God, or (3) both. For an extensive
discussion see DeSilva, Hebrews, 153--69. Harald Hegermann, Der Brief an die Hebriier
(THKNT 16; Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1988), 102, seems to favor the first
option. DeSilva obviously opts for the second. Lane, Hebrews 1-8, 99, 102; Samuele
Bacchiocchi, Divine Rest for Human Restlessness: A Theological Study of the Good News of
the Sabbath for Today (Berrien Springs: published by author, 1980), 137-38; and Roy E.
Graham, "A Note on Hebrews 4:4-9," in The Sabbath in Scripture and History (ed. K. A.
Strand; Washington: Review & Herald, 1982), 343--45, may support the third option.

47 DeSilva, Hebrews,



Jesus and the Covenant in Hebrews


elude it. Although the rest and the Sabbath-keeping of Heb 4, if accepted by
faith, means eschatological salvation and a life in peace with God, it does
not follow that the seventh day Sabbath is a temporary institution under the
old covenant, done away with under the new covenant. Hebrews 4 links
the Sabbath to creation. However, the Fall had not happened and sin was
not present at that time and the Sabbath was not instituted in Paradise as a
symbol of rest in the sense of removal of sin and salvation. Furthermore, as
Gane shows, "Because the life of rest was available in Old Testament times,
at the same time when the weekly Sabbath was in operation for the Israelites, the weekly Sabbath cannot be a historical type of the life of rest. Rather,
it is an eternal memorial of Creation." 50 Hebrews 4 reminds us of the Sabbath commandment (Exod 20:8-11; Deut 5:12-15).
(3) The respect that we give to our fathers may hint at the fifth commandment which calls us to honor father and mother (Heb 12:9; Exod
(4) Adulterers are mentioned in Heb 13:4. The issue of adultery reminds
us of the seventh commandment (Exod 20:14): "You shall not commit adultery." The same Greek word family is used for "adulterers" in Heb 13:4.

(5) To be content with what one has, and not to covet money (Heb 13:5)
may point to the tenth commandment which warns against coveting (Exod

(6) Believers have shown love toward God's name (Heb 6:10) which
points to the command to love God (Deut 6:5; Matt 22:37).
(7) Believers need also to love their Christian brothers (Heb 13:1) which
alludes to the command to love each other Gohn 13:34-35) and by extension
one's neighbor (Lev 19:18; Matt 22:39). What that means is clarified within
the following verses: hospitality, care for prisoners, respect for marriage
and no adultery, no coveting but contentedness. Some of these commandments have just been mentioned. This arrangement in Heb 13 suggests that
the commandment to love summarizes other commandments including the
Decalogue but does not abolish it.
Such a result is not surprising, because it is in agreement with what we
find in other NT writings. The covenant is also mentioned in the Letter to
the Romans. According to Rom 9:4, Israel had the covenants and the law.
Romans 11:26--27 states that all Israel, Gentile and Jewish Christians, will be
saved on the basis of the new covenant Oer 31:33--34). 51 As in Hebrews the

Gane, "Role of God's Moral Law," 15 (see also p. 14).

Cf. Hans K. LaRondelle, "Israel in Biblical Prophecy," Ministry 79, no. 1 Oan. 2007): 2021. He also stresses the continuity of the covenants by stating: "Gentiles have no other
covenant with God than God's covenant with Israel. Jesus made His new covenant
_with twelve Jewish believers. He based it on His self-sacrifice as the fulfillment of the


Ekkehardt Muller

stress is on forgiveness of sins. Although the Letter to the Romans discusses

to a large extent justification by faith, Paul also addresses the issue of the
law. The term "law" is used in different ways by the same author and
within the same document. In Romans the law refers to the Pentateuch
(Rom 3:21), the entire OT (Rom 3:19), a principle (Rom 7:23), and the Decalogue (Rom 7:7). In 1 Cor 9:8-9 Paul talks about Mosaic commandments
and in Gal 5:3 about the law in its entirety. The literary context must help to
decide which law is dealt with.
The fact that there are different biblical laws some of which are valid at
all times while others have been superseded by a new reality or by new
ethical demands was recognized by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount (Matt
5:17-48) and is already found with Moses in the OT. Moses distinguished
between different laws. Although all of them ultimately came from God,
they differ in scope and duration. There is a clear distinction between the
moral law of the Ten Commandments (Exod 20:1-17; Deut 5:6-21), which
was written by God on two tables of stone (Exod 31:18; Deut 5:22) and was
placed into the ark of the covenant (Exod 40:20-21), and laws for Israel as a
nation or ceremonial laws that ultimately pointed to the work and life of the
Messiah and found their fulfillment in Jesus. The latter, normally called the
Law of Moses, were written into a book and placed beside the ark of the
covenant (Deut 31:24-26). When in the Book of Exodus the covenant was
made, or later, renewed, the Ten Commandments were distinguished from
the so-called ordinances (Exod 21:1; 24:4, 7, 12; 34:27-28).
As in Hebrews so also in Romans we find indirect statements pointing
to the validity of a law: (1) Bringing about "the obedience of faith among all
the Gentiles" (Rom 1:5; 15:18; 16:26) requires the existence of a law. (2) This
is also true when it comes to obedience toward God (e.g., 6:16). (3) Paul
makes it clear that knowledge of sin comes through the law. Without law
there is no recognition of sin (3:20; 7:7). (4) The necessity to exhort believers
to live a moral life (e.g., 12:17, 19, 21; 13) presupposes the existence of a
valid law. Therefore, Paul can state that the law is not nullified but established (3:31). The Decalogue is mentioned directly in several places in Romans. In 2:21-23 Paul refers to the Decalogue which the Jews had but did
not keep. According to 7:7, 12 the Decalogue shows what sin is and that the
law is holy, righteous, and good. In 13:8-10 Paul summarizes the Decalogue
in the commandment of love.

sacrifices of the old covenant. Thus 'Jesus has become the guarantee of a better
covenant' (Heb. 7:22, NIV). In Romans 11 Paul portrays the continuity of God's
covenants by a single olive tree for both Israel and the church" (ibid., 20). He also
stresses that "the decisive issue in God's covenant with Israel is faith in Jesus as the
righteous Messiah and representative of all humanity" (ibid.).

Jesus and the Covenant in Hebrews


An interesting statement is found in 1Cor7:19 where Paul distinguishes

between different laws and maintains that it is important to keep the commandments of God. Jesus confirmed the Decalogue but modified other
commandments (Matt 5:21-48). The Ten Commandments are the law of
liberty and the standard in the judgment process Gas 2:10-13).
In sum, the new covenant assumes the validity of a law which, however,
is written in the heart of the recipients of the covenant. This law cannot be
the Mosaic law, because it did not accommodate the new sacrifice and
priesthood although pointing to it. Allusions to the Ten Commandments as
well as to the law to love God and one's neighbor with all the heart, soul,
and mind suggest that the author of Hebrews had in mind at least the Decalogue and its summary in the double commandment to love God and humanity when he referred to the law that is interiorized in the new covenant
believers. This is in agreement with the picture that emerges in other NT
writings. The new covenant does not make obsolete the Ten Commandments.

5. Benefits of the New Covenant

The new covenant has "better promises" (Heb 8:6). In the NT the term
trrayyEAia "promise" is found most frequently in the Book of Hebrews telling us how important these promises are. The promises of the new covenant include among other things: (1) access to God and being God's people
(8:10; 10:19); (2) knowledge of God (8:11); (3) being sanctified (10:10, 14); (4)
eternal salvation especially in the context of Christ's second coming (9:12,
15, 28); (5) a clear conscience (9:9, 14; 10:2); (6) the internalization of the law
in our hearts and minds (8:10; 10:16); and (7) forgiveness of sins (8:12; 9:26,
28; 10:17-18).52
Forgiveness of sin is repeatedly stressed and is an important theme running through the entire center part of Hebrews. It is introduced through the
quotation taken from Jer 31 and elaborated throughout Heb 9 and lOa. The
quotation "and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more"
is repeated in Heb 10:17 and commented on in the next verse. Johnsson
The quotation from Jeremiah [in Heb 8] [... ] makes several points: the
prediction of a new covenant, the failure of the people to continue in the
old, the internalization of law under the new covenant, its personal religion, its teaching function, and its putting away of sins. Here indeed are
the "better promises" [... ] Not all aspects have significance for the argument, however[ ... ] only one-apart from the prediction of the rise of

Cf. Koester, Hebrc:ws, 391-92; Bruce, Hebrl?Ws, 189, 192.


Ekkehardt Muller

a new covenant-emerges with clarity. It is the final promise of Jeremiah

31:34- "I will remember their sins no more."53

Some people claim that in providing a guilt-trip, Christianity is harmful to

emotional and physical health. It is true that the Bible tells us that we are
sinners and need a savior. But it is only Christianity that offers a viable solution of the sin problem because, rightly understood, people who have
committed their lives to God do not longer need to worry about their sins.
They can indeed get rid of a bad conscience without negating that sin is sin
and without killing their conscience. They accept the forgiveness provided
by God. When having asked God for forgiveness they rely on his promises,
not on their own feelings. Only Christians can take sin seriously, be opposed to it, and yet live happily even if they may make mistakes and err.
They have a sacrifice and a high priest, Jesus Christ. Thus, they have a
healthier approach to life than anyone else.

6. Jesus and the New Covenant

The link between covenant, priesthood, and sacrifice is Jesus. In Hebrews
different adjectives are used to describe the new covenant. It is, for instance,
called the "better" covenant (8:6). Because Jesus is better than the angels
(1:4), worthy of more glory than Moses (3:3), and higher than the heavens
(7:26), the covenant he inaugurated is also a better covenant. In Heb 8:8, 13
the Greek word Kmv6c:; is used relating to the covenant, whereas in Hebrews 12:24 the word vtoc:; is found in connection with the covenant. Both
adjectives are translated with the term "new." However, there may be a
slight difference between these different Greek terms. They are not absolute
synonyms. The word Ka1v6c:; may describe something that was unheard of
and point to the wonderful quality and marvelous character of the new
covenant, which has replaced the older covenant. Nevertheless, Karv6c:; does
not deny the temporary value of the old covenant. The word vtoc:; may
carry the sense of being recent. The new covenant is both, a qualitatively
better and a brand-new covenant, 54 yet in continuity with the previous
However, the most important aspect is not the covenant itself. It is the
person who has ratified the covenant and who ministers in the context of it.
Jesus is the surety of the new covenant. In Heb 7:22 he is called the guarantor of a better covenant, and three times in Hebrews he appears as the me-

53 William G. Johnsson, In Absolute Confidence (Nashville: Southern Publishing, 1979),


Cf. Donald Guthrie, Hebrews (TNTC; rev. ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 175.

Jesus and the Covenant in Hebrews


diator of a better or new covenant (8:6; 9:15; 12:24). The term f.yyuoc; "guarantor," "guarantee," or "surety" occurs nowhere else in the NT.
It is common in the papyri in legal documents in the sense of a pledge or

as a reference to bail. [... ] Since the covenant in the biblical sense is an

agreement initiated by God, the surety (i.e. Jesus) guarantees that that
covenant will be honoured. [... ] The mediator is a go-between whose
task is to keep the parties in fellowship with each other. In a case where
God is one of the parties and man is the other, the covenant idea is inevitably one-sided. Defection is always on man's side and hence the mediator's task is mainly to act on man's behalf before God, although he has
also to act for God before men. 55
One may wonder why the Book of Hebrews unfolds so much of Jesus' parts
in making the covenant work and obviously so little of ours. Those sections
of Hebrews that contain admonitions and especially Heb 12-13 stress our
responsibility, but it is true that in general we find a stronger emphasis on
what Jesus has been and is doing in our behalf than what is required of us.
The reason may be that the apostle wants to help his readers who are troubled by a bad conscience, are not sure of forgiveness and salvation, and are
tempted to fall away from Christ. These readers do not primarily need a list
of what is required of them, but must understand the gracious provisions
God has made and executed in Jesus Christ. There is a final solution for the
sin problem. There is a solution for bad consciences. Jesus offers cleansing
and salvation.
On the other hand, they are called not to tum away from God (12:24-25)
and not to throw away their confidence (10:35) which refers to their faith
(10:38). The importance of faith in the covenant relationship is stressed in
Heb 11, especially in the section dealing with Abraham (11:8-19) in which
covenant language is employed. Furthermore, the second part of Heb 10
warns against sinning willfully or persisting in sin. To do this is a form of
disobedience and a breaking of the covenant on our part. Therefore, it can
be seen that Hebrews stresses human responsibility in the covenant relationship, but more than that it exalts Jesus.

7. Conclusion
After having pointed out Christ's superiority to the angels, Moses, and
Aaron in Heb 1-7, the apostle summarizes his discussion with Heb 8:1-2
before specifically turning to the covenant, the sanctuary, and the sacrifice.
From Heb 8 onward he focuses on the accomplishments of Jesus. The new
covenant is related to the old covenant and yet surpasses it. This new cove-


Ibid., 165--66, 174.


Ekkehardt Muller

nant allows for a special relationship with God and direct access to him. It
offers a solution to our deepest needs and problems. The new covenant
does not present a new way to salvation different from the OT approach of
salvation by grace, but it highlights its accomplishment in Jesus Christ. Neither does the new covenant destroy the moral law of the Ten Commandments, but it internalizes it in the believers. We are blessed by a new and
better covenant, a perfect sacrifice, and the best possible high priest and
mediator, Jesus our Lord.
Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus
our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us
that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the
glory forever and ever. Amen. (Heb 12:20-21)



1. Introduction
In the Daniel & Revelation Committee Series, Kenneth Strand begins the two
volumes dedicated to the study of Revelation with three chapters in which
he develops the chiasmus of the book. He briefly touches on the two important herrneneutical issues of purpose and theme in the first chapter: "To
determine the purpose and theme of a given book of the Bible is one of the
basic procedures of sound biblical interpretation. This holds true for the
Revelation, as well as for any other Bible writing." 1
Strand points out that the purpose of Revelation is clearly stated in its introduction, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show
his servants what must soon take place" (Rev 1:1). He sees the theme of
Revelation as being twofold: first, the return of Jesus to eradicate sin, and
second, Jesus' presence "with his faithful followers during all their tribulations in the 'here and now.'" 2 But Strand does not pursue the themes he
identifies in Revelation, rather he develops the literary chiasmus of the book.
This structure is developed in the second of the three chapters. Revelation is divided into a chiasmus according to its eight prophecies. Six of the
eight are divided into four text blocks as follows: A- Victorious Introduction Scene; B- Basic Prophetic Description; C- Interlude; and 0Eschatological Culmination. The two remaining prophecies are found in the
prologue and epilogue and have only text blocks A and B. The break between Rev 14 and 15 in the chiasmus is seen as a major structural division
with Rev 1-14 called the "Historical-Era Visions" and Rev 15-22 the "Eschatological-Judgrnent-Era Visions." 3

Kenneth A. Strand, "Foundational Principles of Interpretation," in Symposium on

Revelation, Book 1: Introductory and Exegetical Studies (ed. F. B. Holbrook; DARCOM 6;
Silver Spring: Biblical Research Institute, 1992), 27.
Ibid., 28.
Kenneth A. Strand, "The Eight Basic Visions," in Symposium on Revelation, Book 1:
Introductory and Exegetical Studies (ed. F. B. Holbrook; DARCOM 6; Silver Spring:
Biblical Research Institute, 1992), 38-39, 48--49.


George E. Rice

However, the twofold theme of Jesus' return and his presence with his
people suggested by Strand is embedded in a much broader theme that
runs throughout all of Revelation's prophecies, thast is, the great controversy. It is the purpose of this study to follow this broader greatcontroversy theme from prophecy to prophecy to show how this conflict
between Christ and Satan unfolds in Revelation's thematic structure.

2. Great Controversy Theme

Whereas Strand points to the break between ch. 14 and ch. 15 as the apex of
the chiasmus or the central point in Revelation that divides the "HistoricalEra Visions" from the "Eschatological-Judgment-Era Visions," Rev 12 is the
center of the thematic structure of the book. This chapter introduces the
great controversy theme and each prophecy in Revelation is a development
of this theme and shows us how this conflict will play out.
Revelation 12 contains a brief description of four pivotal battles that
have a major impact upon the history of the controversy between good and
evil. Battle one is an account of the origin of rebellion in heaven and its isolation to Planet Earth (12:7-12). Battle two reports Satan's attempt to thwart
the plan of salvation by destroying the incarnate Christ while upon earth
(12:1-5). Battle three shows Satan's attempt to destroy Christ's followers
after his return to heaven (12:6, 13--16). Battle four presents Satan's final
attack upon the remnant (12:17).
When John began to record "what must soon take place," battles one
and two were history, battle three was just beginning, and battle four was
yet future. Therefore the prophecies of Revelation present the military engagements in battles three and four. As Strand's chiasmus is divided into
two groups of prophecies, so in the thematic structure of Revelation there
are two groups of prophecies, one on either side of ch. 12. The seven
churches, seven seals, and seven trumpets with their introductions and interludes (at least in the case of the trumpets) precede ch. 12. These three
prophecies outline the military maneuvers in battles three and four in the
conflict between Christ's people and the forces of evil from John's day to
the end of the controversy. In these three prophecies we see recapitulation.
The reason for this recapitulation, thematically, will be examined shortly.
The prophecies following ch. 12 are an expansion of battle four and show
us the military strategy on both sides of the conflict. Therefore, the sole
purpose of Rev 13:1-20:15 is to explain 12:17, "And the dragon was enraged
with the woman, and went to make war with the rest [remnant] of her offspring."
The thematic structure can be diagrammed as follows:

Thematic Structure of the Book of Revelation

Third and Fourth Battle
Rev 12:6, 13-17


Battle Four Expanded

(Rev 12:17

John's Day

Seven Churches

.__Seven Seals - - - - - - Chapter 12 ____....Chapter 13:1-20:15

~ Seven Trumpets
End of

Figure 1: Thematic Structure of the Book of Revelation

3. Four Battles of Revelation 12

3.1. Battle One
The great controversy begins in heaven. John describes it in Rev 12 with
these words, "And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought
with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought" (12:7). But the
dragon does not prevail, and he and his confederate angels are removed
from the heavenly courts and placed on planet earth. The description of
battle one concludes with a woe, "Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and
the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because
he knows that he has a short time" (12:12).
The great controversy, as it matured and was fought in heaven, was an
ideological war, a conflict between truth and lies, rather than a physical
battle. When Satan was placed on earth, he brought this strategy with him.
The first assault on humanity was ideological (i.e., Eve, the serpent, the fruit
of the tree, and Satan's lies).

3.2. Battle Two

Revelation 12 opens with the second battle. A woman clothed with the sun
gives birth to a male Child. The dragon is poised to pounce on the Child
and destroy him, but he is caught up to God and his throne where he will
rule all nations with a rod of iron (12:1-5). The woman represents God's
faithful people throughout OT history, and the child is the incarnate Christ.
There have been questions as to why battles one and two are
switched chronologically in Rev 12. The answer becomes obvious if battle
two is thought of in terms of the "Battle of Midway" in the Pacific during


George E. Rice

World-War II. As far as the great controversy is concerned, it was battle two
that won the war, although other battles were to follow. The importance of
battle two can be illustrated by the engagement between the United States
and Japan as the Japanese fleet of aircraft carriers approached to attack
Midway Island. The American carriers and planes met the attack and destroyed the Japanese armada. This battle won the war for the United States.
In this engagement the back of the Japanese naval air power was broken.
Many battles followed Midway before World-War II was over, but this test
of naval and air strength turned the tide of the war in favor of the United
So it is in the great controversy. If Satan had been successful in his attacks against Christ and if Christ had failed while living on earth, the great
controversy would have been decided in Satan's favor. But Christ was victorious and rose in a glorious resurrection. The back of Satan's rebellion had
been broken and the war had been won. The four gospels contain the record of battle two. In Rev 12, the "Battle of Midway" in the great controversy is presented first to give its readers the assurance that Satan is a
defeated enemy. Then in the context of Jesus' victory the other three battles
are presented.

3.3. Battle Three

Battle three (Rev 12:6, 13--16) is Satan's attempt to destroy the followers of
Christ after his ascension to the Father's throne. During this battle the
woman, who now represents the church, is provided a haven of refuge
from the wrath of Satan. The prophetic period of 1,260 years is located
within this b!lttle (Rev 12:6, 14). This time prophecy is the link that ties the
little horn of Dan 7:25 and the sea beast of Rev 13:5 to battle three. To extract the 1,260 years out of battle three and place them chronologically before or after this battle is not being true to the context of ch. 12. The proper
location of this time prophecy in the great controversy is made emphatic by
being presented twice (Rev 12:6, 14).

3.4. Battle Four

Satan's final assault upon the followers of Christ encompasses battle four.
Jesus' followers are identified as the remnant (Rev 12:17). His anger knows
no bounds. "Satan summons all his forces, and throws his whole power
into the combat." 4 The remnant are identified by two characteristics, they

Ellen G. White, Tlie Great Controversy (Boise: Pacific Press, 1911 ), 507.

Thematic Structure of the Book of Revelation


keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus. As

pointed out earlier, Rev 13:1-20:15 takes us into this battle in depth.


Churches, Seals, and T rurnpets

Having identified the great controversy as the theme of the prophecies in

Revelation and having seen that ch. 12, which introduces the controversy, is
the center of the book, we now examine the three prophecies that take us
from John's day to the climax of the controversy: the seven churches, the
seven seals, and the seven trumpets. These three prophecies are a recapitulation because they take us back over the history of the Christian Church
showing us three different phases of the conflict, the ideological war within
the church, internal conflicts, and attacks against the church that originate
outside of the church.

4.1. Seven Churches

Satan introduced the great controversy on Planet Earth with an ideological
attack upon Eve. This method of warfare has continued to be one of the two
military strategies in Satan's arsenal. The second method of assault was
introduced after Adam's rebellion against God, that is, persecution, martyrdom, or as we may call it, firefights.
The prophecy of the seven churches outlines Satan's ideological war
upon the Church. Beginning with Ephesus, the church that lost its first love,
the conflict moves through the centuries to Laodicea, the church that is neither cold nor hot. Although this ideological conflict can be seen clearly in
the experiences of all seven churches; the experiences of Pergamos,
Thyatira, and Sardis are outstanding examples.
Pergamos represents the period of compromise in the history of the
church. The doctrine of Balaam is the outstanding characteristic of this period (Rev 2:14). It was Balaam who coached Balak to lead Israel into compromising their commitment to God. Under the seduction of Moabite
women, large numbers in Israel were led into pagan feasting and festivities
that honored Baal (Num 25:1-3). It was during the Pergamos phase of
church history that the ideological strategy of Satan focused on compromising gospel truth through syncretism that would make it attractive to the
non-Christian mind.
The church at Thyatira allowed the teaching of Jezebel to seduce the
servants of Jesus (Rev 2:20). The period in church history during which the
teaching of Jezebel was introduced saw the union of church and state with
the church being dominant and supported by the state. The period in Israel's history when the teaching of Jezebel prevailed was a time in which


George E. Rice

the state supported the "church." This unholy church/state alliance is made
clear by Elijah when he said to Ahab, "Now therefore, send and gather all
Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal,
and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table" (l Kgs
18:19, emphasis mine).
The church at Sardis had a name that it was alive but it was dead (Rev
3:4). The thrust and power of the reformation protest against the errors and
abuses of the dominant church was rapidly losing its momentum. In the
messages to the seven churches the ideological war can be traced throughout the history of the Christian Church.
The prophecy of the seven churches ends with the church at Laodicea.
This is the period in church history when the ideological war is terminated
by Jesus' return to get his people. However, within the thematic structure of
Revelation, the seals and trumpets extend beyond Jesus' return to the final
eradication of sin after the millennium. This is because, while the ideological war ends at Jesus' return, the seals and trumpets, which present the firefights in the great controversy, extend to the final conflict at the end of the

4.2. Seals
The seven seals in Rev 6:1-8:1 present firefights in the great controversy.
The white horse of the first seal (6:2) is a transition from the ideological war
to internal firefights represented by the three horses that follow (6:3--8). The
white horse and its rider represent the religious conquests by the early
church within the pagan Roman Empire. Although the growing church was
persecuted by the pagan government and many Christians were martyred,
the church itself used only one weapon in the conflict, that is, the gospel of
Jesus Christ. However, once Christianity was established as the religion of
the state, those who did not accept the growing error and apostasy within
the church were persecuted. The internal strife intensified over the centuries and is represented by the red, black, and pale horses. As the fifth seal is
opened, those who had been martyred because they refused to condone the
growing apostasy, cry out to God for revenge (6:9-11).
At this point, God the Father and Jesus step into the fray as presented in
the sixth seal (6:14-17). They come to confront the forces of evil. This seal
pictures earth being shaken by a gigantic earthquake. As the wicked cry for
the falling rocks and mountains to hide them from "the face of Him who
sits on the throne [Father] and from the wrath of the Lamb Uesus]," they
ask the question, "Who is able to stand?" (6:16-17). The answer is given in
Rev 7; the victorious 144,000.

111ematic Structure of the Book of Revelation


Revelation 7 has generally been considered as an interlude between the

sixth and seventh seals. However, when viewed thematically, it appears to
be a continuation of the sixth seal. The victorious 144,000 who live through
the devastation associated with Jesus' return, together with the redeemed of
all ages, stand before the throne and the Lamb. Together with the angels,
the twenty-four elders, and the four living creatures they sing praises to
God (7:9-17). If Rev 7 is a thematic continuation of the experience of the
144,000 who live through the return of Jesus unscathed, we may be seeing a
glimpse of their millennial experience.
In this case, the sixth seal closes at the end of ch. 7 and the seventh seal
is opened in Rev 8:1. The silence in heaven would be caused by the events
that bring the millennium and sin to a conclusion, the final firefight. Satan,
his demonic host, and the lost of humanity surround the camp of the saints
with the intent of destroying the redeemed and taking the Holy City by
force: "And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them"
(20:9)-the final firefight in the great controversy. The silence in heaven
would be a hushed awe that sweeps over the redeemed and the inhabitants
of the universe as they watch God perform his strange act, that is, the destruction of his own creation by fire.




As Dan 2, 7, and 8 present the outline of world history with ch. 7 and 8
building on ch. 2 and giving additional details to the overall outline, so the
seven trumpets cover the same period of history as the churches and the
seals giving details that are not found in the first two prophecies. The first
six trumpets present firefights inflicted upon the Christian Church by nonChristian powers. Trumpets one to four deal with the major barbaric invasions that broke up the Western Roman Empire. Trumpets five and six
present the subjection of the Eastern Roman Empire.
Revelation 10 and 11:1-14 are interludes between trumpets six and
seven. Chapter 10 outlines the great spiritual awakening of the 19th century, the experience of eating the open book in the Angel's hand, the sweet
taste in the mouth, and the acid reflux that followed. Then follows the
command that the message of Jesus' soon return must be preached again,
only this time to all the nations on earth. The first part of ch. 11 presents the
events of the French revolution, the political/religious revolution that
changed the religious history of Europe and brought rationalism to America. The seventh trumpet is the final firefight.
In the OT, the blowing of trumpets announced the approach of judgment
or called the people to prepare for war. Christianity was the state religion of
the Roman Empire when it began to crumble under the assaults of outside


George E. Rice

invaders. The firefights under the trumpets were punishments sent by God
upon an apostate church in an attempt to bring it to repentance. Jesus said
of the church at Thyatira, "I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality [church/state structure], and she did not repent" (Rev 2:21).
Because the trumpets are firefights in the thematic structure of Revelation, the seventh trumpet, like the seventh seal, extends beyond the return
of Jesus to the final firefight. Consider the following scenes in the seventh
First, loud voices in heaven proclaim that the kingdoms of this world
have become the kingdom "of our Lord and of his Christ," and he will
reign forever (Rev 11:15). During the White-Throne Judgment at the conclusion of the millennium (Rev 20:11-15), Satan and his followers witness the
final coronation of Jesus.
Jesus' first coronation took place at His ascension. Christ's ascension to
heaven was the signal that His followers were to receive the promised
blessing [early rain]. When Christ passed within the heavenly gates, He
was enthroned amidst the adoration of the angels. [... ] The Pentecostal
outpouring was Heaven's communication that the Redeemer's inauguration was accomplished. 5
The White-Throne Judgment and the final coronation of Christ breaks the
siege of the New Jerusalem by Satan and his hosts and fire descends from
God out of heaven to bring the great controversy to an end. Indeed, the
kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom "of our Lord and of His
Second, the twenty-four elders praise God the Father because he has
taken his power and reigns through his Son (Rev 11:17).
Third, the nations were angry and the time had come for God to judge
the dead (Rev 11:18). In the White-Throne Judgment of Rev 20, all the dead,
small and great, stand before God and the books are opened, and the dead
are judged according to their works (20:12).
Fourth, the prophets, saints, and those who fear the God's name receive
their eternal reward (Rev 11:18), that is, the earth made new (Rev 21-22).
Fifth, God destroys those who destroy the earth (Rev 11:18) which corresponds to the final firefight: "And fire came down from God out of
heaven and devoured them" (Rev 20:9).

Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Boise: Pacific Press, 1911), 38-39.

Tliematic Structure of the Book of Revelation


5. Expansion of Battle Four

Having followed the theme of the great controversy in its two military
phases, ideological warfare and firefights, through the prophecies of the
seven churches, seven seals, and seven trumpets, we now tum to the
prophecies in the second half of Revelation. Revelation 12, the center of this
prophetic book, ends with a simple statement that introduces battle four,
"The dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with
the rest [rwv AOITTWV "renmant"] of her offspring" (12:17). The remainder of
the book, that is, 13:1-20:15, shows us how this battle will be fought with
Rev 21-22 describing the eternal home of those who live through this conflict.
As the churches, seals, and trumpets presents the ideological and firefight phases of the conflict, so the expansion of battle four clearly reveals
these two military aspects of warfare.

5.1. Satan's Military Strategy

Revelation 13 is the blueprint for Satan's military strategy in fighting battle
four. He joins two powers as allies in his fight against the renmant followers of Jesus. The first power is the sea beast (13:1-10). This power has been
around for over a thousand years. By placing it within the 1,260 years (13:5),
it is clear that this sea beast was the power through which Satan fought battle three. Now Satan joins this revived power with the forces of the land
beat (13:11-18). The intensity with which Satan fights battle four defies human imagination.
The ideological war launched against the renmant by the sea beast and
the land beast develops as follows. First, an image to the beast is formed by
the land beast. As the sea beast functioned as a church/state power during
the 1,260 years, the land beast will establish a church/state arrangement that
will be an image to the sea beast. Second, the land beast will require all to
receive the mark of the sea beast's authority. The formation of the image
and the enforcement of the mark of the beast will be combined to make up
the ideological assault upon the renmant. This battle between truth and
error will be fought in the public forum and will become the topic of intense
public debate. At the center of this ideological conflict stand the commandments of God.
Spirit manifestations will be an important military maneuver in Satan's
ideological strategy for battle four. Among these spirit appearances will be
the following:
The apostles, as personated by these lying spirits, are made to contradict
what they wrote at the dictation of the Holy Spirit when on earth. They


GeorKe E. Rice

deny the divine origin of the Bible, and thus tear away the foundation of
the Christian's hope, and put out the light that reveals the way to
heaven. [... ] And to take the place of the word of God he [Satan] holds
out spiritual manifestations. 6
The second phase of Satan's strategy for battle four is persecution, that is,
firefights. Those who refuse to worship (obey) the image of the beast and
submit to its authority will be placed under a sentence of death (Rev 13:15).
Those who refuse to receive the mark of the beast will be put under an economic ban (13:17). By supernatural wonders, those who dwell upon the
earth will be deceived and will be swept into Satan's ranks (13:13-14).

5.2. Jesus' Counter Offensive: The Ideological War

With the 144,000 as his fighting force, Jesus will confront Satan's deceptions
in the ideological war through the preaching of the three angels' messages
as outlined in Rev 14:1-12. In the public forum, the inhabitants of earth will
be warned that the hour of judgment has come (14:7). Jesus' forces will extend the call to return to the Creator and worship Him (14:7). Acknowledging Jesus as the Creator moves the focus to the seven-day creation week
and its day of worship, that is, the Sabbath which becomes the important
criteria of battle four. The warning will be given that Babylon is fallen
(14:8), and that all who obey the beast and its image and receive the mark of
the beast will perish in the final firefight at the close of the millennium

Following the account of this counter offensive, Rev 14 presents one of

the two verbal descriptions of Jesus' return. In this chapter he comes to
earth with a sharp sickle to reap the results of the ideological fight and to
take to heaven the harvest resulting from the preaching of the three angels'
messages. An angel with another sickle reaps the harvest that will go to
eternal destruction (14:14-20).

5.3. Jesus' Counter Offensive: The Firefight

Jesus here meets force with force. Having placed the remnant under an
economic ban and the sentence of death, and having rejected the appeal to
tum back to the Creator and worship him, Jesus now pours out the seven
last plagues upon the inhabitants of earth (Rev 15-16). The plagues are Jesus' side of the firefight in battle four. In these plagues, we are told, "the
wrath of God is complete" (15:1). Again, using the deception of demons
which are pictured in the sixth plague as coming out of the mouth of the

White, The Great Controversy, 557.

Tliematic Structure of the Book of Revelation


dragon, the beast, and the false prophet, Satan deceives the inhabitants of
the world and assembles its leaders and their armies to fight the battle of
the great day of God Almighty, that is, Armageddon (16:12-16).
Thematically the sixth plague is Satan's preparation for Armageddon
while the battle itself begins under the seventh plague (16:17-21). Like the
seals and the trumpets, and because Armageddon is a firefight, it is not
completed until the close of the millennium. In the opening stages of Armageddon, the great city of Babylon falls into three parts (16:19). That is to
say, the three-part coalition comes unglued. These parts are three religious
entities that Satan brought together through his deceptions to prepare the
kings of the earth to fight Armageddon.
Jesus returns to earth during the seventh plague. The worldwide earthquake that shakes the earth under the sixth seal when Jesus returns is referred to again under the seventh plague, "Then every island fled away,
and the mountains were not found" (16:20). Jesus' return interrupts the battle of Armageddon and battle four is put on hold until the 1,000 years of the
millennium are completed.

5.4. The Seventh Plague Expanded

Under the seventh plague, the great city Babylon falls into three parts (Rev
16:19). Revelation 17 and 18 expand the seventh plague and show us how
Babylon meets its end. In ch. 17, the harlot and her daughters are presented
as Babylon. Under Jesus' firefight-counter offensive, the seven last plagues,
the supporters of Babylon realize they have lost the war, and they turn
upon the harlot and destroy her (17:16). This event is graphically described
by Ellen G. White:
The people see that they have been deluded. They accuse one another of
having led them to destruction; but all unite in heaping their bitterest
condemnation upon the ministers.[ ... ] "We are lost!" they cry, "and you
are the cause of our ruin;" and they tum upon the false shepherds. [... ]
The swords which were to slay God's people, are now employed to destroy their enemies. Everywhere there is strife and bloodshed.7
In ch. 18, Babylon is portrayed as a city that is destroyed by the flames of
divine judgment. This chapter begins with a flash-back to the ideological
conflict. An angel with great authority illuminates the earth with his glory.
He cries out to the inhabitants of earth and repeats the warning of the second angel's message, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen" (18:2). The sins
of Babylon are named by the angel, and then he makes an appeal: "Come
out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her
Ibid., 65S-56.


George E. Rice

plagues" (18:4). When those who are God's people respond to the appeal
and exit Babylon, then the wrath of God is unleashed upon the unholy city
and it is set ablaze.

5.5. The Warrior-King

As already noted, the battle of Armageddon is interrupted by the return of
Jesus. Revelation 19 describes his return in the context of Armageddon. This
is the second verbal description of Jesus' return in Revelation. He appears
as a Warrior-King, riding upon a white horse, and followed by the army of
heaven. The two opposing forces clash. "And I saw the beast, the kings of
the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him
who sat on the horse and against His army" (19:19). The beast and the false
prophet are seized and thrown into the lake of fire while their armies "were
killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on
the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh" (19:20-21).

5.6. Millennium
With the Battle of Armageddon put on hold, the millennium begins. While
the redeemed of all ages enjoy the experience of being together with Jesus
in the heavenly courts, for Satan the 1,000 years is a period of intense agony
and utter frustration. Having waged war for thousands of years, throwing
all of his mental and physical powers into the fight, he is now the inhabitant
of a desolated world, a world emptied of human life, and left to deal with
his demons who know they are going to die because they transferred their
allegiance from God to him during battle one.
When the 1,000 years expire, Armageddon resumes. All of the wicked
dead are raised to face the final judgment, and Satan organizes them for an
assault on the Holy City. This is the final firefight. Fire descends from
heaven. Satan and his confederate angles are consumed in the lake of fire
(Rev 20:10). Human beings from all ages who did not accept God's offer of
salvation are likewise thrown into the lake of fire and suffer the second
death (20:14-15).

6. Great Controversy Ended

The fire that falls from heaven brings battle four to its conclusion. The conflict is over. How appropriate are the words:
The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire
universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the
vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom

Thematic Structure of the Book of Revelation


to the greatest world, all thlngs, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love. 8
The great controversy theme runs through the prophecies of Revelation.
This theme reveals the struggle between good and evil. This struggle ends
in the glorification and vindication of God and the eternal security of his
faithful people. After the fire does its purifying work, God creates a new
heavens and a new earth. John said that he heard a voice from heaven saying,
Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them,
and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be
their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there
shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more
pain, for the former things have passed away. (Rev 21:~)

Ibid., 678.



1. Introduction
The term "Sabbath" does not occur in the book of Revelation, nevertheless,
the chiastic structure of the book shows that the Sabbath of the OT represents the central issue for the final crisis of earth's history. 1 Jon Paulien locates the center of the chiasm in Rev 12-14, which contains a direct allusion
to the fourth commandment (14:7) and holds that this is the section which
"the whole structure of the book works toward and away from. It is the key
to understanding the whole book." 2 Such significance for the Sabbath suggests that John, the author of the book of Revelation, arranged the whole
book based on the Sabbath as a consciously chosen concept to convey prophetic-theological truth.
In addition to the OT, two sources from the intertestamental period may
have served as background for the Sabbath concept in the book of Revelation: Philo' s Sabbath theology 3 and the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice of the
Qumran community. 4 Philo developed his theology on the Sabbath with
reference to the number seven, to the universal significance of the Sabbath
as the birthday of the world, and to the meaning of resting, equality, and
freedom. 5 The liturgical scrolls of the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice dated to
the first century B.C. show certain similarities with the book of Revelation.
C. Newsom concludes that the frequent use of the number seven derived
from the Sabbath as dateline of both documents and from the chiastic struc-

This essay is dedicated to Gerhard Pfandl, my esteemed professor, who taught me

things that really matter in times of crisis.
Jon Paulien, The Deep 111ings of God (Hagerstown: Review & Herald, 2004), 122.
Sakae Kubo, "The Sabbath in the lntertestamental Period," in The Sabbath in Scripture
and History (ed. K. A. Strand; Washington, D.C.: Review & Herald, 1982), 57.
Carol A. Newsom, "Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice (4Q400-407, 11Q17, MASlK)," in
Dictionary of New Testament Background (ed. C. A. Evans and S. E. Porter; Downers
Grove: InterVarsity, 2000), 1139.
Moses 1. 37; 2. 39; The Special Laws 2. 15, 16; Allegorical Interpretation 1. 2-6; On the
Creation 30, 31, 33-42; On the Cherubim 26; The Special Laws 2. 15, 16, 48. See, Kubo,
"Sabbath," 67.


Mathilde Frey

ture in which balancing sections of sevens may be found. 6

1his study investigates the Sabbath in the book of Revelation and suggests that the theme of the Sabbath may have served the author as an underlying theological concept with regard to the sevenfold division of the
book, the chiastic structure, the prominent use of the number seven, Sabbath language, Sabbath allusions, even as a direct allusion to the Sabbath
commandment of Exod 20:8-11. The investigation is delimited to structural
indicators such as the sevenfold division of the book, the number seven,
specific terms and particular texts, and to the themes of creation, covenant,
and judgment in relation to the Sabbath.

2. Strnctural Indicators for the Concept of the

Sabbath in the Bool~ of Revelation
2.1. Sevenfold Division of the Book of Revelation
The ongoing debate among biblical scholars regarding the literary structure
of the book of Revelation lead Adela Yarbo Collins to say, "there are almost
as many [structural] outlines of the book as there are interpreters." 7 This
variety of opinions, however, is, according to G. Desrosiers, "a direct testimony to the literary genius of the author." 8 Thus, the question needs to be
asked, what structuring model did the author use to convey the message of
his book? 9
Among all the attempts towards detecting the literary structure of the
book of Revelation, the major contributions seem to argue for an outline
based on a sevenfold division of the book. 10 Paulien demonstrates that the
sevenfold division of the book of Revelation with seven introductory scenes
followed by seven cycles seems to build on the OT sanctuary and its ser-


Newsom, "Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice," 1139. See also William H. Shea, "Sabbath
Hymns for the Heavenly Sanctuary (Qumran)," in The Sabbath in Scripture and History
(ed. K. A. Strand; Washington, DC: Review & Herald, 1982), 406.
Adela Y. Collins, The Combat Myth in the Book of Revelation (Missoula: Scholars Press,
1976), 8.
Gilbert Desrosiers, An Introduction to Revelation: A Pathway to Interpretation (New York:
Continuum, 2000), 57.
Phyllis Trible, Rhetorical Criticism: Context, Method, and the Book of Jonah (Minneapolis:
Fortress, 1994), 101-6; Felise Tavo, "The Structure of the Apocalypse: Re-examining a
Perennial Problem," NovT 47 (2005): 47-68.
Collins, Combat Myth, 13-55; E. Schussler Fiorenza, The Book of Revelation: Justice and
Judgment (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985), 159-80; Kenneth A. Strand, Interpreting the
Book of Revelation (Worthington: Ann Arbor, 1976), 43-49; Paulien, Deep Things, 126;
Jacques B. Doukhan, Secrets of Revelation: The Apocalypse through Hebrew Eyes
(Hagerstown: Review & Herald, 2002), 13-14.

The Theological Concept of the Sabbath in the Book of Revelation


vices. 11 In a recent study, F. Tavo holds that a sevenfold division seems to

be close to the author's intended structure with "repetitive and intensifying
character" leading to the climactic final vision of the New Jerusalem. 12 This
heptadic structure seems to be modeled after the heptadic pattern of the six
days of the creation week leading to the climax of the seventh day (Gen 1:12:3), and after the heptadic pattern of the six speeches of the Lord for the
building of the sanctuary, culminating with the seventh speech of the Sabbath commandment (Exod 25--31).
The book of Exodus introduces the building of the sanctuary by seven
speeches of the Lord with the Sabbath commandment as the seventh speech
and as the climax of the sequence (Exod 25:1; 30:11, 17, 22, 34; 31:1). As
pointed out by P. Kearney 13 and further developed by M. Weinfeld, 14 the
last speech links the whole sequence to the creation account (Gen 1:1-2:3).
Its final words relate directly to the seven days of creation. 15 J. Milgrom recognizes the Sabbath in Exod 31:12-17 as the climax of creation, the divine
temple in time, which God builds by himself16 just as Abraham Heschel
describes it in a poetic way as "a sanctuary in time." 17
Duane Garrett recognizes the heptadic structure of Gen 1 and speaks,
more precisely, of a 6 + 1 structure as a literary form of the creation week. 18
"As a literary form, this structure reappears in only one other place. Remarkably, this place is the book of Revelation in the New Testament." 19
Garrett points out that Gen 1 and the book of Revelation are both visionary
and alike in intention because both give the divine view of the outer limits
of world history with a view towards its culmination.






Paulien, Deep Things, 126; Doukhan, Secrets of Revelation, 13-14.

Tavo, "Structure," 47-68.
P. J. Kearney, "Creation and Liturgy: The P Redaction of Ex 25-40," ZAW 89 (1977):
Moshe Weinfeld, "Sabbath, Temple and the Enthronement of the Lord: The Problem
of the Sitz im Leben of Genesis 1:1-2:3," in Melanges bibliques et orientaux en l'honneur de
M. Henri Cazelles (ed. A. Caquot and M. Delcor; AOAT 212; Kevelaer: Butzon &
Bercker; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1981), 501-12.
"For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased,
and was refreshed" (Exod 31:17; cf. Gen 2:2).
Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 23-27: A New Translation with Introduction (AB 3B; New York:
Doubleday, 2001), 2285. Cf. Gerald J. Janzen, Exodus (Louisville: Westminster John
Knox, 1997), 224. The Sabbath, as the climax of Exod 25-31 signifies that the sanctuary
is depicted as a microcosm of the whole creation. Just as the six days of creation reach
their climax in the seventh day, the new world architecturally represented by the
sanctuary has its climax in the Sabbath.
AbrahamJ. Heschel, 111e Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man (New York: Wolff, 1951), 29.
Duane A. Garrett, Rethinking Genesis (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 192.

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The climactic character of the vision of the New Jerusalem is rarely recognized in modem interpretation. 20 However, the one-word message of
the seventh bowl, "it is finished" (Rev 16:17), suggests the total eradication
of all who stand in the way of God. The same one-word message is reiterated from the throne in 21:6, thus, forming an inclusio that delineates events
happening in between. 21 Also, the reappearance of one of the bowl angels in
21:9 implies that what the angel showed John in 17:1 has run its course and
21:9 marks a new starting point. This is confirmed by the antithetical parallel between Babylon depicted as harlot (17:1-6) and the New Jerusalem portrayed as bride (21:9-11). Thus, the final vision of the New Jerusalem cannot
be seen as part of the seven bowls, as J. Lambrecht argues,22 but as the expected destiny of a world which is finally cleansed of all evil. A firstcentury hearer of the book of Revelation would probably detect the final
vision as indicating the climax of the whole book just as he would recognize
the seventh speech of the Lord containing the Sabbath commandment
(Exod 31:12-17) as the climax of the instructions for building the wilderness
sanctuary. The book of Revelation could be structured as follows:
Prologue (1:1-8)
1. Introductory Scene (1:9-20)
The Seven Churches (2:1-3:22)
2. Introductory Scene (4:1-5:14)

The Seven Seals (6:1-8:1)

3. Introductory Scene (8:2-6)

The Seven Trumpets (8:7-11:18)

4. Introductory Scene (11:19)
The Fight of the Nations (12:1-14:20)
5. Introductory Scene (15:1-8)
The Wrath of God (16:1-18:24)
6. Introductory Scene (19:1-10)

The Final Judgment (19:11-20:15)

7. Introductory Scene (21:1-8)

The New Jerusalem (21:9-22:5)

Epilogue (22:6-21)




Tavo, "Structure," 54-55; Jan Lambrecht, "A Structuration of Revelation 4, 1-22, 5," in
L'Apocalypse johannique et l'Apocalyptique dans le Nouveau Testament (ed. J. Lambrecht;
Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1980), 77-104.
Tavo, "Structure," 59.
Lambrecht, "Structuration," 103.

The Theological Concept of the Sabbath in the Book of Revelation


2.2. Chiastic Strncture of the Book of Revelation

Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza suggests a concentric structure of the book of
Revelation with an ABA' pattern. 23 David Barr, who views the book of
Revelation as a story to be heard, not a text to be studied, shows that a concentric structure is inherent to the book in order to be understood by a firstcentury audience. 24 Following K. A. Strand's chiastic structure of the book
of Revelation, 25 Paulien suggests that the center of the chiasm be Rev 12-14
and observes, "this section, with its messages from three angels, is what the
whole structure works toward and away from. It is the key to understanding the whole book. And the center of the center is the three angels' messages (Rev 14:6-12}." 26 It is this very passage calling on to fear God and to
worship the Creator which contains a direct allusion to the Sabbath commandment of the book of Exodus (Exod 20:8--11; 31:12-17).
Thus, both the sevenfold division and the chiastic structure of the book
of Revelation demonstrate that the theological concept of the Sabbath seems
to be the underlying principle: As principle for the center of the book, it
points to the Ten Commandments, which center around the Sabbath commandment; as seventh part and culmination of the book, the vision of the
"sabbatical millennium" 27 draws on the outline of the seven speeches of the
Lord recorded in Exod 25-31, culminating with the Sabbath commandment
(31:12-17) and pointing to Exod 40 where the actual realization of the building of the sanctuary takes place which explicitly employs terms of creationSabbath language. 25







Schussler Fiorenza, Book of Revelation, 175.

David L. Barr, Tales of the End: A Narrative Commentary on the Book of Revelation (Santa
Rosa: Polebridge, 1998), 149. Barr identifies a letter frame, a vision report frame, a
letter scroll, a worship scroll, and a war scroll. The worship scroll (4:1-11:18) forms the
heart and center of the work.
Kenneth A. Strand, "The Eight Basic Visions," in Symposium on Revelation, Book 1:
Introductory and Exegetical Studies (ed. F. B. Holbrook; DARCOM 6; Silver Spring:
Biblical Research Institute, 1992), 35-49.
Paulien, Deep Things, 122; see also Jon Paulien, "Seals and Trumpets: Some Current
Discussions," in Symposium on Revelation, Book 1: Introductory and Exegetical Studies, (ed.
F. B. Holbrook; DARCOM 6; Silver Spring~ Biblical Research Institute, 1992), 183-98.
Robert M. Johnston, "The Eschatological Sabbath in John's Apocalypse: A Reconsideration," AUSS 25 (1987): 42.
Note the parallels: "God saw all that He had made, and behold, ii was very good. And there
was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth
were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He
had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His
work which God had created and made" (Gen 1:31-2:3). "And Moses examined all the


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The Number Seven

Jacques B. Doukhan observes that from the most remote times the number
seven has had symbolic value. 29 The Sumerians, Babylonians, Canaanites,
and Israelites regarded the number seven as the symbol of totality and perfection. During the intertestamental period number symbolism, especially
of the number seven, was very popular. 30 C. Newsom has attested to the
similarities between the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice and the book of Revelation based on the use of the number seven. She explains its prominence
deriving from the number of the Sabbath day. 31 In the NT the number seven
occurs 88 times. Fifty-five times of the 88 appear in the book of Revelation.
There are seven lampstands, seven stars, seven seals, seven spirits, seven
angels, seven plagues, seven horns, seven mountains, etc. In its very structure John molded the book around the number seven.
Even more intriguing is the sevenfold occurrence of the designation
Christ, 32 the 14 occurrences of Jesus, the 28 occurrences of the word Lamb
referring to Christ, the sevenfold use of the declaration I am coming, 33 the
seven occurrences of significant divine titles, 34 and the seven beatitudes
scattered throughout the book of Revelation. 35
Richard Bauckham shows that John has deliberately used certain words
and phrases either four times, seven times, fourteen times or twenty-eight
times to convey theological truth. 36 Gregory Beale supports this observation
by saying that, "these patterns involve the Apocalypse's most crucial theological and anthropological terms." 37 This frequent use of the number seven
as the number of completeness and fullness justifies the allusion to the seventh-day Sabbath being utilized as a theological concept for the entire book
of Revelation.




work and behold, they had done it; just as the LORD had commanded, this they had
done. So Moses blessed them" (Exod 39:43). "Thus Moses finished the work'' (Exod 40:33).
Doukhan, Secrets of Revelation, 27.
Newsom, "Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice," 1139; Shea, "Sabbath Hymns," 406.
Revelation 1:1, 2, 5; 11:15; 12:10; 20:4, 6.
Revelation 2:5, 16; 3:11; 16:15; 22:7, 12, 20.
See, "I am the Alpha and the Omega" (1:8); "I am the first and the last" (1:17); "I am
the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end" (21:6); "I am the Alpha and the
Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (22:13).
Revelation 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14.
Richard Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation (Edinburgh:
Clark, 1993), 30.
Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 62.

The Theological Concept of the Sabbath in the Book of Revelation


2.4. "The Lord's Day" in Revelation 1:10

Evidently, it was important for John to make three basic statements before
he described his first vision. In Rev 1:9-10 John defines the specific place
where he received the heavenly visions ("I was on the island called Patmos"}, the cause of his stay on the island of Patmos ("because of the word
of God and the testimony of Jesus"), and the specific time when he heard
the loud voice behind him ("I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day"). Patmos
kept him as a prisoner, but in the Spirit he was free on "the Lord's day" to
hear the voice and to see the Lord. The Greek phrase TO KUplaKfl ~EpQ (the
Lord's day) is unique in its form in the biblical text and scholars debate its
l. Sunday. The vast majority of commentaries interpret the phrase "the
Lord's day" as reference to Sunday, the day of worship when the Christians
gathered to read the book of Revelation. 38 There is no question that Sunday
became known as "the Lord's day" in the late second century AD., 39 however, the question is whether Sunday was known as "the Lord's day" in
John's time of the first century AD. and whether John meant Sunday when
he used this phrase. There is no biblical or extra-biblical evidence from the
first century AD. to support the interpretation of "the Lord's day" as Sunday. On the contrary, the NT consistently refers to Sunday as "the first day
of the week." 40 The Gospel of John, which is dated later than the book of
Revelation, refers to Sunday always as "the first day of the week." Thus, it
would have been strange if "the Lord's day" meant Sunday in the book of

2. The Emperor's Day. A second interpretation holds that "the Lord's

day" refers to the Roman emperor's day. 41 Inscriptions confirm that the
Roman emperor claimed the title Kup1oc,; and had a day devoted to imperial
honor. However, the question is if John would refer to the emperor's day as
"the Lord's day" during a time when Christians were persecuted for refus-




Beate Kowalski, "Das Verhaltnis von Theologie und Zeitgeschichte in den

Sendschreiben der Johannes-Offenbarung," in Theologie als Vision: Studien zttr JohannesOffenbarung (ed. K. Backhaus; SBS 191; Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 2001), 54-76;
Heinz Giesen, Die Offenbarung des Johannes (Regensburg: Pustet, 1997), 85.
The Gospel of Peter 9.35 in Wilhelm Schneemelcher, ed., New Testament Apocrypha
(Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963-1966), 1:224. Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 14
in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 2:459.
Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1,19; Acts 20:7; 1Cor16:2.
James Moffat, "The Revelation of St. John the Divine," in The Expositor's Greek
Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961), 5:342; Robert H. Charles, The Revelation of
St. John (2 vols.; ICC; Edinburgh: Clark, 1920), 1:23; George R. Beasley-Murray, The
Book of Revelation (NCB; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), 65.

Mathilde Frey


ing to call the emperor Kup10<; ("lord") and to worship him. 42 One interpretation which could justify "the Lord's day" as referring to the Roman emperor's day would be to see literary features like irony and parody utilized
in the book of Revelation in order to destabilize and demystify the oppressive social and religious order of the ancient Roman Empire. 43 However,
this interpretation implies that the phrase "the Lord's day" would then be
stated in order to divert from the emperor cult and to point to the true day
of worship of the Lord instituted since creation and demanded by the law
of God (Exod 20:8-11 ).
3. Easter Sunday. A third interpretation views "the Lord's day" as Easter
Sunday and an annual event. However, the evidence for this interpretation
does not derive from the biblical text but from writings of the church fathers of the second century A.O., when Easter Sunday was designated as
"the Lord's day."44
4. The Eschatological Day of the Lord. A fourth interpretation comes to the
conclusion that Rev 1:10 speaks of the eschatological day of the Lord in the
context of the OT "day of the Lord" mentioned in Joel 2:11, 31; Amos 5:1820; Zeph 1:14; and Mal 4:5. 45 R. Stefanovic writes, "John was led in vision to
witness the eschatological time of God by observing the events in history
[... ]leading toward the climactic event of the Second Coming." 46 D. Aune
questions this interpretation by asking why then the author did not use the
more common expression ~tpQ TOO Kupiou, which occurs frequently in the
LXX and refers to the eschatological day of the Lord instead of Tfl KUplaKfl

5. The Sabbath. The interpretation of "the Lord's day" as the seventh-day

Sabbath is put forth by the OT designation "my holy day" and "the holy
day of the Lord" (Isa 58:13; cf. Exod 16:25; 20:10). Furthermore, the expression "the Lord's day" sounds very similar to Jesus' words in all three of the
synoptic Gospels, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath" (Matt 12:8; Mark
2:27-28; Luke 6:5) signifying the seventh-day Sabbath. J. Ford comes to the





Ranko Stefanovic, Revelation of Jesus Christ: Commentary on the Book of Revelation

(Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 2002), 90.
Harry 0. Maier, Apocalypse Recalled: The Book of Revelation after Christendom (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002), 166, 181.
Richard Bauckham argues against this interpretation in "The Lord's Day," in From
Sabbath to Lord's Day (ed. D. A. Carson; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 230-31.
William Milligan, The Book of Revelation (Expositor's Bible; Cincinnati: Jennings &
Graham, 1889), 13; Samuele Bacchiocchi, From Sabbath to Sunday: A Historical
Investigation of the Rise of Sunday Observance in Early Christianity (Rome: Pontifical
Gregorian University, 1977), 123-31.
Stefanovic, Revelation, 91.
David E. Aune, Revelation 1-S (WBC 52A; Waco: Nelson, 1997), 84.

The Theological Concept of the Sabbath in the Book of Revelation


conclusion that in John's time, "most probably the Christians would still be
keeping the Sabbath, the seventh day." 48

3. Sabbath and Creation

The interpretation of "the Lord's day" as the seventh-day Sabbath suggests
its close relationship to the theme of creation and redemptive re-creation
drawn from the OT. 49 In the vision of Rev 1-3, John saw Christ present to
re-enact the creational process of Gen 1 in order to achieve the sabbatical
realization portrayed at the end of the book of Revelation (Rev 21-22). First,
Christ the Creator and risen Lord, introduced himself as "the Alpha and the
Omega ... the first and the last, and the living One, and I was dead, and
behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades"
(Rev 1:8, 17,18; cf. 22:13); second, He appeared as the source of life for the
seven churches (Rev 2-3), as the One who will fashion the church into the
New Jerusalem (Rev 21-22); third, He is the One who will accomplish a
cosmic re-creation, a new heaven and a new earth replacing the first heaven
and earth (Rev 21:1; cf. Gen 1:1). The sabbatical consummation is finally
stated in Rev 21 :3-7:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall
be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe
away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death;
there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things
have passed away." And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am
making all things new." And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." Then He said to me, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the
Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts
from the spring of the water of life without cost. "He who overcomes
will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.
According to F. Tavo, this interpretation is also indicated by the sevenfold
division of the book of Revelation and its intensifying character, "performed for the sake of effecting [ ... ] the ultimate realization [... ] the descent
of the New Jerusalem." 50




Josephine Massyngberde Ford, Revelation (AB 38; New York: Doubleday, 1975), 384.
Lay Casey, "The Exodus Theme in the Book of Revelation against the Background
from the New Testament," in Exodus-A Lasting Paradigm (ed. B. van Iersel and A.
Weiler; Edinburgh: Clark, 1987), 34--43; Meredith Kline, "Creation in the Image of the
Glory-Spirit," WT/ 39 (1977): 250-72.
Tavo, "Structure," 54-55.


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4. Sabbath and Covenant

The new work of creation is depicted as a covenantal process. David Chilton recognizes the theme of the covenant as crucial for the reading of the
entire book of Revelation. 51 The description of the loud voice like the sound
of a trumpet on "the Lord's day" places the entire book of Revelation into
covenant context alluding to the Sinai covenant and the loud trumpet
sound which grew louder and louder when God declared the Ten Commandments (Exod 19:16, 19).
The particularity of Rev 1-3 with regard to the Sabbath and the theme of
the covenant is suggested by phrases such as, "the faithful witness" (1:5)
and "the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation
of God" (3:14). 52 Christ is introduced as witness of the covenant between
God and the church, which is represented by seven golden lampstands.
Moreover, the author relates clearly to the Sinai covenant by the words,
"He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father" (1:6; cf.
Exod 19:6; 24:8). After offering the intimate covenant meal to the church
members of Laodicea (Rev 3:20),53 distinctive covenant language occurs in
the Lamb scene of Rev 5:9-10, "Worthy are You to take the book and to
break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood
men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made
them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the
Moreover, the literary link between the throne room vision (Rev 4:5)
and the seventh part of each series of judgments signifies the theme of the
covenant for the entire book. The expression "flashes of lightning and
sounds and peals of thunder"(4:5) alluding to the "thunder and lightning
flashes" at Mount Sinai (Exod 19:16, 19; 20:18) when God established the
covenant with the people of Israel is reverberated at three decisive apocalyptic events: at the opening of the seventh seal (Rev 8:5), at the sounding of
the seventh trumpet (11:19), and at the pouring out of the seventh bowl
(16:18-21). Likewise, just as the ancient account describes the escalating




David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Tyler:
Dominion, 1987), xvii-xviii.
See also Rev 19:11, 13; 21:5; 22:6.
Cf. Exod 24:11. The establishment of the Sinai covenant with Moses, Aaron, Nadab,
Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel is portrayed by the words "they saw God,
and they ate and drank" similar to the Mari texts, which also describe a covenant

The TI1eological Concept of the Sabbath in the Book of Revelation


sounds at Mount Sinai, the book of Revelation presents the intensifying

character of the three series of judgments. 54
The close connection of "the Lord's day" as the seventh-day Sabbath
with the theme of the covenant suggests the reading of Exod 20:8-11 and
31:11-17 as background for Rev 1:10 as well as for the entire book of Revelation. As part of the Ten Commandments, the biblical Sabbath takes its special position as sign and everlasting covenant in carrying God's covenant
seal. Meredith Kline mentions the description of an international Hittite
treaty document, where the suzerain's dynastic seal appears in the middle
of the treaty document. 55 Likewise, the Sabbath commandment in its central
position contains all ancient constituents of the seal, namely the identity of
the owner and the sphere of ownership and authority. 56 Indeed, the Sabbath
as sign and seal of the covenant with Israel reminded the two parties of
their covenantal agreement written in the book of the covenant "with the
finger of God" (Exod 31:18). 57
In a systematic study of the noun n'"'J:il (covenant), Rolf Rendtorff shows
that the Sabbath as a sign of the everlasting covenant relates explicitly to
creation (Gen 1-2). 58 Doukhan demonstrates that the covenant as a "God54





"Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to
the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning
and an earthquake" (Rev 8:5). "And the temple of God which is in heaven was
opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of
lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm"
(Rev 11:19). "And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder;
and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be
upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty" (Rev 16:18). See,
Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy, 42.
See the treaty between Hattusilis and Ramses II in the tablet "What is in the middle of
the tablet of silver," in James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the
Old Testament (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 201; cf. Meredith G. Kline,
Treaty of the Great King: The Covenant Structure of Deuteronomy, Studies and Commentary
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963), lB.
Owner: God as the creator (Exod 20:11; 31:17); sphere of ownership and authority:
heaven and earth (Gen 1:1-3; Exod 20:11; 31:17).
Menahem Haran, "The Berit 'Covenant': Its Nature and Ceremonial Background," in
Tehilla le-Moshe: Biblical and Judaic Studies in Honor of Moshe Greenberg (ed. M. Cogan, B.
L. Eichler, andJ. H. Tigay; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1997), 203-19.
Rolf Rendtorff, Canon and Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 134. This idea is
supported by Pieter A. H. De Boer, "Quelqes remarques sur l' Arc dans la Nuee (Gen.
9, 8--17)," in Questions Disputes D'Ancien Testament: Methode et Theologie (ed. C.
Brekelmans; Leuven: Leuven Unversity Press, 1974), 105-29. De Boer speaks about
Gen 6:18 and Gen 9:9 where n,,:;i is mentioned with the possessive pronoun '11'"'ql, thus
referring to the divine guarantee which is embodied in creation (der Schiipfungsbund).
See also, L. Dequeker, "Noah and Israel: The Everlasting Divine Covenant with
Israel," in Questions Disputes D'Ancien Testament: Methode et Theologie (ed. C.


Mathilde Frey

man relationship" 59 in which God engaged with humanity came into being
on the seventh day of creation (Gen 2:1-3), even though the word covenant
is not used in the creation account. Just as "the faithful witness" appears in
the first vision of the book of Revelation to testify to the renewing of the
covenantal relationship between God and the seven churches, he, "the
Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God"
(Rev 3:14) stood as witness at the Sinai covenant in the form of the glorycloud and at the creation covenant as the Spirit of God referred to in Gen

5. Sabbath and Judgment

The motif of the loud voice like the sound of a trumpet on "the Lord's day"
points to the judicial aspect of this day. 60 Since creation times, the Hebrew
expression oi (day) carries the designation of divine judgment because of
the first decree of creation, "Let there be light" (Gen 1:3) as expression of
God's sovereignty over darkness. Also, the imagery of Christ with, "eyes
like a flame of fire" (Rev 1:14) represents a feature of judicial assessment.
It becomes obvious that characteristics of the creation account are used
to point to the judicial aspect of the book of Revelation. The imagery of "the
seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth"
(Rev 5:6) 61 on judicial missions and the seven torches of fire burning before
the throne (Rev 4:5) seem to point to the sevenfold refrain of the creation
week, "God saw that it was good." 62 M. Kline observes, "divine pronouncement, not just casual observation, is the meaning." 63 The judicial
force of the verb ;i~l (to see) is well attested in Hebrew Scripture. 64 God
judging his own works and pronouncing them good resounds six times and
at the seventh position the declaration is heightened to "very good" (Gen
1:31). Furthermore, the phrase "the seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits





Brekelmans; Leuven: Leuven Unversity Press, 1974), 115-29. Dequeker speaks about
the covenant with Noah as "the theological and situational context of the covenant
God made with Israel and her forefathers. ( ... ) Not only the so called covenant with
Noah, but the entire concept of creation (the preservation of life by God) must be
taken into account as the theological context of covenant (i.e., commihnent) God made
in favor of Israel" (ibid., 128-29).
Jacques B. Doukhan, The Genesis Creation Story: Its Literary Structure (AUSDDS 5;
Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1978), 224.
On judgment and light compare John 1:5; 3:19.
Cf. 2 Chr 16:9; Zech 4:10.
Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25.
Meredith Kline, "Primal Parusia," WT/ 40 (1977): 257.
Cf. Exod 39:43, "And Moses examined (N"'!~!) all the work and behold, they had done it;
just as the LORD had commanded, this they had done. So Moses blessed them."

The Theological Concept of the Sabbath in the Book of Revelation


of God" (Rev 5:6) seems to allude to Isaiah's prophecy "in the day" the
Lord will make that "the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of
seven days" (Isa 30:26). A sevenfold fullness of light and time marks "the
Lord's day" - a manifestation of the fullness of the Spirit.
The judicial function of the Sabbath also includes the aspect of victory
over the enemy as prelude to the peace and rest of God's kingdom. One
example for the judicial aspect of the Sabbath is God's judgment over the
Canaanites in order for Israel to be established in the realm of rest (Deut
12:10; Josh 21:44). Another example is the description of the jubilee Sabbath
in Isa 61. The great day is seen as God's day of vengeance, a day of liberation and restoration for the meek. Also, in Ps 104 doxology overflows leading through the six days of the creation week into the celebration of the
Sabbath (Ps 104:31-34), but then ending with the theme of judgment (v. 35).
In light of these examples, the Sabbath as "the Lord's day" is closely linked
with the theme of judgment in the OT. The book of Revelation alludes to
the OT and takes up the Sabbath in close connection with the theme of

6. Sabbath and Rest

The events described in Rev 4:8; 6:11 and 14:11, 13 clearly depict Sabbath
language where the four living beings do not cease but continue in praise,
"the souls of those who had been slain" were told to "rest a little while
longer;" the worshipers of the beast and its image "have no rest, day or
night;" but the dead who die in the Lord are blessed because they "rest
from their labors." 65 The noun avcmaumc,; (relief, rest, resting-place, ceasing,
stopping) and the verb avarrauw (give relief, refresh, rest, relax) are used to
convey sabbatical rest.
R. Johnston shows that these words and their derivatives are commonly
employed in the LXX to translate the Hebrew nfw (Sabbath) and its derivatives as well as the verb nu (rest) and its derivatives. The usage of these
terms in Rev 6:11 and 14:11, 13 seems to reflect what is called a Sabbath rest
of the righteous dead in Rabbinic literature. 66 The book of Revelation points
to the fulfillment of the promise of rest for "the dead who die in the Lord
from now on." Thus, the concept of eschatological rest indicates the motif of
Sabbath rest as an underlying theme of the book of Revelation.


Robert M. Johnston, "The Eschatological Sabbath in John's Apocalypse," 47.

Joseph and Aseneth 8:11.


Mathilde Frey

7. The Sabbath Commandment in Revelation 14:7

"At the decisive centerpoint of Revelation's description of the final crisis is a
direct allusion to Exod 20." 67 Paulien identifies verbal, thematic, and structural parallels between Rev 14:7 and the Sabbath commandment in Exod
20:8-11 and shows that "there is no direct allusion to the OT in the book of
Revelation that is more certain than the allusion to the fourth commandment in Rev 14:7." 6H The book of Revelation calls for worship and fear of
God in terms and context of the Sabbath commandment in relation to creation.
The first angel of Rev 14 proclaims with a loud voice, "Fear God, and
give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him
who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters" (14:7),
thus alluding to the Sabbath commandment of the OT, "For in six days the
LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and
rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and
made it holy" (Exod 20:11).
D. Aune points out that the four key words of Rev 14:7, cpol3toai (fear),
(glory), Kpim<;; (judgment), and TTpOOKUVEW (worship), suggest that the
author is drawing on Ps 96 and 1 Chr 16:8-36 using the LXX text. 69 However, these key words are also found in the account of the Sinai covenant in
Exod 19-24, which, as already demonstrated, seems to be a significant OT
background text for many words and themes in the book of Revelation.
The thunder, the flashes of light, the smoking mountain, and the loud
voice which grew louder and louder at Mount Sinai provoked trembling
and fear in the people of Israel when God came down to establish the covenant. Then Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come in
order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so
that you may not sin" (Exod 20:18). The Hebrew noun ill:tT (fear) translated
as cp613o<;; derives from the root Ni' (to fear, be afraid of, stand in awe). The
people of Israel are to fear and stand in awe before their God so that they
hate evil and sin.
In Exod 24:16-17, the text emphasizes strongly the glory of God which
came down on top of the Mountain and rested there, "the glory of the
LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on
the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. And to the
eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a



Jon Paulien, "Revisiting the Sabbath in the Book of Revelation," /ATS 9 (1998): 183.
Ibid, 185.
David E. Aune, Revelation 6-16 (WBC 52B; Waco: Nelson, 1997), 827.

The Theological Concept of the Sabbath in the Book of Revelation


consuming fire on the mountain top." This text incorporates several important features: the word rested is the Hebrew pu.i (rest, dwell, settle down), from
which derives i;:11pQ (tabernacle). God's glory dwelt on the mountain for six
.days and on the seventh day Moses met with God in the cloud. The text
marks here clearly the connection of the creation account with the Sinai
covenant. The glory appeared like a consuming fire. The book of Revelation
takes all of these features and presents God in His heavenly sanctuary in
full glory with the burning lamps in front of the throne.
The key element of judgment appears in close relationship with the
Sabbath commandment. In the Sinai account the Hebrew word for judgment occurs when Moses appoints Aaron and Hur for legal matters during
his absence. However, the loud voice like a trumpet, the lightning, thunder,
and the smoking mountain bring about the nature of judgment.
The last of the key words npocrKuvtw (worship) appears in the book of
Revelation 24 times, half of the times in connection with the twenty-four
elders. Another term for worship is AarpEuw, which occurs twice in connection with the worship service of the redeemed (Rev 7:15; 22:3). The commandment in Exod 20:5 deals explicitly with worship, and in Exod 24:1
Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, together with the seventy elders, go up to the
Lord and worship from a distance. The meeting between God and this
group of people culminates in the ratification of the covenant by a covenant
meal (Exod 24:11). In the book of Revelation, worship seems to be the central issue in close relationship with the Sabbath alluding to the Sabbath
commandment in Exod 20 and its context.

8. Summary and Conclusions

If the book of Revelation had been read out loud in front of a first-century
Christian audience, the question would have been, "which indicators and
concepts have made alive their understanding of the Scriptures?" Looking
at the sevenfold division with its culminating part of the vision of the New
Jerusalem and at the chiastic structuring with the Sabbath commandment at
the center of the center (Rev 14:7), observing the prominent use of the number seven as a number of completeness and sabbatical fulfillment, Sabbath
language and Sabbath allusions seem to run through the entire book. Analyzing the phrase "the Lord's day" in Rev 1:10, the direct allusion to the
Sabbath in Rev 14:7, and the language of sabbatical rest, the underlying
theological concept becomes more and more obvious. The Sabbath as a sign
of the completeness of creation and re-creation, as a sign of the covenantal
relationship established by God, and as a sign of the eschatological day of
judgment may have served the author of the book of Revelation as an un-


Mathilde Frey

derlying theological concept, thus linking the first part of the Bible with the
last part.
This investigation shows that the question for the Sabbath in the book of
Revelation does not focus on arguments for or against Sabbath keeping, but
places the Sabbath in the context of the entire biblical message and addresses the theological and historical issues of the Sabbath. The following
theological implications may be suggested for further investigation:
1. The Sabbath is first of all God's institution in time. Since the message
of the book of Revelation is cast in the concept of the Sabbath as God's institution, theological implications need to be drawn and presented from the
perspective of the Hebrew concept of time. 70 In Hebrew thought, time is
always new and received as a gift associated with life. Time and human
history are closely connected. The course of events is not imposed from
outside but belongs to intrinsic human experience. Events are described in a
chronological manner together with the divine interventions. The book of
Revelation shows that history has a beginning and develops towards an
end by divine intervention. This dynamic future-orientation of time and
history even expecting new things which are to come after the end of
earth's history is built upon the concept of the Sabbath and instills in the
here and now the hope for the not yet.
At the same time, Hebrew thought includes also the concept of synchronic time. J. Doukhan explains that the concept of synchronic time is
possible because of the content of time which prevails over chronology.
This means that events which are apart and distant in time can, if their content is similar, be regarded as simultaneous. This phenomenon is often used
in the speeches of the OT prophets, who envision a future event with reference to a past event by the use of the perfectum propheticum. John seems to
apply just this Hebrew concept of time when he tells of the fulfillment of
divine events which are yet to come.
2. John received the visions recorded in the book of Revelation on the
Sabbath day, "the Lord's day." This explicit statement at the beginning of
the book may function as a marker and device for the importance of the
Sabbath as dateline leading up to the sevenfold structure which then points
to the climax at the end of the book. It may also signify the dynamic futureorientation and completeness of time according to the creation account
(Gen 1-2) and the stability of time and history initiated by divine command
and cared for by divine interventions. This understanding goes contrary to
Meier's conclusion that the vision of the end leaves us with instability on all


Jacques B. Doukhan, Hebrew for Theologians: A Textbook for the Study of Biblical Hebrew in
Relation to Hebrew Thinking (Lanham: University Press of America, 1993), 200-207.

The Theological Concept of the Sabbath in the Book of Revelation


sides promising no end at all, only challenging its hearers and readers to
believe and live faithfully in order to "subvert" this world. 71 The concept of
the Sabbath in the book of Revelation suggests that earth's time and history
is not uncertain or unstable, but is perceived from a divine perspective including the events happening in the course of time. It implies divine initiation, order, chronology, simultaneity, rhythm, etc. and points to a real end
brought about by divine creation.
3. Collins concludes that "the purpose of the Apocalypse seems to be the
resolution of tension aroused by a perceived social crisis" 72 in the first century AD. If the Sabbath is taken as a basic concept for the message of the
book of Revelation, nothing could be further from the truth. The chiastic
structure focusing on the Sabbath of the fourth commandment makes clear
that the issue does not revolve around a social crisis during the first century
AD., but marks the fundamental crisis of humanity in relation to its Creator. The center point of the book of Revelation is an angel's call for a change
in perspective, for a transformation of the heart in the spirit of the Sabbath.
Here, the Sabbath reveals divine law and divine love in the context of the
everlasting gospel.



Maier, Apocalypse Recalled, 197.

Adela Yarbo Collins, Crisis and Catharsis: The Power of the Apocalypse (Philadelphia:
Westminster, 1984), 170.




1. Einleitung
Das Thema Geist der Weissagung" in Offb 12,17 wurde schon von Gerhard Pfand! in einem ausfhrlichen Artikel errtert. 1 Ich mchte mich daher
hier nur dem anderen Kennzeichen der brigen" widmen: dem Halten
der Gebote Gottes".
Wir wollen mit exegetischen Mitteln klren, was unter den Geboten"
zu verstehen ist und wie der im Griechischen mehrdeutige Begriff halten /
bewahren" verstanden werden soll. Dazu wird es notwendig sein, den
Kontext im Buch Offenbarung zu beachten. Wir mssen auch klren, inwiefern das AT die Formulierung von Johannes beeinflusst haben knnte.
In der Vergangenheit wurde von adventistischer Seite schon oft behauptet, dass Offb 12,17 die Zehn Gebote im Blick hat. 2 In diesem Artikel mchte
ich diese These mit unterschiedlich gelagerten Argumenten erhrten.

2. Begriffsklrung
2.1. Die Gebote
Der Ausdruck EVTOA~ kann verschieden bersetzt werden: Auftrag, Anweisung, Gebot, Gesetz". 3 Diese Anweisungen und Gebote kommen im NT
von Menschen, von Jesus oder von Gott. Es knnen Einzelgebote, aber auch
das Gesetz in seiner Gesamtheit gemeint sein.

Gerhard Pfand!, The Remnant Church and the Spirit of Prophecy", in Symposium on
Revelation: Exegetical and General Studies, Book 2, hg. F. B. Holbrook (DARCOM 7),
Silver Spring: Biblical Research Institute, 1992, 295-334.
Ibid 303: Whatever eise we may see in the expression, ,the commandments of God'
(tas entolas tou Theou), we must certainly include the Ten Commandments". Skip
MacCarty, In Granite or Ingrained? What the Old and New Covenants Reveal About the
Gospel, the Law, and the Sabbath, Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 2007, 200:
(Rev 12:17; 14:12). In view of Revelation's many allusions to the Ten
Commandments, it would be hard to argue that these texts do not have prominently
in mind both the Ten Commandments and the law's characteristic call to obedience".
Walter Bauer, Griechisch-deutsches Wrterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und
der frhchristlichen Literatur, Berlin: de Gruyter, 61988, 543.

Johannes Kovar


Interessant ist, dass die Gebote Gottes mit unterschiedlichen Verben

verbunden werden4, ohne dass dabei ein groer Bedeutungsunterschied
festzustellen ist. 5 Ich fhre nachstehend immer nur ein Beispiel an, speziell
aus der johanneischen Literatur, weil Johannes den Ausdruck EVTOA~ berproportional oft verwendet6:
weil wir seine
Gebote halten
wer meine
Gebote hat und
sie hlt



lJo 3,22

TI rac; EVTOAO<;
auroO r11poOEv



Jo 14,21

6 EXWV rac; EVTOAO<;

ou Kai n1pwv




Ka8wc; tvrnl\~v
tl\aoEv napa rnO

wie wir von

dem Vater ein
Gebot empfangenhaben


tun, befolgen

lJo 5,2

rav r6v 8E6v

ayanWEV Kai TC<;
EVTOAO<; auroO



2Jo 6

'iva nEpmmwEv

wenn wir Gott

lieben und
seine Gebote
dass wir nach
seinen Geboten



8,6 LXX

Kai <puM~n rac;

tvrnMc; Kupiou roO

Halte nun die

Gebote des
HERRN, deines Gottes

In der LXX findet sich cpul\aaaw (mit aktiver oder medialer Form verwendet) sehr hufig im Zusammenhang von Gesetz und Geboten. Genauso
auch in der auerbiblischen Literatur. Eigentlich hat cpuA<laaw die Bedeutung wachen, bewachen, behten, Wache halten" und nur mit Gebot/Gesetz heit es vor Verletzung bewahren = beobachten, befolgen,
einhalten".7 Das Gleiche gilt auch fr Tr]PEW, das bewachen, bewahren,
verwahren, bewahren = nicht verlieren oder = behten, schtzen" bedeutet
und mit Gebot/Gesetz die Bedeutung bewahren von Lehre und Gesetz=
beobachten, erfllen, halten" annimmt. 8 Eigentlich sind cpuMxaaw und
Vgl. Gottlob Schrenk, tvro~", 1WNT 2:541-53, dort 550.
Hans-Helmut Eer, tvro~ III", ThBNT 1:625-27, dort 626; so auch Harald Riesenfeld,
TrJptw", 1WNT 8:139-51, dort 144.
Klaus Haacker, EVTO~ III", ThBNT 1:623-25, dort 623.
Bauer, Wrterbuch, 1731-32.
Ibid., 1624-25.

Die Gebote in Offenbarung 12,17


rr1ptw als synonym zu bezeichnen, wenngleich die LXX cpuAaoow bevorzugt und das NT - speziell auch Johannes -viel lieber Tr]PEW verwendet. 9
Die beiden Verben cpuMoow und Tr]PEW werden also durchaus gleichwertig gebraucht. 10 Man sieht das deutlich an ihrer Verwendung:
1. in einem Parallelismus11 ,
2. in bedeutungsgleichen Formulierungen wie dem sehr hufigen
cpuA6om:1v TC<; EVTOJ..6<; und der offensichtlich gleichwertigen Wendung
3. aber auch in dem fr uns interessanten Beispiel des reichen Jnglings:
Jesus fordert ihn auf, die Gebote zu halten (TllPEW Mt 19,17), worauf erbekrftigt, sie befolgt zu haben (cpuMoow Mt 19,20).

2.2. Die Gebote Gottes"

Nicht immer wird in der Bibel klar, was mit den Geboten Gottes" gemeint
ist. Manchmal scheint es die gesamte Tora zu sein, manchmal sind es die
Zehn Gebote oder es ist ein Einzelgebot.
Oft wird argumentiert, dass bei den Synoptikern (Mk 12,28-31), bei Paulus (R 13,9) und bei Johannes Go 13,34; lJo 4,21) das Liebesgebot entscheidend sei und daher auch in Offb 12,17 gemeint sein msse. 12
Allerdings lassen Texte wie Mt 15,3--4 (= Mk 7,9-10) bzw. Mt 19,17-20
und R 13,9 klar erkennen, dass die Zehn Gebote fr dieselben Schreiber
allergrte Wichtigkeit haben und auch als die Gebote Gottes" bezeichnet
werden oder nach Jakobus das Gesetz" bedeuten Gak 2,10-12). Die Gebote" und das Gesetz" sind beides Ausdrcke, die auch fr den Dekalog
verwendet werden. 13
Es ist daher durchaus zu erwarten, dass auch die Johannesoffenbarung
den Zehn Geboten besondere Bedeutung beimisst.





Riesenfeld, Tr]ptw", TWNT8:139-51.

Ernst Lohrneyer, Die Offenbarung des Johannes (HNT 16), Tbingen: Mohr, 21953, 9. Er
meint allerdings, dass Tl"JPEW mehr die Bedeutung von Observanten" besitze. Dies
scheint mir aber nicht zuzutreffen. Interessant, dass R. H. Charles, A Crilical and
Exegetical Commentary on tlie Revelation of St. John, 2 Bde. (ICC), Edinburgh: Clark, 1920,
1:369, den Umstand, dass beide Verben synonym sind, offensichtlich nicht beachtet.
Spr 2,11; 4,23; 13,3; 16,17; 19,16; Dan 9,4; Jo 17,12. Einige dieser Verse werden
aufgezhlt von H.-G. Schtz, Tl"]ptw", NIDNTT 2: 132-33, und cpuMcrcrw", NIDNNT
Siehe z.B. Louis A. Vos, The Synoptic Traditions in tlie Apocalypse, Kampen: Kok, 1965,
203. Er argumentiert, dass das in der Offenbarung erwhnte Wort Gottes" nichts
anderes als die Evangelientradition und in 12,17 speziell das Liebesgebot gemeint sei.
Siehe ganz deutlich 2Mo 24,12: damit ich dir die steinernen Tafeln, das Gesetz (qin /
v6o<;) und das Gebot (i1Hfr;J / EVTOA~) gebe".


Johannes Kovar

3. Der Zeitpunl~t
Aufgrund von strukturellen berlegungen kann man durchaus berzeugend zur Schlussfolgerung gelangen, dass Offb 12,17 die Endphase des
Konflikts zwischen der Frau und dem Drachen beschreibt. 14 Diese Sicht
wird auch von vielen Kommentatoren geteilt. 15

4. Die Gebote in Offb 12,17

In der Offenbarung kommt der Ausdruck tvroM nur an zwei Stellen vor 16,
die groe hnlichkeit aufweisen:
Offb 12,17: cm~A8Ev TTOl~Oal n6AEov ETa TWV Aomwv TO anE:paroc;
OlJr~<; TWV TllPOUVTWV Tel<; EVTOAac; TO 8E00 Kai EXOVTWV T~V aprupiav
Offb 14,12: miE ~ UTTOov~ TWV ayiwv EOTiV, oi Tl']pOVTE<; Tel<; EVTOAcl<;
TO 8E00 Kai T~V TTiOTIV 'lriooO.

In diesen beiden Texten geht es um eine Beschreibung der Glubigen, in

der konkrete Kennzeichen aufgelistet sind. Da das Halten der Gebote Gottes" in beiden Passagen erwhnt wird, muss es fr Johannes besondere Bedeutung gehabt haben. In beiden Abschnitten sind die Ausdrcke tvroM
und rriptw (immer als Partizip) miteinander verknpft und durch den Genitiv Gottes" nher bestimmt.
Schauen wir uns Offb 12,17 genauer an. Sofort fllt der parallele Aufbau
der beiden Kennzeichen der brigen auf:

Tel<; EVTOAcl<;

TO 8E00




Partizip Prs. Gen. Pl.

Objekt im Akk.



Gen. Sg.

Man kann aufgrund dieser sicher bewusst bereingestimmten Struktur

schlieen, dass beide Elemente ganz eng miteinander verbunden sind.



William H. Shea, Tue Parallel Literary Structure of Revelation 12 and 20", AUSS 23
(1985):37-54, speziell 45 und 49.
David E. Aune, Revelation 6-16 (WBC 52B), Nashville: Nelson, 1998, 709 und 712;
Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Book of Revelation (NTC), Grand Rapids: Baker,
2001, 370; Grant R. Osbome, Revelation (BECNT), Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002, 452 und
486. G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary 011 the Creek Text (NIGTC), Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999, 678-80, klingt etwas unsicher.
Eine dritte Stelle wre nach dem Textus Receptus Offb 22,14: MaKilQLOL oi TtOLovm;
-rite; EvwAitc; auw [NA2 7: TIAuvov-rcc; -rite; m:oAitc; av-rwv], [va fo-rm i] EE.ouaia
av-rwv ETii -ro l;uAov -rf]c; Cwf]c;, Kai wie; TtuAwmv cicrtA8wcrtv Eie; u']v Tt6Atv. Diese
Lesart hat zwar einigen Rckhalt in den alten Handschriften und Versionen, hilft uns
aber in der Bewertung von Offb 12,17 kaum und bleibt daher in meiner Arbeit

Die Gebote in Offenbarung 12,17


Wenn in der ersten Aussage Gottes" ein Genitivus Subjectivus ist, und
daran kann kein Zweifel bestehen, dann ist zu erwarten, dass dies auch fr
die zweite Nherbestimmung Jesu" gilt. So wie die Gebote von Gott
stammen, so kommt auch das Zeugnis von Jesus.
In der Vergangenheit wurden natrlich schon unterschiedliche Vorschlge gemacht, was unter den Geboten Gottes" in Offb 12,17 gemeint
sein knnte. Hier eine kleine bersicht:
1. Viele Kommentatoren gehen auf die Fragestellung gar nicht ein und
lassen alles offen.17
2. Die Gebote Gottes" sind in einem sehr allgemeinen Sinn zu verstehen
(hnlich wie lKo 7,19). 18

3. Alle Gebote im Wort Gottes, besonders die ethischen Forderungen,

sind angesprochen. 19
4. Die Formulierung schliet die ganze Offenbarung des Alten und Neuen Bundes mit ein. 20
5. Da im NT das Liebesgebot entscheidend ist, muss es auch in Offb
12,17 gemeint sein. 21
6. Besonders der zweite Teil der Zehn Gebote und das Liebesgebot sind
gemeint. 22
7. Dem steht die adventistische Sicht gegenber, die bei der Deutung der
Gebote Gottes" immer an die Zehn Gebote (und speziell das Sabbatgebot) gedacht hat. 23
Ich mchte nun einige Argumente dafr auflisten, dass in Offb 12,17
und auch 14,12 die Zehn Gebote gemeint sind.

4.1. berlegungen zu Kontext und Strul~tur

Der Text Offb 12,17 ist in den groen Abschnitt der Kapitel 12-14 eingebettet. Eingeleitet wird diese Passage von der Einleitungsvision in Offb 11,1519 und abgeschlossen von einer weiteren Himmelsvision in Offb 15,1-8. 24 In





Charles, Reuelation, 1:331-32; Lcon Morris, The Book of Reuelation: An lntroducfion and
Commentary (TNTC 20), Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 21996, 160; Ben Witherington III,
Reue/ation (NCBC), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003, 171-72.
Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Reuelation (NICNT), Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998,
So offensichtlich Osbome, Reuelation, 486 und 543.
Beale, Book of Reuelation, 766; Kistemaker, Reuelation, 370.
Vos, Synoptic Traditions in the Apocalypse, 203.
Aune, Reuelation 6-16, 709-12.
Siehe dazu die Interpretation von Ellen G. White am Ende dieses Artikels.
Die Frage, inwieweit dieser Abschnitt in zwei Richtungen (rckwrts und vorwrts)
blickt, diskutiert Anthony MacPherson, The Mark of the Beas! as a ,Sign


Johannes Kovar

diesen Abschnitten werden ausdrcklich die Bundeslade (Offb 11,19) und

der Tempel des Zeltes des Zeugnisses im Himmel" (Offb 15,5) erwhnt.
Ein Leser damals assoziierte die Bundeslade zweifelsohne mit den Zehn
Geboten, weil die beiden im AT oft in einem Atemzug erwhnt werden. 25
Man kann sicher die Behauptung aufstellen, dass Offb 11,19 und 15,5
eine Art inclusio um die Kapitel 12-14 bilden, mit der Absicht, die Zehn
Gebote zu einem Hauptthema in diesem entscheidenden Kampf zu machen.26
Die Struktur der Offenbarung hat besonders adventistische Theologen
schon immer sehr beschftigt. Wenn wir uns jetzt nur auf den mittleren Teil
der Apokalypse beschrnken, sieht man den bedeutsamen Platz, den die
Gebote in Offb 12,17 einnehmen. Folgende Darstellung soll das verdeutlichen27:
A Heiligtumsszene - Bundeslade (mit Zehn Geboten) (11, 19)
B Aufruf, die Gebote Gottes zu halten (12,17)
C Aufruf, die Pseudo-Schpfung anzubeten (13,14-17)
C' Aufruf, den wahren Schpfer anzubeten (14,6-7)
B' Aufruf, die Gebote Gottes zu halten (14,12)
A' Heiligtumsszene - Tempel des Zeltes (mit Zehn Geboten) (15,5)
Da vieles in der Einleitungsvision Offb 11,15-19 spter in Offb 12-22 von
Johannes neuerlich aufgegriffen wird, ist es nicht verwunderlich, dass auch
das Thema der Gebote in 12,17 und 14,12 schon von Beginn weg angekndigt wird und dann ganz prominent ist. Durch die Verknpfung mit der




Commandment' and ,Anti-Sabbath' in the Worship Crisis of Revelation 12-14", AUSS

43 (2005): 267-83, dort 272-73. Fr 11,19 sind sich die adventistischen Ausleger einig,
dass auch ganz stark vorwrts in den Abschnitt der Kapitel 12-22 geblickt wird. Siehe
z. B. Ekkehardt Mller, Recapitulation in Revelation 4-11", /ATS 9 (1998): 260-77,
dort 275.
2Mo 25,16: Diese Stelle ist besonders prgnant, weil hier zum ersten Mal im AT von
der Bundeslade die Rede ist und auch gleich ihr Zweck genannt wird, nmlich als
Aufbewahrungsort der Zehn Gebote zu dienen; 2Mo 25,21; 30,6; 5Mo 10,1-5; lK 8,9;
2Chr 5,10; Hbr 9,4.
MacPherson, Mark of the Beast", 275. Ekkehardt Mller, Microstructural Analysis of
Revelation 4-11 (AUSDDS 21), Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1996, 57578, sieht in seinem Diagramm den Genitiv Gottes" von 11,19 (Tempel Gottes") mit
12,17 (Geboten Gottes") in einer mikrostrukturellen Beziehung stehen. Allerdings
wrde ich hier lieber die inhaltliche Seite betonen wollen, die eher einen
Zusammenhang zwischen der Bundeslade und den Geboten nahelegt.
William H. Shea, Tue Controversy over the Commandments in the Central Chiasm
of Revelation", /ATS 11 (2000): 216-31, dort 229.

Die Gebote in Offenbarung 12,17


Einleitungsvision knnen wir davon ausgehen, dass Johannes in 12,17 und

14,12 den Dekalog im Sinn hat.
In gewisser Weise dient Offb 12,17 als berschrift fr das, was in den
nachfolgenden Kapiteln im Detail ausgefhrt wird. 26 Kapitel 13 beschreibt
den Kampf, Kapitel 14 das Wesen und die Botschaft der Gemeinde der brigen.
Zweifelsohne ist das Thema der Anbetung ein zentrales Anliegen dieses
Abschnittes. Der mehrmalig erwhnten falschen Anbetung 29 steht der markante und einmalige Aufruf in Offb 14,7 entgegen, den Schpfergott anzubeten. Offensichtlich handelt es sich dabei um eine Anspielung auf 2Mo
20,11. 30

4.2. Die Zehn Gebote in der Offenbarung

Nun gibt es schon vor und knapp nach Offb 12,17 Anspielungen auf die
Zehn Gebote oder sogar Zitate, die auf sie Bezug nehmen. 31 Schauen wir
uns einige Passagen etwas nher an.

4.2. l. Offenbarung 5,3

Himmel ...
Erde .
unter der

Offb 5,3

2Mo 20,4 = 5Mo 5,8 (LXX)

Kai OUEi<; touvmo tv T<i> oupav<i>

OUE trrl Tl'j<; yfi<; OUE LmOKCrrw
Tfi<; vfic; avo~ai TC 1>.iov OTE


rravr6c; 6oiwa aa tv T<i>
oupav<i> VW Kai aa EV Tfl Vfl
KOTW Kai aa tv roic; aa1v
LmOKOTW Tfi<; Vfi<;

Diese Parallele findet sich als Hinweis in der Randbeigabe von NA26 und
NA27 (nicht aber in lteren Ausgaben32) und auch bei einigen Kommentatoren33.





Jon Paulien, Revisiting the Sabbath in the Book of Revelation", /ATS 9 (1998): 179---86,
dort 182.
lbid., 182. Siehe Offb 13,; 14,9.11. Allein die hufige Nennung des Verbs
anbeten" zeigt, dass es sich um ein Hauptthema des Abschnitts handeln muss.
lbid., 179---86. Paulien listet als Argumente zugunsten dieser Sicht verbale, thematische
(Erlsung, Gericht, Schpfung) und strukturelle Parallelen auf.
MacCarty, In Granite or Ingrained?, 199-200, nennt fr die Offenbarung folgende
Anspielungen auf die Zehn Gebote: Offb 1,10; 2,14.20; 3,8; 9,20-21; 11,18--19; 12,17;
14,7.12; 15,5; 21,8. Ich schlage allerdings vor, diese Liste weiter zu vervollstndigen.
Gleichzeitig wird von NA26 und NA27 auch auf den hnlichen Text Offb 5,13
verwiesen, der aber ohne Hinweis auf das AT abgedruckt wird und im Register des
Anhangs nicht erwhnt wird.
Charles, Revelation, 1:139, fhrt die Stellen 2Mo 20,4 und 11 an; Osbome, Revelation,
261, erwhnt die gleichen Texte.


Johannes Kovar

4.2.2. Offenbarung 9,20-21

Offb 9,20-21


Gtzen anbeten

lva ~ rrpoaKu~aoua1v Tc
a16v1a Kai TC Ei&>.a

ou rro1~arn; arnun~ Ei&>.ov (V 4)

... ou rrpoaKuv~cmc; auToic; out
~ AmpEuanc; auToic; (V 5)


Kai ou ETEv6ricrav EK Twv q>6vwv


ou cpovEUaEI<; (V 13 [LXX 15])


EK Ti')c; rropvEiac; auTwv

ou OIXEUOEI<; (V 14 [LXX 13])


tK Twv KAEerrwv auTwv

ou KM111t1c; (V 15 [LXX 14])

Es gibt viele Kommentatoren, die in Offb 9,20-21 den Dekalog als alttestamentliches Vorbild sehen. 34

4.2.3. Offenbarung 10,6

Sabbat und

Offb 10,6
Kai woaEV EV T4J ~WVTI Ei<; TOU<;
aiwvac; Twv aiti.Jvwv, c; EKTlaEV
TOV oupav6v Kai Ta EV auT4J Kai
rriv vfiv Kai Ta EV alrrfl Kai Tiiv
aa>.aaaav Kai Ta tv alrrfl, T1
xp6voc; OUKETI EaTQI

2Mo 20,11 (LXX)

tv ycp f.~ ~tpa1c; trroirim:v
Kp1oc; TOV oupav6v Kai ll'lv yfiv
Kai T~V aa>.aaaav Kai TTCVTa Ta EV
allToic; Kai KOTETTaUOEV Tfl ~EPQ
Tfl t6n 1a TOTO Eu>.6yr]OEV
Kup1oc; T~v ~tpav T~v tooriv
Kai ~yiaOEV auT~V

Auch hier wurde in der Vergangenheit schon ein Zusammenhang mit den
Zehn Geboten gesehen. 35

4.2.4. Offenbarung 13-14







Offb 13-14
viic; rro1fiaa1 EIK6va T4> Bripi4J

ou rro11'Jat1c; OEaUT4> Ei&Aov
out rravr6c; 6oiwa (V 4)

Siehe z.B. NA27, wo zu Offb 9,20-21 die Parallele 2Mo 20,13-15 am Rand vermerkt ist.
Fr die Kommentatoren siehe z. B. Aune, Revelation 6-16, 544; Charles, Revelation,
1:255; Lohmeyer, Offenbarung, 83; Mounce, Revelation, 198; Heinz Giesen, Die
Offenbarung des Johannes (RNT), Regensburg: Pustet, 1997, 226; Heinrich Kraft, Die
Offenbarung des Johannes (HNT 16a), Tbingen: Mohr, 1974, 144; Ulrich B. Mller, Die
Offenbarung des Johannes (TK 19), Gtersloh: Mohn, 1984, 198. Osbome, Revelation,
387, meint, dass die Gebote 2 - 6 - 7 - 8 angesprochen sind.
Siehe nochmals die Randbt'!igabe in NA27 und auch schon die lteren Ausgaben (ab
Nestle '1898), die alle 2Mo 20,11 vermerken. Genauso auch Mounce, Revelation, 206;
Charles, Reve/ation, 1:263; Aune, Revelation 6-16, 565.
J. Massyngberde Ford, Revelation: Introduction, Translation, and Commentary (AB 38),
Garden City: Doubleday, 1975, 224: the actual making of an image for the monster is
a direct infringement of Exod 20:3-4". Vgl. Alan F. Johnson, Revelation", EBC 12:531.

Die Gebote in Offenbarung 12,17


Kai t6811 aun~ ovai TIVEOa
Tfl EIK6v1 rn 811piou, iva Kai
AaAr'jon r'j EiKwv rn 811piou
E'i m; rrpooKuvEi T6 811piov Kai
Tr'jv EIK6va aurnO (14,9)
oi rrpOOKUVOVTE<,; T6 811piov Kai
Tr'jv EIK6va aUTO (14,11)

Kai rrpoaEKUVl')Oav T4' paKOVTI,

T1 EOWKEV Tr'jv t~ouoiav T4'
811pi4J, Kai rrpoaEKUVl'JOOV T4'
8r]pi4J (13,4)
rraVTE<,; oi KaTOIKOVTE<,; trri Tfl<,;
iva rrpoaKuvr'joouo1v r6 811piov
T6 rrpwTov (13,12)
Kai rro1r'jon [iva] oo1 tav r'j
8r]piou arr0Kmv8wo1v (13,15)
E'i Tl<,; TTpoDKUVEi TO 811piov Kai
Tr'jv EiK6va auTO (14,9)
oi TTpoDKUVOVTE<,; TO 811piov Kai
Tr'jv EiK6va auTO (14,11)

OU TTpoaKUVr'jOEI<,; aurni<,; OUE r'j

AaTpEuon<,; aurni<,; (V 5)


ETTi Ta<,; KEcpaA<'I<,; aurn 6v6a[m]

>.aocp11la<,; (13, 1)
Kai t6811 auT4J ar6a AaAoOv
EyaAa Kai >.aocprila<,; (13,5)
Kai ~VOl~EV TO ar6a aUTO Ei<,;
>.aocp11ia<,; rrp6<,; T6v 8E6v
>.aocp11floa1 TO voa aurnO

ou Ar'jljJn T6 voa Kupiou To

8Eo0 oou trri aral41 (V 7)

Sabbat und

ap186<,; yap av8pwrrou tariv,

Kai 6 ap186<,; aUTO E~aKOOIOI
E~r'jKOVTa f~ (13,18)

vr'jo81')TI Tr'jv r'jtpav TWV

oamwv ay1a~EIV auTr'jV (V 8)
f~ r'jtpac,; tpyQ Kai TTOlr'jOEI<,;
rravra Ta fpya oou (V 9)
Tfl t r'jtpQ Tfl t6n oaam
KUpi4J (V 10)

keine Arbeit

Kai 'iva r'j Tl<,; UVl')Tal ayopaoai

~ rrwAfloa1 (13,17) 39

Tfl t r'jtpQ Tfl t6n oama

KUpi4J T4J 8E4J OOU OU TTOlr'jOEI<,;
tv auTfl rrv fpyov (V 10)


Osbome, Revelation, 497, fhrt 2Mo 20,3 als Parallele an.

Ibid., 500.
Nach Neh 10,32 (LXX rnu<,; ayopaoouc,;) bzw. 13,15-22 (LXX V 16 rrwAoOVTE<,; tv T4J
oam4J) ist gerade das Handeltreiben nicht mit dem Sabbatgebot vereinbar.


Johannes Kovar
lange Auflistung von

Kai na1Ei TIVTac;, TOU<; 1Kpauc;

Kai Taue; EyAauc;, Kai Taue;
TIAauoiauc; Kai TOU<; mwxauc;,
Kai muc; EAEU8tpauc; Kai muc;
au.\auc;, 'iva OWOIV auraic;

OU Kai 6 Ui6c; oau Kai ~ 8uyTl']p

oau 6 naic; oau Kai ~ naiicrKl'J
oau 6 ac; oau Kai r6
UTia~uy16v OaU Kai TIV KTftv6c;
oau Kai 6 npao~A.umc; 6
napalKWV tv oai (V 10)


au cpoVEUOEI<; (V 13 (LXX 15))



Et Tl<; EV axaipn arraKTav8ftva1

auTV EV axaipn arraKTav8ftva1
TO 81']piau arraKTCJV8WalV
aumi Eimv a'i ETCJ yuvalKWV auK
tahllv811oav, nap8tvo1 (14,4)
~ EK m o'ivau m 8ua rftc;
napvEiac; (14,8)
Kai tv r4J ar6m1 aurwv aux
Euptel'] ljlEOOoc; (14,5)

au OIXEUOEI<; (14 (LXX 13))

au 1j1Euoaprup~oE1c; KOTO m
nA.rioiav oau aprupiav ljltuft

Die Parallelen fr die erste Hlfte des Dekalogs wurden schon frher erkannt40, aber wie wir sehen, sind sie nicht auf diese beschrnkt.
4.2.5. Offenbarung 14,7

Offb 14,7

2Mo 20,11 (LXX)41

TI ~h8EV ~ wpa Tftc; KpiOEW<;

TIOl~OOVTI TOV oupav6v Kai T~V
yftv Kai eAaooav Kai nrivac;

tv yap f~ ~tpa1c; trroil']OEV

KUp1ac; TOV aupav6V Kai niV yftv
Kai niv 8Aaooav Kai navra ra tv
allraic; Kai KmtnaUOEV r(I ~i:PQ
rn i:oon 010 mom EuMvrioEv
Kup1ac; r~v ~tpav r~v i:ooriv
Kai ~yiaotv aur~v

Auch dieser Text wurde schon frher als Verweis auf die Zehn Gebote gesehen.42
40 Paulien, Sabbath in the Book of Revelation", 184-85; MacPherson, Mark of the


Beast", 276-78.
Als zustzlicher Vergleichstext aus dem AT wrde sich Ps 146,6 anbieten. Da aber die
Zehn Gebote sicher die bekanntere und wichtigere Parallele darstellen, scheint mir
eine Anspielung auf 2Mo 20,11 weit wahrscheinlicher. Zustzliche Argumente bietet
Paulien, Sabbath in the Book of Revelation", 183--85.
Ibid 179-86; Ranko Stefanvic, Revelation of Jesus Christ: Commentary on the Book of
Revelation, Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 2002, 416. In den Ausgaben der
United Bible Societies 111e Creek New Testament (11966 bis 41993) wird in der Funote
2Mo 20,11 vermerkt. Dieser Verweis findet sich aber auch schon frher in den
Ausgaben von Eberhard und Erwin Nestle, Novum Testamentum Graece (11898 bis
251963) als Randbeigabe und im Text fett gedruckt als Hinweis auf das AT. Auch die

Die Gebote in Offenbarung 12,17


Diese zum Teil sehr deutlichen Hinweise auf die Zehn Gebote erhhen
die Wahrscheinlichkeit, dass sie auch in Offb 12,17 gemeint sind. Wir knnen festhalten, dass fast alle Gebote des Dekalogs erwhnt werden, dabei
aber speziell das Sabbatgebot in das Blickfeld rckt.

4.3. Der AT-Hintergrund

4.3.1. Das Buch Daniel
Wenn man die Verweisstellen zu Dan 7 in NA 27 durchsieht, ist unschwer zu
erkennen, dass dieses alttestamentliche Kapitel eine herausragende Rolle in
der Offenbarung spielt. Ich mchte nachstehend alle Parallelen nach NA27
auflisten und gleichzeitig einen Ergnzungsvorschlag machen:




vier Winde


11,7; 13,1

Tier steigt herauf



Beschreibung der Tiere


12,3; 13,l

zehn Hrner



Mund redet groe Dinge


1,14; 20,4.11

weie Haare, Throne


5,11; 20,12

Tausende, Zehntausende, Bcher geffnet


13,5; 19,20

Lsterung, Bestrafung durch Feuer


1,7.13; 14,14

Wolke, Menschensohn



ewige Herrschaft



ewige Herrschaft


13,5; 17,12

Mund redet groe Worte, zehn Hrner


11,7; 13,7

Krieg gegen die Heiligen, sie werden besiegt





12,3; 13,1; 17,12

zehn Hrner


12,14; 13,6.7

31/2 Zeiten, Lsterung, Krieg gegen die Heiligen


11,15; 20,4; 22,5

ewiges Reich

aktuelle Ausgabe Novum Testamentum Graece et Latine (31994) der deutschen Bibelgesellschaft hat neben dem lateinischen Text den Hinweis auf 2Mo 20,11, der aber im
griechischen Teil fehlt. Genauso haben alle Ausgaben von Augustinus Merk, Novum
Testamentum Graece et Latine, Rom: Pontificio Istituto Biblico (z. B. 11 1992) diesen
Verweis auf 2Mo 20,11. Offensichtlich fehlt zu Offb 12,17 der Hinweis auf das
Sabbatgebot erst ab NA26, obwohl er zu Offb 10,6 bis in die aktuelle Ausgabe NA27
erhalten blieb.

Johannes Kovar


von mir vorgeschlagene Ergnzungen:



fhrt Krieg gegen die Heiligen



Gebote verndern/ bewahren

Aufgrund der Hufung wre es gar nicht berraschend, wenn auch Dan
7,25 (aM01wcrai Ka1pouc; Kai v6ov) seinen Niederschlag in Offb 12,17 (rwv
rr1pouvrwv rac; tvroMc; ro 8E00) fnde. Das wre zwar keine verbale, aber
doch eine thematische Parallele, was gut zum Charakter von Offb 12
passt. 43 Es ist auch nichts Neues, hier eine Verbindung zwischen Dan 7,25
und Offb 12,17 zu sehen. 44 Tatschlich gibt es einige gemeinsame Elemente:
Krieg - die Glubigen - das Gesetz45 - verndern (aM016w) 46 bzw. bewahren. Dieses letzte Element, die Verschiebung des Schwerpunkts vom Verndern des Gesetzes (Daniel) zu seiner Bewahrung (Offenbarung), kann
man durchaus mit hnlichen Vernderungen vergleichen:


verschiedene Tiere



Lwe mit Adlerflgeln

die Heiligen bekommen Macht und Reich
Horn besiegt die Heiligen und reibt sie auf
Horn verndert Gesetz
Horn wchst bis zum








wer ist dem Tier

Frau mit Adlerflgeln
das Tier bekommt die
Frau wird bewahrt
die brigen bewahren
die Gebote
Drache auf Erde geworfen

Ian Paul, The Use of the Old Testament in Revelation 12", in The O/d Testament in the
New Testament, hg. S. Moyise, OSNTSup 189), Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press,
2000, 256-74. Auf S. 269 kommt er zur Schlussfolgerung: All four types of allusion
(verbal allusion to words, verbal allusion to themes, thematic allusion to words,
thematic allusion to themes) occur in this chapter".
Stephen Pattemore, The People of God in the Apocalypse: Discourse, Structure and Exegesis
(SNTSMS 128), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004, 120: Er sieht eine
Verbindung zwischen Dan 7,21.25 und Offb 12,7.17 und 13,7. Darber hinaus auch
eine Verbindung zwischen Dan 7,25 zu Offb 13,5.7.
Die Kommentatoren interpretieren das Gesetz" in Dan 7,25 praktisch immer von
Antiochus IV her und verweisen dabei auf Texte wie lMakk 1,45 und 2Makk 6,6, in
denen es auch um den Sabbat geht. Siehe z. B. John J. Collins, Daniel (Hermeneia),
Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993, 322.
Bauer, Wrterbuch, 77 gibt die Bedeutung verndern, ndern" an.


Die Gebote in Offenbarung 12,17

Man gewinnt folgenden Eindruck: Was dem Tier/Horn in Dan 7 gelingt,

bleibt dem Drachen in Offb 12 versagt, weil die Heiligen entkommen und
bewahrt werden. Manches, was in Daniel der bsen Seite zugesprochen
wird, wird in der Offenbarung von den Glubigen gesagt-oder umgekehrt. Es kommt jedenfalls zu einer aufflligen Verschiebung, womit das
Verndern des Gesetzes bzw. das Halten der Gebote gut ins Schema passen

4.3.2. Die Exodusgeschichte

Neben Dan 7 bietet sich aber auch die Auszugsgeschichte als alttestamentliche Vergleichsstelle an. 47







die Erde verschlang sie

Es stellt sich natrlich sofort die Frage, ob nicht die Zehn Gebote sehr gut in
diesen Zusammenhang passen wrden. Der Sabbat wird im Dekalog erwhnt (2Mo 20,8-11), aber auch schon in 2Mo 16,23-30 ausfhrlich dargelegt. In 2Mo 16,28 formuliert Gott: Wie lange habt ihr euch nun schon
geweigert, meine Gebote und Gesetze zu halten? (LXX Ta<; EVTOAC<; ou Kai
TOV voov ou)". Die Frage Gottes klingt sehr allgemein, aber vom Kontext
her ist eindeutig das Sabbatgebot gemeint. Warum sollte mit den Geboten
in Offb 12,17 nicht auch speziell auf das Sabbatgebot angespielt werden?

4.4. Zeugnis" und die Bundeslade bzw. Stiftshtte

Johannes verwendet neben dem MT wohl auch die LXX. 49 Durch seine eher



Jrgen H. Kalms, Der Sturz des Gottesfeindes: Traditionsgeschichtliche Studien zu

Apokalypse 12 (WMANT 93), Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2001, 95-96, kommt
zur Schlussfolgerung: Die Erzhlung von der zunchst bedrohten und schlielich
bewahrten Frau in Apk 12,13-16 nimmt Motive der Exodus-Erzhlung auf. Die
Verbindungen sind bereits in der Darstellung des Drachen, der mit dem Pharao
gleichgesetzt werden kann, erarbeitet worden. Die bedrohenden Wassermassen aus
dem Mund des Drachen entsprechen dem Durchzug durch das Schilfmeer, dessen
Wassermassen Israel nicht ertrnken knnen. Der Ernhrung der Frau in der Wste
entspricht die Speisung mit Manna. Die vom Drachen verfolgte und durch Gott in der
Wste bewahrte himmlische Frau aus Apk 12 entspricht so dem Gottesvolk des
Exodus, das vom Pharao verfolgt und durch Gott in der Wste bewahrt wurde".
Diese Parallele wurde berzeugend vorgeschlagen von Jan Dochhom, Und die Erde
tat ihren Mund auf: Ein Exodusmotiv in Apc 12,16", ZNW 88 (1997): 140-42, und in
neuerer Literatur immer als Parallele anerkannt.
Obwohl diese Frage kontroversiell diskutiert wird, finden sich prominente
Befrworter der These, dass in der Johannesoffenbarung auch der Einfluss der LXX


Johannes Kovar

eigentmliche Art, das AT zu verwenden, ist es oft nicht leicht, sich zwischen einer semitischen oder griechischen Vorlage zu entscheiden. Offensichtlich verwendete er beide. 50
Der Ausdruck Zeugnis" ist in der LXX-Fassung des Pentateuchs aufs
Engste mit der Stiftshtte verknpft. In MT steht ;p\r.i ?ryN, was von den
deutschen Bibeln unterschiedlich bersetzt wird: Stiftshtte (LUT)", Zelt
der Begegnung (ELB)" oder Offenbarungszelt (EIN)". Die LXX gibt den
MT normalerweise mit dem hufig anzutreffenden OKl'JV~ TO aprupiou
wieder51, die Vulgata mit tabernaculum testimonii.
In der LXX wird die Bundeslade oft Lade des Zeugnisses" genannt (eine Verbindung aus K1wr6<; und aprup1ov, sowohl im Singular wie im Plural)52, manchmal auch dann, wenn der MT das Wort Zeugnis" gar nicht
stehen hat53 . Das zeigt, wie der Begriff Zeugnis" im Denken des Judentums untrennbar mit der Bundeslade verknpft war.

Noch ein weiterer Gedanke: Der fr sich allein stehende Ausdruck

Zeugnisse" (in der LXX immer als Plural Ta aprup1a) meint gelegentlich
auch die Steintafeln mit den Zehn Geboten. 54 Natrlich kommen auch die
Tafeln des Zeugnisses" (in der LXX als Singular TO aprupiou) vor. 55
Diese Beobachtungen fhren mich zur Schlussfolgerung, dass das
Zeugnis Jesu" in Offb 12,17 zwar von Johannes selbst mit dem Geist der
Weissagung" erklrt wird (Offb 19,10), aber auf einer zweiten Ebene bei
Lesern des l. Jh. n. Chr. wohl auch eine Assoziation auslste, die mit der
Bundeslade und speziell den Zehn Geboten zu tun hatte (siehe auch oben





sprbar ist. Siehe z. B. Gerard Mussies, The Morphologtj of Koine Creek as Used in the
Apocalypse of John (NovTSup 27), Leiden: Brill, 1971, 358, und idem, The Creek of the
Book of Revelation", in L'Apocalypse johannique et l'Apocalyptique dans /e Nouveau
Testament, hg. J. Lambrecht (BEIL 53), Gembloux: Duculot, 1980, 167-77, dort 167.
Siehe auch D. D. Schmidt, Semitism and Septugintalismus in the Book of
Revelation", NTS 37 (1991): 592~03, besonders 602. Vgl. auch E. Lohse, Die
alttestamentliche Sprache des Sehers Johannes", ZNW 52 (1961): 122-26.
Steve Moyise, The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation OSNTSup 115), Sheffield:
Sheffield Academic Press, 1995, 17.
Diese Verbindung kommt in der LXX weit ber 100 Mal vor.
Hier die Stellen aus 2. Mose: 2Mo 25,10.22; 26,33.34; 30,6.26; 31,7; 35,12; 40,3.21.
Speziell erwhnen mchte ich noch 40,5, wo der MT Lade des Zeugnisses", aber die
LXX nur Lade" stehen hat, dafr aber abweichend vom MT das Zelt des
Zeugnisses" erwhnt.
2Mo 25,10; 35,12.
2Mo 25,16.21; 40,20.
2Mo 31,18; 32,15; in 34,29 fehlt in der LXX die Nherbestimmung des Zeugnisses".

Die Gebote in Offenbarung 12,17


zu Kontext und Struktur}. 56 Damit will ich in keiner Weise die Bedeutung
der Prophetie" schmlern, sondern nur die Idee artikulieren, dass Johannes vielleicht noch mehr im Sinn hatte als die Gabe der Weissagung.

4.5. Offb 12,17 als Zitat aus den Zehn Geboten?

In 2Mo 20,6 lesen wir: ... der aber Gnade erweist an Tausenden, die mich
lieben und meine Gebote halten." Die Fassung der LXX verwendet hier die
Formulierung rolc; cpuMcrcroumv ra npocrrayara ou. Allerdings drfen
wir dabei nicht vergessen, dass fr Gebot" im Hebrischen i1WQ steht, was
in der LXX zumeist mit EVTOA~ bersetzt wurde. Das Verb halten (,ni.z.i)"
wird in der LXX fast immer mit cpui\acrcrw, aber auch (selten) mit r11ptw
bersetzt, wobei wir schon festgehalten haben, dass die beiden synonym
sind. Die LXX htte daher 2Mo 20,6 genauso gut mit rolc; r11pomv rac;
EVToi\Oc; ou wiedergeben knnen. Dies entsprche erstaunlich gut der
Wortwahl von Offb 12,17.

Fr Johannes ist die Verbindung zwischen Gott lieben" und seine Gebote halten" auch in anderen Stellen anzutreffen. Vergleichen wir den
Wortlaut der Zehn Gebote mit hnlichen Texten des AT und mit Johannes:
2Mo 20,6: Kai TTOIWV EAEO) Eie; x1A1Cxac; rolc; ayanwoiv E Kai rolc;
cpui\acrcroumv Ta npocrrayara ou
5Mo 7,9: Kai yvwon TI KUp1oc; 6 9E6c; oou OUTO<; 9E6c; 9E6c; mcrr6c; 6

cpui\Cxocrwv 1a8~KllV Kai EAtoc; Tolc; ayanwmv aUTOV Kai Tolc;

cpui\acrooumv Ta<; tvroi\Oc; aUTO Eie; x1Aiac; YEVEO<;
5Mo 11,1: Kai ayan~OEI<; KUp1ov TOV 9E6V oou Kai cpui\Cx~n TO cpui\Cxyara
aurn Kai Ta IKOIWara aUTO Kai TOS KpiOEI<; aUTO naoac; Ta<; ~tpac;
5Mo 30,16: EOV EicraKOUOO<; Ta<; EVTOi\O<; KUpiou TO 9EO OOU c; EYW

EVT(Ai\oai 001 o~Epov ayanv KUp1ov TOV 9E6V OOU TTOpEUE090I EV

nacraic; ralc; 6olc; aUTO cpui\acrow9ai Ta IKOIWara aurn Kai Tac;
KpiOEI<,; aUTO Kai .
]os 22,5: ai\i\a cpui\Cx~ao9E TTOIEIV ocp6pa Ta<; EVTOi\ac; Kai TOV v6ov V
EVETEii\aro ~lv TTOIEIV Mwuoflc; 6 nalc; KUpiou ayanv KUplOV TOV 9E6V
uwv nopEuw9ai naoa1c; ralc; 6olc; auTo cpuM~acr9ai Tac; tvroMc;
aUTO Kai npocrKEl08a1 a0T4> Kai i\arpEUEIV a0T4> E~ i\ric; TfJ<; 1avoiac;
uwv Kai E~ i\11c; Tflc; ljJUXflc; uwv
Neh 1,5: 6 cpoEp6c; cpu.haaawv T~V 1a8~Kr]V Kai TO EAEO? rnlc; ayanwmv
aUTOV Kai Tale; cpui\Oaaoumv Tac; tvroi\Oc; aUTO


Man knnte jetzt spekulieren und die Frage stellen, warum Johannes das Zeugnis
Jesu" in Offb 19,10 berhaupt erklrt. Vielleicht, um das drohende Missverstndnis
auszurumen, das Zeugnis Jesu" mit den Zehn Geboten gleichzusetzen.


Johannes Kovar

Dan 9,4: Kai TO EAEO) TOIS ayarrwoi OE Kai rols cpuAOoooum Ta

rrpoarayara oou
Dan 9,4: Kai TO EAEO) TOiS ayarrwoiv OE Kai rols cpuAOoooumv ras EVTOAOS
oou (TH)
Jo 14,21: 6 EXWV ras EVTOAas ou Kai H)pwv aurac; EKElv6c; EOTIV 6 ayarrwv

Jo 15,10: EOV ras EVTOAOS ou Tl)prjor)TE, EVEITE EV Tfl aycmn ou, Ka8wc;
EVW TOS EVTOAOS TO rrarpos ou mrjpl)Ka Kai E:vw aUTO EV T ayarrn.
8E6V ayarrwEv Kai ras E:vro>.as auro TTOIWEv.
2Jo 6: Kai aTr) E:ariv ri ayOTTI), Yva TTEpmarwEv KOTO TOS EVTOAas auro
arri ~ E:vroArj E:arrv, Ka8wc; ~KouoarE arrapx~c;. Yva E:v aurfl mpmar~rE.
Auffllig ist, wie die beiden unterschiedlichen griechischen Fassungen zu
Dan 9,4 abwechselnd ra rrpoarayam und rac; E:vroAac; verwenden, was
einerseits nochmals ihre Synonymitt beweist, andererseits doch als bewusste Anspielung auf 2Mo 20,6 gedeutet werden muss. Vor allem die
wiederholte Verwendung von EAEO<;; in 2Mo 20,6; 5Mo 7,9; Neh 1,5 und Dan
9,4 verbindet diese Stellen miteinander und zeigt erneut, dass rrpoarayam
und EVTOAO<;; austauschbar sind.
Was bedeutet das alles fr Johannes? Interessant ist, dass auch er die
Verbindung Gebote - Liebe immer wieder betont. Es scheint mir nicht unmglich, dass dieses Thema direkt auf 2Mo 20,6 zurckgehts7, weil dieser
Text offensichtlich gern und oft zitiert wurde. Wenn das richtig ist, wrde
durchaus einiges dafr sprechen, dass Johannes in Offb 12,17 vielleicht
doch bewusst 2Mo 20,6 aufnimmt.
Man kann hier natrlich gleich weiterfragen: Ist in 2Mo 20,6 das Halten" oder das Bewahren" der Gebote gemeint, und welche Gebote sind
angesprochen? Die Gebote sind nach Dohmen offensichtlich die Zehn Gebote selbst.SB Er fhrt dann aus, dass mit Gott lieben" das Hauptgebot gemeint sei, das in seinem Ausschlielichkeitsanspruch und dem Verbot von
fremden Gttern und Kultbildern seinen Ausdruck findet. Er folgert dann
weiter, dass das Halten der Gebote" alle folgenden Vorschriften im Dekalog anvisiert und auch deren Bewahrung" mit einschliet.s9
Wenn man hier in Kategorien der Johannesoffenbarung weiterdenkt
und die darin betonte Wichtigkeit der richtigen Anbetung einbezieht, dann

Georg Strecker, Die Johannesbriefe (KEK 14), Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht,
1989, 226, zitiert in seinem Exkurs zum Liebesbegriff auch 2Mo 20,6 als Text, der die
Liebe zu Gott mit dem Halten der Gebote verknpft.
SB Christoph Dolunen, Exodus 19-40 (HThKAT 5), Freiburg: Herder, 2004, 108--9.
s9 So auch G. Liedke, ;m1", THAT2:530-36, dort 535.

Die Gebote in Offenbarung 12,17


ergibt sich ein uerst interessantes Gesamtbild.

4.6. Das Halten der Gebote im AT

Im AT kommt q>uAaoow oft im Zusammenhang der Gebote vor und man
kann unschwer Folgendes feststellen:
1. Oft ist es Gott, der direkt spricht und einen Auftrag zum Einhalten
der Gebote und Satzungen erteilt. Immer wieder sind es auch andere Glaubensmnner, die dazu aufrufen. Die Situationen haben regelmig proklamatorischen Charakter: Gott verkndigt dem Volk, was es tun soll.
2. Neben allgemeinen Feststellungen werden gelegentlich auch Feste
erwhnt, die in der Zukunft eingehalten werden sollen.

3. Das mit q>uAaoow am hufigsten genannte Einzelgebot ist eindeutig

das Sabbatgebot. 60
4. Auffllig ist, dass auch bei der Wiederholung der Zehn Gebote in
5Mo 5,12 das Sabbatgebot mit ,r.l"IV / q>uAaoow beginnt: q>Aa~rn T~V ~tpav
rwv oaarwv ... Die deutschen bersetzungen geben das unterschiedlich
wieder: Beachte den Sabbattag" (ELB), Den Sabbattag sollst du halten"
(LUT), Achte auf den Sabbat" (EIN), Halte den Sabbattag" (SCHL). In
5Mo 5,15 wird das Verb q>uAaoow nochmals wiederholt.

4.7. Die Rolle des Gesetzes in der Eschatologie

Es fllt auf, dass man im NT etliche Hinweise darauf findet, dass das Ende
der Weltgeschichte eine Zeit der Rebellion gegen Gottes Gesetz ist. 61 Der
Ausdruck avoia bzw. vooc; wird von Jesus (Mt 7,23; 13,41; 24,12) un,d
Paulus (2Thes 2,3.7.8) im Zusammenhang mit dem Ende oder dem Endgerichts genannt. Gerade 2Thes 2 wird von den Kommentatoren immer in
Beziehung zu Offb 13 gebracht.
Es gilt als gesichert, dass Johannes in seiner Beschreibung des ersten
Tieres von Offb 13 auf Dan 7, 8 und 11 zurckgreift62, wobei eines der prominenten Kennzeichen des so genannten Antichristen die Ablehnung des
Gesetzes darstellt (Dan 7,25). Wenn also dieser Aspekt bei Johannes mitschwingt, dann sind die Glubigen der Endzeit in Offb 12,17 und 14,12 den
Geboten treu, ihre Feinde aber tragen das Malzeichen des Tieres.



2Mo 31,13.14.16; 3Mo 19,3.30; 26,2; 5Mo 5,12.15; Jes 56,2.4.6. In folgenden Versen ist
der Sabbat zwar nicht das Objekt, aber doch eine groe Nhe zu beobachten: Hes
20,21; 44,24.
Darauf wurde schon hingewiesen von MacPherson, Mark of the Beast", 269.
Siehe z. B. G. K. Beale, The Use of Daniel in fewish Apocalyptic Literature and in the
Revelation of St. John, Lanham: University of America Press, 1984, 247.


Johannes Kovar

4.8. Sabbat und Sonntag

Es wurde schon der Gedanke vorgebracht, dass das Halten der Gebote
Gottes" in Offb 12,17 ein passendes Gegenstck im Malzeichen des Tieres"
aus 13,16--17 findet. 63 Dafr wurden schon oft folgende Argumente ins Treffen gefhrt64: Genauso wie in einem antiken Bundesschluss im Zentralabschnitt sowohl der Herrscher als auch sein Herrschaftsgebiet als eine Art
Siegel angegeben werden, dient das Sabbatgebot als Siegel Gottes in der
Endzeit (2Mo 31,13.17; Offb 7,3-4; 14,1). Dem steht das Malzeichen des Tieres entgegen (Offb 13,16--17; 14,9; 20,4). Wie im AT die Gebote Gottes an
Hand und Stirn gebunden wurden (SMo 6,8; 11,18), wird das widergttliche Gegenstck des Malzeichens genauso an Hand und Stirn sichtbar.
Wenn in der Offenbarung mit dem Siegel Gottes speziell der Sabbat gemeint ist, dann muss das Malzeichen der Sonntag sein. Besonders in Offb
14,11-12 stehen das Malzeichen und die Gebote Gottes in unmittelbarem
Zusammenhang und bilden offensichtlich ein Gegensatzpaar.

5. Das Halten und Bewahren der Gebote

in Offb 12,17
Das Verb Tl"JPEW findet sich in der Offenbarung elf Mal. Wenn man den einschlgigen Wrterbchern folgt, ist seine Hauptbedeutung bewahren, beschtzen" und nur im Zusammenhang mit Geboten oder Gesetz halten,
Laut Bauer bedeutet unser Verb hier in Offb 12,17 ,,im Sinn bewahren,
von Lehre und Gesetz, beobachten, erfllen, halten". 65 hnlich versteht
Bauer auch das Verb EXW in Offb 12,17 als festhalten, aufbewahren". 66 Dies
wrde dem parallelen Aufbau der Wortgruppe durchaus gerecht werden.
Vorsichtig knnte man dann folgern, dass sowohl im Verb EXW als auch in
Tl"JPEW die Idee des Bewahrens" eine Rolle spielt.
Interessant ist es nun, wie die unterschiedlichen deutschen Bibelbersetzungen Tl"JPEW in der Offenbarung bersetzen. Ich ziehe nur die vier
wichtigsten zum Vergleich heran.



William H. Shea und Ed Christian, The Chiastic Structure of Revelation 12:1-15:4:

The Great Controversy Vision", AUSS 38 (2000):269-92, dort 276-77. Leider
begrnden die beiden Autoren ihre Sicht nicht.
Siehe z.B. Paulien, Sabbath in the Book of Revelation", 184--85.
Bauer, Wrterbuch, 1625.
Ibid., 670.


Die Gebote in Offenbarung 12,17








die Worte der

Weissagung und
was in ihr geschriebenist






meine Werke bis

ans Ende






wie du empfangen
und gehrt hast






mein Wort (Myoc;)






mein Wort (Myoc;)

von der Geduld




sich halten














Gebote Gottes und

den Glauben Jesu












die Worte der

Weissagung dieses






die Worte dieses





sich halten

Man hat schon festgestellt, dass in der johanneischen Literatur das Halten
des Wortes (Myoc;)" und das Halten der Gebote (EVTOA~)" durchaus
gleichzusetzen sind (siehe z.B. lJo 2,4f). 67 Wenn das genauso fr die Offenbarung gilt (und dazu muss man natrlich die selbe Autorenschaft fr alle
nach Johannes benannten Werke des NTs akzeptieren), dann wrden Offb
3,8 und 10, die sicher die Konnotation bewahren" sttzen, die Wahrscheinlichkeit erhhen, dass dieses Festhalten-Bewahren" auch in Offb
12,17 gemeint ist.


Aufschlussreich ist sicher der Vergleich zwischen Offb 12,17 und 14,12.
Da ja in Offb 14,12 ein doppeltes Objekt vorhanden ist ( Gebote Gottes"
und Glaube Jesu"), darf man nicht mehr mit halten = befolgen" bersetzen. Das wrde nur zu den Geboten passen, nicht aber zum Glauben Jesu. 68



Strecker, /ohannesbriefe, 106.

Aune, Reve/ation 6-16, 837, greift dieses Problem auf. Er meint, dass r11ptw hier
gleichzeitig - je nach Objekt - die doppelte Bedeutung von befolgen" und bewahren" haben msse. Die Verbindung r11ptw mit nirrnc; kommt nur zwei Mal im NT vor.
In der anderen Stelle 2Tim 4,7 hat Paulus den Glauben bewahrt" (ELB, SCHL), oder


Johannes Kovar

Man knnte jetzt diskutieren, inwieweit es wirklich legitim ist, die Bedeutung von 14,12 auch in den schon vorher geschriebenen Vers 12,17 zu bertragen. Jedenfalls scheint mir sicher, dass Offb 14,12 die Wahrscheinlichkeit
erhht, dass auch in 12,17 der Sinn bewahren" deutlich mitschwingt.
In der Vulgata werden Offb 12,17 und 14,12 gleichlautend mit qui custodiunt mandata dei bersetzt. Wie im Griechischen ist das lateinische Verb
custodire mehrdeutig. 69 Man kann es bersetzen mit bewachen, bewahren,

berwachen, ber etwas wachen, etwas hten, unter seine Obhut nehmen,
schirmen, beaufsichtigen", was seine Hauptbedeutung darstellt. Im Zusammenhang von Gesetzen, Vorschriften und der Sitte heit es auch beachten, beobachten", die Bandbreite reicht aber bis aufbewahren, konservieren".
Bei T'lPEIV rac; EVTOAO; handelt es sich um eine typisch johanneische
Wendung. 70 Es geht dabei wohl nicht allein um das Halten von Einzelgeboten, sondern das Bleiben im Glauben und die eschatologische Bewhrung
der Christen. 71 Es scheint mir daher fast sinnvoller, von einem Bewahren"
der Gebote zu sprechen, was natrlich ein Einhalten" im Sinn von Befolgen" mit einschliet, aber darber noch weit hinausgeht. Schon in der LXX
sind oi cpuACiooovrEc; (sehr oft) und oi r11poOvrEc; (Hld 3,3) 72 die Wchter".
Es spricht wohl nichts dagegen, dass Johannes diesen Begriff in Offb 12,17
durchaus doppeldeutig meint: Die brigen befolgen und bewahren die
Gebote. Die Aufgabe des Bewahrens" in Offb 12,17 betonen etliche Exegeten.73

5.1. Das Gegenteil von Halten und Bewahren"

Man kann sich durchaus fragen, was das Gegenteil des positiv besetzten
Haltens und Bewahrens" sein knnte. Fr das AT gibt es eine Flle von
Mglichkeiten (an allen angefhrten Stellen hat die LXX tvroA~): Man kann
die Gebote brechen" (Esr 9,14), verlassen" (Esr 9,10), bertreten" (2Chr







Glauben gehalten" (LUT) bzw. Treue gehalten" (EIN). Hier ist zweifelsohne gemeint, dass Paulus bis an sein Lebensende an diesem Glauben (oder der Treue)
festgehalten hat. Das steht dem Bewahren" sicher sehr nahe und passt auch fr Offb
14,12 gut ins Bild.
Karl Ernst Georges, Ausfhrliches Lateinisch-Deutsches Handwrterbuch, 2 Bde., Basel:
Benno, 11 1962, 1:1851-56.
Siehe Jo 14,15.21; 15,10; lJo 2.,3.4; 3,22.24; 5,3; Offb 12,17; 14,12.
Kalms, Der Sturz des Gottesfeindes, 97.
Johan Lust, Erik Eynikel, Katrin Hauspie, Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint,
Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2003, 613.
Siehe z. B. Margaret Barker, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, London: Clark, 2003, 90 und


Die Gebote in Offenbarung 12,17

24,20), vergessen" (Ps 119,176) oder verachten" (4Mo 15,31)/4 Diese Liste
knnte man sicher noch um die Elemente unerlaubt hinzufgen/wegnehmen" (5Mo 4,2) und verndern" (Dan 7,25: in der LXX steht
v6oc;) ergnzen.
Auch hier knnte man berlegen, ob das Halten und Bewahren" nicht
grundstzlich das positive Gegenstck zu den negativ besetzten Verben ist
und somit auch nicht vergessen" (4Mo 15,40; Ps 119,176; Spr 4,4-5), wertschtzen" (Pss 121,1; 119, und nicht verndern"
(5Mo 4,2; 13,1) mit einschlieen knnte, was einfach mehr als nur ein mechanisches "Befolgen" wre.








5.2. Das Bewahren" im AT

Wenn man die sehr hufige Verbindung von cpuMoow mit Geboten" ansieht, fllt auf, dass sich zu dieser Verknpfung auch recht oft das Verb
TTOIEW gesellt. Hier zwei Beispiele fr die unterschiedliche Verwendung:
SMo 4,5-6: Nach der Aufzhlung verschiedener Ausdrcke fr Gebote"
folgt die Aufforderung: Bewahrt und tut sie!" (cpuAO~E08E Kai
TTOJ~OETE). Beide Verben sind bereingestimmt und stehen im Futur, das
hier die Bedeutung eines Imperatives hat.
SMo 5,1: Nach einer hnlichen Aufzhlung folgt der Befehl: "Achtet darauf, sie zu tun" (cpuAO~E08E TTOIEiV au1a). Hier sind die Verben nicht bereingestimmt und das Verb tun" steht im Infinitiv.
Beide Verwendungsarten sind im Pentateuch sehr hufig, finden sich aber
auch in anderen Passagen des AT.
Inwieweit ist diese Beobachtung hilfreich? Sie zeigt meines Erachtens,
dass in diesen Fllen cpuMoow sicher nicht einfach mit halten = beobachten" bersetzt werden darf, sondern deutlich die Bedeutung von achten
auf" und damit von festhalten an= bewahren" hat. Mit anderen Worten:
Selbst wenn cpuMoow mit den Geboten verknpft wird, heit es nicht immer nur befolgen", sondern oft auch bewahren". Durch die schon erwhnte Synonymitt mit rr1ptw gilt das Gesagte natrlich auch fr rr1ptw
im NT. Das macht es noch wahrscheinlicher, dass in Offb 12,17 und 14,12
auch die Bedeutung bewahren" hrbar mitschwingt.











Ich bernehme hier die angefhrten Mglichkeiten von B. Levine, '1)\10", 111WAT
4:1085-95, dort 1092-93.


Johannes Kovar

6. Interpretation von Offb 12,17 bei Ellen G. White

Wenn wir einen kurzen Blick in das Schrifttum von Ellen G. White werfen 75,
ist leicht zu erkennen, wie sie Offb 12,17 verstand. Fr sie war klar, dass die
brigen das Volk Gottes in der zuknftigen Endzeit darstellen. 76 Sie sind
mit der Kirche der Siebenten-Tags-Adventisten gleichzusetzen. 77 Fr diese
Endzeitgemeinde ist Offb 12,17 ein einigender Faktor78 und entscheidender
Test der Treue79
Die Gebote Gottes" versteht sie als das Gesetz Gottes oder, noch genauer, als die Zehn Gebote und vor allem das Sabbatgebot80. Ellen White
betont, dass die Gebote das Denken der Glubigen prgen sollte. 81 Sie unterstreicht auch wiederholt, dass die Gebote allen Menschen verkndigt
werden mssen. 82 Sie spricht vom Gehorsam den Geboten gegenber83,
aber auch von Treue 84, Loyalitt85 und Liebe86 zu diesen Geboten. Sie sagt
auch, dass die Glubigen Gottes Gebote verteidigen. 87
Ellen Whites Verstndnis kann schn mit folgendem Zitat zusammengefasst werden:
God has placed in our hands a banner on which is inscribed the words
The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." Here are they that
keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus
Christ," he declares. At all times and in all places we are to hold the banner finnly aloft. God's denominated people are to take a firm stand under the banner of truth. 88

Ich verwende hier die gebruchlichen englischen Abkrzungen. Die angegebenen

Referenzen stellen nur eine kleine Auswahl aus der Flle an Material dar. In allen
Fllen spricht E. G. White eindeutig von Offb 12,17 und fast immer zitiert sie diesen
Text wrtlich im Zusammenhang.
GC 592, 5T 449.
77 TM 114, 4MR 246, ST 20 Apr. lSSS.
lT 330: who would be united on the commandments of God and the testimony of
so EW 42, TM 117, 1T 223, ST 117, 7BC 9Sl.
EW 5S.





TM 237, CW 79, PM 2Sl, ST 117, 2SM SS und 116, ST 29 Oct. 1S96. Interessant ist ihre
Formulierung in 6T 395: lt is our work to magnify and exalt the law of God".
CH 515: of obedience to the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus".
HP 20S: all who remain faithful to the commandments of God and the testimony of
Jesus Christ".
ST 41, ST 22 Apr. 1889.
ST 12 June 1S93, 7BC 974: Those who love and keep the commandments of God ... ".
ST 14 Nov. IS95: . vindicate the law of God by keeping the commandments .".

Die Gebote in Offenbarung 12,17


Es ist somit klar, dass sie bei Offb 12,17 an die Zehn Gebote denkt, die man
einhalten und befolgen muss. Allerdings gilt es auch, die Gebote in einer
schlimmen Zeit bekannt zu machen. Es liegt daher auf der Hand, ihren
Nachdruck auf die Verkndigung der Gebote mit dem Aspekt des Bewahrens" gleichzusetzen.

7. Zusammenfassung
Ich denke, dass es genug gute Grnde dafr gibt, dass in Offb 12,17 die
Zehn Gebote gemeint sind. Keines dieser Argumente ist allein berzeugend
genug, aber gemeinsam ergeben sie ein abgerundetes Gesamtbild. Diese
Gebote werden von den Glubigen der Endzeit nicht nur befolgt, sondern
auch vor Angriffen bewahrt und hochgehalten.




1. Einleitung
In allen Religionen, die sich auf einen Stifter berufen knnen, kommt dieser

Person hohe Bedeutung zu. Der Stifter ist in den meisten Fllen der normgebende Offenbarer und Heilsverkndiger, dem entweder ein Buch zugeschrieben wird (Lao-tse und das Tao-te-king) oder der eine mndliche
Lehre vortrgt, die spter zur heiligen Schrift wird (Buddha und seine Reden, Mohammed und der Koran).
Damit ist der Stifter aber nur Funktionstrger - Prophet oder Lehrer er selbst ist nicht Inhalt. Anders im Christentum, wo Jesus, der Christus,
nicht nur Heilslehrer ist, sondern das Heil selbst reprsentiert. Das Christentum", so schrieb einst E. de Pressense zu Recht, ist letztlich weder eine
Lehre noch ein Buch[ ... ] Es ist vielmehr eine Person". 1
Jeder Vergleich der Weltreligionen wird daher diesem fundamentalen
Unterschied, der sich aus dem Selbstverstndnis des Stifters ableitet, Rechnung tragen mssen.

2. Was versteht man unter Weltreligionen?

Der Begriff Weltreligionen" stammt aus dem 19. Jh. 2 Er ist - religionswissenschaftlich gesehen - keineswegs eindeutig. Vielmehr handelt es sich
um einen Begriff des alltglichen Sprachgebrauchs".3 Im Allgemeinen versteht man darunter entweder drei, vier oder fnf Religionen. D.h. Buddhismus, Christentum und Islam4 oder Hinduismus, Buddhismus,
Christentum und Islam 5 bzw. Brahmanismus, Buddhismus, Taoismus,
Zitiert bei Alfred Vaucher, L'Histoire du Salut, Dammarie-les-Lys: Signes des Temps,
19513, 11.
Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm, Deutsches Wrterbuch, Leipzig: Deutscher Taschenbuch
Verlag, 195528, 1681.
Ulrich Dehn, Rezension von M. Hutter, Die Weltreligionen, Materialdienst 69, no. 1
(2006): 36.
Gustav Mensching, Allgemeine Religionsgeschichte, Leipzig: Quelle & Meyer, 1940, 164226.
Brockhaus Enzyklopdie, 24 Bde., Mannheim: Brockhaus, 1986-199419, 24:51.


Hans Heinz

Christentum und Islam 6 oder Judentum, Hinduismus, Buddhismus, Christentum und Islam.7 Manchmal schliet man noch den in der Antike verbreiteten Manichismus, eine Mischreligion aus Parsismus und Christentum,
ein, der aber als geschlossene Gemeinschaft heute nicht mehr existiert, oder
auch den Konfuzianismus, der aber eher eine Sittenlehre als eine Religion
darstellt. Als Kriterien fr Weltgeltung werden genannt: Gre, bernationalitt, Heilsuniversalitt und weltweite Verbreitung. 8
Von christlicher Seite her gesehen, treten besonders die Religionen ins
Blickfeld, mit denen sich im Verstndnis der Heilsfrage ein Dialog geradezu aufdrngt. Dabei ist an Judentum, Hinduismus, Buddhismus und Islam
zu denken. 9
Das Judentum mit seiner geringen Bekennerzahl und seinem praktischen Verzicht auf Weltmission gleicht zwar eher einer Volksreligion, besitzt aber durch seine Wirkungsgeschichte auf Christentum und Islam
Hinduismus und Buddhismus zeichnen sich zwar durch eine groe Bekennerzahl aus, sind aber vorwiegend geographisch beschrnkt und keine
eigentlichen Missionsreligionen. Da sie aber ausgesprochene Erlsungsreligionen sind, stellen sie eine echte Herausforderung fr das Christentum
Echte Weltreligionen sind nur Christentum und Islam. Sie sind es durch
ihren Absolutheitsanspruch und ihre missionarische Wirksamkeit. Das
Christentum in seiner Frhzeit und Gegenwart durch gewaltlose Werbung,
der Islam in seiner Frhzeit durch kriegerische Ausbreitung und in der Gegenwart durch Emigration.

3. Pluralismus der Religionen?

Seit der Epoche der Aufklrung (17./18. Jh.) betrachten Agnostiker, liberale
Christen und Atheisten alle diese Religionen als grundstzlich gleichwertig,
als verschiedene historische Ausprgungen bestimmter menschlicher Ideen
ber Gott und die Welt. Auch die Religionswissenschaft, die als Wissenschaft notwendigerweise auch die Religionen nur historisch zu betrachten
vermag, nimmt einen hnlichen Standpunkt ein.

Helmuth von Glasenapp bei Horst Brkle, "Weltreligionen I: religionswissenschaftlich", in Lexikon fr Theologie und Kirche, hg. W. Kasper, 11 Bde., Freiburg:
Herder, 1993-20013, 10:1080.
Karl-Wolfgang Trger, Weltreligionen", Theologisches Lexikon, hg. H.-H. Jenssen u. H.
Trebs, Berlin: Union, 1981, 512.
Zweites Vatikanisches Konzil, Nichtchristliche Religionen, 1-4.

Jesus Christus und die Heilsverkndiger in den Weltreligionen


Tatschlich sind ja - historisch betrachtet - viele Eigenschaften der

Weltreligionen vergleichbar: Die Gre (eine Bekennerzahl, die im Christentum und Islam eine Milliardengre erreicht), der Glaube (Monotheismus im Juden- und Christentum bzw. im Islam), der Erlsungsgedanke im
Hinduismus, Buddhismus und Christentum10 und ethische berzeugungen
wie das Prinzip der Gewaltlosigkeit im authentischen Christentum und im
G. E. Lessing haben diese hnlichkeiten zu seiner Ringparabel" im
Drama Nathan der Weise" angeregt. 11 Wie der sterbende Vater nur einen
Ring besitzt, den er aber allen seinen drei Shnen vererben will und darum
zwei gleiche anfertigen lsst, so dass man nicht mehr wissen kann, welcher
der echte ist, so verhlt es sich auch mit den Religionen (Christentum, Judentum, Islam). Sie erscheinen als gleichwertig und niemand kann wissen,
welche die einzige und wahre ist. Der rechte Ring war nicht erweislich!"
Diese Haltung wirkt bis heute nach. Sie hat sich im Zeitalter des weltweiten Dialogs zwischen den Religionen (2. Hlfte des 20. Jh., 21. Jh.) auch
der christlichen Theologie bemchtigt. Besonders im relativ jungen asiatischen Christentum gibt es Strmungen, die den Pluralismus der Religionen" betonen und daraus entweder synkretistische" 12 oder adaptive"
Schlsse ziehen. 13 Ein so groes Geheimnis", so wandte schon der rmische Senator Symmachus im 4. Jh. gegen den christlichen Absolutheitsanspruch ein, kann eben nicht nur auf einem Weg erreicht werden".

4. Die Analogielosigl~eit Jesu Christi

Gegen diesen Relativismus steht das Selbstverstndnis des Jesus von Nazareth. Nur durch ihn offenbart sich Gott (Mt 11,25-27), ja er ist die Offenba10



In den fernstlichen Religionen als Selbsterlsung. So spricht Buddha z.B. von

erkmpfter Erlsung (Der ernsten Sinnes Strebende erkmpft sich die Erlsung":
Reden des Buddha, 5 Bde., Mnchen: Wolff, 1922, 1:463). Erlsung ist Freiwerden von
den Fesseln der Leiblichkeit" (Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king, V. 165) und Erlschung" des
Daseinstriebes. Der Weg dazu ist der sog. Achtfache Pfad" (Mahavagga 1, 6, 17-29).
Eine Ausnahme stellt nur der japanische Buddha Amida dar, der durch Gnade
3. Akt, 7. Auftritt.
So die koreanische Theologin Chung Hyun Kyung auf der 7. Vollversammlung des
Weltkirchenrates in Canberra (1990) oder der indische Theologe R. Panikkar
(Christus, der Unbekannte im Hinduismus"). Vgl. Bong Rin Ro, Die Verkndigung
Jesu Christi im Kontext des asiatischen Synkretismus", in Die Einzigartigkeit Jesu
Christi: als Grundfrage der Theologie und missionarische Herausforderung, hg. R. Hille u. E.
Troeger, Wuppertal: Brockhaus, 1993, 45-57, dort 45-51.
So der Japaner Kosuke Koyama, der statt Bekehrung der Einheimischen die christliche
Anpassung an die jeweilige Volksreligion fordert. lbid., 47, 52.


Hans Heinz

rung Gottes selbst Oo 14,6.9). Damit ist allen, die vor ihm einen hnlichen
Anspruch gestellt haben Oo 10,8) bzw. die einen solchen nach ihm noch
stellen werden Oo 5,43), die Legitimation entzogen. Fr die ersten Christen
war diese Erkenntnis grundlegend und unverzichtbar (Apg 4,12).
Denn nur scheinbar sind die Religionen hnlich, in Wirklichkeit ist der
Unterschied fundamental. Dieser Unterschied besteht in der Analogielosigkeit Jesu Christi.
Von daher msste die Ringparabel umgeschrieben werden. Der echte
Ring ist erkennbar, er schimmert heller als die anderen und dieser helle
Schein ist der prophetisch ausgewiesene, durch seine Identitt von Lehre
und Leben besttigte und durch seinen Anspruch herausgehobene Christus.
Jesus von Nazareth ist zwar auch als Lehrer" aufgetreten Oo 3,1-2) und
hat sich als Prophet" verstanden (Lk 13,33), aber mit ihm ist den Menschen
mehr als Jona" und mehr als Salomo" gegeben (Mt 12,41-42). Mit ihm
steht nicht ein Empfnger von Offenbarung vor uns, sondern die Offenbarung selbst!
Diesen Anspruch hat keiner der groen Religionsstifter zu stellen gewagt. Sie haben sich alle nur als Empfnger gesehen - Zarathustra als den
ersten Offenbarer und Glaubenslehrer" 14, Gautama, der Buddha, als den
erleuchteten Lehrer" 15 und Lao-tse, der als der alte Meister" angesprochen wurde. 16




Yasht 13,88; zit. b. Mircea Eliade, Geschichte der religisen Ideen, Ergnzungsband:
Quellentexte, Freiburg i. Br.: Herder, 1981, 351.
Dhammapada, V. 276; Mahvagga I, 5, 2. In der buddhistischen Literatur erscheint
Buddha als Meister" und Erhabener" (z.B. Suttapitaka-Khuddakanikya, Jtaka 2),
dem spter die Namen Sakya-muni" (Der Weise aus dem Geschlecht der Sakya),
Siddrtha" (Der den Zweck seiner Sendung erfllt hat) und Tathgata" (Der kommt
und geht wie seine Vorgnger) beigelegt wurden. Der ursprngliche Buddha ist
Mensch, aber nach seinem Anspruch ein besonderer Mensch, der von sich sagte: Ich
habe alles berwunden", ich bin allwissend" (Mahvagga I, 6, 7-9). Unter dem
Einfluss der hinduistischen Seelenwanderungslehre behauptete er, der nach 48.000
Jahren wiedergeborene Knig Sudassana zu sein (zit. b. Helmer Ringgren u. ke V.
Strm, Die Religionen der Vlker: Grundriss der allgemeinen Religionsgeschichte, Stuttgart:
Krner, 1959, 290). Erst spter, im nrdlichen Buddhismus (Mahyna", das groe
Fahrzeug), begann unter hinduistischem Einfluss die Vergttlichung Buddhas (ibid.,
291). Dabei ist zu beachten, dass der historische Gautama nicht der letzte Buddha sein
soll. Gautama erwartete fr die Zukunft den Buddha Maytreya", den gtigen
Buddha. Er wird der beste Mensch" sein, vom Himmel zur Erde gekommen. Er wird
die wahre Lehre predigen" und der hchste Buddha" sein. Seine Kennzeichen sind
Liebe und Mitleid (vgl. Eliade, Geschichte der religisen Ideen: Quellentexte, 316--17).
Zitiert in ibid., 378; vgl. auch Ringgren und Strm, Die Religionen der Vlker, 425.

Jesus Christus und die Heilsverkndiger in den Weltreligionen


hnlich verhlt es sich auch mit den Gestalten, die dem hebrischen
Prophetismus entstammen oder sich darauf berufen. Nach der Thora gilt
Moses als besonderer Prophet (4 Mo 12,6--8; 5 Mo 34,10), denn er stand in
direkter Gottesverbindung, ihm wurde das Gesetz gegeben und er fhrte
das Volk in die Freiheit. Letztlich aber war er nichts anderes als ein sndiger Mensch (5 Mo 32,50-52). Erst im hellenistischen Judentum wurde er
zum theios aner", zum vergttlichten Menschen, oder, wie es im Talmud
heit, zu einem, der ein wenig niedriger ist als Gott" .17
Auch Mani, der Schpfer des Manichismus, einer Kompilation aus
Christentum und Parsismus, betrachtete sich nur als den Gesandten des
wahren Gottes", als rechtschaffenen Propheten", zu dem die Wahrheit
gekommen ist. 18
Trotz der Behauptung, die Korrektur, Verdeutlichung und Vollendung
des Monotheismus darzustellen, 19 gilt auch im Islam bei aller Wertschtzung der Person Mohammeds dieser nur als Warner" (Koran, Sure 38,65) 20
bzw. als Allahs Gesandter" (72,24). Da die Welt der Engel auf den Himmel
beschrnkt ist, konnte der Gesandte kein Engel (6,50), sondern nur ein
Mensch sein (17,96-97). Als Gesandter ist er allerdings das Siegel der Propheten" (33,40), was sowohl auf Besttigung als auch auf Abschluss hindeuten soll. Dabei musste aber Mohammed eingestehen, dass ihm
prophetische Machttaten, wie sie die hebrischen Propheten hufig ausfhrten, vllig fehlten (17,92-95). 21 Dass er den Kriterien biblischer Prophetie, wie sie in 5 Mo 13, l-5 angegeben sind (bereinstimmung mit dem
bereits Geoffenbarten, biblisches Gottesbild und Beachtung der Gebote Gottes), nicht entsprach, versteht sich eigentlich von selbst. Das einzige Zeichen, auf das Mohammed fr seine prophetische Sendung verweisen
konnte, war die Herstellung des Korans (17,90), von dem er glaubte, er
stnde mit der Thora und dem Evangelium in bereinstimmung (10,94).
Damit bricht ein unendlich qualitativer Unterschied zwischen Mohammed bzw. auch den brigen Stiftern und Jesus auf:
1. Der Anspruch Jesu, wie Jahwe zu reden (Mt 5,21-22) und zu handeln
(Mk 2,5-12), entspringt keiner spteren Gemeindetheologie", sondern hat




B. Talmud, Nedarim 38a.

Zitiert bei Eliade, Geschichte der religisen Ideen: Quellentexte, 386, 406.
Aus der Sicht des Islam schaffte das Evangelium die Thora ab und der Koran das
Evangelium; vgl. Louis Gardet, Islam, Kln: Bachern, 1968, 61--{)2.
Die Zitate aus dem Koran entstammen der bersetzung von Max Henning (Leipzig:
Reclam, 1901); die Verse der Suren werden daher nach dieser Ausgabe angegeben.
In der Aufzhlung seiner Vorgnger erwhnt Mohammed die hebrischen
Patriarchen, Moses und Jesus, aber eigenartigerweise keinen der alttestamentlichen
Schriftpropheten (2,130).


Hans Heinz

Anhalt an der Predigt und an den Machttaten Jesu selbst. Seine Gegner haben dies abwehrend auch eingerumt Qo 8,53; 10,33). Ist er der Mensch gewordene Gott Qo 14,9), 22 dann entscheidet sich die Heilsfrage allein an ihm
Qo 14,6). Nach moslemischem Glauben entscheidet sich das Heil zwar auch
an Mohammed (8,13; 73,15-16), aber sein Eingestndnis, nur Mensch zu
sein (6,50), stellt ihn unter Jesus. 23
2. Im Unterschied zu Mohammed, der nur den Koran als einziges Zeichen seiner Beglaubigung anfhren konnte, hat Jesus berzeugende Hinweise auf seine Ausnahmestellung vorgelegt: Er war der Einzige, der von
sich sagen konnte: Moses hat von mir geschrieben" Qo 5,46). Kein anderer
der Stifter konnte sich konkret - Zeit des Auftretens, Geburtsort, Wirksamkeit, Umstnde und Bedeutung seines Todes - als vorher Geweissagten bezeichnen. Ehe Zarathustra, Buddha, Konfuzius und Lao-tse erschienen, kannte sie niemand. Das Gleiche gilt auch fr Mohammed. Wenn sich
Jesus auch als der andere Messias" verstanden hat, der primr vom leidenden und sterbenden Knecht Gottes" her zu begreifen ist und sich erst
in Zukunft als triumphierender Knig David" erweisen wird, so stand er
damit doch in der Linie alttestamentlicher Prophetie Oes 53,12/Lk 22,37). 24




Im Koran bestreitet zwar Jesus seine Wesensgleichheit mit Gott-Vater (4,169), aber
man muss sich fragen, ob Mohammed die christliche Argumentation, sofern er mit
der orthodoxen Interpretation konfrontiert worden ist, berhaupt verstanden hat,
denn er denkt bei Zeugung an einen menschlichen Akt (19,91-93), bei Dreiheit an
Tritheismus (4,169) und folglich bei Dreieinigkeit an eine ans Heidentum erinnernde
Trias von Gott-Vater, Jesus und Maria (5,116).
Dabei ist zu beachten, dass sich auch im Koran Spuren finden, die Jesus ber
Mohammed stellen. Jesus ist auf wunderbare Weise gezeugt worden (19,16-22), er ist
der Messias (3,40), das Wort der Wahrheit (19,35), er hat Ausstzige und Blinde
geheilt sowie Tote auferweckt (5,110) und darum hat ihn auch Gott erhht (3,48). Dass
Mohammed seine Kreuzigung leugnet - anstelle Jesu sei angeblich ein anderer
gekreuzigt worden (4,156), was auf gnostischen Einfluss deutet - hngt mit
Mohammeds Gottesbild zusammen. Gott, der als autoritrer Monarch begriffen wird,
konnte nicht zulassen, dass der Messias besiegt wird. Damit fllt auch die
Heilsbedeutung des Todes Jesu, allerdings nicht seine Parusie (Wiederkunft), denn da
er im Zusammenhang damit sterben soll, wird er bei der Auferstehung Zeuge sein
wider das Volk der Schrift", d.h. Juden und Christen (4,157).
Mohammed behauptet zwar, er sei der von Abraham Erbetene (2,123), aber im Koran
finden sich keine Weissagungen des AT, die konkret auf das Leben und Wirken
Mohammeds gedeutet werden knnten. Mohammeds Behauptung (2,141; 61,6), er sei
der von Jesus in Jo 16,7 geweissagte Trster", ist exegetisch nicht haltbar. Jesus hat
mit dem Trster auf das Kommen des Heiligen Geistes hingewiesen Go 14,16.17.26;
15,26) und der griechische Begriff partikletos (Trster, Frsprecher) hat nichts mit
periklytos (Gepriesener), der griechischen bersetzung des arabischen Ahmed (ein
anderer Name fr Mohammed), zu tun.

Jesus Christus und die Heilsverkndiger in den Weltreligionen


3. Nicht erst nach Jahrhunderten bildete sich in der Christenheit die berzeugung von der Sndlosigkeit Jesu heraus, sie ist von Anfang an vorhanden (2 Ko 5,21; 1 Pt 2,22; 1 Jo 3,5) und hat Anhalt am Selbstverstndnis
Jesu Go 8,46) und an der Erfahrung, dass mit ihm eine totale Identitt von
Lehre und Leben vorliegt Go 6,69). Moses fehlte (5 Mo 32,48-52), Konfuzius
bekannte, das Edle zu lehren, aber nicht immer zu leben, 25 der mitleidvolle
und gewaltlose Buddha kommt am ehesten Jesus gleich, aber seine Lehre
der Selbstlosigkeit dient der Weltabgewandtheit und nicht der weltzugewandten Entfaltung des Lebens Go 10,11), und der Koran spricht sowohl
von den Snden der biblischen Propheten als auch von den Snden Mohammeds (48,2), aber nie von den Snden Jesu!
4. Jesus stand zwar mit seiner ethischen Lehre ganz in der Tradition des
AT (Gottes- und Nchstenliebe: 3 Mo 19,18; 5 Mo 6,5/Mt 22,36--40), aber er
hat alles auf die Liebe konzentriert und diese durch das Gebot der Fremden- und Feindesliebe auch radikalisiert (Mt 5,43-48). Auch Buddha tritt
fr Erbarmen und Gewaltverzicht ein, aber er verlor die Vgel unter dem
Himmel" und die Lilien auf dem Felde" aus dem Blick! 26 Und Mohammed
kennt wohl auch Almosen und Nchstenliebe, aber genauso auch die heilige Gewalt: Rcht euch in gleichem Mae, als euch Bses zugefgt wurde"
(16,127). Die Goldene Regel" der Bergpredigt (Mt 7,12) trifft man in negativer Form (Was du nicht willst, dass man dir tu, das fg auch keinem anderen zu") als Spitzenformel der humanistischen Ethik in vielen
Kulturzentren der Alten Welt an: Indien, 27 Israel,2 8 China, 29 Griechenland 30
Sogar die positive Form war der Antike nicht unbekannt, 31 aber die Weisen
und Gelehrten wie Isokrates (um 400 v. Chr.) oder Seneca (1. Jh. n. Chr.)
haben sie alle nur gelehrt, Jesus hingegen hat sie nicht nur gelehrt, sondern
in vollkommener Weise gelebt!
5. Diese unvergleichliche Hoheit Jesu manifestierte sich auch in unvergleichlicher Niedrigkeit. Auch darin ist Jesus analogielos. Moses war ein in
gyptischer Weisheit Gebildeter, Buddha war ein Knigssohn, Konfuzius





Der Meister sprach: In der Wissenschaft bin ich vielleicht anderen Menschen
gleichwertig, aber persnlich das Wesen des Edlen in die Tat umzusetzen, das habe
ich noch nicht erreicht." Zitiert bei Otto Borchert, Der Goldgrund des Lebensbildes /esu,
Konstanz: o. J., 279-SO.
Wenn der Weise als die Merkmale dieser Welt Vergnglichkeit, Wesenlosigkeit und
Leid erkennt, wie sollte er da Freude empfinden?" (Fo-sho-hing-tsan-king, V. 1658).
Mahabharata 13,113.
Tob 4,16; Hillel im Babylonischen Talmud, Sabbath 31a.
Konfuzius, Lun-y 15,23.
Thales v. Milet, zitiert bei Diogenes Laertios, Leben und Lehre der Philosophen, 10
Bcher, Stuttgart: Reclam, 1998, 1:36.
Vgl. Ethelbert Stauffer, Die Botschaft ]esu: Damals und heute, Bern: Francke, 1959, 55-56.


Hans Heinz

ein angesehener Weiser und Mohammed ein reicher Kaufmann. Allein Jesus war der Niedrigste Ges 53,2-3) im Leben (Lk 9,58) wie auch im Sterben
(Lk 18,31-33). Keiner war so hoch und anders als die brigen Menschen
und keiner war so niedrig und solidarisch mit ihnen wie er. Darum ist das
Christentum auch gar keine Religion im eigentlichen Sinn, d.h. Religion als
menschlicher Annherungsversuch an Gott. Authentisches Christentum ist
Evangelium, das Kommen Gottes zur Welt, die Erniedrigung in seinem
Sohn, das Heil der Welt durch Tod und Auferstehung (Mk 10,45; Lk 24,4r47; Jo 1,14). In diesem Sinn ist Jesus, der Christus, unvergleichlich:
Wenn die hlg. Schrift von Gott redet, dann erlaubt sie uns nicht, unsere
Blicke und Gedanken willkrlich schweifen zu lassen, um in irgendeiner
Hhe oder Tiefe die Feststellung eines mit vollkommener Souvernitt
[... ] ausgestatteten Wesens zu vollziehen [... ] sondern wenn die hlg.
Schrift von Gott redet, dann sammelt sie unsere Blicke und Gedanken
auf einen einzigen Punkt[ ... ] Und wenn wir noch genauer zusehen und
fragen: Wer und was ist an jenem einen Punkt[ ... ] als Gott zu erkennen?
Dann fhrt sie uns von ihrem Anfang und von ihrem Ende her auf den
Namen Jesus Christus [... ] Es gibt keine tiefere Tiefe des Wesens und
Wirkens Gottes als die, die in diesem Geschehen und also unter diesem
Namen offenbar geworden ist. Denn eben in diesem Geschehen und unter diesem Namen hat er sich selbst offenbart. 32
In den Weltreligionen - dies soll gerne zugestanden sein - gibt es erhabene Gestalten mit erhabenen Gedanken, wohl aber auch mit groen Defiziten. Sie versuchten alle, in irgendeiner Weise das Geheimnis Gott" zu
erreichen, obwohl uns Gott schon lngst in Christus, seiner Selbstoffenbarung, erreicht hat. Darum gibt es in der Heilsfrage auch nur eine Antwort:
Jesus Christus! Wer ihn bekennt, der bleibt in Gott und Gott in ihm" (1 Jo


Karl Barth, Kirchliche Dogmatik, Band 2: Die Lehre von Gott, 2 Teile, Zollikon-Zrich:
Evangelischer Verlag, 1959, 2:56-57.



1. Introduction
The question has often been debated among Christians as to whether the
doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church are biblically based. A cursory examination of historical sources makes it evident that from the beginning and continuing throughout its history the essence of Adventism has
been a commitment to truth as found in Scripture. 2
It is not the purpose of this article to review the entire history of the Adventist church, rather it is to give a quick oversight of its continuous search
for Scriptural truth followed by a close examination of five of its cardinal
doctrines selected as an example of what Seventh-day Adventists believe
and what they deny. While it is important to know what one believes, it
also is important to know what not to believe which gives greater clarity to
For an insight into Adventism's commitment to Scriptural truth we begin with a statement by James White, one of the principal leaders and "cofounder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church." 3
We do not believe as we do from being of the same cast of mind. We differ in respect to natural temperament and education, probably, as much
as the members of any other religious body in existence. We do not believe as we do from denominational mold. We are gathered from Methodists, Regular Baptists, Free-will Baptists, Seventh-day Baptists,
Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Disciples, Dutch Reformed, Christians, Lutherans, Catholics, United Brethren, Universalists,

Gerhard Pfandl's commitment to Scripture is well known among his colleagues. It is a

privilege to contribute an article to this Festschrift.
See John N. Loughborough, Rise and Progress of the Sroenth-day Adventists (Battle
Creek: General Conference Association of Seventh-day Adventists, 1892); LeRoy
Edwin Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers (4 vols.; Washington, D. C.: Review &
Herald, 1954); George W. Reid, ed., Understanding Scripture: An Adventist Approach
(BRIS 1; Silver Spring: Biblical Research Institute, 2005); and also Raoul Dederen, ed.,
Handbook of Sroenth-day Adventist Theology (Commentary Reference Series 12;
Hagerstown: Review & Herald, 2000).
For a brief life-sketch of James White see Don F. Neufeld, ed., Sroenth-day Adventist
Encyclopedia (2d rev. ed.; Hagerstown: Review & Herald, 1996), 890-96.


Jack/. Blanco

worldlings, and infidels. Neither is it from national cast that we believe as

we do. We are largely composed of native Americans, while many are
gathered from the English, Welsh, Scotch, Irish, French, Germans, Norwegians, Danes, Swedes, Poles, Swiss, Italians, and others. The labor of
bringing together a body of believers composed of such material, affected
more or less by the religious sentiments and forms of the several denominations, with all their national peculiarities-enjoying, in a very large degree, unity of sentiment and spirit-is evidently the work of God. Why,
then, do we believe as we do? It is out of respect for the Bible we love,
and the God of the Bible we revere, what we believe what we do, and are
what we are. 4

James White, Bible Adventism (Battle Creek: Seventh-day Adventist Publishing

Association, n.d), 11. Yet there is a distinctiveness about Adventist theology as James
White so clearly pointed out: "Our people have adopted a denominational name
which expresses the two leading features of our religious faith. We are Adventists,
and are observers of the ancient Sabbath of the Lord. The reason why we are
Adventists is because we take the Bible as meaning just what it says. And why should
we not believe that when God speaks to his people his words mean what they say? If
he does not mean what he says in his word, then pray tell us what he does mean. If his
words do not have their plain, simple, and obvious meaning, then the Bible ceases to
be a revelation, and God should give us another book to tell us what this one means.
But the Bible is its own interpreter. We admit that the Lord in his world has used
figures and parables, but in every case these are explained in the context. (... ]
Certainly the Author of our blessed Bible has not introduced parables to obscure his
meaning, and confuse our minds" (ibid., 12). John N. Andrews, another early leader of
Adventism, draws attention to the messages in Rev 14:6--12 with its focus on the
Second Coming of Christ and the keeping of the commandments as representing the
distinctiveness of Adventist theology in the light of the gospel. As he says, "Whoever
will read attentively the proclamation embraced in the fourteenth chapter of
Revelation, cannot fail to notice their vast importance. At whatever period in the
history of the church these proclamations are made, from their very nature they must
constitute the great theme of interest for that generation. Whenever the angels of this
chapter are commissioned by God to announce to the nations of the earth that the
hour of his Judgment is come, (... ] no man can disregard their work, or treat their
warnings as non-essential, except at the peril of his own soul." Cf. John N. Andrews,
Three Messages of Revelation 14 (5th rev. ed.; Battle Creek: Review & Herald, 1892), 9-10.
"Has the proclamation of the hour of God's Judgment come, been made in any past
age? If such a proclamation has never been made in past centuries, there is an end to
controversy on this part of the subject. No person has ever been able to show any such
proclamation in the past. The apostles did not make such a proclamation; on the
contrary, they plainly inform us that the day of the Lord was not then at hand. Martin
Luther did not make this proclamation; for he thought the Judgment about three
hundred years in the future. And finally, the history of the church presents no such
proclamation in the past. Had the first angel preached to every nation, and kindred,
and tongue, and people, that the hour of God's Judgment had come, the publicity of
such a proclamation would be sufficient guaranty that the history of the world would
contain some record of the fact. Its total silence respecting such a proclamation is

The Essence of Adventism


Although Adventism grew out of the Great Awakening of the 19th Century
and more specifically out of the Millerite movement of the 1830's and 40's. It
wasn't until 1863 that the church was officially organized. During those intervening years there were numerous Bible conferences for the purpose of
coming to an agreement. About a decade later in 1872 the first twenty-five
Fundamental Beliefs were published. 5 In 1887 Ellen White wrote to G. I. Butler, General Conference President, "Let none feel that we know all the truth
the Bible proclaims." 6 A revised and expanded edition of twenty-eight Fundamental Beliefs were published in 1889. In response to an appeal from
church leaders outside the USA they were regrouped and published in 1931
as twenty-two and continued as such for nearly half a century. At the 1980
meeting of the world church in General Conference session the church's beliefs were re-studied and enlarged to twenty-seven with the following introductory statement:
Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as their only creed and hold certain fundamental beliefs to be the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. These
beliefs, as set forth here, constitute the church's understanding and expression of the teaching of Scripture. Revision of the statements may be
expected at a General Conference session when the church is led by the
Holy Spirit to a full understanding of Bible truth or finds better language
in which to express the teachings of God's Holy Word.7
This does not mean: (1) that the church is above Scripture; (2) revisions can