In the past few days I have been posting excerpts from my book Divine Violence and the Character of God. I posted these excepts to provide a few glimpses about the content of my book. Today I post the last four excerpts of topics discussed in the book.
Understanding God’s Actions
Those who believe that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the one and same God, seek ways of understanding God’s actions and make an attempt at demonstrating that this so-called disturbing divine behavior is not inconsistent with what the Old Testament says about God as a gracious and merciful God. Can Christians accept the God of the Old Testament and his actions and still believe that he is a merciful and gracious God?
Violence Begets Violence
Many texts in the Old Testament show that human violence begets divine violence. Yahweh announced to the people of Judah that they would be judged as their conduct deserved and that he would repay them for all their loathsome practices because their violence has risen to become the scourge of wickedness (Ezekiel 7:8-11). Because Judah was a country full of bloody executions and Jerusalem was a city full of deeds of violence, Yahweh was bringing “the cruelest of the nations” to vindicate the victims of violence (Ezekiel 7:23-24). The violence of Judah provoked Yahweh to anger (Ezekiel 8:17).
The Suffering of God
Because of the sins and rebellion of the people of Israel, Yahweh brought severe judgment upon the nation, but the suffering of the people brought great affliction to Yahweh. Although the book of Lamentations seems to imply that Yahweh was silent before the desperate situation of the people, Yahweh was aware of their anguish. By participating in the suffering of the people, Yahweh also suffered. He suffered with them and because of them. As Fretheim wrote, “Through such involvement, God takes into the divine self the violent effects of sinful human activities and thereby makes possible a non-violent future for God’s people.”
God’s Reconciliation of the World
From the perspective of the life and ministry of Jesus and from the perspective of the cross, divine violence is hard for Christians to accept. However, I contend that divine violence, as hard as it for us to accept, must be understood in the context of God’s work of reconciliation. “The crucifixion of Christ was itself an act of violence.” Our understanding of why God has to use violence in the world must be based on the assumption that what God does is for the benefit of creation and for the eventual salvation of all human beings. Thus, the God who was in Christ “reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19), is a God of reconciliation.
Divine Violence and the Character of God looks at divine violence in the Old Testament in light of God’s character as a God who is merciful and gracious, as a God who is slow to anger, as a God who abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness, as a God who keeps steadfast love for the thousandth generation, and as a God who forgives iniquity and transgression and sin (Exodus 34:6–7). The book concludes by showing how the work of the Warrior God, God ’s work of reconciliation finds fulfillment on the cross.
Divine Violence and the Character of God will be published on February 1, 2022. The publishers are offering a 40% discount on pre-publication orders. If you want to buy a copy of Divine Violence and the Character of God with 40% discount, send an email to email@example.com. In the subject line write: Divine Violence.
This discount are for pre-publication orders only. This offer will end on January 31, 2022.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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If you are looking for other series of studies on the Old Testament, visit the Archive section and you will find many studies that deal with a variety of topics.