Echoes of the Baal Cycle in Scripture

“You crushed the heads of Leviathan”

It is axiomatic that the timeless message of Scripture had a special relationship to the challenges of the specific age in which God’s word first entered the world.  For much of the Old Testament until the exile, the main religious “competitor” to Yahweh was the pagan deity Baal.  Understanding something of Baal is useful background to both events and written material.

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Ezekiel’s Gog Oracle

Ezekiel 38 and 39 form the Gog Oracle: a final dramatic conflict between God and the hordes who dare to disturb His land and people. Much commentary on this exciting passage opines on its application to contemporary geopolitics, a practise that can quickly exchange study of the text for wild speculation.

This article makes seven propositions focused on revisiting the text, genre, and context of the oracle in order to better understand its meaning to an ancient audience. Such a foundation can then serve as a robust framework for evaluating our expectations of future events.

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Ethics in the Law of Moses: slavery

The ethics and legislation relating to servitude and slavery

Servitude in the Ancient Near East

Servitude in the Ancient Near East operated on a spectrum of greater or lesser obligation to another person, and greater or lesser personal protections. Everyone in the Ancient Near East was considered to be the servant of someone, with the key difference being the extent to which you were independent and protected from the imposition of another’s will. Continue reading “Ethics in the Law of Moses: slavery”

Which Old Testament?

On the central importance of the Septuagint

Timothy’s scriptures

from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God 2 Timothy 3:15-16 KJV

Paul commends the spiritual heritage of Timothy, noting his childhood education provided him a solid grounding in Scripture. Occasionally we might be prompted to ask – what Scripture? It is self-evidence to most Protestants today that Paul is referring to the Hebrew bible, or Old Testament (OT) reflected in the Protestant canon. However, this is making assumptions, quite a few assumptions but we will explore only one – which text was scripture? Continue reading “Which Old Testament?”

Prophet Model: the divine perspective

Challenging and questioning the dominant culture from the divine perspective

It is unsurprising to find that the poetic form and language of prophecy speaks to individual Christians in different ways. Writ large in metaphor and hyperbole, the motifs of judgement and salvation present an enduring message of hope that has universal reach. But indiscriminate application of these words to contemporary events imposes modern concerns on text intended to convey something entirely different: the divine perspective. Continue reading “Prophet Model: the divine perspective”

Prophet Model: A War of Words

Building a foundation for understanding the message of the prophets

Modern prophetic interpretation is surprisingly diverse, often presenting a bewildering array of national, personal, and cosmic predictions. Opaque scriptural symbols appear to have insufficient predictive potential, making even fulfilled prophecy frustrating to understand. As blood moons pass, “significant” dates come and go, and Planet X stubbornly refuses to destroy the earth, we are forced to reflect on our approach to prophecy. Are we doing it wrong? Continue reading “Prophet Model: A War of Words”

Ethics in the Law of Moses: Animal welfare & animal sacrifice

How is animal sacrifice compatible with animal welfare?

A reader of the previous article in this series raised the issue of animal sacrifice, which was commanded by the Law of Moses and carried out on a large scale by Israel. How is animal sacrifice compatible with animal welfare? Continue reading “Ethics in the Law of Moses: Animal welfare & animal sacrifice”

Exploring Psalm 147

Recognising God’s care, provision and power

Psalm 147 doesn’t get the same airtime as the more well known psalms, e.g. 1, 22, 23, 51, and 110, and yet there is much that we can learn from it that is of value today. In this post we’ll work through the psalm looking at its history, structure, and teaching. Continue reading “Exploring Psalm 147”

Ethics in the Law of Moses: Environmental Welfare

Care for the environment enshrined in the Law

The early Hebrews maintained an unparalleled degree of ecological sustainability, since the Law of Moses regulated fruit crops, prohibited certain mixed crops, and required the non-cultivation of the land in the seventh year, enabling the land to recover from human activity. Continue reading “Ethics in the Law of Moses: Environmental Welfare”

Ethics in the Law of Moses: animal welfare

“Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast.”

Many passages in the Bible are typically understood as teaching an explicit ethic of care and concern for animals and the environment, including the commandment that young birds may be taken from their mother, but their mother must be left alone (Deuteronomy 22:6-7), an ox or sheep not to be slaughtered on the same day as their young (Leviticus 22:8), animals used commercially are not to be overburdened or exploited (Exodus 23:5, Deuteronomy 25:4), and the statement that a righteous man takes care of his animals (Proverbs 12:10).

There was no tolerance for animal cruelty or animals being killed for entertainment. Continue reading “Ethics in the Law of Moses: animal welfare”