Monday, November 21, 2011

The Central Concern of the Old Testament

The central concern of the Old Testament (or the Hebrew Bible) is God’s relationship with Israel. The fact that the most frequent nouns in the Hebrew Bible are יהוה Yahweh (6,828 times), אלהים God (2,601 times), and ישראל Israel (2,514 times), attests to this.

The Pentateuch is primarily concerned with the historical background to, and the establishment of, the Sinaitic and Deuteronomic covenants, which functioned to define and regulate Yahweh’s exclusive relationship with Israel.

Following on the from the Law, the Prophets (i.e., the Former and Latter Prophets) are primarily concerned to trace the historical failure of the covenant relationship between God and Israel, and God’s response to this relational breakdown.

All in all, the Old Testament is a case study in the failure of a nation to keep covenant with God. It is a case study in what happens to human beings and human society when God’s word is ignored, a record of one nation’s reversion to darkness, chaos, and death.

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