Thursday, January 25, 2007

Job Oultine

I apologize for those of you who have been waiting for my Job outline, since we are already at Job 11, but this has been a crazy week. At any rate, I will be posting more frequently on Job because it is a more difficult book. Here is one outline for the book, which I consider to be a content outline.

I. Prologue, chs 1-2
II. Dialogues, chs 3-26
III. Monologues, chs 27-41
IV. Epilogue, ch 42

This quick overview of the book shows the reader the character of the book as a collection of speeches. However, an expanded form of the outline can be even more helpful in following the discussion.

I. Prologue, chs 1-2 Job loses everything, including his health
II. Dialogues, chs 2-26
A. Round One, chs 3-14
1. Job's lament, ch 3
2. Eliphaz responds, chs 4-5
3. Job speaks again, chs 6-7
4. Bildad responds, ch 8
5. Job speaks again, chs 9-10
6. Zophar responds, ch 11
7. Job wraps up the discussion chs 12-14
B. Round Two, chs 15-21
1. Eliphaz speaks, ch 15
2. Job responds, chs 16-17
3. Bildad speaks, ch 18
4. Job responds, ch 19
5. Zophar speaks, ch 20
6. Job responds, ch 21
C. Round Three, chs 22-26
1. Eliphaz speaks, ch 22
2. Job responds, chs 23-24
3. Bildad speaks, ch 25
4. Job responds, ch 26
III. Monologues, chs 27-41
A. Job's final statement, chs 27-31
B. Elihu speaks, chs 32-37
C. God speaks, chs 38-41
IV. Epilogue, ch 42, Job is restored

The best brief study of Job is William Henry Green's work, Conflict and Triumph: The Argument of the Book of Job Unfolded. It was originally published in the 19th century, but has been reprinted by Banner of Truth. It follows the course of the argument of the book through the dialogues and monologues, relating all of it together. Most modern commentaries seem to have assumption that the speeches in the dialogues and monologues have little to do directly with one another, being merely set pieces for the pronouncement of views. But paying careful attention to what is said reveals how the speaker interact with one another. Green helps the modern reader do this.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


The Joseph Story: Genesis 37-50
There has been a great deal of literature on the Jospeh Narrative (as it is usually called) published in recent years.. Most of it has focused on either the literary structure of the material or the literary artistry of the narrative. Much of the latter perhaps springs from Robert Alter's The Art of Biblical Narrative (1981) of which chapter 8 (155-77): "Narration and Knowledge" deals exclusively with the Joseph story. In addition, the story comes in for discussion in numerous other places in the same book. The index references 19 other places in the book that deal with the Joseph story. This is probably the most accessible treatment of the artistic issues, though of course the discussion has moved a long way in 26 years. A much more recent work deals primarily with structural, as opposed to artistic issues. "The Literary Genius of the Joseph Narrative," by Dr. William D. Rainey (2004). I downloaded this from

As useful and helpful as these studies are, however, they do not deal with the theological aspects of the story. They can't be faulted for this, since it isn't their aim. But unless the theology of the text is brought to bear upon us, then these investigations are nothing more than exercises in intellectual curiosity, on the level of "An Analysis of the Personal Names in Dickens' Fiction and Their Purposes in His Narrative Concerns." So the next several notes, as the reading moves through the Joseph story, will focus on this neglected aspect. Those interested in more of this can refer to George Lawson's Lectures on Joseph.

At the end of Genesis 36:43, we are told that those aforementioned chiefs of Edom according to "their dwellings in the land of their possession," and that Esau is the father of Edom. This is immediately contrasted with the statement (Gen 37:1) "Jacob dwelt in the land of the sojournings of his father." Esau (Edom) has a settled possession, while Jacob has only a place in the land where his father sojourned. This makes clear the point brought out by the author of Hebrews that the patriarchs were looking for a home beyond this world (Heb 11:10-22). The remainder of Genesis shows how Jacob is removed even from that toehold in the land.

Chapter 38 has often created a problem for those who study the Joseph story, because it seems to break the continuity of the narrative. Consider however, that Judah (the subject of ch 38) was the chief instigator against Joseph in ch 37. By his humbling in ch 38, God works in him to make him ready to be the chief protector for Benjamin when the brethren go down to Egypt the second time.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Jacob's Vow: Genesis 28:10-22
This passage has a long history of both misinterpretation and mistranslation. In general, the passage has been read, especially vss. 20-22, as Jacob bargaining with God: if You provide for me, I'll believe in You. The problem with such an understanding is that is fails to realize that there is, as it were, no profit for God in such a deal. Further, it fails to take serious account of the context of the passage, and finally it fails to pay careful attention to the Hebrew syntax of the passage.

Dealing with the last first, the problem of mistranslation, based apparently on either a failure to comprehend the Hebrew syntax, or a misunderstanding of what is taking place, ranges all the way from the Geneva Bible (1599) to the God's Word translation (2003). As most English versions have it, the protasis (the "if" part of an "if/then" statement) begins in vs 20 with "If God will be with me." The apodosis (the "then" part of an "if/then" statement) begins at the end of vs 21 with "then God will be my God." Unfortunately, this follows neither the Hebrew syntax, nor the sense of the larger context. The Hebrew syntax is clear. The protasis begins with the particle im (if) and the imperfect form of the verb. The succeeding elements of the protasis are then linked by the conjunction vav and the perfect form of the verb. The last link in this chain is "and the Lord will be my God" in vs 21. The beginning of vs 22 breaks this verbal sequence (thus ending the protasis and beginning the apodosis) by starting the verse (the next clause in the vow) with a noun, not a verb. Thus, the vow should read: "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way on which I am going, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and I return in peace to my father's house, and Yahweh will be my God, then this stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be the house of God, and of all which you give me, I will tithe a tenth to you." This rendering is found in the 1901 American Standard Version.

This rendering also makes the best sense of the context. Jacob, in the clauses of his vow, is taking Yahweh at his word (compare vss 20-21 with Yahweh's promise in vss 13-15, especially vs 15). Thus Jacob's vow is not a bargaining with God, but rather a confession of faith, in which he takes God at His word, and says so. What follows in the account of the life of Jacob is the account of the difficulties of the work of sanctification in the life os a man. Jacob often acts according to his name (character) "supplanter, heel-grabber," rather than according to who he is as a converted child of God. The vicissitudes of his life are not unlike those of our lives. This is set out as a series of examples for our instruction. Let us be instructed thereby.

Friday, January 05, 2007


Exegetical Note Gen 12-22
This section begins with the promise to Abraham and concludes with the "Binding of Isaac" episode and its renewal of the covenant promises. (Incidentally, the title "Binding of Isaac" comes from the Jewish tradition. The more common Christian tradition is to call it the "Sacrifice of Isaac," which is technically a misnomer.) The reader should take note of the movement in this section. It begins with the promise to Abram. Abram immediately endangers the fulfillment of the promise by passing off Sarai as his sister. God restores Sarai to Abram. The blessing is then strengthened in two ways. First, by the blessing of Melchizedek, who is a type of Christ, and second by the institution of the covenant. What began as simply a promise now becomes a covenant with all the obligations on the maker of the covenant that are implied. Again, Abram endangers the fulfillment of the promise by means of Hagar and Ishmael. God moves to restore the promises with the giving of the covenant sign, and the emphatic statement to Abraham that Ishmael will not be the inheritor of the promises. Abraham, if you will, then denies his Lord a third time, by passing off Sarah as his sister again. God restores Sarah to Abraham, and demonstrates the fulfillment of the promise in the birth of Isaac. At this point, God himself moves to endanger the fulfillment of the covenant by ordering Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, then saves the covenant by the substitution of the ram. Then God reiterates the promise elements of the covenant. This multiple endangering of the covenant, with God removing the endangerment in each case, emphasizes as strongly as possible that this covenant is inviolable--neither by man, nor by God Himself. It is for this reason (among others) that Paul looks to the covenant with Abraham as the covenant under which the believer comes.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Exegetical Note Gen 1:1-2
Almost two centuries ago, the otherwise great Thomas Chalmers seems to have invented the "Gap Theory" as a way of dealing with the apparent discrepancies between the "scientifically determined" age of the earth, and that indicated by the traditional reading of Genesis 1-11. At the foundation of the Gap Theory is the allegation that the verb hayetah at the start of verse 2 should be translated "became" rather than "was." The implication drawn from this is that time had passed between the end of verse 1 and the beginning of verse 2, and in that period the earth "had become" waste and empty. The Gap Theory became popular during the 19th century, though that popularity waned as the arrival of Darwinism later in the centruy necessitated an old human race as well as an old earth. The Gap Theory could provide the latter, but not the former, as it presumed that other than the Gap between vss. 1 and 2, the text of Genesis 1 was to be taken literally. Nonetheless, the view was adopted by C. I. Scofield in his study Bible, and the view retains some adherents among those whose "hope is built on nothing less than Scofield's notes and Moody Press" (no offense intended to Moody Press).

Over the last two decades or so, a fair amount of work has gone into the study of Hebrew syntax. One result is the realization that the Hebrew verb system is syntactically more complex and more subtle than many had thought. The sequence of verb "tenses" is important, and the relationship between successive verb forms is exegetically significant. The significance of this for Gen 1:1-2 is as follows: 1) Note that 1:2 begins with a noun, not a verb (unusual for Hebrew, which is normally verb-first); 2) the verb in 1:2 that follows the opening noun is in the perfect form without a connecting vav, which indicates a break in the sequence, and a shift of focus. What this means is that the first verse begins the story (it is not a summary statement of the whole chapter, as some hold). The second verse then shifts focus to one aspect of what is mentioned in the first verse. On this basis, I suggest the following translation for Gen 1:1-2. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now, as for the earth, it was formless and void, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the deep." In other words, when God first created the heavens and earth, the earth was formless and void. The ordering of the earth then becomes the main subject of the following verses.