Sunday, July 20, 2008

Reflections on Hebrew Grammar II

Oh no, it's Hebrew Grammar! I jest - Hebrew is a beautiful language and holds huge emotional significance for the one who appreciates its role in redemptive-history. It's just that it is, well, more difficult than Greek and so sometimes it can be hard to love it (I have my suspicions that this is how Marcion started down his particular road!). I don't think that Mr Ross helps particularly here; he's not as user friendly as Mounce, not as ingenious with his learning paradigms, and not as encouraging. He's a bit dry to be honest, like an old stick.

Anyway, the quest for highlights settles this time on the exegesis paper for the course. This one was an exegesis of Genesis 4:9-16. As well as the exegesis, we had to produce a section on how the passage informs a biblical theology of divine judgement. I found it very interesting to consider the spatial language used in the expulsion of both Adam and Eve from the garden and Cain from the post-expulsion settlement area. Both expulsions are to the east.

As an aside, I took the unyielding ground not as the result of a supernatural ecological curse, but the result of Cain's being driven from fruitful land into the wastelands (both by God's command, but also by those seeking retribution for Abel's death); its an interesting question...

Anyway, in Gen 12, Abram is called from the east to travel west. In Gen 13, Lot makes his choice of land and travels east. Not good. Of course, Abraham travels the other way (note that the land they survey is good land - like the 'garden of the LORD', G13:10). Abraham is reversing the direction of the expulsion; he is travelling back to Eden.

This spatial component to judgement is found in the narratives surrounding the relationship of Israel to the promised land and also in the NT in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The wandering of Cain is also picked up by Jude as a motif. In Revelation, Babylon is located in the wastelands and those who are outside of God's salvation are excluded from the new creation. Hence...

the embryonic components of a biblical understanding of divine punishment are seen in Yahweh's response to the sin of Cain. First, the mercy and longsuffering of God are clear. Second, there is a spiritual separation from God which is an intense and painful reality. Third, there is an attendant spatial removal from the blessings of the physical earth and of life with God on the earth. We cannot overstate the case – we are here merely provided with a trajectory, and the principle of intensification observed within the Genesis narrative must be recognised. We have referred to this as geo-spiritual judgement, and a biblical concept of divine punishment must recognise separation at its heart and not allow platonic concepts of wrath to obscure this holistic representation.

Here endeth the Reflections.