THE BIBLICAL STORY : The story behind the Story
When the crowds gathered around John the Baptist at the Jordan River in Judea, all of them shared a “master narrative” in their hearts and minds. This narrative included the mighty acts of God that we read about all through our Hebrew scriptures. Throughout our Hebrew scriptures, throughout the whole of our Old Testament, God tells us a story, a narrative of what happened in the time before YHWH (pronounced, and sometimes written as, Yahweh) came to humanity, incarnate of the virgin Mary.
The Hebrew Bible (our OT) recalls God’s acts for Israel in the past and envisions that in a coming time of fulfillment God would act for Israel, and for all people, in an ultimate way far transcending all his past saving acts. Throughout this portion of our Holy Scriptures and in many various ways over time God laid out a narrative for his people to follow, to live and of which they were to become a part and live within.
That narrative is told by many different people in different centuries and in different places to different audiences in many different situations sometimes speaking in different languages in our Hebrew scriptures. It’s the story of God’s love for God’s Creation, including the pinnacle of that Creation, humanity - us.
Without reading the whole of the OT there are certain passages, fortunately, which help to summarize key aspects of this "master narrative" of the OT. The following passages summarize key aspects of the “master narrative” of the OT.
God's Mighty Acts in the Past : Key Events of the OT
Creation and Fall Ge 13
Abrahamic Covenant Ge 12 19; 13 1418; 15; 17; 22 119; Ps 47; Mi 7 18-20; Ps 67. See also Ps 105 115; 2 Chr 16 8-22.
Exodus Ex 3 117; 11 1 - 12 13; 14 1 15 21; Ps 105
Covenant at Sinai Ex 20 121; 24 18; 24 1218; 31 18; 34 2932
Conquest of Palestine Js 1; Jd 12
Davidic Kingdom 2 Sam 7; 2 Sam 23 15; Ps 2; Ps 72; 78; Ps 89 137; Ps 110; Ps 132; Jd 8 22-23; 1 Ki 6 1-8; 1 Ki 8 1-13, 27, 54-60; Is 55 3-4.
Dwelling of Yahweh in Zion 1 Ki 8 113; 8 1453; 8 5461; Ps 132; Ps 135; Ek 1; 10 14; Ps 84 1-4
Prophets to Israel Am 2; Ho 12; Is 12; Jm 2223
Fall of Jerusalem and Exile to Babylon 2 Ki 1819; 21 1-9; 2 Ki 25; Ps 89; Ek 1; 8 34; 10 45, 1822; 11 2224; Jm 32 1-29
God's Mighty Acts in the Future : Key Prophetic Promises of the OT
The Coming Climax and Fulfillment of the Biblical Story
New Exodus Jm 32; 16 1415; Ho 2 1423; Is 40 111; 51 9-11; 52 112; Am 9 715; Hg 2 19; cf Ps 106 (especially vv 47-48)
New Covenant Jm 31 2734; Ek 36 1636; Dt 30; Zc + earlier intimations in the Psalms
Davidic Messiah Is 9 17; 11 110; Is 16, 32; Jm 23 56; Am 9 715; Mi 5 15; Zc 9 910
Renewal of creation Is 11 6-9; 35 1-10; 65 25; 66 22-24; Ho 2 18-23; Ps 98 7-9
Resurrection of the dead Is 25 6-12; 26 11-19; Dn 12 1-2; 12 13
Coming of Yahweh to Zion Is 40 1-11; Ps 96; Ps 97; Ek 37 2128; Ek 10 1822; 11 2224, Ek 43 15. Cf the book's climactic verse, Ek 48 35.
Inclusion of the Nations 1 Ki 8 5461; Is 2 15; 45 2025; Jm 3 1618; 16 1921; Zc 2 1013; cf Ps 96; Ps 100
The Kingdom of God Ps 96; Ps 98; Dn 2; Is 25 69; Ek 17
Prophet-like-Moses Dt 18 922, especially 18 1519; cf Dt 34, especially 34 912
Son of Man of Daniel Dn 7
The Servant of Isaiah Is 42 19; 49 16; 50 411; 52 13 53 12
The Close of the OT Story
Return from Babylon 2 Chr 36 2223; Ez 3; Ne 9
PostExilic Prophets Hg 2 19; Zc 2 1013; 8 1823; 9 910
Fulfillment-time Elijah Is 40 111; Ma 3 15; 4 46 [ = 3 2224 in the English translation of the
the biblical story: the story behind the Story: the short version
In studying the Bible we take a walk through time, beginning before Creation, discussing representative Old Testament texts that teach us about God’s good Creation and its Fall, and about God’s redemptive plan for Creation, and therefore about the redemption of us human beings, a plan God laid out before time and a plan which progressively evolves as we move from Creation to “the Fall” and through the rest of the Old Testament. As we do so we’ll read portions of the relevant texts concerning, of course and in particular, Creation and “the Fall”, texts about the covenants God made with Abraham, with Moses and with David, about the coming into the promised land, about YHWH departing the temple, about the Exile and the return from Exile through the time of the prophet Malachi leading up to and including the culminating expression of all of the Old Testament as found in the Incarnation of YHWH himself. There we will address the culminating events as expressed in the revelation of God in Jesus of Nazareth, as well as Jesus’ ministry, his death and resurrection and some of what that holds for us as lovers of and believers in Jesus, what he has done for us and what that means for the living of our lives here and now in the already inaugurated kingdom of God.
Along the way we’ll discuss some of the relevant Psalms and prophetic writings, in particular those of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Malachi. Many other texts will be cited and discussed as well. Additionally, we’ll discuss the various promises of God, the various hopes for God’s people as well as the theological and kingdom of God concepts of the Exodus, the new Exodus, covenant and new covenant, the kingdom and reign of God, the resurrection of the dead, the renewal and restoration of all Creation, the inclusion of the nations, and the ultimate culminating event of God’s kingdom and reign, that of the coming of YHWH to Zion when Jesus will come again - his second advent - to bring to consummation the kingdom of God as we move into the age to come, as we move into the time of eternal life.
Of course, the entire story behind the Story of the OT culminates in the Story itself, the NT, the Story of Jesus, the Story of his Incarnation, his ministry, his death, resurrection and ascension,
at the core of which, of course, is the cross and his resurrection -
at the core of which, of course, is God’s unmerited grace and mercy for the humanity that God loves.
As such, this class would normally and naturally culminate in a discussion of the consummation of the kingdom of God and the coming of God to Zion in which God will reign in this renewed and restored Creation just as we see it splendidly narrated in our Old and New Testaments. That is, once we’ve “temporarily completed” our journey through the representative Old Testament texts concerning God’s plan for his Creation, we would then naturally move into a discussion of the many New Testament texts which tell us of the many and various ways that Jesus is the fulfillment of these Old Testament texts - ways neither understood nor perhaps even known to many, if not most Christians today.
While there are many goals for this class, one of them is to show how the NT can be far more fully, accurately and happily understood and enjoyed if one, in fact, first understands and appreciates what God’s inspired word as found in our Old Testament has to say to us. Another goal is to introduce fellow believers to the very rich Christian heritage we share as believers in this Jesus, this God come in the flesh, and how all of this bears on us as followers of Jesus sent out into the world to be about doing God’s will.
We begin our discussion with the understanding that the biblical story itself has two great divisions.
God’s mighty acts in the past, the key events of the OT.
God’s mighty acts in the time of fulfillment, the key events of the NT.
As we move through this discussion of the OT, we must try to keep our focus here for the time being. We all know how the story turns out. But to jump ahead is to miss out on the full story being told here in the OT.
We begin by looking at the OT in its own context. The backdrop and entire biblical story begins in Ge 1 with in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The story behind the Story (the OT story) includes God’s great acts of salvation for his people, and it includes his promises of his ultimate acts of salvation for all people in the future which is the coming kingdom and reign of God. This is what we believe about the story behind the Story because this is the story the Bible tells us. Over and over, using different authors who were writing in different places and in different times and for different purposes, and who were speaking to different audiences in different situations and using different languages ... over and over the Bible tells you and me the very same story, the story of God’s love for us. There is a wonderful symmetry to the biblical story. The Bible itself is a connected whole because the Bible demonstrates what scholars call “narrative unity” from the beginning Ge 1 all the way through the end of the last book in Re 22. The very same story is being told throughout the whole of the Bible - the Story of Jesus.
As we move through the biblical story we’re not going to look at the books individually. Instead, we’ll follow our OT story as it unfolds in the canonical intertextuality of the entire OT. The starting point for this biblical drama, of course, is with the Creation.
|“the Fall” which happened through human idolatry, by turning to something other than the one, true Creator God|
|Abrahamic covenant: the divine solution and the restoration of God’s good Creation is God’s promise to Abraham to bring them into covenant with their God - and through them as God’s promise-bearing people to bring about his promise of blessing for all creation.|
What follows is what God did for his people in the story behind the Story. Following this initial structure we’ll discuss in overview fashion the various, individual aspects of our story behind the Story which will then better prepare us for the more in-depth discussions of each of these topics that follow.
Next, in the chart that follows
Numbers 1-5 are the “types” / the partial realities / the foreshadows which looked forward to the ultimate promises that God made for his people in Scripture.
Numbers 6-10 represent those events in history that “reversed” and undid the “types” in numbers 1-5. For instance, the Exile reversed the Exodus; the annulment of the covenant reversed the covenants and so on.
Numbers 11-15 are the “antitypes” / the full realities / the fulfillments of numbers 1-5. Numbers 11-15 are the ultimate redemption and salvation, the full reality that has now come in Christ.
These events in history are presented in chart form in overview fashion so that you can better see the structure of the materials we’ll be discussing more completely as we move along in this class.
God’s earlier acts will be seen as “types” or foreshadows of the full fulfillment. We’ll further see that the fulfillments seen in numbers 11-15 will far transcend the foreshadowings in numbers 1-5.
|Types / foreshadows
(that looked forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises)
|Anti-types / fulfillments of God’s promises
(that which is included in all “kingdom of God talk” in Scripture)
|1. Exodus||6. Exile||11. new Exodus|
|2. covenant||7. covenant is annulled||12. new covenant (the heart-transforming new covenant)|
|3. Davidic kingship||8. Davidic kingship ceases||13. Davidic Messiah (the ultimate Davidic king who will rule over Israel and all peoples forever)|
|4. God’s people in God’s land||9. land and nation destroyed||14. Renewal and restoration of all Creation and the resurrection of the dead|
|5. dwelling of God in Zion||10. departure of YHWH||15. the coming of YHWH to Zion + inclusion of the nations: the end of the beginning, the consummation, that will have no end, everlasting life.
God himself will dwell among his people. God himself will be with them for ever.
a “brief” Scriptural overview of God’s Great Drama
the story behind the Story in a nutshell
There is a larger narrative standing behind the NT, as well as standing behind most of our OT passages. All of our NT events are part of a larger narrative that is the story behind the Story, the OT story, the story of redemptive history, the story we read in our Hebrew Scriptures. In order to properly understand our NT we must first look at this larger narrative that came before and that lies behind the NT story. If we don’t do so, we will be guilty of committing the cardinal sin, academically and in every other way, of reading the NT text outside its literary and historical context. That’s because our own NT story is grounded in every way conceivable in the story that came before, what I call the story behind the Story.
We now set about discussing each of these events of the story behind the Story, noted just above, more thoroughly. Refer to the chart just above as well as the “longitudinal chart.” We’ll begin first with a brief overview of the whole of God’s unfolding drama as it has played itself out through time for us and as it has come down through the centuries to us in both our Old and New Testaments.
The entire larger narrative began, as does no other story, with the story of the one, true Creator God and his good Creation in Ge 1-2. Creation then took a tragic, chaotic turn and went wrong through human rebellion in “the Fall” of Ge 3. “The Fall” had cosmic consequences and is the unique biblical explanation for the evil, sin, suffering and death - and all that is wrong - that we see stalking the world. So Creation then became God’s project in search of a fulfillment.
The story then moved quickly to God’s solution to the “Fall” and his divine means of the restoration of his good Creation. To accomplish that God covenanted with Abraham. In order to bring humanity back to himself and to renew and restore all things, God gave us the divine solution for the restoration of Creation through God’s covenant with Abraham Ge 12-22 - the Abrahamic covenant. This covenant that God made with Abraham structures the whole biblical story to follow in Scripture. The Abrahamic covenant is behind God’s mighty acts for his people in the past just as it is now in these coming acts of the kingdom of God. If one fails to fully appreciate and understand the Abrahamic covenant, one WILL miss out on and misunderstand much in their reading and study of the NT. After all, we Christians are people of God’s covenants. We see this playing itself out all through our Lutheran liturgies.
The Abrahamic covenant (Ge 12-22) had four key features:
1. God promised that from Abraham would come a great nation, the nation of Israel formed through the Exodus (which is the “old Exodus” or the “first Exodus”).
2. God promised to give land - the promised land which would come from the Exodus through conquest.
3. God promised a personal relationship with God for Abraham and his seed - this God-Israel relationship, a covenant relationship. And that relationship was that God would be Israel’s God and Israel would be God’s people. Theologians call this the covenant formula.
* 4. God promised that in the climax of the Abrahamic covenant Israel was to be a blessing to all the nations through Abraham and the nations who would come from him, that God would overturn the evil, sin, suffering and death that had entered the world through “the Fall”. In some mysterious manner unknown at the time, God was going to use Abraham and his family as the means to bring about the renewal and restoration of all Creation, the renewed Creation - to bring all the nations to himself. It was not said when the Abrahamic covenant was made how this would result in blessing for all nations but that was the promise. Still, this “blessing to all nations” was the most important aspect of the Abrahamic covenant.
Thus, ultimately, the Abrahamic covenant was to be the foundation of the answer to the problem of “the Fall” and to the subsequent need for the restoration of God’s good Creation. Through Abraham, God would in some way bring about blessing to all nations. All of the remainder of the biblical story proceeded from and within the framework and structure of this Abrahamic covenant itself.
Telescoping now (After all, I’m trying to make this a brief overview.), in time Abraham gave birth to Isaac who gave birth to Jacob who fathered twelve sons, the twelve patriarchs. Because of a famine in the land of promise in Palestine they all went to Egypt. For over 400 years the Israelites were enslaved and were cruelly treated by the Egyptians. During that time they forgot about the God of Abraham, their Father, their ancestor. It was at that point that God called Moses to bring about his plan for the people of Israel, the seed of Abraham. Moses was to lead his people Israel out of Egypt. God would be their saving God, their delivering God.
So we see that the promises of the Abrahamic covenant began to be fulfilled in the Exodus.
The Exodus from Egypt took place, according to the book of that name, under the leadership of Moses, after long years in which the Israelites had been enslaved there. Lutheran Study Bible: p xcvi: April 1446 BC. (Ex 12 6; 1 Ki 6 1 and Nu 33 3).
According to Ge 15 13 ff, the Exodus was itself part of God's covenanted promise to Abraham. It demonstrated, to them and to Pharaoh, King of Egypt, that Israel was God's special child (Ex 4 22). The Israelites then wandered through the Sinai wilderness for 40 years, led by God in a pillar of cloud and fire (Ex 13 21). Early on in this time they were given the Torah on Mount Sinai itself. Finally, after the death of Moses and under the leadership of Joshua, they crossed the Jordan and entered, and eventually conquered, the promised land of Canaan.
The Exodus event, commemorated annually in Passover and other Jewish festivals, gave the Israelites not only a powerful memory of what had made them a people, but also a particular shape and content to their faith in YHWH as not only the Creator God but also the Redeemer God. The old Exodus was the center of the old covenant, and when the promises of God would be fulfilled, the understanding of the people of God was that there would be a new Exodus. Therefore, in subsequent enslavements, particularly in the Exile, the Jewish people looked for a further redemption by God which would be, in effect, a new Exodus. So the Passover is about the old Exodus but it’s especially about the new Exodus. It’s about what will be the ultimate saving act of God.
Some scholars use the phrase “second Exodus” but new Exodus is clearly superior because it’s not just a second Exodus like it is the Exodus all over again. Passage after passage makes clear that new Exodus will be like the old Exodus but so much infinitely greater. Therefore, the old Exodus is to be understood as the foreshadow or type of the new Exodus. The new Exodus will be the ultimate saving activity of God.
But the new Exodus is couched in terms of the old Exodus which is why we have this talk about this highway being prepared (Is 40 3) to bring the people into the land of promise. It’s this new Exodus that’s going to happen. Paradoxically within the OT, the Exodus was for the one people, the people of Israel, but the new Exodus, as Jeremiah and other prophets tell us, will be opened up for all peoples. The new Exodus will be the ultimate liberating, saving act of God. The old Exodus was the type or foreshadow, and the new Exodus is the ultimate saving act of God.
The Bible never uses the precise phrase new Exodus but it’s a word theologians use to rightly describe something that is found all through the whole OT, this promise of the new Exodus. God will bring Israel back to the land, a promise that seemed impossible to fulfill because in the ancient world, exile was forever. The whole point of exiling someone was that you should never be able to return. One reason why the people of Israel, we believe historically, disbelieved prophets like Jeremiah and Isaiah when they were foretold of the new Exodus, is that it seemed impossible. No one came back from Exile. And yet Jeremiah was promising that his people would come back from Exile in this new Exodus.
Probably no other past event in Israelite history so dominated the imagination of firstcentury Jews as did the Exodus. That mindset would have included the early Christians who, following the lead of Jesus himself, continually referred back to the Exodus to give meaning and shape to their own critical events, most particularly Jesus' Incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension. We see the evidence for this Christian perspective all through the whole of our NT documents.
The Exodus fulfilled parts 1 - the promise of nation - and 2 - the promise of land - and 3 - the promise of relationship with God confirmed at Mt. Sinai - but it did not fulfill part 4 - the inclusion of the nations. In other words, the Exodus served as the fulfillment of the first three parts of the Abrahamic covenant. True to his promises to Abraham, God saved, delivered and redeemed his people, bringing his people, the seed of Abraham, out of Egypt into the land of promise. The Exodus was itself part of a three part drama of redemption consisting of the Exodus itself, the Mosaic covenant (the Torah given at Mt. Sinai) and the conquest of the promised land. This Exodus, covenant and conquest are all celebrated throughout the whole of the Bible. All through the Bible! Once we begin to more properly understand what it is, we begin to see it on almost every page of Scripture.
Thus, we see the entire story of God’s people in the OT. We see the story of the Exodus, the story of the Mosaic covenant with God’s people, which further reinforced the Abrahamic covenant. We also see how in some ways the Mosaic covenant was in tension with the Abrahamic covenant. We see that the Abrahamic covenant was reaffirmed and broadened in the Mosaic covenant in which what was implicit in the Abrahamic covenant was made explicit in the Mosaic covenant - this call to exclusive devotion to God - which we see most clearly stated in Ex 20 3 "You shall have no other gods before me. That should be more than clear to all of us. Worship only God. Our only God is to be God himself.
Said another way, the Exodus was God’s great act of deliverance for his people of Israel, something which is celebrated over and over in Israel’s Psalms and worship. Notably, the Exodus did not involve the nations at all. Hence, even with the Exodus serving as a teaser within the biblical story, we still had unfulfilled promises of God because his promise to make the people of Israel a blessing to all nations had not yet been fulfilled. But it would be, in God’s time, as God progressively revealed what needed to be revealed at that particular moment in time. Progressive revelation.
Then, following the Exodus, God again covenanted himself with his people. With the giving of the Mosaic covenant (the law of Moses given by God through Moses) at Mt. Sinai, the Torah was given within this framework of the Exodus.
The Hebrew word Torah often gets translated in our Bibles as law but it does not mean law in our current “Ten Commandments” understanding of law. While it includes the Ten Commandments, the word Torah has a much richer and deeper meaning than that. Torah includes not only God’s rules but also the history of God’s saving deeds and his promises about the Messiah and the coming YHWH. Torah includes the idea of law but it more accurately means God’s instruction, God’s teaching, God’s revelation, God’s illumination, God’s good news (gospel) of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The Torah talks about the whole story of Christ that we celebrate in worship and which culminates in the Lord’s Supper. It’s talking about the whole teaching of God in the Bible about our relationship with Christ. That also includes ethical instruction about how we should live out our lives and relate to our neighbor. Notice, however, the ethical instruction - that we would call the “law” part - is actually only part of Torah. Torah is talking about the whole teaching of Scripture.
In fact, when reading the word law in our Bibles we’d be better served were we to think about the law as God’s instruction and God’s teaching and God’s revelation. The law (the Torah) always functioned within the gracious framework of the covenant of God with Israel through Abraham and it’s provision for mercy through repentance and sacrifice. That is, the Torah instructed Israel in how they were to live in thanksgiving to God for their relationship with God.
End of excursus.
At the heart of the Torah was this call to exclusive devotion to YHWH, to Israel’s God, a response to the Exodus which is so obvious in the story we read. We see that, for instance, in the preamble to the Ten Words. [Ten Words is the literal translation of the Hebrew words ha-D’varim (and the Greek word decalogos) that usually get translated as the Ten Commandments in the English.] They are found twice in the OT: at Ex 20 1-17 and Dt 5 6-21.
The first command in Ex 20 2 is not a word but a statement which provides the context for all of the Ten Words. 2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before me. This command in v 3 from YHWH was to govern one’s whole being.
You see that the basis of the Ten Words was that ‘I am your Creator, your redeemer God and now this is how you shall live a life for me.’ YHWH was their God and they were his people. The covenant formula of the Abrahamic covenant. Behind I am the LORD in v 2 is the actual name of God in Hebrew, YHWH. And we see that YHWH was not only this creating God. He was also this redeeming God.
Notice how this first commandment was predicated on God’s saving activity with the phrase who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Then, the response of Israel to her redeeming God was that she would have no other gods except me. Exclusive devotion to God. So you shall have no other gods before me. There is but one God and you need to be exclusively devoted to that one God. On Israel’s side of the covenant, she was to follow, worship and love only God.
Following God’s people moving into the land of promise, we then had the Davidic covenant, the Davidic king to rule over them and then the promise of an everlasting Davidic throne. So God’s people were in God’s promised land. And, in time, and best of all, we had the climax of the Exodus with Solomon’s building of the Temple in 1 Ki 6-8. Now God himself, in a special way, dwelled among his people in the Temple in Jerusalem. 1 Ki 8; Ps 132. God dwelling with his people was at the climax and core of the Exodus. God’s saving activity was not so that he could redeem the people so that they could once again go on their own way. Instead, God’s saving activity was done so that the people could once again return to God and be God’s people and that God would dwell among them. The coming of YHWH to Zion.
For now the hope of the inclusion (blessing) of the nations was just a hope. How would the nations (also known as the gentiles, the pagans) be blessed? What would that involve? Here the mystery was resolved; it was specified. The way the nations would be blessed was that they would come to know YHWH just as Israel knew YHWH as we see all through 1 Ki 8.
At this point in the divine drama we should pause and, in a way, notice how this story of Israel was somewhat like a mini-reversal of the “Fall” and a mini-renewal of Creation. In other words, all of this had happened just for one people, the people of Israel, and it had happened just for one land, the land of promise. But this mini-renewal of Creation had not accomplished everything because the great enemy that came into the world in Ge 3, death, was still in force. Evil, sin, suffering and death were still to be found everywhere. Still, all of this was like a mini-renewal and a mini-solution to the “Fall”. God’s people were in God’s land and God was dwelling among them.
It was at this point that the story took an unexpected, ironic and tragic turn for the worse. Over the course of about 400 years this turn for the worse paralleled and repeated the first tragic turn that we saw in “the Fall”. Even God’s chosen people rebelled against God and forsook the covenant. Israel herself forsook the covenant and rebelled against God (idolatry). In fact, Israel was not fully committed to YHWH, and Israel forsook their covenant with God through the core sin of idolatry - through the core sin of turning from exclusive devotion to YHWH to worshiping other gods. Israel tragically forsook the covenant of exclusive devotion to YHWH by starting to worship other gods - the gods of their neighbors - alongside YHWH. Syncretism.
We must remember what the covenant was all about. God had delivered Israel from bondage. Therefore, God said I am YHWH your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slaves. You shall have no other God except me (Ex 20 2-3). So we have here this concept of exclusive devotion to YHWH which within the biblical framework was and is not at all legalistic, extraneous or strange.
The biblical prophets such as Amos, Hosea, Elijah, Isaiah, Jm, etc.
had called Israel back to faithfulness to YHWH,
had called Israel back into the covenant,
had called Israel back to exclusive devotion to YHWH - but they all did so in vain.
The prophets told the people of Israel to turn back to YHWH. The prophets told the people that if they turned from YHWH - their creator God and their covenant God - if they turned from God and thereby broke the covenant, then terrible consequences were going to follow. The prophets foretold destruction and exile if Israel forsook the covenant.
However, the people had turned a deaf ear to God and so destruction and exile inevitably followed. God’s judgment inexorably did follow and the conclusion of the story was stunning and tragic. Ultimate Exile. The reversal of the Exodus. The covenant was annulled.
The Assyrians - first under Shalmanezer V and then under his successor Sargon II - laid siege to the capital city Samaria of the Northern Kingdom (also known as Israel in the divided kingdom). In antiquity a siege was terrible. No supplies, including food and water, entered the city; nothing left the city. Life shut down. Farming stopped. Sieges led to horrible famine, plague, disease and death. This went on for three years before the city fell in AD 722.
Then later, at the hands of the new dominant empire in the middle east, the Babylonians under Nebuchadrezzar did the same to the Southern Kingdom (also known as Judah). Beginning in 597 the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem which fell in 587. God’s presence had departed from his people.. The Babylonians literally leveled Jerusalem. The temple - God’s dwelling place - was literally razed to the ground. The soil was salted so that crops could not be grown. Most of the people were killed and those Israelites who were not killed were taken into exile. The Davidic king witnessed his sons being killed so that there would be no Davidic kings to follow. Then the Babylonians took out the king’s eyes leaving him with that last visual memory.
All of the Babylonian activity was complete by 587. Babylonian captivity was now a fact. Jerusalem was no more. The center of Israel’s worship, the Temple, was no more. And, to make matters all the worse, in ancient times exile was forever. The whole point of exile was to transplant people into another land so their affection and love for their land would be extinguished. Under those circumstances, the people would not rebel any longer, at least on paper. This Exile in Babylon was to be an everlasting exile for the Jewish people.
The Exile showed again that God’s people had not come to the full solution that God had in mind for his Creation stemming from their rebellion of the “Fall”. Remember that the “Fall” was all about people turning from and rebelling against God. People had stopped worshiping God alone. People fell prey to the temptation of the serpent that “you shall be as God,” and people took on other gods. Judgment and Exile inexorably followed. In the Exile Israel had done the very same thing as what they had done back in Ge 3. The Exile to Babylon was “the Fall” of Ge 3 all over again. Israel had forsaken the covenant which God had made with them. Israel had turned away from God in order to serve other gods as well as YHWH. Israel had not been exclusively devoted to God. That led, in turn, to God’s judgment of Israel and her subsequent exile to Babylon and elsewhere.
It’s at this point in reading Scripture that we are to be mindful that these divine judgments or punishments were not some arbitrary doings by an arbitrary God. No. It wasn’t that at all. Instead, in reading Scripture we should see and understand that these judgments and punishments were (and will be) very much structural. In other words, when one reads and truly understands Scripture, how can there be anything but life in the presence of the one, true God? And, on the other hand, how can there be anything by exile and death if one turns away from the Creator God who gave them life?
So we are to see that what happened (and what happens even now) was very much a structural matter. That is, in love God had created everything and made with humanity his various covenants. In those covenants humanity was shown how to live. However, in the end, humanity terribly failed God by turning to other gods. That is, humanity undid the structure of God’s purposes. Thus, what happened to God’s people was very much a structural matter, something they brought on themselves. Israel forsook the covenant. The Exodus was reversed. Exile ensued. This covenant was and is like a marriage. It was to be a two way deal. It required that both parties to the covenant be and remain faithful. So when Israel forsook the covenant, the marriage was annulled. The Davidic kingship was no more. The nation of Israel and her promised land were destroyed. The people were carried off into Exile. And, worst of all, and climactically and unfortunately, YHWH’s presence and glory departed from them - seemingly forever.
But, just when it appeared as though the biblical story had been reversed, undone and brought to an end, we see something key to the story, perhaps thee key aspect of the story, come back into the picture, God’s covenant love. God had other plans for his Creation. True, the covenant had been annulled. The Davidic kingship was no more. The land and nation and Jerusalem had been destroyed. Israel was in Exile. The temple was in ruins. All of God’s promises seemed to have failed. All of this had happened because of Israel’s sins. Even though the Mosaic covenant called for this marriage relationship between God and his people, it still raised questions about the righteousness and faithfulness of God among the faithful remnant because, after all, God had promised to Abraham that he would bring this great nation from him and give them the land of promise. Also, it was through his people Israel that blessing would come to all nations.
The Exile had overturned that promise. The Exile had overturned the Exodus. The biblical narrative and the story of Israel and her people appeared to be over. The story of God’s chosen people seemed to be at an end. God’s righteousness had been called into question. Or so it seemed.
Remember, that it was God’s covenant love that led to the Abrahamic covenant in the first place. Remember that covenant with Abraham was an unconditional covenant: All nations were to be blessed through Abraham. It was, in fact, God’s love that led to his Creation in the first place. And, despite Israel’s unfaithfulness, God’s covenant love would be triumphant here. God would fulfill his promises. That’s because God’s covenant love for his people was greater than their unfaithfulness. In God’s covenant love God would bring about a great fulfillment of his covenantal promises to Abraham and Abraham’s family because his love for them was greater than their unfaithfulness.
This great fulfillment would look back to the earlier events in the story, such as the Exodus, the Abrahamic covenant, the Davidic king, the promised land, and the dwelling of YHWH in Zion. Scholars call this typology. These earlier events would serve as a type / foreshadow of the full fulfillment which was to come. These earlier events (types, partial realities, foreshadows) pointed toward the full fulfillment (antitype, full reality, fulfillment) which was to come.
As such, we begin to receive these wonderful promises of the prophets of something that Israel could never have envisioned. What could God do greater than the Exodus? God’s ultimate fulfillment of his promises - a new Exodus. That’s what! And this new Exodus would be far greater than the old Exodus. In other words, the OT expectation of God’s coming redemptive deliverance of Israel from Exile is the new Exodus.
And, what could be greater than the covenant? Clearly, something greater than the covenant was needed. In the covenant with Moses there had been the call to exclusive devotion to YHWH. However, Israel had broken that covenant because their hearts had turned away from God. But God’s covenant love would lead to the promise of a new covenant. Out of judgment and Exile would come the fulfillment of all God’s purposes. There would be a new Exodus and a new covenant.
God’s people turning their hearts from God had been the same problem we had seen in the “Fall”. What was the solution that would be the solution not only to Israel’s waywardness but also ultimately to the “Fall”? It would be this heart-transforming new covenant in which the human heart would be transformed from within such just as we read in Jm 31 and Ek 36. The heart-transforming new covenant was an amazing biblical concept and promise that was unique to the Bible. With God’s heart-transforming new covenant God himself would transform his people from within. God would transform their hearts to love and know him.
Further, along with the promise of a new Exodus and a new covenant was this promise of the restoration of the Davidic kingship. The Davidic kingship was to be restored to be far greater, in some ultimate way, than the original Davidic kingship - just as all these things within the kingdom of God are. In other words, there would come this Davidic Messiah, this one ultimate Davidic king who would rule and reign on David’s throne forever. The fulfillment of God’s promises would be so much greater than the earlier acts of God for Israel.
Additionally, at this point in the OT story we still had this tension point in the story, this seeming contradiction within the story. The faithful remnant knew that YHWH alone was to be their God and their king - which is why to this point in their history the Israelites had judges but no kings, that is, until the time of David. How could it be that they would have a Davidic king like David, and, even more, how could this human Davidic Messiah be at the center of God’s plans and have an everlasting kingdom?
So we had this incredible tension being formed within the biblical story. At the very least it was a head-scratcher then - although we know now two millennia later how God eventually worked it all out. But, before the time of Jesus, this was most puzzling to the people of God, and it was a problem within the biblical story. How did a Davidic king fit with the idea that God alone was to be their king? And how was thing Davidic king going to live forever? So we have this tension that has been built into the biblical narrative.
Still, this expectation of a Davidic Messiah was but one of the two great streams of expectation we read about within the divine drama found all through our Hebrew Scriptures. The first major stream of hope / expectation was that of the coming of the human Davidic Messiah, (the ultimate Davidic king) and of his coming rule and reign. [We see this, for example, in Ek 37 24 My servant David will be their king. ... See also discussion in Jd 8 22-23 regarding the tension inherent in this Davidic kingship.]
Read Jd 8 22-23.
22 the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Be king over us, you and your son and your son’s son [That would be a royal dynasty.]; for you have delivered us from the hand of the Midianites.”
Listen to the faithful Israelite type response of Gideon in Jd 8 22-23 where the text addresses the question, “Who should be your king? your ruler? Some human king even as great as David?” No! God should be your king!
The book of Judges itself is a reminder to the Israelites that when the people of Israel entered the land of promise, they were first ruled by judges, not kings. There was a reason for that; they were not to have a king. There was no king until the time of Saul and David. The judges were those people raised up by God at various times to deliver Israel and then they would also judge their cases and so on. The judges were primarily warriors and deliverers.
The way Israel first got a king was that they asked for a king. It’s clear in the OT text that when they asked for a king, it was sinful to do so.
This idea that Israel should not have a king was expressed by Gideon, one of the great judges, who after he had delivered Israel was asked by the Israelites, in their godless, pagan-thinking sort of way, Be king over us, you and your son and your son’s son; for you have delivered us from the hand of the Midianites Jd 8 22.
vv 22-23 follow the great battle with the Midianites, this great story of Gideon (1191-1144) who defeated the well-armed Midianites with nothing but torches in jars as we saw in Jd 7 16 ff. They did so because God was with them. This is another story that shows that God is the one who gives salvation to human beings, a story in which God called Gideon to do this seemingly impossible task, to go to battle against the Midianites. He made Gideon send back all of his many thousands of soldiers except 300, and they didn’t even have weapons because they were so oppressed and impoverished by these Midianites and other enemies. All they had with them were torches and pitchers, and they broke the pitchers and held up the torches and said in Jd 7 20 So the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars, holding in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow; and they cried, "A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!" And they won the battle through God’s power and might.
be king over us, you and your son and your son’s son.
Here in v 22 the Israelites were asking for not only a king but a kingly dynasty, a royal house, which was a bad thing to do as we see in v 23, even though this was the same sort of thing that God would eventually promise to David (1010-970). Even though the Israelites wanted to be like the nations all around them and have a king who would lead them in battle, God told them through the prophet Samuel that it was unfaithful to ask for a king (1 Sam 8). It was a bad thing to ask for as we see here in vv 22-23 where Gideon expresses the viewpoint of the faithful Israelites.
23 but Gideon said “I will not be king over you, nor shall my son be king over you. YHWH alone shall be king over you.”
Gideon’s reply is put here by the biblical author because it expresses good biblical Israelite covenant theology about YHWH. At the core of their faith was that YHWH alone was your king. Gideon said that he couldn’t be king over Israel because they could have no human king over them and because YHWH alone was Israel’s king. YHWH was the God who had called them through the Exodus in fulfillment of his promises to Abraham. They should not want another king because YHWH was their king! That’s why God had given them judges and not kings. Only YHWH was to rule them. In fact, why would you want some fallible, often foolish and often wicked human ruler ruling over you when God was your ruler?! A human king was always going to lead you astray. That’s why when the people first asked for a king and God gave them Saul, it was only God saying it was sinful for them to ask for a king. It was wrong for them to ask for a king. In fact, the prophet Samuel castigated the people because they were asking for a king (1 Sam 8) as we read in v 22. That being the case, how then did an earthly human Davidic king become their king?
In spite of Gideon’s accurate portrayal of God’s faithful covenant in Scripture, God still made this Davidic covenant a central part of his plan and theology for the whole Bible.
But the Davidic kingship always was part of God’s original plan.
In fact, God had remonstrated his people when they asked for a king. They were being like all the nations around them, and it was wrong for them to ask for a king. And yet God gave them a king in Saul!!! Then, to top it off, the next king, David, God put at the center of everything with this everlasting Davidic throne!
So first of all, God granted the people’s request for a king which the Bible had already made clear was a wrong request to make because God alone was to be their king.
Then, secondly, God up and made this king a centerpiece of his salvation plan, of the “economy of salvation” (also known as God’s plan of salvation or the “divine economy”.). This was God’s plan for salvation and ongoing providence which was cosmic in scope. It embraced all aspects of human existence and the universe itself.
So, not only had God put a Davidic king on the throne, David, but God promised an everlasting Davidic throne - the Davidic covenant. So what was going on here?
What the faithful Israelite speaking the word of Scripture said should not be done and what God told the people of Israel they were wrong to ask for, God first of all then up and gave them and then secondly he made it central to his whole way of fulfilling this Abrahamic covenant! That was simply remarkable but it also created this tension point within our understanding of the human expectation of an ultimate Davidic king and within our understanding of the divine expectation of God himself coming to be with his people forever.
Then, later still, YHWH showed through Isaiah (Is 11 1) (progressive revelation) that the everlasting Davidic throne would be fulfilled through one, ultimate Davidic king who would rule and reign on David’s throne forever. And so the Messiah had a central place in God’s plan. Still, what gives? How can you have a human king when YHWH is your king? How could you have a human king who would live forever? How was that going to work itself out?
You see, giving the people of Israel a king created a tension point. Within the two streams of expectation point of view this posed a mystery. In fact, this tension point runs throughout the whole of the story behind the Story. The central question lying at the heart of that tension was how could they have a human king when God should be their king? Keep this point of tension in mind as we move on through the story and find how that mysterious tension will be incredibly and wondrously resolved.
Note regarding the fulfillment of this seeming tension.
As we will see in the gospels, this tension will be wonderfully resolved when we find out that the Davidic king, the human king, was not only the fulfillment of the human stream of expectation but was also the fulfillment of the divine stream of expectation. That’s what God had planned all along. The Davidic king was also to be Israel’s God. In other words, we will see why in the promises of God how the Davidic Messiah and the coming of YHWH to Zion were both there because ultimately they were both fulfilled by one person, Jesus of Nazareth.
Thus, in light of the Incarnation, the Davidic promise turned out to be not a troublesome detour in God’s plan but a mysterious pointer toward its ultimate fulfillment. It was God’s everlasting plan from the beginning that a human being should rule as king over all Creation as we read in Ge 1-2, Ps 8, Dn 7, He 2, but still, it was also God’s everlasting plan that God alone should rule as king. This was fulfilled in the Incarnation, the goal and fulfillment to which Creation always pointed. And in being united to the God-Man, our humanity is transformed by his divinity and we are renewed into the image of Christ (Ep 4, Co 3). The Incarnation was the event toward which not only God’s promises to Israel, but God’s entire work of Creation from Ge 1 onward, pointed.
The Incarnation revealed that this Davidic covenant was God’s plan from the beginning. If you look back, you see how it was essential to God’s plan from the beginning. You see that the plan of God in Ge 1-2 was that human beings should rule over Creation as God’s vice-regents, and yet, God alone should rule. That all comes true in the Incarnation in which it was the human Davidic king who was to rule over all as promised in Ps 8 and Dn 7 and so on.
But then there is more to it than that. This has to do with the whole story of salvation. Through God becoming human, we have access to God, and we are transformed and renewed according to the image of God. So it was the everlasting plan of God that a human king should rule. Further, we know that the human king was and is Jesus who is God. Jesus was that very same human king who at present reigns at the right hand of God in God’s space that we call heaven.
So this answer to the tension was good but this answer was before the fulfillment. Before the fulfillment illumined everything. Then, when the fulfillment came, that is, when the Incarnation came, then there was no more tension. The whole problem was then resolved. It was God alone who was to rule. But it was also a human king who ruled in this one person who had fulfilled both of the expectations.
The tension and problem is there all through the OT. You see that very clearly in that the line of Davidic kings that God chose were often unfaithful, and the biblical text calls attention to that. So we have this seeming tension and problem in the OT but all of this was entirely resolved when you came to the fulfillment in the Incarnation. Then, in light of that fulfillment, in light of the Incarnation, you see how the Davidic kingship and this human king was a central part of the plan from the get go because the plan was to restore and redeem humanity and that could only come about through the Incarnation.
So with all that not only is Christ ruling but we are ruling with Christ. Then, in the consummation of the age, we have all that language - as in Re 1 6 and everywhere ... we have all that language of ruling with Christ and being priests and kings of God. Priests were mediators for God, a kingdom of priests, the priesthood of all believers.
Therefore, the human part of the equation was always a part of God’s plan. That is, central to the whole plan of salvation and redemption was the Incarnation. We are being transformed to be kings and priests of God, and this will all come to completion which Christ comes again.]
Next, you might think that now with the coming of the Davidic kingship and the Davidic covenant that the Exodus had reached its climax. But that would be incorrect thinking. One more event must occur which we see in 1 Ki 8 1-10-13, 27.
End of Jd 8 22-23
Read 1 Ki 8 1-13, 27.
1 Ki 8 is an account of Solomon building the temple. The account itself began in 1 Ki 6 with the writer recounting that this happened in the four hundred and eightieth year after the Exodus from Egypt. Full, detailed accounts like 1 Ki 8 are to be understood as something most important and crucial in the story behind the Story. This is the Exodus reaching its climax.
That the author dates what is now happening in relationship to the Exodus is the author’s way of saying that this now was the Exodus reaching its climax. The Exodus is about to reach the point of its whole purpose as we see happening in 1 Ki 6-8 when Solomon built the temple.
1 Ki 6 and it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, in the second month, that he began to build the temple (house) of YHWH.
So this is really bringing everything to its climax.
Now in 1 Ki 8 Solomon assembled all the people.
Whenever we use the word Zion, it refers to the city of David, and the city of David is Jerusalem. Zion refers to Jerusalem. Zion = city of David = Jerusalem, however, each comes with a different connotation.
When you want to refer to the fact that it’s the city, Jerusalem, the spot, you use Jerusalem.
When you want to call attention to the fact that it’s the throne of the Davidic king and of the Davidic dynasty, you call it the city of David.
When you use the word Zion, you are always calling attention to something else greater than this as we see in 1 Ki 8 3-8. Zion is the special, holy term for Jerusalem as the place of God’s dwelling. Zion is Jerusalem when Jerusalem is God’s dwelling place. Zion is God’s earthly dwelling among his people. In the Bible the psalmists and the prophets only use the word Zion about Jerusalem when they are referring to it as the dwelling place of YHWH.
Zion symbolically calls attention to God’s kingdom and to the new heavenly Jerusalem (Re 21 1-4) yet to come, the dwelling place of YHWH. Zion is only a foreshadow of this full dwelling in Christ which is fulfilled through Christ dwelling with us through the Incarnation and then dwelling with us in an ultimate consummated way at his second coming when he will dwell with us forever, no longer taken from us through the ascension but now returned. Then his presence and glory will fill and be the feature of all Creation. And that will be all Creation made Zion. Zion is all about God dwelling with his people.
Something important is going to happen in the temple now in vv 10-11. Notice we have the cloud and the glory. Through the temple God himself was dwelling among his people. The cloud and fire - which you also see when they are going through the wilderness - is the visible, symbolic signal of God’s actual presence. The presence of YHWH is always manifested to human beings through the cloud or fire. This cloud signified and embodied the very presence and power and glory of YHWH - just as it had in the time of the Exodus when God made the covenant with the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai in Ex 20 where God actually came to be present and gave them the Ten Words. Again and again, when you have this theophany where God himself reveals himself or is present with his people, you have this cloud of glory.
We see here YHWH himself in his grace had come to dwell in a special way among his people. This is a specific, unique, sacramental sense in which this is happening.
We shouldn’t get the idea that this was like Israel’s pagan neighbors whose gods were confined to a certain house or temple and that the same thing was going on here. That’s where they dwelled and no where else. The people of Israel were not like their neighbors who thought that their gods were actually enclosed and confined in their temples. You can see that later when you see Solomon pray this great prayer that he prays in v 27.
Here, when the cloud of glory filled the temple, the holy place, so much so that the priests could not minister, it shows us that God had come to dwell in his temple. God was dwelling among his people. This was what the Exodus was all about. This was the climax of the Exodus. That is, the ultimate climax of the Exodus was the dwelling of YHWH in Zion. The climax for everything that the Exodus involved was God dwelling in love and mercy and truth and grace among his people. When the temple was built and God dwelled among his people, this was really the climax for the people of Israel.
Remember how crucial the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants were and how they were celebrated in the Psalms and prophetic writings over and over. As much as they were celebrated, however, neither of them could not hold a candle to how much this coming of YHWH to Zion was celebrated in the Psalms and in worship. The Psalms were all about the psalmist coming to worship in the very presence of God. They were all about God dwelling among his people in Zion. If you were a faithful, trusting Israelite, YHWH’s eventual coming to Zion was the heart and the center of everything. To know that your God was with you was the high point and what the biblical author portrayed as the true fulfillment and climax of the Exodus. Act VI: The dwelling of YHWH in Zion.
We see something here in 1 Ki 8 which goes directly to the faith of Israel and the teaching of the OT. We first need to rid ourselves of any vestiges of wrongheaded misunderstandings we might have about our OT, such as the one that the OT was this legalistic story of people trying to earn favor with God, that God was a wrathful God whom the people of Israel feared and that this was a story about people led astray to be involved in all sorts of legalities with temple worship and so on. These are wrongheaded positions. The truth could not be further from that. Notice how different that really is from what we see here in 1 Ki 8.
What we read of here concerns this relationship of love between God and his people. In fact, this was the high point of everything for the people of Israel - God’s personal presence among them. They loved their God, and now their God had deigned to come and dwell among them in his grace and glory and mercy and love. He was now with them. This was what the Exodus had been all about. So the ultimate climax of the Exodus was the dwelling of YHWH in Zion. This is thee central theme of the OT. That is why it’s called Zion. Whenever you call Jerusalem Zion, you are calling attention to the fact that Jerusalem was the great central city of all Creation because it was there that YHWH was dwelling.
For example, we see this in Ps 132 which recounts the dwelling of YHWH among his people in the Temple. See notes there. The whole Ps is about God dwelling in Zion.
Hence, God dwelling among his people is the climax of the Exodus. The Exodus has reached its climax in the dwelling of YHWH in Zion. Notice that this, in its own way for Israel, reverses the tragedy of Ge 3. God - like he was in the garden with Adam and Eve - is now again dwelling among his people. Through God’s Torah - his teaching, revelation and instruction - he’s turning them from the ways of evil and wickedness to live as his holy people. And now, YHWH is dwelling among them.
Obviously, while this is the wondrous climax of the Exodus, we might be tempted to say this then fully fulfills the Abrahamic covenant. But not so fast. Sure, it’s true that God’s people, his nation, are dwelling in his land. And sure, it’s also true that the covenant formula of I will be their God and they will be my people is fully fulfilled with God dwelling among his faithful people. Therefore, does that not fully fulfill the Abrahamic covenant? No, it does not because the fourth and climactic element of the Abrahamic covenant, the blessing to all nations, is yet to be fulfilled. Even though we see that the inclusion of the nations is on the biblical author’s mind, the fourth element of the Abrahamic covenant is not yet fulfilled. Israel is like this mini-answer to the human dilemma, restored to God, God’s covenant people, and yet their whole purpose is to bring God’s covenant to all of humanity. To see that we turn to 1 Ki 8 54-60 where we will see the fourth aspect of the Abrahamic covenant repeated as well as a new element being revealed as the story progresses.
Now, several centuries after the making of the Davidic covenant, the Exodus has come to its climax after Solomon built the temple so that God himself could dwell among his people in grace and glory. So the real climax of the Exodus and the center of the Bible was the personal dwelling of YHWH in Zion. The Exodus doesn’t fully climax through the Davidic kingship but it climaxes through the dwelling of YHWH in Zion, with God himself dwelling among his people.
We tend to focus on things like the forgiveness of sins but in the Bible forgiveness of sins has a point, a reason. Forgiveness of sins is meant to restore our relationship, our fellowship with God.
However, even then the covenant with Abraham and the biblical story had not reached its climax because the fourth and climactic part of the Abrahamic covenant, the promise of blessing to all nations, had not yet been fulfilled.
Zion Theology See also note beginning 2 Sam 7.
Zion Theology celebrates the fact that you had this Davidic covenant that God had promised. God may rightly correct, afflict and punish individual Davidic kings for straying from his ways but God would never not keep his covenant with David. David would always have an everlasting Davidic throne; they would always worship in the Temple, the central worship place which would not be conquered because God would keep that safe forever and ever. Further, God himself dwelled in Zion. You had this dwelling of YHWH in Zion.
That’s a good biblical Zion theology but a false, non-biblical, non-faithful Zion theology begins to develop among the people of Israel in which they think to themselves, “Well, if God has promised an everlasting Davidic throne and if God himself dwells in the temple, no matter what we do, how can God ever go back on his faithful promises?” Quite obviously, they forgot the Torah which most especially of all focused on exclusive devotion to God, and it said to not turn to other gods. Then, because of their false version of this Zion theology, and despite the warnings of the prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah and all the rest, we come to Act VII in which Israel, except for a small minority, forsakes the covenant by turning to other gods. In good, pagan, tolerant fashion the people decided they could worship YHWH which was one form of the truth and that they could worship Molech which was another form of the truth. They decided they could worship Ba’al and all the other gods of their neighbors. They just kept adding gods, one right after the other, to their pantheon of gods. So the prophets warned the people repeatedly that they could not worship YHWH and these other gods. You were to worship YHWH exclusively. All other gods were false gods. There was but one, true God, the God of Israel, YHWH.
As such, the conclusion of the story is tragic leading to Act VII . Israel forsakes the covenant by turning to other gods: the tragedy of the Exile and the promise of YHWH’s coming reign.
Solomon himself is praying.
The idea here is not that YHWH is confined to the temple (like the pagan gods were confined in a certain place). Instead, the idea here is that God in his own will, love, grace and mercy had graciously covenanted with Israel and was mysteriously dwelling with and among them in a special way in the temple.
So we have now reached the climax of the Exodus and what the Exodus was pointing toward: this relationship with God and God dwelling among his people. For pedagogic purposes we will call this Act VI: The dwelling of YHWH in Zion. And even though the Davidic covenant is celebrated on every page of the Bible, that doesn’t hold a candle to how much this dwelling of YHWH in Zion is celebrated in the Bible, for instance, in Psalms 132 and 135. See notes there.
The coming of YHWH to Zion is celebrated far, far more than is the Davidic covenant. Why? Because it’s far more important; it’s the ultimate goal of everything.
Solomon says heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain God. The way theologians talk about this is with this idea that the temple in the Bible is but a type or shadow of God’s full presence on his heavenly throne. His dwelling here in the temple is called in theological terms a type or shadow of his full dwelling on his heavenly throne but Solomon says even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain God. In other words, God cannot be contained in a spatial category. But the idea here is that God in grace has covenanted to dwell among them in this indescribably glorious and special way. This is what is understood here as something even greater than the promise of an everlasting Davidic throne. This is God himself in the temple which he has given to his people Israel; he dwells among them. Within the biblical narrative, as we’re going to see, this dwelling of YHWH in Zion among his people is the real climax and goal of the Exodus because it has fulfilled this promise in the Abrahamic covenant of the covenant formula itself. Within the biblical structure of the Abrahamic covenant this fulfills the covenant relationship with God.
This, of course, contrasts with Deism which is so different from the biblical conception. In Deism the creator god who then lets the creation go out on its own, and you can’t any contact between this god of Deism and humanity.
The biblical understanding is one of a creator God, exalted, transcending all creation but in grace and mercy he dwells among his people! Further, the biblical text makes this central, telling us this is the climax of the Exodus by constantly recalling the Exodus such as in 1 Ki 6 1 In the four hundred eightieth year after the Israelites came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the LORD. It’s saying this is really the climax of the Exodus. The nation is great; the land is crucial; but the covenant relationship with YHWH is most important of all, and that YHWH dwells among them is the central truth for these ancient Israelites.
Ps after Ps extols and declares the wonder of this dwelling of YHWH in Zion. For instance, in Ps 89 the everlasting Davidic throne and covenant are extolled. Ps after Ps extols how God dwells among his people in the temple, about how wonderful it is that he dwells among his people.
For instance, see Ps 121. Ps 122 1. Ps 125 1-2. Ps 134 1-3. See notes there.
So this story of the Exodus has now reached its climax with the dwelling of YHWH in Zion. We have now seen God bring about a great nation from Abraham. God has given them the land of promise. They now have a king to rule over them through the everlasting Davidic covenant and throne. Now, YHWH dwells among them.
In spite of all these things, the Abrahamic covenant was still not yet fully and completely fulfilled. The nation was in the promised land with YHWH, so part of the Abrahamic covenant had reached a wondrous fulfillment, and the Exodus had reached a wondrous fulfillment but there was also this promise of blessing to all nations. [To see what that involved you can read the benediction of Solomon’s prayer in 1 Ki 8 54-60.]
End of 1 Ki 8 1-13, 27
Back now to our discussion of the two major streams of expectation
Further, the other stream of expectation - the coming of YHWH to Zion - was, by far, the more important of these two streams of expectation. And, in addition to these two major streams of biblical expectation, we also have numerous characters coming on stage in God’s divine drama, “figures” who appeared at various times during the staging of this ongoing biblical narrative. We will deal more deeply with these two streams of expectation and with the various figures of the OT below.
We will see that in God’s divine drama the key hope was as it always had been, the coming of YHWH to Zion. In fact, the coming of YHWH to Zion comes at the climax of everything in the various biblical texts. Then, much later in the Hebrew Scriptures, along with the coming of YHWH to Zion we learn that there will be this resurrection of the dead. The people of God dwelling in God’s land would reach their full fulfillment in the resurrection of the dead of God’s people in order to dwell in this renewed and restored Creation. The dead, long decayed in the earth, were to be brought back to full life again - both soul and body - made new, incorruptible, imperishable and immortal with God himself for ever. The resurrection of the dead was this incredible biblical promise, so different from other religions and philosophies, most of which are built around the concept of somehow coming to terms with physical death, of somehow coming to terms with the fact that your humanity would one day end, that one’s body and soul would be severed from one another. This is not so with the Bible.
Along the way we will see that the Bible is not talking about some sort of hope for some sort of afterlife after death has occurred. The Bible is not talking about some sort of consolation or anything like that. Instead, the biblical idea is of the reversal of death through the resurrection of the dead, the resurrection of the body, the resurrection of dead flesh turned to dust but now brought back to life, flesh now transformed and made new, immortal, incorruptible, imperishable, never to die ever again, God’s original purposes for humanity now renewed and restored, God’s Creation restored, the new Creation, and together with that, with the whole created order which is filled now with evil, sin, suffering and death, ... along with that the whole created order would be renewed and restored.
God’s earlier acts were to be seen as “types” or foreshadows of the full fulfillment. At one time God’s people were in a particular land but in the time of the fulfillment of all God’s purposes, all of Creation would be renewed, and the people of all ages would be raised from the dead to dwell in this renewed Creation. This is the hope of the resurrection of the dead and the renewal and restoration of all Creation.
Still, all of these were only secondary to the greatest hope of all, that God himself would come and dwell among his people. The coming of YHWH to Zion would far transcend anything in the past. It would be far greater than in the first dwelling of YHWH with his people, something symbolized in the old temple by the fact that the people could not enter into God’s presence. Only the priests could enter into the presence of God and, further, only the high priest could enter once a year into God’s central presence in the Holy of Holies, the Most Holy Place. This promise to come was the promise that God would come and dwell among his people in such a way that he would be entirely present for them for ever. There would be no more veils - such as there were in the Temple - between God and his people. [The veil was torn from top to bottom in Mk 15 38.] God will have come to them for ever.
And we still have yet one more element to consider because there is yet another way in which the new Exodus and all the rest would be so much greater than the old. In some way, somehow, though this was a promise that would be fulfilled for Israel, this promise would also be the fulfillment of the hopes of all the world. All the nations, all gentiles, would be included in all of this. The fourth aspect of the Abrahamic covenant. God was going to act in judgment and mercy for the nations. The inclusion of the nations. Judgment for those who had turned from him, and mercy for those who turned to him.
In summary, all of these following events are included within the expectation of the final consummation of the kingdom of God in the story behind the Story: the hope, promise and expectation of a new Exodus, of a new covenant, of the coming of the Davidic Messiah, and centrally - of the coming of YHWH to Zion, of the judgment and the gathering of the nations that accompanies the coming of YHWH, of the resurrection of the dead, of the renewal and restoration of all Creation and of the inclusion of the nations. All of these events together is what the Bible means when it uses the phrase the kingdom of God.
All of these promises and events would one day bring about the complete goal of God’s whole divine drama. The consummated kingdom of God. The Creation - marred, fractured, ruined, fallen into chaos through the “Fall” - would one day be completely renewed and restored and fulfilled through God’s glorious acts to come. All things would be made new and God would be all in all. Creation - made to be forever, Creation - marred in “the Fall”, Creation would be one day renewed and restored in a manner so ineffably magnificent so as to never fall into chaos ever again. The new Creation. Humans raised to life everlasting - incorruptible, glorified as Christ is glorified. But how would this be? How would God in the end accomplish this for the Creation he had loved into existence? That, too, we’ll discuss when we come to that point in the story behind the Story.
So this is the biblical story of the OT in a nutshell.