August 25, 2021

His Day Approaching



      28        “And it shall come to pass afterward, 

      that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; 

                  your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, 

      your old men shall dream dreams, 

      and your young men shall see visions. 

            29       Even on the male and female servants 

      in those days I will pour out my Spirit. 

30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.

Introduction and Author

The book of Joel opens by telling us that the word of the LORD came to Joel, the son of Pethuel (1:1). His name means, “Yahweh is God,” and little else is known of him outside this book. The major theme of the book is the yom yhwh, or “day of the LORD”, a phrase found 5 times in Joel as compared to just 13 times in 7 other prophetic books. In connection with this theme we find the prophet speaking of the need for repentance (2:13), the blessing of being in God’s presence (3:17-18), and a future outpouring of His Spirit (the subject of this paper).

Background and Setting

It is uncertain when Joel prophesied. Given it’s foregrounded status in the canon of the minor prophets, many place it in a similar time frame with Hosea and Amos (eighth century B.C.). However, given the internal evidence, many scholars prefer to date it after the exile to Babylon in 586 B.C. Further, there are multiple references to a standing temple, which would lead the reader to believe that the book was written to the Jewish community after the rebuilding of the temple in 515 B.C. 

The Gift of the Spirit, v28-29

Following a section in which the prophet had called for the people to repent (2:14-17), and then foretold what God’s response would look like (He would bless the land, 2:18-27), the prophet turns to a time “afterward” (v28). During this time there would be a great outpouring of God’s Spirit upon “all flesh” (v28). Whereas in times past the gift of the Spirit had been for specific people, usually of a special class, for a particular ministry or service, in this time the outpouring would be general for all the people of God. There would be no distinction based upon gender, age, or socio-economic status. The dreams, visions, and other forms of receiving messages from God (cf. Hebrews 1:1) would no longer be the provenance of a select few individuals, but would characterize the people of God generally. This is in some sense a fulfillment of Moses’ desire in Numbers 11:29, “Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!”

The Only Way to Be Safe, v30-32

This time of God’s outpouring would not only be associated with a time of repentance (v17), however. It would also be tied to “the great and awesome day of the LORD” (v31). This is pictured in stark and even startling terms. In language picked up in Revelation (compare v30 with Revelation 6:12), the prophet describes a time of great violence toward all who stand under the wrath of Yahweh. Some of what is described relates most likely to the results of human wars (“blood and fire and columns of smoke,” v30). However, some of what is described seems to be direct Divine punishment (“The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood,” v31). The people would surely ask the question: how can one remain safe in such a dark time?

The answer is really quite simple: call upon the name of the Lord (v32). If one calls upon the LORD, he (or she) will be heard, and will be safe. 

A Sort-of Conclusion

The complication in understanding this text comes from its application in the New Testament. Peter picks this text on the day of Pentecost as the basis for what we might call the first Christian sermon (Acts 2:1-40, esp v17-21). In this sermon he pictures the text from Joel 2 as at least in some sense fulfilled. In Acts 2:33 he notes that the Holy Spirit has been poured out, as evidenced by the events of 2:6-12. And his response to the question, “how can we be saved?” is to call upon the name of the LORD-the Lord Jesus Christ (2:37-38). 

Again, straightforward enough, but what are we to make of the lack of smoke and fire and bloody moons? Has the day of the LORD come without notice? Or was the prophecy a failure? Or was Peter mistaken in seeing the text as fulfilled? It seems best to agree with Chisholm that, “since Jesus gives his Spirit to each new believer during the present era, it is probably [best] to view Joel 2:28-29 as being gradually fulfilled during this age, with verses 30-32 awaiting realization at the very end of the age.” That is, the beginning of this prophecy is being worked out even as we speak, and has been for the past two millennia. But it awaits a full and complete fulfillment in that great and climactic yom yhwh.


Barry, John. et al. 2012. Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016).

Cabal, Ted. et al., 2007. The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers).

Chisholm Jr., Robert B. 2002. Handbook on the Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic).

Jamieson, Robert, with A. R. Fausset, and David Brown. 1871. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

Taylor, Justin, ed. The ESV Study Bible. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008).

Thomas, Robert L. 1998. New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.).

August 22, 2021

Movin, Movin, Gone

                                                      Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

A Response to “A Gospel on the Move” by Eric D. Barreto

In his paper, “A Gospel on the Move: Practice, Proclamation, and Place in Luke-Acts,” Eric D. Barreto argues that from the narrative coming to us as the twin books of Luke and Acts we can draw imaginative tools useful for understanding and evaluating the world around us today. He extends this specifically into the area of border and imigration policy, encouraging his reader to embrace a disruptive and Jesus like stance toward including outsiders in our conception of family and those who belong.


Barreto asks an important question in his third paragraph on page 175, “how do we move from narration to injunction, from storytelling to ethics, and from narrative to action?” This is an important hermeneutical question. If James urges us to be doers and not mere hearers of the word (see James 1:22), then the question of how we move from a narrative text to draw its lessons and make them land in our modern world is an exceedingly important one.

One helpful tool in this toolbox is the concept of “theological imagination” (176). This concept is one for which I have a great deal of fondness and affinity. We do not simply come to the Scriptures looking for lists of “how-to” in didactic form, we need to have our imaginations shaped by the text of Scripture.

Finally, the emphasis upon meals, especially in the Luke narrative (see 176-182) as places of belonging and new identity was, I believe, at least hitting at something important.


Where this paper fell short was the fact that in trying to construct a theological imagination, the author repeatedly tries to over-imagine the text itself, rather than being shaped by the text and imagining from that place of formation. For example, on page 181 he reimagines the meaning of sinner in Luke 19, taking it to mean that Zacheuss was only perceived as a sinner. But this removes the emotional force (not to mention the salvific theme as it had stood to that point in Luke) of Jesus declaring this one who was in fact a sinner to now be a “child of Abraham.” By reimagining the meaning the author has changed the meaning of the text and made it less impactful.

This comfort with reimagining salvation is also displayed when he states on page 176 that “local contexts give shape to the gospel.” That is, he takes the message itself to be malleable to the needs of the moment.


The paper was not without merit. But on the whole, while Barreto raises some good points, I don’t believe his argument holds together. This is because he ends up placing the imaginative power of the reader in the driver’s seat, rather than the text itself.


Eric D. Barreto. 2018. “A Gospel on the Move: Practice, Proclamation, and Place in Luke-Acts.” Interpretation 72 (2): 175–87.

For a more helpful look at theological imagination, see Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Hearers and Doers (Bellingham, Wa: Lexham Press: 2019).

August 19, 2021

Help Some Folks

 Hey all,

I know I don’t have a ton of readers these days, but if any of you are so inclined as to help a couple in need, some folks I used to know just lost their home in a wildfire and could sure use a helping hand:

August 15, 2021

Brief Introductions


Photo by Pawan Sharma on Unsplash

Introductions to Amos, Nahum, and Zephaniah


Author and Date

Authorship of the book has traditionally been ascribed to the prophet Amos. Nothing is known about Amos other than what he reveals in 1:1 and 7:14, that he is a herdsman and dresser of sycamore figs, hailing from Tekoa. He was neither a prophet nor a priest, but was entrusted with a series of messages from the Lord (7:14-15). 

The fact that he prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah in Judah and Jeroboam II in Israel indicate that his prophecy occurred between 765-750 B.C.

Audience and Message

This book is directed toward the northern kingdom of Israel, and the beating heart at the center of the book is God himself. The name Yahweh occurs by itself and in combination with other terms over 80 times in the book. The focus of Yahweh and His speech in the book is to warn Israel that the coming day of the Lord is sure, but it is surely bad news for them, rather than the good news they had assumed it to be. They had sinned grievously and God promised judgement.

Literary Features

This book falls into the category of prophecy, but deploys a number of literary techniques. These include satire, simile and other poetic tools, oracles of woe or judgement, and visions.


Author and Date

The author of this book was the prophet Nahum of Elkosh, for whom it is named (1:1). We do not precisely know where Elkosh was, though it seems likely to have been in Judah. We know the book was written between the dates of 663 and 612 B.C, with a date of 660-630 B.C. most probable due to the depiction of Nineveh as still being a mighty city.

Audience and Message

This book was written to the people of Judah, in order to bring them comfort (in fact, even Nahum’s name means (“comfort”). The message beats one note: the coming destruction of the city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. This destruction was deserved because of their utter wickedness. In this sense it is the sequel to Jonah’s prophecy. The people of Judah were to take refuge in God and find comfort as He destroyed their enemies (1:6-7).


Literary Features

The prophecy of Nahum consists entirely of oracles of judgement, and can be considered war poetry. It is also structured in a chiastic fashion, with the chiasm centering on the woe oracle at the beginning of chapter three (3:1-4).


Author and Date

The book of Zephaniah was named after it’s author, the prophet Zephaniah. Unlike most prophets, we have a fairly extensive genealogy given for Zepaniah, which has led many to wonder if the Hezekiah mentioned (1:1), Zephaniah’s great-great-grandfather, is the Hezekiah king of Judah. Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah (1:1), the dates of which were 640-609 B.C.. This places Zephaniah as a contemporary of Jeremiah.

Audience and Message

The audience for this book was the nation of Judah. The content of the book is largely oracles of judgement against the nations generally, but also including penetrating application of God’s anger toward His own chosen people (3:1). Exhortations to “seek the Lord” (2:3) and to “wait for me” (3:8) punctuate a letter filled with oracles of God’s judgement. The book concludes with a note of hope, with salvation promised not only for Jerusalem (3:11-20), but for all the nations (3:9-10).

Literary Features

The book is broken into three major sections, connected by transitional exhortations in 2:1-3 and 3:8. The genre is prophecy, and this book features many similarities to the “major” prophets, with both oracles of judgement and hope, and moving between speaking against foreign nations and God’s own people.


Carson, D.A., ed. New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994).

_________. NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018).

Chisholm Jr., Robert B. Handbook on the Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002).

Taylor, Justin, ed. The ESV Study Bible. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008).

            Unger, Merril, revised by Gary N. Larson. The New Unger’s Bible Handbook (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966. Revised and Updated 1984).

August 12, 2021

Review - Dark Sky by C.J. Box


Dark Sky (Joe Pickett, #21)Dark Sky by C.J. Box
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It wasn't The Great American Novel, but it was fun, thrilling, and even thoughtful at a few points. I enjoy the Joe Pickett character immensely.

View all my reviews

August 01, 2021

When Does Edom Die?

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash

A Response to “The Setting of Obadiah”


In his paper The Setting of Obadiah (Hassler, Mark A. 2016. “The Setting of Obadiah: When Does the Oracle Concerning Edom Transpire?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 59 (2): 241–54. ) Mark Hassler seeks to answer the question of his subtitle: When Does the Oracle Concerning Edom Transpire? The answer to this question matters because it shapes one’s whole interpretation of the prophecy.

The Oracle’s Fulfillment

Hassler lays out the three primary options for the timing of Edom’s humbling, as predicted in Obadiah’s vision. He gives props and cons for both a 9th century B.C. fulfillment and a fulfillment in the 6th century B.C. The main issue he raises with both of these timings is that there is no historical record of anything close to what Obadiah describes actually happening to Edom in these centuries (see pages 243-246). 

What Hassler then goes on to argue is that this vision awaits a future and earthly eschatological fulfillment. He lists 16 points of argument (on pages 246-254), made up primarily of parallel passages and cross references, though he includes some thoughts on interpreting prophecy and scripture more generally. The crux of his argument truly lies in the parallel passages. Especially passages such as Joel 2:32-3:21 (discussed on pages 246-247) as well as Jeremiah 49:7-22 (see page 248) and 25:12-38 (see page 250). Given the significant overlap between the prophecies and oracles in these passages with Obadiah’s vision, if it can be demonstrated that these prophecies yet await a future fulfilment, then it stands to reason that what Obadiah saw concerning Edom is yet future as well. 


Hassler demonstrates, I believe convincingly, that the preponderance of biblical evidence supports a future fulfillment for Edom’s humiliation by the Lord. In spite of some attempts to split the book into discrete past/future parts (breaking after verse 14), the linguistic tie of “that day” (v8), “the day” (twice in v11, four times in v12, three times in v13, once in v14), and “the day of the Lord” (v15) demonstrates that this break may be a literary reality, but not one which separates with any time markers. The book takes place together in one time frame (253-254). And because nothing like what Obadiah describes has yet taken place, that fulfillment must yet be in the future.

July 18, 2021

Having the Right Fear

Photo by Jessica Delp on Unsplash

An Exegetical Paper on Isaiah 8:11-22


11 For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.” 

16 Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. 17 I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. 18 Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. 19 And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. 21 They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. 22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.


In this portion of Isaiah’s prophecy the prophet is spoken to by God. The message is one of encouragement to stiffen the spine, as it were, of the prophet. The prophet was not to fear what the people all around him feared, nor concern himself over the short-sighted things they were concerned over. Rather, he was to fear the eternal God, and listen to His word. 


The setting of this text is the Syro-Ephraimite war of 734-732 B.C., in which the forces of Israel (Ephraim) and Syria (Aram) to the north of Judah ally against the increasing pressures of the Assyrian empire. Most of what we know about this war comes to us from the pages of Scripture, with the primary sources being 2 Kings 16, 2 Chronicles 28, and Isaiah 7. As Robert Vasholz summarizes, 

“The underlying cause was the awareness of the increasing strength of the Assyrian forces under a capable ruler, Tiglath-Pileser III. His rise and successful conquests northward and eastward proved him to be a potential menace to the independence of the small kingdoms to Assyria's west and south, particularly Syria (Aram) and Ephraim.”

However, because Judah under Jotham and then Ahaz refused to join forces with these two nations, the allied forces plundered the land of Judah. 2 Chronicles 28:5-8 informs us of an enormous amount of bloodshed and plundering which the people of Judah sufferers at the hands of Israel and Syria.

After having been a prosperous nation under Uzziah, the nation is now thrust into a state of chaos and worry, being shaken to the very core (see Isaiah 7:2). It is in this context that Ahaz seeks the help of the Assyrian king, Tiglath-Pileser III. However, rather than helping, Tiglath will himself end up afflicting the people of Judah (2 Chronicles 28:20). 

With this setting in mind, let us turn to the text in Isaiah 8:11-22. I think we can helpfully break it into four narrative movements. 

Don’t Fear What They Fear, v11-12

The LORD spoke to Isaiah with, “his strong hand upon me.” It is as if God is wanting to grab Isaiah by the shoulders or the arms and shake him: “this message is deadly serious - listen up!”

The people here seem to be gripped by conspiracy theories of some sort. Geoffrey W. Grogan argues in his commentary on Isaiah that these conspiracies were pertaining to the various political alliances Ahaz had in place. What is clear from the text is that these conspiracy theories are driving them to fear and dread. They are deeply concerned. This is how conspiracies often work, as conjectures about the unknown come to play a formative role not only in our thinking, but in our emotions as well. 

God is not impressed by this line of thinking, and offers the only suitable counter and remedy to such mental games in the following verses.

There is One You Shall Fear, v13-15

The counter which God offers to the fear of man is the fear of the Lord himself. Drawing upon the truth of texts such as Proverbs 1:9 and 9:10, God speaks to Isaiah this simple truth: the only One worthy of fear is God. Wisdom begins here, and confidence does as well. 

In verse fifteen, we encounter a familiar image of God as the sanctuary of his people. One’s mind is drawn to a text such as Psalm 46:1. However, what follows is a description of who this same Rock and Redeemer (Psalm 19:14) can be to those who fail to fear Him: a terrible and devastating foe. TO quote Old Testament scholar Geoffry W. Grogan, 

“It is impossible in English to convey the terrifying force of the seven Hebrew words that constitute v.15. All five of the verbs end with the same long vowel, and four of these open with the same letter and follow one another in unbroken sequence.”

It’s as if God pulls out not only the logical, but the rhetorical stops to emphasize to his people their solemn responsibility to fear Him and no other. But how does one find the spiritual sustenance and ability to fear God in a world full of political intrigue and instability, economic flux, and personal crises?

Head for the Book!, v16-20

In order to fear the Lord and stay faithful to him, the prophet is determined to bind up the testimony and seal the teaching among his disciples. While commentators sometimes argue that this means Isaiah has turned away from public ministry and is now focusing on his disciples, it seems to me far more likely that this use of seal or bind has in mind connotations similar to Psalm 119:11, wherein the Psalmist says he has hidden God’s word in his heart, or Deuteronomy 6 which speaks of metaphorically binding pieces of the law upon your forehead, as you also write it in your home and bind it to the minds and hearts of your children. 

This concept of binding as a tool for discipleship and keeping the people close to the Lord would be in line with verse 19 wherein the prophet contrasts consulting necromancers and mediums with inquiring of God, who is heard (v20) in and through the medium of His word. 

In verse 18, the prophet proclaims that he and his children are signs and portents for the people of what God has and will do. As noted in the Faithlife Study Bible, 

‘Isaiah refers to his sons who were given symbolic names foreshadowing the judgment, restoration, and redemption of Judah: Shear-jashub, “A remnant will return” (Isa 7:3); Immanuel, “God with us” (7:14); and Maher-shalal-hash-baz, “Spoil speeds, prey hastens” (vv. 3–4).’

One can build a narrative with these names, as the spoil speeds and prey hastens behind the oppressors who will carry off God's people. But they can be assured because a remnant will return. Best of all, they can know that one day God will be with them, and Isaiah's own name, “Yahweh is victorious” or “Yahweh is Salvation”, is fulfilled in the coming of another Immanuel, God with us. But first a warning. 

The Price of Disobedience, v20-22

Refusal to heed the word of God is an indication of deep and profound spiritual darkness, which, for the Old Testament people of God, carried with it certain consequences in this world (see Deuteronomy 28:15ff). 

The picture in these verses is of a famine with both spiritual and physical components, one in which the people fail to take any responsibility for their own actions and hearts, and instead blame both their king and their God. This has interesting parallels with the picture in Revelation 16 of people responding to the bowls of God’s wrath by not repenting, but rather cursing him.


This text ultimately is a warning. To follow the fears of the people will lead one down a road of spiritual destruction. To cry conspiracy or search out forbidden knowledge will lead you away from the only true source of wisdom and knowledge. Instead the people of God ought to fear him, trust him, and look to his word for their guidance. 

Finally, it should be noted for the Christian that this isn’t an abstract truth. Peter picks up this passage in 1 Peter 3:14-15 to encourage believers to face hardships with resolute hope. Not only should we not fear what others fear, but we should not fear those other people if they themselves are the cause of our hardship. Instead, we are to set Christ the Lord apart as holy. He is in a class all by Himself, and is the only one worthy of our fear.


Barry, John. et al. 2012. Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016).

Chisholm Jr., Robert B. 2002. Handbook on the Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic).

Grogan, Geoffrey W. 1986. “Isaiah,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 6 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House).

Jamieson, Robert, with A. R. Fausset, and David Brown. 1997. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

Thomas, Robert L. 1998. New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.).

            Vasholz, Robert I. 1987. “Isaiah and Ahaz: A Brief History of Crisis in Isaiah 7 and 8.” Presbyterion 13 (2): 79-84.

July 15, 2021

A Great Commandment Text

An Exegetical Paper on Malachi 2:10-16


10 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the LORD of hosts! 

13 And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

Introduction and Author

The book of Malachi is thought to have been written by a prophet of the same name. His name means “my messenger”, and because both prophets and priests were considered messengers of the Lord, some have suggested that this name is in fact a title. However, given the construction of 1:1, “The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.”, it seems best to consider this his proper name. In Malachi we meet someone very familiar with and unhappy about the religious state of Israel.

Background and Setting

That religious state is a mess, hence the prophet’s disgruntlement. The book features a set of six disputations in which the prophet confronts the people, hears a response, and brings the charge to a conclusion. The nature of the disputes parallel issues faced during the post-exilic time period of Ezra-Nehimiah, thus most believe the book was likely written circa the 5th century B.C.. The prophet calls out the people’s distrust of God’s love (1:2-5), their despisal of his name (1:6-2:9), their unfaithfulness (2:10-16), their denial of God’s justice (2:17-3:5), their theft from God (3:6-12), and finally their distrust of His character (3:13-4:3).

The Profaning of the Covenant, v10-12

The third of the prophet’s disputes with the people in Malachi begins in 2:10 where he charges them with being faithless to one another. The seriousness of this crime is highlighted by the implied contrast between this and what would be right. “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?” The question the prophet seems to be asking is, “If we see ourselves as one people created by the one God, how could we ever treat one another in a treacherous fashion?” Yet they have, and he describes this behavior in the latter half of verse 10 as “profaning the covenant of our fathers.”

Who made this covenant with their fathers? Was it a merely human to human contract? Hadly. We see both in the land of Cannan with Abraham (see Genesis chapters 15 and 17), as well as with the nation at Mount Sinai (see Exodus 20), God is the one initiating this covenant with his people. Therefore to violate the covenant of the fathers by faithlessness toward a brother is a form of profaning the covenant God of Israel, Yahweh.  

The specific nature of the covenant unfaithfulness is spelled out in v11, where the prophet charges the people with marrying “the daughter of a foreign God”, which is to say, they were taking foreign wives. Again, this is pictured not merely as wrong on a human to human level, but as a distortion of worship as well, “Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD.” The punishment pronounced for this is found in v12, “May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob” any who are guilty of this crime. The picture here is of Yahweh Himself bringing judgement down on the faithless ones.

The Violence of Divorce, v13-16

In this section the LORD is pictured as a witness between the men of Israel and their wives, whom they have been unfaithful to via divorce. Taken together with the issue of intermarriage with foreign women in v11, some have taken this to mean that the men of Israel were leaving their first wives (of Israelite descent), and taking to themselves these foreign women.

This threatened the cohesive nature of Israel as a people devoted to the LORD. In a time when the people were returning from exile and seeking to rebuild the nation this was particularly egregious, and would make impossible (or at least very difficult) that which the LORD was seeking from these families: godly children (v15). Because of these offenses of abandoning their wives from their own people and taking to themselves foreign wives, God was refusing to acknowledge the prayers and sacrifices of his people (v13-14). He will not receive the prayers of those whom he describes as “covering their garments with violence” (v16).


The clear message of this passage is that God is displeased with the unfaithful dealings of Israel. In their failure to deal rightly with their wives at home, the men of Israel showed how truly distant their hearts were from God. While the traditional translation of v16, “the Lord hates divorce,” is perhaps not a justified way to bring the Hebrew into English, the divorce pictured in Malachi 2:10-16 certainly is hated by the LORD. He sees it as violence, not only against the innocent women and children involved, but against His own covenant with the people of Israel.


Barry, John. et al. 2012. Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016).

Cabal, Ted. et al., 2007. The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers).

Chisholm Jr., Robert B. 2002. Handbook on the Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic).

Jamieson, Robert, with A. R. Fausset, and David Brown. 1871. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

Robert C. Kashow, “Malachi the Prophet,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

Taylor, Justin, ed. The ESV Study Bible. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008).

Thomas, Robert L. 1998. New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.).

July 04, 2021

Is He A Mere Echo?

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A Response to “Isaiah 53 in the Pulpit”


In his paper Isaiah 53 in the Pulpit (Goldingay, John, and John E Goldingay. “Isaiah 53 in the Pulpit.” Perspectives in Religious Studies 35, no. 2 (Sum 2008): 147–53) John Goldingay attempts to marry homiletical form with contemporary exegesis of Isaiah 53. Behind his quest is a question posed by G.A. Brame in a 2005 article (Brame, Grace Adolphsen. “The Cross: Payment or Gift?” Perspectives in Religious Studies 32, no. 2 (Sum 2005): 67–81), asking why this was not more readily being done. If so many modern exegetes have moved on from the idea of Isaiah 53 being a prophecy of Jesus’ penal substitution for sinners, why do people in the pulpits and the pews continue to cling to such archaic interpretations? 

What I will seek to do in this brief paper is to first interact with one of Goldingay’s interpretive assumptions, and secondly, to compare his exegesis with the text itself.

When Was Isaiah Written?

The gorilla in the room as you read Goldingay’s paper is that he does not believe Isaiah the prophet, who lived in the Eighth century BC (Donald E. Hartley, “Isaiah the Prophet,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016)), was the author of Isaiah’s servant songs. This is obvious from statements such as, ‘Inside that frame is “our” testimony; the passage does not identify who “we” are, though I take them to be most immediately the Judean people who are the prophet’s community in Babylon.” (Goldingay, 148. Emphasis added.)

This is problematic, for while, as Richard Hess notes in his introduction to Isaiah, “it has become common for Isaiah scholars to posit a number of authors for the book...there are strong reasons to maintain the traditional view.” (D. A. Carson, ed., NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018), 1159.) The traditional view being that Isaiah himself penned the book. If this is correct, then Goldingay’s argument falls like a house of cards, being built as it is on the unnamed and imagined prophet living during the exile. 

The Text Itself

The bigger problem with Goldingay’s dealing with Isaiah 53 is that it does not fit the text itself. In his frame, after the prophet “more or less died” (Goldingay, 152.), ‘He says to God, “You know the way you accept it if someone offers a lamb in sacrifice? How would it be if I offered my life as a sacrifice for my people? I really care about them […] Would that work?”’ (Goldingay, 152.)

How does this fit with verse 10, “It was the will of the LORD to crush him” (ESV)? Or moving backwards toward verse 6, “the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” The language in this passage is of intentionality on the side of God. The suffering servant isn’t coming to strike a deal, he is the lamb led to slaughter by YHWH. Finally, this bargaining prophet interpretation really has no way to account for 52:15, “so shall he sprinkle many nations.” 


In summary, I found Goldingay’s exegesis wanting. This also led to a sermon which was lacking in emotional force - the whole punch of the gospel had been removed. The good news was turned into a story about a nice guy who Jesus in turn looked to as a role model. In removing substitutionary atonement from Isaiah 53, you also remove the hope this passage contains for all who cling to Christ, the Suffering Servant of the Lord.

June 28, 2021

Commonplace Monday

 "Simply telling people what to think in order to be orthodox, and then expecting them to be disciples, is like telling people what they should eat in order to be healthy and then expecting them to lose weight."

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Hearers & Doers, pg 54

About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (