The new IVP Dictionary of the Old Testament: Prophets is now available and if you’re interested at all in the biblical prophets you will want to own this volume. One of the most interesting aspects of this dictionary series to me is that the contributors were encouraged to not only introduce and summarize scholarship on the topics they addressed but also to add their own original thoughts to the discussion. I tried to do this in my treatment of “Law” (pages 493-501).

It is rather curious, from a canonical perspective, that the prophets hardly ever refer to the Sinai tradition while they often invoke exodus motifs. It is even more curious when one contemplates the fact that Sinai would perfectly mesh with one of the main rhetorical goals of the prophets which was to expose the disobedience of the people and call them to repentance. What better way to do this than to tell them: “You have broken the Decalogue which we received at Mt. Sinai here, here, here, and here,” but they never do this (some have argued that there are a couple instances in which the prophets may cite or allude to the decalogues but as I explain in the essay these are better explained as tropes and not as clear links to the decalogues themselves). One might be tempted to dismiss this fact as not very important, yet, as Jon Levenson comments, “the experience of Sinai, whatever its historical basis, was perceived as so overwhelming, so charged with meaning, that Israel could not imagine that any truth or commandment from God could have been absent from Sinai” (Sinai and Zion, 18-19). However, if  Sinai was this significant then why did the prophets hardly ever refer to it?

Certainly there are redactional issues for this which I discuss in the essay yet what I tried to do, and what I do not think many people have yet done, is to try to make theological sense out of this. I’ll let you read the whole thing to see how I get there but here is a snippet from the conclusion:

From a theological perspective, the prophets skip over Sinai and tap into an Ur-tradition of law in order to admonish the nation to repent and hopefully avoid the coming de-creation (the exile) or to look back to the recent experience of de-creation (again, the exile) in order to avoid another iteration of this cycle.

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Charles Halton

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  1. Pingback: Biblioblog Carnival “according to Mark” « Euangelion Kata Markon

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