God’s Design: A Focus on Old Testament Theology
The book “God’s Design: A Focus on Old Testament Theology” by Elmer Martens discusses the essence of the Old Testament, in which the author offers his own categories from Scripture as text, knowledge of God, deliverance, community and, finally, abundant life. The first section God’s design is discussed in terms of pre-monarchial period stressing the importance and influence of Israel’s history on emergence and development of Christianity. Salvation and deliverance are presented through the Yahweh’s image – a divine warrior.
The aspect of community appears as the author draws relations between the people of Israel and the God. Martens argues that the knowledge of God is knowledge of the world’s creation and world’s order which can be found in the prologue in Genesis. The second section discusses the monarchial era and the author applies God’s design template to present or even to prove the validity of his approach. Martens notes that both Hosea and Exodus passages are provided with the same design elements.
For example, in monarchial period deliverance was viewed rather differently – actually, Israel established its own army. Instead, the divine warrior is presented in the expressions of the Day of Yahweh. The central point of the section is that people expected for Messiah. The last section is devoted to post-monarchial period. The author refers to tertiary text of Ezekiel. In particular, the author tends to strength the aspect of deliverance and he shows that Yahweh was handing over Israel and he was to be blamed for having got in the hands of enemies.
The author views deliverance as the future promise. Only in this period the first community was established in the Israel history. Community is presented as future, whereas the knowledge of God was firstly identified in the post-monarchial period focusing more on prayer. Judgment and salvation are two events which Israel people experiences. In the conclusion the author shows God’s design in creation and shows relations between God’s design and the world’s nations. God’s design is highly appreciated both in the Old and the New Testaments. Book Review
I think that the book is very informative and the other offers his original ideas and thoughts about the God’s design in the Old Testament basing in scared scriptures. The author has managed to take seriously scriptural text and to make readers acquainted with hidden facts and revelations. The author doesn’t apply external categories to God’s design. Neither has he supported interposition of categories developed by other scientists as they are not consistent with the book. Instead, Martens has utilized approach which is an excellent way to do biblical and theological researches.
Therefore, the author asserts that there are unifying themes of the Scripture and it is necessary to base the whole research on them. Martens claims that there are “many different pictures” (p. 4) in the landscape of Scripture. The author views his task as “to paint the best possible picture”. (p. 4) I think that the author has done an excellent job when developing own categories and not forcing them to be applied to any sacred scripture. Instead, the author allows sacred scriptures to shape the necessary template.
We can see this in the changing nature of deliverance through the pre-monarchial to post-monarchial era. In the pre-monarchial ear deliverance is accomplished by divine warrior, whereas in monarchial period deliverance changed as Israel had established own standing army. Thus, deliverance is presented through expectation to be sent by the God. Finally, in the post-monarchial period divine deliverance us seen to come from the Messiah defined as cataclysmic event. It is possible to say that the book is the exegetical perspective brought out but h author in the context of unifying themes of the Old Testament.
Author’s template can be applied to certain aspects of the text and, in such a way, the author manages to inform his readers about the primary meaning of the passage. To prove exegetical perspective it is necessary to mention stipulations of Israel covenant. In particular, the author claims that Israel must not be loyal to the words which are not a coercive law which doesn’t threaten the blessing of the God. Stipulations are viewed as the necessary response to a personal God. Actually, it was Yahweh who had promised salvation and deliverance to the people of Israel.
In other words, the found promises aren’t consistent with Israel’s failure to obey and to follow the ten words of stipulations. However, if this point is proved, it means that God’s design wouldn’t ever be fulfilled because the people of Israel are faithless. It is the God who has designed salvation and deliverance, and “God’s character and purposes generated the design that brought about faithfulness to the people with whom He was covenanted”. (p. 86) The book offers comprehensive studying and analysis of the Old Testament, but there are many moments where the author refers to the issue of hermeneutics.
Some of the passages are vague and they are nothing more than overarching paradigms. The author assumes that the name of Yahweh should be differentiated from God’s name as the author speaks about the God of all people, but it is not correct. Instead, the Abrahamic Covenant shares the same goal interpreted by the Old Testament and the covenant template is found in the pre-monarchial period. Nevertheless, despite certain weaknesses and misinterpretations the book is very helpful in identifying modes of biblical theology.