Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
FM 2:1 (Fall 1984) p. 83
Books by the Faculty
The Hidden God: The Hiding of the Face of God in the Old Testament, by Samuel E. Balentine. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983. 176 pp. $32.00.
In this adaptation of his Oxford dissertation, Balentine sets out to demonstrate that the “hiddenness” of God was as integral a concept in Israelite faith as the “‘presence” of God. The book explores the theme of God’s hiddenness by means of an extended word study. It is Balentine’s contention that a particular word combination, the Hebrew words sātar (hide) and pānî̂m (face), gives expression to the motif of God’s hiddenness in the Old Testament.
Balentine identifies the prophetic literature and the psalms of lament as the clearest repositories of the motif of God’s hiddenness. He notes that the usual treatment of God’s hiddenness focuses upon the prophetic understanding of the hiddenness of God as divine judgment upon a sinful people. Balentine argues that priority should be given, rather, to the way the motif is used in the psalms of lament. In that context there is no ready explanation for God’s hidden-ness. The element of uncertainty is to be recognized as a valid part of Old Testament faith. Balentine states that feelings of uncertainty and despair are channelled into experiences of worship which serve to strengthen the faith of the worshipper, whether the original composer of the psalm or one who makes use of the psalm for his/her own times of uncertainty and despair. Balentine is convinced that the theme of God’s hiddenness is prevalent throughout the Old Testament and reflects an important part of Old Testament faith in every age of Israelite existence. “Israel’s struggle with God’s hiddenness ought not to be treated as if it were merely a footnote to an otherwise optimistic and unshakeable faith” (pp. 171-172). The hiddenness of God, says Balentine, is a dilemma which is a given of faith in God. It is simply not possible to assume that righteousness assures one of God’s presence and wickedness his absence.
Balentine has presented a helpful treatment of an oft ignored Old Testament theme. For the student of biblical theology, this book offers an opportunity to explore an arena of biblical emphasis which parallels reality experienced by all who seek to be the people of God. God seems sometimes to be hidden, absent, for reasons beyond our understanding. The Israelites experienced that reality, recorded it honestly, and it became part of their faith experience. Balentine has correctly called attention to this theme and its importance for understanding and appropriating biblical faith.
Gerald L. Keown
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary<...
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