From Where Does My Hope Come? Theodicy and the Character of YHWH in Allusions to Exodus 34:6–7 in the Book of the Twelve -- By: Joel Barker

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 61:4 (Dec 2018)
Article: From Where Does My Hope Come? Theodicy and the Character of YHWH in Allusions to Exodus 34:6–7 in the Book of the Twelve
Author: Joel Barker


From Where Does My Hope Come? Theodicy and the Character of YHWH in Allusions to Exodus 34:6–7 in the Book of the Twelve

Joel Barker*

* Joel Barker is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Heritage College and Seminary, 175 Holiday Inn Drive, Cambridge, ON N3C 3T2, Canada. He may be contacted at jbarker@heritagecs.edu.

Abstract: This article explores how allusions to the character credo of Exodus 34:6–7 address the question of theodicy in the Book of the Twelve. The credo’s affirmation of YHWH’s essential character addresses situations where some aspect of the relationship between YHWH and his people is under threat. This article navigates recent discussions of terminology and criteria for allusions to identify the relevant passages. It then uncovers how these passages use the characteristics of the YHWH’s self-proclaimed nature to address their situations. Joel appeals for his audience to trust in YHWH’s grace and compassion, even as they face the threats from the imminent day of YHWH and surrounding nations. Jonah reveals that YHWH’s grace and compassion extends beyond Israel. Micah provides the prospect of hope after judgment and exile, rooted in the essence of YHWH’s nature, while Nahum revels in deliverance from an oppressor because YHWH judges the wicked. The variety of situations addressed in these texts indicates that the character credo is a touchstone for addressing theodicy. Recalling YHWH’s essential character provides hope that YHWH remains gracious, compassionate, and just, even when lived experience calls these qualities into question.

Key words: Book of the Twelve, theodicy, hope, inner-biblical allusion, character of YHWH

Questions about God’s character inevitably arise in moments of crisis. The experience of pain and the perseverance of evil naturally threaten simplistic assertions of divine sovereignty and benevolence. The tension between the world as it is and affirmations of divine goodness is the purview of theodicy, which seeks resolutions that preserve faith while grappling honestly with evidence of suffering and turmoil. In the introduction to their extensive survey, Laato and de Moor identify four fundamental premises of theodicy in the biblical world: (1) there is one God; (2) this God is the source of goodness and justice; (3) this God has authority in the world; and (4) evil and suffering exist.1 The core of theodicy occurs as the biblical writers wrestle with the reality of the fourth premise, while striving to maintain the first three. In the same volume, Crenshaw defines theodicy as “an articulate response to the anomie of existence, one that g...

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