‘I Am Against You’: Yahweh’s Judgement On The Nations And Its Ancient Near Eastern Context -- By: Simon J. Sherwin

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 54:2 (NA 2003)
Article: ‘I Am Against You’: Yahweh’s Judgement On The Nations And Its Ancient Near Eastern Context
Author: Simon J. Sherwin


‘I Am Against You’:
Yahweh’s Judgement On The Nations And Its Ancient Near Eastern Context1

Simon Sherwin

Summary

‘I am against you’ is a phrase that occurs several times in the Old Testament in relation to Yahweh’s judgement on the nations. Both Nineveh and Babylon, the respective capitals of the two great superpowers of the day, are so addressed (Nah. 2:13; 3:5; Jer. 50:31; 51:25). Yet what does that mean against the wider background of Ancient Near Eastern literature? This paper examines the issues raised by this statement and the possible theological implications its usage has for pre-exilic Israelite religion.

I. Introduction

‘I am against you’, as spoken by Yahweh, is a phrase that occurs several times in the Old Testament, in Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Nahum. The majority of the occurrences are directed against foreign nations, perhaps most notably, in the case of Nahum and Jeremiah, against Nineveh and Babylon, the capitals and therefore the representative centres of the great superpowers of their day. The parallels between the two cities in the Old Testament writings are numerous. Both cities are condemned for their pride and injustice, for their self-satisfaction and self-confidence. Both, indeed, are condemned in identical terms in Isaiah 47 and Zephaniah 2, for saying in their hearts ‘I am, and there is

no one besides me’. Furthermore it is evident, and in the case of Babylon explicitly stated, that the fall of these cities and the nations they represent cannot and will not come through the agency of the people of Israel. At the time of Nahum and Zephaniah the northern kingdom of Israel had already been taken into captivity in Assyria leaving behind it the tiny kingdom of Judah, a kingdom scarcely capable of defending itself let alone mounting an offensive against the capital of its overlord, some 700 miles or so away. During the time of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, on the other hand, the kingdom of Judah was also brought to an end and its people carried away captive to Babylon.

What credibility, then, does the phrase ‘I am against you’ have in such a context, either for the nations so addressed or, more importantly, for the people to whom the prophets are writing? Again, in the case of Babylon, there are explicit references to other nations or individuals from those nations being used as the instruments...

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