Patterns In The Old Testament Metanarrative: Human Attempts To Fulfill Divine Promises -- By: Nicholas P. Lunn

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 72:2 (Fall 2010)
Article: Patterns In The Old Testament Metanarrative: Human Attempts To Fulfill Divine Promises
Author: Nicholas P. Lunn


Patterns In The Old Testament Metanarrative: Human Attempts To Fulfill Divine Promises

Nicholas P. Lunn

Nicholas P. (Nick) Lunn is an Old Testament Consultant with Wycliffe Bible Translators UK: and a Hebrew Tutor for Wycliffe’s European Training Programme.

I. The Patriarchal Promises

With the call of Abraham in ch. 12 the book of Genesis presents us with a new point of departure of the utmost significance. Christopher Wright goes so far as to say, “A new world, ultimately a new creation, begins in this text. . . . God’s mission of world redemption begins.”1 The ultimate goal of the divine dealings with the patriarch was to bring blessing to all nations (12:3). In the purpose of God the first step towards the attainment of this goal was to make a number of specific promises to Abraham. It would be through the fulfillment of these promises that estranged mankind would eventually come to experience reconciliation with their Creator

There is some minor variety in the way the several promises have been itemized in the scholarly literature,2 but the essential elements involved are clear. David Clines in his classic treatment of the theme of the Pentateuch categorizes the promises as “posterity” (or “seed”), “divine-human relationship,” and “land.”3 He omits an obvious fourth, which is that of “kings.” Clines’s omission may have been due to a neglect of the final form of Genesis in keeping with the then current source and form critical methods.4 Taking the book as given, however, this royal element is undeniably present. Abraham, we therefore conclude, was given four basic promises:

1. Seed. 2. Land. 3. Relationship. 4. Kings.

1. The promise that Abraham would have offspring (זרע) is implicit in the patriarch’s initial call. There God told him, “I will make you a great nation” (12:2), although at the time he was elderly and had no children because Sarah, his wife, was unable to bear (11:30). Following this the seed promise is reiterated both implicitly and explicitly at regular intervals (e.g., 12:7; 13:15-16; 15:5, 13; You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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