Eight Things I’m Thankful for: Highlights of SBL

SBL 2013I just returned from the Society of Biblical Literature meeting in Baltimore, where I saw old friends and made new ones.

Here are 8 things I’m thankful for about this SBL meeting.

1) Driving down and back in Pete Enns’ van (Pete gives his SBL report here) with a few other friends: Ray Van Leeuwen, Benj Giffone, and Peter Radford.  We talked about Tamar the pious prostitute (Gen. 38) and the lack of a good English equivalent for the Hebrew word hevel (often translated as “vanity” in Ecclesiastes) as well as a few non-biblical subjects which are probably better not mentioned here.  Thanks for driving, Pete.

2) Preaching at Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church right in downtown Baltimore (home to Galen and Eboni Zook, IV friends), only a few block from the conference, on the topic of…wait for it…God Behaving Badly (not a shock there).  A small-ish, group, but they laughed at my jokes.  I’d definitely go back. I missed a few academic papers (which are usually extraordinarily boring), but it was good for my soul to worship with them.  Thanks!  (I was sorry, however, to miss the Zondervan authors lunch, next year.)

3) Chatting with contacts at various publishers to discuss projects: Andy Le Peau (IVP-, thanks also for the free Walton & Sandy book!), John Barry and Pete Heiniger (Logos, Lexham), Katya Covrett (Zondervan) and Neil Elliott (Fortress).  Thanks for your time, insight and the generous provision of a meal.  I kept making lame attempts to pay (“No, wait, let me contribute…”), but my half-hearted attempts were quickly swept aside. I’m such a free-loader.

4) Walking into Mark Leuchter’s session unfortunately late (due to a long breakfast with John and Pete from Logos) and being greeted by Mark in the middle of the reading of his academic paper with, “Oh, hi, Dave.”  I’ll never forget his unique greeting, nor his hilarious, pro-Toronto rambling, concluding rant (“No, we aren’t all crack-heads like our mayor…).  The session was focused on his new book from Oxford University Press on Samuel (click here), so we cut Mark a little slack.  Thanks for the refreshing entertainment.

5) Rooming with Paul Joyce (who will deliver his inaugural lecture at Kings College London on Dec. 3, 2013).  We’ve roomed together for 7-8 SBL’s now.  Paul, as my college adviser at St. Peter College, Oxford, helped me through the darkest times of my stay there.  I don’t sleep as much, due to our late night chats, but it’s always worth it.  A delight.

6) Crashing a private, intimate dinner between John Goldingay and his wife Kathleen at the posh Royal Sonesta.  John wanted me to leave, but I insisted on joining them.  We ended up sharing moments when we got emotional while speaking.  For me, it was just that morning while speaking at Wilkens Ave Church.  I eventually left, overhearing them say, “Finally.”

7) Meeting my “competition”, Paul Copan (see also, #8), author of Is God a Moral Monster? (see my review here).  I sent Paul a Facebook friend request about a month ago.  We shared how we recommend each others book to people.  We finally met at IBR and I look forward to further collaboration with Paul.  What a great guy.

8) Disagreeing about the Canaanites in Baker Books with Eric Seibert, author of Disturbing Divine Behavior (see my review here) and The Violence of Scripture.  Eric and I are friends, but we have different approaches to the text of the Old Testament.  I bumped into him in the Baker Book section of the Exhibition Hall.  He told me about his paper he’d just presented.  I made a counter point.  I think he doesn’t take the OT seriously (Marcionite?).  He made a counter point. He thinks that my  views could lead to more Crusades (justifying genocide?).

We went back and forth a few times, a crowd gathered (“Lamb and Seibert are going at it in Baker Books.  Fight!  Fight!  Fight!”).  OK, it wasn’t a big crowd, 2 guys, and there was no chanting, and we were speaking rather graciously.  I blame him for the subdued nature of our interaction, he’s a pacifist.  But it would have been beyond ironic to see two scholars fighting over the topic of genocide.

We both agreed that Copan, Seibert and Lamb (and perhaps others) should get together some time to discuss the Canaanite Genocide sometime.

Perhaps next year in San Diego?

Prophets in the Former Prophets

The books of Joshua, Judges, 1, 2 Samuel and 1, 2 Kings are known by three titles:

1) The Historical Books (along with a few other books).
2) The Deuteronomistic History (by scholars, because of connections to the book of Deuteronomy).  My dissertation was on the Deuteronomistic History.
Righteous Jehu and his Evil Heirs: The Deuteronomist’s Negative Perspective on Dynastic Succession (Oxford Theological Monographs).
3) The Former Prophets (within the Jewish tradition).  The Latter Prophets are also known as the Major and Minor Prophets.

One of the reasons the title Prophets makes sense for these books is that there are a lot of prophets mentioned.  Well, not really in the books of Joshua and Judges, but in Samuel there’s a fair amount, and in Kings there are tons (literally).  Hundreds of prophets are mentioned in the book of kings.

As I study, research and write about these books, I like to make charts and tables.  Here is a link to my family tree of the Kings of Israel and Judah.

I’ve included a table below that will appear in some form in a couple of books I’m working on, but those versions won’t be in color.  The title: Prophetic Figures in Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic History (Joshua-Kings).  Prophetic figures include people the text calls a prophet,  a “man of God,” and several prophet groups (sons of the prophets).

The left column lists all the biblical references.
The middle column includes the prophetic figures, in red when the text provides a name, gray if anonymous, and pink for prophetic groups.
The right column lists the king (only for Samuel-Kings) who reigned while the prophet ministered.  The color coding, green for United Monarchy, blue for the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and yellow for the Southern Kingdom (Judah), matches the color coding used for the Family Tree chart mentioned above.

What observations and patterns do you notice about these prophets and kings?  Add your thoughts in a comment below.  In my next blog in a few days I’ll share a few of my own comments.

If you know people who study the Bible seriously, send them a link to this table.  They’ll find it helpful.

Prophetic Figures in DH

Holy War in the Bible

Holy War Cover

What about the Amalekites?  God told Saul to wipe them out, but the people Saul was supposed to wipe out weren’t the ones that attacked Israel.  That doesn’t seem fair.”  (See 1 Samuel 15.)

I was speaking at the InterVarsity group at Johns Hopkins a few weeks ago and one of the students asked me this question.  My response, “What do you think?”

Problems like these about the warlike nature of God trouble anyone who reads through the pages of the Old Testament.  I discuss this issue in God Behaving Badly, but (as people love to point out) my discussion there isn’t particularly academic.

For a more in-depth discussion of the topic, check out this new book:

Holy War in the Bible: Christian Morality and an Old Testament Problem edited by Heath A. Thomas, Jeremy Evans and Paul Copan, from IVP academic.  

It looks fascinating, but I may be a bit biased since I contributed an article to the volume.

Holy War in the Bible contains fourteen articles, plus an introduction and an afterword.

Here’s a list of the other contributors:

Geth Allison and Reid Powell; Douglass S. Earl (2 articles); Stephen B. Chapman; Heath A. Thomas; Timothy G. Gombis; Alan S. Bandy; Daniel R. Heimbach; Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan; Glen Harold Stassen; Robert Stewart; Murray Rae; Stephen N. Williams

My contribution discusses the motivations for divine warfare and I conclude that wrath against injustice and compassion for the oppressed motivate divine warfare.  I like how the introduction puts it, “Lamb holds that God violently intervenes in order to uphold his will for the world, while not acting out of capricious rage or frivolous wrath” (p. 14).

If you’re interested in understanding warfare in the Bible, check out this article I wrote for Relevant Magazine on the topic of the Canaanite genocide, “Reconciling the God of Love with the God of Genocide.”  (To read the full-article you’ll need to register, which will allow you to read free content for 5 articles.)

To see a list of other books I’ve written or contributed to, click here.

I ended up telling the Hopkins student that he was asking a great question and that I assume whenever God delays a judgment he’s giving people opportunities to repent.  So while the text doesn’t make this clear in 1 Samuel 15, the Amalekites did not repent of their violent behavior.  God is slow to anger, but he gets there eventually.  Interestingly, in that same passage, mercy is shown to the Kenites, who showed hospitality to Israel as they entered the land (1 Sam. 15:6).  If the Amalekites had shown mercy to Israel, they would have been shown mercy as well.

Reading Joshua and Judges: An Interview with David T. Lamb | The Whole Dang Thing

Blogging friend and InterVarsity staff Ben Emerson is blogging through the Bible (The Whole Dang Thing).  As his journey took him to the problematic books of Joshua and Judges, he decided to interview me.  Here it is:

Reading Joshua and Judges: An Interview with David T. Lamb | The Whole Dang Thing.

His interview questions include:

1) Tips for reading about the violence of Joshua and Judges?

2) Why doesn’t God condemn the killing and dismemberment of the Levite’s concubine?

3) What do you like about J & J?

4) What can J & J teach us about God and God’s people?