MA – Essay – Old Testament Interpretation

I loved my MA course on Old Testament Interpretation. I learned so much… and how I will read the Old Testament AND even New Testament Scriptures is forever changed! My lens is becoming increasingly more and more from an eternal perspective… from a BEFORE time began eternal covenant IN CHRIST perspective. 

OLD TESTAMENT INTERPRETATION 

We look back at the cross and see victory. But for two men on the road to Emmaus, the cross was the reason for their dashed hopes. They were hoping that Jesus was the One who would redeem Israel. For them, redemption was Him setting up an earthly kingdom where He would rule and reign and deliver them from their oppressors.   But now that hope was buried in the tomb.

And while they walked to Emmaus, looking sad or mournful, conversing and reasoning with themselves about everything that happened, Jesus drew near to them. I love that! It says in Greek, And, it came to pass IN their talking and reasoning (examined together, investigating), Jesus Himself drew near and was walking along with them. He didn’t just draw near at a polite distance. No, drawing near expresses an extreme closeness, an at hand closeness.   It’s IN our talking and reasoning – our examining and investigating what we don’t understand about Him, that He draws near, revealing Himself IN us.

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. This caused a burning in their hearts and they rose up that same hour and returned to Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is made of two words: yarah meaning to see or to feel the awe; to be stupefied, and shalom meaning wholeness! These two disciples had an awakening and immediately rose up and saw clearly!! Hopelessness was gone and they saw the Resurrected One and their wholeness or completeness in Him.

This experience on the road to Emmaus, this encounter with Jesus revealing Himself to them in the Scriptures, led to a passion in the first century to see Jesus in the Old Testament. To find the Mystery Himself that was concealed but now revealed. And so, believers set out on a quest to find Him… they saw that the law and prophets everywhere prefigured the coming of Christ. And so Messianic prophecy and typology consumed the study of Scripture.

We need to have a Christocentric interpretation of the Old Testament. Jesus is the center and the goal of the entire drama of redemption. Everything in the Old Testament is heading there. All Old Testament concepts of God must be understood in the light of Christ, God’s final and perfect self-revelation (Hebrews 1). Everything up to that was an inferior, incomplete, immature, dim beholding of that glory. For example, Moses saw the backside of God’s glory, but Thomas sees the face of God’s glory in Jesus Christ and Him crucified and risen.

And we need to have a Christotelic interpretation of the Old Testament. Meaning, we are not reading Jesus back into the Old Testament to revise what it once meant. But rather Christ was the goal (telos) of the redemption story from the start – from Genesis. Christ is the heart of redemption history at every point. In John 8, Jesus said, “Abraham saw My day and rejoiced.” He interprets Abraham’s faith as pointing to Jesus. John 1:17 tells us the law came through Moses but grace and truth in Jesus. Always, whether Old Testament or New Testament, the source is Christ and the point is Christ. Our task is to watch for Him in the Old Testament. To get back to that 1st-century passion of looking for Him everywhere in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is Christ-centered, Christ as the goal and it bows to the revelation of Christ in the New Testament.

John 1:18: No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. Seen is ‘horao’ in Greek meaning to accurately and correctly perceive, discern, understand; it is a Hebraism meaning to experience. Jesus came revealing to mankind that they had been misrepresenting God since the fall because of the fall.  Because it was in the fall that man’s perception became confused and as a result of that, they went forward from that point on misrepresenting who God was and not projecting on earth who they were… image and likeness of God, sons living without barriers or limits!

Another tool to use when interpreting Old Testament Scriptures is chesed. It’s a covenant word that is translated in our English language as lovingkindness, steadfast love, mercy, faithfulness, loyalty, graciousness, and trustworthiness. And while those are all great words, there is no proper English word that encapsulates the meaning of chesed. The Hebrew word is richer and deeper in meaning than anything in English. Perhaps loyal love or covenant love is close. Although for us the word loyal or even covenant changes love into a dutiful word in our thinking. It is a covenant word that goes beyond the requirements of mere duty and obligation… it is a love that WILL NOT let mankind go for any reason. It is an immovable, unshakable, unchanging loyalty to His covenant love for us.

In Psalm 23:6 it says Surely goodness and chesed will follow me all the days of my life. The word surely is set as a seal upon it. It’s guaranteed! A done deal! It doesn’t depend on what I do or don’t do. I can add nothing of myself to it. Mankind is and always has been sealed with His goodness and chesed! Moses used this term to show God’s heart in delivering Israel from the captivity in Egypt. Exodus 15:13: You in your chesed have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation. Chesed is part of His nature. It’s not just what He does, it’s who He is and therefore what He does just naturally flows. In Exodus 34:5-8 He proclaims who He is to Moses and in verse 6 it says He is abounding in goodness… goodness is the Hebrew word chesed.

1 Chronicles 16:34 reads, O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His loving-kindness is everlasting. Both good (tov) and chesed are nouns. They are not adjectives describing God. But rather, Good and God are the same thing… absolute nouns forming a single idea, a single thought. In other words, there is no good apart from God… He IS Good. And chesed as a construct noun is incorporated into this singleness of God-Good. In other words, neither chesed nor good can be separated from who God IS. And thinking of good means thinking of His chesed.

Chesed is the passionate love of God that says, “You are Mine, and you have ALWAYS been mine, and I AM yours! We have never been separated, and I will stop at nothing to reconcile you back to Me!” It is from the root word ‘chacad,’ which is “to bow down.” And carries in its meaning the idea of one bowing down from the neck as to an equal. It sounds like what John described above in John 4:7 Love came out from within Elohim (Father, Son, and Spirit)… Love came in the form of I AM and revealed the goodness and kindness of our Father towards mankind. Love bowed down and gave us His Son to show us that we were always image and likeness, not inferior to God but equals.

And although the word isn’t used in the story of the garden, I believe it is there that we see the beauty of what is chesed.

Genesis 2:8 is a beautiful rich Scripture that has hidden reference to God’s eternal covenant with mankind in Christ… fully finished, perfect and complete, image and likeness of God – divine ones. It says, And Yahweh Elohim planted a garden in Eden from east and He placed there Alef Tav (which I believe refers to the eternal covenant with mankind in Christ) the man which He molded. In chapter one, God is referred to as Elohim (the Godhead – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). But here in chapter 2 starting in verse 7, we are introduced to Yahweh Elohim. To understand who Yahweh is we need to look at Deuteronomy 7.

Deuteronomy 7:9 describes to Israel who Yahweh is, saying, Therefore, know that Yahweh your Elohim, He is the Elohim, the God, the Faithful, who keeps covenant and chesed with those who love Him and keep His commandments for a thousand generations. Wow at first glance it looks like Yahweh keeps covenant and chesed with men based on two conditions… loving Him and keeping His commandments.

But the phrase “those who love Him” is לְאֹהֲבָ֛יו in Hebrew.  The first letter is “lamed” and is a Hebrew prefix added as a conjunction meaning to or for. The last two letters are a pronominal suffix meaning him and also used as a possessive pronoun meaning his. And the middle letters make up the Hebrew word ‘ahav,’ meaning beloved, friends, dearly loved, or lovers. Google Translate translates לְאֹהֲבָ֛יו as to his lovers.  I love that! He keeps covenant and chesed to His lovers, to His beloveds.

It then says and keeping (or watching, preserving, safeguarding) His commandments. It doesn’t say to those who keep His commandments. Yahweh is the one keeping His commandments. He is the One watching over, preserving, and safeguarding what He has commanded, what He has set in order (the root of the word commandment).

To a thousand generations! That to me speaks of for or to all men, for all time! And even if you took it literally, it hasn’t been a thousand generations since Moses wrote this. According to Genesis 15, God told Abraham the 4th generation would come back to Canaan, which was 400 years. So, 1000 generations x 100 years is 100,000 years from the time Moses spoke Deuteronomy 7:9 to the Israelites. It’s only been about 3500 years. Even if you argue that a generation is 40 years, that would be 40,000 years and we’re not even close to that! However, I don’t believe that number is a number we are to take literally and put a time stamp on it. God is an eternal God and not bound by time. Interestingly, the number 1000 is connected with divine completeness! And generation is at its root to dwell, to move in a circle, to remain.

And “the covenant” and “the chesed” in this verse is a hendiadys, meaning two words expressing one idea together. There is no covenant apart from chesed and there is no chesed apart from covenant. It is the eternal covenant of wholeness that is Yahweh’s chesed. So, this verse in describing Yahweh tells us that Yahweh is our Elohim, He is THE Elohim, THE God, the Faithful One, who preserves, watches over, and safeguards His eternal covenant of wholeness, His chesed, to His lovers, His beloveds, and He is keeping what He has set in order (from before time began) for divine completeness, dwelling, remaining ONE with man.

This is the Yahweh we’re introduced to in Genesis 2! And He planted a garden and placed man in it. Garden in Hebrew is gan and means garden but also means enclosure. He placed the man in this enclosure. Placed in Hebrew is sum and means to put, or to set. The ancient root of “sum” is to put or set in a particular place, position, situation or relation. Where was this garden? In Eden. Eden means pleasant, delightful, and voluptuous (which means full of delight and a pleasure to the senses). The root of it means to luxuriate, which means to thrive, to enjoy oneself without limitation, to indulge oneself, and to celebrate!

It also says in this verse that Eden was from east. The Hebrew word east is ‘kedem’ and properly means that which is before! It also means ancient, eternal, and everlasting; it is also the word for the past. The primitive root is to go before, to project (oneself). I love that! The word ‘kedem’ in this verse has the prefix mem which means from out from. And then it says, He placed there Alef Tav (which I believe refers to the eternal covenant with mankind in Christ) the man He formed.  The man was placed in this garden Eden in the east – there ALEF TAV. He was created and positioned to walk in life and experience THERE – the eternal place he has always been IN CHRIST.  This was the situation, the position, the PLACE Yahweh put man in! His desire was always for mankind to experience in every area of life pleasantness, delightfulness, indulgences without limitations! He expected and designed for mankind to thrive, to be full of delight and celebrate life here on earth! Notice there are no words like suffering, pain, disaster, calamity, etcetera.

But somehow man believed the lie that he was lacking and he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or as the Hebrew translates it the tree of functioning according to God’s design and the tree of dysfunction or not functioning according to God’s design. And so man became afraid and hid from God. But here in the midst of that, we see chesed! We saw Yahweh Elohim’s passionate love for this man and woman (and all mankind!) that refuses to let go of them… refuses to live separated from them! He comes into the garden looking for them. Not to punish them, but to fellowship with them as usual.

Then we see chesed in His leaving the garden with them! He didn’t send them out on their own to find their own way, to fail in life! NO! His plan and His desire for mankind have always been according to the eternal covenant IN CHRIST that was established before the foundation of the world. They were NEVER far from God except in their vain imaginations. Genesis 3:4a says, so He drove the man out. Somehow, I always read into that He kicked them out of the garden. Sorry, Adam but you blew your chance! Get out! But the Hebrew says,” v’garesh Alef Tav ha’adam”…. And He drove out IN CHRIST the man.

He was driven out from the presence of God, he wasn’t driven out with a different nature, and he wasn’t driven out doomed to a failed existence! The man left the garden ALEF TAV! He left the garden with the same eternal covenant, with the same passionate, pursuing, love of Yahweh (chesed), with the same nature that he always had… IN CHRIST, image, and likeness of God, divine, a son! And God left the garden with them. The Father went with them to help them, to equip them, to be with them in their new way of life… a life now with the knowledge of good and evil. God hadn’t changed, His eternal covenant with them hadn’t changed. All that changed was Adam saw and thought differently. He saw God differently, and he saw himself differently. By eating from that tree he had released sin into the world and death came through sin and (death) spread to all men. And although Romans 5 tells us that death reigned, according to Genesis 4, men still had the power and dominion to rule over even sin (Genesis 4:7).

So, what did the world look like after Eden? What was the condition of the world? Genesis 6:5 says, Then Yahweh saw that the wickedness of mankind was great in the earth and that every intent or purpose of (or out from) the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. This is the prevailing condition after the fall. This was about 725 years after the death of Adam who lived to be 930. So, it was 1600+ years after the fall and what we see is the true condition of the world was only evil (Hebrew – dysfunctional, not functioning according to God’s design) continually. It says ALL purposes, intents, images of the thoughts of his heart was ONLY evil all the time. That seems like a pretty hopeless situation! But remember this verse started with And Yahweh saw! This same Yahweh that we are told in Deuteronomy 7:9 is the One who is our God (personal!!), THE God, the Faithful One, the One who preserves, watches over and safeguards His eternal covenant and His chesed (his passionate, relentless, ever pursuing love for ALL men!)!

In verse 11 it says the earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. The earth was full of violence and corrupt (to decay) before the face of God. Keep reading!! Verse 12 says, BUT Yahweh saw Alef Tav upon the earth and behold it was corrupted – because all flesh Alef Tav destroyed (damaged) his road (his way, his manner of life) on the earth. I love that there are two Alef Tavs in this verse to remind of His eternal covenant and His chesed (His passionate, relentless love and pursuit of His mankind) which are inseparable! Yes, the earth was indeed corrupt and filled with violence BUT Yahweh always sees from an eternal IN CHRIST perspective… a finished, completed, perfected perspective!

And the reason it was corrupt was because of only one thing – flesh (carnal thinking man) had destroyed and damaged his way of life. How did he do that? Remember, verse 5 told us the intents, purposes from the thoughts of his heart were evil… or better translated, they were dysfunctional. Man’s thoughts were causing him to not function the way God had designed for him to function. But this same verse 12 tells us that this dysfunctional, carnal thinking man who had damaged the earth and his way of life, was still a man Alef Tav… still IN CHRIST and in the eternal covenant of wholeness with Yahweh Elohim!

Ecclesiastes 7:29 says, ONLY, TRULY this have I found, that the Elohim made Alef Tav mankind upright – but they have sought out many schemes. Schemes come from the same root word as “intents” in Genesis 6:5, meaning account. God’s account of mankind has always been from the account of His eternal covenant IN CHRIST, which is that we have always been finished, perfect, complete and Solomon said here in Ecclesiastes upright! But man’s account of himself changed after the fall and he no longer saw himself as God did and so he no longer walked in the experience of very good! And so, his intents, his purposes, his desires, his account caused him to walk damaged, dysfunctional, and violent. James said it this way in chapter 1 verse 15 when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

So, with an understanding of Yahweh’s eternal covenant and His chesed, which are inseparable, meaning there is no passionate love and relentless pursuit of man (chesed) apart from His eternal covenant… It’s the lens, so to speak, of God towards us, it’s how He sees us. One with Him, finished, complete, perfect! WHOLE IN CHRIST! Designed to live life with only the experience of very good!

With that understanding, it’s impossible to get to the story of the flood with an interpretation that God desired to wipe out all of mankind. In Genesis 6:6, it says, and Yahweh was sorry that He had made mankind on the earth, and it grieved Him in His heart. One translation says He regretted it. Another says it repented Him. That sounds a lot like God was majorly disappointed with mankind and had changed His mind about them. But that’s an impossibility for God – He is the same yesterday, today and forever! His mind was made up about us before the foundation of the world! He had no regrets about us, no matter what we would do!

So, what is this verse saying? The word translated sorry, regret or repent is the Hebrew word ‘nacham’ which means to sigh. To be moved to pity. He wasn’t sorry He made man, He pitied them. That’s a big difference. God looked at His sons and had pity or compassion on their futile manner of life that Adam had passed on to them through distorted thinking, through the loss of the revelation of sonship. He sympathized that they were walking and living life so far below the standard of very good! So far below how He created them IN CHRIST.

And as for verse 7, I don’t know what to make of it, except that whoever wrote this or translated it missed the heart, the nature of God. Verse 7 says that He will utterly wipe out or destroy mankind from the face of the earth. But Malachi 3:6 tells us that God is Yahweh and He does not change! It goes on to say, therefore (because I AM Yahweh – remember back to His description in Deut. 7:9!) you (mankind) are NOT consumed or utterly destroyed!

As we read the Old Testament and even the New Testament with this lens of chesed, it changes how we read Scripture, and how we understand God. We begin to read it from an eternal perspective rather than a time and space perspective, understanding that His chesed is His eternal covenant… and His eternal covenant is His chesed. Reading it with the knowledge that God has never changed how He sees mankind. He has always declared the end from the beginning. He has always seen us as righteous, holy, blameless, and ONE with Him. Reading through the lens of chesed you take from Scripture that God has always declared the end from the beginning. That the only covenant God has with mankind is the eternal covenant of wholeness in Christ that was before the foundation of the world. The fall changed nothing. ALL was already finished IN CHRIST! He was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. And Hebrews tells us that on the seventh day, God rested from ALL His works. ALL was finished!

The end of Genesis tells us that God saw Alef Tav (which I believe refers to the eternal covenant with mankind in Christ) ALL which He had made and behold it was ALL was VERY GOOD! Biblical Hebrew only has two tenses, perfect and imperfect, which do not refer to time but rather completed action and incomplete action. The word made is perfect tense in Hebrew it is a completed action… FINISHED. ALL was very good, and all was FINISHED, COMPLETE, PERFECT! Which is exactly what Genesis 2 tells us: Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them were FINISHED!

Not only were the heavens and the earth finished but ALL the host of them were finished. The word host is ‘tsaba’ in Hebrew and means a mass of persons AND things assembled for war or campaign. In other words, before God rested, He had already assembled ALL persons and ALL things necessary for Him to conduct a victorious campaign. Host also means and all that goes forth from them (in this case, heaven and earth). For us, that means ALL that we would need for a successful human experience on the earth and in this life was finished, completed, and perfected. That sounds like what Peter said, “He’s given us ALL that pertains to life and godliness. I’ve usually read past the word host and not given it another thought. But that tiny word packs a lot of revelation into it! Everything was finished… all men made perfect, finished, completed AND all that mankind needed for life and godliness perfect, finished, completed!

But in losing that revelation they failed to walk as finished, or WHOLE in all areas of life.  Instead, mankind saw themselves as lacking and as a result that became their experience… walking in sin and ruled by death. Experiencing the effects of sin and death… calamity, pain, sickness, disease, poverty, rebellion, etcetera. And living in bondage to the feelings that sin and death produced internally… guilt, condemnation, separation from God, judgment from God, etcetera.

And so, in the Old Testament, we see the stories of men and women living lives without a revelation of their oneness with God or their wholeness in life. Offering sacrifices and offerings to bridge the separation that they felt they had with God and to appease the punitive Judge they thought that He was. But there was never any reason for man to hide from God, to see himself separated from God, or with a nature contrary to God’s nature. ALL was very good! ALL was finished.  The fall didn’t change man’s nature. It changed man’s thoughts about God and himself. Humanity stopped seeing themselves as image and likeness of God… as sons, as divine ones! As FULLY finished, perfected, complete, and whole in this life.

But Jeremiah spoke God’s words to men… he spoke from a FINISHED perspective, from God’s perspective regarding men. He said in chapter 13, verse 23, Can an Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopards his spots? Then may you also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. Mankind became accustomed to doing evil. Evil became a learned behavior it was NOT inherent. 1 Peter 1:18 tells us that their aimless conduct was received by tradition from their fathers.

Jeremiah is saying that our skin… our nature is GOOD! And just like the Ethiopian who was born with dark skin and the leopard born with spots… mankind was born GOOD. And nothing he can do can change that! And where the translators use the word “may,” the word is ‘yakol’ which means able, or have power! Mankind has always had the power, the ability to live in the truth of who they are… image and likeness of God. GOOD! Unfortunately, if you read this verse in the NIV or the NLT (and a few other translations) this verse says neither can you do good who are accustomed (or who have always) done evil.

God never intended for any man to have a future tense experience in Life. And nothing about God’s dealings with us is future tense. Everything about His works is a FINISHED tense, from the foundation of the world! And because He WAS the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, He WAS manifest in time ANYTIME giving ALL men both then (Old Testament) and now a present-tense experience of wholeness… of a FULL, COMPLETE redemption!

This FINISHED revelation has to go forward with us as we continue in the Old Testament interpreting what the Scriptures say… finished, perfected, completed ALL mankind and ALL they would ever need to have a successful experience in life on earth. And also, when we read the New Testament (especially verses that seemingly point to future redemption after our life on this earth is over). And when Scriptures (both Old and New) seem to contradict the revelation of FINISHED, we need to interpret it from the foundation that ALL (people and things) were finished and God rested from all His works (Heb. 4:4). From the foundation of our eternal covenant IN CHRIST and chesed.

I think Baxter Kruger in his book Jesus and the Undoing of Adam, captures the essence of chesed! He wrote, “The response of the Father, Son, and Spirit to Adam’s plunge into utter ruin can be put into one word: “No!” In that “No” echoes the eternal “Yes” of the Trinity to us. Creation flows out of the circle of divine sharing and out of the decision, the determined decision, to share the Triune life with human beings. That will of God for our blessing, that determined “Yes” to us, translates into an intolerable “No!” in the teeth of the Fall. God is for us and therefore opposed—utterly, eternally and passionately opposed—to our destruction. That opposition, that fiery and passionate and determined “No!” to the disaster of the Fall, is the proper understanding of the wrath of God. Wrath is not the opposite of love. Wrath is the love of God in action, in opposing action. It is precisely because the Triune God has spoken an eternal “Yes!” to the human race, a “Yes!” to life and fullness and joy for us, that the Fall and its disaster is met with a stout and intolerable “No! This is not acceptable. I did not create you for misery.” Therein the plan of reconciliation begins to unfold.”

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