Exodus – Deliverance through Judgment (pt 1)

Posted in Uncategorized on June 15, 2011 by John-Michael LaRue

Hamilton walks through the three major divisions of the book of Exodus arguing for his thesis in each section. The divisions are made according to the geographical placement of the people: the first while in Egypt, the second on the journey from Egypt to Sinai, and the third while at Sinai.

In Egypt

If you asked me to describe Hamilton’s thesis in the easiest possible way using a biblical story to an individual who had no previous knowledge of the book, I would probably turn to the story of Israel’s exodus out of Egypt. Israel is delivered from Egypt against the backdrop of judgment against the Egyptians in the form of the 10 plagues and the final sign of the Red Sea crashing down to destroy the Egyptian army.

Most significant to Hamilton’s discussion of this section is the emphasis upon Yahweh’s name being made known. Hamilton writes, “God delivers ISrael from Egypt so that they will know that he is Yahweh (Ex. 6:7). He judges Egypt so that the Egyptians will know that he is Yahweh (7:4-5)” (91). The Lord decisively acts for Israel for the very purpose of his renown being spread among his people and among the known world.

Hamilton also includes a detailed discussion on God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. He makes three key points concerning this matter on page 95. First, he argues the God’s treatment of Pharaoh is just: “The severity of the judgment meted out matches the unspeakable evil of refusing to honor God as God and render him thanks” (95). Second, he argues God’s merciful treatment of Israel is likewise just: “Just as a principle of substitution was set forth in the provision of a ram in place of Isaac in Genesis 22, the blood on the doorposts at Passover teaches an important lesson. Judgment falls on the Passover lamb, and thereby the firstborn of Israel are saved” (95). Finally, he prioritizes the necessity of faith in the reception of God’s mercy: “This salvation through judgment is by faith – they have to believe what Yahweh has spoken, and believe it enough to slay the lamb and smear the blood” (95).

From Egypt to Sinai

Now following Israel in the wilderness, Hamilton emphasizes the Lord’s primary focal announcement of making his name known. In the midst of the grumbling of Israel against the Lord’s mercy, the Lord repeatedly announces: “I am Yahweh” (15:26), “you shall know that Yahweh has brought you out of the land of Egypt” (16:6), and “you shall know that I am Yahweh” (16:12).

Furthermore, Hamilton understands the six stories in Exodus 16-19 leading up to the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai all reflect his thesis. Most notably, the Lord’s testing of Israel is meant to show that the Lord is disciplining his children for the purpose of saving them. Hamilton writes, “By disciplining his children, Yahweh enables them to follow his instructions and receive his provision. Through judgment (rebuke) on their disobedience, salvation – in the form of daily provision – comes” (97).

(Just a little side note, in terms of the name of this blog – The Higher Rock, I found Hamilton’s discussion on pg 97 on the incident of the striking of the rock particularly interesting.)

Two Questions – Is it difficult for you to consider the Lord actively hardening the heart of an unbeliever? Do you think Hamilton’s understanding of the Passover animal being sacrificed and its blood spread on the doorposts as an example of the principle of substitution is the best way to understand the purpose of its happening?


Genesis – The Book of Beginnings (pt 3)

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2011 by John-Michael LaRue

So I’m not currently planning on multiple parts to most books, but Genesis is just so important to the entire goal of the biblical theology that I thought it best to break it down this way. Hopefully, the length of the posts is proportionate to the value of the posts… (and if not, please shoot me an email so I can make some adjustments).

Anyways, I’ll throw out a little disclaimer to this third section. I think Hamilton’s treatment of the blessings of Abraham in Genesis 12 being directly connected to overcoming the curses of God in Genesis 3 is brilliant. I had never read such unity before between the curses and blessings. This section has transformed my understanding of the book of Genesis (and beyond). Ok ok… little tid bit over.

The Blessings of Abraham 

Critical to Hamilton’s entire presentation of Genesis is his argument that there is a unified center throughout the entire book. Hence, Hamilton opposes John Sailhamer’s assertion in his popular book The Meaning of the Pentateuch that Genesis has two dis-unified sections: “Against Sailhamer’s suggestion that ‘the narratives of Genesis 12-50 show little relation to Genesis 1-11,’ I will argue here that the narratives of Genesis 12-50 are thick with the blessings of Genesis 12 overcoming the curses of Genesis 3” (80).

To review, Hamilton sees three major categories being reflected in the curses of Genesis 3: seed conflict, gender conflict, and land conflict. The Abraham narrative begins with an aging, sojourning husband with a wife who is barren. God then appears to Abraham and declares his promises to him in chapter 12. Hamilton argues that “the curses of Genesis 3 are matched point for point in the blessings of Abraham” (82). In response to the seed conflict, God promises Abraham that all the families of the earth will be blessed in you. In response to the gender conflict, God promises Abraham that barren Sarah will have a seed and he will be made into a great nation. And in response to the land conflict, God promises Abraham that his offspring, a great nation, will be given this land.

The Seed Conflict

Probably the most significant issue drawn out by Hamilton is the battle between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman that extends through these blessings of Abraham. Hamilton shows on pages 82-84, how the seed conflict works itself out on both the individual level and the corporate level throughout Genesis. The archetypal seed of the serpent is shown through the narratives of Cain, Ishmael, Esau, Joseph’s brothers, the king of Sodom, Abimelech, and the Philistines. The seed of the woman on the other hand is shown in these conflicts as Abel, Seth, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Hamilton concludes, “These individual and corporate enmities are outworkings of the justice of God announced in Genesis 3:15. In the symbolic world Genesis gives its readers, people are either seed of the serpent, on the side of the snake in the garden, or seed of the woman, on the side of God trusting in his promises” (84). Finally, Hamilton draws upon the NT for support of this argument by citing Romans 16:20, Galatians 3:!6, and Revelation 12:13-17 as all refering to this battle between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman.

The Gender Conflict

Hamilton’s chart on pg 86 is a thorough representation of the different types of gender conflict presented throughout the entire narrative of Genesis. Marital disharmony, barrenness, usurping women, abusive husbands, death in childbearing, and sexual dysfunction are themes which seem to be intermixed into almost every single page of Genesis. And yet, Genesis also contains the great stories of God’s merciful provision to overcome these relational difficulties. Barren Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel all bear children. Abraham and Isaac receive back their wives despite their deceit and abuse for the sake of their own protection. In the midst of the judgment of the curses, God’s mercy shines through in his carrying forth his plans among his people.

The Land Conflict

Hamilton also shows through some careful textual evidence that there is an expectation/desire for God to mercifully reverse the curse on the land. In Genesis 5:29, Lamech speaks of Noah as giving relief from the curses land and painful toil. These are the exact phrases of the curse in Genesis 3:17. Hamilton concludes, “From what the narrative tells us, Lamuch’s hopes that the birth of Noah portends the reversal of the curse can only be based on what God said in Genesis 3:15. These hopes are later augmented in God’s promise of land to Abraham (12:7)” (88).

Hamilton’s conclusion is that through seeing God’s blessings of Abraham overcoming God’s curses that we can best understand God’s glory in salvation through judgment. The Genesis narratives about God’s blessings on the fields and the flocks highlight God’s mercy in the midst of the just curse upon the land. The Genesis narratives about the mercy of God in giving seed to barren women highlight God’s mercy in the midst of the just curse upon childbearing. And the Genesis narratives about God saving the seed of the woman by judging the seed of the serpent highlight God’s mercy in the midst of the just curse against the serpent.

Two Questions – Have you ever processed the fact that every single patriarch in Genesis has antagonists in their story (and furthermore how this could be the playing out of the curse against the serpent)?

Did Hamilton successfully show the theme of God’s glory in salvation through judgment in the book of Genesis? (this isn’t to say there may be other consistent themes throughout or maybe even better themes, but was his thesis for the book of Genesis justifiable by the evidence?)

Genesis – The Book of Beginnings (pt 2)

Posted in Uncategorized on June 6, 2011 by John-Michael LaRue

The natural question at this point in the story is to ask that if God created the world for his glory and his purpose was to dwell with mankind over all the earth, then why did he not just create a world where this was so? Why start with a garden and with a man and a woman?

Those are certainly some loaded questions which pour over into questions about the fall of man, sin, God’s sovereignty, and God’s goodness. However, I bring them up to emphasize one major thing. In such a created world without sin, God’s glory would not be seen through the lenses of salvation and judgment. I actually think this is key to understanding God’s purposes for the fall. Ultimately, I would argue that the fall of man is a part of God’s plan from the beginning to glorify Himself through having a redeemed people who have been saved from his judgment against them. To paraphrase Al Mohler on this thought, “There are many songs of worship that Adam and Eve could sing in the garden, but one song they could not sing was ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.'”

The Fall of Man and the Curses of God

Adam and Eve fail to obey God’s command. They are swept away in temptation and led by the serpent to doubt the goodness and wisdom of their Creator. The ability to obey the command reveals an understanding of obedience and disobedience (right/wrong; good/evil), so the temptation must be understood not merely in light of the promise of knowledge, but in the independence of being like God (which is ironic considering they were God’s image bearers). Adam and Eve’s nakedness is introduced into the story as a sign that a shift has indeed occurred, and they are alienated from each other and from God.

God’s response to Adam and Eve’s sin is judgment in the form of banishment from his dwelling place and curses against the man, the woman, and the serpent. However, intermingled with his justice, God mercifully extends salvation to Adam and Eve, as well as, provide a promise of future salvation.

The first recorded physical death occurs in the Bible, but it is not the death of Adam or Eve, but rather the death of an animal out of which God makes skins to cover their nakedness. God’s mercy is shown in that he does not immediately put to death Adam and Eve for their sin. The forbearance of God reveals that he has a purpose for them that extends beyond this very moment. (One can also think about God’s forbearance in your own life and how he mercifully did not judge you upon your first sin against him). God will judge the three transgressors with curses, but the judgment falling against the man and the woman are not absolute. There is a promise of future salvation intermixed in his judgment. Hamilton ultimately sees these curses as being fundamental to understanding the entire story line of the Bible. Genesis can’t be understood rightly if these curses are not in view during the interpretation process.

Hamilton groups the curses into three major headings: “(1) enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, (2) difficulty in childbearing and male-female relations, and (3) problems with the land” (79). These three groupings become the foundational themes that are threaded throughout the story line of Genesis and beyond. Have you ever wondered why Genesis contains so many stories of barren women, and wives being pawned off as sisters, and daughters sleeping with fathers, and famines, and etc…? None of the patriarchs are presented in the best of lights. I’ve heard one teacher describe reading Genesis as a roller coaster ride with the highs of radical faith in God and the lows of disgusting immorality. The curses of God against Adam and Eve are played out throughout Genesis in the difficulty of child-bearing, the strain on male-female relations, and the problems with the land.

Hamilton highlights the curse against the serpent as the most critical to his biblical theology framework. God declares that the serpent will strike against the heel of the seed of the woman and the seed of the woman will ultimately crush the head of the serpent. God’s judgment falls on the seed of the woman by the promise of constant conflict with the serpent. God’s salvation is assured through the promise that the serpent’s head will be crushed.

Hamilton puts forth his thesis on this point: The justice of God is put on display as he judges the serpent. The mercy of God is demonstrated as he announces – from no compulsion or constrain – a future salvation that humanity has neither merited nor requested. God freely declares that the seed of the woman will crush the head of the seed of the serpent, and in this salvation that comes through judgment – judgment that results from the human transgression and promises final justice on the evil of the serpent – comes the first picture of free mercy in the Bible” (78).

Finally, Hamilton emphasizes that the priority of faith in Adam and Eve’s receiving of God’s salvation. Hamilton states, “God speaks the hope of salvation into being. Adam and Eve’s only hope of salvation is the judgment that God promises will fall on the snake through their seed” (80). There is nothing for them to go do in order to appropriate salvation. They must trust in God’s promise that the head of the snake will be crushed by the seed of the woman.

Two questions – How have you previously read the story line throughout the book of Genesis as it seems to go from stories of exemplary character seamlessly into stories of immorality?

Is Hamilton’s treatment of judgment and salvation being intermixed in the curses winsome to you? (Is there a better way to describe the curses?)

Genesis – The Book of Beginnings (pt 1)

Posted in Uncategorized on June 6, 2011 by John-Michael LaRue

As to be expected, Hamilton spends the majority of his time at the very beginning of Genesis as he sets the stage for the entire book. If he cannot argue his thesis from here, it would seem fruitless to continue. Every biblical theology has to be able to stake claim to the first three chapters of Genesis as foundational to its position. There are three basic categories that Hamilton focuses on: Creation, Fall of Man/Curses of God, and the Blessings of God.

The Epic Beauty of Creation

The book of Genesis is one exquisite literary work. Its unparalleled in ancient literature and Hamilton expects you to see this as he weaves in comparisons of other ancient near east sources describing the beginning of the world and mankind. Many have attempted to set the biblical creation story in the same category of ANE creation myths in order to discredit the historicity of the account. Hamilton does not run from these accounts, but rather uses these accounts as a backdrop to highlight the utterly unique nature of the God of the Bible seen in the creation story of Genesis 1-2. Hamilton uses the dark undertones of ungodliness in the Babylonian, Egyptian, and Greek creation myths to set the stage for the brilliant purity and power revealed in the biblical creation story: “Genesis presents Yahweh in sovereign, dignified majesty speaking the universe into existence. No conflict and no sexual perversion is to be found in Genesis 1” (71).

Furthermore, the goodness of God is revealed in both the creation of woman and the making a primeval temple in the garden. God’s plan of man and woman dwelling together reveals his benevolence and wisdom. Hamilton describes the role of the woman in God’s plan: “The woman is not a curse on the man but his helper – the man is created to work and keep the garden (2:15), and the woman is made to help the man (2:18)” (73). Hamilton describes that God is shown to be glorious in his creating man and woman such that they compliment each other to achieve God’s purposes for them in a way that their singleness could not complete. Gender is not a random mistake of human beings geno code, but a glorious, wise creation of God.

Finally, Hamilton argues that the very structure of the garden of Eden is a depiction of the later OT developments of the tabernacle and the temple. Hamilton argues, “The description of the garden of Eden is echoed in the description of the tabernacle and the temple, leading to the conclusion that Genesis 2 presents creation as a cosmic temple, a holy dwelling place of God” (73). And if the garden is to be understood as a dwelling place of God, Hamilton argues that Adam is given a priestly charge to fill the earth and subdue it. The story of Genesis 1-3 is not merely about God’s special relationship with Adam and Eve alone, but about God’s purpose and plan that his dwelling place might expand through them to fill the entire earth. The ‘developments’ of the tabernacle and the temple are not simply pointing forward beyond themselves, but likewise pointing backwards to God’s original intentions in creation to be known, served, and worshipped by his creation in a personal way.

Two questions – How would you describe the seeming points of contact between the biblical creation story with the other ANE creation myths (and just go ahead and throw the flood myths in there as well)?

Have you ever previously thought about the garden of Eden being a forerunner to the tabernacle and the temple? (I encourage reviewing the chart on 74 about the correspondences between the two).

Quotes and Questions – Introduction

Posted in Uncategorized on May 29, 2011 by John-Michael LaRue

(well I’ve felt like a chicken with my head cut off just running around trying to get a head the past few days… sorry for the delay. thankfully, I’ve had some time this Sunday afternoon to write.)

As I’ve read it, there are three big aspects to the introduction that we should spend time thinking about. First, Hamilton’s thesis ought to be understood and his methodology for achieving this thesis ought to be unpacked as well (sections 1, 2). Second, Hamilton argues that the proposed centers for biblical theology can actually be subsumed underneath his proposed center (3, 4). Third, Hamilton proposes that following the canonical approach of the Hebrew Bible (namely the divisions of the Law, Prophets, Writings) will result in a clearer biblical story line.


Though stated in several nuanced ways throughout the introduction, Hamilton marks out the thesis for the entire book at the end of section (1) “God means to reveal himself in an astonishing display of mercy and justice, with the justice highlighting the mercy” (40). Hamilton also lays out more clearly his methodology in (2.1): “In this study, I will pursue a biblical theology that highlights the central theme of God’s glory in salvation through judgment by describing the literary contours of individual books in canonical context with sensitivity to the unfolding metanarrative” (44).

2 Questions – What are your initial reactions to this proposed center? Is this the way you would have described the story line of the Bible before ever picking up this book?

Other Proposed Center

Hamilton highlights seven other major proposals for the center of biblical theology which includes creation, God’s self-revelation, God’s holiness, God’s steadfast love, promise-fullfilment, the election of Israel, and God’s covenants. Hamilton recognizes the validity of many of these proposed centers in describing major themes in the biblical story line. However, critical to Hamilton’s work is the idea that all of these themes are best understood as subsets underneath the center theme of God’s glory in salvation being highlighted through judgment. Hamilton succinctly concludes section (4): “I submit that these other proposals flow from, exposit, and feed back into the glory of God in salvation through judgment” (56).

2 Questions – What other proposed center seems to be the most appealing to you? Does Hamilton successfully show that this other proposed center is subsumed underneath his proposal?

Order of the Canon

The final major point of the introduction could possibly be the most controversial. Unless you’ve previously read Steven Dempster’s Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible, its quite possible that this is the first time you’ve interacted with the concept that the actual order of the Hebrew canon holds significance for correctly interpreting the Bible (though to be clear, Hamilton states it is not wholly dependant on this concept). As noted in the introduction, there are currently no English translations of the Bible which order the books according to the same ordering of the Hebrew canon. Hamilton argues that “a ‘canonicler’ arranged the books of the Old Testament and presented them in their canonical form, presumably under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” (63).

2 Questions – What do you think about the order of the canon of the Bible? How does this proposed order affect the interpretation of biblical theology?

The 5 Meter Platform and Biblical Theology

Posted in Uncategorized on May 25, 2011 by John-Michael LaRue

I can still vividly remember the first time I jumped off the 5 meter platform at the local community pool. I was probably 10 or 11 years old. I remember the long climb all the way to the top of the platform while constantly telling myself that “I could do this.” I remember standing for what felt like an eternity at the edge looking down into the water. I remember shaking in fear at the back of the the platform as a guy twice my age passed me in line, flipped off the platform, and perfectly dove into the water. I remember building up enough gumption to jump into the water with legs flailing and a little bit of a scream. Finally, I remember hitting the water, swimming to the edge, and immediately running back to get in line to do it again.

For some of you, reading this first chapter may cause very similar type feelings. You’ve been anticipating reading GGSTJ for some time now, but still in the back of your mind you’ve had lingering doubts about being able to read a 500+ page book that works through every single book of the Bible. Then you get right up to the edge of jumping in to Genesis and encounter a 30 page introduction which discusses things you’ve never even thought about. In the midst of this, you find yourself even more discouraged because there seems to be people out there that everything in this introduction is right up there alley. My hope is that you will nevertheless jump in to the book with arms and legs flailing and ultimately find yourself running back for more. Yes, there is a major side to this work that is very academic. You’re entering into a discussion that has been debated for hundreds of years by some of the greatest scholars in the world. But take heart, this book wasn’t just written for scholars in the academy, it was written for every Christian with a desire to know the Bible in a greater way. My encouragement to you is don’t be concerned too much if you are a little intimidated at first and if you don’t totally grasp everything being said. Jump in with us anyways and it will definitely be worth it.

Of course, then again, you may be that guy who can run right up, do a few flips, and dive right into the discussion of the center of biblical theology. You may be someone who could tell others all they need to know about Geerhardus Vos, Walther Eichrodt, or Walter Brueggemann. You’ve studied the topic of biblical theology in depth in times previous and are seriously interested in critiquing whether Hamilton’s book deserves to belong in the discussion. In terms of most guys I’ve interacted with that at are this level, there comes almost an innate sense of skepticism to the topic of the Bible having a center. I think Hamilton’s introduction is shaped the way it is due in part to answering that skepticims. My encouragement to you is to be careful not to be too quick in one’s judgments. Let Hamilton’s words stew on you a little bit and process them as you are reading God’s Word alongside them.

Hopefully, the end result is that as we jump off the platform of each book of the Bible, we will all find ourselves scrambling to get out of the water and go back up for some more.

Over the next few days, I will be posting a few some questions and quotations dealing with the thesis of the book, the concept of biblical theology, and the ordering of the biblical canon (particularly the Old Testament canon). Hope we will all from the first timers to the olympic veterans will be able to dive in together.

Grace and Peace,

John Michael

Three Dangers to Reading This Summer

Posted in Uncategorized on May 21, 2011 by John-Michael LaRue

I’m excited to begin reading God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment with you all this summer. As I’ve been thinking about the project, I’ve reflected on three possible dangers that I could run into while reading.

  • Danger #1 – Reading ‘this book’ while neglecting to read ‘The Book’

The greatest possible thing you can read this summer is the Bible. There is a distinct danger in reading very good books that help you understand the Bible and yet miss out on reading the Bible yourself. Don’t spend 25-30 hours this summer reading GGSTJ and think that this will profit you very much if you intentionally neglect God’s Word. Hamilton encourages this very thing in his introduction: “I invite you to read the body of this book alongside your reading, your study, your memorization and mediation on the Bible” (29).

Practically speaking, you may not be able to read the entire Bible this summer alongside GGSTJ. I am going to make every attempt  to read the passages together (so that means the 90 chapters of Genesis and Exodus for next week…), but that might not be what you can handle at this time. I still strongly encourage you to make a plan for your Bible reading this summer and stick to it!

  • Danger #2 – Reading with ‘your eyes’ but not with ‘your eyes’

The Bible presents the reality that it is entirely possible to physically read words on a page and yet be utterly blind to what the words actually mean. We don’t want to be the type people who are ever-reading but never perceiving. There are ‘scholars’ out there who can literally recite the entire Bible in the original languages, who nevertheless, are not followers of Jesus Christ. They are akin to modern day Pharisees who have an incredible amount of knowledge concerning the Scriptures, but fail to truly perceive that such knowledge is meant to point us onward to faith in Jesus, worship, and obedience. Fight hard to read with the eyes of your hearts full of faith.

  • Danger #3 – Reading for ‘knowledge’s sake’ and not also for ‘wisdom’s sake’

Knowledge is very good. A summer goal of reading a biblical theology to increase your overall knowledge of the Bible and its overarching story is admirable. But I think it would be a danger to stop right there. Our goal is not mere knowledge but knowledge applied. We want to be the type that are actively growing in the knowledge of the Lord AND are actively responding to this knowledge as it changes us. Martin Luther once reflected that when we truly read the Bible, the Bible actually reads us. If GGSTJ is going to help us read and understand the Bible, we must desire that, insomuch as it accomplishes the first goal, it will also help us read and understand ourselves. The goal of reading through GGSTJ this summer is that we grow in both knowledge and wisdom. I’m going to try to help us focus each week on ways of applying what we’re reading as it affects our heads, our hearts, and our hands.