Category Archives: Biblical Scholarship

The Use of Stone Imagery in the Portrayal of Christ, Believers, and Unbelievers: Exegesis of 1 Peter 2:4-10

capstone

Introduction

The epistle of first Peter is one of the New Testament (NT) letters that has instructed, challenged, and encouraged Christians across centuries as they live their faith in an unfriendly world. Evidently, this letter was addressed to Christians in the Greco-Roman world who were suffering because of their faith in Christ.[1]With numerous quotations and allusions to the OT and reference to the life of Christ, the author of 1 Peter brings hope to believers in distress. The same letter remains much relevant today to Christians facing rejection, persecution, and suffering because of faithfully living their faith in a pluralistic world.

The author of 1 Peter uses the stone imagery in 1 Peter 2:2-10 and quotes other “stone” passages in the Old Testament (OT) to show what Christ is to believers; to instruct believers on their new status and position of honor in Christ, and to remind them of unbeliever’s impending downfall. Therefore, this exegetical study of 1 Peter 2:4-10 explores on the use of stone imagery in depicting Christ, believers’ identity, and unbeliever’s miserable destiny. Believers have an initiate relationship with Christ and also they have been given a new identity and life through Christ; while, on the other hand, unbelievers shall eventually experience shame and destruction because of their unbelief. The next section briefly deals with the background information concerning the letter of 1 Peter.

Background Information of First Peter

Authorship

Internal evidence (1:1) identifies Peter, the prominent apostle of Jesus Christ, as the author of 1 Peter. But this position has been challenged by some section of scholars. Basically, these scholars in their arguments raise four objections against Petrine authorship; claims that have also been largely refuted. First, they argue that the polished Greek, the rhetoric, and the extensive vocabulary of the letter is far too high for a Galilean fisherman who in Acts 4: 13 was described as ἀγράμματοί εἰσιν καὶ ἰδιῶται (lit. uneducated and unskilled).[2] These scholars argue that due to this drawback Peter must have received some help from Silas (5:12); but Clowney notes that the Greek in 1 Peter is not as polished in style as has sometimes been argued.[3] Also, the bilingual culture in Bethsaida in Galilee is always not considered in these arguments[4] Clowney 20. On another front, if Peter was formerly not educated, it does not mean that he remained the same over the years without the desire to learn the lingua franca of his time.

Secondly, opponents of Petrine authorship claim that the persecution alluded to in the letter did not occur till after Peter’s death.[5] This objection assumes that the persecutions experienced by Christians were official and general; the opposite could also be true, that the oppressions or persecutions might have been local, unofficial, and sporadic.[6] It could just have been unofficial harassment here and there rather than organized state initiative.

Thirdly, these scholars, against Petrine authorship, claim that the letter is much like Pauline writings. On this, it is worth noting that apostles in their writing generally followed a common tradition, a pattern of sound teaching.[7] Therefore, expectedly, themes and expressions are prone to overlap.

The fourth argument maintains that the letter contains traditional teaching materials from the early church that makes it improbable to have been written by an apostle during apostolic age. Clowney clarifies this idea by arguing that Peter, in the letter, was not giving a personal testimony or narration of the life and works of Jesus because that had been done in the gospel accounts, but giving an interpretation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.[8] These and other objections, remain insufficient to disqualify the traditional attestation and the biblical claim of Peter’s authorship. Therefore, Peter, as one of the eyewitnesses to the earthly life of Jesus, gives us a solid interpretation and implication of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

Audience

In the first verse of the letter (1:1) the readers are identified, “to God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” Geographically, these areas covering Asia Minor, most of modern Turkey, can be best construed as regions than official provinces.[9] From the letter, the churches in these regions comprised both Jews and Gentile believers.

Place of Writing and Date

In chapter 5:13, Peter sends his greetings from “Babylon”. This may not be necessarily the Babylon in Mesopotamia because severally in the Bible, Rome is symbolically called ‘Babylon’ (16:19; 17:5; 18:2). It is highly possible that Peter used it symbolically to be in line with his message of depicting Christian believers as being resident aliens.[10]

The assumption that Peter is the author of the letter, situates the date of writing the letter at AD 62-63. Tradition records that Peter was in Rome only at the end of his life; and since there is no mention of Paul in the letter, it is likely that Peter wrote the letter after Paul had been released from his imprisonment in AD 62, but also before Nero’s persecution (AD 63).[11] Also, noting that official persecutions had not yet broken out, the approximate dating of this letter would be AD 62-63.

 

The Literary Context of 1 Peter 2:4-10

The preceding context (1:13- 2:3) of this pericope has a doxology directed to God the Father for the “new birth” he has given believers into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1:3). Also, the preceding context presents an exhortation to believers (also portrayed as strangers) to live holy lives (1:13-16), that is, lives that are consistent with God’s holy character. The first three verses in chapter two of the letter is an admonition for believers to grow up in salvation. Notably, verse 3 ends with a quotation from Psalm 34:8, “now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” Therefore, the author discusses the pericope at hand in light of the “new birth” (1:3) or in other words, believers having tasted the Lord and found Him to be good. The author now expounds on the relationship between Christ and believers, believer’s identity, and the destiny of the unbelievers. The subsequent section after 2:10 continues the theme of Christian living as aliens and strangers; and is followed by an admonition to submit to every authority.

“Stone” Passages in the Bible

This passage (1 Peter 2:4-10) begins with the use of stone imagery to depict the relationship between Christ and believers. It is worth noting that the metaphor employed in this passage is not exclusive to apostle Peter. The stone metaphor is an imagery borrowed from the OT (Ps. 118:22-23; Isa. 8:14-15; 28:16); and significantly, all these three passages are quoted in 1 Peter 2:6-8.

In the New Testament, Jesus identified himself with the rejected stone (Mk. 12:10-11; Matt. 21:42-44; Lk 20:17-18). In Acts 4:11, the stone that builders rejected is identified by apostle Peter as Christ. The stone image is also employed in other epistles (Rom. 9:32-33; Eph. 2:20-22). Jobes notes that,

Peter uses the traditional Jewish understanding of the stone metaphor, but applies it to Jesus Christ, as Jesus himself had. He finds in the stone imagery an expression of both the rejection and exaltation of Jesus Christ, a soteriology based upon divine election, an ecclesiastical mandate for believers, and a basis for judgment of those who reject the Stone.[12]

The exegesis of this passage and explorations of the quotations will be helpful in understanding the use of this imagery in 1 Peter.

 

Verse by Verse Exegesis of 1 Peter 2:4-10

A. Christ as living Stone and believers as living stones (Verse 4, 5a)

Greek text, Verse 4: πρὸς ὃν προσερχόμενοι, λίθον ζῶντα, ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπων μὲν ἀποδεδοκιμασμένον παρὰ δὲ θεῷ ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον.

Translation of Verse 4: As you come to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious.

Verse 4 of 1 Peter 2 makes a complete shift from the metaphor of Christians as infants in the preceding verses to a stone metaphor. Peter begins this pericope with the phrase πρὸς ὃν προσερχόμενοι[13], (as you come to him); this refers to believers coming to the Lord, Christ. Specifically, believers come to the λίθον[14] ζῶντα[15] (living Stone); who is Christ, identified in verse 3 as ὁ κύριος. Generally, a stone is lifeless thing, but here Peter qualifies it with the adjective ζῶντα in order to apply it to Christ who is the living God. It has been noted that this participle (ζῶντα) is a “characteristic Petrine signal”[16] that shows that the author is using the word “stone” in a metaphoric rather than literal sense.

This living Stone was ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπων[17] μὲν ἀποδεδοκιμασμένον[18] (rejected by men). Here, Peter generally identifies those that rejected the living Stone as ἀνθρώπων (men) without further specification. The next part of the verse is joined by a contrastive conjuction δὲ; it reads, παρὰ δὲ θεῷ[19] ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον[20] (but in the sight of God chosen and precious). That is, the very stone that mankind (as builders) rejected as unfit is the stone was ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον (chosen and precious) in God’s eyes. The verb ἀποδεδοκιμασμένον is contrastively held in parallel with ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον; while ἀνθρώπων is contrasted with θεῷ. God’s approval of this Stone (Jesus) brings into mind a similar affirmation during the transfiguration of Jesus, “this is my Son whom I love; with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”(Matt. 17:5c). Jesus in his earthly life was rejected as had been prophecied; and precisely, the cross experience was in itself a sign of rejection. From this verse we can note that one can either reject or come to this chosen and precious Stone. But each case has some implications as we shall see in the subsequent verses.

Notably, the first part of verse 5 completes the idea in verse 4, of believer’s relationship with Christ. Believers (identified using the pronoun and nominative subject αὐτοὶ- they) come to the living Stone (Jesus), ὡς λίθοι[21] ζῶντες[22] – as living stones. Significantly, believers share the life of Christ, and share the same identity with Christ as stones.

 B. Believers as spiritual house and Christ as the cornerstone of the house (vv.5b-6a)

Greek Text, Verse 5: 5 καὶ αὐτοὶ ὡς λίθοι ζῶντες οἰκοδομεῖσθε οἶκος πνευματικὸς εἰς ἱεράτευμα ἅγιον, ἀνενέγκαι πνευματικὰς θυσίας εὐπροσδέκτους θεῷ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

Translation of Verse 5: you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

In addition, “coming to him” is part of God’s grand agenda because believers οἰκοδομεῖσθε[23] οἶκος πνευματικὸς (are being built up as a spiritual house). The phrase οἶκος πνευματικὸς is a predicate nominative. Elliot comments that a ‘spiritual house’ is “a metaphor for the community where the Spirit of God dwells.”[24] A “spiritual house” is therefore, God’s goal in building a community/house with each individual stone. By coming to him, believers are being built up εἰς ἱεράτευμα ἅγιον, (to be a holy priesthood). The construction in this phrase as introduced by the preposition εἰς and an accusative is an example of accusative of termination with focus on status. The identiy and nature of the priesthood under the spiritual house is to be holy. The adjective ἅγιον here serves to modify ἱεράτευμα.

The function of this holy priesthood under the spiritual house is depicted by the purpose infinitive (ἀνενέγκαι- to offer); and what is offered is πνευματικὰς θυσίας[25] (spiritual sacrifices). The adjective πνευματικὰς qualifies the direct object (θυσίας). It has been suggested that ‘spiritual sacrifices’ may be “all behavior that flows from a transformation of the human spirit by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (1:2),”[26] or “the whole of life is the offering up of sacrifice.”[27]It more probable, in light of Romans 12:1, that ‘spiritual sacrifices’ refer to offering of oneself to God for His purposes.

The quality and suitability of what is offered up is based on God’s terms εὐπροσδέκτους[28] θεῷ[29] διὰ Ἰησοῦ[30] Χριστοῦ[31] (acceptable to God through Jesus Christ). A single adjective (πνευματικὸς- spiritual) has been used to modify the house (οἶκος) and the nature of sacrifices (θυσίας) to be offered in that particular house. Admittedly, Peter is using a spiritual language with the priesthood and temple background and functions in perspective. This is a view that Mbuvi argues when he comments that 1 Peter exibits “reshaping and re-appropriating the institutional elements of the OT cultus within a new framework of Christian experience.”[32] Peter uses the temple language to show that believers, are now given a new status and identity in Christ which was previously enjoyed by Israel. Structurally, the first part of the next verse completes the though that has been taught in verse 5.

Greek Text, Verse 6: διότι περιέχει ἐν γραφῇ, Ἰδοὺ τίθημι ἐν Σιὼν λίθον ἀκρογωνιαῖον ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον, καὶ ὁ πιστεύων ἐπ’ αὐτῷ οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ.

Translation of Verse 6: For it is contained in Scripture: “Behold I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen (and) precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will not be put to shame.”

With the use of OT passages Peter shows that in the spiritual house that belivers are being built up to be holy priesthood and to offer sacrifices acceptable to God, Christ is the very cornerstone of the house. The verse begins, διότι περιέχει[33] ἐν[34] γραφῇ[35] (for it is contained in Scripture).

From verse six to verse eight, the author quotes or alludes to six LXX passages: Psalm 118:22 (117:22 LXX); Exodus 19:5-6; Isa. 8:14; 28:16; 43:20-21; and Hosea 2:23 (2:25 LXX). Apparently, he quotes from all the major sections of the OT: Torah, Writings, and the Prophets. These extensive quotation and allusions from the OT undoubtedly reveals the centrality of God’s word to Peter in his reflections on the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ.

What is it that is contained in Scripture? In Zion, God has laid a stone, chosen and precious cornestone, (τίθημι[36] ἐν Σιὼν[37] λίθον ἀκρογωνιαῖον ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον). The two adjectives (ἐκλεκτὸν and ἔντιμον) are the same adjectives used in verse 4, perhaps for emphasis on the centrality of Christ in God’s building project. Jesus in verse 4 is depicted as living Stone, but in relation to the spiritual house that believers are being built into, Jesus is the foundational stone, the cornerstone (ἀκρογωνιαῖον).

C. Believer’s honor (vv.6b-7a); and unbeliever’s and stumbling and sownfall (7b-8)

The second part of verse 6, which is a quotation from Isaiah 28:16 shows the consequences of coming to Christ (verse 4) or trusting in the living Stone, the Cornerstone of the spiritual house. This part begins, καὶ ὁ πιστεύων[38] ἐπ’ αὐτῷ (and the one who trusts in him). Those whose come to him trust in him. To these people, they οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ[39] (will not be put to shame). Through this quotation, Peter wants his readers to know that they shall never be put to shame rather they shall be honored because they have trusted on the one who God has approved.

The Isaiah 28:16 context is a judgment against the house of Ephraim, but verse 16 and the following verses speaks God’s pronouncement of hope to their distressful situation. When compared with the LXX, 1 Peter 2:6 raises several textual issues that we should observe. Peter omits the first part of the verse in LXX (διὰ τοῦτο οὕτως λέγει κύριος – “therefore thus says the Lord”[40]) and replaces it with διότι περιέχει ἐν γραφῇ (for it is contained in Scripture). The LXX has ἐγὼ ἐμβαλῶ (I will lay) but Peter chooses a different word- τίθημι, in the present tense to replace ἐμβαλῶ which is a future tense. He also omits the pronoun ἐγὼ, perhaps relying on the morphology of the verb. Peter omits εἰς τὰ θεμέλια (“for the foundation”) in LXX and MT and adds the preposition ἐν before Σιὼν. Also, on LXX, Peter also omits πολυτελῆ (“precious”) and εἰς τὰ θεμέλια αὐτῆς (“for its foundations”). From these observations, we can conclude that Peter might have been quoting the LXX from memory or expressing the Isaiah quotation in a freer way. Now, do these variations affect the meaning? I don’t think so. Also, Beale agrees that the meaning of the passage remains intact.[41] Peter understands that Jesus fulfiled the prophecy by Isaiah, that he is the cornerstone that God has laid in Zion. So Peter assures his audience that those who put their trust in Jesus will never be put to shame. Verse 7 continues to describe the honor that believers shall receive by quoting Psalm 118:22.

Greek Text, Verse 7: 7 ὑμῖν οὖν ἡ τιμὴ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν· ἀπιστοῦσιν δὲ λίθος ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας.

Translation of Verse 7: Now, this stone is honor, to you who believe. But to those who do not believe, “The stone which the builders rejected, this has become the very cornerstone,”

The first part of verse 7 directly addresses those who believe τοῖς πιστεύουσιν[42] ὑμῖν (to you who believe), to them this stone is  ἡ τιμὴ[43] (honor/precious). In light of verse 4, we can say that those who believe have come to see the Stone through God’s perspective, as precious (ἡ τιμὴ). It has been widely noted that the in Mediterranean culture honor and shame were contrasted; honor “concerned the positive social standing, reputation, and status rating of individuals and groups in the opinion of others and of God,” while shame “…entailed sensitivity regarding loss of honor or the actual loss of honor.”[44] Although Peter’s audience sufffered rejection and shame in their present context, the promise to these believers is that in God’s sight are honored.

The second part of the verse is introduced by the contrastive δὲ and addresses ἀπιστοῦσιν[45] (the unbelieving). He writes, λίθος[46] ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν[47] οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες[48] ({The} stone which the builders rejected). He says οὗτος ἐγενήθη[49] εἰς κεφαλὴν[50] γωνίας[51] (this has become the very cornerstone). Speaking of the cornerstone, in this verse, the author chooses to use a phrase (κεφαλὴν γωνίας) as opposed to ἀκρογωνιαῖον in verse 6. Believers (as builders) embrace this rejected stone but those who do not believe realize that the stone they rejected has become the Cornerstone. By implication, those who do not believe in the foundational Stone (the cornerstone) find themselves building without a long-lasting foundation.

The quotation from Psalm 118 (117:22 LXX) was a psalm sung by Levites during the Passover feast, celebrating deliverance. In their singing, they remembered God who has become their salvation. The LXX rendering of MT in this verse raises no textual issues. It suffices to only note that the words “cornerstone,” or “capstone” are a true rendering of the Hebrew לְרֹ֣אש פִּנָּֽה (the head of the corner) and LXX phase εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας.

The next verse (vv.8), connected by καὶ is another OT quotation that looks at the destiny of those who do not believe by quoting from a section of Isaiah 8:14.

Greek Text, Verse 8: καὶ λίθος προσκόμματος καὶ πέτρα σκανδάλου· οἳ προσκόπτουσιν τῷ λόγῳ ἀπειθοῦντες, εἰς ὃ καὶ ἐτέθησαν.

Translation of Verse 8: and, “A stone that causes stumbling and a rock of offense,” for being disobedient to the word, into which they were also appointed.

The cornerstone that has been rejected by men in their unbelief, according to verse 8, has become λίθος[52]προσκόμματος[53] (a stone of stumbling). This thought is synonmously parallel, with the next section connected by καὶ, πέτρα σκανδάλου (a rock of offense).

The second part of vere 8, after the quotation, gives the reason for the stumbling. In verse 4, the unbelievers reject the foundation stone, in verse 7 their reason for rejection is due to unbelief, but additionally in verse 8, they προσκόπτουσιν[54] τῷ λόγῳ[55] ἀπειθοῦντες[56] (they stumble for being disobedient to the word). And εἰς ὃ καὶ ἐτέθησαν[57] (into which they were also appointed or destined for).

One notable variation between MT to the LXX is the fact that the MT explicitly identifies Yahweh as the stone that causes people to stumble and fall. But the LXX rendering makes it ambiguous, (“and you will not ecounter him as a stumbling stone caused by a stone, nor as a fall caused by a rock”). But Peter in his quotation, bypasses the LXX and reverts to the idea in the MT thus depicting Christ as the one who causes stumbling. So in rendering this verse, Peter exercised some amount of freedom in reverting to the MT whenever he saw he saw some sort of ‘misrepresentation’ in the LXX.

McKnight reflects on verse 7and 8 and comments, “God’s act of appointing Jesus as the living Stone has become both honor for believers and judgment for unbelievers; this was God’s design, and everything happens according to his will.”[58] Emphatically, those who believe in this living Stone rise and those who dont believe in him stumble and fall.

D. Believer’s new status and calling (vv.9-10)

Verse 9 highlights the newfound identity of believers in Christ and their reason for their calling. Verse 10 compares the present status of believers to their former state of unbelief. These two verses contain allusion to Exodus 19:6 (in the Sinaitic context when the covenant between God and Israel was cut); and Isaiah 43:20-21 (in the context of God’s promise to embrace his people after the exile experience). In verse 10 he also makes an allusion to Hosea 2:25 (referring to Israel who had become wayward according to the covenant terms- he uses this passage to show God’s unconditinoal love and mercy to those he has punished). From these contexts, Peter applies to Christians terms that were exclusively applied to the nation of Israel. In doing this, Hagner writes that the church is understood to possess fully the status and privileges of Israel.[59]

Greek Text, Verse 9: 9 Ὑμεῖς δὲ γένος ἐκλεκτόν, βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα, ἔθνος ἅγιον, λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν, ὅπως τὰς ἀρετὰς ἐξαγγείλητε τοῦ ἐκ σκότους ὑμᾶς καλέσαντος εἰς τὸ θαυμαστὸν αὐτοῦ φῶς·

Translation of Verse 9: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for (God’s own) possesion, that you may proclaim the moral excellence of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Believers are contrasted with unbelievers but by the use of contrastive Ὑμεῖς δὲ (but you). Believers and unbelievers do not share an identiy or calling. Believers, built on the foundational stone, that the unbelievers rejected, now occupy a central place under God’s house and purposes. Peter now makes known the privileged status (status of honor) that believers enjoy in Christ.

First, believers are a γένος ἐκλεκτόν (chosen race). The adjective ἐκλεκτόν qualifies γένος. They are favoured people in the face of the earth. The term “chosen race” is from Isaiah 43:3, 20; applying to the exiles in Babylon, who were naturally the descendants of Abraham. But because of their belief in Christ, believers from all backgrounds are now one race in Christ; “Peter here makes the radical claim that those who believe in Jesus Christ- whether Jew,Gentile, Greek, Roman, Cappadocian, Bithynian, or whatever- though from many races, constitute a new race of those who have been born again into the living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”[60] God is forming one community from people from all kinds of backgrounds.

Secondly, believers are βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα (a royal priesthood). The adjective βασίλειον qualifies ἱεράτευμα. This is certainly a language from the covenant and priesthood that we also find in verse 4-5.  Jobes highlight the mediatorial role of the priests, “Peter writes, applying the identification to the people of the new covenant in Christ, who are now ordained with the role of a royal priesthood mediating God in Christ to the nations.”[61] But Beale empasizes the character and the priestly function of the people of God as “to be holy and offer sacrifices to God, and only in that context mediate between God and fallen humanity.”[62] Therefore, Christians now have a mediatorial role between God and men and at the same time the obligation to reflect God’s holy character. The phrase ‎ מַמְלֶ֥כֶת כֹּהֲנִ֖ים(kingdom of priests) in Exodus 19:5 is rendered by both LXX and Peter as βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα (“royal priesthood”).

Thirdly, from an allusion to Exodus 19:6, believers are ἔθνος ἅγιον (a holy nation). The adjective used (ἅγιον) tells us of our identity in relation to God. God who had cut a covenant with his people is a holy king and therefore God’s people needed to be holy just as He is holy.

Fourthly, believers in Christ are λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν περιποίησιν[63] (a people for God’s own possesion). This alludes to Exodus 19:5 during the exodus experience and and Isaiah 43:20-21 referring to the Israelites in the Babylonian exile.

Precisely, the purpose and calling for believers is ὅπως τὰς ἀρετὰς ἐξαγγείλητε[64]τοῦ ἐκ σκότους ὑμᾶς καλέσαντος[65] εἰς τὸ θαυμαστὸν[66] αὐτοῦ[67] φῶς (that you may proclaim the moral excellence of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light). The accusative ἀρετὰς is a direct object, while ὑμᾶς is used as a double accusative. The genitives ἐκ σκότους is a genitive of place, the place of darkness. Believers now have the wonderful opportunity and privilege to declare the praises of God who called them our of the kingdom of darkness into his wonderful light. On this aspect, Beale and Carson comments,

The excellencies of God that Isaiah has in view are manifested in the deliverance of his people from the exile; the excellencies of God that Peter has in view are manifested  in the salvation and transformation of his people, along with the hope that they enjoy for the consummating transformation—all of which was which was achieved by the ministry, death, and resurrection of God’s own Son[68]

The last verse in this pericope (verse 10) is a reminder of the the change that has been brought by this life transforming calling.

Greek Text, Verse 10: οἵ ποτε οὐ λαὸς νῦν δὲ λαὸς θεοῦ, οἱ οὐκ ἠλεημένοι νῦν δὲ ἐλεηθέντες.

Translation of Verse 10: Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

This verse contrasts believers and unbeliever’s status before God. Here ποτε (once) refers to the time before the ‘coming to him’. Believers, as the nominative subject (λαὸς) expresses, were were formely οὐ λαὸς (not a people) but now they are not mere people but νῦν δὲ λαὸς θεοῦ[69] (but now the people of God). He also reminds believers in Christ that formerly οἱ οὐκ ἠλεημένοι[70] νῦν δὲ ἐλεηθέντες[71] (you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy). Their coming to God in search for mercy was not in vain. They received it and both their status and calling changed. In the allusion to Hosea 2:3 (2:25 LXX) Peter assumes that his readers are a fulfilment of that prophecy. In Hosea 1-2, the people God calls “not my people” are Israelites who had broken their covenant with God and Hosea profoundly illustrates this through the naming of his childrem. Although God had called them  לֹ֣א עַמִּ֑(not my people) God embraced them again by showing them his great mercy.

 

Implications of Believer’s New Identity and Calling in the Contemporary Context 

The fact that believers as living stones are being build up into a spiritual house should cause the church today to value community because it is God’s idea. Each individual person finds identity and purpose in the unity of the entire body. In this spiritual house each person belongs and shares the identity as living stones. It should be highlighted here that for a christian community to flourish Jesus should occupy the center stage. It is unfortunate that sometimes Jesus is relegated to the periphery and other factors like politics, socio-economic status or a charismatic figure become the rallying factor in fellowships and churches. For a lasting and meaningful fellowship, Jesus should remain the cornerstone. This is a key factor that DeSilva underscores by noting that, “the privilege of being God’s house and priesthood draws the hearers in the centripetal direction Peter desires—toward Christ and one another, committed to Christian community—and offsets the centrifugal forces of society’s pressures.”[72] Oneness in a community helps its constituent members manage the external pressures from the world.

Another application point that comes from this pericope is the redefinition of what it means to be “God’s people.” Peter redefined what it means to be ‘God’s people’ by showing that all those who believe, whether Jews and Gentiles, are now God’s special possession. He then refers them as: a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possesion, and a people who have received mercy. Although he was a Jew by birth, he did not advantage Jews or his heritage in his arguments as a special people of God over others. Therefore, in a context where the issue of negative ethnicity abounds (even in churches), we need to redefine what it means to be “God’s people”. Peter acknowledges that there are only two races: those who have come to Christ and those who have not, those who have received mercy and those who have not. The rest of other distinctions misses God’s view of things.

Conclusion

Through this study 1 Peter 2:4-10 has clearly highlighted that Christ, the one chosen and precious in God’s sight, has an intimate relationship with believers. Believers, as living stones, are being build up into a spiritual house to be holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable by God. Peter’s in this passage breathes comfort and encouragement, even today, to those who have come to Christ, believed in him, and obeyed his word. The world may alienate, shame, discriminate, or reject them but in God’s eyes they are precious. Assuredly, honor belongs to those who believe but to those who do not believe shame and destruction is their allotment. Knowing this should cause believers to fulfil the purpose of their calling- declaring God’s excellencies in an alien world.

Bibliography

Achtemeier, Paul J., and Eldon Jay Epp. 1 Peter: A Commentary on First Peter. Hermeneia–a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis, Minn: Fortress Press, 1996.

Aland, Kurt, and Barbara Aland, eds. The Greek New Testament. 4., Ed., [4. Dr.]. Stuttgart: Dt. Bibelges, 1998.

Beale, Gregory K, and Donald A. Carson. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Baker Academic Apollos, 2009.

Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed., Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2005.

Clowney, Edmund P. The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Pr., 1992.

DeSilva, David Arthur. An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods & Ministry Formation. Downers Grove: Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press; Apollos, 2004.

Elliott, John Hall, ed. 1 Peter: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. 1st ed., The Anchor Bible, v. 37B. New York: Doubleday, 2000.

Hagner, Donald Alfred. The New Testament: A Historical and Theological Introduction. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2012.

Jobes, Karen H. 1 Peter. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005.

Mbuvi, Andrew Mũtũa. Temple, Exile, and Identity in 1 Peter. Library of New Testament Studies 345. London; New York: T & T Clark, 2007.

McKelvey, R. J. The New Temple: The Church in the New Testament. Oxford Theological Monographs. London: Oxford U.P, 1969.

McKnight, Scott. 1 Peter: The NIV Application Commentary from Biblical Text.to Contemporary Life. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Pub. House, 1996.

Michaels, J. Ramsey, David A. Hubbard, Glenn W. Barker, Bruce Manning Metzger, and J. Ramsey Michaels. 1 Peter. Word Biblical Commentary, [General ed.: David A. Hubbard; Glenn W. Barker. Old Testament ed.: John D. W. Watts. New Testament ed.: Ralph P. Martin] ; Vol. 49. Waco, Tex: Word Books, Publ, 2004.

Ngewa, Samuel. Companion to Greek Exegesis. Lecture Notes Africa International University. Unpublished, Nairobi, 2018.

Pietersma, Albert, and Benjamin G. Wright, eds. A New English Translation of the Septuagint: And the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included under That Title. New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Wallace, Daniel B., and Daniel B. Wallace. The Basics of New Testament Syntax: An Intermediate Greek Grammar. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 2000.

 

Footnotes Section: 

[1] Paul J. Achtemeier and Eldon Jay Epp, 1 Peter: A Commentary on First Peter, Hermeneia–a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, Minn: Fortress Press, 1996), 29–36. Achtemeier here discusses in considerable detail the probable nature of persecutions at this time by giving three categories: a general official persecution, official local persecution, and unofficial local persecutions. Whichever the case suffering was evident.

[2] Donald Alfred Hagner, The New Testament: A Historical and Theological Introduction (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2012), 688.

[3] Edmund P Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 19.

[4] Ibid., 20.

[5] Ibid., 20.

[6] Achtemeier and Epp, 1 Peter, 35.

[7] D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2005), 644.

[8] Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter, 20.

[9] Ibid., 16.

[10] Ibid., 23.

[11] Ibid., 23.

[12] Karen H. Jobes, 1 Peter, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), 144.

[13] Simultaneous participle. The action is simultaneous to the action of the main verb (οἰκοδομεῖσθε- being built up) in verse 5

[14] Accusative of direct object

[15] Used in this case as a predicate participle. Also, the concept of ‘living’ is applied elsewhere in the scriptures: living water, living bread (Jn. 4:10; 5:51); living hope, living God, and living stones in 1 Peter.

[16] J. Ramsey Michaels et al., 1 Peter, Word Biblical Commentary, [General ed.: David A. Hubbard; Glenn W. Barker. Old Testament ed.: John D. W. Watts. New Testament ed.: Ralph P. Martin] ; Vol. 49 (Waco, Tex: Word Books, Publ, 2004), 98.

[17] Genitive of agency.

[18] Complementary participle. As an extensive perfect- it focuses on the ongoing rejection that began in the past.

[19] Dative of reference/respect.

[20] With the use of παρὰ these two accusatives (ἐκλεκτὸν and ἔντιμον) are accusatives of comparison.

[21] Nominative of apposition, explaining further the nominative αὐτοὶ.

[22] Modal use of participle to express manner, “as…”.

[23] This is the main verb of the participle προσερχόμενοι in verse 4. I am taking it as a passive indicative to mean “you are being built up”.

[24] John Hall Elliott, ed., 1 Peter: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, 1st ed., The Anchor Bible, v. 37B (New York: Doubleday, 2000), 153.

[25] Accusative of direct object.

[26] Jobes, 1 Peter, 151.

[27] R. J. McKelvey, The New Temple: The Church in the New Testament, Oxford Theological Monographs (London: Oxford U.P, 1969).

[28] The word can be taken as an epexegetical accusative which expounds further on the preceding accusatives; alternatively, it can be an accusative absolute, that is, because of its independence from the rest of verse, occupying the place of nominative.

[29] Dative of direct object.

[30] Genitive of agent.

[31] Epexegetical genitive, further explaining Ἰησοῦ.

[32] Andrew Mũtũa Mbuvi, Temple, Exile, and Identity in 1 Peter, Library of New Testament Studies 345 (London; New York: T & T Clark, 2007), 37.

[33] Static present

[34] Dative of place

[35] Dative of direct object

[36] Historical/dramatic present- action in the past dramatized as if happening now.

[37] Dative of place.

[38] Substantival participle

[39] The construction μὴ + aorist subjunctive (καταισχυνθῇ) is an expression of prohibition; those who trust in God have never been put to shame and they shall never be put to shame.

[40] The LXX translations I am giving here and thereafter in quotation marks are based on the NETS: Albert Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright, eds., A New English Translation of the Septuagint: And the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included under That Title (New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

[41] Gregory K Beale and Donald A Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic ; Baker Academic Apollos, 2009), 1026.

[42] Perfective present- the focus is on the present reality of a past action; attribute usage of a participle.

[43] Nominative subject.

[44] Elliott, 1 Peter, 427.

[45] Substantival use of participle.

[46] Is an anarthrous noun, the context demands that a definite article be supplied.

[47] Constative aorist.

[48] Substantival use of participle.

[49] Resultative aorist.

[50] Accusative of termination with focus on the result.

[51] Genitive of direct object.

[52] Nominative subject.

[53] Genitive of cause.

[54] Durative present

[55] Dative of direct object

[56] Simultaneous participle.

[57] Inceptive aorist.

[58] Scot McKnight, 1 Peter: The NIV Application Commentary from Biblical Text to Contemporary Life, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Pub. House, 1996), 109.

[59] Hagner, The New Testament, 695.

[60] Jobes, 1 Peter, 159.

[61] Ibid., 160.

[62] Beale and Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 1031.

[63] Accusative of termination with focus on relationship.

[64] Subjunctive expressing purpose: there is the use of ὅπως+ Subjunctive.

[65] Resultative aorist- “who has called you” as opposed inceptive “who called you”

[66] Accusative of termination with focus on present reality.

[67] Qualitative genitive- God’s marvelous light as opposed to any other type of light.

[68] Beale and Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 1031.

[69] Qualitative genitive. People belonging to God as opposed to belonging to oneself or other persons.

[70] Intensive perfect- focusing on state of things. As a participle it is antecedent to the action of the main verb.

[71] Resultative aorist.

[72] David Arthur DeSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods & Ministry Formation (Downers Grove, Ill. : Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press ; Apollos, 2004), 849.

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Praise be to God- Exegesis of Ephesians 1:1-10

eph 3

The New Testament letter of Ephesians is one of the profound books with foundational teaching for the body of Christ. The letter addresses both theological and practical themes that remain relevant to the contemporary church. In chapter one to chapter four, the author deals with theological truths needed by the church so that believers in Christ “will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). The next section, chapter four to six, deals with ethical implications of the teachings presented in the preceding chapters to the inclusive Christian community that comprised of both Jews and Gentiles.

The theological section of the letter primarily addresses soteriological, Christological, ecclesiological and ethical/practical concern in day-day life of a Christian. The author expounds on the doctrine of salvation in chapter one by highlighting key terms like predestination, adoption, and redemption. In chapter two he deals with the doctrine of the church and addresses critical issues such as unity and universality of Christ.

The first part of chapter one (1:1-14) begins with a hymn of praise to God for the spiritual blessing he has bestowed to all those in Christ. The rest of the chapter (1:15-23) is Paul’s passionate prayer for the saints at Ephesus. The believers in this church were already known for their faith and love and Paul further prays spiritual blessings upon them. This piece presents a verse by verse exegesis of Ephesians 1:1-10 with a focus on the Pauline metaphor υἱοθεσία (adoption as sons) in Ephesians 1:5. The ethical and ecclesiological implications will also be explored. We will first begin by looking at the background information of this letter.

Authorship

Traditionally, the authorship of Ephesians has been attributed to Apostle Paul. This view is strongly attested by the Church Fathers like Irenaeus of Lyons, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian. Also, references to Ephesians as a letter of Paul by Ignatus of Antioch as Pauline before his martyrdom in A.D. 115; Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna, as well as the authors of the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas strengthens the claim of Pauline authorship.[1] Further, internal evidence support Pauline authorship. The author identifies himself as Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God (1:1); we also know from the letter that he was in prison because of the gospel (3:1, 4:1). The author makes clear his calling- he is a servant of the gospel to the Gentiles (3:1-9). This description fits Apostle Paul who in many instances pointed out that his calling was primarily to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:7).

But even with above textual attestation, Pauline authorship of Ephesians is still disputed by some scholars today. The debate revolves around words, phrases and stylistic features that are deemed as non-Pauline. These critics cite significant differences between Pauline letters and Ephesians to support their claims. They observe that unusually the letter to Ephesians do not have an introduction thanksgiving and mention of ministry companions, something that is common among Pauline letters that are undisputed.[2]Considering these objections, there are still good grounds to uphold the traditional view that Paul is the author of the letter to Ephesians.

Recipients

The recipients of the letter are identified as believes, in Christ, who are in Ephesus (1:1). (more comments in verse 1 on the exegesis section concerning the reservations critics have concerning the phrase, ‘In Ephesus’). The title also depict that the letter was written to Ephesians. But this is also debated because the title may have been added at a later date, perhaps second century, by copyist or scribes in seeing the need of a title for his letter.[3] Therefore the title “Ephesians” is not a guarantee that the recipients were Ephesians.

The issue of determining recipients of the letter has also raised more problems that relate to the question of authorship. From the book of Acts we know that Paul spent about three years in Ephesus doing ministry (Acts 18:19-21; 19:1-20; 20:31). Together with other ministry companions they established the church in Ephesus. One of the basic assumptions one can make is that within the period of three years Paul must have become well acquainted with the believers in this church and developed intimate relationships with the congregants. But critics have pointed out from the text that the author of Ephesians seems to be unaware of his recipients. For instance, in Ephesians 1:15; 3:2-3; 4:21, the author and recipients do not know each other personally. At least they have heard of one another and are dependent on what is told or written of them. The second objection is that nothing is made specific in terms of conditions or events in the city or church as (as Paul would do in other letters).[4] The author addresses the universal church without laying an emphasis on specifics of this church or city.

But putting all the above views into consideration, the case for Ephesians as the addressees of Paul holds more evidence. Ephesus was a big city and Paul might have written to one of the churches he founded in his three-year period in this great Asia Minor city. The fact that the letter is not personal could be because Paul expected the letter to be circulated among the churches in Ephesus.

Date

The dating of Ephesians depends on one’s inclinations on the authorship and recipients. A choice of Pauline authorship will place the dating of this letter during the period of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome (3:1; 4:1) which is around A.D 60-61. This is the period when other Prison Epistles were written by Paul. Those who dispute Pauline authorship approximate the date to be between A.D 70 and 90, a period which the Pauline letters are thought to have been collected.[5]Based on my inclination toward Pauline authorship, I would favor a date in the early 60s; that is, toward the end of Paul’s life.

In the following section we will look at the exegesis of Ephesians 1:1-10 and then in another blog focus on the huiothesia metaphor in Ephesians 1:5. In the exegesis part, I will give the Greek text (UBS 4th Edition) and offer my translation then a discussion of exegetical issues. The motivations to explore the Pauline metaphor is based on my research interests on the role of υἱοθεσία in understanding Paul’s theology.

Verse by Verse Exegesis of Ephesians 1:1-10

Greek text, verse 1: Παῦλος ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν [ἐν Ἐφέσῳ] καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ·

Translation: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God to the saints who are in Ephesus and to the faithful in Christ.

The letter to Ephesians begins with the recognition of the author in verse 1 as Παῦλος. He identifies himself as being ἀπόστολος[6]Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ[7], an apostle of Jesus Christ. His apostleship was received διὰ θελήματος[8]θεοῦ[9] (through the will of God). Paul’s apologetic claim as being an apostle was necessary perhaps because he was not among the twelve disciples of Jesus who lived and witnessed the ministry of Christ including his death, resurrection, and ascension. But he now clarifies his apostolic claim; it was not by his will/choice but by God’s will.

The recipients of the letter are referred to as τοῖς ἁγίοις (the saints/holy) and πιστοῖς[10] (faithful/believing ones). Believers have been granted this status because of their union with Christ; they are said to be ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ,[11]in Christ Jesus. It should be remembered that this was a mixed congregation of both Jews and Gentiles, poor and rich; but because of their faith in Christ, they have now been united in Christ as one despite their cultural, ethnic or religious backgrounds. Their newfound status was not based on their rich religious backgrounds (Jews) or anything in their pagan background (of the Gentiles); what counted was being in Christ. Therefore it is true that “no man is a saint by personal effort; sainthood comes by the consecrating act of God. However, the soul that is ‘set apart’ apart’ by God’s grace has been made ‘holy’ because he has knowingly and willingly surrendered his life to God.”[12]Surprisingly, Paul also referred to believers in the church of Corinth with their imperfections as “sanctified” (1Cor. 1:2).

The geographical location where the recipients of the letter were situated is indicated  as ἐν Ἐφέσῳ; but it is indicated in parentheses because this phrase is omitted in some manuscripts. Barth comments,

“These words are missing in the olderst available Greek MS of Ephesians, also in the original script of codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus {Papyrus 46 and the fourth-century codices Vaticanus (B) and Sinaiticus (S) before the later was corrected}, and in the Minuscule 1739 which appears to have been copied from an early text. The Parenthesized words were also absent from the texts used by Marcion, Tertullian, Origen, and Gregory the Great. But the Syriac and Latin versions (that go back to second century) and the vast majority of extant Greek MSS do contain them.[13]

Therefore there are evidence in either side of the argument but there is more plausible proof that the phrase ‘in Ephesus’ was authentic. As noted, verse one highlights the author and his claim to apostleship as being through the will of God, the recipients and their relationship with Christ and the place the recipients live in.

Greek Text, verse 2: χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

 Translation: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Apostle Paul then passes his greetings to his addressees (ὑμῖν[14]) by wishing them χάρις and εἰρήνη[15]that is ἀπὸ[16]θεοῦ πατρὸς[17]ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ[18]Χριστοῦ[19](from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul uses the personal pronoun ‘our’ (ἡμῶν) to express the fact that all those “in Christ” share the same Father. There are other biblical references where God is referred to as Father (2 Sam. 7:14; Jer. 31:9; Hos. 1:10, 11:1; Jn. 17; 2 Cor 6:18). Fatherhood of God encompasses all those in Christ; that is, irrespective of their backgrounds. In the greetings he uses the Greek χάρις and the Jewish εἰρήνη or (Hebrew-shallom). The two words (grace and peace) are clarified,

“Grace encompasses all the providential acts of God on behalf of undeserving men to initiate and to sustain a saving relationship with Him. Peace, the twin gift, is a state of deep satisfaction and settledness. It is divinely created in the hearts and minds of men who have responded to to the redemptive overtures of God through His Son, Christ Jesus.[20]

It is worth noting that the greeting is a common formula in his writings (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; Col. 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:2). This verse marks the end of the introductory part of his letter.

Greek Text, verse 3: Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ εὐλογήσας ἡμᾶς ἐν πάσῃ εὐλογίᾳ πνευματικῇ ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ.

Translation: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

Paul now begins his letter ascribing praise/blessing to God and Father of “our Lord Jesus Christ,” Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ[21] τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.[22] The adjective Εὐλογητὸς can be rendered “praised” or “worthy of praise.” The phrase ὁ εὐλογήσας[23] ἡμᾶς[24] refers to the reason why God, the Father our Lord should be praised/blessed. He should be praised because he has blessed the faithful ἐν πάσῃ εὐλογίᾳ πνευματικῇ.[25] Believers in Christ have been given all spiritual blessings ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις[26]ἐν Χριστῷ[27](in the heavenly places in Christ). Here is the logic: the recipients would have asked why they should praise God the Father, and Paul’s answer would be- because he has blessed the saints with every spiritual blessing. Then they might have further asked, if that is the case then where are those blessings and in what way are we blessed; Paul would also respond by saying the blessings God has given them are spiritual and are in the heavenly places (where Christ is seated). He further adds that those blessings to them are specifically in reference to their union with Christ (because they are in Christ).

Greek Text: 4 καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ.

Translation of verse 4 : just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love.

In the same manner believers in Christ have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ (verse 3), they have also been ἐξελέξατο[28] (chosen) in him, ἐν αὐτῷ.[29] The phrase πρὸ[30] καταβολῆ[31] κόσμου[32] refers to the time before creation of the world. It looks at the time-past when God the Father began his salvific work to those that he chose. Believers at Ephesus will certainly be amazed at this lofty knowledge; and at the same time be encouraged by this revelation in knowing that their present experience in Christ did not begin in the present or recent past but in the eternity past.

But apostle Paul is also quick to add that this act of God was for a purpose. The purpose is given in the second part of the verse: εἶναι[33] ἡμᾶς ἁγίους[34] καὶ ἀμώμους[35] κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ,[36] (to be holy and blameless before him in love). Believers in Christ were blessed and chosen by God the Father so that they can be holy and blameless before Him. It is worth nothing that in verse 1 he had referred them as “saints and faithful”; this was a status they achieved because of their union with Christ. But in this verse, he points out that their calling was (continually) to be holy and blameless. Their heavenly Father who has blessed them with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ is holy and so they should be holy. Their status which was achieved by their union with Christ is also a calling to be continually cultivated. Just as their choosing was achieved before the foundations of the world they still needed to actualize it by living out holy and blameless lives. Therefore God’s work was manifest in their lives by His spiritual blessings and in choosing them to be holy and blameless.

Greek Text, verse 5: προορίσας ἡμᾶς εἰς υἱοθεσίαν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς αὐτόν, κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ.

Translation: He predestined us into adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.

Paul has emphatically revealed that God the Father has blessed the saints in Christ with every spiritual blessing and chosen them to be holy and blameless in his sight. But He has even done more! He has  προορίσας ἡμᾶς, predestined the believing ones in Christ. God has determined in advance believers εἰς υἱοθεσίαν[37] διὰ Ἰησοῦ[38] Χριστοῦ[39] εἰς αὐτόν.[40] The work of predestination leads to a newfound status for believers: the status of being a son, God’s son. And this is κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν[41] τοῦ θελήματος[42] αὐτοῦ.[43] Predestination of believers achieves them the status of sonship through Jesus, which is accomplished according to the good pleasure of God’s will/decision.

The family metaphor, υἱοθεσία, deserves careful consideration because Paul in this context already used other complementary terminologies for example referring to God as Father. Later in the epistle he also brings up the idea of inheritance as a legal implication of his being a son (Eph. 1:14; and in other epistles where υἱοθεσία is used, (Rom. 8:17; Gal. 4:1-5). In the upcoming blog, I will dig deeper into the Old Testament and the Graeco-Roman context explore the origin and the use of this metaphor. But more importantly to ascertain what background informed his Paul’s use of the term. But we will close this verse by saying, Paul wants believers in Christ to know that they are rich because of the every spiritual blessing given them in Christ. Also, they were chosen in God before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless; and in this verse, believers are reminded that they now have a status of a son; that is, by God’s predestination through Christ. The sonship status into God’s family makes both Jews and Gentiles equal and co-heirs with Christ.

Greek Text, verse 6: εἰς ἔπαινον δόξης τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἧς ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ.

Translation: to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

In verse 6, Paul expresses praise to God εἰς ἔπαινον[44] for what he has accomplished for believers through Christ in accordance to the pleasure of His good will. The phrase δόξης[45] τῆς χάριτος[46] αὐτοῦ (of the glory of his grace) expounds on the greatness of the grace of God in accomplishing all that has been described in verse 3-5. God has freely given, ἐχαρίτωσεν,[47] believers his grace; in other words, in accordance with his pleasure and will. I have translated the phrase ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ as ‘in the One he loves’; other Bible translations have: ‘in the beloved’ (KJV), ‘in the One he loves’ (NIV), and ‘in the Beloved’ (NAS). The Son whom God the Father loves is Jesus Christ (Matt. 3:17; Col. 1:13). The verb ἠγαπημένῳ (perfect, passive, participle, masculine, singular) can be taken as a substantival participle; and the one referred to in this context is Christ. It is in Christ that God the Father has liberally manifested the splendor of his grace.

Greek text, verse 7: ἐν ᾧ ἔχομεν τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν διὰ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ, τὴν ἄφεσιν τῶν παραπτωμάτων, κατὰ τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ,

Translation: In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.

Verse 7 explicitly highlights the role of Jesus in God’s overall plan of salvation. According to verse 3 every spiritual blessing was given to believers in Christ. In verse 5, adoption as sons was accomplished through Jesus Christ. In verse 6, God has freely given his grace in the One he loves. In whom (ἐν ᾧ- referring to Christ, the One God loves), ἔχομεν[48] τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν[49] διὰ[50] τοῦ αἵματος[51] αὐτοῦ.[52] The blood of Jesus brings about redemption of humanity. The second part of the verse elaborates further on redemption. The redemption here refers to τὴν ἄφεσιν τῶν παραπτωμάτων[53] (the forgiveness of sins) that comes through τὸ πλοῦτος[54] τῆς χάριτος[55] αὐτοῦ.[56] The work of Jesus is complementary to the work of God the Father. In Christ there is redemption, the forgiveness of sins which is necessary to the life of the believer because the purpose of God the Father from the beginning was that those in Christ be holy and blameless (verse 4).

Greek text, verse 8-9: ἧς ἐπερίσσευσεν εἰς ἡμᾶς ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ καὶ φρονήσει. 9 γνωρίσας ἡμῖν τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ, κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν αὐτοῦ ἣν προέθετο ἐν αὐτῷ

Translation: 8.which he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding. 9. he made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which he purposed in Him (Christ).

In Verse 8, Paul states that the riches of God’s grace has been ἐπερίσσευσεν[57] (lavished) on believers. In possession of πάσῃ σοφίᾳ καὶ φρονήσει[58] (all wisdom and understanding), Jesus made known to us they mystery of the will of God the Father- γνωρίσας[59] ἡμῖν τὸ μυστήριον[60] τοῦ θελήματος[61] αὐτοῦ.[62] And that is according to good pleasure of God the Father which he purposed in Him (Christ), κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν[63] αὐτοῦ[64] ἣν προέθετο[65] ἐν αὐτῷ.[66] Therefore Christ came to reveal the mystery of the will of God the Father; he had no independent task from the Father in relation to salvation. The work of each Person of the Trinity does not contradict each other or independent of each other but complementary to each other.

Greek Text, verse 10: εἰς οἰκονομίαν τοῦ πληρώματος τῶν καιρῶν, ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι τὰ πάντα ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ, τὰ ἐπὶ τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς· ἐν αὐτῷ.

Translation: for administration at the fullness of time, summing up all things in Christ, the things in the heaven and things on earth, in him.

In verse 10, the phrase εἰς οἰκονομίαν is an accusative of termination with purpose as the focus. The revelation of the mystery of God was to be effective in its administration at the fullness of time τοῦ πληρώματος[67] τῶν καιρῶν.[68] And the fullness of time will bring about the ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι[69] τὰ πάντα[70] ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ[71] (summing up all things in Christ). That will involve τὰ ἐπὶ τοῖς οὐρανοῖς[72] καὶ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς[73] ἐν αὐτῷ.[74] This shows the purpose of making know the mystery of His will, bringing everything under one head-Christ. Keener notes,

“It was common Jewish belief that history was moving through many stages to climax, when everything would be put under God’s rule. Some philosophers argued that the whole universe was permeated by God and would be absorbed back into him. Like the Jewish writers who adapted the language of such philosophers, Paul believes the history moves toward a climax of subordination to God, not absorption into him.”[75]

Therefore at the fullness of time, all things in heaven and on earth will be put under Christ. At the summation of all things, every knee will bow down and every tongue confess his lordship (Phil. 2:10,11). All that God began doing in the eternity past, (blessing with all spiritual blessings, choosing us for holiness, predestining us to adoption as sons), will completely and finally be brought to an end at the fullness of time when all things in heaven and on earth will be placed under his authority. The END.

References (footnotes):

[1] R. E. Howard et.al. “Galatians through Philemon,” In Beacon Bible Commentary,” Eds. A.F. Harper et al. Vol. IX. 19-125. (Kansas Missouri: Beacon Hill press, 1965),129.

[2] D. A. Carson, and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005), 482-483.

[3] Howard et.al., Galatians through Philemon, 131.

[4] Markus Barth. “Ephesians 1-3: New Translation with Introduction and Commentary.” In The Anchor Bible. (Garden City, New York: Doubleday& Company, 1974), 10.

[5] Carson,and Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 487.

[6] Nominative subject.

[7] It can be qualitative genitive to emphasize the fact that he is an apostle of Christ Jesus; he is not a witness according to people or himself (as self-proclaimed apostle). It can also be construed as a source Genitive- to emphasize the fact that his apostleship originates from Christ.

[8] This can be taken as genitive of means. The will of God is the means in which he received his apostleship.

[9] This can be understood best as a qualitative genitive.

[10] Dative of indirect object.

[11] Dative of association. They are referred to as holy and faithful not because of their merit but because of their association with Christ (which has brought a union between the two parties.

[12] Howard et.al., Galatians through Philemon, 140.

[13] Barth, Ephesians 1-3, 67.

[14] Dative of indirect object.

[15] Nominative subjects.

[16] Genitive of source.

[17] Epexegetical genitive- explaining further on the noun θεοῦ.

[18] Source genitive- making God/Jesus Christ as the source of grace and peace. It can also be understood as qualitative genitive to bring the idea that he wishes them God’s grace and peace as opposes to grace and peace that men can offer.

[19] Epexegetical genitive- further explaining Ἰησοῦ.

[20] Howard et.al., Galatians through Philemon, 131.

[21] Granville Sharp rule applies here; the two nouns of the same case ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ are connected by καὶ, the first noun has an article and the scond do not. Therefore πατὴρ referes to the same person (ὁ θεὸς)

[22] Epexegetical genitive explaining further concerning the nominative subject (identified as God and Father).

[23] Adjectival participle (in this case substantival). As Resultative aorist emphasis is put on the conclusion of the action.

[24] This personal pronoun refers to saints and faithful ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ (according to verse 1).

[25] Dative of reference (blessings in reference to that which is spiritual).

[26] I have rendered it here as a dative of place (hence- heavenly places). It could also be taken as a dative of sphere to bring the idea of blessings- in the heavenly realm.

[27] Dative of reference (in reference to Christ).

[28] Inceptive aorist-the focus is at the beginning of choosing.

[29] Dative of reference- to mean, chosen in reference to Him/God.

[30] Genitive of time.

[31] Subjective genitive.

[32] Objective genitive.

[33] Infinitive of purpose.

[34] Predicate accusative.

[35] Predicate accusative.

[36] Dative of reference or manner or reference can fit here-In reference to his love or in the manner of his love.

[37] Accusative of termination with focus on status. Predestination leads to a God-given status of being a son.

[38] Genitive of agency. Jesus Christ is the agent that makes adoption as son possible.

[39] Epexegetical genitive.

[40] Accusative of termination with focus on purpose.

[41] Accusative of manner.

[42] Objective Genitive.

[43] Subjective genitive.

[44] Accusative of termination with the purpose as focus.

[45] Objective genitive.

[46] Subjective genitive.

[47] Constative aorist.

[48] Static present- with focus on the state of things.

[49] Direct object accusative.

[50] Genitive of means.

[51] Objective genitive.

[52] Subjective Genitive.

[53] Epexegetical genitive.

[54] Accusative absolute.

[55] Objective genitive.

[56] Subjective genitive.

[57] Dramatic aorist.

[58] Dative of cause.

[59] Complementary participle.

[60] Accusative absolute.

[61] Objective genitive.

[62] Subjective genitive

[63] Adverbial accusative with manner as focus.

[64] Genitive of possession.

[65] Inceptive aorist.

[66] Dative of indirect object

[67] This can be taken as objective genitive or genitive of measure.

[68] This can be taken as subjective genitive or Genitive of time.

[69] Subject infinitive.

[70] Adverbial accusative with measure as focus.

[71] Dative of indirect object.

[72] Dative of place.

[73] Genitive of place.

[74] Dative of indirect object.

[75] Craig S. Keener. The IVP Bible Background Commentary. (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1993) 542.

Exegesis of Psalm 4:1-9: Confidence in the Character of the Lord for Deliverance in Times of Trouble

heb 2

Introduction:

The book of Psalms is a poetic literature with diverse collection of songs written by different authors in different periods of time. Throughout history individual and corporate worshippers have used Psalms in their worship; “in the history of Israel and the Christian church the Psalms have had extensive use in both public and private worship which is very much a reflection of the original purpose of these sacred poems” (Bullock 2001, 23). The Psalter is divided into five “books”: Ps. 1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106, 107-150 (Longman III and Dillard 2006, 254).

The authorship of the Psalter cannot be easily determined. This is because the written texts in the book of Psalms must have existed many generations before they were compiled and circulated; “it was first prayed, sung, and spoken by many extremely different kinds of people. Only later, at the point where these many voices gathered in worship, did it receive the form that is normative for all and accessible to all” (Westermann 1980 15-160). Furthermore, the preposition לְ that is attached to names in the superscriptions of many psalms remain ambiguous because it has variety of possible meanings. The names associated to the Psalms are: David, Solomon, Moses, Asaph, the sons of Korah, and the two Ezrahites. There are other 28 psalms, mostly in Book 5, have no name(s) attached to them at all (Bullock 2001, 25). Psalm 4 is attributed to David.

Sometimes the historical context of some psalms is indicated; but the context for Psalm 4 is not given. This has led some commentators to suggest that the story of Absalom in 2 Sam. 15:13 is the background of Psalm 4. Other commentators suggest it to have been a prayer of distress due to crop failures. These two opinions could be true but in my opinion, it is good to approach the psalm knowing that the author had more than one enemy and also that the psalm applied to different situations in the lives of God’s people.

Psalm 4 is an individual lament. A lament/complaint is “the petition by individuals as they approach God with their particular needs” (Estes 2005, 165).

exegesis

An Exegesis of Psalm 4:1-9

As stated above, Psalm 4:1-9 deals with a prayer for deliverance based on confidence in God’s character. The psalmist confidently prays to the righteous God for deliverance from his enemies who have turned his glory to shame; he has seen God answer his petition in the past and now calls on the godly to trust in the Lord to receive inner peace, joy and security. This is developed in nine verses beginning with a superscription that attributes the psalm to David (v. 1). Psalm 4 is divided into five parts. In the first part (v. 2) the psalmist prays to God based on His righteous character and what he had done in the past (hearing and answering his prayers). The second part (v. 3-4) points out what David’s enemies had done; they had turned his glory into shame by accusing him falsely, and he now calls them to know that God has set apart the godly and answers their prayers. In the third section (v. 5-6) the psalmist exhorts in a series of imperatives in anticipation to God’s deliverance: to stand in awe, not to sin, search their hearts, be still, offer sacrifice of righteousness, and trust in the Lord. Further, the fourth section (v. 7) enlarges the scope of this individual lament to include other godly people that are equally anticipating for God’s deliverance and blessings. The fifth section (v. 8-9) ends the psalm not in a lament mood but in a joyful and confident mood. The psalmist confidently states that by trusting in the Lord alone the godly receive inner peace, joy and security.

Superscription (4:1)

“To the chief musician. With stringed instrument. A psalm of David” (v. 1).

The superscription on this psalm gives some literary information and musical terms that relates to the psalm. The word לַמְנַצֵּ֥חַ can be translated “to the chief musician/ choirmaster”. This expression occurs in the title of fifty five psalms and in Habakkuk 3:19. The verb from which this noun is derived (נַצֵּ֥חַ) means “to act as overseer, superintendent, director” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 663).

The noun בִּנְגִינ֗וֹת can be translated “with stringed instrument”; with the preposition בִּ meaning “with”. It also occurs several times in the Psalter (Ps. 6; 54; 55; 67; 76). When the noun is translated as “stringed accompaniment” it indicates that these psalms “were to be recited or sung to the strains of stringed instruments” (Bullock 2001, 29; Purkiser 1967, 150).

The word מִזְמ֥וֹר is used fifty seven times in the Psalter to mean “psalm” or “song” depicting the literary genre of the psalm. In the Septuagint (LXX) it is rendered as psalmos, from which we get the word ‘psalm’ (Bullock 2001, 28).

The phrase לְדָוִֽד occurs seventy three times in Psalms. The preposition לְ can be translated in different ways: “to, for, in regard to” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 510). Thus Psalm 4 can be rendered as, to/for/in regard to David. This makes it hard to authoritatively conclude that David was the author though we also know he was a composer of psalms. Personally, I take names prefixed by the prepositions as the name of the author(s). I concur with Calvin as quoted by Bullock on taking David as the author unless otherwise proven, “we understand the term in the authorial sense unless there are indications to the contrary, whether in the superscription or the content of the poem itself” (Bullock 2001, 25).

  1. The psalmist confidently makes a petition to God based on His righteous character, and based on what He has done in the past in hearing and answering his prayers (4:2)

Verse 2 can be divided into two sections. In the first part (v.2a) the psalmist makes his petition to the righteous God. In the second part (v.2b) the reason the psalmist petitions his case to God is because in the past God has heard and answered his prayers.

A. The psalmist confidently petitions his case to God based on His righteous character (4:2a).

“Hear me when I call O God of my righteousness” (v. 2a).

The psalmist begins the lament by making a petition to God (in vocative), a typical beginning of a lament/complaint psalm. He calls on God, עֲנֵ֤נִי(hear me). The imperative used is an imperative of request (Gesenius 1910, sec. 110a). He implores on God to respond to his prayers with the first-person pronoun “me” referiing to the psalmist. He expects God to hear him (בְּקָרְאִ֡י) “when he calls”. The preposition בּ introduces a temporal clause (Chisholm 1998, 114). David refers to God as אֱלֹ֨הֵ֤י צִדְקִ֗י  (God of my righteousness). Righteousness here is an attribute of God; it can also be rendered as the One “who vindicates me” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 841 2e). He is the God who will vindicate him from his enemies. God has also made the psalmist righteous and that is the basis of him saying “God of my righteousness”. The genitive in this phrase is abstract subjective genitive (Arnold and Choi 2003, 2.2.4). The revelation of God’s character as righteous serves as the first basis of psalmist’s confidence on God.

B. The psalmist confidently makes his petition to God based on what God had done in the past by hearing and answering his prayers (4:2b).

“When I was in distress you relieved me, had mercy upon me and heard my prayer” (v. 2b).

The second part of verse 2 is a reflection of God’s dealings in the past. Apart from trusting in God’s character (righteous), the psalmist also bases his confidence on what God has previously done to him. David remembered God’s deliverance in the past when he was in: “distress, narrowness, dread, want” (בַּ֭צָּר) (Holladay 1971, 310). The preposition (translated as “when”) is a temporal clause; but בַּ֭צָּר is used as accusative of state, describing the condition of the subject (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 10.2.2d).

Specifically, after he had prayed in his distress, God did two things in the past. First, God enlarged him (הִרְחַ֣בְתָּ- hiphil, perfect, 2nd person, masculine, singular). The verb means to “be widened, enlarged, relieved, and expanded with joy” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 931). The use of the perfect is definite past (Joüon and Muraoka 2006, sec. 112c). The second person pronoun “you” refers to God, and David refers himself with the first person pronoun “me”. The focus of the psalmist is God; his deliverance will come not from himself but from the righteous God. The pronoun לִּ֑י is a double accusative (direct object and datival accusative) (Merwe, Naudé, and Kroeze 2002, 243-44). Even in this state of distress the psalmist is not crushed in spirit but confident on God who had formerly intervened in his distress to answer his prayers.

Secondly, God not only heard his prayers but also answered. The two imperative חָ֜נֵּ֗נִי “have mercy upon me” and וּשְׁמַ֥ע “and hear” are imperatives of request (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 34.4b). The psalmist had experienced deliverance from a merciful God in the past distress and now he not petitions for the same to happen again. ‘My prayer’ (תְּפִלָּתִֽי) is a genitive of the thing possessed (Arnold and Choi 2003, sec. 2.2.1). There are other instances in psalms associated with David where he had cried to God and the Lord answered him (Ps. 6:8; 118:5). In these two areas God is revealed as the One who relieves, is merciful, and hears prayers. By answering the prayers of the psalmist again, the Lord will be vindicating him.

2. The Psalmist points out what his enemies had done; they turned his glory into shame and by falsely accusing him; he also calls his opponents to knowledge on what God has done in setting the godly apart and in answering their prayers when they call to Him (4:3-4).

Verse 3 highlights who David’s enemies are, and what they have done in turning his glory into shame and by accusing him falsely. In verse 4 the psalmist calls his opponents to commit to memory what God has done in setting apart the godly and listening to their prayers when they call to Him.

A. The psalmist states what his enemies have done to him; they have turned his glory into shame and have falsely accused him (4:3).

“O you sons of men, how long will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love vanity and seek after falsehood. Selah” (v. 3).

In this verse, there is a shift in the use of pronouns. The psalmist shifts from using the first-person pronoun to refer to himself and the second person to refer to God to the third person pronoun to refer to his enemies.

The expressionבְּנֵ֥י אִ֡ישׁ  can be literally rendered “O you sons of men” (vocative). In Psalms 62:9 the (בְּנֵ֥י אִ֡ישׁ) “men of high degree” are contrasted to (‎  בְּנֵֽי־אָדָם) “men of low degree”. In Psalm 49:2 men of high degree is held synonymously parallel to “the rich” and men of low degree is synonymously parallel to “the poor”. The focus of the previous verse was God, but in this verse the psalmist exposes the nature of his enemies. David shows his enemies as high profile, influential, and rich people in the society. The construct noun בְּנֵ֥י is a genitive of genus (Chisholm 1998, 64). The noun אִ֡ישׁ is a genitive of relation (Arnold and Choi 2003, sec. 2.2.2); and is used contrastively; it is man in opposition to God (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 35).

The expression עַד־מֶ֬ה is (How long?) hints that his distress had taken some extended period of time. But also his confidence shows that during this extended time he must have also been praying. To the psalmist what was at stake was כְבוֹדִ֣י (his glory); this is a possessive genitive (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 9.5.1g). Glory is “honor, reputation, of character, of man” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 458 4). Job, in Job 29, deeply lamented over the loss of his honor. The question then is how special was ones glory or reputation in psalmist’s time,

“In the culture of ancient Israel, honor was of the greatest value; it is in most societies. Honor is the dignity and respect that belongs to a person’s position in relation to family, friends and the community. It is an essential part of the identity that others recognize and regard in dealing with a man or a woman. In Israel, its loss had tragic consequences for self-esteem and social competence. Shaming and humiliating a person was violence against them worse than physical harm” (Mays 1994, 55).

But we also know that David was a king who had been enthroned by God (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 2:6) and any dishonor or disrespect of his legality as a king amount to disrespecting and dishonoring Yahweh. Psalmists glory had been turned לִ֭כְלִמָּה (into shame); a direct object accusative (Williams 2007, 50). It can also be rendered, “reproach, ignominy” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 484 2). The rhetorical question (O you sons of men, how long will you turn my glory into shame?) is focused on his opponents.

Having shown what his enemies are after, turning his reputation into shame, the psalmist then asks his enemies how long they תֶּאֱהָב֣וּן רִ֑יק (will love vanity). The verb תֶּאֱהָב֣וּן (Qal, imperfect, 2nd person, masculine, plural) is habitual non-perfective, they habitually, repeatedly, and continuously love vanity (Merwe, Naudé, and Kroeze 2002, 148). The noun that I have translated “vanity” רִ֑יק can also be rendered as “emptiness,” or “worthlessness” (Holladay 1971, 339). This noun is also a direct object accusative (Joüon and Muraoka 2006, sec. 125a, b). Ironically, his enemies love an empty thing! They love what is worthless. In this verse glory is contrasted with vanity. The attempt to turn the glory of the one whom God has enthrones is worthless. In addition, they are clinging to what is worthless by dishonoring God, the one who has enthroned David. Jerome is quoted by Terrien, “The gods and goddesses of the nations represent projections of the forces of nature or human instincts and passions. To seek and love them is done at the price of their total negation of the living God. ‘Nothingness’ seduces like death” (Terrien 2003, 100).

Psalmists enemies are not only seeking after what is worthless but they also תְּבַקְשׁ֖וּ כָזָ֣ב (seek after falsehood). The verb תְּבַקְשׁ֖וּ (Piel, imperfect, 2nd person, masculine, plural) in time reference is progressive non-perfective denoting an incomplete action still in progress in the time the present (Williams 2007, 167 1). It can also be translated “aim at,” or “practice,” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 134, 1b). The noun כָזָ֣ב (falsehood) is the object of what they are seeking after; it is the direct object accusative. Three things are clear here, psalmist’s enemies are men who: are after turning his glory or reputation to shame, they love what is empty, and they are men who are seeking after falsehood. The psalmist’s reputation is at stake from his false accusers, but the righteous God is his vindicator. He has in the past experienced God’s vindication and he again confidently looks forward for the same against his enemies.

The musical term סֶֽלָה׃ occurs seventy one times in the Psalter and three times in Habakkuk 3. Its precise meaning is uncertain but some possible meanings are: “raising of voice to higher pitch,” “for ever,” “pause (for instrumental interlude),” “an acrostic indicating change of voices or ‘da capo;” (Holladay 1971, 256).

It is observed that,

All the psalms in which it occurs with the exception of two are attributed to by title to David or to one of the Levitical singers such as Asaph, the sons of Korah, Ethan, or Heman. The remaining two have no titles. Most of the psalms in which Selah occurs are also inscribed ‘For the chief musician’ and frequently contain notes concerning the use of accompanying instruments. From these facts, Selah would seem to be a musical term, perhaps indicating a pause in the chanting of the hymn while instruments played. It generally ends a stanza or occurs before the introduction of some new and important thought. For modern readers, profitable interpretation would seem to be ‘Pause- and Meditate’” (Purkiser 1967, 147-148).

B. The psalmist confidently states to his enemies what the Lord has done and will do for the godly (4:4).

“But know that the Lord has set apart for himself him that is godly; the Lord will hear when I call to him” (v. 4).

Verse four is emphatically introduced by adversative clause וּ “but” (Williams 2007, 555). The verb דְע֗וּ “know” (Qal, imperative, masculine, plural) is an imperative of command (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 34.4b). David’s opponents are to know כִּֽי־הִפְלָ֣ה יְ֭הוָה חָסִ֣יד (that the Lord has set apart the godly). This may not be a new knowledge to them but serves as a reminder of the relationship that God has with the godly. The figure of speech in this verse is apostrophe since the enemies addressed by David might not be physically present when he is making this prayer. The consecutive clause introduced by כִּֽ showing purpose (Joüon and Muraoka 2006, sec. 168a). The Lord (יְ֭הוָה) is the nominative subject; and the name יְ֭הוָה is intrinsically definite (Gesenius 1910, sec. 125a, d-h). The verb הִפְלָ֣ה (Hiphil, perfect, 3rd person, masculine, singular) is indefinite perfective showing that the action took place in the past but with present effect (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec 30.5.1b). God has set apart the חָסִ֣יד “godly”; the one who “practices hesed,” “one who is faithful,” devout” (Holladay 1971, 111). The term ‘godly man’ is two-sided, it can either be “a person who demonstrates his love of God in the manner of his life; or a person towards whom God manifests His love and favor” (Cohen 1992, 8-9). The godly ones are all those consecrated, like the tribe of Levi, by God (Deut. 33:8-9; Ps. 50:5.); “in rabbinic literature Hasid means someone who acts beyond the strict letter of the law” (Hakham 2003, 17). God sets apart the godly for himself. The psalmist enlarges this prayer from being a private prayer to a prayer that the godly can associate with. The preposition suffix ל֑וֹ is in apposition to יְ֭הוָה and separated by a phrase (Joüon and Muraoka 2006, sec. 131i).

The second part begins with the subject יְהוָ֥ה; the article is intrinsically definite (Gibson 1994, 29).  The psalmist reiterates that Lord יִ֜שְׁמַ֗ע “will hear” (Qal, imperfect, 3rd person, masculine, singular). In time reference, it is specific future, a type of non-perfective future-time reference presents the action as a certain event in the future time (Gibson 1994, 64 a). Psalmist is full of confidence in God’s intervention. The clause בְּקָרְאִ֥י אֵלָֽיו is introduced by the preposition בּ, a temporal clause (Arnold and Choi 2003, sec. 5.2.4). The verb בְּקָרְאִ֥י (Qal, imperfect, 3rd person, masculine, singular) is a non-perfective of capability (Williams 2007, 170). The psalmist knows his identity as a person set apart by God. And as a godly person he is able to call on the Lord and expect an answer from Him. David knows that the righteous God listens to the godly; and those who seek vanity and falsehood will ultimately be disappointed. The prepositional suffix third person masculine singular אֵלָֽי is in apposition to יְהוָ֥ה for emphasis (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 12.5a).

 

3. The psalmist exhorts the godly on what they should do; while anticipating God’s deliverance, the godly should stand in awe, not sin, search their hearts, be still, offer sacrifice of righteousness and trust in the Lord (4:5-6)

Verse 5 is a message to the godly to stand in awe, not sin, to search their hearts and be still. Verse 6 continues the admonition to the godly, calling them to offer sacrifice of righteousness to the righteous God and trust in Him.

A. The psalmist gives the godly a wise counsel on what the they should do while awaiting on God’s deliverance; they should stand in awe, not sin, search their hearts and be still (4:5)

“Stand in awe and not sin; commune with your heart upon your bed and be still. Selah” (v. 5).

Having shown his opponents what God has done and will do by setting apart the godly and answering his prayers and the fact that what they are clinging to is worthless, the psalmist now turn to the godly. He gives an admonition to the godly through a series of imperatives. In the first imperative, he calls on the godly to רִגְז֗וּ (stand in awe/tremble); an imperative of command (Williams 2007, 188). The godly should in the presence of God tremble/ stand in awe in anticipation to God’s response of their petitions.  Standing in awe/trembling here means “spiritual contemplation of the fear of God” (Hakham 2003, 18).

Secondly, he calls on the  וְֽאַל־תֶּ֫חֱטָ֥אוּ(and not to sin). This clause is disjunctive, representing an alternate idea (Arnold and Choi 2003, 186). Those set apart by a righteous God are called to avoid sin. It is not elaborated why the righteous should avoid sin but Psalms 66:17-19 helps us understand the importance of this imperative, God hates sin,

I cried out to him with my mouth; his praises was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer (NIV hereafter unless noted otherwise).

Thirdly, toאִמְר֣וּ בִ֭לְבַבְכֶם עַֽל־מִשְׁכַּבְכֶ֗ם  (commune with your heart upon your bed). The phase אִמְר֣וּ בִ֭לְבַבְכֶם “commune with your heart”. This can also be rendered as, “to say in the heart (to oneself)” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 533, 7). The verb אִמְר֣וּ (Qal, imperative, masculine, plural) is an imperative of request (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 34.4b). He calls the godly to search and ponder in their hearts. The noun בִ֭לְבַבְכֶם is a genitive of inalienable possession (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 9.5.1h). The heart is the location/sphere upon which they ponder or meditate; an accusative of place (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 10.2.2b). The phrase עַֽל־מִשְׁכַּבְכֶ֗ם “upon your bed” can also be rendered as, “place of lying, couch, act of lying” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 1012). It can thus be translated when you are on your bed. The genitive used here is of location (Merwe, Naudé, and Kroeze 2002, 199). In the bed,  “the voice of conscience, unheeded in the turmoil and excitement of the day, or silenced by fear of men and evil example, may make itself heard in the calm solitude of the night, and convince you of the truth” (Purkiser 1967, 151).

Fourthly, he calls on the godly to be still דֹ֣מּוּ “be still” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 198 1). The imperative used here is imperative of command (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 34.4b). In our prayers we must stop and be silent to listen to God, “too often our prayer is one-way. We tell God what we want, we think over our problems, and then we complain that the Lord never speaks to us” (Williams and Ogilvie 1989, 49). The godly are to be still in the presence of the Lord (Lev 10: 3; Ps. 37:7; 62:10) to hear Him speak.

B. The psalmist calls on the godly to offer sacrifice of righteousness and trust in the Lord in anticipation of their deliverance (4:6).

“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness and put your trust in the Lord” (v. 6).

‎In the fifth imperative, the psalmist calls on the godly to זִבְח֥וּ זִבְחֵי־צֶ֑דֶק (offer the sacrifices of righteousness). The imperative verb זִבְח֥וּ (offer) is an imperative of command (Chisholm 1998, 105). The phrase זִבְחֵי־צֶ֑דֶק means “sacrifice of righteousness (offered in righteousness by the righteous)” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 257 1). David in Psalm 51: 16-17 states that the sacrifice God desires is a broken spirit,

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

The accusative זִבְחֵי־ is cognate internal accusative, from the same root as the verb זִבְח֥וּ. The syntactical function of the noun צֶ֑דֶק is a genitive of quality (Arnold and Choi 2003, sec. 2.2.1).

The sixth imperative is וּ֜בִטְח֗וּ אֶל־יְהוָֽה (put your trust in the Lord). The verb וּ֜בִטְח֗וּ is an imperative of command (Williams 2007, 188). The preposition אֶל־ introduces the direct object accusative יְהוָֽה (Williams 2007, 50). The proper noun יְהוָֽה is intrinsically proper (Joüon and Muraoka 2006, sec. 137b-j) and so it is translated with a definite article. The enemies of the psalmist trust worthless things, but the godly trust in the Lord (Ps. 20:7; 31:6); for trusting in the Lord involves forsaking worthless idols. The psalmist resolves to rise above his distress by trusting in the Lord.

 

4. The psalmist enlarges the scope of his distress to encompass the experience of other godly people facing similar situation and petition for God’s blessings (4:7).

“Many are saying, “Who will show us any good?” Lift up the light of your face, O Lord” (v. 7).

Having stated what God has done and will do, and what the godly should do, he then enlarges the scope of the psalm from being an individual psalm to represent the cries of other godly people facing similar experience. He poses a rhetoric question, רַבִּ֥ים אֹמְרִים֘ מִֽי־יַרְאֵ֪נ֫וּ ט֥וֹב “(Many are saying, ‘Who will show us any good?). The adjective “many” refers to the false accusers as explained in verse 3. The exceptions to the rule concerning agreement between a noun and attributive adjective in regard to definiteness apply here because it is about numerals and an adjective (Gibson 1994, 42). The verb אֹמְרִים֘ (Qal, participle, masculine, plural) is durative with present time reference. This is followed by a rhetorical question מִֽי־יַרְאֵ֪נ֫וּ ט֥וֹב (who will show us any good?). This question leads the psalmist to reiterate his petition to God. The pronoun suffix “us” attached to יַרְאֵ֪נ֫וּ refers to the godly. The word translated as “good” also means “welfare, prosperity, happiness” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 375, 1). The psalmist has chosen to trust in God; but many other godly people are thinking, ‘who would show us good by delivering us from our false accusers?’

The second part of the verse is a petition to God beginning with an imperative נְֽסָה־ (lift up). This is an imperative of request (Merwe, Naudé, and Kroeze 2002, 151) from an inferior to a superior. The suffix pronoun (us) in עָ֭לֵינוּ refers to the direct object accusative (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 10.2.1c). The phrase א֙וֹר פָּנֶ֬יךָ refers to God’s “shining, enlightening, favoring face” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 21, 10). The figure of speech used in this phrase is anthropomorphism, the investment of God with characteristic of humans (face). Light has been used as a metaphor that is compared with God’s favor. The noun פָּנֶ֬יךָ is used as a genitive of quality (Merwe, Naudé, and Kroeze 2002, 198). The pronoun “your” refers to the noun יְהוָֽה which is vocative.

The good that many godly people are seeking is found in the light of God’s countenance. The psalmist quotes two of the blessings from the following priestly blessings in Numbers 6:25-26,

The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

The next two verses shows what happens when the godly trusts in him and what the Lord blesses his people with.

 

5. The psalmist confidently states what he (and the godly) receive by trusting in the Lord alone; the godly receive inner joy, peace, and security (4:8-9).

In verse 8, God filled the psalmist’s heart with gladness. In verse 9 the psalmist is filled with peace and sense of security.

A. God fills the heart of the psalmist with great joy (4:8)

“You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the time their corn and their wine increased” (v. 8).

The verb נָתַ֣תָּה (Qal, perfect, 2nd person, masculine, singular) pronoun suffix refers to the subject, the Lord. The verb is indefinite perfective, representing a past event in which the speaker does not specify the time of its occurrence (W_O 30.5.1b). The noun שִׂמְחָ֣ה is the direct object accusative (Williams 2007, 50). The “heart” used as synechdoche of the part for the whole. The noun בְלִבִּ֑ is an accusative of place (Williams 2007, sec. 54a-b, 55). The joy that God gives him is inner joy, springing from the heart. The two parts of the verse are base comparison connected by “than”. Even the time the psalmist was waiting and trusting in God to work, the psalmist admits that God filled his heart with gladness. The gladness was more than the gladness of his opponents when their bountiful harvest and wine increase; “Harvestimes for the Hebrews and other ancient peoples were times of great celebration and rejoicing. The gladness of the Lord is greater” (Purkiser 1967, 151).

B. God blesses the psalmist with peace and protection (4:9)

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (v. 9)

Trusting in Yahweh also lead the psalmist to confidently assert, בְּשָׁל֣וֹם יַחְדָּו֘ אֶשְׁכְּבָ֪ה וְאִ֫ישָׁ֥ן (in peace I will lie down and sleep). The word ‘shalom’ here means “peace, quiet, tranquility, contentment” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 1022 4). Peace is a fruit of trust,

The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever Isa. 32:17.

There is use of hendiadys in this verse: the two verbs אֶשְׁכְּבָ֪ה and וְאִ֫ישָׁ֥ן express the same idea and they are joined by the conjunction “and”. The two Qal imperfect verbs (אֶשְׁכְּבָ֪ה and וְאִ֫ישָׁ֥ן) are cohortatives of resolve/determination (Williams 2007, 184a-b). The psalmist is confident and determined; he does not end where he began (lamenting); trusting in God changes him and his situation. The clause introduced by כִּֽי־ is an explanatory causality (Gibson 1994, 125). The subject יְהוָ֣ה is in vocative and is emphasized by the independent pronoun אַתָּ֣ה; but can also be a pleonasm, a redundant expression for emphasis. The verb תּוֹשִׁיבֵֽנִי׃ (Hiphil imperfect 2ndperson masculine singular; suffix- 1cs) is an iterative non-perfetive (Joüon and Muraoka 2006, sec. 113c). The noun לָ֜בֶ֗טַח is accusative of state (Joüon and Muraoka 2006, sec. 126a-f, 127a). The psalmist will rest assured that God is in control. It is this verse that prompted believers of all ages to use Psalm 4 as an evening prayer of hymn (Mays 1994, 56). The righteous God who is also his peace, He makes him to lie down in safety. In Psalm 127:1-3 God is expressed as a protector,

Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay late, toiling for food to eat- for he grants sleep to those he loves.

The psalm ends not in a sad and lamenting mood but with a calm and joyful praise to God whom he has trusted.

Application

In Psalm 4, the psalmist expresses confidence in the character of the Lord for deliverance in times of trouble. God is revealed as righteous and as God who hears and answers prayer. The psalmist had been falsely accused by his enemies who had turned his glory into shame. But the psalmist chose not to focus on his enemies but on God. His deliverance will only come from the Lord not from himself or other people. Knowing who God is and remembering what he has done in the past to us should change the way we handle hard times and also change our attitude from complaining to trust in God alone for deliverance. David knew the reality of his enemies and their false accusation but he also knew God as revealed through past actions toward him and other godly people. In addition, the psalmist knew his identity as one who has been set apart by God for Himself. David’s opponents cannot shake this glorious identity; they cannot turn it into shame because it is solidly based on God’s declaration. Our Christian identity in Christ is also unshakable. Christians are God’s children (Jn. 1:12; 1 Jn. 3:1), saints (1 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:1), and co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). The knowledge of God and of his identity as a godly person leads the psalmist to: stand in awe, not to sin, search his hearts, be still, offer sacrifice of righteousness, and trust in the Lord. By trusting in the Lord alone the psalmist was changed, his lament changed to a song of praise and confidence on the God who sets apart the godly, gives joy, peace, safety and sleep. Trusting in Jesus yields joy and peace for he promises to gives peace not as the world gives (Jn. 14: 27). Christians today, like David, live in a world full of evil and evil people. From time to time we will have to deal with unanswered prayers, or face life crises and challenges, in which we are tempted to fear, complain, fight, despair, or question God. But this individual psalm reminds us to trust in the Lord with confidence for our deliverance no matter what. The Lord is a righteous God who hears and answers prayers and is able to deliver us from our distress. We should learn from the psalmist who because of the trustworthiness of God and His sustenance he is able to confidently and peacefully lie down sleep and wake up again (Ps. 3:5; 4:8).

 

Summary

Psalm 4 is an individual lament containing nine verses beginning with a superscription that attributes the psalm to David (v. 1). The psalm has five parts. The first part (v. 2) a petition of the psalmist to God based on His righteous character and what he had done in the past (hearing and answering his prayers). The second part (v. 3-4) points out what David’s enemies had done; they had turned his glory into shame by accusing him falsely, and the psalmist calling them to know that God has set apart the godly and answers their prayers. In the third section (v. 5-6) the psalmist exhorts the godly in a series of imperatives on what to do in anticipation to God’s deliverance: to stand in awe, not to sin, search their hearts, be still, offer sacrifice of righteousness, and trust in the Lord. Further, the fourth section (v. 7) enlarges the scope of this individual lament to include other godly people that are equally anticipating for God’s deliverance and blessings. The fifth section (v. 8-9) ends the psalm not in a lament mood but in a joyful and confident mood. The psalmist confidently states that by trusting in the Lord alone the godly receive inner peace, joy and security.

This passage should have challenged not only David but also other worshippers who faced a similar distressful situation to trust in the Lord alone. This is also true to us today. Christians are faced with life challenges, trials, temptations and unanswered prayers in their walk with God. This can be disheartening. But this psalm encourages believers in Christ not to despair but to remember who God is, what he has done and to trust Him to bring deliverance and answer in various situations of life.

 

Work Cited

Arnold, Bill T., and John H. Choi. A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Brown, Francis, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, eds. A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. Oxford: Clarendon, 1907.

Bullock, C. Hassell. Encountering the Book of Psalms: A Literary and Theological Introduction. Encountering Biblical Studies. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2001.

Chisholm, Robert B. Jr. From Exegesis to Exposition: A Practical Guide to Using Biblical Hebrew. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998.

Cohen, Amnon. The Psalms. Soncino Books of the Bible. Brooklyn: Soncino Press, 1992.

Danhood, Mitchell. Psalms I: 1-50. The Anchor Bible 16. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1965-66.

Gesenius, W. Gesenius. Hebrew Grammar. Edited by E. Kautzsch. 2nded. rev. by A. E. Cowley. Oxford: Clarendon, 1910.

Gibson, J. C. L. Davidson’s Introductory Hebrew Grammar: Syntax. 4thed. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1994.

Holladay, William L. A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1971.

Joüon, Paul, and T. Muraoka. A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew. Subsidia Biblica 27. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute Press, 2006.

Longman III, Tremper and Dillard Raymond B. An Introduction to the Old Testament. 2nd Ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2006.

Mays, James Luther. Psalms. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1994.

Merwe, Van der, Christo H. J., Jackie A. Naudé, and Jan H. Kroeze. A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar. With minor revisions. Biblical Languages: Hebrew 3. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002.

Purkiser, T. W. “Psalms.” The Beacon Bible Commentary. Vol. III. Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press, 1967.

Terrien, Samuel. The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary. Eerdmans Critical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2003.

Waltke, Bruce K., and M. O’Connor. An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. 9th corrected printing. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990.

Westermann, Claus. The Psalms: Structure, Content & Message. Minneapolis: Augsburg Pub. House, 1980.

Williams, Ronald J. William. Hebrew Syntax. 3rd ed., rev. and exp. by John C. Beckman. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007.

Williams, Don, and Lloyd John Ogilvie. Psalms 73-150. Communicator’s Commentary Series. Old Testament 14. Waco, Tex: Word Books, 1989.

Wilson, Gerald H. Psalms–Volume 1. NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

Exegesis of Malachi 3:19-21: THE VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE DESTRUCTION OF THE WICKED IN THE COMING DAY OF THE LORD

Day-of-lord-blood-moon

Introduction

The authorship of Malachi has been a subject of debate by Bible commentators. The superscription (Mal. 1:1) is inadequate and unclear to give us reliable information concerning the author. The word  מַלְאָכִֽי can be interpreted either as “A message: the word of Yahweh to Israel through Malachi” or “A message: the world of Yahweh to Israel through my messenger” (McComiskey 1992, 1245). Some scholars agree it could be a proper name though unusual. However many commentators are of the opinion, which I also subscribe to, that these oracles were originally anonymous, and that the name ‘Malachi’ was introduced at a later stage, perhaps when tradition had come to see this prophet as himself the messenger of the coming one on whose behalf he had been commissioned to speak (Verhoerf 1987, 162).

The book of Malachi does not explicitly mention the date it was written. But commentators have used the issues that Malachi addresses as a guide toward figuring out a date of the book. When looked from this standpoint, Malachi addresses similar issues addressed by Nehemiah and Ezra, meaning that they could have been contemporaries. And so the year 460BC is suggested; that is two years prior to the reforms of Ezra, and 14years prior to the Nehemiah’s arrival to Jerusalem (McComiskey 1992, 1252). This date is supported by the reference to the ‘governor’ (1:8) who were appointed by Persian authorities. The word “governor” is also used of Zerubbabel in Haggai and also of Nehemiah (5:14;12:26).

The book contains six major disputations after the superscription (1:1). The first disputation (1:2-5) is an oracle against Edom. The second disputation (1:6-2:9) is an oracle against priests concerning their unfaithfulness to the covenant; the third disputation (2:10-16) is an oracle against the people of Judah concerning their unfaithfulness to the covenant on intermarriage; the fourth disputation (2:17-3:5) is an oracle against the people of Judah concerning their unfaithfulness to the covenant on being unrighteous and unjust. The fifth disputation (3:6-12) is an oracle against the people of Judah concerning their unfaithfulness to the covenant on failure to provide tithes and offerings to God. The sixth disputation (3:13-21) is an oracle against the people of Judah concerning their unfaithfulness to the covenant (McComiskey 1992, 1249). Other commentators have come up with seven separate periscopes by dividing the second disputation (1:26-2:9) into two (1:6-14; 2:1-9) (Verhoerf 1987, 162 987). The book concludes (3:22-24) with a brief charge and summary of the book, to observe the law of Moses and be prepared for the coming day of the Lord. As a poetic literature, the disputations are structured chiastically “the first disputation is comparable to the sixth disputation, the second to the fifth, and the third to the fourth” (McComiskey 1992, 1250).

Malachi 3:19-21 falls in the sixth (or seventh depending on the position taken) disputation in a context where the people fail to fear and honor God, the arrogant are called blessed, and the people think serving God is futile. In addition, the people doubt that God distinguishes between good and the wicked because evildoers are prospering and those who challenge God escape. But in Malachi 3:19-21 the prophet describes the judgment that will befall the wicked, the vindication of the righteous and their ultimate victory over the wicked during the coming of the day of the Lord. It may presently seem that evildoers are triumphing and the righteous losing but ultimately the opposite will happen: the righteous will triumph and evildoers will be judged.

This paper discusses the meaning and message of 3:19-21, and demonstrate how the passage relates to the church today. What comes out strongly for application from these verses is that:

God’s ultimate destruction of the wicked and vindication of the righteous in the coming day should encourage believers and ministers of God’s word today to endure in their walk and work to the Lord knowing that God is aware of their devotion to him.

An Exegesis of Malachi 3:19-21

As stated above, Malachi 3:19-21 deals with the coming day of the Lord. He says that the coming day of the Lord is certain and it will bring about the destruction/judgment of all the wicked, the vindication and triumph of the righteous over the wicked. The first part of verse 19 shows certainty of the coming day. This is developed further by a figurative description of what the day will be like to all that do evil. They will be destroyed. In figurative terms they shall be chaff, burned up. In addition, no root nor their branch will be left. Verse 20 deals with the righteous; and shows that the righteous will be vindicated, they will finally triumph. Figuratively, they will be vindicated and they will be like calves released out of stalls. Verse 21 continues the thought in verse 20, the Lord of hosts declares that they will triumph, trampling down the wicked.

  1. The Lord states the certainty of the coming day whereby all the arrogant and all those who do evil will face destruction with nothing left (3:19).

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and all that do evil shall be chaff; and the day that is coming shall burn them up” says the Lord of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch” (3:19).

Verse 19 connects is connected with the former context by the use of  כִּֽי־. In the preceding verse (v. 18) God expresses determination to distinguish between evil doers and those who fear him upon the coming of the day he has set. In this coming day all people will see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. Therefore according to the preceding context כִּֽי־ can be best translated as “For” (Clines 1993, 384a), that is, as an explanatory causality (Joüon and Muraoka 2006, sec. 170) (HALOT 975). The conjunction כִּֽי־ links verse 19 in a manner that continues the explanation of the mentioned separation of the righteous and the wicked in verse 18.

The exclamation הִנֵּ֤ה is used to introduce the idea of time. (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, 40.2.1d). It reinforces the determination of Yahweh to act as seen in the verse, also “the abruptnesss of the language presents it in catastrophic suddenness with which it will burst upon the heads of evildoers and rebels against God.” (Unger 1988, 2084). The author adds it after כִּֽי־ to introduce a positive oath exclamation (Gibson 1994,156a).

The word הַיּוֹם֙ “the day” serves as a nominative subject. It has a definite article and is noun masculine singular. The day is qualified by two participles בָּ֔א and בֹּעֵ֖ר. Malachi refers to this day being in the future, but in the imminent future. ‘The day of the Lord’ forms part of the eschatology of the Bible. Other equivalents are: ‘the day’, ‘in that day’. It is “the occasion when Yahweh actively intervenes to punish sin that has come to climax” and Malachi’s reference to ‘the coming day’ can be interpreted as eschatological because it speaks of a radical change in events that will take place in the future (Wood and Marshall eds. 1996, 261). The day has also been interpreted differently by different people, according to Calvin it refers to the first coming of Christ, while other think it is the second coming of Christ to judge and others think it is God’s judgment until the last day. Other think it was an imminent catastrophe which his contemporaries would experience (Verhoef 1987, 324-325).

Other OT passages that bear similarities with reference to ‘the day’ include: Jer. 30:7, “How awful that day will be! No other will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it” (NIV hereafter unless noted otherwise). “Doom has come upon you, upon you who dwell in the land. The time has come! The day is near! There is panic, not joy, on the mountains” (Ezek. 7:7).  “It is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign Lord. This is the day I have spoken of “(Ezek. 39:8).

That day will be a day of wrath- a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness (Zeph. 1:15).

Prophecies have various specific stages of application, the first has to do with regard to the immediate audience in their situation, the second is related to the coming of Christ and the third application to the day of the final judgment (Vehoef 1987, 325). Malachi uses “the day” in an eschatological sense referring to a future time when God will ultimately and decisively deal with the wicked. This has not been fulfilled in totality because the wicked and wickedness is still prevalent. The use of two participles בָּ֔א and בֹּעֵ֖ר (both Qal participle masculiine singular.) as opposed to imperfects has a predicate function as significance. Though the participle and imperfect are equivalent in aspect, the participle gives a more durative aspect than the imperfect (Joüon and Muraoka 2006, 121h).

The figure of speechבֹּעֵ֖ר כַּתַּנּ֑וּר  is a simile. It is a declaration that makes an explicit comparison of two things of unlike nature that have something in common. Likening the day with a burning furnace gives a picture of the magnitude of the burning (destruction). The article in כַּתַּנּ֑וּר has a generic use. This is a common feature in comparisons and in accordance with good English style is should be translated with indefinite article (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 13.5.1f-g).

A similar context is found in Ps 21:9 which states the Lord’s destruction of the wicked:  “When you appear for battle, you will burn them up as in a blazing furnace. The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath, and his fire will consume them” (Ps 21:9).

In light of the context, the author singles out “all the arrogant” and “all who do evil” to further specify on what he referred as “wicked” in 3:18. They are also the object of burning in the day that is coming. There is also hendiadys- two nouns joined by “and” that express a single idea-all the arrogant and all who do evil are one. The reason why the wicked are addressed here in the 3rd person as opposed to the 2nd person is makes it clear that God is not talking directly to the wicked but to the righteous, as seen in the next verse. It indicates explicit antithesis between the righteous and the wicked. Also God sent his messenger Malachi to his righteous people as a response to their prayers, v. 16, and so the use of 3rd person in reference to the wicked is justifiable.

The figurative expression קַ֔שׁ is a metaphor. It makes an implicit comparison between two things of unlike nature that have something in common (all the arrogant and all who evil are compared with chaff that will be burned). It does not mean that the wicked are literally chaff but speaks of their destiny. The metaphor of chaff shows that the wicked will be of no use. This figure of speech also appears in Isa. 5:24: “Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw and as dry grass sinks down in the flames, so the roots will decay and their flowers blow away like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord Almighty”.

In this verse, הַיּ֣וֹם הַבָּ֗א and‎  הַיּוֹם is the same. First it has been mentioned twice for emphasis because it is the subject of the verb. Secondly it is mentioned twice to show certainty of the coming day.

The coming day will “set them on fire” by consuming all the arrogant and all who do evil. It speaks of their complete destruction. There is also a parallel to this earlier in the verse, “burn like a furnace”. And so the idea of setting them (chaff) on fire (like a furnace) is consistent with the figure of expression as earlier mentioned. The coming judgment will not be to refine or to purify (3:2) but to consume. It will leave them no root or branch. This is a proverbial expression showing complete destruction compared to cutting down a tree and digging up its roots so that it will never sprout to grow again” (Unger 1988, 2085). A similar scriptures is Joel 1:19 conveying judgment to the house of David by failing to administer justice,

“O house of David, this is what the Lord says: ‘Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done-burn with no one to quench it” (Joel 1:19).

The use of the third person masculine plural אֹתָ֜ם is in apposition to “all the arrogant” and “all who do evil”. In line with the imagery in this verse, the pronoun אֹתָ֜ם specifically refers to the object that will burn, that is all the arrogant and all who do evil. The clause‎  אֲשֶׁ֛ר לֹא־יַעֲזֹ֥ב לָהֶ֖ם שֹׁ֥רֶשׁ וְעָנָֽףis result clause. Its antecedent is “For behold the day is coming, burning like a furnace”. Therefore the coming day will set the wicked on fire that cannot be quenched and all the wicked shall be destroyed as chaff.

The figures of speech שֹׁ֥רֶשׁ and עָנָֽףare synecdoche of the part for the whole. These are individual parts of a plant. It conveys the idea of totality. Not a single part (of the wicked) will remain during the burning in the coming day. It shows complete destruction. “The reference to root and branch is particularly important because roots and branches play important roles in sustaining a plant. Without them, the plant cannot survive. The metaphor therefore conveys a complete destruction of the wicked” (Sweeney 2000, 748). The two words occur in Job 18:16 in a context concerning the fate of the wicked,

His roots dry up below and his branches wither above. The memory of him perishes from the earth; and no name in the land.

The figure of speech‎  שֹׁ֥רֶשׁ וְעָנָֽףis a metaphor. It is an implicit comparison between two things of unlike nature that have something in common. It conveys the total destruction of all the arrogant and all those who do evil. The evildoers, in the previous verses, had said harsh things against the Lord (v. 13) and were prospering (v.14) but not in the coming day, they will be completely be destroyed. A similar passage that has similar figurative expressions is Amos 2:9 referring to the destruction of the Amorites,

“I destroyed the Amorite before them, though he was tall as the cedars and strong as the oaks. I destroyed his fruit above and his roots below” (Amos 2:9).

Having dealt with the judgment and destruction of the wicked, the author in the next verse proceeds to describe what the coming day of the Lord holds in store for the righteous. The next verse (v. 20) is introduced by the contrastוְ  “but” shifting emphasis from the wicked to the righteous. It deals with the righteous, and their destiny that is characterized by healing and joy.

2. The Lord states that the coming day will bring about the vindication, joy, and healing to the righteous (v. 20).

“But to you that fear my name, the sun of righteousness will arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go out and grow up as calves of the stall” (3:20).

It is worth noting that the prophet in verse 20 addresses his readers in the 2nd person unlike in the previous verse where he addressed the wicked in 3rd person. This because his message is specially directed to the righteous, those that fear the Lord. The shift in from third person to second person in this verse is introduced by a  וְwhich in this case is an adversative clause (Arnold and Choi 2003, 5.2.10). The righteous who talked to each other (v.16) at the sight of the prosperity of the evildoers are the direct audience of the author.

The phrase לָכֶ֜ם יִרְאֵ֤י שְׁמִי֙ refers to the righteous and those who serve God, according to v. 18. A use of similar expression referring those who fear the Lord as those who honor his name is also found in Ps. 61:5 referring to giving of heritage to those who revere/fear the Lord’s name: “For you, God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name”.

The word שֶׁ֣מֶשׁ is syntactically a nominative subject ((Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 8, 3a-b).

The word שֶׁ֣מֶשׁ is a masculine. It is noted that sometimes the gender of an adjective does not agree with the noun it modifies, also called violation of concord (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, 6.6b). An example of a passage with this kind of violation, where Hebrew follows semantics rather than grammatical orientation of a noun is Eccles. 12:9‎ קֹהֶ֖לֶת חָכָ֑ם. Here the noun קֹהֶ֖לֶת (‘teacher’) is feminine, but the adjective חָכָ֑ם (‘wise’) is masculine. Normally, in this instance we would expect the adjective to be feminine to agree with the feminine subject, but it does not. However the meaning of the corresponding words in different genders does not differ based on the change in gender (Gibson 1994, 16(c), 17 (b).

The word שֶׁ֣מֶשׁ is figurative. Its meaning can be better understood by treating it as a figurative language.  And so, the figure of speech שֶׁ֣מֶשׁ is a hypocatastasis; a comparison between two things of unlike nature (sun and righteousness) which the subject of comparison must be inferred from the context. The use of this word with the verb “rise” at the beginning of the verse conveys a sense of dawning of a day. The figurative language in line with the context, referring to the dawning or the day that is coming as referred in verse 18. This figurative expression also occurs in, Isaiah 60: 20, “Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.” In this instance it refers to a future promise to the chosen people of God; that the light of God will shine upon them.

The wordצְדָקָ֔ה ‎ means ‘righteousness’. It as “righteousness as vindicated, justification, salvation” (of God) (Brown and Briggs 1907, 842). The syntax of the word צְדָקָ֔ה ‎is an attributive genitive; the word in this case is the adjective of the construct noun שֶׁ֣מֶש (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, 9.5.3b).This word also has a parallel usage in Isa. 58:9:

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

In this context of disputation between God and his people on true fasting, Isaiah proclaims the promise of vindication to God’s people. The figurative language of ‘the sun of righteousness’ is something from the ancient Near East cultures, “the sun of righteousness here is bringing justice. Throughout the ancient Near East solar deities are connected to justice. It is not unusual in the Old Testament for Yahweh’s work to be depicted using this metaphor of solar terminology” (Walton et al. 2000, 811). The destruction of the wicked and the vindication of the righteous emanates from the nature of God who is just.

Syntactically, מַרְפֵּ֖א is an apposition to the ‘sun’ (GKC 131k). The word ‎  מַרְפֵּ֖א means ‘healing’. It as “healing, cure, health” (Brown and Briggs 1907, 951); in this context it is used with spiritual implication. The vindication that arises out of God’s justice to the righteous is in a way healing. A parallel verse to the usage in this verse is Jer. 14:19 whereby the people of Judah, like Malachi’s audience who revere the Lord’s name, are longing for a healing from the Lord, it reads:

“Have you rejected Judah completely? Do you despise Zion? Why have you afflicted us so that we cannot be healed? We hoped for peace but no good has come, for a time of healing but there is only terror”.

The word‎  כְנָפֶ֑יהָ means ‘wings’. It is defined as “fence in, enclose,” and Aramaic “collect, assemble” (Brown and Briggs 1907, 489b). ‘Healing in its wings’ is “a symbolic use of the wings of a bird with the rays of the sun. The wings denote protective care (hence the healing). An ancient Near Eastern motif in astral religions has the sun depicted as a winged disk. This is especially pervasive in the Persian period” (Walton et al. 2000, 811). The referent for the suffix   בִּכְנָפֶ֑יהָ(third person feminine singular) is Yahweh. It is in apposition to “my name” in the same verse.

A passage with a same nuance is Ps.17:8-9 which refer to the protective wings of the Lord: “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings from the wicked who assail me, from my mortal enemies who surround me”.

The conjunction וִֽ “and” links verse 20 and 20b in a sequential manner depicting the resultant experience of those who fear the name of the Lord when they will finally experience healing and vindication.

The figure of speech וִֽיצָאתֶ֥ם וּפִשְׁתֶּ֖ם כְּעֶגְלֵ֥י מַרְבֵּֽק ‎ is a hendiadys, in this case two verbs that express a single idea are joined by “and” (Snyman and Cronje 1986, 113-21). In this figure of speech therein is also a simile. It all conveys the freedom, and joy that comes wither the vindication of the righteous, those who fear the Lord’s name, when the day of the Lord comes.

There is a sequence from verse 20b to verse 21. In verse 20b the righteous will not only be freed, vindicated, and be full of joy as calves released out of stalls but they shall also triumph trampling down the wicked, v. 21. There is a progression of thought to further show that those who fear the Lord’s name shall finally prevail over the wicked.

 

3. The Lord states that the coming day be characterized by the triumph of the righteous over the wicked (v. 21).

“Then you shall trample on the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day when I shall act,” says the Lord of hosts” (3:21). ‎

The verb עַססּ means to press, crush, by treading, tread down. It is defined as to “go the rounds (trample), prowl. The word is defined based on the Arabic reading (Brown and Briggs 1907, 779a).  In the coming day the righteous will triumph over the wicked. The figure of speech וְעַסּוֹתֶ֣ם רְשָׁעִ֔ים is a metaphor. It conveys the ultimate victory of the righteous over the wicked, “all the arrogant and all that do evil” as stated in v. 19. The clause כִּֽי־יִהְי֣וּ אֵ֔פֶר תַּ֖חַת כַּפּ֣וֹת רַגְלֵיכֶ֑ם is an ordinary causality, showing that the righteous shall trample on the wicked (Joüon and Muraoka 2006, 170).

The day בַּיּוֹם֙ refers to the eschatological day of the Lord, the time when he will punish the wicked and vindicate the righteous. The preposition בַּ in this word has been used in a temporal sense and can be translated “when”. It refers to a time in the future of triumph, and vindication of the righteous; the time when all the arrogant and all that do evil will be destroyed.

The phrase בַּיּוֹם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֲנִ֣י עֹשֶׂ֔ה means ‘in the day that I will act’ refers to the coming day that the Lord will execute the judgment of the wicked and vindicate those who fear his name. It is “day of Yahweh, chiefly as time of his coming in judgment, involving often blessedness for righteous (Brown and Briggs 1907, 399a). Isaiah 34:8 is similar to this context whereby the Lord will act in vengeance in the coming day, “For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause”.

The message in Malachi 3:19-21 points out to a time that is coming, the day of the Lord, when all the arrogant and all that evil doers will be judged and destroyed with nothing left. Malachi wrote to the righteous who lived among the wicked who said harsh things about God and ridiculed service to God. In this context, God promises to act, in his coming day. The book does not explain when but what will happen during the coming day. But it is clear that when that day come the wicked will be no more. The righteous are still suffering and their vindication has not yet come in totality. This makes this passage eschatological, because though God has always judge the wicked before and after Malachi’s time, the wicked and wickedness is still a reality. It has not been totally wiped out. This will happen at the second coming of Jesus (Mt. 25:46).

Application

The message of Malachi 3:19-21 has shown that the coming day of the Lord will bring about the vindication of the righteous and judgment/destruction of the wicked. The righteous and the wicked will be distinguished in the coming day. In that day the Lord will decisively deal with all the arrogant and all who do evil. He will destroy them like a farmer would destroy chaff by fire and they will be no more. On the other hand, the righteous or those who revere his name will receive joy, vindication and victory over the wicked in the coming day. God’s ultimate destruction of the wicked and vindication of the righteous in the coming day should encourage believers and ministers of God’s word today to endure in their walk and work to the Lord knowing that God is aware of their devotion to him.

In Malachi’s day, the evildoers said harsh things against the Lord (v.13), they said it is futile to serve God (v.14), they prospered, the arrogant were called blessed, and many who challenged God escaped (v.15). Certainly, this was a very challenging and oppressive to the righteous who might have been seen by their contemporaries as foolish or failures by serving God or by observing his commandments (in relation to disputations).

There are some parallels to this in our world today. It is not popular to serve God, we live in a continent plagued by corruption and each time godly values are pushed to the periphery; as a result those who fear God’s name and his commandments suffer insults, ridicule or severe persecution. The message of Malachi is an encouragement to believers and church leaders/pastors/missionaries who diligently obey the Lord and revere his name amidst prevalence of evil. It may seem that they are losing it all or that they are not successful in human terms; but even in their difficulties as they serve God they are regarded as successful by God and in due time they will be vindicated. The prosperity of the wicked is only short-lived, when the day that the Lord has set comes, they will be destroyed and the righteous will triumph and be vindicated.

 

Summary

Malachi 3:19-21 shows that the coming day of the Lord is certain and it will bring about the vindication to the righteous and the destruction/judgment of all the wicked. The idea is developed in verse 19 by stating that the coming day is certain. This idea is developed further by a figurative description of what the day will be like to all that do evil. They will be destroyed. In figurative terms they shall be chaff, burned up. In addition, not even their root nor their branch will be left. Verse 20 turns to the righteous and shows that they will be vindicated, they will finally triumph. Figuratively, they will be vindicated and they will be like calves released out of stalls. Verse 21 continues the thought in verse 20 making Yahweh’s declaration that righteous finally triumph, trampling down the wicked.

This passage should have been a strong warning to the wicked that though they presently seemed to prosper in their evil schemes, the Lord has set a day that will bring judgment and destruction to them; the day will burn them up and they will not escape. In addition, this passage must have encouraged the righteous/those who serve God that despite prevalence of wickedness and evil people God is aware of their plight. And in due course he will vindicate them, for those that fear his name will finally triumph.

 

Works Cited

Arnold, Bill T., and John H. Choi. A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Brown, Francis, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, eds. A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. Oxford: Clarendon, 1907.

Clines, David J. A., ed. The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew. 8 vols. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993-2011.

Gibson, J. C. L. Davidson’s Introductory Hebrew Grammar: Syntax. 4th ed. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1994.

Joüon, Paul, and T. Muraoka. A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew. Subsidia Biblica 27. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute Press, 2006.

McComiskey, Thomas Edward, ed. The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Book House, 1992.

Sweeney, Marvin L. The Twelve Prophets. Vol. 2: Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Berit Olam: Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2000.

Unger, Merrill F. The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary /1208. Chicago: Moody press, 1988.

Van der Merwe, Christo H. J., Jackie A. Naudé, and Jan H. Kroeze. A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar. With minor revisions. Biblical Languages: Hebrew 3. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002.

Verhoef, Pieter A. The Books of Haggai and Malachi. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1987.

Waltke, Bruce K., and M. O’Connor. An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. 9th corrected printing. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990.

Walton, John H., Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton. The IVP Background Bible Commentary: Old Testament. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

William, Ronald J. William’ Hebrew Syntax. 3rd ed. Revised and explained by John C. Beckman. Toronto: University of Toronto press, 2007.

Wood, D. R. W., and I. Howard Marshall, eds. New Bible Dictionary. 3rd ed. Leicester, England ; Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1996.