God of Justice and Mercy
A Theological Commentary on Judges
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Judges is one of the most misunderstood and underused books in the Old Testament - it is a text people outside of the higher echelons of Old Testament academia are afraid of. Too often it is dismissed as too violent, outrageous, or simply too puzzling for practical use - or full of tales which are only of any use as children's stories or as simple moralising tales for adults.
Focusing on core theological themes across the book, this commentary is predicated on the idea that far from being too awkward to touch, Judges in fact holds up a mirror to today's world, with its stories of abuses of power, war and violence, and the human tendency towards individualism. Overall, the commentary argues that in Judges we are given the story of a people who keep getting life and faith increasingly wrong, and the story of God's response to their cry for justice and mercy.
Bridging the gap between accessibility and scholarly rigour, this commentary offers an excellent tool for ordinands, students, teachers in higher education and preachers to engage with the theology of the book in its Old Testament context as well as how its message is revealed in the New Testament and continues to speak today.
This book will compliment the similar approach taken by Jenni Williams in The Kingdom of our God: a theological commentary on Isaiah (2019) and by Mark Scarlata in The Abiding Presence: a theological commentary on Exodus (2018)
Foreword by Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury v
1. Setting the Scene (1.1—3.6) 1
2. Othniel and Ehud (3.7—5.31) 25
3. Gideon (6—8) 66
4. Abimelech (9) 104
5. Jephthah and the Minor Judges (10—12) 124
6. Samson (13—16) 156
7. Micah and the Danites (17—18) 204
8. Dismemberment (19—21.24) 226
9. The Refrain (21.25) 275
Index of Biblical References 289
Index of Names and Subjects 293
"In this wise, clear-eyed exposition Isabelle Hamley shows why we return again and again to old Scripture. Her fresh reading of the Book of Judges provides clues for how we may "read our own time" with the eyes of faith. On the one hand the narrative of Israel is filled with wayward violence and brokenness, a condition that requires God's insistent justice. On the other hand, amid such human fecklessness is God's own "dogged determination" to create and sustain Israel, an act of God's good grace. The narrative insists that both God's uncompromising justice and God's inexplicable grace are defining for life in the raggedness of the world. These themes, lined out in carefully crafted narrative detail, give us a lens through which to read our own daily newspaper or watch cable news with the alertness of adult faith. Hamley's commentary is a welcome gift for serious informed faith." -- Walter Brueggemann
"If you have ever read - or heard read - the book of Judges and wondered what on earth you are meant to make of it, this book is for you! Carefully and thoughtfully, Isabelle Hamley reflects on the themes of Judges drawing out what we can learn from it about ourselves, about community and about the world around us. One of the most striking themes is that of good and bad leadership and what happens in a community when leadership breaks down. It is an excellent book and well worth reading." -- Paula Gooder
"Isabelle Hamley gives us here a thoughtful and rich reading of a difficult biblical book. She is alert both to scholarly nuance and to contemporary concerns. The biblical text comes to life in a fresh way." -- Walter Moberly
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