Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Understanding Repentance in the OT

Jeremiah Unterman, From Repentance to Redemption, Jeremiah’s Thought in Transition, (1987), 12:

“Once Israel has sinned, and while the people dwell in a divinely ordained state in the land of Israel they must repent in order to avoid destruction and/or exile.

However, what if the hoped for repentance is not realized and destruction and/or exile become inevitable? How then is the positive relationship between God and Israel to be renewed? Is repentance a condition of the redemptive process, or not? What role does divine mercy play? On these important religious questions there is a multitude of biblical perspectives. In the priestly literature, confession and contrition are the sum of human activity necessary as a precondition for redemption in exile (Lev. 26:40-41). On the other hand, in Deuteronomy (4:29-31; 30:1-10) and the deuteronomistic historiography (1 Kgs 8:44-53) the people must ‘return’ to God in order to be redeemed. In Amos (9:8-15), no human activity is required for restoration. In Hosea, repentance is required in two passages (3:1-5; 14:2-9), but not in two others (2:4-25; 11:1-11). It is strange that in Ezekiel, which is closely related to P, repentance is required for individual physical salvation, but outside of a description of cessation of idolatry (14:1-11; 18:30-32; 20:30ff.), there is no hint that human activity is needed to effect restoration to the land. Indeed, in contrast to Leviticus 26, contrition and remorse take place after redemption (Ezek. 16:54, 63; 20:43; 36:31: 39:26).”

I was going to describe my confusion in understanding repentance in the OT but this description by Jeremiah Unterman says it better.


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