What do I think of Philip Esler’s book published by Cascade books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Men tend to share a lot of common loves. Most men love sex, for example. For those of us who married, many of us love our wives too. Many of us also have a fighting spirit and love warriors, so naturally, a book called Sex, Wives, and Warriors is attractive.
I thought this would be a book about the conquest in the Old Testament since it was about Old Testament narrative. Nope. Still, I’m not complaining. The book is about a number of other passages in the text and giving them a good and hard look.
Esler also writes from a perspective for every person. If you’re a skeptic of the Bible’s historicity, it doesn’t matter. His goal is not to tell you what happened, but how an ancient Israelite would have seen the text at the time. If you’re a believer in the text, this will give you some insight still. If you’re not a believer, you’ll still get something out of it by seeing how the texts fit into the society.
Genesis 38 with Judah and Tamar is covered. This is a passage of Scripture I always found quite strange to have suddenly pop up in the text with no seeming relation to the narrative. After all, this portion of the text focuses mainly on Joseph and none of the other children of Jacob get a look like this, so why Judah?
I still am unsure of that, but this passage is seen in a whole new light. Esler brings out why it is that Judah wouldn’t give his third son to Tamar and why it is she seduced Judah instead. Many of us today are unaware of the social structure of society and are too quick to read our modern culture into the text.
So it goes with other stories in the Old Testament. How should we see the story of Hannah and her son Samuel? Why is Hannah treated the way she is by her husband and her rival wife? Why even have a rival wife?
What about David and Goliath? Is this just a story about overcoming your own Goliaths in your life? (Spoiler alert: No.) What does it mean of David that he goes and fights? What was it that made this fight so spectacular?
What about King Saul’s being crowned king? Why would he go and cut up an ox and run it through the streets of town? Why would there be hesitation on the part of the people if God chose Saul?
What about David and Bathsheba? This is one of those stories that if a film was made about it even if just for TV, you would have to send the kids to bed early that night. What all else is going on behind the scenes that we might not realize?
One outworking of this is the story of Amnon and Tamar. What is going on in David’s family to cause this to happen? What kind of relationship did David have with his kids? How did this affect the kingdom afterward?
We also step out of the Old Testament for a bit, at least if you’re a Protestant, to cover the story of Judith. If you haven’t read this as a Protestant, you should. This is one also that if you don’t believe it to be historical, you can still see how an ancient Israelite would have seen it.
I recommend this one for believers and non-believers alike. Non-believers will not think they are being preached to and won’t get an apologetics approach. This is all about interpretation and not historicity. Christians and others who hold to historicity, such as a number of Jews, will gain further insights into the text.
So if you love stories in the Bible about sex or about wives or about warriors, give it a try.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)