Sunday, August 26, 2007

Adam christology in the Philippians 2 hymn

who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

(Php. 2:6-11)1
Johannes Weiss first called attention to the rhythmic nature of the above text in 1899. Today, there is nearly universal agreement that Paul is quoting a very early Christian hymn composed in honour of Jesus. The opening word, ὃς ("who"), hints at the same conclusion. "Who" sometimes functions as a kind of pivot introducing hymnlike confessions of faith:  see Col. 1:15, 1 Tim. 3:16, and Heb 1:3.

We've been discussing "Adam christology" (see the previous post). What does that mean? In the words of James Dunn,
The divine program for man [was] run through again with Jesus. Christ faced the same archetypal choice that confronted Adam, but chose not as Adam had chosen (to grasp equality with God). Instead he chose to empty himself of Adam's glory and to embrace Adam's lot, the fate which Adam had suffered by way of punishment. (Christology In the Making, p. 117)
Consequently, God super-exalted Jesus and installed him to the highest office, Lord of all.

Dunn is fitting the language of Php. 2:6-11 ("equality with God", "emptied himself") into the paradigm, Adam christology. It's a controversial interpretation of the Philippians text.

Evangelicals wouldn't know it, but the interpretation of Php. 2:6-11 is extremely contentious. Gerald Hawthorne writes,
The number of genuine exegetical problems and the sheer mass of books and articles it has called forth leaves one wondering where to begin. … There is little that can be agreed upon, whether the topic discussed is the precise form of this section, its authorship, its place and purpose in the letter, the sources used in its composition, and so on.

(Philippians, Word Biblical Commentary, ad loc.)
Most interpreters continue to see a clear reference to Christ's pre-existence in Philippians 2:6-11. But Dunn dares to question that interpretation:
As J. Murphy-O'Connor has recently maintained … the common belief that Phil. 2:6-11 starts by speaking of Christ's pre-existent state and status and then of his incarnation is, in almost every case, a presupposition rather than a conclusion, a presupposition which again and again proves decisive in determining how disputed terms within the Philippians hymn should be understood. (p. 114)
Perhaps the easiest way to proceed is to lay out these two possible interpretations of the text side by side.

pre-existence Adam christology
was in the form of God (μορφῇ θεοῦ)2 refers to Jesus' divine status in heaven, before his conception in Mary's womb Refers to Jesus' Adam-like status after his birth. "Form" (μορφῇ) of God is synonymous with "image" (εἰκών) of God. Like Adam before the first sin, the man Jesus bore the image and glory of God perfectly.
did not ἁρπαγμὸν [cling to?] [snatch at?] equality with God Jesus, who already possessed equality with God, did not cling to it Jesus, like Adam, was tempted to snatch at the possibility of god-like status (see Ge. 3:5) — but resisted
emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, γενόμενος [being born?] [becoming?] in the likeness of men refers to Jesus' incarnation: he divested himself of his deity and was born in the likeness of a human being γενόμενος is not to be translated "born" but "becoming" (just as it is translated in vs. 8). When Adam sinned, he became estranged from God, a slave to sin and corruption (suffering / death). Jesus, who did not sin, might have claimed an exemption from the universal human pattern (the "likeness of a human being"). He did not stand on his rights but emptied himself: i.e., he voluntarily participated in Adam's state of slavery.
being found in form as man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross emphasizes death by crucifixion as the ultimate expression of Jesus' self-emptying ditto; with the theological observation that Jesus' suffering and death were a voluntary participation in Adam's suffering and death
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name ("Lord") that is above every name a return to the status Jesus already enjoyed prior to his incarnation, concluding a pattern of glory/descent/return to glory elevation to a status Jesus had not formerly possessed: the status that Adam was destined for but never attained because of his sin

Dunn summarizes:
The Christ of Phil. 2:6-11 therefore is the man who undid Adam's wrong:  confronted with the same choice [whether to snatch at equality with God], he rejected Adam's sin, but nevertheless freely followed Adam's course as fallen man to the bitter end of death; wherefore God bestowed on him the status not simply that Adam lost, but the status which Adam was intended [but failed] to come to. (p. 119, emphasis in original)
Via his obedience unto death, Jesus became God's final prototype, the last Adam.

Am I convinced that Dunn's interpretation of Php. 2:6-11 is the right one? No.

Am I convinced that Dunn's interpretation of Php. 2:6-11 is a legitimate, possible interpretation? Yes.

This controversy is an outstanding example of the difficulty of interpreting the biblical texts. Individual words (μορφῇ, "form"; ἁρπαγμὸν, "cling to" or "snatch at"; and γενόμενος, "born" or "becoming") are ambiguous. Their interpretation turns on our presuppositions:  the paradigm we impose on the text.

When we read the text through the traditional lens (trinitarianism, fully articulated only in the post-biblical era), Php. 2:6-11 clearly refers to Christ's pre-existence. It never occurs to us that another interpretation might be possible — one that sees no reference to pre-existence in the text. But then another paradigm is suggested — in this case, Adam christology — and we realize with some shock that it makes sense.

What then? We're left with two divergent interpretations, and it is impossible to know for certain which one is correct.

Postmodernists say that all interpretation is like that:  we get out of the text what we bring to the text; therefore no text has a single "right" interpretation. Meaning is always subjective and legitimately contested.

The postmodern perspective is obviously problematic for the concept of biblical authority. But whether or not we're comfortable with its implications, Php. 2:6-11 is a good example of the real challenges of interpreting biblical texts.

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1Here, Php. 2:6-11 is quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. When individual phrases are later inserted into a table, I am not following any one English translation.

2The Greek text is copied from the Online Greek Bible using the font, Athena.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Adam christology in Paul's letters

And now for something completely different …!

In general, Emerging From Babel consciously focuses on exegesis of the Old Testament. But since I'm a Christian, interacting with other bibliobloggers, I continue to get drawn into dialogue on New Testament issues as well. Thus I've gotten sidetracked (it happens all the time) by a recent post on Chris Tilling's blog.

Chris has been surveying the content of a recent publication by Gordon D. Fee:  Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 2007). Part 7 of Chris's survey touches on the question of Adam christology:
While there is an Adam Christology in Paul, "in terms of actual language and echoes from Gen 1-2, it is limited to two kinds of passages:  first, explicit contrasts between Christ and Adam … and, second, where the incarnate Christ is seen as the true bearer of the divine image".
I'd like to explore this topic here (having already posted several long comments on Chris's blog).

In this post, we'll deal with the topic of Adam christology in general. In the follow-up post, we'll take a look at the great hymn contained in Philippians 2.

1. Allusions to Adam:
Adam plays a larger role in Paul's theology than is usually realized. … Adam is a key figure in Paul's attempt to express his understanding both of Christ and of man.

(James Dunn, Christology In the Making: An Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation, 2nd ed., 1989, p. 101.)
Dunn argues that there are numerous allusions to Adam where Adam is not explicitly mentioned. I would summarize the texts by saying that they deal with the whole notion of the "fall of man":  a fall from grace into depravity, separation from God, hardship, suffering, and ultimately death.

Those themes are of course sounded in the story of Adam's creation and disobedience, recounted in Genesis 1-3 —
Of the above items, the most interesting concerns the image / likeness / glory of God. Did humanity forfeit these things, either in Adam's sin or in our own subsequent sins (or both)?

That humanity forfeited God's image at the fall was not a traditional Jewish view:
The motif of man made in the divine image does not play a large part in Jewish thought — it seems to have been taken more or less for granted. … More striking is the fact that there is little or no thought of the divine image being effaced or obscured in Adam as a consequence of his fall (cf. Gen. 5:1-3; 9:6; James 3:9). (Dunn, p. 105)
On the other hand:
There may have been no real idea that Adam forfeited the image of God by his fall, but there was certainly a firm conviction that he had forfeited the glory of God. … Thus in [the rabbinic texts] Gen. Rab. 12:6 and Num. Rab. 13:12 glory (or lustre) is one of the six things taken from Adam which would be restored in the world to come (see also Gen. Rab. 11:2; 21:5; Deut. Rab. 11:3). (Dunn, p. 106; I added the italics on "image" and "glory")
As for Paul, at one point he states that man (meaning literally the male) is the image and glory of God. But:
The dominant motif in Paul is that man is rather the image of fallen Adam, shares his corruptibility (1Co. 15:49), and that salvation consists in the believer being transformed into the image of God (2Co. 3:18), consists in a progressive renewal in knowledge according to the image of the Creator (Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24). So there is something of an Adam soteriology here [NB. even where Adam is not explicitly mentioned] — salvation as a restoration of man to that image in which Adam had been created. (Dunn, p. 105)
Accordingly, Dunn sees references to Adam where a casual reader would not notice any such thing:  e.g.,
  • "for all have sinned and forfeited the glory of God" (Ro. 3:23; Dunn's translation);
  • "I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me" (Ro. 7:9).1
On the latter text, Dunn comments:
Romans 7:9f. can be fully explicated only by reference to Adam. Only if he was thinking of Adam could Paul properly say that he was alive once apart from the law, and that the coming of the commandment brought sin to life and resulted in death for him. For a life "apart from law", and a "coming" of law which resulted in sin and death, was true of Adam in a way that it would not be true of anyone born after or under the law. …

Finally with Rom. 7:11, "for sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, deceived (ἐξηπάτησέν) me and by it killed me", we have a fairly explicit echo of the woman's complaint in Gen. 3:13 — "The serpent deceived (ηπάτησέν) me and I ate." (p. 104)
2. Explicit references to Adam:
The divine program for man which broke down with Adam has been run through again in Jesus — this time successfully. … Christ could not become last Adam, progenitor of a new manhood beyond death, if he had not first been Adam, one with the manhood which the first Adam begot. (Dunn, pp. 110-111)
We can now turn our attention to the only two texts in which Paul explicitly develops an Adam christology. First, Romans 5:12-19 —
Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. … Adam … was a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. … For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. …

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.
Dunn comments:
Adam and Christ are alike (Adam the type of Christ — vs. 14) in that in both cases the action of one man had fateful consequences for those who followed. Both also died, but here the similarity ends. For where Adam's death was the consequence of his trespass, his disobedience, Christ's death was his act of righteousness, his act of obedience. …

By freely following out the consequences of Adam's disobedience (i.e. death), Jesus burst through the cul-de-sac of death into life. … [Thus] he was able to catch up man in resurrection, to make it possible for God's original intention for man to be fulfilled at the last. The point can be expressed thus:

          Adam's disobedience ———> death
               Christ's obedience to death ———> life.

(p. 111)
Second, 1Co. 15:20-49 —
Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. …

[The body of a dead person] is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
Dunn comments:
It is likely that there is an underlying connection of thought … to the effect that Christ too first bore "the image of the man of dust" before he became "the man from heaven" (vs. 49), that he too was a "living soul" before he became "life-giving Spirit" (vs. 45). For only he who died as men die could become "the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep" (vs. 20). (p. 111)

These are complex ideas:  they are familiar to us and yet they stretch our capacity to understand.

In the follow-up post, we will consider the great hymn in Philippians 2 to see whether it, too, is an instance of Adam christology. Dunn thinks it is, even though Adam is not explicitly mentioned.

1Unless otherwise indicated, scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A study in depression

I'm curious how many of my readers are familiar with the Latin word, verisimilitude. It is a technical term used primarily in literary criticism, but I encountered it in my theology studies. Here's a good definition:
The sense that what one reads is "real," or at least realistic and believable. For instance, the reader possesses a sense of verisimilitude when reading a story in which a character cuts his finger, and the finger bleeds. If the character's cut finger had produced sparks of fire rather than blood, the story would not possess verisimilitude. Note that even fantasy novels and science fiction stories that discuss impossible events can have verisimilitude if the reader is able to read them with suspended disbelief.
Note the phrase, "the reader possesses a sense of verisimilitude …". The term tells us something about the text, to be sure, but it isn't a characteristic we can define objectively. It's fundamentally about the reader:  his or her subjective response while reading the text.

The word verisimilitude came to mind yesterday as I was reading this text:
Elijah went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers." And he lay down and slept. (1 Kings 19:4-5a)1
I find this story about Elijah startling and deeply moving. I don't have any deep theological or psychological insight to share with you. I just wanted to say, here's a text that has verisimilitude.

Years ago, I received some training before I began to work at a crisis support centre, answering telephone calls from people in distress. The trainer was a clergyman, and he drew our attention to this passage as a textbook example of depression.

Elijah has reached the end of his rope. He can't cope any longer. He wants nothing more than to die. He sleeps.

The story is especially remarkable if you read it in context. It comes immediately after Elijah's triumph on Mount Carmel, where he had proven that Baal is a false god and the prophets of Baal were false prophets. It was the high point of Elijah's career; but immediately afterward, he was plunged into a state of depression.

The sequence is true to human psychology. Whenever you have a peak experience, you can expect to feel a letdown afterward. But the word "letdown" is hardly adequate in Elijah's case!

To be fair, I should point out that there was one intervening event. Queen Jezebel had threatened to murder Elijah:
[King] Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets [of Baal] with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow." Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life. (1 Kings 19:1-3a)
Elijah was also suffering from the burden of carrying too much responsibility. He lived in an era when Israel had broken faith with God. He was the point man in God's campaign to bring Israel to repentance.
And Elijah came near to all the people and said, "How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." And the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21)
This is a heavy burden to bear. The religion of Israel mattered profoundly to Elijah. He felt that its very survival rested on his shoulders, and his alone.
Elijah came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He said, "I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away." (1 Kings 19:9-10)
So Elijah's depression has three2 identifiable causes:  (1) the inevitable letdown after his triumph on Mount Carmel; (2) Jezebel's threat on his life; and (3) the onerous burden of responsibility he carried.

"It is enough," he says, with profound understatement. "Please — just let me die."

Sceptics deride the Bible for its fantastic stories, and I understand that point of view. Elijah is associated with a series of outstanding miracles. It is as if earthly limitations don't apply to him:  rather like Jesus walking on water.

Even if faith says that the stories are historical, it's still difficult to relate to a superhuman hero.

It's worth noting that the Bible also has this other side. In most cases — Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, and Jeremiah come to mind — the veil is lifted at least occasionally, and we see the frail, human side of the Bible's heroes.

It is then that the Bible seems truest to us:  it is then that the reader experiences this subjective response, verisimilitude.

(Cross-posted on Outside the Box.)

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1Unless otherwise indicated, scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.

2Four, if we include physical exhaustion:  "And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, 'Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you'" (1 Kings 19:7). This, after Elijah had run a great distance to escape Jezebel's wrath.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hear, O heavens ...

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth;
for the Lord has spoken.
     (Isaiah 1:2)

From time to time, the heavens are invoked to listen to someone's testimony:  against a sinner (Isaiah 1:2 and Psalm 50:4; compare Job 20:27, Jer. 2:11-12, and 51:48) or, on one occasion, in praise of YHWH (Psalm 32:1-3).

Let's take a closer look at Isaiah 1:2-3 —
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth;
     for the Lord has spoken:
"Children have I reared and brought up,
     but they have rebelled against me.
The ox knows its owner,
     and the donkey its master's crib,
but Israel does not know,
     my people do not understand."1
The part about the ox and the donkey is clear enough — I get the point of that! But what's this "Hear, O heavens" business? Walter Brueggemann comments:
The call to heaven and earth is a rhetorical assertion of indignation on Yahweh's part. Yahweh summons cosmic witnesses to observe the mess that has become of the relationship with "my people." Because Yahwism is monotheistic, Yahweh cannot summon other gods to observe, and so instead summons the most formidable of creatures, heaven and earth. Israel's failure in its response to Yahweh is a matter of cosmic concern, now made evident to the whole known world.2
Note Brueggemann's use of the word "rhetorical". Clearly we're in the realm of metaphor here. Indeed, the prophets often express their message in poetry:  hence modern translations break Isaiah 1:2-3 into eight short lines, instead of a single paragraph. And note the parallelism (so characteristic of Hebrew poetry) between lines 5 and 6, and again between lines 7 and 8.

If I'm not mistaken, the text is a rudimentary depiction of a courtroom scene. The heavens and the earth are called in to hear YHWH's testimony against "my people", that they might testify to the rightness of YHWH's verdict against Israel. This appeal to a "court" is a recurrent rhetorical device in the prophets, and I expect we will encounter it again.

Brueggemann says, "Israel's failure in its response to Yahweh is a matter of cosmic concern, now made evident to the whole known world." Indeed! That last phrase, "the whole known world," interprets the heavens and the earth in its standard sense, "the entirety of the cosmos".

In my opinion, the opening chapter of Isaiah is one of the most powerful, and terrible, texts in all of scripture. It reduces me alternately to terror and to tears.

God have mercy on the Church when inevitably we follow Israel down her backsliding path!


1Unless otherwise indicated, scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.

2Walter Brueggemann, Isaiah 1-39, Westminster John Knox Press, 1998, ad loc.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The "Uh-oh" principle, part 2: Poetic justice in the prophets

I've decided to write two more posts on the David and Bathsheba story.

First, in this post, I want to explore a concept that Walter Brueggemann flags as a core element of rhetorical criticism. Brueggemann maintains that there is a very close relation between what gets said (the message of the text) and how it gets said (the literary or rhetorical techniques utilized by the author).

But let's quote Brueggeman himself on the subject. Here he is, contrasting historical criticism with rhetorical criticism:
Historical criticism, as it has come to be practiced, has been notorious for its lack of interest in the actual expression of the text itself. Indeed, the primary references for historical criticism characteristically are outside the text or, as is often said now, "behind the text" in the historical process. …

The commentaries are characteristically occupied with sorting out what is "genuine" in the text and with identifying parallels in other cultures. Such treatment of the text does not at all attend to the statements of the text itself, but is in effect a sustained raid on the text, looking for clues that support historical reconstruction. …

Rhetorical criticism is a method that insists that how what is said is crucial and definitive for what is said, so that the theology of the Old Testament does not trade in a set of normative ideas that may be said in many ways, but in a particular utterance that is spoken and/or written in a certain way.

It is now agreed that the primary impetus for rhetorical criticism as an intentional Old Testament enterprise stems from the address of James Muilenburg, "Form Criticism and Beyond," presented in 1968 and published in 1969. …

Muilenburg almost single-handedly made credible the practice of close reading, whereby one notices the detail of the text, such as word patterns and arrangements, the use of key words in repetition, the careful placement of prepositions and conjunctions, and the reiteration of sounds of certain consonants. … He held that such detail in the text is characteristically intentional, and that the force of the text cannot be understood apart from noticing such detail.

(Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, dispute, advocacy, Fortress Press, 1997, pp. 53-55.)
I am attracted to rhetorical criticism, in part because it puts evangelicals and liberals on common ground, at least to a significant extent.

To be clear, Brueggemann does not suppose that everything in the text is historical, or that the various Old Testament texts agree with one another. On the contrary, he maintains that scripture speaks with many voices:  there are diverse agendas at work in the texts as they have been handed down to us.

But insofar as rhetorical criticism begins with the text as it appears in the Bible, seeking meaning in (not behind) the text, evangelicals will find the method amenable.

Personally, I am at a disadvantage because I do not know Hebrew. Many of the details of importance to Muilenburg do not carry over into an English translation. But some of them do, so we will work with such details as are present to us.

With this method in mind, let's take another look at 2 Samuel 12. I'm using a different format this time, highlighting certain keywords:
(past experience of God's grace)
Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, "I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.

(present moral failure)
Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.

(impending consequences)
Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife."

Thus says the Lord, "Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun."

(2 Samuel 12:7b-12)1
The reader should note the pattern that emerges when the text is colour-coded in this way. The word "wife" recurs in all three sections of the text (past experience of God's grace, present moral failure, and impending consequences). The word "sword" appears in the latter two sections.

Rhetorical criticism tells us to be alert to the repetition of keywords. The literary technique is a clue to the meaning of the text. In this case, it tells us something interesting about the worldview of the author:  what I have called "poetic justice" in the title of this post.
  • David sins with Uriah's wife (present moral failure), even though YHWH has already provided him with wives2 (past experience of God's grace); poetic justice deems that his own wives will be taken by another man (impending consequences).

  • David uses the sword to rid himself of a problem (present moral failure); poetic justice deems that David's kingdom will never be free of the sword (impending consequences). (That is, Israel will never be at peace with its neighbours while David is king.)
The idea of poetic justice is found not only here, in Nathan's oracle to David, but elsewhere in the prophets as well. It seems to be an important element of the prophetic worldview.

Klaus Koch describes this phenomenon in an evocative way. He is commenting on Jeremiah 1:13-16 —
The word of the Lord came to me a second time, saying, "What do you see?" And I said, "I see a boiling pot, facing away from the north." Then the Lord said to me, "Out of the north disaster [literally, evil] shall be let loose upon all the inhabitants of the land. For behold, I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, declares the Lord, and they shall come, and every one shall set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its walls all around and against all the cities of Judah. And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands.
This text is not laid out in the same neat pattern as the one in 2 Samuel 12. There is no mention of God's prior grace to Israel. Moreover, the "present moral failure" is the last element mentioned. Israel's moral failure consists of forsaking YHWH to worship idols:  "… all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands."

Even though the pattern is not as tidy, we see a similar repetition of a keyword:  evil. Israel has committed evil, and evil (calamity) will be turned back upon Israel. Here's what Koch says:
In the prophetic genres, key words generally form the pivot in the logical progression from the 'now' to the 'impending'. … The word ra'a [evil] is used ninety times in [Jeremiah] and becomes the common denominator, both for human transgression that has already taken place and for a catastrophe that is going to break in from outside. …

For the prophet, ra'a is not an abstract power. It is an aura, with effects on the world, an aura encircling the particular agent, who brings about his own destiny.

(Klaus Koch, The Prophets II: The Babylonian and Persian periods, Fortress Press, 1982, p. 20.)
This is an evocative picture:  an aura of evil surrounding Israel which then attracts evil upon Israel. In the same way, David's aura of adultery or his aura of "the use of the sword" attracted precisely those consequences upon him in punishment. It is poetic justice.

I'm not convinced that we should take Koch's description at face value. It might better be understood as a metaphor rather than a literal, Magical Mystery principle of the cosmos.

Regardless, our rhetorical analysis of these two texts leads to an enriched understanding of the "Uh-oh" principle. When people do evil, "Uh-oh!" — that same evil will be turned back on their heads.

(Next up: a consideration of Bathsheba's voicelessness in the 2 Samuel 11-12 narrative. Whereas the first two posts have been evangelical in their treatment of the text, the third post will explicitly adopt a critical perspective.)

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1Unless otherwise indicated, scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.

2YHWH's assertion, "I gave you … your master's wives into your arms" is odd:  we're not told any such thing in the narrative where David assumes the throne. However: (1) it was customary in that era for a new king to take the former king's wives, perhaps as a symbol of his succession to the former king's place; (2) David and Saul both had a wife named Ahinoam, although we can't be certain that it is the same woman in both references.