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The Land in Waiting

While many books on the Pentateuch merely rehash the interpretive theories behind the text, Waiting for the Land seeks to bring coherence to the narrative flow of the first five books of the Bible. Arie Leder, a seasoned Professor of OT at Calvin Seminary has written a timely and narrative focused study on these Scriptures. First of all, Leder understands that to get into the narrative of Genesis through Deuteronomy one must attune to the narrative details of the text (plot, structure, vocabulary) by using the 'narrative's own vocabulary' and secondly by using the 'vocabulary typical of the church's reading of Scripture' (5). This method allows the story to stand on its own, with its own nuances, by also brigdges the gap to modern renderings of the text that serve the needs of the church. Yet, for the Christian who believes that the Pentateuch is Christian Scripture, he also reads these books with their fulfillment in mind through Christ. This kind of interpretive stance does not entail historical amnesia on the part of the interpreter but rather looks at the unfolding history of God's mighty acts and deeds done through the whole of Scripture.

Building a case in ch. 2 for Leviticus as the 'axis mundi' of the Pentateuch, Leder writes, "In the terms of the Pentateuch's fundamental narrative problem, obedience to Levitical instruction and maintenance of the ritual at the ritual center keeps Israel safe in God's presence; it prevents exile, uncleanness, and death that are the natural inheritance of Adam's descendants" (36-37). Although Levitics might not display the mighty acts of God like Exodus, it provides a clear cut answer to the destruction of the fall and the way of holiness that Israel is to follow. Secondly, the blessings and curses of the covenantal structure that God initiated to his people are clearly carried out in relationship to laws of holiness and purity, ritual and sacrifice. As the Genesis through Exodus narratives unfolding, sin brought the people of Israel away from the presence of God in disruption, confusion, and idolatry. Yet, as Leder indicates, "At this textual center, Leviticus, Israel receives instructions for organizing her life in the presence of God" (40).

Chapter 3 provides the reader an interpretive lens upon which to guide our reading through the Pentateuch, the lens being the kingship pattern. The kingship pattern as Leder notes is a series of events that take place in a narrative involving disorder, finding ones enemy, seeking him out to destroy and returning to his kingdom to build a victory edifice (43-44). Leder goes on to explain how this narrative structure is found throughout the Pentatechal narrative starting with Adam and Eve and progressing forward.

The next few chapter focus individually on the separate books of the Pentateuch. Of primary importance for Leder's discussion is the focus on the land. "Genesis ends with death hemmed in, but still a certainty; with the land still only a distanct reality, yet gained in death" (90). Although death surrounds the main figures of the narratives, God still has in focus the land that Israel will enter. The chapter on Exodus is a reminder to the Israelite community that their being is associated with the instructions given to them at Mount Sinai (114). Following the laws of God is tantamount to heeding the word of God, being frutiful in life and bringing about blessing. As God's presence is the camp is evident in the book of Numbers, so is his instruction as the Israelites wait on the border (161-164). The last section on Deuteronomy focuses on the transition from God's word mediated through Moses to the people and the subsequent leadership of Joshua ahead. The Torah is especially important in the leadership of Joshua, for although Moses and Abraham will pass away, the torah will not (170).

The last chapter concerns the church and its application of the Pentateuch. Leder dissects the Dispensational theology with respect to the land that has caused much controversy and opts for a different position altogether (193-196). Lastly, Leder points out that the Pentatechal narratives are very important in pointing out the need for obedience to God's word for his people today.

I recommend this book highly and hope that it does a great service to its readers.

Thanks to P&R for the review copy


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