Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Kinship By Covenant, Part 5: Dealing With Rebellious Teens

In Kinship By Covenant, Scott Hahn directs his readers' attention to the prophecy of Ezekiel to demonstrate that the idea that the Sinaitic and Deuteronomic covenants are distinct is not a novel notion. In Ezekiel 20:10-13 the prophet recalls Israel's exodus from Egypt; Yahweh then gives them the law on Mt. Sinai, which the people promptly break by worshiping the golden calf. Despite Yahweh's option of destroying the people right then and there, he shows mercy to the them and spares them, despite their not being allowed to enter the land (Ezekiel 20:14-17).

A second chance is given, however, to the second generation, the children of those who worshiped the golden calf, as recorded in verses 18-21. God instructed them not to worship idols like their fathers did, and to live according to the laws he had given them in order that they might have life. But the second generation's idolatry as displayed in the Baal-peor incident demonstrated that the children were just as wicked as their fathers.

This is where a shift occurs, Hahn argues. In the light of the second generation's apostasy, Yahweh makes an additional covenant with the people, one not characterized by good laws but by statutes and restrictions uniquely suited not for a nation in its infancy, but in rebellious adolescence. Hence we read:

But I withheld my hand and acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. Moreover, I swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among thenations and disperse them through the countries, because they had not obeyed my rules, but had rejected my statutes and profaned my Sabbaths, and their eyes were set on their fathers’ idols. Moreover, I gave them statutes that were not good and rules by which they could not have life, and I defiled them through their very gifts in their offering up all their firstborn, that I might devastate them. I did it that they might know that I am the LORD (vv. 22-26).
This is consistent with Deuteronomy 29:1, which explicitly distinguishes between the covenants made at Horeb and on the plains of Moab. And interestingly, this position also has a pretty ancient pedigree. We read in the Didascalia Apostolorum (third century):
For the law which the Lord spoke before the people had made the calf and served idols consists of the ten commandments and the judgments. But after they had served idols, He justly laid upon them bonds.... But our Savior came to set us loose from the bonds of the Second Legislation.
And in Irenaeus (second century):
God himself personally spoke the Decalogue... that is why they remain valid for us.... But the precepts of slavery he laid separately upon the people through Moses.... When they turned aside to make the calf, they received further servile obligations, as Ezekiel says [citing 20:25].