- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Apollos; 2nd ed. edition (15 Sept. 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0851114717
- ISBN-13: 978-0851114712
- Package Dimensions: 22.4 x 15.2 x 1.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,739,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Gods of the Nations: Studies in Ancient Near Eastern National Theology (ETS studies) Paperback – 15 Sep 2000
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From the Publisher
In sharp contrast to the worldview of modern secular culture, the inhabitants of the ancient Near East were convinced of the reality of divine involvement in their individual and corporate lives.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Using this book, one will be able to gain a working familiarity with some of the more common religious thought forms of the Bronze and Iron ages. A major conclusion of his work is that Yahweh is distinct from all the other gods in that he cares for a people while all the other gods care only for their lands. Yahweh is the electing God of love and mercy.
For gaining a better understanding of the Old Testament world, books such as this are indispensable. Block is a master teacher who knows how to systematically present ancient texts and beliefs. In the end he arrives at a profound restatement of Yahweh and His relation to Israel, resulting in a summary exposition of Ezekiel 8-11. In that text we discover how the Glory of Yahweh leaves the temple and heads east to leave Jerusalem and depart from Israel. This movement is explained in the Babylonian context where gods often leave temples when they are dragged away by captors. Yahweh, however, is unique in that his departure is voluntary and under his own power, for he is doing with the other gods can not and do not do. My summary can not do justice, you really need to get the book and read all the details for yourself.
The book is divided into five basic chapters that can each be read in one sitting. As a result, I found myself reading this book in less than a week -- and with little effort, which is good for me being that I am slowest of all readers. That is, I did not find myself spending all my free time reading, but the pages evaporated into the past as quickly as they appeared: the reading was over before I realized what hit me.
I have spent a good amount of time reading Ancient Near Eastern material, and I feel like this treaties has been the most pleasant and enjoyable. One critique I would give, which is really a wish and not a critique, is that it would be nice if there were a chapter on the New Testament. I would like to see Block develop his theme in relation to Jesus, who is the Lord of the New Exodus. Jesus is the "Yahweh-Saves" Man, and it would be wonderful to see how Block would incorporate this into his overall scheme (in my mind, the idea is perfectly complimentary to Block�s present thesis, and I�d like to read the good professor�s take on the matter). Where Block does not develop the theme, I recommend reading "God Crucified" by Richard Bauckham (available on Amazon), or "The Challenge of Jesus" by N.T. Wright, esp. chapter 5, also available on Amazon.
Block proposes that there was a relationship between the deities of the ANE, the land, and the people which was similar to a feudal system. The land was given to or reserved by the deity who gave it to the people. Each member of this triad had responsibilities which Block investigates. Thus the conduct of the people was subject to the accounting of the deity.
Too bad this book is so short. Block spends too little time addressing the fact that political realities in the ANE shaped theological documents. For example on page 118, Block notes the titular deity of Ur is forced out because Ur has been destroyed.
Block could use these political realities to explain the religious syncretism of ancient Israel as known from the archaeological record. Rather than do that, Block concentrates upon biblical texts to explain the rights and demands of the deity upon the people, and then he uses extra-biblical texts to explain the end of the deity-people relationship.
A fascinating thesis worthy of a second edition. I will refer to this book often during future reading.