12.13.2011

Armour of God 2: Resurrecting God as a Soldier

The the previous blog post I said that Isaiah is using Divine warrior language that comes from deep within Israel's history.  In this blog I intend to give a very (very!) brief survey of the use of this language within the scope of the Old Testament, which will bring up points that will be important in later posts.  But, in order to take a step forward we must first take a step or two back.  Staying only in Isaiah will obviously not be helpful for our case because Isaiah is only a small part of a much larger tradition.  We need to step back to take a look at the wider view, lest something is missed.

As I mentioned in the last blog post, Isaiah is using a way of talking about God that stretches a far way back in Israel's history.  All the way to the Exodus!  The theme of Divine warrior progresses and acquires new elements as it's used over the span of the Biblical writings. It starts off very simply, such as in Exodus 15:3

The LORD is a warrior; 
The LORD is His name. 
Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; 
And the choicest of his officers are drowned in the Red Sea.

This theme gradually develops throughout Israel's history into something more widespread and nuanced: The Divine warrior restores order to chaos, He uses the Davidic kingship as a figurehead (see Isaiah 11:5), He will only fight if Israel is obedient and throws her idols away (1 Kings 17) and (most importantly!), He eventually even becomes willing to war against His own chosen people, Israel, because of their idol worship and injustice (see Amos or Isaiah 59).

In the same way, the Bible depicts God as "wearing" things such as righteousness and justice (See Deut 32:41, Job 29:14, Isaiah 11:4-5).  Isaiah (specifically chapter 59) picks up on these images and applies them to weapons and armour, rather than just clothing, further expanding on the Divine warrior theme found throughout the Bible.  Most of these developments (such as kingship and a concern for justice) can be found in the surrounding contexts of Ephesians 6, and they do affect our reading of it!!

How do they do that?  Next post!