New commentary on Judges

Martin, Lee Roy, The Unheard Voice of God: A Pentecostal Hearing of the Book of Judges (Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series, 32; Dorset, UK: Deo Publishing, 2008), pp. xiv + 287. ISBN 13: 978-1-90567-907-2.

After introducing the reader to the issue of Pentecostal reading (‘hearing’) of the book of Judges and the critical studies on Judges, starting with chapter five Martin deals with the core of his thesis: the three speeches of God (2:1-5; 6:7-10; 10:11-16). Various appendices, indeces and bibliograpy are added at the very end.

The Pentecostal hearing is based on a God-centered worldview that influences the reading of the book with a focus on God. The hermeneutics preferred is not a rationalistic pursuit of truth, but a charismatic encounter with God in the middle of a covenant community that offers „balance, accountability, and uncontrolled subjectivism” (p. 72). The reason for such a preference owes much to orality, considered the common element between the OT society and the Pentecostal church in a postmodern society.

Surprinsingly, Martin does not mention the Holy Spirit as a theme in Judges (cf. p. 91-95), although it would fit the second mecanism specified for identifying themes: „the repetition of words, phrases, and topics” (p. 95). The term appears over 370 times in the OT. With its ten times in the book, and about 3% presence in the OT, the term appears once each almost 60 verses, an average comparable to that in Psalms.

The message of the first divine speech (2:1-5) is that God remains loyal to his covenant toward Israel even though there are plenty of reasons to dispose of it. Iterated at the outset of the book, the first speech anounces the progress of the plot during the forthcoming period of time, by allowing Canaanites to interfere with Israelites business in Canaan. Disciplining is thus part of the covenant God ped down with Israel.

The second divine speech (6:7-10) is mediated through a very intrusive prophet. By it God is rebuking Israel for turning to other gods. Exclusive reverence to God would have been the proper response Israel was expected in return for God’s salvation and care. This speech intensifies the plot in Judges, as a whole.

The third and final speech (10:11-16) is said to betray a conflict within God’s inner being, that is between his righteousness and his compassion. It consists of God’s refusal to help Israel any longer. This is an unmediated dialogue with Israel, the longest among the three, provoking apparently the most commendable reaction of Israel to the critique.

It is noticed that all three speeches build on the Exodus tradition. They have the role of signaling to the reader the development of the plot, the last of which being a genuine turning point. From Martin’s perspective the final two stories of wow (ch. 17-21) stand as the book’s epilogue. The intricacies of telling the stories of the judges show a constant depletion from the primary model with a God who is increasingly more reluctant to intervene on behalf of Israel, only to disappear entirely during the epilogue.

Martin’s study, literary in nature, advances suggestions on the meaning of divine speech in the plot, but promotes it only at the theological level. A linguistic thorough frame, such as the one offered by discourse analysis would have grounded more firmly the discourse, though. Even so, Martin managed to offer the public the first Pentecostal critical commentary on Judges.

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