The Old Testament, particularly the Former Prophets, has frequently been regarded as having a negative attitude towards foreigners. This has meant that these texts are often employed by those opposed to the Christian faith to attack the Bible; and such views can be echoed by Christians. While the story of David and Goliath is cherished, other episodes are seen to involve 'ethnic cleansing' or 'massacre' and are avoided.
David Firth's contention is that this view emerges from an established interpretation of the text, but not the text itself. He argues that the Former Prophets subvert the exclusivist approach in order to show that the people of God are not defined by ethnicity but rather by their willingness to commit themselves to the purposes of Yahweh. God's purposes are always wider than Israel alone, and Israel must therefore understand themselves as a people who welcome and include the foreigner.
Firth addresses contemporary concerns about the ongoing significance of the Old Testament for Christians, and shows how opponents of Christianity have misunderstood the Bible. His reading of the Former Prophets also has significant ethical implications for Christians today as they wrestle with the issues of migration and what it means to be the people of God.
Tutor in Old Testament, Trinity College, Bristol, UK, and research fellow of the University of the Free State. Author of 1 & 2 Samuel (AOTC), The Message of Esther (BST), The Message of Joshua (BST). Co-editor of Interpreting the Psalms, Interpreting Deuteronomy, Interpreting Isaiah, Words and the Word, Exploring Old Testament Wisdom and Presence, Power and Promise (all Apollos). TOTC Series Editor.
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