Zion, City of Our God

By Richard S. Hess and Gordon J. Wenhem, eds.
Grand Rapids : Eerdmans (1999). x + 206 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. William Barrick
14.1 (Spring 2003) : 121-122

 An international team of scholars approaches the topic of Jerusalem in the First Temple from a variety of perspectives in this collection of essays. All were papers presented in a special meeting of the Tyndale Fellowship Old Testament Study Group meeting at Cambridge in 1996 (ix). Each essay is thoroughly documented by immediately accessible footnotes providing a wealth of sources and supplementary information.

In “The Temple of Solomon: Heart of Jerusalem” (1-22), John M. Monson (Wheaton College) examines Solomon’s Temple in the context of recent archaeological parallels in Syria. This study of the biblical account of the Temple in the United Monarchy, the intensification of the Zion tradition, and the contemporary archaeological parallels clearly demonstrates the Temple’s significance and nature. Special attention is given to the neo-Hittite temple at ‘Ain Dara dating from the early first millennium B.C. (12-21).

Richard S. Hess (Denver Seminary) contributed “Hezekiah and Sennacherib in 2 Kings 18–20” (23-41), focusing on literary studies of Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem. He emphasizes the problem of what appear to be two different accounts in 2 Kings, dealing also with relevant materials in Isaiah and 2 Chronicles. Examining the historical, critical, and literary approaches to the problem, Hess concludes that 2 Kgs 18:13b-16 is the summary and 18:17–19:37 is a resumption and expansion similar to the technique exhibited in Genesis 1–2 (37-40).

Two essays dealing with Chronicles (“Jerusalem in Chronicles,” 43-56, and “Jerusalem at War in Chronicles,” 57-76) were written by Martin J. Selman (Spurgeon’s College, London) and Gary N. Knoppers (Pennsylvania State College), respectively. Selman develops the long-term plan of God for Jerusalem as highlighted by the Chronicler. Rebuilding Jerusalem in response to Cyrus’ invitation was a necessary step in “becoming involved in the ongoing fulfillment of the Davidic covenant” (46). Knoppers’ essay “challenges von Rad’s influential view that holy war in Chronicles was entirely cultic in character” (57). His primary arguments involve a proper understanding of the function of the Temple in times of war (61-64) and the pattern of holy war as portrayed in 2 Chronicles 20 with regard to Jehoshaphat (64-73).

“The Use of the Zion Tradition in the Book of Ezekiel” (77-103) by Thomas Renz (Oak Hill College, London) looks at the contribution of ancient Near Eastern beliefs regarding a holy mountain and early Israelite tradition to Ezekiel’s message. One of the challenges of such a study is that Ezekiel never uses the term “Zion” even though the Temple in Jerusalem is of obvious significance in the book (86).

Psalms 120–134 receive special attention in Philip E. Satterthwaite’s (Biblical Graduate School, Singapore) essay entitled “Zion in the Songs of Ascents” (105-28). The theme of these psalms is the LORD’s restoration of Zion on the basis of His sovereign choosing o f both Zion and David (107). After evaluating the critical views of L. D. Crow (The Songs of Ascents, SBLDS 148 [Scholars Press, 1996]), Satterthwaite concludes that the Songs of Ascents display a greater coherence and unity than Crow’s redactionist views would indicate (113). The discussion divides these fifteen psalms into triads “under a heading which seems to encapsulate a leading theme of that triad” (117).

In the volume’s longest essay (“The Personification of Jerusalem and the Drama of Her Bereavement in Lamentations,” 129-69) Knut M. Heim (Wesley House, Cambridge, England) develops the use of personification in Lamentations in order to understand better how the community of Jerusalem dealt with its pain and anxiety (129-30). He proposes that Lamentations “is not a reasoned treatise on the nature of suffering; rather, it reflects a community’s desperate grasping for meaning as the world around it … has collapsed” (146). After investigating an inventory of nineteen different utterances within Lamentations (147-67), Heim identifies seven voices (three major and four minor) in the public discourse about Jerusalem’s grieving process (167). He finds that the book appeals to modern readers “bewildered by their own helplessness when confronted with suffering on a global and local scale” (169).

“Molek of Jerusalem?” (171-206) by Rebecca Doyle (Holy Light Theological Seminary, Kaohsiung, Taiwan) closes the collection of essays by examining the cult of Molech (an alternate spelling more familiar to American readers) by means of biblical and extrabiblical materials. The catalyst for this study resides in the relative scarcity of information about this cult and the resulting scholarly speculation (172). First, Doyle surveys the views of a variety of scholars (172-82), concluding that there is plenty of “room for a difference of opinion as to who Molek is and where he may have come from” (184). Second, an examination of archaeological evidences from Ebla, Mari, Babylon, Ugarit, Turkey, Phoenicia, and Carthage (184-93) finds that there are only bits and pieces of evidence and that their connections to the OT’s descriptions are tenuous (194). Lastly, the study of Molech in the OT (194-204) demonstrates that the Hebrew Scriptures are the “most complete source of information that we have” (206).

The eight essays have a wealth of information about Jerusalem. The breadth of their OT investigations encompasses especially the books of 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezekiel, Psalms, and Jeremiah. Interaction with historical, archaeological, literary, and theological studies reveals the height and depth of the essays’ scope. Hess and Gordon J. Wenham (Cheltenham & Gloucester College, Cheltenham, England) have performed a valuable service to OT scholarship by collecting and publishing this book.