I have had a book by Walter C. Kaiser Jr. on my to be read for so long it was collecting dust. I just picked up and read his chapter on OT Narrative. This chapter at least is excellent. His advice for reading a narrative and finding its intended meaning follows in my summary here.
At least half of the Bible is written in Narrative form. Much of my training in preaching assumed other genre such as gospel or epistle. My adult class will take September to practice these ideas. First sample will be Genesis 37 – the start of the Joseph cycle.
Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament, p.76
- Identify each scene: every change in time or location.
- Analyze the plot: Beginning, Middle, End; Climax and Resolution.
- Determine the “point of view” – what is the focal point that gives the subject of idea that the story is trying to tell.
- Observe if there is dialogue and see if this contributes to the “point of view”
- How is each “scene” related to the “point of view.”
- What stylistic devices does the author use: repetition, key word, chiasm (ABCC’B’A’), irony, etc.
An interesting passage in Levitucus 17 instructs the people of Israel not to eat the blood of any animal. This comes after many chapters describing the various sacrifices that were given to the people to offer at the place of worship. Leviticus is a bloody book by anyone’s reckoning.
Here is the statement:
Leviticus 17:11 – ESV
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.
Life is in the blood. Some say that the blood of sacrifices suggest the offering of a life to God. However, scholars such as Leon Morris looked at the word usage and it is clear that blood is tied to suffering and to death. So it seems better to think that the blood here refers to the life that is lost in death.
Out of respect for the system of blood sacrifice, those living in the Land of promise were to refrain from consuming it. After centuries of sacrifices and further centuries of blood-letting in ordinary eating, one might ask, Why?
It is because the Lord “gave” the blood to make “atonement.” The act of atonement – that is a sacrifice that pays for the penalty of sin as a substitute for the worshipper – is a gift of grace to be revered.
It is interesting that the offering is not a gift from the worshipper to God, but a gift provided by God to the Worshipper.