Skip to main content

He Is (Yahweh) a God of Unfailing Love

The intent of this article is to state the theology of the Pentateuch and show how that theology governs and critiques the history and theology of the Historical Books. The Levites’ prayer in Nehemiah chapter 9 does exactly what I intend to do with this essay in a more beautiful way than I could ever attempt to do myself.[1] When writing about the Levites’ prayer William MacDonald said, “The overriding theme of the prayer is God’s faithfulness despite Israel’s waywardness.”[2] This prayer by the Levites in Nehemiah is a prayer that follows the theology of the Bible from Genesis through 2 Chronicles.[3]
Ezra the scribe brought out the book of the law of Moses, stood on a platform, and read it before all the people. While he read the people listened, and the Levites explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. This caused the people to lament, but Ezra made it a holy day, and turned it into a day for feasting. This was followed up by the priests, Levites, and Ezra reinstituting the feast of booths; during which Ezra read from the book of the law for seven days. Then on the eight day there was a solemn assembly in which the people repented and confessed their sins as well as the iniquities of their fathers.[4] This is the context in which the Levites prayed from the platform to the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim).
They begin by telling the people to arise and exalt the name of the Lord God.[5] Then they state that Yahweh is the creator God who made the heavens and all that the heavens contain, and the earth and all that is on it, and the sea and all that is in it. He alone is the only one worthy of blessing, exaltation, and praise. All of heaven bows down before Him acknowledging Yahweh as the creator God.
They then acknowledge that He is the God who chose Abram calling him out of Ur, and gave him the name Abraham.[6] Yahweh established His covenant with Abraham promising him three things; a great nation, a great name, and a great blessing (for in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed).[7] Later the land of Canaan was added to the covenantal blessing.[8] According to the Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, a Covenant “is a solemn commitment guaranteeing promises or obligations undertaken by one or both covenanting parties.”[9]
I find it interesting that the Levites’ prayer from Nehemiah chapter 9 fails to mention that in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed.[10] Perhaps it is the animosity that had developed from the Babylonian exile and now Persian rule. This can be seen in verses 36 and 37 of the prayer; stating how they are slaves in the land, and its abundant produce is for the kings set over them.[11]
The fathers of the Israelites were called out of Egypt by Yahweh performing signs and wonders against Pharaoh and Egypt, dividing the Red Sea and destroying those who came after them. He led them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He made a covenant with them and gave them His commandments, statutes and law through Moses. God provided for all their needs while in the desert for forty years.[12] But the fathers rebelled against Him and did not listen to Him. They made for themselves a calf of molten metal and said, “This is your God, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”[13] God had no more given them the covenant before they broke it by making an idol with their hands and bowing down to it. God had every right to destroy them on the spot just as he had every right to destroy Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.
But then God passes in front of Moses on Mount Sinai and tells him who He is (Yahweh). Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations."[14] This being the foundation for the theology of the Pentateuch, and therefore, the theology that governs, and critiques the history and theology of the Historical Books.
Throughout the Historical Books of the Bible God never leaves them nor forsakes them. When they do not keep his commandments He is slow to anger, but if they continue in rebellion against Him He punishes them. When they repent and trust alone in Him He forgives their iniquity, transgressions, and sins. This is a continually repeated cycle during the pre-monarchy period (Joshua, Judges, and part of Samuel), the united monarchy period (Samuel and part of Kings), and the divided monarchy period (Kings and Chronicles). God’s unwillingness to leave the guilty unpunished comes to head first with the Assyrian destruction of the northern kingdom Israel (720 BCE).[15] This would also happen to the southern kingdom some 134 years later (586 BCE) at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.[16]
This is in no way a quick reaction by Yahweh to the sins of Israel. Moses told the people that they would forsake  the covenant of the Lord, God would then uproot them from the land, and cast them into a another land.[17] Joshua would restate this after the conquest of Canaan, but The people vowed "We will serve the Lord our God and we will obey His voice."[18] This occurred somewhere around 1385 BCE.[19] That is 665 years before Assyria destroyed the northern kingdom and 800 years before Babylon destroyed Jerusalem. I would say Yahweh is slow to anger wouldn’t you?
But God demonstrates His unfailing love for His chosen people by bringing about the right circumstances for the Persians to take over the Babylonian controlled territories, and commissions the rebuilding of the temple. Under Cyrus II Persia defeated Babylon in 539 BCE putting circumstances into place for the decree of Cyrus.[20] “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, 'The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up!'"[21]
The Israelites now led by Joshua son of Nun entered into the promised land to possess it, as long as they trusted in Yahweh the God of Israel He gave them victories over their adversaries.  But they became disobedient and rebelled against Him, and forgot His laws and statutes. When they did this He gave them into the hands of their enemies, but when they repented and confessed their sin he gave them judges who led them to victories.[22] Judges like Othniel who the Lord gave Cushan- rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, giving Israel rest for forty years.[23] Ehud who the Lord raised up to judge Israel who defeated Moab giving them rest for eighty years.[24] Deborah a female Judge who along with Barak delivered Israel from the Canaanites.[25] Gideon whom they wanted to make king, but he refused.[26] “Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead.”[27] Samson a Nazarene judged Israel for 20 years and brought about much trouble to the rule of the Philistines.[28]
Then the Lord raised up Samuel who was the last of the Judges. When Samuel was aging the people wanted a king, and the Lord had Samuel anoint Saul king of Israel.[29] Saul was victorious at first, but began to trust in himself, so the Lord brought him defeat and raised up David as king, a man after His own heart. The Lord said to Saul through Samuel, “But now your kingdom shall not endure. The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”[30]
David after he had won many victories and had his throne in Jerusalem wanted to build a house for the Lord, but God said that he could not build him a house for he had much blood on his hands. God then told him that his son would build him a house and made a covenant with David. The Lord told David how He had raised David up and gave him victories. Like Abraham He promised to make his name great among the nations. He promised to establish a permanent place for Israel and a house for David. He promised to raise up a descendent after him and He (Yahweh) would establish his kingdom.[31] “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”[32] The Lord reserved the right to correct his descendants, but promises that the house of David and his kingdom will endure forever.[33] David’s descendants had many iniquities, transgressions, and sins which led to a divided monarchy followed by exile.
The Davidic covenant is fulfilled in Jesus Christ; who is a descendent of David according to the flesh and declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.[34] He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary (a descendent of David), suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; He ascended into heaven, He is seated at the right hand of the Father Almighty, and He will come to judge the living and the dead.[35]




[1] Nehemiah 9:5-38.
[2] William MacDonald, “Believer’s Bible Commentary” Nehemiah (Dallas, TX: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 489.
[3] William MacDonald, “Believer’s Bible Commentary” Nehemiah (Dallas, TX: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 489.
[4] Nehemiah 8:1-9:3.
[5] Nehemiah 9:5.
[6] Nehemiah 9:6.
[7] Genesis 12:1-3.
[8] Genesis 17:8.
[9] T, Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker, “Dictionary of The Old Testament: Pentateuch” Covenant (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press USA, 2003), 139.
[10] Nehemiah 9:7-8.
[11] Nehemiah 9:36-37.
[12] Nehemiah 9:9-15.
[13] Exodus 32:4, (NASB).
[14] Exodus 34:6-7, (NASB).
[15] Bill T. Arnold and H. G. M Williamson, “Dictionary of The Old Testament: Historical Books” History of Israel 5: Assyrian Period (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press USA, 2005), 458.
[16] Bill T. Arnold and H. G. M Williamson, “Dictionary of The Old Testament: Historical Books” Ezra Nehemiah, Books of (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press USA, 2005), 285.
[17] Deuteronomy 29:25-28.
[18] Joshua 24:24, (NASB).
[19] John H. Walton, “Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament” Chronology of the Judges (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994), 26.
[20] Bill T. Arnold and H. G. M Williamson, “Dictionary of The Old Testament: Historical Books” History of Israel 7: Persian Period (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press USA, 2005), 487.
[21] 2 Chronicles 36:23, (NASB).
[22] Nehemiah 9:25-27.
[23] Judges 3:9-11.
[24] Judges 3:15-30.
[25] Judges 4:1-5:31.
[26] Judges 6:1-8:32.
[27] Judges 12:7, (NASB).
[28] Judges 15:20.
[29] Cf. 1 Samuel 8-15.
[30] 1 Samuel 13:14, (NASB).
[31] 2 Samuel 7:8-12.
[32] 2 Samuel 7:13, (NASB).
[33] 2 Samuel 7:14-17.
[34] Romans 1:3-4.
[35] Apostle’s Creed.

Bibliography

Alexander, T. Desmond, and David W. Baker. Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, USA, 2003.
"Apostles Creed." Sylvania Church Bulletin. Tyler, TX, n.d.
Arnold, Bill T., and H. G. M. Williamson. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, USA, 2005.
MacDonald, William. Believer's Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., 1995.
The Lockman Foundation. The Holy Bible, Updated New American Standard Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995.
Walton, John H. Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994.