Book Reviews of Abraham’s Silence

My book Abraham’s Silence: The Binding of Isaac, the Suffering of Job, and How to Talk Back to God (Baker Academic, 2021) has now received a number of reviews in journals, magazines, and blogs.

I’m heartened by the fact that most reviewers have been appreciative about my argument that God desires a vigorous dialogue partner, even if not everyone has been convinced fully by my interpretation of Genesis 22.

Interestingly, so far no-one has disputed my interpretation of Genesis 22 on exegetical grounds (by showing that I misconstrued or missed something in the text). The critiques (both in published reviews and in email responses) that I have received tend to be theological, based on a priori assumptions about what the text means, often derived from reading the New Testament.

I was planning on addressing the New Testament references to Genesis 22 in the book, but there wasn’t space (given the publisher’s guidelines). If there is a second, revised edition, I would try to include a section (perhaps an appendix) on this.

In the meantime, I am working on an article that would address all explicit references and possible allusions to Genesis 22 in the New Testament.

Here is a sampling of the reviews Abraham’s Silence has received.

Glenn Kreider (theologian) in Criswell Theological Review (19.2, 2022).

Carmen Imes (OT scholar) on Goodreads website (July 12, 2021).

David Neville (NT scholar) in St. Mark’s Review (2022).

Holly Rossi (freelance writer) in Publisher’s Weekly (Nov 5, 2021).

Brian Walsh (theologian) in Christian Courier (April 27, 2022).

Andrew Arndt (blogger) on Mere Orthodoxy blog (February 2, 2022).

Anthony Philips (OT scholar) in Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (46.5, 2022).

Ben McFarland (professor of chemistry) in Christian Scholar’s Review (August 5, 2022).

David Lyle Taylor (blogger) on Nephy Style blog (November 18, 2021).

Travis Bott (OT scholar) on The Living Church website (April 29, 2022).

Byron Borger (blogger and bookstore owner) on Hearts and Minds website (November 23, 2021).

Randal Rauser (blogger) on The Tentative Apologist blog (May 15, 2022).

Jeremiah Rood (blogger) in Foreword Reviews (November/December 2021).

There will be a panel discussion on the book at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) in Denver, on November 21, 2022. For more information, see this blog post.

From Despair to Hope in Psalm 77

I will be presenting a paper on Psalm 77 this November at the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) in the Biblical Hebrew Poetry program unit. This lament psalm has come to have special meaning for me, since it has helped me in my own journey of faith.

The psalmist begins in despair, crying out to God, and reflects on the good old days, which simply makes him more despondent. The turning point occurs when the psalmist brings to mind the parting of the Sea when Israel was fleeing Egypt. It is a particularly vivid vision, where the Sea stands for the psalmist’s chaotic life. But the psalm is (intentionally) unfinished, allowing the reader to write the final line.

I recently wrote a meditation on the psalm for Light + Light magazine, in advance of the SBL session. This meditation is meant for a non-technical audience, but it isn’t dumbed down. I take the reader through the flow of the psalm, pointing out its structure and relevance for our lives. My starting point is the psalmist’s inability to sleep, possibly due to regrets overwhelming him.

The meditation on Psalm 77 was published online in two parts, Part 1 on September 30, 2022 and Part 2 on October 10, 2022. My own translation of the psalm was included with each part.

Memory Raises Troubling Questions: Nighttime Distress in Psalm 77:1–10

Your Way Was Through the Sea: The Shift from Despair to Hope in Psalm 77:11–20

If you would like to download PDFs of the meditation, Part 1 is available here and Part 2 is available here.

Spanish translations were also posted.

La memoria plantea preguntas inquietantes: Angustia nocturna en el Salmo 77:1–10

Tu camino fue a través del mar: El cambio de la desesperación a la esperanza en el Salmo 77:11–20

For those interested in the SBL session, it will be held on Sunday, November 20, 1:00–3:30 pm.

How to Talk Back to God (Interview on Scot McKnight’s “Kingdom Roots” Podcast)

About two weeks ago New Testament scholar Scot McKnight interviewed me about my recent book Abraham’s Silence: The Binding of Isaac, the Suffering of Job, and How to Talk Back to God (Baker Academic, 2021).

In the book I suggest that we have misunderstood the nature of the test God gave Abraham in Genesis 22 and that Abraham failed (or barely passed) the real test. I argue that the test was not whether Abraham would obey God, but whether he could discern that God’s character as merciful (that is, God wanted Abraham to realize that he didn’t really require child sacrifice).

The way Abraham would have shown that would have been by protesting the command God gave him to sacrifice his son; he should have interceded on behalf of Isaac. And God would have granted his request.

Of course, this goes against much traditional interpretation of Genesis 22. So if you want to understand why I read Genesis 22 differently, you might be interested in the podcast.

The podcast is now available on a variety of platforms, including Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Podbeam, etc.

It was one of the more enjoyable podcast interviews I’ve done.

This is the description Scot has of the interview on the “Kingdom Roots” website:

It is traditional to think we should praise Abraham for his willingness to sacrifice his son as proof of his love for God. But have we misread the point of the story? Is it possible that a careful reading of Genesis 22 could reveal that God was not pleased with Abraham’s silent obedience?

Richard Middleton provides a fresh interpretation of Genesis 22 and reinforces the church’s resurgent interest in lament as an appropriate response to God. Belief in God doesn’t mean you’re forced to say what you think God wants you to say. God can and wants to hear your raw and honest requests.

Scot previously wrote a blog post about the book (and the upcoming podcast), called, “Was Abraham a Good Example?” I reposted it on my own blog site.

If you listened to the podcast, I would be interested in comments.