Matthew Thiessen. “Hebrews and the End of the Exodus.” Novum Testamentum 49 (2007): 353-69.
A few posts back I mused on the topic of the wilderness experience of Israel and how the author of Hebrews seemed to indicate that his reader were sharing in the same experience. In his excellent article, Matthew Thiessen confirmed a lot of my suspicions about Auctor’s use of Ps 95 and the wilderness theme in Hebrews. Thiessen states that his purpose in writing this article was “to examine Hebrews to determine in which period of Israel’s history the author believed himself and his readers to be living” (354). He goes on to conclude that Auctor “believed that the promises of God had not yet been fully obtained, though, in a unique move, he does not place himself and his readers in the time of the exile but even further back in Israel’s history, into the time of the exodus and the wilderness wanderings” (354). This is obvious not only from the quotation of Ps 95, but also from the inclusion of Moses, Aaron, the tabernacle, and other indicators.
One obvious point made by Auctor is that the rest which God promised had yet to be entered. Auctor warns his readers of the danger of unbelief:
Βλέπετε, ἀδελφοί, μήποτε ἔσται ἔν τινι ὑμῶν καρδία πονηρὰ ἀπιστίας ἐν τῷ ἀποστῆναι ἀπὸ θεοῦ ζῶντος (3.12). It was precisely this reason that Auctor says not only kept them from rest, but also caused their death in the wilderness. Thiessen is correct I believe in seeing Auctor’s use of Ps 95 as a re-reading of the history of Israel and its relationship to the Church. For the rest that was promised Israel was not obtained. Joshua was unable to bring the Israelites into the rest of God, therefore that rest is still available and waiting to be entered into (4.9).
Another interesting aspect of Thiessen’s article is his analysis of Heb 11 and the retelling of Israel’s history. I began to notice this myself sometime back (see my previous posts on Heb 11 and the Wilderness), but did not elaborate on it like Thiessen did in his article. “Simply put, Hebrews 11 recounts Israel’s history in such a way that the people of God never receive the land of God’s promise” (361). This is an accurate assessment on the part of Thiessen. Much like Moses exhorating the people on the cusp of the promise land by reminding them of their past experiences, Auctor too likewise exhorts his people on the verge of entering into the promised rest.
Well, there is much more than I would like to say, I believe you me I will! But for now I will conclude with a exhortation of my own: Read Thiessen’s article. It is an excellent look at the promised rest which we are striving to enter into.
More to follow in due time. But now I sleep!
χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.