Throughout the Hebrew Bible are various texts in which God intervenes with the lives of human beings. God’s intervention in these texts has sparked an immense amount of debate among past and present theologians and historians alike. Perhaps the most common text with which God’s intervention has come into question is that of Exodus. It is in this text that God states that he “will harden [the Pharaoh’s] heart” so that he cannot exhibit free will to reason with Moses when he asks the Pharaoh to free the Israelites from slavery . Many argue that if God had not interfered, matters may have been settled peacefully as opposed to the mass amount of “firstborn[s] in the land of Egypt” who died at the hands of God . In addition to Exodus, other religious texts regarding divine intervention, such as Esther, have generated debate among old and contemporary scholars, including the Rabbis of Talmud.Historically, authors studying the Hebrew Bible have shared varying interpretations on divine intervention, but all claim or infer God’s intervention to be just or unjust, with little middle ground between the two.
Although we are not looking at Esther specifically in our research, Segal’s study of “Human Anger and Divine Intervention in Esther” shows how particular views on divine intervention have changed over time, and according to one’s hermeneutical frame. In this text, Segal discusses the Rabbis of Jerusalem Talmud, a text produced 600 C.E. in Roman-occupied Israel . The Talmud contains “the codification of the laws and sayings of rabbis” and “became the intellectual Temple of the Jew when the Temple at destroyed by the Romans” . These Rabbis argued that “the manipulating hands of God and His angels are always perceptible behind the scenes” . However, as Segal mentions, “the motives of the Rabbis were not those of objective literary or historical scholarship” . Rather, the Rabbis were bound to a bias, “traditional religious reading” of the text because their interpretations were restricted by their strict religious faith. In contrast to the Rabbis, modern Esther scholars “assert that…the currents of Jewish history are determined by a combination of human decisions and chance factors, rather than supernatural providence” . One can assert that this more secular view on divine intervention sparks from the modern setting in which these authors are writing, as their interpretations are less restricted by religious influence than the Rabbis. In addition, because they are writing in a contemporary setting, modern Esther scholars are entrusted to take a much more objective approach to their interpretation of the text, as opposed to the subjective one taken by the Rabbis. Therefore, from Segal’s study, one can conclude that interpretations of divine intervention in the Hebrew Bible have varied drastically, which is likely due to different hermeneutical frames among authors. Frederick J. Murphy also analyzes divine intervention, but in Pseudo-Philo, an early text which “retells the biblical story of Adam, to the death of Saul”. Pseudo-Philo covers the beginning of Genesis to the end 1 Chronicles. In the beginning of the article, Murphy mentions, “God vindicates [the individual] by acting forcefully… and punishing the enemies” . With the first story in Pseudo-Philo, Tower of Babel, God makes decisions on how to intervene which, in this piece, finally results with him killing eighty-three thousand five-hundred people. God kills many people in order to protect Abraham, but Murphy says nothing about these murderous actions. By completely ignoring God’s violence, it can be inferred that the Pseudo-Philo is complacent with God’s action. Furthermore, in the next story mentioned, God completely ignores the plans that the Israelites have in mind and just acts according believes is best. In fact, Murphy writes, “… the strategy that Amram thought out was pleasing before God… The result is that Amram begets Moses, and ‘through him God freed the sons of Israel as He had said… Neither the plan of the elders nor the argument of Amram is recorded in Exodus” . Murphy is claiming that God’s actions are brought into the bible, while other details are left out. However, Murphy does nothing to further expand upon this point. By failing to further analyze this thought, and by failing to mention God’s murderous actions, Murphy is implying that God’s divine intervention is just and without flaw.
Unknown, "Rabbis Discussing Talmud," ca. 1920s-30s. Oil on board 15" x 22." Found: ICollector, http://www.icollector.com/Painting-Rabbis-Discussing-Talmud_i8629854.
Not only can different interpretations of divine intervention in the Hebrew be found in historical texts, but they can be found in modern texts as well. One of these modern scholars is Ray Shankman, an English professor at Vanier College in Montreal who specializes in Bible, poetry, and experiential learning . Shankman discusses a more conservative interpretation of the hardening of the Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus, arguing that by having Moses perform “all the marvels that I have put within your power,” and by stiffening the Pharaoh’s heart, God is simply “[making] each more fully what he already is.” In the end, according to Shankman, “Pharaoh’s obduracy is [a] part of the divine plan” . Shankman, therefore, believes that God does interfere in Exodus, but he does so in a way that he cannot be blamed for the violence which sparks from the Pharaoh’s stubbornness. According to Shankman, God not cause mass death and destruction, but he simply brings out the stubbornness that the Pharaoh already possessed. In contrast, John Yoder, a former professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, states, “the only reason there must be plagues and ultimately death [in Exodus] is that the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart would not permit the Exodus to be peaceful” . Yoder, therefore, clearly infers that peace could have prevailed over plague and death in Exodus if God had not hardened the Pharaoh’s heart. Yoder is also hinting toward a commonly asked question when examining God’s intervention in Exodus: why would God create death by hardening the Pharaoh’s heart, when Exodus could have been peaceful? Although both Shankman and Yoder share the belief that divine intervention is present throughout Exodus, they disagree on the intentions of God. Although modern scholars tend to agree on the presence of divine intervention in the Hebrew Bible, especially in Exodus, it is not uncommon that they disagree on the intentions of God.
Unknown. Reproduced in Nate Pickowics, "Why the Bible is the Best Book in the Bible," Entreating Favor, August 15, 2015. accessed May 3, 2017, https://entreatingfavor.com/bestbookseries-exodus/.
In addition to Shankman and Yoder, Myles Reardenpresents his thoughts of God’s position in our lives and what his intervention means in his writings the The Furrow . Immediately, Rearden starts discussing that God intervened in human affairs when he brought down His son to earth to be the redeemer and savior. As he continues throughout the article, Rearden mentions this ‘intervention’ as “relevant to humanity’s relationship to God,… and even necessary for human efforts to be fully productive” . From this, it is clear our historian believes that in order to have a relationship with God, humans need him to be involved through divine intervention. Through what he has asserted thus far, it is clear that Rearden’s faith may conflict with his opinion on divine intervention. This is so that God’s divine intervention does not stand out as a problem to him whatsoever. Continuing on with discussion in The Furrow, Rearden comes to mention God’s primary goal for the human relationship. Rearden writes that God’s plan “cannot be limited to its key component” . Within this statement, Rearden is explaining that as people of God we humans are meant to share God’s life in order to strengthen their own. In addition, Rearden mentions the involvement of the Holy Spirit, as its “divine intrusion” seems to almost ays go ignored . Rearden does not only believe that the Holy Spirit has been ignored, but he claims that it has had the most impact on Christianity, even more so than God. So, in the eyes of Rearden, the Holy Spirit has affected Christianity more so than even God, but this intervention is justified because it is as a result of that involvement that we live the lives we do.
Among old and contemporary scholars, God’s intervention in the Hebrew Bible has caused much debate over whether this intervention is just or unjust. Surprisingly, it is common that scholars writing in completely different contexts, like the Rabbis of Talmud and contemporary scholar Ray Shankman, make similar arguments regarding divine intervention. However, neither argument has seemed to gain much ground as contemporary scholars continue to debate the topic just as past scholars have done. Perhaps neither argument will ever gain much ground over the other, as authors of different times and backgrounds will likely never find much common ground.
Footnotes  Ex. 4:21  Ex. 11:5  Jacob Neusner. How the Talmud Works (Leiden:BRILL, 2002) ix, ProQuest Ebook Central,http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.providence.idm.oclc.org/lib/providence/detail.action?docID=253532.  Abram Isaacs, “The Talmud in History,” in The Jewish Quarterly Review (1901):439. Accessed April 23, 2017.http://www.jstor.org/stable/1450542.  Eliezer Segal “Human Anger and Divine Intervention in Esther” in Prooftexts (1989): 247. Accesses March 13, 2017.  Segal, “Human Anger…,” 247.  Segal, “Human Anger…,” 247.  Divine Plan, Human Plan: A Structuring Theme in Pseudo-Philo by Frederick J. Murphy is a journal article that is featured in The Jewish Quarterly Review. The JQR was established in 1889 and is the oldest English language journal in the fields of Jewish studies. It features many review essays and book forums from historians and scholars.  Murphy: Divine Plan, Human Plan (5)  Murphy: Divine Plan, Human Plan (5)  Murphy: Divine Plan, Human Plan (11)  Ray Shankman, "The Cut That Unites: Word as Covenant in Exodus 4:24–26" in CrossCurrents (1991): 168. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24459833.  Shankman, “The Cut That Unties…,” 171.  John, Yoder, “The Exodus and Exile: Two Faces of Liberation,” in CrossCurrents (1973): 300. Accessed March 13, 2017.http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/24457860.pdf.  The Furrowis a monthly academic journal that was founded at St. Patrick’s College. It was meant to present a voice for the contemporary Church and historians like Myles Rearden wrote in it with personal opinion and their own voice on common topics that arose within the Church.  Rearden: The Furrow (671)  Rearden: The Furrow (673)  Rearden: The Furrow (675)
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