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Theological Reflections on the Oracles against the Nations

In: Horizons in Biblical Theology
Author: Moon Kwon Chae1
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This paper illuminates the positive theological value of the oracles against the nations (oans) in the Old Testament. Tracing the historical development of the oan tradition, I propose that the oan tradition originated in a war or a cultic setting and went through three stages of transformation: first, the shift from salvation oracles for Israel to oracles against Israel by the 8th century prophets Amos and Isaiah: second, the shift from a realistic depiction of enemies to a more cosmic depiction of them during the exilic period: third, the inclusion of the nations into the future restoration in the postexilic period. The trajectory of the development of the oan tradition shows how Israel’s self-understanding and attitude toward foreign nations changed with a strong emphasis on Yahweh’s kingship. The emphasis on Yahweh’s kingship over Israel’s special status provides a ground for the inclusion of foreign nations into Yahweh’s plan. By prioritizing Yahweh’s kingship, his people can avoid the danger of self-elevation and embrace the other people into the community.

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