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James Hamilton: God With Men in the Torah


James M. Hamilton, Jr., “God With Men in the Torah” The Westminster Theological Journal 65:1 (Spring 2003), pages 113-133.

“The contention of this study is that God’s self-disclosure and his favorable presence with the people constitute the Pentateuch’s description of how the Old Covenant faithful became and remained believers” (p. 144), writes James M. Hamilton, Jr. Using John 7:39, “But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified,” as a base from which to build, Hamilton traces the indwelling of the Holy Spirit—or lack thereof—through the Books of Moses.

There is never a question in the author’s mind about whether or not the saints of the Old Testament were regenerated—as noted by the “great cloud of witnesses” from the Old Testament in Hebrews 12:1 (please note that not everyone in Israel was a “saint”).

Hamilton repeatedly uses the phrase “God’s self-disclosure” pointing out that if the Almighty had not taken the initiative; none could have “conjured” or summoned him into forming a personal relationship. With that said, I think Hamilton does a very good job of presenting the Holy Spirit in the tradition of progressive revelation, which is thoroughly consistent with all that God was doing in the Torah, as well as the later books of the Old Testament. While he never uses the word “progressive revelation,” this reader clearly saw that inference.

The article makes it definitively clear that the Holy Spirit was active, resting upon individuals from time to time to accomplish His will, but with the rarest exceptions, He did not appear to permanently inhabit individuals. This too, however, seems to form an outline for the progressive revelation of God as He moves all creation, step by step, back toward complete regeneration within His perfect design.

If I were to be critical of anything in the article, it was Hamilton’s supposition that through John 7:39 we are to assume that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the only vehicle by which believers are able to maintain their faith. It would seem, according to Hamilton, that the Holy Spirit is some manifest “guarantee” for holding on to faith, a guarantee the men and women of the Torah did not have. Yet at the same time, he acknowledges that in the Old Testament, God being in their presence communally—that is to say, dwelling in the community—was the only means the Israelites had to hold onto their faith. Either way, the result was the same: with God in their midst—either through the indwelling or the Shekinah Glory radiating from the tabernacle—faith was evident at least among a remnant from generation to generation. These things being true, many of the personalities we read about in the Torah did not have a permanent “presence” to gaze upon, and therefore, their faith was driven by something more, something deeper, than a constant reminder.

Reviewed by Kevin M. Williams


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Category: Biblical Studies, Winter 2006

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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