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Dagon and the Ark:  The Ark of the Covenant in Cultural Context
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Walter Brueggemann
Ichabod Toward Home:  The Journey of God's Glory (Grand Rapids:  William B Eerdmans, 2002.  150p.)

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Brueggemann discusses the attitude and approach to Christian Scripture by the modern church, focusing on an exegesis and interpretation of a passage from 1 Samuel about the Glory of God related to the Ark.  Brueggemann reviews the story of the wars with the Philistines, when the Philistines stole the Ark of the Covenant and took it to the temple of their god Dagon.

Cultural Context
Brueggemann analyzes and probes the historical and cultural aspects of this event, discussing the text as it comes to us, while considering the possible background and construction of the passage as it was collected into the Writings of the Hebrews.  He uses this exegesis and application of the meaning of the passage for modern times to address the methods and approaches of the modern church in applying the ancient writings to a modern culture with a different worldview and assumptions.

Thus this is a Bible study, but the passage is placed into its proper cultural and worldview setting by Brueggemann.  Thus, as are all ancient texts, this is a cultural story too.  Brueggemann, as a professor of biblical preaching and a keen advocate of biblical integrity, thrills in bringing to life the depth and charater of this ancient story form a context of cultural faiths in conflict.

Honoring the Text
In what passes in most churches for "exegesis" and preaching, what usually happens is that the biblical story is wrenched from its setting, fiddled with, tamed for modern consumption and generally violated.  This may happen either out of ignorance or out of honest puzzlement over the strange cultural factors present in the story.

In this volume, rather than wrest the ancient story off its historical and cultural moorings, Brueggemann challenges us to remain faithful to the passage by letting it speak to us in its own integrity from within its own context.  This, he claims, is the only way to grasp the original meaning.  Only then are we in a position to attempt an application of the principles found in that meaning.

Delightful and Practical
The study itself is delightful, creative, adventurous and refreshing.  His application of the meaning he finds there is valid and practical in addressing the attitudes and commitments of modern Christians and pagans toward God or the gods.  The challenge to the modern church to become once again responsible in its approach to the scriptures is poignant.

This renowned Scholar-Preacher, an authority on the Hebrew Scriptures, challenges us to take seriously our relationship to the ancient writings.  Brueggemann urges the modern church to honour the integrity of these Holy Writings, looking for their real meaning as they were constructed in their original worldview context.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[review] Bringing Deuteronomy to Life
[reviews] Jubilee Now!   New
[Review] Refreshing Current Outlook on the Old Testament

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Initial reading notes written 3 June 2008
Expanded review written 12 September 2008
First posted 14 October 2008, revised 24 November 2008
Reviewed on Amazon 14 February 2009
Last edited 9 Octoebr 2010

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2008 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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