Ancient History, Church, General, History, Reading

Genre: Narrative

Hebrew narrative is generally poetic in nature, but it is not true poetry. It sets up poetry, but it has a different feel and rhythm.

Often narrative sets the scenes between poetic portions. So, for example, we have a narrative passage that introduces and connects the various poetic portions of the Exodus story. (YHWH’s words to Moses on Mt. Sinai are poetic, while his journey there is not.)

Narrative informs us, but it does not offer us normative teaching. When you read a narrative, and the Scriptures say so-and-so did such-and-such, that does not mean you should do the same. This sounds like common sense, but I cannot begin to tell you how many times people cite narrative as telling them how to live. (Joshua 1 is a favorite.)

Narrative tells us what happened, not how to live our lives. As the Word of God, the Scriptures present an accurate representation of events. That does not mean those events are to be emulated. Otherwise, it would be okay to commit adultery (as David did) as long as you confessed later. It would be okay to disobey God’s commands (as Elijah did) as long as you listen to him later. It would be okay to sacrifice a child, if that was the only way you could honor your promises to God.

A great example of narrative is the book of Judges. I won’t get into my thoughts on the ways Joshua and Judges overlap, but suffice to say, Judges tells us about a LOT of people doing a lot of WRONG THINGS in the name of YHWH.

So, here’s the rule with narrative: don’t form doctrine or application from it.

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