God’s Radical Laws of Freedom in the Old Testament
Author: Joshua Berman
In Created Equal Joshua Berman focuses on the Hebrew Bible (i.e., the Old Testament to Christians) and its revolutionary sociological and political precepts. In God’s ancient covenant with Israel, He broke from the prevailing king worship and tiered social structure (think “class”) of the day, using His laws and their implementation to create a society where everyone was equal. Of course, this one sentence doesn’t get to the complexity behind how this equal society was created and just how vastly different it was from all the other social structures that surrounded it, such as the Egyptians and the Hittites. Whereas their societies created kings that were essentially half-gods, half-priests, ancient Israel allowed the people to deal directly with God and engage in His covenant and promise. As Berman goes through the laws and examples, he shows how this approach was not only different but downright radical.
Created Equal is a good book, but it is not an easy one. As the big price tag and Oxford publishing stamp suggest, Berman’s argument is a scholarly one, full of obtuse language and ponderous sentences. The facts are well explained, the evidence thorough and convincing, the
break down of ancient societies illuminating, especially as compared to ancient Israel. But the way this is written is anything but accessible. You won’t be plopping down with this book for a sleepy before bed devotional. The writing, specifically the intricacies of scholarly double-speak and ten-dollar words on every page, demands focus and a certain degree of dedication, re-reading, free-time, and caffeinated awareness.
That being said, Created Equal is worth it. It’s nice to step aside from the usual Christian non-fiction, which is usually far too simplistic and basic to be worth much. This time, we get to see the historical context of the Old Testament, something that often gets forgotten. Through Created Equal it becomes obvious that God was setting His people on a path of independence and love that was dramatically different from the way the other nations lived and operated. God worked with his people in their time. It was never the “Angry God” forcing impossible laws on people. Indeed, it was the beginning of the freedom and love we see now in Jesus and following His ways.
I highly recommend this book for anyone on their journey to understand the Old Testament better. You’ll need some time, a quiet room, probably a dictionary and patience for sentences that are unnecessarily complicated, but it is more than worth it. Highly recommended.
– Frances Carden
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