Book Notice: Including the Stranger: Foreigners in the Former Prophets

David G. Firth. Including the Stranger: Foreigners in the Former Prophets. New Studies in Biblical Theology 50. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. 240 pages. $26.00 (paperback).

In this addition to the New Studies in Biblical Theology series, David Firth, Tutor in Old Testament at Trinity College, Bristol, UK, presents a biblical theology of foreigners in the “former prophets” (a term referring to the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings in the Hebrew canon). In the OT, foreigners are generally portrayed as tools of wrath against Israel or as the recipients of wrath from Israel. However, Firth argues that there is a third aspect to the role of foreigners in the OT. In this study, he explores the often-overlooked role foreigners play in furthering God’s redemptive purposes through their own obedience. He examines cases throughout the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings to demonstrate that “foreigners are not only ‘others’ through whom punishment is worked out, but those who are integrated into Israel can also be the ones through whom Yahweh brings deliverance for his people” (56).

Beginning with the books of Joshua and Judges (comprising two chapters, one on each book), Firth counters the claim that God promoted genocide in how he instructed the people of Israel to deal with the Canaanites. By incorporating Rahab into the details of his narration, Firth argues, “Joshua is quite clearly putting a human face to a Canaanite” (21). This Canaanite prostitute demonstrates her faith in the God of Israel in such a way that runs counter to the claim that God seeks only the destruction of foreigners. Throughout both of these chapters, Firth demonstrates that some foreigners, such as Othniel (Judg 3:7–11), follow the worship practices of Israel and are included among them, while some Israelites, such as Achan (Josh 7:10–26), follow the worship practices of the Canaanites and are treated like them. Turning to the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, Firth notes that the foreigner Uriah the Hittite displays both an understanding of and obedience to the faith of Israel in Yahweh (2 Sam 11:6–9); thus, in the narrative, Uriah “becomes an exemplary case study of how a Canaanite can become part of Israel even as Israel’s great king demonstrates a remarkable level of fallibility” (122). Firth concludes his survey of the former prophets with the books of 1 and 2 Kings. He points out that biblical characters such as Solomon and Ahab, who belong to the people of Israel, disobey the Lord and serve foreign idols, while faithful foreigners such as Elijah the Tishbite are used to carry out God’s purpose.

Firth’s concluding chapter on the role of foreigners in the church is disappointingly short, and his study would have benefitted from a more extensive treatment of how these themes find their fulfillment in the New Testament, thus providing a more fleshed-out biblical theology of the subject. Nevertheless, Firth offers a strong case for a deeper understanding of the essential role of foreigners in redemptive history.

CBS book notices provide brief descriptive summaries and assessments of new publications in biblical studies and biblical theology. The present book notice was written by Eddie LaRow, a Ph.D. student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary


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