Andrew T. Abernethy and Gregory Goswell. God’s Messiah in the Old Testament: Expectations of a Coming King. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2020. 304 pages. $29.99 (paperback).
If God is King, how will a Son of David reign? This question plagues some Old Testament theologians, and not a few answers have been given. Andrew T. Abernethy and Gregory Goswell have made a welcome entry into the fray with God’s Messiah in the Old Testament: Expectations of a Coming, released recently by Baker Academic.
Abernethy (associate professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College) and Goswell (academic dean and lecturer in Old Testament at Christ College, Sydney, Australia) approach the subject matter with a clear focus. The authors examine those OT passages “which refer to the hope of the coming of a royal agent who will serve God’s kingdom purposes” (1). Moreover, the authors seek to raise and reconcile the apparent tension between divine kingship (theocracy) and human kingship (messianism) in the OT, a tension they see fulfilled in the reign of Jesus Christ, the divine-human king.
After a preface and introduction, God’s Messiah in the Old Testament surveys the relationship between theocracy and messianism in the OT, following the canon order of the Hebrew Bible (placing Ruth with the Former Prophets). A single chapter is devoted to the Pentateuch, arguing that it provides a “template” or “framework” for the Bible’s messianic expectations. Four chapters are written examining the Former Prophets (Judges, Ruth, Samuel, and Kings), focused on the Davidic dynasty’s commission by and subservience to God’s kingship. Seven chapters explore the place of messianic hope in the Latter Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, Micah, and a shared chapter for Zechariah and Malachi). A chapter on the Psalms represents the Former Writings, and chapters on Daniel and Chronicles represent the Latter Writings. Each of these chapters ends with a postlude considering “canonical reflections,” connecting the chapter’s themes to other OT passages and the person and work of Jesus Christ. The book concludes with some reflections and synthesis, arguing that the “royal messianic expectation” in the OT is found as an “abstract mosaic,” “complementing the central image of the Divine King” (239).
God’s Messiah in the Old Testament is a quality example of evangelical Old Testament theology. Abernethy and Goswell argue effectively for a clear thesis (messianism complementing theocracy) with careful exegesis and refreshing synthesis. The authors leverage their presuppositions (i.e., Scripture’s unity, orthodox Christology, Hebrew canon order, etc.) for fruitful study without overstating their claims. Some readers may lament the exclusion of ‘priestly’ or ‘prophetic’ passages or differ on minor points (e.g., the placement of Ruth in the authors’ canon order). Regardless, God’s Messiah in the Old Testament will prove a fruitful read for scholars, students, and pastors seeking to understand the Old Testament promise of God’s kingship through a human Messiah, and how these twin hopes find their terminus in the divine-human king, Jesus Christ.
Travis Montgomery leads Online Studies at MBTS and Spurgeon College. Travis, his wife Lauren, and their two boys live in Kansas City, MO and attend Northside Fellowship, where Travis is one of the pastors