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Tight Fists or Open Hands? Wealth and Poverty in Old Testament Law

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. / 2009 / Paperback

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The global pandemic is overwhelming. The rich are becoming more--and more--wealthy, while the poor remain in rags and starving. David L. Baker in this book, Tight Fists or Open Hands? argues that the popular modes of theological thought dealing with poverty and wealth, Liberation Theology and Prosperity Doctrines, are either too simplistic or deceptively manipulate, or selectively choose biblical texts to support a pre-existing ideology.

Baker stands against this use of Scripture believing that support of modern political ideologies cannot be legitimately turned into political theologies. What Baker does believes is the Old Testament Law, concerning the poor, can illuminate the ways in which material possessions should and indeed can, be dealt with appropriately. He believes that the attitude toward the poor expressed in the New Testament is rooted in the Mosaic Law and that this Law teaches that God desires justice for everyone, not only the poor.

The issue is the poor are in no position to deprive others of economic justice, and therefore the exhortations Liberation theologians tend to point out focus on obtaining justice only for the poor at the expense of others. Conversely, prosperity teachings are wrapped up inside their own interests and selfish morality believed to be the teaching of Scripture. Inevitably these create a theological justification for the hoarding of wealth. Can one be a righteous person in a destitute country?

Baker believes prosperity logic to be a complete misreading and abuse of the text and fundamentally dismantles this theology through a thorough exegesis of the OT text that, again, Baker believes is the basis and trajectory of the NT teaching. What Baker provides then, is a balanced and well articulated view of justice for everyone rooted in the mandates of the Mosaic Law.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 400
Vendor: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Publication Date: 2009
Dimensions: 9.00 X 6.00 (inches)
ISBN: 0802862837
ISBN-13: 9780802862839
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

Any Christian response to today's ever-growing problem of poverty around the globe must be firmly rooted in biblical teaching. While books on various aspects of wealth and poverty in the Old and New Testaments have been published, so far there has been no thorough study of Old Testament law on the topic. David Baker argues here that an understanding of that law is not only fundamental for interpreting the entire Old Testament, but it is also assumed by the writers of the New Testament. Tight Fists or Open Hands? fills this gap in Old Testament scholarship and lays a foundation for considering the relevance of these laws to everyday life in the twenty-first century. 

The heart of this book is a study of all the biblical laws concerned with wealth and poverty. Baker groups these laws together by topic, considering the similarities and differences between the Decalogue, Book of the Covenant, Holiness Code, and Deuteronomic laws. He then places these in the context of ancient Near Eastern law in order to make clear which attitudes are distinctly biblical and which are held in common with other civilized peoples. 

Each section of Tight Fists or Open Hands? includes an extended conclusion that summarizes the main ideas, considers relationships with other biblical texts, and points to the significance of the laws for today's world. Such thorough exegesis and modern application make this book relevant to pastors, scholars, and students in a variety of courses.

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