This book is by no means a scholarly look at the subject. It is more Brueggemann's feelings on the situation with some Scripture investigation and then a study guide as a springboard for discussion.
He notes that he championed the idea that Israel needed to be a nation but is now having second thoughts about their national behavior. There has been indifference toward the human rights of Palestinians. The way Israel is behaving, Brueggemann writes, they are not making a good impression as “God's chosen people.”
An unconditional one-sided support of Israel is not the way to move forward in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One must realistically look at the political situation if there is ever to be a solution.
He explores how one reads the Bible and the meaning of Israel as “chosen.” Sometimes it looks unconditional while other times conditional (as in Exod. 19:5). With respect to the land, “...we may conclude that the land is given to Israel unconditionally, but is held by Israel conditionally.” Looking at the various verses in Joshua, he concludes, “Thus, the land is given, the land is taken, and the land is losable.” This is evidenced in the exile, the return, then losing the land again.
He also questions whether today's Israel is the biblical Israel. He gives reason to conclude, “It is simply not credible to make any direct appeal for the ancient promise of land to the state of Israel.”
The strength of this little book is the study guide, set up for four sessions. I have seen many Christians unconditionally support the state of Israel without really thinking through the issue and the human rights actions of the Israelis toward Palestinians within the state. Reading this book and discussing the issues may be a good way to bring some reality thinking to the situation.
My rating: 4/5 stars.
Walter Brueggemann is William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary, and an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. You can find out more at http://www.walterbrueggemann.com/.
Westminster John Knox Press, 114 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.