Between Hearing and Silence
A Study in Old Testament Theology
288 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: April 2021
When the Old Testament refers to silence, either the silence of persons or of God, that silence conveys a diversity of meanings. It may indicate a breakdown in the divine-human relationship, or the beginning of the renewal of that relationship. It can be associated with sacred space or the realm of death. At times, God’s silence seems painful and incomprehensible, an indication of God’s indifference or neglect. At other times it speaks of the great security that the people of God may have in the Lord’s unfailing care.
Between Hearing and Silence: A Study in Old Testament Theology invites students and scholars alike to explore the various ways in which the concept of silence is expressed in the Old Testament and the many meanings it conveys. John Kessler surveys the diverse facets of the Old Testament’s understanding of silence to help readers discover the richness of this often-overlooked biblical theme. Each chapter examines various biblical texts relating to a different aspect of silence and uncovers the distinctive understanding of silence those texts present; at the same time, this thematic investigation opens up new perspectives on the broader contours of Old Testament theology in all its stunning complexity.
These portraits of silence, both divine and human, will introduce readers to a novel way of understanding the relational dynamics within the divine-human relationship. As the biblical texts move between silence and sound, readers will discover the crises of faith experienced by the people of God in their journey, even as these hardships hold within them great hope for Israel’s future. Most significantly in the Old Testament, silence emerges as a sacred medium of communication between the Lord and the people of God, modeling even for the contemporary life of faith a posture of hopeful openness to the often mysterious ways of the divine.
In the Hebrew Bible, silence is much more than the absence of sound. It is an exceptional phenomenon that can presage divine abandonment or conversely God’s mercy and forgiveness. John Kessler’s study traverses the full range of peak human experiences grounded in silence, and careful exegesis of these biblical accounts brings forth their deeper meaning. A fitting climax is a meditation on the silence of the sacred, not only at the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple but as well in the experiences of everyday people, with Sabbath observance a rich example.~Richard Bautch, Professor of Humanities and Associate Dean of The School of Arts and Humanities, St. Edward's University
Kessler creatively engages a topic that often mystifies modern readers. He showcases responsible, yet accessible, readings of particular passages as he traces the theme of silence throughout the Hebrew Bible. By providing implications for contemporary theology and life he reveals the relevance of this theological concept and these biblical texts for confessional communities today. A must-read.~Mark J. Boda, Professor of Old Testament, McMaster Divinity College
Kessler is a perceptive reader of the Hebrew Bible, calling attention to exegetical and literary matters, as well as to theological significance. His comprehensive analysis of the motif of silence in the Hebrew Bible is remarkable. Readers will be surprised by how much is said about silence, how meaningful silence is, and how the biblical text communicates important concepts even through silence. With great confidence and ease, Kessler leads the reader into the depths of this important biblical theme—a pleasure to read.~Elie Assis, Dean of the Faculty of Jewish Studies, Bar Ilan University
Kessler offers an excellent discussion of the concepts, functions, contexts, and ethos of silence in the Hebrew Bible. With exegetical rigor and keen theological discernment, he shows how and why the dialectic between sound and silence, and more specifically the fraught space between the two, is often where our most profound experiences with God are to be found. This is clearly a book written with close attention to our contemporary situation; it invites and rewards serious reflection.~Samuel E. Balentine, Professor of Old Testament Emeritus, Union Presbyterian Seminary