Foundational Theology:           Promise and the Theology of Rest


Lincoln Christian Seminary

Dr. James Strauss



“Among the many benefits of redemption offered to man by Holy Scripture, that of ‘rest’ has been almost overlooked in biblical theology. . . .” (G. von Rad, “There remains still a rest for the people of God” The Problem of The Hexateuch and Other Essays (E.T. 1966), p. 91; W, C. Kaiser, Jr, “The Promise Theme and the Theology of Best” Bibliotheca Sacra (April 1973): 135-150; “The Eschatological Hermeneutics of Evangelicalism: Promise Theology,” JETS, XIII (Spring 1970):91-99; J. Schniewind/G. Friedrich, ‘Epangello’ TDNT, II, T961), pp. 576-86; M. Weinfeld, “The Covenant of Grant in The Old Testament and in The Ancient Near East,” JAOS, XC (April/June, 1970), esp. p. 195f.)


I.     Promise Theology in Genesis: Seed, Land, and Blessing


A.   Seed/Line of Heirs - Gen 3.15; 12.3,7; 13.11-16; 15.1,5,13,18; 16.10; 17.2,7,9,19; 21.12;

          22.17; 26.21; 27.28,29; 28.11

B.    Land to Patriarchs and Descendants forever as an inheritance - Gen 12.1,7; 13.*5,17; 15.7,18;

          17.8; 21.7; 26.2,3; 28.13; 19.8-12

C.    Patriarchs are recipients of three basic elements - Abraham - seed through Isaac - heritage -

          Gen 12.3; 18.18; 22.18; 26.1; 28.11 (pi.) (Gal 3.8 - Paul singular)


The New Testament focuses on the now enlarged picture by limiting the terminology to that of God’s promise. Both OT/NT depict The Promise doctrine under God’s declaration: “I will be your God, you shall be my people, and I will dwell in the midst of you.”

II.  Promise Theology in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers:


A. Exodus perpetuates the promise already given to the patriarchs - Ex 2.21; 3.13,1^,16,17; 1.5; 6.2-5; 13.5; 32.13; 33.1; Lev 26.12,15; Nu 10.29; 11.23; 32.11 The new element is expressed in Ex 6.7 - “I will take you for my people.” The first part of this tripartite formula has been expressed in Gen 17.7-8; 28.21 - “I will be your God.” How the emphasis will fall on the fact that Israel will be Yahweh’s ‘son,1 His ‘firstborn son,” a people for His possession (the word segullah describes the God as God’s distinctive, peculiar, or moveable treasure (Moshe Greenberg, “Hebrew segullah,” JAOS LXXI (July-Sept 1951): 172-1; see also my “People of God: Israel, Kingdom, Church, World” - on reserve in library).


This claim lives at the heart of the theological development of The’ Promise - Ex 29.15-16; Lev 11.1,5; 22.33; 25.38; 26.12,15; Nu 5.3; 35.31. The provision of the tabernacle introduces the third aspect of the tripartite formula: “I- will tabernacle, dwell (sakan) in the midst of you.” (Ex 29.15-16; 21.26; 25.8; 10.35; Nu 5.3; 35.31.


“I will tabernacle” (dwell) among you expresses one of the greatest elements of the •  Promise theme. “If some object saying that the yieme of Covenant is more prominent, our response is simply there were many formal covenants, but the content of these covenants of redemption was at once single, continuous and eternal; hence the word to Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Jeremiah (31.31-31) is a united plan, but exhibiting many expanding and interlocking specifications in the progress of redemption” (Kaiser, p. 137). One such thematic addition to The Promise is the theme of ‘Rest.’ The rest God gives is at once historical/geographical (Canaan), soteriological (salvation), and eschatological (the kingdom and reign with Christ).


III. Theology of Rest:


A. Yahweh’s Rest - Creation - Gen 1-3; Ps 95.11; Isa 66.1

          This aspect of the Promise theme provides that key link between the end of Numbers and the

          time of David (Dt 12.9-10; II Sam 7.1,11).

B.    Former is the promise of “the rest” and “the inheritance of Canaan” while latter is the

          historical fulfillment of that rest under David.

C.      Coming to terms with the historical midpoint in Joshua 21.44-1(5 - 11.23; 14.15. If Joshua fulfilled the promised rest, what is II Sam 7.1 claiming? How often was this state of rest fulfilled? Not only must we see Joshua and David as the fulfillers of the promise but even Solomon was included, for he was named the “man of rest” (I Chr 22.9; I Kgs 8.56; rest appears after the troubled reigns of Asa (II Chr 14.5,6; 15.15) and Jehosophat (II Chr 20.30). The temporary lull in the continuous surge of conflict, e.g. Isa 57.20; Ps 94.13, is not to be identified with what God calls “My Rest”.


IV.  Rest Vocabulary:


A.   Nuah - “to rest” - Noah’s name, Gen 5.29

B.    Often the hiphil stem plus the preposition le plus a person or group assumes a technical status.

C.      Heniah le is a place granted by the Lord, e.g. Ex 33.14; Dt 3.20; Jos 1.13,15; 22.4; II Chr 14.5, a peace and security from all enemies (Dt 12.10; 25.19; Jos 21.44; 23.1; II Sam 7.1,11; I Kgs 5.18; I Chr 22.9,18; 23.25; II Chr 14.6; 15.15; 20.30; 32.22; Isa 14.3; 28.12

D.   Physical element - i.e. place

E.   Spiritual element, i.e., condition Yahweh would plant His people Israel so that - they could dwell in their own place. Ultimately Rest is where the presence of God stops.

F.    Manoah - Dt 28.65 - a disobedient Israel would find no rest while being dispersed among the nations – e.g. Lan 1.3; Ps 116.7; I Chr 6.16 (a resting place for the Ark. The case for the technical uses of the root ruah is inescapable. The Rest is the place where the presence of the Lord dwells whether with the traveling ark or in the Temple.

G.   Rest as Inheritance of The Land - Dt 3.20; 1.8,21,35,38; 65 other times in Dt (J. Herrmann, ‘Kleros - TDNT III, P. 771; P. D. Miller, Jr., “The Gift of God: The Deuteronomic Theology of The Land,” Interpretation, XXII (Oct 1969), 451- 567; G. von Rad, “The. Promised Land and Yahweh’s Land in The Hexateuch,” The Problem, E.T. 1966.

H. The Land of Canaan was the Nahalah or “the inheritance of the Lord” - ex 15.17; I         Sam 26.19; II Sam 21.3; I Kgs 8.36. The Land is His possession (ye russah) in II Chr 20.11) and (ahuzzah) in Joshua 22.19. Even more significantly the people of Israel themselves were the “possession” of the Lord - Ex 19.5; Dt 4.20; 9-26,29; 32.8-9; I Sam 10.1; II Sam 14.16; 20.19 (Herrmann, TDNT, p. 772 on segullah). Relevance in discussion - ‘heirs’, ‘joint heir1 in the “inheritance to come” note the movement from geographical to spiritual reality- the presence of God!


V.  Theology-of Rest in 95 (Pss 93-100) ‘Apocalyptic Psalms’ or ‘Theocratic Psalms’

           ‘Millennial Anthems’ ‘Enthronement Psalms’ ‘Royal Psalms’.


The inescapable theme is eschatological when the Lord alone is King reigning over all peoples and lands (Ps 93.1; 96.10; 97.1; 99-D)


A.   New Song - 96.1; 98.1; 100 - The Lord cones to rule (sapat) the earth, the world and the people in it with righteousness and His truth - Pss 96.13; 97.9 (inverse pattern found in Isa 2.2-5); Ps 94 - thanks God for being our Rock. This prepares us for the theme in Ps 95.1 - “The Rock of our salvation”


B.   Emergence of Eschatological Rest (inheritance or land of Israel, which figures in a central role in The Kingdom of God. This was an ‘earnest’ or ‘down payment’ on  God’s final complete rest yet to come.


C.   Joshua’s Rest - Problem: If the Lord “swore in his anger - Ps 95.11 that not one of the evil generation should center in the good land which he planned to give to the patriarchs (except Joshua and Caleb - Dt 1.39; Jos 11.22; Ex 9.36; Gal 2.20; I Chr 7.10; 1.14,16 The passages on which this ‘Oath’ is based are Nu 14.21-23; 32.10-12; Dt .34-36.  Note that in Nu 14.21-23 the oath is that they should not see the land while in Ps 95 it is the rest of God, which they shall not enter into.


         How is it possible to have this ‘rest’ under Joshua 1.13,14; 11.23; 21.44; 22.4; 23-1) and yet not have it if it is to be connected with some everlasting kingdom-rest as argued in the Millennial Ps 95 (Promised Rest Home Ex 33.14; ‘Inheritance or Rest’ Dt 12.9; the land of their (patriarchs) sojourning - Gen 17.8; 28.4; 36.7; 37.1; 47.1; Ex 6.4 and Jos 21.43-45 - not their possession - Acts 7.4-5.


         The conditional ‘If did not “pave the way for a declension from grace into law” as von Rad suggests anymore than it generated a theology of ‘works.’ (von Rad finds this conditionally in Dt 4.25,26; 6.18; 8.1; 11.8,9; 18.21; 16.20)  The Davidic promise remains externally valid and immutable as the One who gave it - II Sam 7.13,16; Ps 89.27,28,35,36; II Sam 23.5; Isa 55.3. The tension remains between man’s responsibility and the certainty of God’s eternal oath. The final triumph of the promised ‘Seed* is completed at the Return of Christ - The Consummation of Creation (see my article, “Consummation of Creation” - on reserve in library).


VI. Rest in The Theology of Hebrews 3.7 - 4.13 (see my “God’s Final Word in Our

           Pluralistic World: Exegesis and Theology of The Hebrew Epistle” - on reserve)


A.   The Rest of God - Hebrews connect believers under the-gospel with believers under the law.        

B.    Pluralism of Divine Rests


          1.     Divine Rest - 4.1-3,10,11 - Rest of Faith

          2.     Creation Rest - 4.4

          3.     Sabbath Rest - 4.4,9 or the Rest that remains - vss 6-9

          4.     Canaan Rest - 4.8

          5.     Redemptive Rest - 4.10

          6.     Eternal Rest - 4.9


“While it is true that the writer does use the noun katapausis in 3.11,18; 4.1,3,5,10,11 and the verb katapauomai in 4.4,8 along with the unique appearance of sabbatismo in 4.10 to describe this rest, there is every indication that he conceives of a single rest .from God” (Kaiser, p. 147; Bruce, Hebrews, p. 72).


C.   Present offer of Divine Rest - 4.1;  4.6; 4.9;  4.11. The Promise is called The Gospel in 4.2 - Believed and obeyed the Promise - 4.3,7; Jn 3.36. The Rest of God is His own Rest, which affirms that His purpose for creation has been attained in The Consummation of Creation. The priority of Creation to Covenant and Covenant to Consummation is fundamental to the Promised Rest. God’s Rest is still future - until the return of our Lord, Jesus Christ.