And Yahweh your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring…

Over my Christmas vacation, I worked through Keith Mathison’s From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology (P&R Publishing, 2009).

As a whole, I enjoyed the book. It gave a nice summary of eschatological themes found through all of Scripture and exhibited a very readable writing style throughout. It seemed to treat the topic of eschatology a bit too broadly, however, and therefore felt a bit unfocused. Mathison also writes somewhat idiosyncratically from what seems to be a partial preterist position, so readers will need to bear that in mind as they follow his exegesis. (This is keenly felt, for example, in his repeated reference to Daniel 7 which he believes refers to the inauguration of Christ’s kingdom at his ascension.)

I felt his Old Testament and intertestamental sections were stronger than his New Testament section, although even in his discussion of the Old Testament, he often just summarized the books using frequent citations of the standard commentaries and Old Testament introductions. Nevertheless, there were some nice gems in this book like this one on Deuteronomy.

In his final address [Deuteronomy 29-30], Moses foresees that the people will not remain true to God and that the curses of the covenant, including exile, will ultimately fall upon them (30:1). But he also foresees that Israel will eventually repent and be restored from exile (vv.2-10). This foreseen restoration from exile, however, raises an important question. Gordon McConville explains:

Deuteronomy 30:2-3 pictures the people’s repentance in exile, which in turn precipitates a restoration of their fortunes, here explicitly involving a return to the land. This structure immediately raises the question how that new restored situation might be any different from the old, the one that had such wretched and apparently inevitable results.

In other words, even if Israel repents and is restored from exile, what is to prevent the entire cycle of disobedience and curses from occurring again?

An answer to the problem is found in Deuteronomy 30:6 where Moses declares, “And Yahweh your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” What God had commanded in Deuteronomy 10:16, he promises that he himself will do in 30:6. The answer to the problem of Israel’s stubborn infidelity ultimately rests in God himself. “He will somehow enable his people ultimately to do what they cannot do in their strength, namely, to obey him out of the conviction and devotion of their own hearts.” God’s promise to circumcise their hearts anticipates the promise of a new heart and new covenant found in the prophets (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-28). In effect, God is telling Israel in Deuteronomy that she cannot in her own strength obey the very law that he is giving her. Because of Israel’s stubborn self-confidence, however, this is something that she will have to learn the hard way.

Pgs. 76-77.

I enjoyed his sections on the Pentateuch and Historical Books and felt they were some of the strongest of the book. I don’t think that From Age to Age is for everybody; there are definitely some better biblical-theology volumes out there (e.g., see the contributions of James Hamilton, Stephen Dempster, Graeme Goldsworthy, and especially G.K. Beale). Nevertheless, I am glad I read Mathison’s book and found it interesting even if my recommendation of it is a bit tepid.

R. Andrew Compton
Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)
Anaheim, CA