The Dimensions of Repentance in the OT (Boda)

 I enjoyed this book by Mark Boda called Return to Me: A Biblical Theology of Repentance.  As the title suggests, it is a summary of the Bible’s teaching on repentance from Genesis to Revelation.  Each chapter is called something like this: “Repentance in the Torah,” or “Repentance in the Latter Prophets,” etc.  While studying 2 Chronicles 19:4, I read over some parts of Boda’s book and I saw this section that I had marked up earlier.  It’s about the dimensions of repentance in Old Testament theology:

Repentance throughout the Old Testament involves a shift in relationship, in behavior, in affection, and is often accompanied by a verbal declaration and/or ritual acts.  I call these dimensions of repentance because they occur within the same context as simultaneous aspects of repentance.

At the core of the old testament theology of repentance is the relational dimension.  The change in relationship is often explicitly expressed as a shift from a foreign god or gods to Yahweh.  While this may have a behavioral aspect to it, such as destroying or abandoning one’s idols, it is the relational shift that is key as the person or people exchange their relationship with one deity or deities for a relationship with Yahweh.  At times, however, the focus is on returning to Yahweh without explicit reference to turning from other gods.

… Repentance, however, is not reduced to a shift in external behavior, that is, repentance is not mere moralism. Across the Old Testament there is a consistent emphasis on the kind of change that entails an inner reorientation.  This is seen in the regular reference to the heart or soul in contexts that encourage repentance.  This is best expressed by the oft-repeated phrase ‘with all one’s heart’ (and soul and might).  Internal characteristics include humility, sincerity, truthfulness, fear/reverence, tenderness, contriteness and lowliness of spirit, heavy heart and broken spirit, shame and humiliation, loathing, trembling, love, willingness, and steadfastness.  Repentance at times it involves not just a change in behavior (whether action or speech) but a change in perspective, whether that is shifting one’s view of God as seen in Malachi 2:17, 3:15, and Job 42:1-6, or seeking insight into God’s truth in Daniel 9:13….

There is more to Boda’s summary of repentance in the Old Testament, but this is a helpful part of that summary.  Boda did give a list of Scripture references for these aspects of repentance, to be sure.  If you want the entire summary, or if you want a good resource on the theme of repentance in the Bible, get this book: Return to Me

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015