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Old Testament Turning Points: The Narratives That Shaped a Nation
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Old Testament Turning Points: The Narratives That Shaped a Nation


Baker Academic 2005

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Adam and Eve, God’s covenant with Abraham, the deportation of Judah and their eventual return to Jerusalem—these are a few of the key Old Testament stories that serve as signposts for guiding readers through the Old Testament. According to Old Testament professor Victor Matthews, these stories are essential to the identity of Israel as God’s people.

Matthews identifies eight landmark stories that not only shaped Israelite identity but also continued to echo throughout the Old Testament as Israel grew into its role as the people of God. He examines the stories in detail, showing how they provide a foundation for later Old Testament stories and events. Helpful sidebars, a glossary, indexes, and a selected bibliography provide readers with tools for further exploration.

The Logos Bible Software edition of this volume is designed to encourage and stimulate your study and understanding of Scripture. Biblical passages link directly to your English translations and original-language texts, and important theological concepts link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. In addition, you can perform powerful searches by topic and find what other authors, scholars, and theologians have to say about the Word of God.

Key Features

  • Discusses major turning points within the Old Testament narrative
  • Examines how different Old Testament themes and traditions are retold over time
  • Presents outlines, important issues, and themes for each story that is looked at


  • Adam and Eve Are Expelled from Eden
  • Yahweh Establishes a Covenant with Abraham
  • Moses Leads the Israelites out of Egypt
  • King David Makes Jerusalem His Capital
  • Jeroboam Leads the Secession of the Northern Tribes
  • Samaria Falls to the Assyrians
  • Nebuchadnezzar Destroys Jerusalem and Deports the People of Judah
  • Cyrus Captures Babylon, and the Exiles Return Home

Praise for the Print Edition

The author offers great insights in each chapter and does an exceptional job weaving together literary, sociological, and canonical perspectives as he explains each narrative. [The book] offers something for the seasoned scholar as well as the beginning student of OT studies. . . . Well worth the read.

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

Old Testament Turning Points draws the reader into selected pivotal moments in the life of ancient Israel. Matthews engagingly retells well-known narratives in a manner that allows the reader not only to hear these stories afresh but to recognize the echoes of these stories across the Old Testament canon. Rather than describe motifs, Matthews ably demonstrates themes through telling an appropriate story. Similarly, rather than inform the reader of the technical niceties of reading strategies and methods, Matthews demonstrates those strategies through his exposition.

Rick R. Marrs, Blanche E. Seaver Professor of Religion, Pepperdine University

The Hebrew Bible is a story of transformation and change. Its heroes are forced to follow God into an uncharted future in times of uncertainty and crisis. Thus the central stories in the Hebrew Bible are often about turning points in life: some are cautionary tales of failure, while others point a way forward into a future with God. Matthews guides the reader through a handful of the most powerful stories of transition found in the narratives of Genesis through 2 Kings. For the reader who joins the journey, it becomes clear that in their retelling, old stories have the power to provide new insights for contemporary travelers.

Thomas Dozeman, professor of Old Testament, United Theological Seminary

Matthews skillfully blends sociological, literary, and canonical perspectives into rich explorations of key biblical texts. Old Testament Turning Points focuses squarely on the biblical texts themselves and thereby offers an innovative and stimulating alternative to surveys of the Old Testament. Beginning and seasoned readers alike will find much to ponder in its pages.

L. Daniel Hawk, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Ashland Theological Seminary

Readers of the Old Testament often find it difficult to keep the big picture in mind because of the myriad of details covered in the text. Victor Matthews has helpfully reminded us all of the big picture in his treatment of the major turning points in ancient Israel’s story. His attention to both literary structure and historical context in ancient Israel and in the broader ancient Near East is most enlightening. Those who make the effort to read this volume will be richly rewarded with a storehouse of information to help in understanding the Old Testament.

W. H. Bellinger Jr., W. Marshall and Lulie Craig Professor of Bible, Baylor University

Concerned to help contemporary readers hear the message of the Bible as it was originally heard, Victor Matthews has presented us with a splendid offering that goes a long way toward filling in many gaps that separate us from the biblical audience. His careful articulation of eight ‘turning points’ in the overall plot of the Old Testament, summarized and, more importantly, contextualized within the biblical canon as well as the ancient Near East, results in a very useful guide. Those seeking to gain an informed overview of the Old Testament story as originally heard should find this book quite helpful.

Mark A. Throntveit, professor of Hebrew and Old Testament, Luther Seminary

Matthews has written extensively on Old Testament history and on Israel’s setting in the ancient Near East. Consequently, the reader expects a thorough presentation of the historical events behind the biblical narrative and is not disappointed. More, the author provides occasional side-bar references to extra-biblical literature to show the historical and intellectual context of the people of the Old Testament. This presentation of history and culture may be this small volume’s greatest strength. . . . This volume offers something to the reader regardless of theological stance. Matthews is a careful historian who knows the ancient Near Eastern world and the modern scholarly world. There is much to be learned here. . . . The author’s twelve pages of ‘Works Cited’ is a good reading list for Old Testament history. Moreover, the author provides a brief, but helpful, glossary of terms. . . . A biblical index and subject index make the book more user-friendly, too.

Midwestern Journal of Theology

Product Details

  • Title: Old Testament Turning Points: The Narratives That Shaped a Nation
  • Author: Victor H. Matthews
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2005
  • Pages: 208

About Victor H. Matthews

Victor H. Matthews is dean of the College of Humanities and Public Affairs and professor of religious studies at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, where he has taught for more than 25 years. He is the author of numerous books, including The Old Testament: Text and Context, Studying the Ancient Israelites, and the best-selling Manners and Customs in the Bible.