Flame of Yahweh offers a thorough exploration of gender relationships and sexual activity in the Old Testament. Topics include sexuality in Eden, the elevation vs. the denigration of women, exclusivity vs. adultery and premarital sex, permanence vs. divorce and remarriage, intimacy vs. incest, and sexuality in the Song of Songs.
Written from a theologically conservative perspective, Richard Davidson provides a meticulously researched work that makes extensive use of other ancient Near Eastern documents on subjects ranging from homosexuality to gender relations. At the same time, the author offers clear explanations of terms and historical context that make the work accessible and engaging.
“The human being is a sexual creature, and his/her sexuality is manifested in every aspect of human existence. This wholistic view of sexuality means that the ‘one flesh’ experience of husband and wife (2:24) involves not only the sex act but also a oneness—a wholeness—in all the physical, sensual, social, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of life. This wholistic concept of the ‘one flesh’ relationship between husband and wife implies that it is not sufficient to only seek physical compatibility in marriage; equally important is harmony between marriage partners in matters of religious faith.” (Page 37)
“The entire account is cast in the form of an inclusio or ‘ring construction’39 in which the creation of man at the beginning of the narrative and the creation of woman at the end of the narrative correspond to each other in importance. The narrator underscores their equality of importance by employing precisely the same number of words (in Hebrew) for the description of the creation of the man as for the creation of woman.” (Page 27)
“What Ortlund and others who employ this argument fail to recognize is that the word ʾādām never means ‘man’ (in the sense or implication of male gender) in Scripture. The problem is a modern language translation issue, not an aspect of the Hebrew text. The word ʾādām is a generic term meaning ‘human person’ or ‘humanity.’29 Aside from Gen 1–5, where it refers to the first human person, Adam, this term is never in the whole hb used to designate a ‘man’ in the sense of male (as opposed to female). The use of ʾādām does not whisper male headship as a creation ordinance.” (Pages 23–24)
This volume represents a most remarkable achievement. With encyclopedic breadth and extraordinary depth the author explores what the Old Testament has to say about every conceivable subject related to human sexuality. His discussions of the ancient Near Eastern cultural contexts, from which Old Testament writings emerged and to which they appear to have responded, are exceptional; and his treatment of specific biblical passages is generally balanced and thorough. Regardless of where readers find themselves in debates concerning sexual morality of gender relations, in the future, all who embark on serious study of biblical perspectives on these issues would do well to start with Davidson’s work.
—Daniel L. Block, Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College
Richard M. Davidson is an Old Testament scholar and Seventh-day Adventist. He has authored dozens of articles for theological journals. As of 2009, he is the chair of the Old Testament department at Andrews University, and the J. N. Andrews Professor of Old Testament Exegesis. He is married to JoAnn Davidson.