Exegesis Assignments







This assignment is designed to give you the opportunity to work with “categories of meanings.”  You are free to read word study books along the way, but they will not actually do for you what you need to do.  You are not trying to define the word ga’al, for the dictionaries will do that.  You are trying to learn what kind of “redeeming” this word involves.  That comes only from looking at how it is used in different contexts.


1.                  First, look up the word in a Hebrew dictionary, either BDB or KBL.  See what those works say the basic idea of the word would be.  This just gives you an idea where you are going.


Note that there is more than one “root” ga’alWe have homonyms to deal with.  There is not much you need to do at this stage other than be aware of the existence of another root.  Sometimes you will be studying your word (“redeem”) and a passage that a dictionary lists under it belongs under the other word.  Normally that does not happen, but sometimes it might.  


2.                  Next, using a good concordance (Englishman’s, Mandelkern’s, Lisowsky’s, or Eben Shoshan’s) that gives you the Scripture references where Hebrew ga’al, “redeem,” occurs, you simply start looking up the passages and assigning them to denominations (which you name).


At first glance you might be frightened off by the fact that there are about 100 passages (although it would not take long to look them all up, especially since some concordances put them in the order of the Bible passages).  But you will quickly see that when you get into certain chapters of the Bible, the word could occur a number of times, and one of the passages should tell you how it is used.


Dictionaries give categories of meaning, but they are not helpful very often.  They might tell you that first the verb is used with man as subject, then it is also used with God as subject.  This is of some help, but does not give you any idea of the meaning.  You want to describe what kind of action is going on in the passage.  For example, is the redeeming a divine deliverance, or the marriage of a relative, or the avenging of a death, etc.  When you get a verse clear in mind, you write a definition (like these) for it.  When you find verses with the same meaning, you list them under the heading.  When you are done, you should have two, three, or five or so groups of usages.  This enables you to see the range in the meaning for the word.


3.                  Now you write up your findings.  You do not write out all your passages and descriptions (and you do not simple give a computer printout from a word study on the web).  You write a working definition for the word, which will be a common denominator for all the categories.  For this word you will need to use something other than “redeem,” because “redeem” in English today would not suggest the meanings that this word has.


Then you list the categories of meaning under it.  And, for each category of meaning you supply one or two good passages and explain briefly what the word is doing in those contexts.


You should be able to get the findings of your study on one or two pages.  Accuracy and clarity is far more important than being exhaustive (and exhausting). In an exposition you want to be able to say, “This word basically means X.  It is used for XX, and YY, and ZZ.  In our passage this last meaning of ZZ applies best.”  Simple, clear, helpful.  Because you have done the work.  (In exposition you can always tell if someone has done the work; and it is not because they go on and on discussing it.)  Then, whenever you come across this word again in your exposition, you will be able to use your material, or perhaps clarify it further.


4.                  Watch out for rare uses that do not fit with other verses, or highly figurative uses that have a different connotation.  These will have to be listed and described separately. 


5.                  If there are related nouns or adverbs that are listed after the verb’s listing, take a quick survey of them.  Sometimes they will help you understand the meaning; often they will duplicate the verb’s meanings.   Be careful with names that use the verb; the meaning of the name is derived from the meaning of the verb, and not the other way around.






The purpose of this assignment is to give you some exposure to the task of working with the etymology of a word.  This will not be as straightforward as the first assignment, more like detective work than survey.  But it is the kind of work that you will have to know about in expounding the Old Testament, either being able to do some of it, or being able to evaluate work that is done, because there are hundreds and hundreds of rare and difficult words in the Old Testament.  To understand them, we have to work with the form, the context, and the ancient interpretations.


1.                  Understanding the Problem


The verse says, “My Spirit will not strive (AV, “contend” in NIV) with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.”  Our word is yadon, “strive/contend.”  This is the only place in the Bible this verb form occurs.  To get some idea of the degree of difficulty, check what the Greek Old Testament has at this point.


2.         Studying the Form


The first step is to parse the form (which will call for you to dig into the irregular verbs again).  Here, under the prefix of the imperfect, we have a long “a” vowel (the qamets).  That would normally tell you we have a hollow verb or a geminate verb form.  So you look in BDB to see if either occurs. 


You will find a hollow verb din, but it is 2nd yod.  It would not be spelled this way.  But that seems to be what translators are accepting because it is the closest form to what we have.  But the form in the text has a waw (albeit the holem waw), and not a yod (which would be a hireq yod).


So you now must start to look for other options.  Here you would consider forms that occur in the cognate languages.  Do they have a form closer to this one, either a geminate root, or a middle waw root, that would have a meaning better suited to this context? 



3.                  The Greek


Does the translation in the Old Greek (the LXX) give you any idea on the meaning in the passage?  Does it line up with any possible suggestion from the cognate languages?


4.                  The Context


Now, with an option or two available, including the original estimation, what fits the context of the passage the best?  Study the surrounding verses to see what it is that God says he is about to do, and not do.  And note the consequences that follow, that mortal live will not live on forever. 


When it says his days will be 120 years, does that mean every one will live to be 120, or that in 120 years the flood will come?


So then, what do you think the root of the verb is, and what do you think the meaning is in this passage?








This assignment will give you a chance to see how the ancient versions interpreted and translated the Hebrew text, often trying to take idiomatic and culturally distinct forms and making them clear.   This selection is a fairly straightforward one to deal with, and one that has bearing on the New Testament text as well. 


1.                  First, you need to know what the chapter is all about.  Read it through, and briefly (one paragraph) describe what is going on).  Then list the place or places where this particular word occurs.



2.                  Now analyze the word itself.  What is the “root” of the term, and what does that verb mean?  Why would that word be used for the act that occurs in this context?


3.                  Now determine how the Greek text translated the form.  You may want to look at an Interlinear Greek Old Testament to see the form and its translation, or you may find it in Hatch and Redpath’s concordance to the Greek Old Testament.  What is the Greek word that is used, and what is its form?  Is this a good translation or not?  To answer this, determine what the Greek word would communicate about the act.


4.                  Finally, are there any New Testament links to this Greek version of Leviticus 8?

You can approach this in a couple of ways.  One would be to see where the Greek verb appears in the New Testament.  That might give you a lot of passage to work with.  So the second way would narrow it: where in the New Testament is there a similar subject being treated where this verb is used?  This consideration should get you to the High Priesthood of Jesus in the Book of Hebrews rather quickly.  What would you say, then, about a couple of those difficult verses?








In Isaiah 38:9-20 we have the beautiful praise psalm of King Hezekiah.  Read the context and the passage to become familiar with the event and the meaning of this passage in the context.  The song is a praise song, written after the king recovered.  But all praise songs of this type recall the dilemma, the pain, and the prayer for healing before they actually praise. 


Our interest in it for this assignment is to gain practice in interpreting the figures of speech that are comparisons.  For each of the figures listed below, state the literal meaning, then name what figure is involved, and then state the intended comparison  in your own words (not repeating the figure).



1.         “In the noon time of my life” in verse 10.


2.                  “Must I go through the gates of death” in verse 10.


3.                  “And be robbed of the rest of my years?” in verse 10.


4.                  “Like a shepherd’s tent” in verse 12.


5.                  “Like a shepherd’s tent my house has been pulled down” in verse 12.


6.                  “Like a weaver I have rolled up my life” in verse 12.


7.                  “And he has cut me off from the loom in verse 12.


8.                  He broke all my bones in verse 13.


9.                  “I moaned like a mourning dove” in verse 14.


10.              You have put all my sins behind your back” in verse 17.









We have now added the figures of speech that are substitutions.  This assignment will focus on them, but in order for you to see the difference, it will also include more figures of comparison.  Follow the same procedure for this assignment as you did on the last.


1.                  “Hear, O heavens. Listen, O earth” in verse 2.  (Two figures involved, one for the individual words, and one for the two together)



2.                  “Your whole head is injured . . . from the sole of your foot to the top of your head” in verses 5 and 6 (What is the figure for the whole section?)


3.                  “The Daughter of Zion is left” in verse 8.  (In dealing with one term you have to deal with the other; two different figures).


4.                  “Hear the word of the LORD your rulers of Sodom” in verse 10.


5.                  “Your incense is detestable to me” in verse 13.


6.                  “They have become a burden to me, I am weary”in verse 14.


7.                  When you spread out your hands” (v. 15)


8.                  I will hide my eyes” in verse 15


9.                  “Your hands are full of blood” in verse 15.


10.              “You will be devoured by the sword” in verse 20 (two different figures).









Now we will complete our survey of the figures of speech by studying the figures of addition and the figures of suppression or omission.  Psalm 139 provides a great opportunity to see an array of figures.  For each of the following state what the literal meaning would be, name the figure or figures involved, and then put in your own words a paraphrase of the expression or explain what it would mean.  Be brief, but accurate.


1.                  “O LORD, you have searched me” in verse 1.


2.                  “You sift my going out and lying down”in verse 3 (two questions here).


3.                  “Before a word is on my tongue” in verse 4.


4.                  “If I take up the wings of the dawn” in verse 9 (two figures here as well).


5.                  “Your right hand will hold me” in verse 10.


6.                  “Surely the darkness will bruise me” in verse 11 (two figures).


7.                  “You knit me together in my mother’s womb” in verse 13.


8.                  “When I was woven together in the depths of the earth” in verse 15 (two questions again to address for the line).


9.                  “Your eyes saw my unformed body” in verse 16 (the two words will be part of the same answer; you have to explain them both in the process).


10.              “All the days ordained for me were written in your book” in verse 17 (two separate parts again).   To think about: if you took “days” as a synecdoche, what would you be saying?  If you took it as a metonymy, what would you be saying?










This assignment will give you the opportunity to work on a textual problem in a psalm.  Here we will see what is so true about textual criticism: when a problem arises in the text’s manuscripts, it is not that we do not know have what the original manuscript had, but that we have to decide which of the readings was what the original had.  For this first assignment, the important thing to do is to follow (and learn) the basic procedure.  To do the assignment you will need a Hebrew Bible with the textual apparatus, access to a good Greek lexicon (preferably Liddell and Scott, or Abbot-Smith), access to an interlinear or column Old Testament in Greek and English (very helpful but not necessary), and access to the copy of the Dead Sea Scroll (J. A. Sanders, The Psalms Scroll of Qumran Cave 11 [Oxford, Clarendon, 1965], p. 25). A photocopy of this page will be sufficient to see the data (and helpful to have the editors critical notes on the scroll).


1.                  First, you must know what the Masoretic Text says and what it means in the passage.  The verse reads: “When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed” (or: we were like those who dream).  It is this last form that we are dealing with: kekholemim (< khalam).  So, parse this verbal form completely and define the verbal root.


2.                  Now, the apparatus in the Hebrew Bible tells you that the Greek (i.e., the LXX) has a variant reading: parakeklemenoi.   So you need to parse this Greek form and establish its meaning (hint: see under parakaleo).  Does this form look like it is a translation of the Hebrew form?  Explain your answer.


3.                  While you have the Hebrew dictionary open for khalam, look around to see if there is a second root, or a similar root that the Greek text might have considered.  Recall that the Greek text was a translation made from an unpointed text (no vowels).  Why does the critical apparatus direct you to Jes (Isaiah) 38:16?


4.                  We are fortunate to have the witness of the third family of manuscripts for this problem as well (the Masoretic Text preserves the Babylonian, the Greek preserves the Egyptian or Alexandrian): the Palestinian text type, represented by the Dead Sea Scroll.  You will note as you study the scroll from Qumran that vowels were not written; only long vowels were represented by some consonants (recall the system of matres lectionis from beginning Hebrew).  With that in mind, compare the letters in the scroll with the letters in the form in your Hebrew Bible.  What is different about the scroll?  What would that difference indicate about the form (how would it be parsed differently than the form in the MT)? Does the parsing of the form in the scroll allow a translation from the verb “to dream?”   So which Hebrew root does the DSS probably have?


5.                  Does the “reading” in the Qumran scroll line up with the Masoretic tradition or the Alexandrian tradition?  Note the apparatus in Sanders on line 10 of the scroll, because he lines up what manuscripts are on either side of the issue. Try to explain the best you can what you think happened in the transmission of the Hebrew text on this verse.


6.                  What would then be the difference in the meaning of the text?








Your English Bible probably says, “they have pierced my hands and my feet.”  But some Bibles will have a footnote telling you that this is not what is in the Hebrew  manuscripts.  The majority of the Masoretic manuscripts have “like a lion, my hands and my feet.”  So we know the two different ideas; now we have to sort out the evidence and the reasoning to the proper conclusion.  Once again the assignment s primarily designed to get you into the process.


1.                  First, check what the Hebrew Bible has in the text for this verse (recall in the Psalms the verse numbers will be one off occasionally).  Analyze the form of the word, the preposition and the noun.


2.                  Second, determine the variant readings.  Here you are still dealing with manuscript evidence of reading, and not mere speculation.  What does the Greek Old Testament have?  Is that a Jewish or a Christian translation (hint: watch your dates for the work)?  What about other Jewish works, like the Targum?  As you collect the data you will see that there are a number of different renderings, but all these versions seem to have a verb, whereas the MT has a noun. 


3.                  Now go back to the form and take a closer look.  Does the fact that the noun ends with a yod help you see how close the form would be to a verb ending with waw (for the shureq for “they”).  How similarly were the yod and waw written in the manuscripts?  So, could this have been an accidental change?



4.                  Or, because the change was not in the earlier Jewish renderings but came later, does this suggest a deliberate tampering with the text on a theologically significant line?  This would be hard to prove, but there are some hints in this direction from J. ben Chayyim, one of the scholars who first published Hebrew manuscripts with marginal notes.   To sort out this bizarre development and argument, read the discussion in C. D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible (KTAV Publishing House Inc.), pages 968 (or start with 964) - 972.  The whole discussion concerns the scribal list of words that occur twice in the Bible with a different meaning in each of the places, so that if a word occurs on this list for one passage, its pair has to have another meaning.  It is a witness to the earlier scribal ideas of what the word meant in the passage.   It may be confusing to you in its details, because you are starting reading at page 968.  But the gist of the discussion should be understandable, and provide a window into how theology influences textual work on occasion.


5.                  Now try to draw some conclusions about the verse.  Explain the way you would argue if your were defending either view.








On the last assignment as a Christian exegete you probably were in favor of the reading “they pierced” from the outset (just as some Jewish scholars would have taken the other side from the outset).  It is difficult to suspend bias until the data has been gathered and studied.  Well, Psalm 2:9 will be just as difficult, if not more so because it is a verse that is quoted in the New Testament.  This assignment will give us the opportunity to deal with this kind of problem.


Some conservative Christian scholars simply assume that because a verse was quoted in the New Testament from the Greek Old Testament, that is the Holy Spirit’s approval of the Greek text over the Hebrew at that point.  Would that it were that simple.  The problem is that in those cases where a verse is quoted in the New and differs from the Hebrew (some 175 times), to take the Greek as the original reading would undermine all textual critical procedures.  It will be better to deal with the Old Testament textual problem first, and then deal with the theological issue of intertestamental quotations from the versions.



1.                  Analyze the verse from the Hebrew text: “You will smash them with a rod of iron, you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”  (Do not rely at this stage on your English Bible (like the NIV), but make sure you know what the Hebrew text actually has.


2.                  The verb in question must be parsed.  What is the parsing of tero‘em?  Most importantly, what is the verbal root?  (Review of parsing: the suffix has caused the reduction of the prefix vowel from qamets to shewa; a qamets prefix vowel for the imperfect would limit you to two types of irregular verbs). What is the root?


3.                  Now you need to go to the apparatus and see what the variant reading is.  There in this case they give you a lot of help (enjoy it).  They give you the Greek form poimaneis, and the reconstructed Hebrew tir‘em.  Normally they give you the Greek, and you have to reconstruct what Hebrew the translator was actually looking at.  So you can parse and translate either the Greek or the Hebrew.  Note in Hebrew the prefix vowel is a hireq.  That will tell you a good deal about the choices for the root.  What did the translator think the root was?


4.                  Recall that the Hebrew manuscripts had no vowels written this early.  So the Greek translator is looking at the manuscript with the four Hebrew characters:  T - R - ‘ - M.  What do you think prompted him/her/them to assume the verb was from one root and not the other?


5.                  Now try to argue the case.  Remember that you have to reason from both sides.  If the form was what the MT had, why would the Greek scribe choose another?  Or, if the form was what the Greek translation assumed it was, what would have prompted the Hebrew scribe to choose another verb?  In short, you will be asking which reading is the more difficult, and therefore which reading best explains the origin of the other.  Keep in mind that the scribes in the tradition of the Masoretic Text had a very solid oral tradition and were more knowledgeable of Hebrew in general than the Jewish scribes living in Alexandria.  That does not mean the MT reading is always going to be the right one, but on rare and difficult forms it does have to be considered.  In discussing this verse you will have to take into consideration the parallelism of the verse.



6.                  Now you can take a look at the New Testament use of the verse.  What tradition is the New Testament using?  Is that unusual of common?  Now think it through theologically: What does the doctrine of inspiration require for the use of sources or versions in the writing of the New Testament text?  Can the citation be completely precise when it is from a different language? And what was the primary goal of the writers in citing the Old Testament?  Remember, the principles you draw up here will have to work for all the citations.  Do not take a great deal of time with this now, but begin to think through the issue or inspiration and the text.


7.                  Both readings fit the context, and the theology of the psalm, and so both harmonize with the truth of the Bible (scribes ten d to do that).  What, then, would be the main difference between the two readings.









We now focus on syntax for a while (although textual problems certainly require a knowledge of syntax as well as word study procedures).  You will be surveying the different parts of the grammar to see the various ways that they can be interpreted.  Grammarians drew up the list of possible uses from the Bible, named or categorized them, and explained the differences.  They tried to keep the list short, and so would classify uses with these options where they could.  Sometimes uses did not fit the categories, and so “rare” uses were added to the list.  If one is called “rare,” it may be that it only occurs a couple of times for sure, and therefore would not be your first choice in classification.  Always try to work with common uses first. 


So for this assignment, start with a literal translation of the clause, then classify the point of grammar or syntax, and then explain what that means and how that would influence the meaning of the line.  You may find it helpful to make a paraphrase when possible to show the precise meaning. Do not simply rely on a smooth English translation (although you certainly may read them), because they may smooth the text out too much, or they may make a slavishly literal translation, and you may not think about the words enough as a result. 


These classifications are helpful, because when you teach or preach from a passage, you want to be able to explain clearly and briefly the meaning of the text.  For example, “prince of peace” in Isaiah 9 was left without interpretation.  You may call “peace” an objective genitive and say the title means the prince will establish peace.  Short, to the point, clear.  So you can see the answers do not require lengthy discussions, just a couple of clear sentences.


For syntactical work you will sooner or later need access to a good resource.  The simplest one to use, and the one on which the class notes were based, is Ronald J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax (Toronto).  The work is basically an outline with a sample or two for each point, but not much detailed explanation.  For that you may consult a more thorough work on the subject, Biblical Hebrew Syntax, by Bruce K. Waltke and M. O’Connor (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1990).  This will provide a detailed discussion on any subject in Hebrew syntax.  For the quick classification in regular preparation it may be more than some can handle; but when there is a need to understand the specifics of syntax, this is the resource to have.


1.                  “The word of Yahweh came to Jonah” in verse 1.


2.                  “Because their iniquity has ascended before me” in verse 2 (do not limit yourself to “possession”).


3.                  Tarshish” in verse 3 (the word occurs three times, all with the same classification; the spelling on two of them might help you decide).


4.                  “Now Jonah had gone down into the lower part of the ship” in verse 5.


5.                  “And the captain of the crew drew near” in verse 6.


6.                  “And they said, a man to his neighbor” in verse 7.


7.                  “I am a Hebrew, and I fear Yahweh, the God of heaven” in verse 9 (classify and explain all three words).


8.                  “And the sea ceased from its raging” in verse 15  (do more than “possession”).


9.                  “And the men feared Yahweh with a great fear” in verse 16 (classify both).


10.              “And they sacrificed a sacrifice in verse 16 (explain precisely what this construction is saying).










The Book of Psalms is one section of the Bible where a precise understanding of the Hebrew verb is important.  The obstacle is that we have all grown so familiar with a particular version of the psalms that it is hard to hold that in check until we know the precise interpretation.   This assignment will give us the opportunity to work with tenses in a lament psalm.  Along the way, we will also review a figure or two.


A lament psalm, as we will see later in the study, usually starts with a cry to the LORD and a lament about one’s plight (enemies, suffering, etc).  It will then have a section of confidence, followed by the actual prayer (the petition section).  The psalm usually closes with a word of praise, which is a vow of praise, in which the psalmist rehearses what he will say when the prayer is answered.  In psalm 3 the parts break down this way: Cry and Lament (1,2), Confidence (3-6), Petition (7,8), Praise (8).  This will help in working with the verbs.


For each word listed below, classify the verb’s nuance, or the type of figure, and then either offer a clear translation or an explanation.


1.                  “You are the one who lifts my head” in verse 3 (just the figure).


2.                  “To the LORD I cry (eqra) aloud” in verse 4 (this is the NIV translation, put here for convenience; you may disagree with it).


3.                  “And he answers me (wayya‘aneni) in verse 4 (again, the NIV, but parse the form, and then determine if that should influence the way you look at the verb before this).



4.                  “I lie down and sleep” (shakabti and wa’ishanah) in verse 4 (again, this is the NIV translation; parse the Hebrew verbs and classify them in context).


5.                  “I wake up because the LORD sustains me (heqitsoti and yismekeni) in verse 5 (again the NIV translation; parse and classify the two verbs.  You are beginning to see that the choice will be either something in the present time for all these verbs that would be making general statements about God, or some past time reference where the psalmist is reporting what happened.  I am not that concerned which view you take, only that you know how to classify the verbs in either case).


6.                  Arise, O LORD” in verse 7 (just the figure of speech).


7.                  “For you have struck (hikkita) all my enemies on the jaw” in verse 7 (This is NIV again.  Parse and classify the verb form).


8.                  Now deal with the figures of speech in verse 7b.  The psalmist says God will strike his enemies on the jaw, and break their teeth.  First explain the verbs.  Will God actually do this?  What figure, then, do we have here?   Then deal with “jaw” and “teeth.”  Only the jaw and the teeth?  Or is more meant here?  Classify the figures.  Now try to put in your own words what these clauses have in mind.










This assignment will give us the opportunity to work with the volitional mood in one very important passage, the Call of Abraham.  Here we will have to be precise on the parsing before we can classify the verb forms.  The main focus will be on the imperative, jussive and cohortative; but we will work with the other verbs as well to see the contrast.



1.                  “And the LORD said (wayyo’mer) in verse 1.  The Bible says that Abram received the call in Ur (Gen. 15) before he went to Haran.  How do translators reflect that in their translation of this verb? 


2.                  Get you out (lek)” in verse 1.  Parse the form, and explain its force in this line.


3.                  “And I will make you (we’e‘eska) . . . and I will bless you (wa’abarekeka) . . . and I will make great (wa’agaddelah) your name” in verse 2.  Parse these three forms.  Be careful, the first two have suffixes, and so have two possibilities; the third does not, and is very precise.  Should they not all have the same parsing?  Now, explain how they are being used in view of the fact they all begin with a waw and follow the preceding imperative.


4.                  What is the basic meaning of barak, “to bless.”  Take a brief look at the usage of the form and some of the material available so you can explain what it means “to bless.”


5.                  Parse wehyeh in verse 2 (usually translated “and you shall be a blessing”).  With that parsing with the waw, how should it be interpreted following the previous volitives?


6.                  Parse and classify “and I will bless” (wa’abarakah) at the beginning of verse 3.


7.                  Parse the form u-meqallelka in the same verse.  There is a textual problem on this word.  What does the apparatus tell you the variant reading is.  You do not need to solve the problem, just state clearly what it is, and how it differs from what is in the text.


8.                  Now parse “I will curse” (a’or) in verse 3.  Is this a cohortative too?  If not, why has there been a change, and what would be the best classification and interpretation of this?


9.                  Why is there a change of vocabulary words?  What is the difference between arar and qalal?  Both are translated “curse” in the line.  Which is the stronger word?



10.              Parse wenibreku, usually translated “and will be blessed” (in verse 3).  What verbal stem (system-- qal, niphal, piel, etc) do we have here?  What are a couple  of ways this form could be translated?  What support is there for each?









The last three verses of Psalm 126 employ verbal forms and figures of speech that are well-known to a lot of Bible readers but not clearly understood.  You would do well to get in mind the general idea of the psalm, its setting and main concern, before trying to answer these questions.


1.                  Verse 4 is a petition for the LORD to restore the captives to Zion.  It uses a figure of speech, “like streams in the desert.”  Classify this figure and explain it in the context of the psalm (you will need to know something about streams in the desert).


2.                  Verse 5 gives us the summary statement, and verse 6 elaborates on it in more detail.  First, parse and classify hazzore‘im (usually translated “those who sow”).


3.                  Analyze the figures of this line.  First, sowing and reaping.  Are these literal, or does he mean something else by comparison?   Second, tears and ringing cries.  Are they crying all the time they are sowing, or do these words represent something more.  Now say something about the arrangement of the verse, the parallelism and the reversed word order in the two halves.


4.                  In verse 6a we have “he may indeed go forth while weeping” (different versions translate it differently).  Parse all three verb forms: yelek, halok, and u-bakoh.  What is the classification of the main verb?   How do the other two forms work with this main verb--classify and explain them.



5.                  Parse nose’ (“carrying”) in the same verse.  How does this form function in the line syntactically?   And, do you think the author has in mind a pouch of seed, or is he comparing it to something else?  If so, classify the figure and explain what he means (and how you know).


6.                  Now we have “he will surely return,” or as one version has, “doubtless he will return” in verse 6b.  Parse and classify bo at the beginning.


7.                  What is the basic meaning of rinnah (from the root ranan) in the Psalms, and particularly in this verse?


8.                  Now comment on the structure of verse 6 as a whole.  Note the parallelism between the halves with nose’  beginning the last part of each.  But comment on the contrasts between the two halves.


9.                  Now that you have in mind the meaning of the “seed,” what is the meaning of the “sheaves”?


10.              What New Testament passage was influenced by this imagery?  What does seed mean in that passage?









Read through the passage in a couple of good English Bibles to get a sense of what is going on in this story about David and Bathsheba.  Now analyze some of the points of grammar and the meanings of some of the words, using these questions.


1.                  Cultural Question: What time of year was it and why was it a time when king’s go to war?


2.                  At the end of verse 1 we have “and David stayed in Jerusalem.”  Classify the waw (“and”) on “David.”  How do you know it is that type of waw?  And what is its use in the verse? 


3.                  Geography Question: Who was on the rooftop?  Where was David and where was Bathseba when David saw her?  What do you know of the situation of the city of David?


4.                  At the end of verse 3 we have the report, “and the woman was very beautiful of appearance” or the like.  Classify the waw (“and”) on “the woman.”  What use of this type of waw do we have now? 


5.                  Concordance Question: Where else in the Bible do we have this kind of description of women?  What is that saying about David in this context?


6.                  In verse 4 we have “and she washed herself from her impurity.”  This clause also begins with a waw on a non-verb.  What kind of a waw do we have?  What is the function of this clause if it is not in sequence?  If it had been in sequence (i.e., the washing came after the sin), how would the clause have been written?  S. R. Driver on Notes on Samuel is very helpful here if you get stuck.


7.                  In the same clause we have the word for washing as mitqaddeshet.  Parse the form.  What is the root, and what does it mean?  What was the verb for “washing” in verse 2?   There it reports what David saw; here the writer tells what she was actually doing.  What is the difference?  So, was Bathsheba “flaunting the flesh” on the rooftop, as many have preached this?


8.                  “And she sent” word to David (verse 5).  The verb “send” seems to be a linking verb through this whole section.  Trace where it is used in chapters 11 and 12.










This first assignment in Biblical Theology will get us into one of the key sections of the Bible for theology--the self-revelation of God to Moses.  You should read through Exodus 1-6 just to get a feel for the argument of this section.  You are free to read in commentaries if you wish, but they do not always give the details needed for this kind of analysis.  You might find it helpful to read some of the Jewish works: Segal, The Pentateuch, Cassuto, Exodus, and Benno Jacobs, Exodus.


1.                  First, we need to look at the first revelation of the LORD in Exodus 3:14.  From the context and the historical setting, why did Moses ask God to identify himself by name?  And, did God actually do that (why did he not answer “Yahweh”)?  Analyze the Hebrew of “I am that I am.”  What are some of the explanations possible for these verbs and their intended meaning?  If these forms mean “I am,” what does the name Yahweh actually mean? 


2.                  How did the Greek LXX translate the name, and the explanation given to Moses?  Is this a valid translation, does it reflect the Greek mentality, does it harmonize with later biblical expositions of the name?


3.                  Now let’s go to Exodus 6:2, 3.  On the surface it sounds like the text is saying that the patriarchs did not know the name Yahweh.  Does the data in Genesis support this idea ( you might look at passages like Genesis 4:26, or 12:8, or 22:14)?  If this was a totally new name given to Moses, how would the elders know if he was sent by their God? 


4.                  In verse 3 God said he reveal himself as El Shadday.  Parse the verb wa’era and then classify the preposition on El Shadday (a rare use).   Where did God use the name El Shadday in Genesis, and what do you think the name meant to them (evidence).  Is El Shadday a name, or a description?


5.                  The text then says, “But my name Yahweh I was not known to them.”  Here the contrast carries the nuance of the preposition over from El Shadday, so it would be “but as Yahweh.”  Parse the verb noda‘tiWhat is the basic meaning of the root, and are there different levels of knowing?  (Note verse 7, “Then you will know that I am Yahweh”).   So, in what sense might the patriarchs have known the name, but not known it?  For a similar situation, see Isaiah 52:6, where the people of Israel were about to be delivered from the captivity.


6.                  So now we need to take another look at the holy name Yahweh.  What are some the ways you would describe the significance of this name in the Old Testament?  In other words, if the text uses “God,” or “El Shadday,” or “Yahweh,” what would the difference be? 


7.                  Now say a few things about the development of God’s covenant program in Exodus (which is at the heart of Old Testament theology).  Note in Exodus 6:4 that when God says he did not allow himself to be known as El Shadday, he also says he established a covenant with them.  How will that now develop?









Now we want to look at a piece of poetry to see that there is also a clear theological message to poems as well.  Psalm 33 is a descriptive praise psalm.  In this type of psalm there is usually a short call to praise (1-3), then an extended cause for the praise (4-19), and then a conclusion (the last few verses).  We will focus on the cause, or reasons, for the call to praise.


1.                  Verses 4 and 5 begin this section.  True to Hebrew style, they form a summary of the entire section: verse 4 focuses on the word and the work of the LORD, and verse 5 speaks of righteousness and loyal love.  These sections will help you sort out the section, for first he deals with the word of the LORD (4-9) and then His work (10-12), and then he treats His righteousness (13-15) and His loyal love (16-19).   And it is on the loyal love of the LORD that the psalmist finishes with his closing prayer.



2.                  What you need to do first now that you can see the layout of the psalm is to make a theology chart of the passage.  On a single sheet of paper, make three sections: God, Creation, and Covenant.  In the top section on God, make three columns: names, attributes, and works.  Now go through the psalm a time or two and jot a brief note under each section (and the verse) from the psalm.  Then in the section on creation, you can have a column on nature, then one on humans, how they are described, what they do, etc.  The categories will be dictated by what is in the passage.  You may divide humans between the righteous and the wicked, if they are contrasted in the passage.  Then you go through the psalm again and jot down the few ideas in each column to get a survey.  Remember, you are just making a brief note, not writing paragraphs.  This is a one page chart.  For the third section you want to deal with the covenant.  Here your categories will have things like God’s part or the establishment of the covenant, or God’s protection of the covenant, whatever the passage has, and then a section on mankind’s response or requirements, such as faith, or obedience, or if it is sin or rebellion, that would be a separate column.  The point of the chart is to pick out the key theological ideas in a passage, because that will help you articulate the theology. 


Remember, you will have to define theological words precisely, and clarify figures of speech as well.


3.                  Now you need to develop the theological idea of the psalm.  Your goal is to write one clear propositional statement, a principle of theology.  The sentence could be complex, or compound, but one sentence only.  This forces you to be precise.  In short, if you only could have one sentence to say what God is telling us in Psalm 33, this would be it.  (Doing this will help you think clearly in the development of an exposition later). 


To do this you have to study your findings on the chart and see where the emphasis of the psalm lies.  Here it will be overwhelmingly about God’s person and work.  That will then be the basic statement.  But, the statement will have to account for the effect of the truth on the people.  This step is long on thinking and short on writing.


4.                  Now offer a few ideas on how the introductory call to praise and the conclusion  assist the communication of this theology.  You might need to comment on what the psalmist means by “sing a new song,” or, “wait on the LORD.”


5.                  Finally, do any New Testament passages come to mind where the same truth or truths are presented together?  Do not list a series of passages on every detail; find the one, two, or at the most three passages where the major themes of this psalm are confirmed and taught by the New Testament.









What we want to do on this assignment is discover how the New Testament carries the theology of a passage forward into its revelation.  In other words, the New Testament writers were not merely “proof texting” from the Old Testament, but were seeing how the Old was fulfilled, or found its fullest meaning in the New.


1.                  First, we want to determine the theology of Genesis 22:1-19.  Here you will follow the same steps as those for Psalm 33.  Chart the theological ideas of the passage, and then summarize the theological point.  There will be two new wrinkles in this passage.  First, whatever the whole passage is teaching theologically, the occasion was a test.  So you will have one activity of God as testing people’s faith, and another the main theological message of this passage.  Second, we have a commemorative naming and a parable at the end of the story.  These capture and preserve the main message of the text, and so should be seen as very influential in the articulation of the theological idea.


2.                  Now we need to look at Romans 8:32.  What is the message of the context of this verse?  And how does the apostle tie in Genesis 22?  And what main point is Paul making on the basis of his analogy?  How does God’s provision in Romans fulfill the provision noted in Genesis?


3.                  What does this analogy tell you about the other details of the story?  How far can we push the parallel?  Who does Abraham represent in the typology?  Who does Isaac represent?  Where is Moriah according to the Chronicler?  What rule lor rules would you give for keeping the parallels made within bounds?








The purpose of this assignment is to take the last point a step further, that is, to see how the New Testament writers bring the Old Testament forward to its fulfillment, or use it for a spiritual homily.


1.                  The first step is to study the two sections thoroughly.  Make a list of the parallel themes in the two passages, and for each one explain briefly the similarities or the differences in the meanings of them.


2.                  The second step, and much less involved that the first, is to articulate how Paul is using the Old Testament.  If he does not think the Exodus material is a prophecy, or a type, what then would his use of it be?  Does Paul do this frequently in the New Testament?  Can you find samples where Jesus used the Old Testament in a similar way?


3.                  In the chapter Paul is saying that the unbelieving Jew does not understand Scripture.  To make his point, he uses a clear Jewish method of using the Scripture.  Was it the method of reading the Bible that was the problem, then?  Or was there something more spiritual that was at fault?  In other words, would Paul have thought that there way of reading the Law was a valid alternative to Christianity?


4.                  Can you set down some guidelines for this use of Scripture that will be useful as you expound the Old Testament in the future?  What will keep us from making illegitimate links between the Testaments (or, how can we know that our theological application from the Old Testament is in harmony with the divine intent)?









Our focus in this assignment will be on forming legitimate applications.  On the one hand the assignment will be a little difficult in that you have not done the thorough exegetical preparation; but on the other hand I have chosen a prophetic sermon, which will make the assignment a little easier than trying to draw applications from, say, the Law, or a genealogy.



1.                  First, get the facts.  Who was Malachi’s target audience?  Who were those folks influencing?  What was the occasion of this sermon (two things they were doing wrong?  How did these violate the Law of God?


2.                  To whom and to what today do these things correspond?   Try to find the corresponding situation in our world, and the corresponding participants.


3.                  How do the sinful acts that the prophet is denouncing “despise His name?”  Here you will need to look at what the “name” of the LORD means.  Did Malachi’s audience think they were despising the name?


4.                  What does the prophet tell them to do, specifically?  


5.                  Does the prophet really want the sanctuary shut up so no one could worship, or is this expression in verse 10 in some way rhetorical? 


6.                  What does God declare that He is about to do (vv. 11 and 14).  Why would this be significant in a passage rebuking Israelite leaders?


7.                  Can you think of a New Testament parallel to verse 14?


8.                  If ministers find the work a drudgery and do not offer the best to God, how can they change?  Here you have to do some serious thinking apart from the text, for it only hints at what they might do.  What practical steps would you devise for people to get their commitment and their zeal back?  Be sure to show how your suggestions might be hinted at in the passage, and how they are backed up by other Scripture.  










We now have the opportunity to work through a wonderful piece of narrative literature.  You will discover that Hebrew narrative is very different than, say Greek.  It does not give endless details, but sufficient details to understand the story.  The unit of a narrative works through an arc of tension: there is a bit of background or description to start with, then there is the development of a crisis and its resolution, and then the aftermath.  In this case the resolution lays the foundation for other problems--it is not a proper resolution.


1.                  First go through the story and mark or indicate the clauses that advance the story line, distinguishing them from those that do not.  Classify the clauses that do not advance the story, either as to use (like a purpose clause) or nature (like direct quotation).  Decide who is the main actor in the passage (who is the subject of the most clauses).


2.                  How does the story contrast Cain and Abel (one way is by clause arrangement, and the other by repetition of terms)?


3.                  What was right with Abel’s offering and wrong with Cain’s--or was it the offering at all that was the problem?  What is a minkhah?  Could it be either animal or vegetable?   What does the Book of Hebrews say was the difference?  How does the description of their sacrifices help you to see this?


4.                  Now analyze the LORD’s speech to Cain in verse 7.  Are God’s questions in the verse literal, or is there a rhetorical element to them?   The NIV has “If you do what is right you will be accepted.”  What is the literal meaning of that clause?  What do you think God is saying?   How close is the last clause of verse 7 to the last part of 3:16?  Why is this?


5.                  In the second round of communication, we begin with a divine question (verse 9); is this rhetorical?  Explain what was intended by it. 


And Cain’s response is almost universally known: Am I my brother’s keeper?  What is the answer to Cain’s question?  Why?


The oracle of the LORD in verses 10-12 is quite an advance on the curse oracle in Genesis 3.  Note some of the advances or intensifications that occur here.



Analyze Cain’s response to this in verses 13 and 14.  “My punishment (NIV) is too great to bear.”  What is the word rendered “punishment” here.  What are its categories of meanings?  If it means “punishment” here, what figure of speech got you to that meaning?  So what exactly is Cain saying?


Then we have God’s response in verse 15.  How does this verse relate to the problem of blood avenge?  In the Law, what took the place of the “mark” on Cain?


6.                  Why was it called the land of Nod?


7.                  Now, decide what the story is about.  To do this you take into consideration the story line and how the narrator’s descriptions and the quotations interpret what is happening.  You should be able to see here a gradual unfolding of Cain’s unbelief, step by step, so that in the end it is clear that he is not in the faith.  But try to state in a sentence or two what you think the theme of the story is in all its development.  To help you with this, you must ask how this story fits the context of Genesis 2-4.


8.                  To make a contextual application first, what was God’s instruction for Cain?  What would it have meant to “do well”?


9.                  The New Testament alludes to Cain in a couple of places, but John in his epistle turns the story around to make a positive application.  What is that?  How is that derived from the passage?  Can this work with “doing well”?


10.              Theologically, what does this story reveal about the person and work of the LORD?  What does it tell us about human nature?  Does it provide a glimpse of what the righteous have to look forward to in the world as they try to worship the LORD?










Now we will try our hands at legal literature.  Here Leviticus 19 will give us the opportunity to work with some specific laws in order to see how they are to be used in exposition today.


1.                  Briefly sketch the nature and purpose of the Law of Israel.  Be brief, but to the point, and clear.


2.                  Now lay out the guidelines you would give to people for applying the Law to the Christian life.  What procedure would you follow to decide if a law was to be taken literally for today, qualified in some way, or done away with in Christ?


3.                  Now we have a number of laws in the chapter where we may test these ideas.

For each of the ones selected here, state the law, explain what it meant and why it was there, and then state how it should be applied by Christians, why, and what New Testament passage might support your point.


A.                 Verse 3                        Respect father and mother


B.        Verse 3                        Keep the sabbath day


C.                 Verse 5                        Eating the Peace Offering properly


D.                Verses 9, 10                 Leave the corners


E.                 Verse 15                      Perverting justice


F.                  Verse 19                      Mixing animals, seeds, and cloth


G.                Verse 20                      Sex with a slave girl


H.                Verses 23-25               Fruit trees


I.                   Verse 28                      Cutting and tattooing the body


J.                  Verse 31                      Mediums and spiritists


4.                  Finally, what is the theme of the chapter, the constantly repeated refrain?  With what kind of texts is that self disclosure associated in the Old Testament?  What does this tell you about the instructions of the chapter?









This assignment will help us think through how we are to use the wisdom literature in our exegetical exposition.  The famous Proverbs 31 passage will be our passage for the assignment.


1.                 First, we need to lay out the descriptive qualifications of wisdom literature.  What are the different kinds of wisdom literature?  What are the main features of wisdom literature?  What is wisdom literature designed to do (what questions does it address)?


2.                  Wisdom literature is characterized by specific vocabulary, at least a more extensive use of certain words than the rest of the Bible has.  At the heart of the vocabulary is the word “wisdom.”  Briefly define or describe the meaning of the two main words used for “wisdom.”  Then do the same for “folly.”  Put your descriptions in very practical terms.


3.                  How does the Book of Proverbs use personification?  Note the several chapters where it occurs, and briefly describe each.


4.                  Finally, what is the structure of the book?  Briefly sketch an outline for the book (obviously not giving 375 points for the proverbs themselves).   Since chapters 1-9 are usually taken as a different form than proverbs proper, you will need to explain what a proverb is.


5.                  Now we are ready to pull our section together.  First, you need to make some observations on the text.   Explain the alphabetic arrangement, the use of military or harsh terms, and the parallel structure with hymns.  What do you make of all this?


6.                  Now make an outline of the passage to trace the different features, and for each entry state a principle that is taught by wisdom literature.



7.                  What is missing from this passage?  Why is that?










We now will work with a psalm, a fairly short psalm but a complicated one if you do not know your way around psalmic literature.  The psalms have central themes or messages, and should not be seen as disconnected meditative thoughts.  Our task is to determine the message of the psalm and how it applies today.


1.                  This psalm has a historical superscription.  What is it?  You may want to come back to finish this question later, but the contents of this psalm are rather disturbing, and do not seem to fit the superscription very well.  What was the sequence of events in David’s life that led up to the dedication?


2.                 This is classified as a declarative praise psalm.  What are the parts of this type of psalm?  Make a brief outline (but use full sentences, not topics); in your outline, verses 1-3 obviously go together, and then verses 4 and 5 are inserted with eager enthusiasm, calling for praise and providing the basis for it.  Verses 6-10 go together as the report of the dilemma and the deliverance--it is important to get this right since he is now praising, and not still praying.  Then verses 11 and 12 have the praise proper. 


3.                  In the first part David says he was lifted out of the depths, healed, and brought up from the grave or pit.  Are these literal or figurative.  Explain.  You may want to come back and adjust your answer after you get further, so do not take too long now.



4.                  In verse 5 we have a number of figures of speech to deal with.  We have “anger” and “favor” and “moment” and “lifetime.”  Then we have “weeping” and “rejoicing” followed by “night” and “morning.”  We have a mixture of figures of substitution and comparison.  So classify each, and explain them.


5.                  Now in verse 6 we find the report of the dilemma.  David obviously did something wrong, and God was angry, but now God has restored him.  Verse 6 is the poetic description of it.  To what is he probably referring?


6.                  There are different ways to translate verse 7.  Compare the NIV and some of the others.  Is “mountain” being used in a good sense or a bad sense?  What is the figure of speech in either case?    And what does it mean when God hides His face (what figure and what meaning)?


7.                  Verses 9 and 10 tell us what he prayed when in that mess.  What does he mean when he asks if the dust will praise God?  What figure of speech is this, and why does he use it? 


8.                  Now we come to the praise itself.  Here we have more figures to deal with.  We have “wailing” being turned into “dancing.”  What does he mean by these?  And so what figures are they?  Likewise, he says God took off his sackcloth and clothed him with joy.  What did God actually do?  So what figures are these?


9.                  Why would you ant to write a praise psalm about being forgiven for sin and restored to the fullness of health and joy as a psalm of dedication for the temple?


10.              What are the key theological motifs in this passage (what you learn about the nature and acts of God in relation to sin) and how are they expressed in the New Testament?











Prophetic literature makes up an enormous portion of the Old Testament, and so must be understood.  But it will take more than an assignment to make you feel at home with this body of literature.  However, we have to begin somewhere, so a Messianic passage in Isaiah is a good place to begin.


1.                  What are some of the ways that you would describe the distinctive features of prophetic literature?  You may have to say a word or two about the nature of the prophets in Israel as well.


2.                  What is the setting of Isaiah 11?  You will not have to get into the higher criticism of the Book of Isaiah to answer this, for this is in the first part of the book.  But what was going on at the time and therefore what would have been the impact of this so-called “Book of Immanuel”?   And, how does this chapter fit in the sequence: chart what chapters 7, 8, 9, and 10 say in leading up to this point (be very brief).


3.                  The section has three parts, the nature of the Messiah (1-3a), the nature of Messiah’s reign (3b-5), and the nature of Messiah’s kingdom (6-9).  In the first part we have a description of his humble origins.  What is the image of a “shoot” and why does it come from Jesse and not David?  Is this description of “shoot” and “branch” found elsewhere in Isaiah, or the other prophets?  And does it speak to a New Testament fulfillment (hint: in Matthew)?


4.                  In verse 2 we have a series of descriptions.  Most English Bibles have not interpreted and translated the genitive relationship smoothly.  So you get to do that.  “The Spirit of the LORD” is a common expression.  But what kind of genitive do we have?  Then for the rest of these, e.g., “the Spirit of wisdom,” what kind of genitive do we have?  Offer a smooth translation to show this.


5.                  Now we need to define and clarify words.  Is “spirit” used one way or two ways in this section?  In other words, is “spirit of wisdom” still referring to the Holy Spirit? 


Now we have the three couplets: wisdom and understanding, counsel and power, knowledge and fear.  Why are these paired as they are (define the words and explain how they work together)?


6.                  Before we go further, what would be the New Testament fulfillment of verse 2?



7.                  Now in the second part we have Messiah’s reign.  We need first to have clearly in mind what we mean by “righteousness” and “justice.”  Give a specific definition for each and show how they differ.  


Can you improve on “he will judge the needy”?


8.                  Verse 4 tells of striking the earth with the rod of his mouth; what figure of speech is “rod”?  What will actually happen?  When will this happen? 

And verse 5 says that righteousness is his belt; what figure of speech is “belt”?  What does this mean?


9.                  Now we come to the nature of Messiah’s reign.  Are “wolf” and “lion” and “calf” and “goat” and the other terms literal?  Do they represent something more then these individual animals?  If so, what figure do we have. Or, do you thin they do not refer to animals at all?  If so, what figure would be involved?  


If these words refer to kinds of animals, what would the passage say about the Isaianic vision of peace in the world to come?  Are there other passages that come to mind that fit that vision?


10.              What is the holy mountain in verse 9?  And what does he mean that the earth will be covered with the knowledge of the LORD?  Explain this very precisely but very briefly.