Reviewer: Gerald McDermott. Some really good insights in this review. Looks like a fascinating book as well. See what you think.
We know from the story that God’s plan to deliver the Jews from annihilation succeeded. But was it an act of God that overruled human freedom? Or was it an act of human courage and political genius that God observed from a distance?
Hazony argues that too often Jews (and, I would add, Christians) have treated this as an either-or question. They think that if God were in control, then humans would be mere pawns; or if humans make the right decisions, then God is merely the observer and not the cause. (Hazony maintains that this is a “God of the gaps” theory that thinks of God “intervening” occasionally to change things that otherwise go on without him.)
The biblical authors, he counters, would have none of this. Their principal metaphor for the human-divine relationship was brit, the Hebrew word for “covenant,” where God acts through human choices. Both are totally involved. As Jonathan Edwards put it, “God does all and man does all.” Edwards was paraphrasing the apostle Paul: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil. 2:12-13).