Building a Solid Foundation; A Call to Look at אבד More Deeply

The themes of God’s mercy and judgment are woven throughout the biblical text in both the Old and New Testaments. This can be seen in the blessings and cursings in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26 and is typified in the term אבד. However, in the field of Old Testament studies, the desire for in-depth studies on words has fallen out of favor. This has caused several scholars in their discussions to accept the current simplified glosses put forward by the many lexicons. As a result, many terms have an imprecise definition that leads to confusion at best and misinterpretation at worst. One of these terms that has suffered is the term אבד. In this paper, my goal is to survey the past and current scholarly analysis of אבד and argue for research to be done in a more contextualized manner.

This paper will use Genesis 12, Leviticus 26, and Deuteronomy 28 as textual case studies, and it will demonstrate that these passages have been interpreted in a highly applicational manner devoid of their context. Additionally, it will show modern concern for these passages and concepts has rested not on the content but rather on the formula and cultural background of these passages. Both of these approaches form a disservice to the passages themselves and אבד in general. I argue for a third way where analysis is given to the context of the text itself, and that content helps inform the significance of the term אבד. In this paper, I will walk through the historical interpretations of Genesis 12, Leviticus 26, and Deuteronomy 28, showing the pitfalls of the historical and modern interpretations. Then, I will propose a way toward an intended solution. It is my hope that this would not only help us understand the authorial intent of these passages, but also to understand God’s person and character in a richer way.