Flood and Fury: Old Testament Violence and the Shalom of God, By Matthew J. Lynch
Flood and Fury
  • Length: 256 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: February 28, 2023
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: A0429
  • ISBN: 9781514004296

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What do we do with a God who sanctions violence?

Old Testament violence proves one of the most troubling topics in the Bible. Too often, the explanations for the brutality in Scripture fail to adequately illustrate why God would sanction such horrors on humanity. These unanswered questions leave readers frustrated and confused, leading some to even walk away from their faith.

In Flood and Fury, Old Testament scholar Matthew Lynch approaches two of the most violent passages in the Old Testament – the Flood and the Canaanite conquest – and offers a way forward that doesn't require softening or ignoring the most troubling aspects of these stories. While acknowledging the persistent challenge of violence in Scripture, Flood and Fury contends that reading with the grain of the text yields surprising insights into the goodness and the mercy of God. Through his exploration of themes related to violence including misogyny, racism, and nationalism, Lynch shows that these violent stories illuminate significant theological insights that we might miss with a surface reading.

Flood and Fury challenges us to let go of the need to rescue the Old Testament from itself and listen afresh to its own critiques on violence.

"Matt Lynch is an able guide to these difficult Old Testament texts. He carefully unravels the caricatures of these texts to make way for a faithful alternative. Lynch weaves personal stories with close readings of biblical texts to offer fresh perspective. I heartily recommend his work!"

Carmen Joy Imes, associate professor of Old Testament at Biola University and author of Bearing God's Name: Why Sinai Still Matters

"Flood and Fury helps Christians to see what violence is doing in their Scriptures—even in the mouth of Jesus! Lynch helps us to navigate the Bible's grammar of violence as people who are thankfully estranged from systemic and brute use of force. Like few scholars can, Lynch plainly maps how the New Testament authors engage the violence of the Old Testament as fruitful for the coming kingdom. Of the myriad books on violence in Scripture, Lynch marries his scholarly work with his winsome writing so that the church can properly wrestle with what the biblical texts say about human and divine violence."

Dru Johnson, associate professor of biblical studies at The King's College

"Matt Lynch writes for a popular audience without dumbing down the problem of violence or providing pat answers. He invites readers to contextualize scriptural texts within a large vision of creation's shalom, the hermeneutics of reading biblical narratives alongside historical questions, and the whole canon's revelation of God's good character. Lynch's work travels new and illuminating ground. For those troubled by these texts, Lynch models pastorally honest and attentive reading that contributes to a richer understanding of the biblical narrative, God's good design for his creation, and the ways these texts intersect with present-day realities. A recommended read!"

Lissa M. Wray Beal, professor of Old Testament at Wycliffe College

"Wow, this is the most helpful book on the Bible I've read in a long time. Matthew Lynch is easily among the brightest, most insightful, best read—and funniest—biblical scholars working today. In his latest book, he shows he is also among the wisest. Yes, violence in the Bible is a 'wicked problem' that admits of no easy solution (see chapter fifteen), but with Lynch lighting the way, readers will emerge wiser. Buy a copy immediately and then buy a case to share among your friends. They need a copy—we all do."

Brent A. Strawn, D. Moody Smith Distinguished Professor of Old Testament and professor of law at Duke University

"The concerns this book addresses are not new, but the perspective of its author and this cultural moment are. Flood and Fury addresses these age-old problems with sensitivity to the unique questions of a new generation. And most importantly, Lynch does this by inviting his readers to face these issues head-on—acknowledging the struggle—all the while considering some of Scripture's most challenging texts with care, literary sophistication, and confidence in the good God we encounter there."

Michelle Knight, assistant professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"This book sees the flood and the conquest stories not simply as problems to be solved but instead as opportunities to deepen our faith, challenge our contemporary cultural expectations, and even seek God's blessing. It presents a biblical theology of violence rooted in a detailed study of the motif of violence in Genesis 1–11 as well as in the book of Joshua. But there is a different way of seeing these texts. The book presents a legitimate approach that enhances our understanding and presents us with new questions. It is a new adventure of learning. I recommend this provocative and well-informed book."

Yohanna Katanacho, author of The Land of Christ: A Palestinian Cry

"In this volume, Matthew Lynch takes the reader on a journey of discovery that involves careful and scholarly engagement with the text, helpful illustrations, and his own honest and personal perspectives. Matt takes up his own challenge: to wrestle with and go deeper into the dark and impenetrable places of Scriptures. His insightful and wise readings of the texts unearth more of their place and purpose within the grand narrative of salvation while, perhaps also surprisingly, demonstrating how these stories are able to reveal more of the redemptive, relational, and merciful character of God. Readers searching for answers will be both hugely relieved and extremely grateful to find this book."

Lucy Peppiatt, principal at Westminster Theological Centre, UK

"Matthew Lynch's Flood and Fury is a shrewd book: modest but not timid, careful but not skittish, demanding but not onerous. From start to finish, Lynch faces, unflinchingly, the hardest, ugliest parts of the Scriptures. He sees how some of the questions these texts raise for us simply cannot be answered, at least not as we expect. But he also shows us why we can and should remain at the table, troubled as we are—because our Host, mysterious as he is, is unwaveringly good and the wisest of teachers."

Chris EW Green, professor of public theology at Southeastern University and author of All Things Beautiful: An Aesthetic Christology

"The Bible contains violence. This book questions various interpretations of biblical violence and its possible influence on Christian doctrine and practice. Warfare, racism, and gender discrimination have been justified using the Bible, but the Bible has also sparked significant movements for individual and collective freedom, inclusiveness, and peace. At the heart of Dr. Lynch's work is an essential question regarding the biblical conception of God and how we can think about God's love, justice, and peace in the midst of it all. The insightful proposals in this book will be helpful for both teachers and students in search of understanding."

Jules Martinez-Olivieri, theologian in residence at the Surge Network and author of A Visible Witness: Christology, Liberation, and Participation

Read an Excerpt


List of Figures and Tables
Foreword by Helen Paynter

Part One: A Real Problem (with Options)
1. Facing the Problem (Without Burning Down Your House)
2. Finding Our Way

Part Two: Shalom and Its Shattering
3. Shalom in Creation's DNA
4. Violence Against Women in the Bible's Prologue
5. Creation's Collapse
6. Shalom Redux

Part Three: Reading Joshua with Yeshua
7. Wielding the Sword
8. Negotiating with the Enemy
9. Minority Report
10. Show Them No Mercy
11. Completing the Exodus in Canaan
12. Giants Will Fall
13. Worship as Warfare

Part Four: The Old Testament and the Character of God
14. What the Old Testament Says About God's Character
15. Irresolvable

Figure Credits
General Index
Scripture Index


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Matthew Lynch

Matthew J. Lynch is associate professor of Old Testament at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. He is the author of First Isaiah and the Disappearance of the Gods, Portraying Violence in the Hebrew Bible, and Monotheism and Institutions in the Book of Chronicles. He is the co-founder of the OnScript podcast, a podcast focused on providing engaging conversations on Bible and theology.