Justice, Mercy and Theodicy
in the Old Testament


Rev. Assoc. Prof. Mark O'Brien OP
Not offered in 2020
This unit will examine how the Old Testament portrays God as just, righteous, and merciful, and the criteria whereby Israel is called to be a just, righteous, and merciful society. It will consist of an analysis of justice, righteousness, and mercy, and associated terminology within their literary, historical, and theological contexts. It will consider how these terms and the contexts in which they occur contribute to Theodicy—the notion of God as just.


BS8001C and BS8002C or equivalent


face-to-face 3-hour weekly classes in semester


  • one 30-minute seminar (2,000 words) 30%
  • one 5,000-word essay 70%


  • Birch, Bruce C. Let Justice Roll Down: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Christian Life. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1991.
  • Boda, Mark J. A Severe Mercy: Sin and Its Remedy in the Old Testament. Siphrut: Liturgy and Theology of the Old Testament Scriptures. Winona Lakes, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2009.
  • Botterweck, G. Johannes, and Helmer Ringgren, eds. Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Translated by John T. Willis. Vols 1–15. Grand Rapids, MN: Eerdmans, 1974–2004.
  • Crenshaw, James L. Defending God: Biblical Responses to the Problem of Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
  • Houston, Walter J. Contending for Justice: Ideologies and Theologies of Social Justice in the Old Testament. London: T. & T. Clark, 2006.
  • Jenni, Ernst, and Claus Westermann, eds. Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament. Translated by Mark E. Biddle. 3 vols. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1997.
  • Laato, Antti, and Johannes C. de Moor, eds. Theodicy in the World of the Bible. Leiden: Brill, 2003.
  • O’Brien, Mark A. Restoring Right Relationship: The Bible on Divine Righteousness. Hindmarsh: ATF, 2014.
  • Weinfeld, Moshe. Social Justice in Ancient Israel and in the Ancient Near East. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995.
  • Williamson, H. G. M. He Has Shown You What is Good: Old Testament Justice Then and Now. Cambridge: Lutterworth, 2012.