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.


BS1001C and BS1002C or equivalent, and two Biblical Studies units at second level


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


  • one 15-minute seminar 20%
  • one 1,500-word exegesis 30%
  • one 2,500-word essay 50%


  • 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 the 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.