Ph.D Dissertation

“Divine Hospitality in the Pentateuch: A Metaphorical Perspective on God as Host.”

Doctor of Philosophy in Hermeneutics and Biblical Interpretation, 1999
Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA
Advisor: Tremper Longman, III


This dissertation develops a metaphorical perspective for biblical hermeneutics and applies it to the Pentateuch, analyzing how God as Host extends hospitality toward guests. Methodologically, the philosophical shift evident in the writings of I. A. Richards and Max Black is significant for construing metaphor as not merely a figure of speech or embellishment but more importantly as a cognitive device that plays on the interaction of two otherwise independent domains. Metaphor has the capacity to disclose insight and truth, a feature it shares with theoretical models which use familiar terms to illuminate vaguely understood and transcendent realities.Anthropomorphic depictions of God as King, Shepherd, and so forth function much the same way. This theoretical understanding of metaphor is brought into relationship with a programmatic statement regarding the theory and practice of biblical theology as a multiplex, redemptive-historical discipline. As background, an understanding of ancient hospitality illuminates the nature of the source domain involving the host, guests, and meals. A working definition of hospitality is proposed, followed by an investigation into the contours of human and divine hospitality in Sumerian, Akkadian, Egyptian, Hittite, Ugaritic, and Israelite literature. Beginning with creation and the garden of Eden, divine hospitality is a feature of several passages in Genesis. The text presents God as Host who provides food for all creation and then shows hospitality toward the original couple whose behavior as guests lies at the narrative’s center. Genesis also shows God’s hospitality toward post-diluvian humanity as well as the individual, Jacob. The rest of the Pentateuch portrays God expressing hospitality primarily toward Israel, hosting the entire nation in the wilderness with food and water but also providing a covenant meal to representative elders on Sinai. The study employs the perspective of divine hospitality in its assessment of Israel’s dietary regulations and the food-related elements of covenantal blessings and curses. Finally, the Promised Land is considered as guest of God, co-host, and menu item for Israel. This application of the divine hospitality model to the Pentateuch shows promise for an extended metaphorical interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, especially the ministry of Jesus.


I am making this dissertation available with the hope that more and more people would develop an interest in the metaphorical portrayals of God in the Bible. You may use this material in research as you would any other resource. In the production of papers and published material, please give due credit to the source.

The following table lists the filenames and descriptions of each part:

Front Matter: Title Page, Abstract, Contents, Abbreviations, Acknowledgements
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: The Study of Metaphor
Chapter 3: Metaphors, Models, and the Bible
Chapter 4: Hospitality in the Ancient Near East
Chapter 5: Divine Hospitality in Genesis
Chapter 6: Divine Hospitality in Exodus through Deuteronomy
Chapter 7: Conclusion
Back Matter: Appendix, Bibliography, Vitae

Known errata:
pp. 109, 306. The title of Meredith Kline’s book is The Treaty of the Great King: The Covenant Structure of the Deuteronomy.

Here is a PDF of the entire dissertation, made from scanning a hard copy. It may be helpful if you are having difficulty viewing the Hebrew font in the PDFs above