Our fourth speaker and topic profile for the inaugural Naked Bible Conference in Dallas, TX on August 18 is Dr. William (“Rusty”) Osborne. I’ve alluded to Dr. Osborne’s work on the Naked Bible Podcast several times. His dissertation was on tree imagery and symbolism in the Bible and ancient Near East. His dissertation was just published in book form (Trees and Kings: A Comparative Analysis of Tree Imagery in Israel’s Prophetic Tradition and the Ancient Near East (Bulletin for Biblical Research Supplement)). Now we get to hear from the expert in person!

Not surprisingly, Dr. Osborne’s session is entitled, “Reaching for the Heavens: Tree Imagery and Kingship in the Bible and the Ancient Near East.” What’s it about? Think of passages like Ezekiel 31:

1 In the eleventh year, in the third month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his multitude:

“Whom are you like in your greatness?
3  Behold, Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon,
with beautiful branches and forest shade,
and of towering height,
its top among the clouds.
4  The waters nourished it;
the deep made it grow tall,
making its rivers flow
around the place of its planting,
sending forth its streams
to all the trees of the field.
5  So it towered high
above all the trees of the field;
its boughs grew large
and its branches long
from abundant water in its shoots.
6  All the birds of the heavens
made their nests in its boughs;
under its branches all the beasts of the field
gave birth to their young,
and under its shadow
lived all great nations.
7  It was beautiful in its greatness,
in the length of its branches;
for its roots went down
to abundant waters.
The cedars in the garden of God could not rival it,
nor the fir trees equal its boughs;
neither were the plane trees
like its branches;
no tree in the garden of God
was its equal in beauty.
9  I made it beautiful
in the mass of its branches,
and all the trees of Eden envied it,
that were in the garden of God.

Where there’s kingship and Eden talk, there’s “divine council worldview” lurking in the background. Without understanding the conceptual relationship between kingship and tree imagery in the ancient Near East, you won’t be able to understand passages like Ezekiel 31.

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