Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A review of a commentary on Judges and Ruth by Robert B. Chisolm Jr.

A review of a commentary on Judges and Ruth by Robert B. Chisolm Jr.

Publisher's description:

"A thorough exegetical and homiletical analysis of each passage of Judges and Ruth
This masterly commentary sheds exegetical and theological light on the books of Judges and Ruth for contemporary preachers and students of Scripture. Listening closely to the text while interacting with the best of scholarship, Chisholm shows what the text meant for ancient Israel and what it means for us today. In addition to its perceptive comments on the biblical text, it examines a host of themes such as covenants and the sovereignty of God in Judges, and providence, redemption, lovingkindness, and Christological typology in Ruth.
In his introduction to Judges, Chisholm asks and answers some difficult questions: What is the point of Judges? What role did individual judges play? What part did female characters play? Did Judges have a political agenda?
Chisholm offers astute guidance to preachers and teachers wanting to do a series on Judges or Ruth by providing insightful exegetical and theological commentary. He offers homiletical trajectories for each passage to show how historical narrative can be presented in the pulpit and classroom."

Last year I reviewed Tim Keller's commentary on Judges and found it very helpful.  This commentary from Robert Chisholm, though much different than Keller's, is also very helpful.  This is a detailed, scholarly effort, and quite a bit more exegetical and detailed, going verse by verse through both Judges and Ruth, designed to be an aid for preachers and teachers.  The introduction alone is around 100 pages long and was very helpful to me in understanding not only the background of the book and it's historical context, but to see how the apostasy and idolatry practiced by the nation of Israel had it's seeds planted in the days of the Judges.

The structure of this commentary is very detailed with each chapter covering a specific overall theme (example Judges 1:1-2:5, entitled settling down with the enemy).  Then each chapter has three components, a detailed outline, a summary of the literary structure of the passage, and an exposition.

 The expostion is the normal verse by verse meat and potatoes part of the commentary and is very detailed and instructive. Even though I am a layman, and I do not know Hebrew, Dr. Chisolm's use of Hebrew throughout the book doesn't exclude folks like me from utilizing this rich resource.  I should note that Dr. Chisolm uses his own translation of Judges and Ruth, which is not a problem for me, but if that is an issue for anyone, he explains his reasoning in his preface, which is to help us view the text as the original author did.  When he does use Hebrew, his explanations are sufficient for someone like me to benefit.

I appreciate Dr. Chisolm's effort to show us the overall themes of these books and to show them as whole literary units, not as just individual portions of Scripture. His literary interpretive method takes all of the smaller thematic elements and ties them all in to the larger overall ones and is very helpful.

As I said the exposition is very detailed and helpful, and their are numerous footnotes on each page for even more detail.  Some pages are half text, half footnote.  I can't imagine another commentary that will open up Judges or Ruth like this one.

After the exposition portion, each chapter concludes with a message and application section for pastors and teachers.  Here Dr. Chisolm outlines thematic emphases, exegetical ideas, theological principles and homiletical trajectories.  This looks very helpful for sermon or class preparation, but I will leave it to pastors and teachers to decide for themselves if Dr. Chisolm's work here is useful to them.

Finally, I highly recommend this commentary.  I must admit I was a bit skeptical at first, as I usually use commentaries that are more in the practical, devotional style, as I work through an individual book.  That being said, though this is a highly technical work, designed for pastors and teachers, this is well worth being on your bookshelf.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.

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