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A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Kregel Exegetical Library) Hardcover – November 14, 2013
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About the Author
Robert B. Chisholm Jr. (ThD, Dallas Theological Seminary) is Department Chair and Professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is a translator and the Senior Old Testament Editor of the NET Bible. Chisholm’s other publications include Interpreting the Minor Prophets, Handbook on the Prophets, and A Workbook for Intermediate Hebrew.
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Top customer reviews
But the books that are most difficult for us, and feel archaic to our modern sensibilities, sometimes have the most to teach us. Robert Chisholm does a masterful job of mining the depths of Judges and Ruth and bringing homiletic insights to working preachers. I have not read Chisholm in any substansive way before, though I did reference his From Exegesis to Exposition several times in seminary. In A Commentary on Judges and Ruth, Chisholm examines the passage through a synchronic lens, with an eye for its historical impact and literary craft. He then draws out the theological import and suggests a direction for pastors who will be preaching from the passage.
The book of Judges and Ruth occupy the same historical period in Biblical history (the time of the Judges, cf Ruth 1:1). But their tone could not be more different. Judges describes Israel's failure to possess the land, their repeated fall into idolatry where they 'do evil in the eyes of the Lord," and the way the surrounding cultures contribute the the moral decay of the nation. In the beginning of the book, when a 'Judge' is raised up by God in response to the people crying out and returning back to him, the Judge acts decisively to deliver the nation. Othniel (3:7-11) and Ehud (3:12-31) set the standard. However when Deborah commissions Barak to deliver the people, we see him hesitate (4:8). This hesitancy to act (or to follow) is evident in every cycle in the later part of the book (i.e. Gideon, Jepthah, Samson). When you get to Jepthah (10:6-12:15), a generally righteous judge you find that he is so affected by the surrounding culture that human sacrifice is an acceptable offering in exchange for victory (336). Samson's twenty year 'rule' is not accompanied by any sort of crying out to the LORD by the people, no one rallies around him, and he only fights the Philistines on his own whim. The epilogue of Judges (17-21) records two episodes which evidence the moral degradation of the nation (including nationally sanctioned rape).
The tone of Ruth is much more hopeful. Naomi returns from Moab a widow who had lost her sons. Ruth, her Moabite daughter-in-law comes with her, though there is no prospect of an heir or a future for her there. When she goes to glean in the fields of Boaz, she is treated with kindness. When Naomi hears of it, she hatches a plot to get Ruth hitched. In the end Boaz marries Ruth and the two become the great grandparents of David (and she is included in the Messianic line of Jesus).
For each episode in these books, Chisholm presents a translation and narrative struture (noting the Hebrew syntax in his translation), discusses literary structure, exposits and discusses the message and application. The final section is where he draws out the exegetical and theological themes and points at homiletical trajectories. This is a tightly organized and well presented framework and it read well (which you can't often say of higher level commentaries). Chisholm is a confessional scholar and so sits under the text. As an exegete, he has a sharp eye for the original context, and his exposition is helpful for drawing out a message for today which is faithful to the text. I also appreciated that he discusses at length in his comments, the degradation of the treatment of women throughout the book of Judges. He is cognizant of feminist critiques of Judges, even if his reading is much more conservative (i.e. he hints at Deborah's appointment as Judge the result of the lack of male leadership. Though certainly the Hebrew scriptures attest elsewhere that God's choice is not necessarily society's choice). I appreciated his handling of the Ruth story as well (some of his translation notes are golden here!), but it his reading of Judges which garners my highest praise.
This is the second volume in the Kregel Exegetical Library I have reviewed (the first was Volume 1 of the Psalms by Allen Ross). On the strength of these two volumes, I think this is going to be an excellent commentary series. Both volumes have strong introductions, attentiveness to historical and literary forms and practical insights. I can't recommend this commentary enough. So if you are preaching on Judges or just want to delve in for personal study, this is well worth the effort. I give it five stars: ★★★★★
Thank you to Kregel Academic for providing me with a copy of A Commentary on Judges and Ruth in exchange for my honest review. I was not asked to write a positive review, but sometimes, they are that good.
Chisholm’s approach is a “literary-theological method.” This is helpful for preachers and teachers. The days when people were doing source criticism (thankfully) are almost over. That way of doing exegesis is way too speculative. Because Chisholm refuses to play the source-criticism game, he can focus on the things that pastors are really concerned about – How is God speaking through this text (i.e. what is the theological message of this text?)
Chisholm claims that he has pastors in mind as readers of the text. The pastors who will probably benefit the most from the depth of exegesis Chisholm engages in aren’t many (scholars will greatly benefit from his nuanced discussion of the text), however Chisholm does step back and give a lot of big picture insight which will actually be very helpful for preachers/teachers.
He approaches each section of text through the filter of the following three questions:
1-What did the text mean in its ancient Israelite context?
2-What theological principles emerge from a thematic analysis of the text?
3-How is the message of the text relevant to the church?
The fact that he breaks the commentary up according to these questions is very helpful for people who are trying to preach. The most basic hermeneutic for preachers is 1-What did the text mean? 2-What is the theological message? 3-How does it apply to us? So in writing the commentary according to his three questions, he allows preachers to interact with answers to the questions that they are already asking themselves on a weekly basis.
There are many things that Chisholm should be commended for.
First, unlike most conservative commentators he is well attuned to feminist issues present in the text. He devotes an entire section in the introduction to Judges to this very topic. It was honestly my favorite part of his discussion of Judges.
Second, he catches interesting literary nuances that most people tend to miss. For instance, when discussing Naomi’s move from Bethlehem, he points out the fact that readers who are accustomed to Judges, know that bad things happen when people leave Bethlehem – the reader will expect tragedy when reading about Naomi’s move. However, he points out, that the narrator actually turns the “leave Bethlehem and experience tragedy” narrative on its head. In the story of Ruth, leaving Bethlehem (eventually) leads the to birth of king David. For a Jew, this is the exact opposite of tragedy; it’s the greatest blessing that could be bestowed upon a woman.
Finally, the homiletical sections are organized clearly and are full of helpful suggestions for preaching Judges and Ruth. Within the introduction for both of these books, Chisholm includes “Major Themes” and the “Book’s Purpose” these two sections give a framework for his homiletical outlines. For the homiletical outline Chisholm goes section by section giving short, one or two sentence statements about:
The Exegetical Ideas
Primary Preaching Idea
Every preacher could benefit from reading these short sections. Though concise, they are full of theological depth and practical application.
I haven’t read any of the other Kregel Exegetical Library Commentaries but if they are anything like this one then I am in love with the series. Chisholm does thorough exegetical work and gives plenty of homiletical help to preachers and teachers. What more do you need from a commentary?
If you are looking for a commentary to use in preparing a sermon series on Judges or Ruth you need to pick up a copy of this book.
(Note: I received this book courtesy of Kregel Academic in exchange for an impartial review.)
Most recent customer reviews
This is a technical/semi-technical commentary that provides both a detailed exegetical analysis of the Hebrew text and a variety of homiletical helps for...Read more