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Genesis: A Commentary
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First of all, Waltke's command of Hebrew and the decision to bring out certain aspects of the Hebrew text is selective, not exhaustive. For example, he does not cover every nuance of the Hebrew text in a verse, but does cover significant issues especially with an eye towards exegetical work (so it's a great tool for pastors-cutting through the chaff and getting to the kernel of the issue). Let me illustrate by looking at Waltke's coverage of 'Book 1 of 10 in Genesis'. In Genesis 2:4a (pg 83) he says : "This the account" [toledot] (sorry I cannot make the Hebrew transliteration look like his typesetting). This word is the signal marker for the beginning of each of the ten books of Genesis. Toledot, from the root yld, meaning "to bear children" here signifies "what is produced or brought into being by someone." It is the nominal form of the root, meaning "descendants." The account pertains to what the cosmos has generated, not the generation of the cosmos.
If you desire more on this, you will have to read someone like Victor Hamilton's NICOT or any number of fuller technical works on Genesis. But for the pastor preparing a sermon, he boils it down to the essentials without TMI (too much information).
For each book in Genesis (he sees 10) Waltke follows a pattern that I find refreshing to read in comparison to fuller commentaries. He starts out with a section called "Theme of Book 1" or 2 and so on. It is a short summary in normal language of that part of Genesis. Then he gives an outline of the book. He breaks it down into Acts, Scenes and Epilogues. This is very logical and consistent and brings out the literary structure of Genesis in a way that really connects well with everyone I've been teaching so far. That's very helpful from a pastors point of view.
Then he does a broad segment called 'Literary Analysis of Book 1'. He covers a bit on Genre, structure and plot, escalation, characters, conflict, irony and innertextuality. After all of this he gives a segment called 'Exegetical Notes to Book 1' In this he gives cogent comments for each part of each verse, sometimes focusing on significant words, such as 'Adam' in Genesis 2:7 with quick overview of the play on words in the Hebrew text and some well polished phrases to sum it up in English (a lot of his stuff is ready made for preaching). The format is pleasant to read for any regular person, not packed with lots of parenthetical phrases or Hebrew, Greek, Latin fonts. Everything is transliterated and smoothly presented.
He has everything organized by Book, Act, Scene. If that is confusing, matching scripture references are retained next to those, and there is a contents table at the front of the book for anyone who is a bit confused by that arrangement. I found it very helpful to use.
Anyhow, after his section on Exegetical Notes, then he has a major segment that I believe will tempt some pastors to skip to this part immediately. It is his segment called Theological Reflections on Book 1 (or 2 or whatever book he is on). He takes crucial theological concepts like 'Second Adam' and gives the major cross links with enough food for thought to get any Bible teacher moving into a major spiritual treasure trove.
After all of his Theological Reflections (which I never find in regular commentaries), then he also offers a segment called Excursus. On Book 1 it is Genesis Genealogies.
I think some of the criticisms of this commentary that are on this website, reflect the hopes and needs of a more scholarly approach than the target of this commentary is intended to assist. This book is a Gold Medallion Award Winning book. The back cover attempts to posit the book as a good tool for everyone from pastor, to scholar, to student, to Bible-lover. I'm not sure scholars or Graduate students will like this tool as much as the heavier duty commentaries out there. But I absolutely love this commentary. I'm very glad that I decided to purchase a copy, and I urge pastors and Bible teachers who have an eye for bringing the text into the hearts of people everywhere to use this commentary in your research of the text.
Overall Waltke gives about 30 pages of information for Genesis 2:4 through the end of chapter 4. Comparing this to Victor Hamilton's NICOT with 92 pages for the same text, and you can see why I call this a 'shorter commentary'. However, Waltke is extremely helpful, particularly for busy pastors and teachers who have to prepare messages week in and week out and draw out not only accurate exegetical thought, but relevant theological and practical application from the text.
Other resources: I would also suggest Hamilton's two volume set NICOT or Wenham's Word Biblical Commentary (2 volumes) on Genesis for the fuller treatment that is sometimes needed on parts of the text. I really love Sidney Greidanus on "Preaching Christ from Genesis" for developing exegetical sermons from Genesis.
This commentary is altogether different. Treating Genesis as a play with Books, Acts, & Scenes, Waltke is different good. It's throughly engaging. Waltke has given us a masterwork.
No other commentary—and I also have NICOT, NAC, BBC, & EBC—captures both the detailed human drama as well as the broad, sweeping themes of the great work that is Genesis.
This commentary is different for all the right reasons. Different good.