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The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament Hardcover – December 8, 2000

4.4 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Users of Craig Keener's IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament will be delighted to have a companion volume on a period both more remote in time and exotic in cultural background. . . . This volume . . . fills a need not addressed by any other book I know. It will open the eyes of lay readers to the vast and still largely untapped resources of ancient Near Eastern archaeology and texts for the understanding of the Old Testament. I predict a warm and enthusiastic reception for the book." (Harry A. Hoffner Jr., Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago)

"This volume [The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Genesis--Deuteronomy, a precursor to this new, complete OT volume] provides Bible readers who have little knowledge of the ancient world an abundance of information on the sociocultural background of texts throughout the Pentateuch. The authors present the materials in a clear, concise, straightforward manner. . . . This book is a splendid tool that provides ready access to the cultural background of the books of the Pentateuch." (Themelios)

About the Author

John H. Walton (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School. Previously he was professor of Old Testament at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago for twenty years. Some of Walton's books include The Lost World of Adam and Eve, The Lost World of Scripture, The Lost World of Genesis One, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, The Essential Bible Companion, The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis and The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (with Victor Matthews and Mark Chavalas). Walton's ministry experience includes church classes for all age groups, high school Bible studies and adult Sunday school classes, as well as serving as a teacher for "The Bible in 90 Days." John and his wife, Kim, live in Wheaton, Illinois, and have three adult children.

Victor H. Matthews is dean of the College of Humanities and Public Affairs and professor of religious studies at Missouri State University (Springfield, Missouri). He has written several books on the Old Testament, including Manners and Customs in the Bible: An Illustrated Guide to Life in Bible Times, (with James Moyer) The Old Testament: Text and Context and (with Don C. Benjamin) The Social World of Ancient Israel.

Mark W. Chavalas is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin--La Crosse. He is also editor of Emar: The History, Religion, and Culture of a Syrian Town in the Late Bronze Age, (with John L. Hayes) New Horizons in the Study of Ancient Syria and (with K. L. Younger Jr.) Syria-Mesopotamia and the Bible.

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Product Details

  • Series: IVP Bible Background Commentary
  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic; 10/16/00 edition (December 8, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830814191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830814190
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 2.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on October 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The IVP Bible Background Commentary is an excellent resource for understanding the Bible in its historical context. Sure, that means it sometimes reads counter to tradition, but if tradition is being refuted by physical evidence, I'd rather know that than be left in my blind tradition.
The book does lean toward a more Earth-bound discussion of the Bible. It shows how political, economic, and societal influences helped shape the way the books of the Bible were written (or spoken) and passed down through history. It shows how the writers, even though they were inspired by God, were still influenced by the times in which they lived.
This is not a book for the strict Fundamentalist Christian unless you want your beliefs challenged. But it's a wonderful book for the literary Christian who likes to engage in some healthy Biblical discussion.
The only thing that really disappointed me (and kept it out of the 5-star category) was that a few of the historical discussions are sometimes cut short. But I'm sure that was a balance between depth of research and final page count. Overall, this is definitely worth the money, and it will keep many people thinking critically about the Bible for quite some time.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been using this resource for more than four years in a variety of contexts--academic classes, Bible studies with high school and college students, and so on. This book is an invaluable resource.
Two main reasons to buy this book: 1) We are all very removed from the cultural perspective of the authors who wrote the Old Testament. This book helps bridge that gap by pointing out details we would consider irrelevant and giving context to other details we would otherwise misunderstand. 2) The text is highly readable and accessible for a wide selection of readers. The scholarship is very strong, fair, and thought-provoking, and furthermore, the editorial team did an excellent job ensuring that the information was presented in a clear and interesting manner. I've often found myself provoked to curiousity and ended up reading more than I originally intended to (and, no, that is not a habit for me with most reference books!).
A brief word, too, about the fact that an evangelical publisher is responsible for this book being published. First, every publishing house has biases, so to judge an evangelical publisher for publishing work sympathetic to evangelical tendencies is a bit harsh. Secondly, as one who reads a fair amount from a variety of sources, I have often found that IV Press books exhibit an uncommon level of integrity and fairness in the way their books are written. Thirdly, it is a logical fallacy to argue that a book does not contain truth or is inaccurate due to its origin. Have an open mind and judge the accuracy of the material on its own merits.
Really, this is a great text. I know several dozen men and women who regularly use this book in their work and who consider it very helpful for the purpose of presenting Scripture accurately. I strongly encourage you to buy and use this book.
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Format: Hardcover
I was mildly disappointed with this book. It is supposed to be a verse by verse tour of the Old Testament, giving cultural, historical, and social information that lies behind the text. But even though the Old Testament is three times bigger than the New Testament, this book is a tad shorter than the NT companion volume written by Keener.

Moreover, the book is very uneven. Some parts of the Old Testament are loaded with information, and other parts of the Old Testament are skipped entirely. And then you have paragraphs of scripture that have only one or two lines of comment that are not always helpful to the preacher who is looking for a bit more to give to the people.

Yet in some sections, Walton, Mathews and Chavalas deliver the goods. For example, the information in Genesis 12 about how difficult and unprecedented it would be for a man like Abram to leave everything behind to follow God was very helpful to me as I was preparing a sermon on this portion of scripture.

And I really appreciated the background information in Exodus 5-8 about how there was an Egyptian god that was overpowered in every area where Moses raised his staff.

Therefore, I am giving this book 4 stars, but really, you will need another book to give you the rest of what you will need when teaching through the Old Testament. Perhaps the IVP Dictionary of the OT Pentateuch and the IVP Dictionary of the OT Historical Books will do just fine. Or you may want to add the New Nelson's Manners and Customs of Bible Times.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of those tools that many people overlook, but everyone who teaches or preaches from the OT needs. It is packed with useful information. For example, this past week I was working on a sermon from Micah 3 (where leaders in Israel are condemned for cannibalism). Some of my resources focused on the symbolic nature of this comment. BBCOT (this book) focused my attention on the 8th Century BC problem of siege warfare that purposely caused starvation as a common technique with cannibalism as a commonly prescribed curse in some cultures. This was tied to 2 Kings 6 where cannibalism is reported from that very time period.

Unfortunately my other resources led me down a wrong path on Micah 3. But this tool provided a couple of key insights that not only enhanced my own understanding, but helped me to reject a wrong assumption that some of my resources were propagating.

I know the author, Dr. Walton, from a class i audited by him at WCGS. He's an excellent man with a great grasp of the issues related to this book. I'm very glad we have this tool. It's too bad there are not more supporting photos, but I understand the publishers limitations on the size and number of volumes put a damper on that very issue. Still, it's a great tool and I use it regularly. Five stars!
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