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Judges, Ruth: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary) Hardcover – September 20, 1999
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Like all of his works, Block's commentary on Judges is thoroughly researched, and offers a wealth of literary and exegetical insights. Block's expository comments are frequently quotable and nearly always thought provoking. He rights with an eye to the "big picture," and occasionally even reads complicated stories "backwards" in a step-by-step manner to show the cause and effect relationships. This is especially helpful in seeing the unity of the Samson cycle and untangling the convoluted storyline in Judges 19-21. Regardless of a few minor exegetical disagreements I had with him, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this commentary.
Block is largely conservative on historical-critical issues. He (correctly in my judgment) identifies the theme of Judges as "the Canaanization of Israel." Many of his exegetical and literary insights are geared towards advancing this theme, and he has thoroughly convinced me of this idea. In connection with that, Block lays to rest the tired notion that Judges is supposed to be a work of "pro-monarchic" or "anti-monarchic" polemic. These types of ideas have certain attractions, but ultimately read more into the text than they read out. Like other volumes in the NAC series, knowing Hebrew is helpful, but not strictly necessary. The Hebrew is transliterated in the text, but the actual Hebrew font appears in the footnotes.
Among Christian interpreters, there is a difficulty with the fact that Hebrews 11:32 lauds several of the Judges as heroes of "faith," while the men themselves throughout the book appear to engage in numerous despicable actions. The question arises as to whether we reinterpret the judges to be acting in a positive light, or whether we reinterpret the verse in Hebrews so that we don't need to excuse these men's behavior. Block definitely opts for the latter option. With the exceptions of Deborah and Othniel, no character in this book remains "unsullied."
I think Block is generally right not to sugar-coat the exploits of the deliverers. I agree with many of his positions (e.g. Jephthah sacrificing his daughter, Gideon's rejection of kingship being a sham, etc.), although there are places where I wonder if he errs too far to the opposite extreme. I am not, for instance, convinced that Gideon's "fleecing" of God ought to be interpreted as a lack of faith on Gideon's part. Further, I've actually always seen Manoah and his wife in opposite light from how Block portrays them. (He sees Manoah's wife as the spiritually perceptive one, while Manoah is oafish and misses the point). Perhaps the text of Judges is not as clear on this point as either of us think.
I do wish there had been more on the relationship between Judges and the NT. Judges is never quoted explicitly, but IMHO there are some rather powerful typological points that can be made by comparing / contrasting the deliverers with Christ. While I recognize the obvious value of learning to read the OT in its own right, as a Christian, I cannot ignore Christ's insistence that the OT scriptures were ultimately about him. Block makes a point here and there, but much more could have been done in this area.
Ultimately though, I heartily recommend Block's commentary, which has almost certainly earned its five-star rating. For preachers, it is one of the best helps for preparing sermons and classes. For scholars, it would be inexcusable to overlook this important expert treatment of the book of Judges.
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