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Numbers (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching) Hardcover – June 1, 1996
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From the Back Cover
The book of Numbers is the story of the people of Israel in the wilderness as they departed from slavery in Egypt to the freedom of the promised land of Canaan. It contains a variety of materials relating to this transition from the old generation of Israel to the new, including stories and laws, census lists, instructions for worship, reports of military battles, and accounts of legal disputes. Numbers chronicles a community faced with many competing interests, groups, and issues, endeavoring to define itself and its mission in the world. Dennis Olson offers readers a comprehensive interpretation of this often overlooked book. He provides a thoroughly contemporary reading of Numbers that enlightens the modern church as it navigates the contemporary wilderness of pluralism, competing voices, and shifting foundations in the journey toward the twenty-first century.
About the Author
Dennis T. Olsen is Charles T. Haley Professor of Old Testament Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. His published works include Deuteronomy and the Death of Moses, A Theological Reading and Pentateuchal Narratives.
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Olsen divides the book into the story of the "Old Generation" of the wilderness (Numbers chapters 1-25) and the "New Generation" of the promised land (chapters 26-36). Each cohort is characterized by a certain set of thoughts and actions, and subsequently each group marches toward a particular earned fate.
I found the author's discussion on tribal equality in the wilderness and how this concept was later challenged and re-molded after the end of the Babylonian exile particularly interesting (pgs. 12, 46, 164-5). The discussion will help any scholar to understand how the severe strife later developed between the Israelites and the Samaritans. The creational themes detailed in the spatial ordering of the Israelite camp and the calendar organization in anticipation of cultivating the land are also very insightful.
As with all the other Interpretation volumes, this book is not intended for the casual reader or the layperson. I assume only those in pastoral education, graduate theological programs or highly curious minds would be the ideal audience. The hardcover is very short (190 pages) and is a fairly easy read.
Olson has a 'canonical' approach which, while accepting critical views of the Bible, makes them secondary. And this Interpretation series is geared for pastoral application. Nevertheless, his critical assumption sometimes overwhelm his interpretations. I would not use this as my first or only commentary on Numbers.
Often lively and original, this makes solid (and readable) supplemental study for the student who wants a range of opinions on the text.