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A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Kregel…

A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Kregel Exegetical Library)

by Robert B. Chisholm Jr.

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While Evangelicals declare that all scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16), we do not make much space for certain books of the Old Testament in worship. Take the book of Judges. Besides the Gideon and Samson stories in children's Bibles and Sunday school lessons, Judges is left untouched by many churches. The Sunday Revised Common Lectionary has just one reading from Judges in its three year cycle (Judges 4:1-7) which highlights Deborah, the female Judge and prophetess. Of course, this is a mere fragment of the Deborah/Barak story, ignoring the main action of the chapter (the actual battle with Sisera and his destruction at the hands of Jael). The book of Ruth fairs a little better (it is not a violent book, so the RCL is less reticent to exclude it). There are two passages included in year B (not too bad for a four-chapter-book).

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. ( )
  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
Commentary Type:
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 applying the message of the text for today’s hearers.

Structure and Features:
Robert Chisholm’s Commentary on Jugdes and Ruth is organized in such a way as to provide the most help for the busy preacher or teacher who will use this volume to help in preparing to teach through these books for the benefit of the church.

Each Bible book gets a detailed and incredibly helpful introduction. Questions of authorship, date and genre are covered, as are practical concerns like what to make of the dates in Judges, and how best to understand the structure of the content in each book. Chisholm displays a concern for the literary and canonical context of these books, spending some time discussing where Ruth should fall in the order of the canonical order, and how each book fits into the larger themes of this section of the Bible. Included in the introduction are a survey of available commentaries for each book, and a helpful discussion of homilitecial strategies and a sample sermon series for each book.

After the introduction, each Bible book is divided into sections. Each section of the text is then methodically studied: first the translation (Chisholm’s own, a slightly revised version of that he supplied for the NET Bible) is provided in segments, line by line – and arranged in such a way as to highlight the narrative structure. Clauses are categorized as “sequential” or “consequential,” “resumptive” or “supplemental,” “focusing” or “dramatic,” and etc. Back in the introduction, Chisholm gives an explanation of the narrative structure of each book and which Hebrew grammatical clues (wayyiqtol and weqatal clauses, negated and asyndetic perfects, and more) lead him to these syntactical conclusions. Important translational and syntactical notes appear in the footnotes in this section (and the footnotes are nice and easy to read, as is the font throughout the volume).

After offering the text and structure, the commentary provides an outline and then discussion on the literary structure. Next is a detailed exposition section, followed by an application section which fleshes out the thematic emphases, theological principles, and offers homiletical trajetories and preaching ideas. Finally an extensive list of references follows to round out the volume.

This is an accessible and immensely helpful volume. It is written with a pastoral heart. I appreciated its Christological emphasis, and willingness to examine the typological connections between Judges and Ruth and the other books of the Bible (as in Othniel’s identity as the archetypal judge against whom David must measure up, and the echoes of Samson’s shortcomings in Saul’s inglorious career as outlined in the books of Samuel). The discussion on the dates in Judges was incredibly helpful, as was the section on the role of female characters in Judges, and how they pave the way for Hannah’s account which opens up 1 Samuel.

Chisholm has a mastery when it comes to Hebrew grammar, and I appreciate how he interacts with the text and helps us see the narrative flow intended by the biblical author. His eye for literary connections and the interplay of various genres, make this volume more useful and full-orbed. His interaction with the full breadth of scholarship related to these books, inform and guide the reader in their study of the text.

This commentary is a must-have on every pastor’s shelf. The combination of practical and homiletically helpful, with technical and exegetically robust is unmatched. No matter your level of familiarity with Hebrew, interacting with this volume will be worth your time. If you skip the footnotes and just interact with the text you will still be rewarded for your effort. I highly recommend you consider picking up this volume and exploring other titles in the Kregel Exegetical Library.

This book was provided by Kregel Academic. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review. ( )
  bobhayton | Jun 19, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0825425565, Hardcover)

This definitive commentary sheds exegetical and theological light on the books of Judges and Ruth for contemporary preachers and students of Scripture. Listening closely to the text while interacting with the best of scholarship, Chisholm shows what the text mean for ancient Israel and what it means for us today. In addition to its perceptive comments on the biblical text, it examines a host of themes such as covenants and the sovereignty of God in Judges and providence, redemption, loving-kindness, and Christological typology in Ruth. Chisholm offers astute guidance to preachers and teachers wanting to do a series on Judges or Ruth by providing "homiletical trajectories" after each exegetical unit. These show how historical narrative can be presented in the pulpit and classroom, for rich, responsible sermons and lessons.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:20 -0400)

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