Review: Commentary on Judges and Ruth from Kregel Academic

Who doesn’t love a good thriller? Everywhere you look in the bookstores it seems like the culture is trending towards steamy romance novels or complex murder mysteries. People are looking for a good read today and whether those come in the form of a 400 page Amish narrative or a 27-part vampire fiction, what they find in those pages is made up purely of the author’s imagination. The downside of stories, however, is that they are made up of facts which are outside of us. What I mean when I say that is the stories are interesting because they aren’t happening to us, even when at times, we wish they were. So in this world of fantasy and fiction where do the narratives we find in scripture fit in? Where can we place the historical narratives that we find in the book of Judges and the story of Ruth?

As the back cover of this volume states, this Commentary on Judges and Ruth is, “A thorough exegetical and homiletical analysis of each passage of Judges and Ruth”. This, nearly 700 page commentary, traces themes like covenant and sovereignty through the book of Judges and providence, redemption, and typology through Ruth. As a professor of Old Testament Studies, Robert Chisolm is well-educated in the cultures and context which these books were written and that shows itself through each page. He not only develops the prominent Old Testament themes through these difficult books but gives the reader a window into the thought life of the Canaanites before the conquest of Israel and points to extra-biblical sources in order to bring the reader into a fully rounded understanding of the context of these two books.

While most of Chisolm’s work is beyond me, I do appreciate the incredible outlines at the beginning of each new section of Judges. I also am helped by the simple 1-2 sentences Chisolm places at the end of each section which represent the homiletical, exegetical, and theological ideas. At the end of each section after trying to do intellectual gymnastics with virtually no training, the simple explanations of what Chisolm just walked me through is extremely useful. The end of each section also includes primary preaching ideas for those who wish to preach through these books.

Chisolm offers a section at the end of each chapter which shows the readers some contemporary commentaries which may prove useful for further studies. He breaks down the commentaries into different sections which may appeal to readers of varying educational levels. He breaks down the varying volumes into the format and usability to ensure that you know exactly what you’re getting into with that certain commentary.

This volume was a little above my head with the original-language exegesis of each passage of Judges and Ruth. The historical context is much more than an average student of the bible would need but is helpful in obtaining a full-orbed mindset of Israel under the leadership of Moses and Joshua. This volume would fit the seminarian or educated pastor well but for the rest of us we need a “Judges and Ruth for Dummies” sort of volume. My only semester of bible college forced me to study Ruth in-depth which led me to largely ignore the book until just recently. Chisolm brought out the redemptive nature and thematic elements of Ruth in a way that made it come alive again. Judges, if you want an x rated Hollywood story, then this is surely the book for you. This exegetical and homiletical commentary includes all the things you love about the two historical books, and some you didn’t know even existed.

A Commentary on Judges and Ruth
Robert B. Chisolm/Kregel Academic, 2013
Review Copy Courtesy of Kregel Publications

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