Barry Webb

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Book Review: “Judges and Ruth: God in Chaos” by Barry Webb

jrgc-webb

Barry Webb’s commentary, Judges and Ruth: God in Chaos is part of the “preaching the word” series and presents the books in a pastoral, conversational fashion.

Webb continually brings up details of the text that are overlooked, bringing to light wonderful insights where people may tend to skip over. Minor judges (like Shamgar) are at times given as much detailed discussion as those we might consider more important. There is a clear method to this, as Webb seems uninterested in sharing those things readers learned and re-learned since Sunday School. This is a book that feels fresh and exciting–and I’ve read one of Webb’s other commentaries on Judges!

These insights are not limited to the minor judges, however. The sections on Gideon, Ehud, and Samson (one of my favorite Bible personages) are particularly excellent. Each will make readers look with more depth even at stories they think they knew. For example, regarding Eglon, the king Ehud kills, Webb points out that readers of the story should reflect on the interplay between Ehud’s bringing a harvest tribute and the corpulence of Eglon. The fatness of Eglon is, ironically, in part due to his gleaning food from Israel! It is just this kind of deep look at the text that can be found throughout the book, time and again, regarding the judges and Ruth.

The tone of the book is quite pastoral. There are no sections of Hebrew painstakingly pored over word-by-word. Admittedly, I love that kind of commentary. That’s not the kind of commentary this is. Instead, it is presented in a kind of conversational style that takes you directly to the story. A good word to describe the style is “immersive”: reading the commentary makes one feel as though they are inside the Bible story themselves, experiencing it, and seeing the world anew as the contemporaries might have. It is a pretty thrilling experience.

The section on Deborah as a “maverick” is unfortunate, because it undercuts the importance of the woman Deborah (though calling her a “maverick” seems on-point). Webb has written elsewhere (his commentary in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament Series on Judges) about how “there is no hint in the narrative or elsewhere in Scripture that her [Deborah’s] exercise of such a role [as leader/judge/prophetess] was contrary to God’s purposes, or a breach of his declared will in the way that the irregular worship practices of the period were” (Webb, The Book of Judges,  (Eerdman’s, 2012) 188). Here, however, Webb qualifies this endorsement, carefully pointing to a pattern of male leadership throughout the Old Testament and arguing that Deborah is exceptional in her role here as prophetess/Judge. Yet in the same chapter, he also notes how the Old Testament is a patriarchal culture, which makes Deborah’s function as judge/prophetess even more exceptional! The exceptional nature, however, is not that it is improper–as Webb himself admits–but rather that her acting in this function, a prophetess called by God, challenges the very patriarchy that Webb has noted (and, at times, challenged himself) as the background for Old Testament practices. That is, Deborah functions as an attack on that paradigm, not a confirmation of it.

Though Webb notes that Deborah was praised in her function, he nowhere points out how this very act of praising Deborah for her role as leader and prophetess of Israel entails a theological truth of the gifting of God for women in such positions. I was disappointed to see this subtle shift in Webb’s affirmations about Deborah from his other commentary. This makes the section on Deborah less insightful than it could have been, however, particularly given her importance in the book of Judges.

Judges and Ruth: God in Chaos is a beautiful, pastoral book full of insights that will have you scrambling to grab your Bible and make notes. Although it isn’t perfect, it is a worthwhile read that will open the pages of the books covered in new ways. It is recommended.

The Good

+Full of intriguing details
+Immersive, engaging writing style
+Continually takes readers back to the text
+Plenty of background information

The Bad

-Inserts complementarian language into discussion of Deborah

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book for review from the publisher. I was not required to provide any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Source

Barry Webb, Judges and Ruth: God in Chaos (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015).

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SDG.

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Sunday Quote!- Samson as Israel

webb-judgesEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Samson as Israel

I finished reading the Samson narrative (Judged 13-16) after going through it in detail over the last several months. I found Barry Webb’s summary statement regarding Samson to be profound and deeply moving:

[B]eneath all the surface chaos, and the mad careering here and there of the wild-man hero, there is a steady building toward a predetermined climax of profound theological significance. For Samson is not just Samson; he is also Israel. His is separated from other men, but he longs to be like them, just as Israel is separated from other nations, but is continually drawn to them. He goes after foreign women, as Israel goes after foreign gods. He suffers for his willfulness, as Israel does for its. And in his extremity he cries out to Yahweh, as Israel has repeatedly done. But now it is Samson alone who does so; he is remnant Israel; Israel reduced to a single man. (416-417)

After this summary statement, Webb goes on to place this in canonical perspective and analyze other perspectives of Samson. The commentary is worth the purchase for these sections alone, but the whole thing is phenomenal. I highly recommend that you, dear readers, take the time to read the Bible alongside a solid commentary sometime.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Barry Webb, The Book of Judges (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans, 2012).

SDG.

 

Sunday Quote!- Samson’s Torment

webb-judges

Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Samson’s Torment

Reading commentaries can be an extremely edifying and valuable experience. I have very slowly been working through the book of Judges alongside Barry G. Webb’s commentary from the New International Commentary on the Old Testament series–an excellent series indeed–and came upon a gem regarding Samson. The passage in question is Judges 16:1-3, in which the people of Gaza attempt to trap him when he comes and sleeps with a prostitute (an interesting path to pursue at a later point) and he instead escapes in the middle of the night by tearing their gate out of the ground and carrying it to Hebron. Webb comments:

[The gate] would have been a formidable barrier… But Samson has spent all his life breaching barriers: between the permissible and the forbidden, holy and profane, man and animal, Israelite and Philistine, Naziriteship and normality. Barriers have never been able to contain him. They appear to him only as challenges which rouse him to a renewed frenzy of breaking through. So it is here again. His “grasping,” “pulling,” “putting,” and “taking” (v. 3) transgress the boundary between the human and superhuman. No normal person could do what he did. But Samson is not normal; that is his glory and his torment. (395, cited below)

Webb’s comments continue as he shows that this act of carrying the gates and placing them before Hebron demonstrate the lack of possible peace between Philistine and Israelite in Samson’s time, among other things. Webb’s comments on Samson are well worth taking the time to read, as is the rest of the commentary on Judges.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Barry Webb, The Book of Judges (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans, 2012).

SDG.

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