Bible commentary

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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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Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

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SDG.

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Really Recommended Posts 1/8/16- Hyperbole, Voluntarism, commentaries, and more!

snowl-owl-post-arpingstoneHappy New Year! Let’s kick off the year with another round of “Really Recommended Posts.” It’s cold so we’re doing an owl post edition. The topics I have for you, dear readers, include divine voluntarism (what?), hyperbole and the Canaanite conquest narratives, Leibniz’s contingency argument for God, bible commentaries, and Star Trek.

Hyperbole Interpretation is Not Helpful for Canaanite Conquest– Clay Jones argues that the recent apologetic turn towards arguing that the conquest narratives in the Bible feature hyperbole is not as fruitful an apologetic as some have thought. Although some of his argument resonates with me, I think he misses a crucial point in his counter-examples by having different categories of act. I hope to write a response to this… some day… when I have time.

Leibniz’s Contingency Argument (Video)– A relatively short video explaining the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument. I’m not as sold on how the argument is presented here, because I think the premise about the universe and God makes it tougher to defend, but I think this video does a good job of explaining the most important issues. Check out my post on the argument for more details, as well as the version I think is stronger.

Francis Turretin on Divine Voluntarism: Most Reformers Follow Aquinas– I found this an interesting read on the topic of divine voluntarism, which is an intriguing problem within some theological systems.

 

Christians for Biblical Equality’s Commentary List– Here’s a resource for we egalitarians out there: a commentary list put forward by Christians for Biblical Equality.

TV Trekkin for a New Generation– There’s a new Star Trek series coming! Here are some speculative details and discussion about what it might be.

 

 

Sunday Quote!- Genre and Genesis 1-11, does it matter?

3vgen-1-11

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!

Genre and Genesis 1-11, does it matter?

The central question of Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? is the question of the genre of Genesis 1-11. But does this question really even matter? Gordon Wenham argues that shouldn’t trump interpretation:

[U]ltimately we must recognize that how we define the genre of Gen[esis] 1-11 is a secondary issue: our primary concern must be the interpretation of the stories and their application today. The definition of genre refines and clarifies the message of Genesis, but disagreements about genre should not obscure our substantial agreement about the theological teaching of these stories. Whether one calls Gen[esis] 1-11 doctrine, history, fiction, or myth, it is clear that these chapters are making profound statements about the character of God and his relationship to mankind. Elucidating these truths must be the goal of every interpreter. (74,cited below)

Later in the book, Sparks argues that Wenham is mistaken and genre does determine much more about the text–even what might be considered binding to believe. What are your thoughts? How important is it to determine the genre of Genesis 1-11 in order to properly interpret it? Can we focus instead on the texts themselves?

Links

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

Source

Gordon Wenham, “Genesis 1-11 as Protohistory”  in Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Charles Halton and Stanley Gundry, eds. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015).

SDG.

Sunday Quote!- Genesis as Sui Generis (Its Own Genre)?

3vgen-1-11Every 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!

Genesis as Sui Generis (Its Own Genre)?

I’ve been reading through Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? It is part of the Zondervan Counterpoints series in which authors with different views present essays and (usually) interact with each other’s views. In it, there is much debate over the genre–and thus in part the meaning–of Genesis 1-11 in particular. In his response to Gordon Wenham, Kenton Sparks argued that Genesis could not be its own genre or sui generis because:

…all intelligible discourse must conform to a significant degree with existing modes and patterns of discourse, else readers would not understand it… (102, cited below)

Thus, he asserted, we cannot see these early chapters of Genesis as standing apart or unique as a completely separate genre. To do so would be to make it unintelligible.

It seems to me that this is on-point. We shouldn’t just throw up our hands and separate Genesis from the rest of the Bible as its own genre, distinct from any other human writing. God would not have communicated in a way that we cannot understand.

What do you think? Is Genesis 1-11 completely unique? Should we give up on trying to discern its genre, or is it clearly discernible?

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

Kenton Sparks, “Response to Gordon J. Wenham” in Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Charles Halton and Stanley Gundry, eds. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015).

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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