As of late, commentaries on Judges and Ruth have been sparse especially when it comes to exegetical work. Judges is an important book theologically and historically for the life of Israel and the reader who continues onto Ruth is given a glimmer of hope after the depressing events in Judges. What are we to learn from the failure of Israel in Judges and what hope does Ruth bring us?
Dr. Robert Chisholm Jr. answers these questions and more in A Commentary on Judges and Ruth in the Kregel Exegetical Library commentary series. The objective of this commentary series is to provide the reader with the cultural background of the text, give a detailed exegetical treatment of the passage with thematic analysis and to give direction towards the theological implications of the text along with practical application.
In regards to Judges, Chisholm tackles a number of hot topics within the book. Regarding the literary structure of the book Chisholm prefers to deal with the final form of the book and sees tracing the evolution of its literary history as a fool’s errand (15, 55). The chronology and date of Judges is worked out over the course of twenty pages and Chisholm takes the late date of 1260 for the Exodus and concludes that the date for Judges is inconclusive (56). For Deborah’s role as a judge, Chisholm takes the conservative view that the text indicates that her presence is odd which is born out through the texts “word choice and syntax” (223). In regards to the tests Gideon gives the Lord with the dew and wool fleece (Judges 6:36-40) Chisholm’s opinion is that “Geiden’s choice if signs was not arbitrary or random” (278). “The tests were designed to demonstrate the Lord’s control of the dew,” says Chisholm (278). Chisholm believes that the text leaves the event open to interpretation but those who side against Gideon on this encounter with the Lords might not be convinced.
Amidst the depressing events in the book of Judges Ruth is a shining example of the faithfulness of God to His people despite the vast unfaithfulness of many of the Israelites. It is within the life of two women, Naomi and Ruth, and one man Boaz, through whom we see God working among Israel during the time of the Judges. Amid the themes of God’s care for the needy and His faithfulness to His people, Chisholm sees the necessary connection to Christ (566). Chisholm ably explains the tricky Hebrew text concerning Ruth’s sleeping at the feet of Boaz in chapter three (650-53). The conclusion to the message of Ruth is that “God cares for the needy people like Naomi and Ruth; he is their ally in this chaotic world” (682).
As was started with Allen P. Ross’ inaugural commentary on the Psalms, Chisholm’s A Commentary on Judges and Ruth continues in the same tradition as the rest of the Kregel Exegetical Library contributions. For those who are not adept at Hebrew, the breakdown of the text and allocating of the grammatical and literary function of each clause is indispensable. Chisholm has spent a lifetime of scholarly study on these two books and it shows. Along with the exegetical work done, the theological and practical guidance is helpful for the modern reader to see how these ancient books still speak to God’s people today.
I received this book for free from Kregel for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”