This newly appearing volume is available here.
It is part of a series of commentaries whose chief aim is to aid preachers and teachers in the proper exposition and explanation of the text of the Bible.
Aesthetically, the volume is really pleasing. The font is larger than average and the typeface is clear and crisp. It is also wider than the usual book, making the pages fuller. The edition I’m reviewing is the hardback version.
The content is well authored with separate writers for exegetical matters and preaching issues. Each pericope is first of all divided into four topical treatments contained in what the authors call the Overview of All Preaching Passages:
- Exegetical Idea
- Theological Focus
- Preaching Idea
- Preaching Pointers
These divisions can, at times, tend to overly general remarks. For example, in discussing 1 Kings 11:1-43 the ‘preaching idea’ is ‘Gods grace and God’s judgment are not mutually exclusive’. And though that’s certainly true of this section, it could, in fairness, be repeatedly stated throughout any evaluation of Kings.
Otherwise, the overview provides fairly solid guidance to each of the sections of Kings.
An Introduction follows the ‘Overview’. There, in a summary section, our authors describe Kings as ‘ancient historiography’. This is, of course, highly doubtful. Rather, Kings is, in the terminology of von Rad, ‘theological historiography’ or ‘sermonized history’. Authorship of the book is attributed to either multiple writers or a single writer. Fair enough, of course, since it really has to be one or the other.
There are charts and some images throughout, in black and white, which are excellent illustrations of the textual materials.
When readers arrive at the commentary proper they are treated to sensible, level headed, clear, and conservative mainline scholarship. Hebrew appears in smatterings and when it does it is simply proffered and neither translated nor transliterated, which, frankly, I heartily approve of as it presumes the preachers and teachers using the commentary are capable of reading the biblical languages, which they should be.
Each pericope concludes with some discussion questions. This commentary is designed for communal use.
The volume ends with a bibliography. There are no indices.
Is this volume worth your time? That, after all, is the chief question which readers of reviews want answered. ‘If I read _____________, will I learn something, or will it be a waste of time?’.
The answer to that question regarding this volume is ‘yes and no’. Yes, you will find it informative. But, no, it will not reveal anything as yet undiscovered. So yes, it’s worth your time, but no, you will not learn anything new from it. Unless, that is, you are relatively unfamiliar with 1-2 Kings.
Busy preachers who have to spend more time meeting with angry unhappy members or sitting in hospital rooms with sick members than they do to study and who accordingly will not have time to sit down with weighty tomes and critical editions of biblical texts; but they will have time to read a few pages hitting the highlights of the section of text they’ll preach from that Sunday. And that is where this book is both most useful and most targeted.
This is, in sum, a book for preachers who want to do a good job of telling their congregations what the text says and means but who have neither the time nor the energy to do the research necessary for such exposition themselves. To put it rather bluntly, it is a ‘Cliff’s Notes’ for 1-2 Kings with preachers in mind.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it is a tragedy. It is a crying shame that the Preaching of the Divine Word too often has to take a back seat to the mundane hand-holding and putting out of fires that most pastors spend too much of their time with.
Instead of focusing on ‘the ministry of the Word’ they are forced to wait tables and vacuum carpets and clean pews and console the indolent and indifferent and raise funds and all the rest of the administrative nonsense that the Apostles rejected when they required the early Church to appoint 7 people who were tasked with doing the ‘stuff’ that isn’t proclamation and all tasks associated with it so that they (the Apostles) could do what they had been appointed and called to do: the ministry of the Word. Or as Acts has it more fully:
οὐκ ἀρεστόν ἐστιν ἡμᾶς καταλείψαντας τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ διακονεῖν τραπέζαις. ἐπισκέψασθε δέ, ἀδελφοί, ἄνδρας ἐξ ὑμῶν μαρτυρουμένους ἑπτά, πλήρεις πνεύματος καὶ σοφίας, οὓς καταστήσομεν ἐπὶ τῆς χρείας ταύτης, ἡμεῖς δὲ τῇ προσευχῇ καὶ τῇ διακονίᾳ τοῦ λόγου προσκαρτερήσομεν. καὶ ἤρεσεν ὁ λόγος ἐνώπιον παντὸς τοῦ πλήθους καὶ ἐξελέξαντο Στέφανον, ἄνδρα πλήρης πίστεως καὶ πνεύματος ἁγίου, καὶ Φίλιππον καὶ Πρόχορον καὶ Νικάνορα καὶ Τίμωνα καὶ Παρμενᾶν καὶ Νικόλαον προσήλυτον Ἀντιοχέα, οὓς ἔστησαν ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀποστόλων, καὶ προσευξάμενοι ἐπέθηκαν αὐτοῖς τὰς χεῖρας. (Acts 6:2-6)
There is, indeed, something of an abandonment of responsibility in much of modern Church ministry and Church life. Pastors abandoning (neglecting) the chief task in order to attend to minor things. And others refusing to carry any portion of the load which life in community demands. Tragic.
Perhaps one day Pastors will once again understand that their calling is exposition first and foremost. Until then, volumes like the present one will not only be useful, they will be indispensable.