Posted by: Tim | April 12, 2010

Commentaries on Judges

Back in 2007 I preached a twenty part expository series called “Journey Through Judges” through the book of Judges (click here for sermon mp3’s and pdf notes). Any time I do a series like this one I rely on commentaries to provide scholarly background information and pastoral insight into the passage. Here are the commentaries I used in the Judges series, in order of preference, with a few comments. Please note that it’s been a few years so my comments are from memory and are not as precise or detailed as they would have been if written a few years ago.

1. Daniel Block, Judges, Ruth, New American Commentary (NAC) Series, 1999. Block’s work is a must-have if you are going to study Judges. It wins on thickness alone, but also on content.  It is a semi-technical commentary with good scholarly insight. My one complaint is how Block applies his interpretive grid for understanding the book of Judges. He rightly notes the general downward trend in morality through the book, but I felt he used this grid to arrive at overly negative interpretations of judges, especially the later ones, without specific warrant in the text. But make no mistake, this is still an excellent commentary, and this complaint does not make it any less worth owning if you are studying Judges.

2. K. Lawson Younger Jr., Judges/Ruth, NIV Application Commentary, 2002. Don’t let the fact that this commentary is part of the NIVAC series keep you from buying it. I find the NIVAC’s format frustrating to use, but this is a good commentary. Younger often follows Block (including the over-reliance on the downward slope grid for some interpretation), and this commentary is thinner than Block, and thus if you can only get one of the two, get Block first. However I found it worthwhile to have both, even just for reinforcement of Block’s points.

3. Dale Ralph Davis, Judges, Focus on the Bible series, 2000. Davis’ commentary is very different from Block’s and Younger’s, being a pastoral commentary written by a preacher, instead of a semi-technical commentary written by a scholar. Davis has a reformed bent theologically, a pastoral approach, and a great sense of humour (and Judges is a funny book at times!). I enjoyed reading this commentary in my studies.

4. Gary Inrig, Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay, 1979. Inrig’s commentary is different from any other commentary I read on Judges. It is a pastoral commentary, written from a pastor with a Brethren background, and it’s sermon style draws spiritual life lessons that are mostly missing from the other commentaries. I recommend this commentary alongside the two above for a unique and helpful perspective. I seem to remember that I usually read it after reading a few of the others, for the different (and often refreshing) insights it would bring. The only warning is that the scholarship is sometimes lacking – you need Block and Younger for their scholarship. To be fair to Inrig, neither Block nor Younger were published when he wrote his commentary, so he used the scholarship that was available to him. Many thanks to Dr. Ted Rendall for giving me this book to help with the Judges series.

5. Arthur Cundall & Leon Morris, Judges and Ruth, Tyndale Old Testament Commentary, 1968. This is an older, smaller commentary, but it is a good one for its size and age. Be aware that the scholarship is older and do refer to Block and Younger if there is a question of detail.

6. Michael Wilcock, The Message of Judges, Bible Speaks Today Series, 1992. I don’t remember a lot about this commentary after three years. I do generally remember this commentary being OK, but not great. To be fair it is not meant to be exhaustive, considering its smaller size. I did read it most weeks, and my copy has a lot of my underlining in it, so I must have found it helpful enough!

7. Keil and Delitzsch, Judges, K&D Commentary on the Old Testament Series. This is a classic series that is over one hundred years old. I don’t remember it being that helpful in my studies.

Summary:

I would recommend getting the first five on the list and reading them in preparation for each message you preach, if possible. If you can get only three, get Block, Davis and Inrig.

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