Some commentaries excel at attention-holding for casual reading. A Commentary on Judges and Ruth is not one of those commentaries. This is a text for the more serious researcher or student, teacher or preacher, rather than for the light and fluffy among us.
A Commentary on Judges and Ruth takes the text of Scripture at face value. While there is some discussion of the textual critical issues, Chisholm clearly sides with the idea that we should take the Bible to be accurate and intentional in all matters. This is certainly a strength for those of us who are wanting to get into the meaning of the text more than having to defend the text’s existence.
Chisholm does his own translation work here, something I alternate between liking and disliking. In an academic/study work like this, I am more accepting of it than in a popular-type work, and his translations are nearly the same (by his admission in a footnote) as his translation work for The NET Bible. As such, they are not independent or unverifiable for the reader.
Looking at Judges and Ruth in the same volume is not the same as looking at them together. This is essentially a commentary on Judges bound with a commentary on Ruth.
Subject matter for A Commentary on Judges and Ruth focuses on a section-by-section look at the verses. This includes wrestling in both the introductory material and in order with the sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter and Ruth with Boaz at the threshing floor. In both of these oft-debated passages, Chisholm is more focused on evidence for his view than on strictly refuting other views. The other views are clearly represented, but instead of being “dismissed,” Chisholm presents a clear picture of what he thinks. The reader is assumed smart enough to know one must choose one view or the other.
Chisholm’s treatment of the chronological questions in Judges is well-handled, and I liked his use of tables showing how the years add up. I have seen this tackled with just text, and it’s confusing.
All told, A Commentary on Judges and Ruth justifies its 2-inch slot on the bookshelf. It’s clear, though technical, and the focus on the text is well-held. Chisholm adds some basic preaching suggestions, but keeps his effort solidly on understanding what is in the text, leaving the reader to find his own way to preach and teach it.
(Free book from Kregel Academic in exchange for the review. They also publish the Philips Commentary Series. I’m getting the better end of them on this stuff, that’s for sure.)