Regularly we receive queries about best resources from pastors as they approach a new series on a biblical book. The questions are good: despite so many commentaries being published, the best resources for listening to the Bible and preaching it for all its worth are not always obvious. The best preaching operates at the intersection of the telos of the passage/book being preached and the life of the particular congregation (see Craig Bartholomew, Excellent Preaching). Good preaching must therefore engage in what John Stott called “double listening”: one ear to Scripture, one ear to contemporary life and culture, with the sermon building a bridge between the two. This series, which will eventually cover the whole Bible, aims to provide preachers – and thinking non-preachers – with some of the best resources. We are assuming readers will understand that neither we nor you will or should agree with everything these sources say.
THE OLD TESTAMENT
Hearing the Old Testament: Listening for God’s Address, ed. Craig G. Bartholomew and David Beldman (Eerdmans), is full of excellent material from leading scholars helping readers and preachers leverage the best scholarship in the service of hearing what God is saying.
David Beldman’s Deserting the King: The Book of Judges (Lexham, 2017) is a short, accessible, theological introduction to the book. It is not a commentary but would be a good place for the preacher to start to get up to speed quickly on the overall design, themes, and theological message of Judges.
For another accessible little exposition of Judges, Dale Ralph Davis’ Judges: Such a Great Salvation (Christian Focus, 2000) is a nice, concise and entertaining commentary with personal anecdotes and homiletical insights.
Daniel Block’s commentary on Judges (and Ruth) in the New American Commentary series (B&H, 1999) is one of the best commentaries on the book — clear and insightful. Block helpfully identified the “canaanization” of Israel as the theme of the book. A valuable resource for preachers doing a series through the book.
Lawson Younger’s commentary on Judges/Ruth (NIVAC; Zondervan, 2002) is also worth purchasing. The nature of this series is that it is oriented to contemporary application, and Younger has some good insights in this regard, as well as sound and helpful exegetical work.
David Beldman’s 2 Horizon commentary on Judges (Eerdmans) is his third significant book on Judges. It should be in the library of every preacher and student of the Bible. Beldman leverages a literary reading and the rich sociological resources of Philip Rieff’s trilogy Sacred Order/Social Order to open up Judges in fresh and important ways. Here is first-rate scholarship that will help you hear and preach Judges.
Barry Webb’s commentary (NICOT; Eerdmans, 2012) is also worth consulting and comparing with the works of Block and Younger. Webb tends to interpret events in the book more positively than sometimes seems warranted, but he is a creative and thoughtful commentator, and his commentary is certainly worthwhile for his literary/theological interpretation as well as many examples of contemporary application.
Trent Butler’s commentary in the Word Biblical Commentary series (Thomas Nelson, 2009), weighing in at over 600 pages, is not for the faint of heart. However, as an advanced and more technical commentary which deals with a vast amount of secondary literature on Judges, it is an incredibly valuable resource. If there is a controversial issue in Judges, he will have discussed it (and probably read everything on it). Furthermore, Butler does careful work, has good sensibilities, and is a trustworthy interpreter of the book.
For something completely different, Lion’s Honey: The Myth (Canongate Books, 2005), written by an Israeli novelist called David Grossman, is an absolutely fascinating reading of the Samson narratives (Judges 13-16). It is a sort of literary-psychological reading of the Samson narratives that creatively opens up aspects of these narratives that those familiar with Samson can easily overlook. Psychological readings have the danger of reading too much into narratives and their characters, but Grossman is acutely in tune with the minute details of the texts and has profound insights to offer. The book is easy to read and it is not long. It would be a helpful supplement for sermons on the Samson narratives.
This article first appeared in the Kirby Laing Centre’s Big Picture Magazine.