Chisholm, Robert B., Jr. A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Kregel Exegetical Library). Kregel Academic, 2013.
If you are looking for a detailed, exegetical, linguistic, and homiletical commentary on Judges and Ruth, then this is a commentary at the top of the list.
In the Introduction (pp. 1-105) Chisholm covers Chronology, Narrative Structures, Proclamation, Preaching, and other introductory matters. Interestingly he provides three possible chronologies of Judges, two for the early 15th century and another for 13th century. He examines the arguments for and against each view. I thought it a little odd that he does not come down definitely on one of the three. Nevertheless, his presentation of the data is very good, helping the reader follow the arguments, and to come to his/her own conclusions.
He asks two questions that are of more recent interest. Does Judges have a political agenda? (pp. 62-67) and What role do the female characters play? (pp. 69-81) In both cases he deals with the answers based on the text itself. His careful study offers insights in both cases, especially the role of female characters. This whole section well serves the careful reader/student.
Chisholm accepts the canonical form of Judges and consequent literary structure, which is another positive of this commentary. “I believe that the book, when examined in its canonical form, is a unified work…[which] is not as susceptible to the kind of speculative fancy that litters the history of biblical higher criticism” (p. 15) This approach also informs and guide his literary analysis, and the proclamation.
His approach to literary and narrative structure is detailed, yet very concise, and so it takes time to sort through the data (pp. 81-8). But the survey is well worth the time for the reader. Helpfully, he uses these insights in each section of his translation throughout the book. This provides a convenient way to check translation and structure at the same time. Given many other commentaries that separate and then seldom refer to it, Chisholm’s work is consistent and helpful. Well done.
Another significant value of this commentary is the emphasis on linking the exegetical, linguistic, literary study with the move to proclamation, not limited to a nod in that direction, but thorough presentation for each section of Judges (and Ruth). Each major section of text includes the following subsections: Translation & Narrative Structure, Outline, Literary Structure, Exposition, Message & Application (including homiletical trajectories). The breadth and depth of each is helpful for understanding the text, and moving into a preaching/teaching situation.
The commentary on Ruth is equally informative and usable. His discussion of the role of Naomi as a major character along with Ruth and Boaz provides a different perspective for each subsection. The note about the role of public vs. private discourse is enlightening. “Public events tend to focus on Naomi’s dilemma and its resolution, while private conversations highlight the commitment of the characters to the well-being of others” (p. 558). Interestingly, the author notes that both Boaz and Ruth seem to function as a type of Christ—worth further investigation and thought.
This book will prove to be a valuable resource for anyone preaching or teaching on the Old testament. It helps to know your Hebrew when you use it, although you can still benefit from it without Hebrew. There might be areas of disagreement on Chisholm’s points, but he provides the necessary detail to explore further and come to your own conclusions. One area I expected a little more development (than just Boaz and Ruth) was the Christological significance of both Judges and Ruth.
Overall, this is one of the best books that Kregel Academic has produced. Well laid out, logical, and thorough. This is an excellent commentary, worth reading and referring to often if you teach or preach on either book.
Thanks to Kregel Academic for the copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.