Kevin J. Youngblood’s Excellent Jonah Commentary, Second Edition

 

I preached through Jonah in Advent 2014. It remains one of my favorite series to prepare and preach–unlikely liturgical pairing notwithstanding.

In those days, I read as many Jonah commentaries as I could get my hands on. Kevin J. Youngblood’s rose to the top. Then it was part of a series called Hearing the Message of Scripture. Now it has been released in its second edition, with the series name being changed to the less exciting Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament, to bring OT volumes in line with the NT volumes of the same overall series.

Zondervan was gracious to send me a review copy of the Second Edition.

The changes are minor, and they are really only three:

  1. The re-branded series name
  2. Transliterated Hebrew is replaced with actual Hebrew text (yay!)
  3. The author’s translation and visual layout of the text includes the original Hebrw text now, too

Here, for example, is how that text layout section has changed (the new edition is the one on the bottom):

 

 

Otherwise, the text is identical to the first edition. (Even the Bibliography has not been updated, from what I can see.) So if you own the first edition, there’s no need to also get the second. But if you don’t own this commentary, by all means, check it out from a library or purchase it. Even if you don’t know Hebrew, this is an excellent guide to a beautiful and challenging biblical book.

For my full review of the first edition (which all applies to the second edition), see here.

 

Zondervan Exegetical Commentary (OT, NT): Big Accordance Sale

Image via Accordance

 

One of the most promising new commentary projects continues to add new volumes: the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series, covering both Old and New Testament books.

Accordance Bible Software has a huge sale on the OT and NT volumes, both as collections and individual volumes. Check out the details here.

Want to read more about individual volumes in the series?

I reviewed Daniel I. Block’s Obadiah volume here. And Kevin J. Youngblood’s Jonah volume might just be the best commentary I’ve worked through on Jonah. (A remarkable feat, as there is no dearth of Jonah commentaries!) I have not yet reviewed Block’s Ruth volume, but noted it here.

And I’ve reviewed these NT volumes: Matthew, Colossians and Philemon, James, and Luke… with a book note on Mark here. (Fun fact: the Luke ZECNT volume was the very first commentary reviewed at Words on the Word.)

If you haven’t gotten lost in the above hyperlinks, here is the link again to the sale at Accordance. Overall this is a series I’ve been impressed with, and have made good use of in preaching.

New Title from JPS: Justice for All

 

Readers of this blog (yes, it’s alive!) may recall my immense appreciation for commentaries and other works published by The Jewish Publication Society. You can find a host of JPS reviews and book notes I’ve written here.

JPS has just released Justice for All: How the Jewish Bible Revolutionized Ethics, by Jeremiah Unterman.

Biblical justice has been a recurring theme in our congregation this past school year–both in my preaching and in our adult Sunday school classes. I’m eager to dig in to this volume.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

Justice for All demonstrates that the Jewish Bible, by radically changing the course of ethical thought, came to exercise enormous influence on Jewish thought and law and also laid the basis for Christian ethics and the broader development of modern Western civilization.

Jeremiah Unterman shows us persuasively that the ethics of the Jewish Bible represent a significant moral advance over Ancient Near East cultures. Moreover, he elucidates how the Bible’s unique conception of ethical monotheism, innovative understanding of covenantal law, and revolutionary messages from the prophets form the foundation of many Western civilization ideals. Justice for All connects these timeless biblical texts to the persistent themes of our times: immigration policy, forgiveness and reconciliation, care for the less privileged, and attaining hope for the future despite destruction and exile in this world.

You can read a .pdf excerpt here. The book’s product page is here, and is also available through Amazon.

New JPS Commentary Volumes, Now in Accordance

Jonah JPS CommentaryOne of the best biblical commentaries is the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) Bible Commentary. Previously at Words on the Word I’ve reviewed JPS Jonah, Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus.

Now Accordance Bible Software has announced the release of every JPS Bible Commentary volume that currently exists in print, including Michael Fishbane’s Song of Songs and Michael V. Fox’s Ecclesiastes.

(Fun aside: I was leading an Accordance Webinar on building Workspaces when I realized the “Michael Fox” in attendance was THAT Michael V. Fox.)

Accordance has a number of purchase and even upgrade options available, all of which are explained in detail here.

New Story of God Bible Commentary Volumes: Genesis and Romans

SGBC GenesisScot McKnight set the bar high with his Sermon on the Mount volume in The Story of God Bible Commentary series.

Now there are two more volumes: Genesis, by Tremper Longman III, and Romans, by Michael F. Bird.

As Tremper Longman III describes in the video below, The Story of God Bible Commentary has three primary focuses:

  1. Listening to the Story
  2. Interpreting the Story
  3. Living the Story

 

 

You can read my review of McKnight’s Sermon on the Mount volume here. Also published so far have been Lynn H. Cohick’s Philippians and John Byron’s 1 and 2 Thessalonians. You can find the series landing page here.

Book Notice: Ruth (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the OT)

Ruth ZECOT

 

Just a short post today to alert you to a new commentary on the book of Ruth: Daniel I. Block’s volume in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament. Ruth is just the third published volume in the series, formerly called Hearing the Message of Scripture. Block is the General Editor of the series.

I reviewed Block’s Obadiah here. And Kevin J. Youngblood’s Jonah volume is probably the best commentary I’ve worked through on Jonah. (And there is no shortage of Jonah commentaries!)

You can learn more about the Ruth volume here. I’ll write about it again in due course.

Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ): Genesis!!

Though it’s been long in coming, the Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ) is meant to supercede the current scholarly edition of the Hebrew Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS).

What is the BHQ? Start here and you’ll get a good grasp of it. I updated my readers in 2014 with what was then some new information. To my great surprise, in a .pdf from Hendrickson Publishers today, I saw a cover image for the Genesis volume!

Look on the far right:

 

BHQ Genesis

 

So new is it that Amazon and Hendrickson both don’t have it listed by ISBN or any other means. Hopefully it really will show up soon!

UPDATE: I have received word that the expected release date is Spring 2016.

T Muraoka’s Biblical Aramaic Reader (2015)

Muraoka Aramaic

 

Any time you see a T. Muraoka volume that retails at under $30, it’s worth paying attention to.

Peeters has released the short but sure-to-be excellent volume, A Biblical Aramaic Reader: With an Outline Grammar.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

This reader is for anyone very eager to read the story of Daniel in the lions’ den and many other fascinating stories in their original language, Aramaic.

A brief outline of Biblical Aramaic grammar is followed by a verse-by-verse grammatical commentary on the Aramaic chapters in the books of Daniel and Ezra. Both the outline grammar and the grammatical commentary presuppose basic knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary of Biblical Hebrew. Constant references are made in the commentary to relevant sections of the outline grammar. The commentary is written in a user-friendly, not overtly technical language. Some grammatical exercises with keys and paradigms conclude the Reader. Also suitable for self-study.

At just under 100 pages, it looks great. Find it on Amazon here.

Va-yikra’: A JPS Companion for Reading Leviticus

I think I am actually on pace to finish my Bible-in-a-Year reading plan in two years–but, as I’ve said before, as much as I value getting a good overview of all of Scripture in a short time, it’s so deep and rich (and sometimes surprising and/or befuddling) that I keep wanting to go slow. This is not, of course, a bad thing. The reading plan can wait.

JPS Torah LeviticusThe JPS Torah Commentary has been my go-to companion for reading through the first five books of the Bible. I’m three volumes in, and each one has been excellent. See what I say about the Genesis volume here, and the Exodus volume here and here. Now I’ve found myself similarly aided by Baruch A. Levine’s JPS Torah Commentary: Leviticus as I’ve made my way through that dense book of the Bible.

Levine’s commentary is more difficult to sit down and read through than Nahum Sarna’s Genesis or Exodus volumes, but this is less because of Levine and more because Leviticus does not have the same narrative flow of Genesis and Exodus. Its descriptions of laws and rituals are difficult for the uninitiated (um… and for the initiated) to wade through. It’s dense.

But Levine matches the density of the text with detail of his own, drawing also on rabbinical traditions to help the reader understand the world of the text. Levine addresses historical background and theology, as well as exegetical detail at the word level. But even his detailed exegesis highlights the larger literary context, so you can see the interrelations of Scripture as you read this commentary.

Allow me to share a specific example.

Here is the Hebrew text (nicely included in this commentary) of the admittedly harsh-sounding Leviticus 26:21:

 

Hebrew text of Leviticus

 

Here’s the verse in the Jewish Publication Society’s New JPS translation–also included in this edition:

And if you remain hostile toward Me and refuse to obey Me, I will go on smiting you sevenfold for your sins.

Levine’s comment for the verse focuses on the phrase, “And if you remain hostile toward Me.” Note how he balances lexical analysis with both extrabiblical and biblical references (the Hebrew in the commentary is transliterated throughout):

 

Here, again, is a transition, where the conditions for God’s forgiveness are stated.

Hebrew keri, “hostility,” and the idiom halakh ʿim. . . be-keri, “to walk with. . . in hostility,” are unique to this chapter. Targum Onkelos translates be-kashyu, “with hardness, obstinacy,” deriving keri from the root k-r-r, “to be cold.” Compare the noun form karah, “cold wave,” in Nahum 3:17, and mekerah, “cool chamber,” in Judges 3:24. The reverse of “walking in hostility” is “agreeing to obey” (ʾavah li-shmoʿa) suggesting that keri is synonymous with meri, “rebelliousness.” Note the contrast in Isaiah 1:19–20: “If, then, you agree and give heed, / You will eat the good things of the earth; / But if you refuse and disobey (u-meritem), / You will be devoured by the sword.” The notion of meri as “rebelliousness” is a major theme in the prophecies of Ezekiel, but the term keri occurs nowhere else in the Bible; hence its meaning remains uncertain.

 

There is one other portion I need to quote at length, since it comes in Levine’s opening explanation of the sacrificial system in Leviticus 1. Maybe I’m obtuse or just not familiar enough with Leviticus, but I had somehow missed until now that one could not sacrifice to expiate for intentional sins:

It should be emphasized here, as the workings of the sacrificial system are introduced to the reader, that the laws of the Torah did not permit Israelites to expiate intentional or premeditated offenses by means of sacrifice. There was no vicarious, ritual remedy—substitution of one’s property or wealth—for such violations, whether they were perpetrated against other individuals or against God Himself. In those cases, the law dealt directly with the offender, imposing real punishments and acting to prevent recurrences. The entire expiatory system ordained in the Torah must be understood in this light. Ritual expiation was restricted to situations where a reasonable doubt existed as to the willfulness of the offense. Even then, restitution was always required where loss or injury to another person had occurred. The mistaken notion that ritual worship could atone for criminality or intentional religious desecration was persistently attacked by the prophets of Israel, who considered it a major threat to the entire covenantal relationship between Israel and God.

Is this why David in Psalm 51 says,” For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased”?

Levine comes back to this theme as Leviticus introduces the various offering types. He also explains the difference between sin and impurity, in a way that is really helpful for more fully engaging Leviticus.

The Introduction is some 30 pages, addressing both “The Leviticus Text” (which summarizes the book, highlights its structure, discusses its formation, and compares early versions) and “The Context” (Levine spells out how this commentary supports “the realism of Leviticus”). The 11 Excursuses (spanning some 40 pages) are utterly fascinating, covering topics like dietary laws, the scapegoat ritual, the festivals, and more.

All that is already more than enough to help the reader or teacher in her/his quest to better enter the world of Leviticus. But then the icing on the cake is the section called, “Leviticus in the Ongoing Jewish Tradition.” Here Levine hopes that “the reader of the Commentary may catch a glimpse of continuity and change and focus attention on the lasting relevance of Leviticus.”

And here’s some icing to go on that other icing: the binding is sewn and the book is beautifully bound. I’m quite sure I’ll be returning to this commentary again, but first–I’ve got more of the Torah to read through.

 

Tolle, lege.

 


 

Many thanks to the folks at University of Nebraska Press/Jewish Publication Society for sending me a copy of the commentary for review. The book’s JPS product page is here; you can order it through Nebraska Press here. Find it on Amazon here.

Prefer an electronic edition? Accordance has the JPS Torah Commentary here.