Review: Ruth (ZECOT)

9780310282983.jpg_2Daniel I. Block is a household name in the field of Old Testament studies. He is the Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College where he has served for over a decade, and is author, co-author, and/or editor of numerous books, including the two-volume commentary on The Book of Ezekiel in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament series, Deuteronomy in the NIV Application Commentary series, Judges & Ruth in the New American Commentary series, and much more. Most recently, functioning as the general editor of the series and the author of this volume on Ruth, Block has produced a captivating analysis into the theological corners of one of the most important narratives of the Hebrew Bible.

Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament: Ruth opens with an up-to-date selected bibliography of some the most important works related to the book of Ruth, as well as Block’s own translation of the Hebrew text. Block’s translation is exceptional. It was easy-to-read, faithful to the text, and true to the narratival genre as a whole. Following the translation, the reader will encounter a firmly situated introduction that addresses standard introductory matters, such as date, authorship, the providence of composition, major theological themes, style, structure, etc. The commentary proper is organized under six sections that guide the reader through the text: (1) The Main Idea of the Passage, (2) Literary Context, (3) Translation and Exegetical Outline, (4) Structure and Literary Form, (5) Explanation of the Text, (6) Canonical and Practical Significance. This format is extremely helpful in that it allows the reader to narrow in on the details of the text with a broader sense of the passage and book at large.

The high points of this commentary are overflowing. As mentioned above, the format and structure of the book is intentionally sensitive to the task of the end user. This means that the pastor and/or teacher will be more than pleased with the content and organization of the book as they seek to preach or teach through this important story. Block helpfully recognizes the importance of the narrative genre and does an excellent job bringing this feature to the surface throughout. For example, the outline of the book (p. 58) has been presented thematically as a type of narrative drama, and thus Block labels the sections and subsections accordingly (i.e. Act I, Act II, Act III, Act IV, Scene 1, Scene 2, Scene 3, etc.). Moreover, Block has also included a dramatized reading of the narrative to be used within an ecclesiastical setting, and thus mimic the original hearing of the story (p. 263). This narratival emphasis alone warrants a home for this volume on your bookshelf. I also found Block’s interaction with the text to be consistently helpful in recognizing the larger picture and significance of the book as a whole. Finally, it is worth mentioning, unlike the New Testament volumes in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series, this Old Testament volume include Hebrew and English in the presentation of the diagramed text. This is especially useful for those that know the original language, but those do may not will still find great benefit.

Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament: Ruth by Daniel I. Block is, in many ways, representative of how a commentary should be executed if the end goal is to be the faithful proclamation of a biblical narrative. Block has intentionally brought together helpful features that are rarely found between a single binding, and has thus done an outstanding job guiding the reader on both a macro and micro level. Moreover, his consistent narratival emphasis allows the reader to remain focused on the broader picture being painted throughout the story, as well as the main theological themes therein. While the commentary is certainly detailed in exegetical riches, I am confident that even those with little or no understanding of the biblical languages will be able to use this volume with tremendous benefit. If you are preparing to preach or teach through the book of Ruth, or simply interested in a detailed investigation into this important biblical story, this will be a volume that you cannot afford to be without.

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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