Review: Proverbs

9780801030970Tremper Longman III is no stranger to the world of Old Testament wisdom literature. Longman has already authored a number of excellent, top-tier commentaries within this genre, including The Book of Ecclesiastes (1997) and Song of Songs (2001) in the acclaimed New International Commentary on the Old Testament series, as well as the present volume on Proverb (2006; paperback edition 2015) and the volume on Job (2012) in the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms series, for which he also serves as editor.

The commentary begins with a sizable introduction (66 pages) to orient the reader in the right direction. I have always been an enthusiast of introductions in commentaries and Longman seems to always provide excellent start points. Longman tackles the traditional introductory matters with sophistication, including title, canonicity, place in canon, authorship and date, social setting, text, genre, literary style, structure, ancient Near Eastern background, theology of proverbs, and much more. The discussion surrounding the authorship and date of the book is outstanding and informative, and Longman’s keen awareness of the connection between Proverbs and other ancient Near Eastern proverbs will be eye-opening for the unfamiliar reader.

The commentary proper divides Proverbs into five major parts: (1) Extended Discourses on Wisdom (1:1-9:18), (2) Proverbs of Solomon: Collection I (10:1-22:16), (3) Sayings of the Wise (22:17-24:34), (4) Proverbs of Solomon: Collection II (25:1-29:27), and (5) Sayings of Agur and King Lemuel and Poem of the Virtuous Woman (30:1-31:31). Each chapter of the commentary begins with Longman’s translation of the text and includes a number of helpful explanatory notes. As each chapter unfolds, the reader is guided between interpretation and theological implication, thus serving to build the readers understanding and application of the text. Longman concludes the commentary with a 28-page topical study of Proverbs, including several important themes found threaded throughout the book.

Longman displays a unique familiarity with the Book of Proverbs. His interpretive insights and theological suggestions are exceptionally useful for readers of all backgrounds, and his interaction with other commentators is unparalleled. Moreover, Longman provides plenty of contact with other ancient Near Eastern proverbs—exposure that is beneficial to the reader lacking such previous knowledge. Still, I think one of the most exciting features of the commentary is the topical appendix material. It appropriately addresses the lack of a clear overarching structure within the book and allows the readers to study the Proverbs thematically. Each topic within this section begins with a list of passages addressing the subject, followed by a brief discussion that seeks to synthesize the given topic across Proverbs holistically. Of course, lengthier discussions on each passage can be found in the commentary proper, but this is an indispensable addition to the commentary that the pastor and teacher should covet for years to come.

The Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms: Proverb by Tremper Longman III is easily one of the best single-volume commentaries on Proverbs available. It presents everything needed in a commentary of this size and executes the task with precision. It is readable, informative, and practically useful for readers of all interests and backgrounds. It will benefit both the seasoned and novice reader, and continue to do so for years to come. If you are looking for a commentary that is both engaging and edifying, and one that won’t elude value for such reading, this is a commentary full of riches that you will not want to overlook in the process. It comes highly recommended.

 

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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