Review: Genesis (SGBC)

26309267The Story of God Bible Commentary is an exciting and practical commentary series that seeks to explain the biblical text in light of the grand story of the biblical narrative. The editors and contributors for this series are top-tier scholars with seasoned insight and experience into the world of biblical interpretation and proclamation—making this series an attractive addition to the minister’s library. Most recently, Genesis by Tremper Longman III, also the Old Testament general editor, adds a long awaited volume to this quickly growing series. Longman is certainly no stranger to the writing of sizable and useful commentaries on the Old Testament, and this volume is anything but an exception to that rule.

Longman begins with a brief introduction where he orients the reader towards the issues related to authorship and date, canonicity, genre, structure, historical background within the Ancient Near Eastern world, and the theological message of Genesis past and present. I found the introduction to be rather concise, but Longman is succinct in his treatment and does well for the given space and targeted audience. As the commentary proper opens the reader is guided passage-by-passage through three major sections: (1) LISTEN to the Story—includes the NIV translation with additional references to encourage the reader to hear the story within its broader biblical context, (2) EXPLAIN the Story—explores and illuminates each passage within its canonical and historical setting, and (3) LIVE the Story—reflects how each passage can be lived today and includes contemporary stories and illustration to aid teachers, preachers, and beyond.

One of the most rewarding and beneficial aspects of this commentary, especially given the target audience, is Longman’s near-encyclopedic understanding of the Ancient Near Eastern world. As Longman guides the reader through the Book of Genesis, it is not uncommon for him to quickly delve into various avenues of Ancient Near Eastern background and literature. Longman does an incredible service to the reader by making this information accessible and easy to digest. Still, while I found Longman to be helpful across the board within the different sections of the commentary, it is clear that his strengths are primarily designated to explanation rather than application. He does fairly well in both, but if consistency has anything to say about it, the former clearly outweighs the latter. Lastly, it should be said that Longman is not going to align with most conservative readers by way of his understanding and explanation of text—especially in the earlier chapters of Genesis. He is undoubtedly more sensitive to a figurative and critical reading of the book than a literal historical reading. Should this bring concern? Maybe, for some. But I wouldn’t allow such to deviate potential buyers from purchasing this commentary. If anything, it will do well to promote critical thinking and engagement with those who the reader disagrees, and we all know this world could use a little more of that!

The Story of God Bible Commentary: Genesis by Tremper Longman III is both practical and engaging. Longman has a keen ability to turn technical ideas into everyday concepts of understanding and application. Moreover, Longman is nothing short of a seasoned Old Testament scholar and he possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience in the matters of the Ancient Near Eastern world. I can almost predict with absolute certainty that the reader will catch himself in dispute with Longman more than once, but such should not be a reason to forgo this volume, it should be a reason to engage therein. If you are looking for a practical and accessible commentary on the Book of Genesis that will keep you on your toes, this is a commentary that you cannot afford to overlook. 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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