Review: The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-First Century

7226378Mark F. Rooker is Senior Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Rooker is a respected Old Testament scholar and the author of several books, including commentaries on Leviticus and Ezekiel, the widely praised introduction The World and The Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament (with Michael Grisanti and Eugene Merrill), and the present volume on the Decalogue in the NAC Studies in Bible & Theology series.

The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-First Century is a practical tour de force into the ethical heartbeat of God that transcends all cultural bounds. For Rooker, readers of this volume will “clearly see that the Ten Commandments are founded on the creation account of Gen[esis] 1-2” (Author’s Preface). It is here that Rooker, again and again, uncovers the transcendent nature of the Ten Commandments as he independently explores the meaning and significance of each.

Rooker opens the volume with a useful introduction concerning the influence of the Decalogue on Western law and the significance of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament, Judaism, and Christianity. Rooker does well to familiarize readers with the Ancient Near Eastern background of the Ten Commandments and properly position the Decalogue within the historical context of the biblical narrative.

Rooker explores each Commandment with both academic rigor and contemporary sensitivity. It is here that readers will appreciate the approach of this volume most. The Ten Commandments is laden with meaningful exegesis and seasoned reflection on nearly every page. Those looking for serious interaction with scholarship will be quickly satisfied as Rooker guides the reader through the Commandments. Still, Rooker likewise possesses a unique awareness of ethical implications of the Commandments on the Christian life. For Rooker, “the law is not understood as a means of salvation but as instruction regarding the shape a redeemed life is to take in everyday affairs . . . the Ten Commandments are absolute and ultimate. We do not observe them for social stability, for happiness, or for security and prosperity. The Ten Commandments manifest the attributes of God. Thus we should delight in carrying out His commands” (p. 199).

The regularity of balance between academic and pastoral concerns that Rooker demonstrates in this volume is both uncommon and unexpected. The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-First Century offers readers careful exegesis and relevant application. Rooker has breathed new life into the Decalogue for contemporary readers, and pastors, lay-leaders, and even laity will do well to inhale along with him. It comes highly recommended!

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