Review: The Decalogue: Living as the People of God

32284354David L. Baker is a lecturer in biblical studies at All Nations Christian College in Hertfordshire, England. Baker received a PhD from the University of Sheffield and is the author of Tight Fists or Open Hands?: Wealth and Poverty in Old Testament (Eerdmans, 2009) and Two Testaments, One Bible: The Theological Relationship between the Old and New Testaments (IVP Academic, 3rd edition, 2010). Most recently, Baker has written an academically refreshing and practically engaging exploration into the life-giving nature of the Ten Commandments.

The Decalogue: Living as the People of God is divided into four major sections: (1) What Is the Decalogue?, (2) Loving God, (3) Loving Neighbor, and (4) The Decalogue Today. In the initial section, Baker orients to the reader towards the ancient and contemporary conversation regarding the shape, form, origin, and purpose of the Ten Commandments. This section offers the reader an appropriate introduction to the Decalogue, and Baker’s mindfulness of the ancient Near Eastern world brings a contextual perspective not found in other works of similar size and scope. After an overview of the details of the Decalogue, Baker divides his discussion of the commandments into two main parts: Loving God and Loving Neighbor. The former explores commandments 1-5 and the latter explores commandments 6-10. Baker concludes the volume with a practical chapter which points the reader towards the life-giving nature of the Decalogue.

There is much to be appreciated about The Decalogue: Living as the People of God. First, Baker is uniquely qualified to bring fresh life to the Ten Commandments. Baker possesses a noticeable familiarity the Old Testament, the ancient Near East, and the contemporary scholarly literature at the forefront of both. Second, the organization of each chapter on the Commandments allows the reader to (1) understand ancient Near Eastern law and culture, (2) resolve the canonical context of each commandment as it relates to the rest of the biblical corpus, and (3) reflect upon the contemporary significance of the commandment for the world today. This methodology is both unique and beneficial. Third, Baker converses with a wide array of commentators and scholars on the Ten Commandments, and the use of footnotes provides readers with a goldmine of riches. An example of Baker’s academic awareness of the literature on the subject can be found in the 38-page bibliography! Lastly, Baker is an excellent writer and a clear communicator. This book is engaging from beginning to end, and Baker is to be commended for his work in making such possible. He really does begin to bring the blessing and joy of the Law of Moses to life for the contemporary audience.

The Decalogue: Living as the People of God by David L. Baker is simply outstanding. It is easily the best book on the Ten Commandments published in the past three decades. Baker is aware of each major facet of study needed to accomplish a meaningful exploration of the Decalogue, and he shows himself capable of bringing fresh insight over and over again. For anyone studying the Ten Commandments or Old Testament ethics, this book will prove itself to be indispensable. It comes highly recommended!

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