Judges For You, edited from the study by Timothy Keller
This book was not quite what I expected it to be. I expected a somewhat intellectual discussion of the relevance of the Bible’s judges for believers and how that related to the biblical view of authority in general. That is not what this book is. Instead, this book is a commentary about the book of Judges. As someone who is fond of the book of judges and its implications for believers , I did not find this to be a problem. Nonetheless, it was quite a bit of a surprise to me that this book was merely one part of a series of Bible commentaries that I had hitherto been completely unfamiliar with. The fact that this commentary is aimed at people whose biblical understanding is not particularly deep and whose interest in the material is tied to a look at its christological focus and not its role in providing insight into contemporary behavior for believers or societies or on its own terms. The book is still a pleasant enough one to read, but I left the book wanting a lot more, a lot more depth and a lot more appreciation of the value of Israelite history as a valuable endeavor on its own.
The book, which is about 200 pages in length, begins with an introduction to the series as well as to the book itself. After that the materials of Judges are divided, with a commentary by the author, into thirteen chapters. First comes a look at Israel’s half-hearted discipleship after Joshua’s death (1) and then the experience Israel gained in living with idols (2). After this the author examines Othniel and Ehud as unexpected heroes (3), spending a lot of time on Ehud’s supposed handicap of being left-handed, something I found rather irritating as a left-handed person myself. After that the author looks at Deborah and Barak (4), spends three chapters examining Gideon’s weakness (5), triumph (6), and the lure of kingship for himself and his son Abimelech (7), and then looks at Jephthah as an outcast (8). Three chapters are spent looking at Samson’s birth (9), womanizing (10), and brokenness (11) before the book closes with a look at the moral failures of Micah and the renegade Danites (12) and the behavior of Israel without a king (13). After this there is a glossary of terms for the beginner, appendices, including the Judges cycle and the question of holy war, and a bibliography for further reading.
This book is aimed at people who want to read Judges through Christ. Obviously, a great many who consider themselves to be Christians will not read anything on any other layers other than through Christ, which makes this book appealing to such an audience. As someone who reads history for its own sake as well as through the angle of Christology, this book was missing something. It was missing the connections to the history of ancient Israel, to such books as Ruth in particular, that I was hoping for. The author, quite surprisingly, did not comment critically on the way in which Bethlehem of Judah appears twice in Judges and neither of them in an entirely praiseworthy fashion, where it does in Ruth and the Gospels. Even so, it is not entirely just to criticize a book simply because it does not meet the hopes or expectations of the reader. The writer wrote his own book for his own reasons, and by his own light he probably succeeded rather well.
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