Commentary Roundup posts are a series of short reviews or overviews of Bible commentaries. I’m working my way through a variety of commentaries, new and old, and hope to highlight helpful resources for my readers.
• Author: Mark J. Boda
• Series Editor: Philip W. Comfort
• Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (2010)
• Format: hardback
• Page Count: 442
• ISBN#: 9780842334310
• List Price: $29.99
• Rating: Recommended
The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary provides students, pastors, and laypeople with up-to-date, evangelical scholarship on the Old and New Testaments. It’s designed to equip pastors and Christian leaders with exegetical and theological knowledge to better understand and apply God’s word by presenting the message of each passage as well as an overview of other issues surrounding the text.
The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary brings together a wealth of scholarship in a clearly presented and highly accessible format. Each larger section of text gets its own introductory section. Then each textual unit, usually of a chapter or two in length, gets its own separate treatment. The full text from the New Living Translation opens the section, then footnotes to the text, and detailed notes follow. The commentary section is next and covers sources used by the Chronicler, the structure and content of the section – which is where the primary exegesis happens, and then a concluding section titled “significance” where the author brings home the main themes from the text.
A detailed introduction to the books of Chronicles opens the work, and enumerates the setting, author, date, and audience. The canonicity and textual history of Chronicles are detailed, and literary and theological concerns are addressed. Space is also devoted to the major themes of the books of Chronicles, of which the author finds covenant relationship, an emphasis on renewing the present through remembering the past, and the prophetic office as key. And while the Chronicler emphasizes Judah’s history, he repeatedly refers to “all Israel,” Boda sees in this a concern for the fulfillment of a truly united Israel “comprised of inhabitants from both north and south united around the Temple, King, and Jerusalem” (p. 18). And intriguingly, he argues that “The omission of the history of the northern kingdom throughout the account is not intended as a slight against these tribes, but rather is used to play down the schism and to include them in ‘all Israel'” (p. 18). The introduction also includes a detailed outline of the books of Chronicles.
Other features of the commentary include a proprietary numbering system from Tyndale for the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek words – similar to Strong’s numbers, but coded to other reference works from Tyndale. Some numbers are also provided that key to Zondervan resources as well. A detailed list is also provided of key textual witnesses to 1 and 2 Chronicles, and the Old and New Testaments as a whole. Also included is an extensive explanation of the transliteration and numbering system employed in the commentary. Throughout the volume, charts, maps, chiastic structures, and timelines are provided, but all in black and white. The commentary makes thorough use of end notes after every section and introduction, as well. This allows it to remain highly technical but also more accessible to the average reader.
The books of Chronicles are full of lists and genealogies, and the technical bent of this commentary proves helpful in catpuring what is being communicated theologically by the Chronicler. The following excerpt captures well the attention to detail shown by the author of this commentary. It also illustrates how helpful this commentary is for exegesis.
David’s Commission of the Military (27:1-15). With chapter 27 the Chronicler leaves behind the enumeration of the Levitical families, moving to the “secular” leadership of his kingdom. He begins with the military (27:1-15), then moves to the tribes (27:16-22), and finally, after a short note on the census, concludes with the property managers (27:25-31) and royal advisers (27:32-34).
Because this chapter, as part of the unit of chapters 23-27, stands out as the only one unconcerned with sacred personnel, some have suggested it was a later addition. However, although the Chronicler’s focus has been on the commissioning and organization of the sacred orders due to his concern for the Temple, the royal secular infrastructure of the kindom is also important for sustaining the Temple worship. In addition, in the discussion of 23:1-2 it is noted that the term “summoned” (‘asap [TH622, ZH665]) in 23:2 is a literary signal from the Chronicler that summarizes the content of chapters 23-27. There David is depicted as assembling “all the leaders of Israel” (kol-sare yisra’el), a term that is distinguished in the list from “the priests and Levites.” Thus, it is now in chapter 27 that the Chronicler presents the “leaders” of Israel, with the term “leader” (sar [TH8269, ZH8569]) used seven times in the chapter (27:1, 2, 5, 8, 22, 31, 34). Finally, the national assembly that David convenes in chapters 28-29 is comprised of the very groups introduced in chapter 27. Thus, chapter 27 is not only appropriate in a work focused on the Temple but is expected both by the introduction to chapters 23-27 and also the introduction to chapters 28-29.
The first section of chapter 27 focuses on the organization of the army. The term “list” here (mispar [TH4557, ZH5031]) is the one used regularly throughout chapters 23-27 for “numbering” (23:3, 24, 27, 31; 25:1, 7; 27:1). It is also the term used in 21:5 when Joab presents the results of the census to David, an event reflected in 27:23-24, where again the term appears twice. The initial list of personnel in 27:1 appears to reflect organization of groups through a chain of command, moving from the Israelites to “heads of the fathers” (not reflected in NLT) to generals and captains (lit., “[the leaders of] thousands and hundreds”) to their officers. The role of this chain of command was to supervise the army divisions, and they did this under the authority of the king. This is an important development in the sociology of Israel, signaling that the army was no longer linked to tribal chieftains and tribal authority but rather to a centralized royal figure and that military affairs would no longer be conducted ad hoc but would be directed by a standing army.
These army divisions are identified as those who “went in and went out” (habba’ah wehayyotse’th [TH935/3318, ZH995/3655]; NLT, “on duty”), a phrase related to the ancient “changing of the guard,” which is illustrated in 2 Kings 11:9 and 2 Chronicles 23:8. These latter passages identify the Sabbath as the time of the changing of the Levitical guard; they distinguished between “men reporting for duty that Sabbath” and “those who were going off duty [on the Sabbath],” a process dependent on an act of dismissal (“Jehoiada the priest did not let anyone go home after their shift ended,” 2 Chr 23:8). The specific duties of these troops is not made clear, although it obviously would have entailed battle in times of war, and in times of peace, as Japhet (1993:469) notes, “These reserves would be given the duty of guarding the kindom’s borders, doing police service and maintaining order in conquered territories, manning strongholds and castles, attending to the weapons and equipment–chariots, horses, etc.” For the royal army in chapter 27, the cycle was monthly rather than weekly, a fact reinforced by the list in 27:2-15. Although the list is based on the principle of 12 units, it is interesting that the division is not based on the 12 tribes, further evidence of the social transformation under David’s reign. The number 12, however, also bolsters the Chronicler’s presentation of this perfect kingdom and echoes the earlier diviisons in chapters 24-26, which were based on the number 24. However, the fact that it is only half the number may priveilege the role and organization of the sacred orders. (pg. 204-205)
This commentary over and again proves faithful to a high view of Scripture. Yet it is also extremely helpful in sorting out the techincal details in the text and catching the underlying theological vision of the Chronicler. Some of my readers may not be aware of how very different the books of Chronicles are from the books of Kings, and this commentary helps underscore and interpret these differences as being loaded with theological import rather than evidence against the divine ispiration of both groups of books. The material is presented in a clear way and remains accessible to a wide variety of readers. I recommend this book for anyone who desires to study the books of Chronicles. I’m confident that it will prove helpful and steer you right.
About the Author:
Mark J. Boda (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) has authored numerous articles and books in addition to editing several collections of scholarly essays on various topics related to the Old Testament and Christian Theology. He taught for nine years at Canadian Theological Seminary before joining McMaster Divinity College in 2003. Mark enjoys mentoring students and teaches with enthusiasm about the Old Testament and its continued relevance to the Christian life today.
This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.