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3 Stars Out Of 5
Fresh insites but can get carried away
February 1, 2012
I had a difficult decision in selecting the number of stars to give this book. Waltke is a scholar and his look at Genesis based on its narrative style gives the reader some interpretive insights that are not immediately obvious from a less literary-analytical reading. For this the work probably deserves at least 4 if not 5 stars.
That being said, Waltke's analysis is sometimes not without its weak points. He can get preoccupied with interpretive theories that he sees suggested in the literary style of the story, but aren't necessarily supported by the content; sometimes ignoring elements of content altogether. Even in the literary analysis of works of fiction (where style is sometimes the main vehicle for ideas) style criticism is a highly subjective and speculative business. It is just too easy to project our own thoughts onto the author, and find any "hidden" meaning that stike our fancy. When dealing with a work where historical accuracy is primary we have to be even more cautious. It is not that history cannot be crafted to convey ideas through style as well as content. It is simply that when weighing the merit of an interpretive theory, evidence based on content must be weighted much more heavily than evidence based on style. Surely someone as generally sound as Waltke should be fully aware of this, but there are times when he doesn't seem to be. For this I would have to give the work a 1 or 2 star rating.
One example from the book serves to illustrate the point. In interpreting the story of the stolen blessing in Gen 27, Waltke concludes that Isaac is spiritually dull and much more concerned with his physical appetites than his relationship with God. He comes to this conclusion from two pieces of stylistic "evidence". First, the story notes that Isaac is physically blind, which Waltke sees as intended to be a metaphor for spiritual blindness. Second, the words "savory food" (or the like) are repeated several times in the discourse. This Waltke interprets to mean that physical appetite was a dominant feature of Isaac's character. This in turn is the reason that Isaac intends to bless Esau rather than Jacob. If there were no other content-based explanation for these supposed stylistic elements, or better yet if there was specific content-based corroboration for this interpretation, Waltke would have a case, though not and open and shut one. However, viewing the narrative from its content tells a different story.
First, Gen 27:1 states that Isaac "called his eldest son Esau" to be blessed. This is a much more obvious "stylistic" clue to Isaac's reason for blessing Esau. Giving first place to the first born was a powerful custom, as well attested both inside and outside the Scripture. We really don't need to look further for veiled evidence of another motive. In the specific commentary on this verse Waltke makes no mention of the normal priority of the first born. He even omits the word "eldest" altogether, loosely quoting the verse to say only that Isaac "called his son". I hate to think that this was a deliberate omission to strengthen his point.
Second, the mention of Isaac's blindness and the repetition of the food references are more obviously explained as necessary for the reader to understand the story. Without these story of Jacob's deception would make no sense at all. Thus there no need to see these as stylistic elements rather than simply factual.
Third, there is specific evidence in the content that Isaac was far from spiritually blind. His blessing is clearly prophetic, not just a father's fond hopes for his favorite son. When the deception is revealed Isaac immediately affirms that the blessing still stands. Had it been based on his own intent, the blessing would have been nullified by the deception. But, Isaac knows that the blessing is from God, not himself, and God cannot be deceived. Finally the author of Hebrews makes it clear that "by faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even concerning things to come". Thus the evaluation of the event from the New Testament is that it was an act of faith, not spiritual blindness, on Isaac's part. (Notwithstanding that Isaac was unaware of God's election of Jacob at the time.)
In short Waltke is worth reading. I am not necessarily sorry I bought the book, and I would recommend it with one qualification. Sometimes we scratch our heads and ask, "why did the author include this in the story?" Analysis of stylistic elements can open up possible explanations that aren't immediately apparent. However, beware of interpretation, however elegant and well crafted, that is based on subjective analysis of stylistic elements, when a more apparent interpretation based on plain content is available.
This is a well written commentary on the book of Genesis. The authors have done an excellent job in explaining the text such that both scholar and layperson may equally benefit from the rich messages found in this great book of the Bible. The only criticism I would give of this volume is that it lacks depth in describing select verses. However, I would still highly recommend this commentary for anyone studying the book of Genesis.
I've been preaching through Genesis since Advent 2005 and have found this commentary to be excellent. I bought a stack of commentaries in preparation for the series and this has been one of three that I've continued to use heavily. I was a student of Waltke's at Regent and Cathi Fredericks was a classmate. Waltke's incredible Christian knowledge, wisdom, and thoughtfulness show through wonderfully and Fredericks does a great job of bringing it all down to earth and making it immensely readable and practical. Waltke has a knack for showing the deepest and most profound of applications for even the driest of parts of Scripture and making it accessible and useful to the ordinary Christian. This commentary would be worth it at ten times the price.
I've been using this commentary by Waltke for the past couple of months and I must say I have never enjoyed reading a commentary so much in my life before! Really! It is just filled with amazing insights into the text and written in an easy to read style that totally feeds the mind, warms the heart, and ignites the soul. A commentary with spirituality (hey, he's from Regent College) He gives a great overview of the passage, explains key words/phrases of the text, and reviews with key theological reflections on the "scenes". While most commentaries are a bit 'dry' and a challenge for me to get through, I cannot wait to read what's next in this one! I only wish he would have written a commentary like this on the whole OT! I would totally eat it up. If any of you works for Zondervan or has connections, please encourage him to write more! If you can't tell already, I STRONGLY, STRONGLY, RECOMMEND THIS ONE!
A well-written commentary on Genesis; but the only drawback it has is that it lacks depth in some places. Waltke along with Fredricks have written a commentary where the layperson as well as the advanced scholar can be comfortable, for the Hebrew words have been transliterated thus allowing the commentary to reach a wider audience. I like the way the entire book is laid out especially the sections Theological Reflections and Literary Analysis, as they compliment the main text. This book will come handy for preparing a sermon or doing study notes; but if one wants to do an indept research one will need to purchase the works by the likes of Leupold, Hamilton and Wenham. I would still recommend you buy this commentary even if you already own another one on Genesis, and you will not be sorry you bought it.