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4 Stars Out Of 5
This will expand your horizons.
April 2, 2011
Milgrom is a highly respected Old Testament scholar. Anything he writes is likely to be worth reading. The greatest strength of this work is that it provokes thought and presents plausible alternatives to the standard interpretations of given passages. In fact, he presents interesting points of view on nearly every page. Many of them deserve serious consideration. I would not recommend Milgrom's commentary as a minister's primary resource on Numbers (I prefer Harltey, Wenham, or Rooker for that). But for a tool that opens up alternative interpretive possibilities, Milgrom's commentary is unequalled. I highly recommend it for that purpose.
In the world of Leviticus scholarship, Milgrom stands head and shoulders above all other contributors. All other scholarship on Leviticus largely springs from his work. So, for those without the time, money and/or inclination to wade through his magisterial three volume commentary in the Anchor Bible Series, it is a treat to have it distilled into delightful prose and reasonable length (with help from Milgrom's granddaughter Talia Milgrom-Elcott, according to the preface pXIII)! Some of Milgrom's positions seem odd and there are occasions where one might wish for more extensive argument. For example, he improbably treats the grain offering of Lev 2 as a poor man's burnt offering (p25). But the 'grain offering' is always catalogued separately both in Leviticus and throughout scripture (contrast the grain version of the sin/purification offering, 5:11-13); the frankincense (2:1) would surely cost more than the birds (1:14-17); and the distinctive symbolism of complete burning, which lies at the heart of the burnt offering, is absent. At times he makes the text congruous with modern sensibilities on the value of animal life, and he treats the text as a wholesale polemic against the existence of the demonic. In neither case did I find him persuasive. However, his illustration of the sanctuary in terms of a "Priestly Picture of Dorian Gray" is invaluable and a preacher's delight. His discussion of the clean/unclean texts regarding bodily emissions is the first convincing explanation I have read. In addition to his insights on Leviticus, he has included an excursus on the Red Cow ritual of Numbers 19 - one of Milgrom's most notable and persuasive solutions to a long-standing conundrum of torah scholarship (p39-41). Of course Milgrom writes from a Jewish perspective so Christian readers may want to supplement this commentary with another, such as Hartley (WBC); Wenham (NICOT); or Ballentine (Interpretation). But Milgrom is indispensable.