As a ready reference for background studies, it is the best resource available
June 18, 2016
This article is a review of the IVP Bible Background Commentary of the Old Testament.
The most pressing question is, does this resource compare favorably or unfavorably with other available resources. For what it does, does it do it well?
This commentary examines historical Biblical background situations as they may be pertinent to Bible study. Of the available resources to date that provide that service to Bible students, the best are the Manners and Customs of the Bible and the Oxford Companion to the Bible. Of those two, I have come to respect the Oxford simply for having more accurate information. I compared the Oxford with the IVP Background Commentary.
The IVP offers background information in Bible order according to the Protestant cannon. If you are reading a section of Scripture and you want to utilize this resource, you will have it open to the same Biblical citation. If you are reading Genesis 15, you will have the commentary open to Genesis 15. It is not redundant. If the same information is useful in understanding a different passage, the note at the passage will refer the reader to the reference that contains the information. It will say something like, See comment on [Bible citation].
Interspersed throughout the commentary are special studies on certain topics. They are placed in the commentary near a passage citation that would be most relevant. I could not find a place where the commentary referred the reader to a relevant article that appears somewhere else in the commentary. For example, in Genesis 38:18, Tamar asks Judah for his signet and cord. The commentary gives some quick pertinent information about what that object was that Tamar requested. The commentary does not refer the reader to an article about Seals and Bullae that appears way over in the Jeremiah 32 section. I think the article is relevant; but maybe others do not.
By comparison, the Oxford Companion has information about many topics related to Bible study and the topics are organized in alphabetical order, like an encyclopedia. In fact, it works more like a one volume encyclopedia than a Bible dictionary because it covers related topics. That is why it works as a Bible background resource. The Oxford features many more in depth studies on topics but there is not much notice that there is something in the Bible companion book that pertains to what you are reading in the Bible.
A case example: At Genesis 15 God is pictured in a dream as a torch and smoking pot. He enters into solemn covenant with Abraham. There is very good information about covenant ratification at the matching citation in the IVP commentary. There is no notice that there is a special study on covenants somewhere in the volume (in the section on Deuteronomy 2). I dont know if a regular person reading the Bible would think to look up information about covenant ratification as he/she came to Genesis 15. There is very good much fuller information about covenant in the Oxford but I am not sure a first-time reader of Genesis 15 would even know what is going on in that chapter. Would he/she even think that it would be a good idea to look up covenant in the Oxford Bible companion. Probably not.
The IVP works as a read-along-with-me reference.
I wish the page numbers in the corners rather than in the gutter. Just one of my peeves I guess.
In my humble judgment, the IVP Bible Background Commentary on the Old Testament ought to replace the Oxford Companion and the Manners-and-Customs resources as the preferred backgrounds reference for students of the Bible. It is a far better ready-reference.
This is not an exegetical or exposition of OT scripture
August 8, 2015
Minister of the Lord
i had to review for my independent study course. This material may be frustrating for some who are thinking it will be more like the commentaries they are used to reading. This book can be used for research along with an exegetical or exposition scripture commentary. There is another good OT background commentry that many scholars used for their resources [I used to have one]; however, I can not think of the name and author of it right now -- it was quite a while ago. Nevetheless, it was very detailed and covered at lot of the background cultural, terrain, etc.
This is not the same author as New Test. I found this to be frustrating...beware. Instead of insightful teachings into Biblical culture...and how the verse and persons in the Bible relate to this culture...in most instances it leaves the verses entirely and goes into other religious myths....Bible characters, perspectives and insights into the culture are replaced with what other religions believe. If I wanted other religions I would not be studying the Bible as Gods Word. The format is not ebook (as in the New Test. background) but Adobe download ....does not give verse or chapter selections...poor, poor navigation. Would not recommend
This book is not written by the same author as its New Testament counterpart. It goes through almost every verse, but offers little insight into the culture or language. It has a lot of other countries mythologies. Beware as you read this, because it also has unmarked opinions, many of them questionable or wrong.