My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Review: The Transforming Word Series, Volume 1: The Pentateuch: From Genesis to Deuteronomy

The Transforming Word Series, Volume 1: The Pentateuch: From Genesis to Deuteronomy The Transforming Word Series, Volume 1: The Pentateuch: From Genesis to Deuteronomy by Mark W. Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Considering that I have a [large] 5 volume set of commentaries covering the same first five (5) books of the Bible, this single volume work is highly ambitious. And while the editor(s) and publishers did not impose any specific methodology on the contributing authors, from the Preface, it seems clear they all come from the Protestant “Restoration” tradition in which I was raised (as do most books from this publisher). While some readers may not completely agree with some of the exegesis, they should still benefit from getting a basic understanding of organization, historical context and theological implications (consensus POV, even when countered within the commentary).

Each chapter is well organized into Contexts, Commentary, Theological Reflections Further Study and Works Cited. Maps, Tables and Features are also called out after the Chapter Contents for easy reference. The Theological Reflections bring it all together nicely. The first essays were clear and provided good context on how the Bible became the canon. The commentaries themselves are fairly straightforward with little nuance referencing each chapter and verse without actually providing them (so BYOB).

The Genesis commentary for each verse was very short and seemed to frequently take exception with a lot of the more common interpretations, often stating a particular translation was adding words not in the Hebrew text as if the not recognizing the requirement to select terms and phases that provide a general sense of the original … before providing his own interpretative summary on the sense of the scripture. Over all, this section just didn’t come together as a coherent whole for me.

The Exodus commentary was closer to what I was looking for … a clearer, longer and more nuanced treatment of what was happening in each pericope being examined. This might be because this is where the scripture leaves myth and the author can more easily make references to a verifiable historical context supported by extra biblical sources. Regardless, I found a lot to noodle on within the story of Moses and greatly enjoyed learning more about this well known story.

The Leviticus commentary was just as good imo, covering in reasonably good detail aspects of the various sacrifices and additional laws and rules by which the people should live. The author was not afraid to engage is some helpful speculation and clearly called out where he did so. It addition, the call out boxes were especially helpful in providing additional context to understanding the various passages as a whole … specially concepts around holiness, atonement and grace. The chapter closes with a particularly relevant observation … “This is not a works-based righteousness; God calls his people to holiness as a response to grace, not to earn grace.”

The Numbers commentary was just awesome. This is a book that reads as a dry history text book for me and my eyes tend to glaze over when I attempt any significant understanding of what is happening. Although not as long as the other commentaries, i found the author’s identification of the “interspersed thematic summaries from between the mind numbing lists and laws exceptionally helpful to understanding which this is book is equally important within the canon. This was especially true in the reflection summary where the author points out that “After every major crisis the narrator inserts a bundle of laws based on fundamental principles designed to help Israel avoid similar conflicts in the future.” This is story provides the details on how God forged His elect into a people. Of course, my fun/trivia takeaway was the concept of cosmic nakedness and the shadow of God.

The Deuteronomy commentary is a great summaries of related sermons and exhortations that can be difficult to get through on your own (especially since it seems to primarily rehash a lot of what came in the previous four books … making this something like a commentary on a commentary). This is especially helpful where the commentary contrasts these stories and laws with stories. The greatest benefit for me was the organization of the commentary into topical headings:

~ Introductory Sermon
~ Sermon About Life in the Promised Land
~ Laws for Relating to God [One Center of Worship]
~ Laws on Proper Leadership
~ Laws on Interpersonal Relationships
~ Ceremony of Renewing the Covenant [Thanksgiving for the Harvest]
~ Final Sermon Appealing for Loyalty
~ Moses' Final Exhortation
~ The Song of Moses
~ Moses’ Blessing of Israel [Blessing Upon the Tribes]
~ The Death of Moses

Over all this was a fantastic start to a series that walks through the scripture in such as accessible way that I believe everyone can get something significant out of it and I am looking forward to the next installment.

- Reading the Pentateuch
- The Pentateuch
- The Biblical Canons
- Israel in the Ancient Near East
- Old Testament Theology
- Genesis [1]
- Exodus [2]
- Leviticus [3]
- Numbers [4]
- Deuteronomy [5]

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheTransformingWordSeriesVolume1ThePentateuch #NetGalley.

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.