Since these notes were last written the work by Alec Motyer on Exodus has come out. More about this shortly.
Meanwhile, for scholarly information and stimulus, the commentaries preachers may profit from the most are by Casutto (Magnes Press, Jerusalem, 1967), Durham (Word, 1987), Childs (Westminster, USA, 1974), Hyatt (Marshall, 1971), Driver (Cambridge, 1911), T. D. Alexander, W. H. Gispen (Zondervan, 1982), Keil and Delitzsch (19th century; various reprints).
U. Casutto was a Jewish commentator who loved the law. J. I. Durham is known as an evangelical but holds an unevangelical view of Scripture. B. S. Childs is always interesting, J. P. Hyatt less so. S. R. Driver was a sceptical destructive scholar but his little work is a mine of information. However none of these writers really get to grips with the message of Exodus, and most of them have destructive views of Scripture. Better is the work of T. D. Alexander who writes an excellent short commentary in the New Bible Commentary (IVP’s ‘21st Century Edition’ of 1994). Gispen’s work – translated from the Dutch – is excellent. The work of Keil and Delitzsch is still among the best and in following the details of the law is not as dated as one might think as not much progress has been made in this style of commentary since they did their work. For the work of the preacher there is not much more that is worth consulting once these major works have been studied. A few German commentaries are well-known to scholars but not of much value to English-speaking preachers.
Those who look for help with theological exposition have to turn elsewhere. A. W. Pink’s commentary is often eccentric but always worth studying. B. F. C. Atkinson’s Exodus is nowadays hard to find but has excellent material. The Keswick Convention of 1974 had Alec Motyer preach through Exodus in five sermons! He was obviously under immense pressure, but for a hurried overview of Exodus his expositions in The Keswick Week 1974 are outstanding.
It is a tribute to Matthew Henry that at times the most profound exposition is still to be found in his pages. Who but Matthew Henry could expound Exodus 29 in the way he does? As always Matthew Henry is highly recommended for preachers.
On the Ten Commandments, the Westminster Confession of Faith has a famous exposition. One does not to have to hold its view of the Mosaic law in order to profit from it. Something similar might be said of the work of Thomas Watson. Aquinas, Luther, Calvin and Barth also have interesting expositions of the Mosaic law. I was grateful when my son-in-law, Roger Gysling, gave me his copy of Klaus Bockmühl’s Christliche Lebensführung: Eine Ethic der Zehn Gebote (Basel, 1993), although my approach to the subject is somewhat different. MyApplying God’s Law (Paternoster) gives a 60,000-word exposition of Exodus 19–24 which might surprise those who know only my talk about ‘freedom from the law’. It tries to ‘use the law lawfully’.
The technical commentaries on Leviticus which are useful are as follows. Two by evangelicals are John E. Hartley, Leviticus (Word Commentary; Word, 1992) and Gordon Wenham,Leviticus (New International Commentary, Eerdmans, 1979). The three volumes of Jewish commentary by J. Milgrom in the Anchor Bible (Doubleday) are a mine of information. W. H. Gispen, Het Boek Leviticus (Kok, 1950) is a good guide to the Hebrew text but requires a knowledge of Dutch.
In a different style of writing altogether, one of my favourite commentaries is Basil Atkinson’s little book, Leviticus. In its own way it is quite marvellous, and was recommended by such widely different people as the Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Professor F. F. Bruce – the prelate, the Puritan and the pundit! F. F. Bruce was being tactful when he said ‘Dr. Atkinson is a singularly independent student’!
J. Vernon McGee’s chit-chats through the Bible were at their best in Leviticus. Andrew A. Bonar’s Leviticus (Banner of Truth, reprinted in 1966 from the edition of 1861) is an old exposition written with great warmth and power. It is perhaps the greatest exposition of Leviticus ever written, although to say that does not require that we agree with every word of it. If a Christ-centred hermeneutic is important (as it is) then Basil Atkinson’s work and Andrew Bonar’s work must be top of the list of commentaries on Leviticus despite a few weaknesses in their works. S. H. Kellogg’s Leviticus (1899) which was reprinted in Minneapolis, by Klock & Klock is also excellent. I have found too that the ‘Bible-readings’ produced by C. A. Coates in 1921–1922 and published under his initials as An Outline of Leviticus (Kingston Bible Trust) are not to be despised.
Roy Lee Honeycutt wrote the small Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy for Broadman Press (1979). The publishers say he is unusually gifted in outlining – and they are right. It makes the book helpful for preachers. Mike Butterworth’s Leviticus and Numbers (Bible Reading Fellowship, 2003) is worth consulting. So (if you can find them) are Derek Kidner’s remarks on Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy in Daily Bible Commentary, published by Scripture Union in 1974 (but it is only to be found in libraries that have everything!)
Then there are R. K. Harrison’s Leviticus in the Tyndale Commentary series, and the commentary by A. Noordtzij (Zondervan, 1982). C. F. Keil, The Pentateuch, vol. 2 (various editions) has good material.
J. H. Kurtz’s Sacrificial Worship of the Old Testament was given to me by R. T. Kendall of Westminster Chapel, and I have learned to value it. In a class all of its own is Leviticus as Literature by the anthropologist, Mary Douglas. It is very thought-provoking and some of its ideas are useful to the Christian expositor. N. H. Snaith’s Leviticus and Numbers (Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1969) comes from a rather destructive school of biblical study; it is knowledgeable but spiritually unappetising.
The two main technical commentaries which should be consulted by preachers of the gospel are T. R. Ashley’s Numbers (Eerdmans, 1993) in the New International Commentary series, and Gordon Wenham’s Numbers (Tyndale, 1981), a standard work although it is small in size.
My favourite commentary in a more ‘devotional’ style is Basil Atkinson’s little book, Numbers. With its companion volumes (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Judges–Ruth) it was recommended by such widely different people as the Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones and F. F. Bruce – the prelate, the Puritan and the pundit! F. F. Bruce was being tactful when he said ‘Dr. Atkinson is a singularly independent student’! I always appreciate J. Vernon McGee’s chit-chats through the Bible, and his Numbers is a useful work. The ‘Pulpit Commentary’ onNumbers, edited by H. D. M. Spence and J. S. Exell is full and valuable. So is the work of George Bush, the nineteenth-century American commentator whose Numbers was reprinted by James and Clock in the 1970s.
N. H. Snaith’s Leviticus and Numbers (Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1969) comes from a rather destructive school of biblical study; it is knowledgeable but spiritually unexciting. Roy Lee Honeycutt wrote the small Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy for Broadman Press (1979). The publishers say he is unusually gifted in outlining – and they are right. It makes the book helpful for preachers. It is a bit skimpy (two sentences on the red heifer of Numbers 19!). Mike Butterworth’s Leviticus and Numbers (Bible Reading Fellowship, 2003) is worth consulting. So (if you can find them) are Derek Kidner’s remarks on Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy in Daily Bible Commentary, published by Scripture Union in 1974 (but it is only to be found in libraries that have everything!)
Philip Budd’s Numbers (1984) in the Word Biblical Commentary is spoiled in my opinion by his view that the Pentateuch was revised in the post-exilic period from the sixth century onwards. This often results in historical reconstructions that disagree with the claims of the text itself (the rules for Nazirite-ship are thought to be late, and so on). Something similar must be said of the work of the Jewish scholar Baruch Levine, who wrote Numbers for the Anchor Bible in two volumes (Doubleday). But Levine knows his Hebrew and since ‘all things are yours’ (1 Cor 3:21) his Jewish comments on the law may be of profit to the Christian preacher at times. G. B. Gray’s Numbers (1903) is an old authority in the International Critical Commentary series. Although it reflects older styles of source criticism that are of little value to the preacher, it is impressive in its own way.
The three scholarly commentaries which should be consulted by preachers for a basic understanding of the text are the works by P. C. Craigie (Deuteronomy, Eerdmans, 1976), Christopher Wright (Deuteronomy, Hendrickson, 1996), and J. G. McConville, Deuteronomy(IVP, 2002). Surprisingly, I also recommend S. R. Driver’s Deuteronomy (1895) for readers of Hebrew. He followed the destructive criticism of the nineteenth century and considered the book to be a product of the seventh century bc . However anyone who works through the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy following Driver’s small-print comments on the Hebrew – especially in Deuteronomy 32–33 – will find his Hebrew is better than his literary-critical theories.
M. G. Kline’s Treaty of the Great King (Eerdmans, 1963) is an excellent compact commentary. I ought also to mention the French commentary by P. Buis and J. Leclerq: Le Deuteronome(Gabalda, 1963). J. A. Thompson wrote Deuteronomy for the Tyndale Commentary series (IVP, 1974). M. Weinfeld’s contribution in the Anchor Bible has commenced withDeuteronomy 1–11 (Doubleday, USA, 1991). D. L . Christensen’s 1991 commentary on Deuteronomy 1–11 has been rewritten and completed. It will interest fellow scholars but preachers will appreciate it less. The nineteenth-century work by C. F. Keil (The Pentateuch, various editions) is dated but not to be despised. Other works by A. D. H. Mayes (1979) and G. von Rad (1966) are well-known but I do not consider them so important. Earl S. Kalland, ‘Deuteronomy’, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 3 (Zondervan) is good.
Roy Lee Honeycutt wrote the small Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy for Broadman Press (1979). The publishers say he is unusually gifted in outlining – and they are right. It makes the book helpful for preachers. Derek Kidner’s remarks on Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy in the Daily Bible Commentary, published by Scripture Union in 1974, are useful, but the book is only to be found in libraries that have everything!)
Raymond Brown’s Message of Deuteronomy (IVP, 1993) is best considered after some preliminary work has been done. It is appreciated best when the basic meaning of the text is familiar. It is spoiled by the habit (it seems fashionable among British expositors!) of assuming a knowledge of English literature and so for example using Laertes and Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet in order to explain Moses! For those of us who live in Africa it seems a bit bewildering. It reminds me of the commentator who explains Israel’s geography by comparisons with the state of Washington and the River Potomac! But I suppose we all have our mannerisms!