Recommended by the Department of Biblical Studies, Princeton Theological Seminary, Revised 2010
"For the book of Genesis, two excellent theological commentaries include Walter Brueggemann, Genesis, Interpretation (Westminster John Knox, 1982) and, more recently, Terence Fretheim, “Genesis” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 1 (Abingdon, 1994). I recommend Claus Westermann’s three-volume commentary on Genesis for those interested in a full range of discussion of critical issues, with emphasis on the European tradition of scholarship. Another example of a more in-depth critical and theological commentary is Gordon Wenham, Genesis 1-15 and Genesis 16-50, Volumes 1 and 2, Word Biblical Commentary (Word, 1987, 1994). Literary scholar Robert Alter’s Genesis, Translation and Commentary (Norton, 1996) offers a translation that seeks to keep close to the original Hebrew and a commentary with literary sensibilities."
A standard critical and theological commentary on Exodus remains Brevard Childs, The Book of Exodus, Old Testament Library (Westminster John Knox. 1974). Childs includes a full range of discussions on historical-critical matters, larger Old Testament context, New Testament context, and history of exegesis. It has weathered well over 30 years. Good theological commentaries include Walter Brueggemann, “Exodus” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 1 (Abingdon, 1994) and Terence Fretheim, Exodus, Interpretation (Westminster John Knox, 1991). Mention should also be made of Waldemar Janzen, Exodus, Believers Church Bible Commentary (Herald, 2000) and, for those desiring some very heavy-lifting in their study of the scholarship on Exodus, Cornelius Houtman, Exodus, Volumes 1-3, Historical Commentary on the Old Testament (Kok, 1993, 1996, 2000) (excellent and detailed reviews of scholarship and history of interpretation). For those desiring more heavy-lifting in their study of Exodus, Thomas Dozeman's Exodus, Eerdman's Critical Commentary (Eerdman's, 2009) is very well done and incorporates the latest in Pentateuchal scholarship. One should also mention Cornelius Houtman, Exodus, Volumes 1-3, Historical Commentary on the Old Testament (Kok, 1993, 1996, 2000) (detailed reviews of scholarship and history of interpretation) and William Propp's two-volume Anchor Yale Bible commentary on Exodus 1-18 (Yale, 1999) and Exodus 19-40 (Yale, 2006) (extensive notes on translation and critical issues).
This sometime overlooked book has been blessed by several recent and excellent commentaries. One fine theological commentary is Samuel Balentine, Leviticus, Interpretation (Westminster John Knox, 2003). Jacob Milgrom is a Jewish scholar who has spent a lifetime studying Leviticus. He published a three-volume commentary on Leviticus in the Anchor Bible series, but he has also released a more compact but still thorough one-volume commentary: Leviticus: A Book of Ritual and Ethics (Augsburg Fortress, 2004). One could also note two other possibilities from a more evangelical perspective: Gordon Wenham, Leviticus (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) (Eerdmans, 1979) and Walter Kaiser, “Leviticus,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 1 (Abingdon, 1994).
One scholar some decades ago called the book of Numbers the “junk room of the Bible” since he could not make sense of what seemed to be the disorganized jumble of genres and texts in Numbers. Fortunately, several recent commentaries have sought to revise that view with attention to the careful structure and theological fruit of this sometimes neglected book. Options include Dennis Olson, Numbers, Interpretation (Westminster John Knox, 1996); Timothy Ashley, Numbers (New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 1996); Katharine Sakenfeld, Journeying with God, A Commentary on the Book of Numbers (Eerdmans, 1995), and Jacob Milgrom, JPS Torah Commentary on Numbers (Jewish Publication Society, 1990) among many others.
The rich and theologically important book of Deuteronomy is well represented among commentaries. A sound critical and exegetical study is Richard Nelson, Deuteronomy, Old Testament Library (Westminster John Knox, 2002). An in-depth study of Deuteronomy that includes some history of its interpretation in history and culture is Mark Biddle, Deuteronomy (Smyth & Helwys, 2003). Good theological commentaries include Patrick Miller, Deuteronomy, Interpretation (Westminster John Knox, 1991); J. G. McConville, Deuteronomy: Apollos Old Testament Commentary (Intervarsity Press, 2002); Walter Brueggemann, Deuteronomy, Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries (Abingdon, 2001); and Dennis Olson, Deuteronomy and the Death of Moses, A Theological Reading (Wipf & Stock, 2005).
A fine critical and exegetical study of Joshua is Richard Nelson, Joshua, Old Testament Library (Westminster John, Knox, 1997), now available in paperback. L. Daniel Hawk, Joshua, Berit Olam, Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry (Liturgical Press, 2001) offers a more literary approach to Joshua.
Recommendations for this Old Testament account of Israel’s judges like Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson include Dennis Olson, “Judges,” The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 2 (Abingdon, 1998); J. Clinton McCann, Judges, Interpretation (Westminster John Knox, 2002); and David Gunn, Judges, Blackwell Biblical Commentaries (Blackwell, 2005).
For the theological interpretation of 1-2 Samuel, start with Walter Brueggemann’s First and Second Samuel (Interpretation, 1990) or Eugene H. Peterson’s First and Second Samuel (Westminster Bible Companion, 1999). Antony F. Campbell has published a much more recent set of commentaries (1 Samuel, 2003; 2 Samuel, 2005) in the FOTL series. Campbell is sensitive to issues of the book’s development without losing sight of the fact that this text is a part of the Jewish-Christian canon. Normally, the Old Testament Library is a good theological series. However, for Samuel, the OTL volume by Hans Wilhelm Hertzberg (I & II Samuel) may overwhelm the pastor with too much historical and compositional data, although students with a more historically-oriented interest will find it helpful for tracing the lines of argumentation back through early twentieth-century European thought. Kyle McCarter’s very technical two book series is an invaluable resource for advanced students looking for text-critical data (I Samuel, 1980; II Samuel, 1984; Anchor Bible), and Ralph Klein’s 1 Samuel (Word Bible Commentary, 1983) is a good semi-technical volume in the same vein as Campbell’s.
Recommendations for this theological account of Israel’s history, from the death of David and the accession of Solomon in the 10th BCE to the release of Judah’s exiled king Jehoiachin in the 6th BCE, include: Choon-Leong Seow, “1-2 Kings,” The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 3 (Abingdon, 1999), an excellent literary and theological commentary; Richard Nelson, First and Second Kings, Interpretation (Westminster John Knox, 1987), which offers rich theological insights with pastors in mind; Terence Fretheim, First and Second Kings, WBC (Westminster John Knox, 2000); and Walter Brueggemann, 1 and 2 Kings: A Commentary (Smyth and Helwys Publishing, 2000).
For most of the twentieth century, scholars have tended to treat the book of Isaiah in three parts—First Isaiah (chapters 1-39), Second Isaiah (chapters 40-55), and Third Isaiah (chapters 56-66). More recently, however, some commentators have deemed it important to read the book as a whole, regardless of the different origins of the parts. In this mold are the works of John Goldingay in the New International Biblical Commentary series (Hendrickson, 2001) and Brevard Childs in the Old Testament Library series (Westminster/John Knox, 2001). Also recent are the commentaries that focus on the history of the Bible and its reception. In this category are the Church’s Bible, with Isaiah edited by Robert L. Wilkens with Angela R. Christman and Michael J. Hollreich (Eerdmans, 2007) and John Sawyer’s The Fifth Gospel: Isaiah in the History of Christianity (Cambridge University Press, 1996).
For basic textual, critical and exegetical issues, a recent resource is Leslie Allen, Jeremiah (Old Testament Library) (Westminster John Knox, 2008). Two fine theological commentaries on Jeremiah and the God of Jeremiah are Walter Brueggemann, A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming (Eerdmans, 1998) and Terence Fretheim, Jeremiah: Smyth and Helwys Bible Commentary (Smyth and Helwyx, 2002).
Daniel I. Block. The Book of Ezekiel. 2 vols. Grand Rapids: Erdmans, 1997. A useful work in the evangelical stream. Moshe Greenberg. Ezekiel 1-37 : a New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983, 1997. The first major commentary to attend to the literary features of Ezekiel and to consider the book holistically, with less attention to redactional arguments. Still a very valuable resource with excellent insights. Robert W. Jenson. Ezekiel. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2009. Written by a systematic theologian, it offers insightful theological reflections on the text. Best used in conjunction with a more traditional commentary. Paul Joyce. Ezekiel: A Commentary. New York; London, T & T Clark, 2007. Summarizes scholarly positions very effectively. Good resource. Margaret Odell, Ezekiel. Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary. Macon, GA: Smith & Helwys, 2005. Very user friendly format, with attention to some of the history of interpretation. Steven Tuell. Ezekiel. NIBC. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2009. Thoughtful commentary with a slightly evangelical perspective. Walther Zimmerli. Ezekiel : a Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel. Hermeneia. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979-1983. This English translation of the original 1969 German is a classic, magisterial commentary that attends to the minute details of Ezekiel’s text, which one expects from Hermeneia commentaries. Outdated in some ways (e.g., intense focus on redactional arguments), it is still an important resource.
Francis I. Andersen, David Noel Freedman. Hosea : A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980. Hans Walter Wolff. Hosea: a Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Hosea. Hermeneia. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1974.
John Barton. Joel and Obadiah. Old Testament Library. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001. By a first-rate biblical scholar.
Jörg Jeremias. The Book of Amos : a Commentary. Old Testament Library. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1998. James L. Mays. Amos: A Commentary. Old Testament Library. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1969. Predecessor to Jeremias’ commentary, this venerable tome is excellent.
John Barton. Joel and Obadiah. Old Testament Library. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001. William P. Brown. Obadiah Through Malachi. Westminster Bible Companion. Louisville: Westminster John Knox 1996. The author is a wonderful interpreter of biblical texts.
William P. Brown. Obadiah Through Malachi. Westminster Bible Companion. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1996. Daniel Smith-Christopher. Jonah, Jesus, and Other Good Coyotes : Speaking Peace to Power in the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2007. The author is a biblical scholar, and though not a commentary, this book is thought-provoking.
For these shorter prophetic books, three commentaries covering these books as a group are particularly recommended for their theological emphasis. These are The New Interpreter’s Bible (NIB) vol. VII (Abingdon, 1996), various authors listed below under individual books; William P. Brown, Obadiah through Malachi, Westminster Bible Companion, (Westminster John Knox, 1996); and Elizabeth Achtemeier Nahum – Malachi, Interpretation (John Knox 1986). Brown highlights general theological and ethical themes, while Achtemeier makes more explicit reference to Christian doctrines and NT passages.
The NIB author (see above) is Daniel Simundson; see also Brown, above. Juan I. Alfaro, Justice and Loyalty: A Commentary on the Book of Micah, International Theological Commentary (Eerdmans 1989) approaches Micah from a liberationist perspective. James Limburg’s Hosea-Micah, Interpretation (John Knox, 1988) is theologically focused for teaching and preaching. James L. Mays, Micah, Old Testament Library (Westminster, 1976) is a classic with good balance of historical-critical information and theological insights. Also of interest to the more technical user are Delbert Hillers in the Hermeneia series (Fortress, 1984) and Hans Walter Wolff (tr. G. Stansel, Augsburg, 1990, from the 1982 German original).
The NIB author (see above) is Francisco O. García-Treto; see also Brown and Achtemeier, above. Julia Myers O’Brien, Nahum (Sheffield Academic/ Continuum, 2002) offers a literary reading with focus on ethical questions, especially issues of gender and violence. J.J.M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, Old Testament Library (Westminster John Knox 1991) provides an accessible presentation of textual issues, ancient Near Eastern backgrounds, and literary forms.
The NIB author (see above) is Theodore Hiebert; see also Brown and Achtemeier, above. J.J.M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, Old Testament Library (Westminster John Knox 1991) provides an accessible presentation of textual issues, ancient Near Eastern backgrounds, and literary forms. Francis I. Anderson in the Anchor Bible series (Doubleday, 2001) offers a much longer and more technical treatment.
The NIB author (see above) is Robert A. Bennett; see also Brown and Achtemeier, above. Adele Berlin in the Anchor Bible series (Doubleday 1994) incorporates both modern critical scholarship and pre-modern Jewish interpretation. Marvin A. Sweeny (Augsburg Fortress, 2003) offers a detailed text-critical and exegetical study in the Hermeneia series tradition. J.J.M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, Old Testament Library (Westminster John Knox 1991) provides an accessible presentation of textual issues, ancient Near Eastern backgrounds, and literary forms.
The NIB author (see above) is W. Eugene March; see also Brown and Achtemeier, above. Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P. gives a theologically focused reading for the church in his Rebuilding with Hope: Haggai and Zechariah, International Theological Commentary (Eerdmans, 1988). Since most scholars associate Zechariah chs 1-8 with the era of Haggai, some commentary series combine these into a single volume. Representative is David Petersen, Haggai and Zechariah 1-8, Old Testament Library (Westminster John Knox 1984), who provides detailed attention to the historical setting of these materials, along with literary analysis. A lengthier and more technical treatment is available from Carol Meyers and Eric Meyers, Haggai and Zechariah 1-8, Anchor Bible (Doubleday, 1987).
The NIB author (see above) is Ben. C. Ollenburger; see also Brown and Achtemeier, above. Also theologically focused is Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P., Rebuilding with Hope: Haggai and Zechariah, International Theological Commentary (Eerdmans, 1988). The book of Zechariah is in two quite distinct parts, chs. 1-8 and 9-14. As noted above under Haggai, major commentary series combine the first half of Zechariah with the book of Haggai (see listings above). The second half of Zechariah, chs 9-14, is sometimes correspondingly combined with Malachi in one volume (see listing below).
The NIB author (see above) is Eileen M. Schuller, O.S.U.; see also Brown and Achtemeier, above. For a more detailed work, showing connections with Zechariah 9-14, see David Petersen, Zechariah 9-14 and Malachi, Old Testament Library (Westminster John Knox, 1995).
There are numerous commentaries on the Psalms. The most helpful for preachers are probably James Mays’s volume in the Interpretation series (John Knox, 1994) and J. Clinton McCann’s contribution in the New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 4 (Abingdon, 1996). There are not many great commentaries that deal with the details of the Psalms. Erich Zenger’s commentary in the Hermeneia series is the best of these, though only the volume on Psalms 51-100 has appeared in English (Fortress, 2005). Also helpful is Hans-Joachim Kraus’s commentary published originally in German but translated into English and published by Fortress press in 1988-89. Not to be missed, though, not strictly a commentary is Patrick D. Miller’s Interpreting the Psalms (Fortress, 1986).
In recent years, a number of commentaries have been published that help the reader appreciate the literary excellence and theological contributions of the book. Arguably the best among these is Carol Newsom’s work in the New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IV (Abingdon, 1996). For a consistently sensitive theological reading of the book, Samuel E. Balentine’s volume in the Smyth and Helwys Bible Commentary seriesis without peer (Smyth and Helwys, 2006). Especially interesting in this work are the numerous forays into the reception history of the book in literature, music, and the visual arts. Other noteworthy commentaries include David J. A. Clines’s three-volumecontribution in the Word Biblical Commentary series (Word, 1989-2009) and Norman Habel’s volume in the Old Testament Library series (Westminster, 1985).
For detailed exegesis, there are now two important works: Michael V. Fox’s two volumes in the Anchor Bible series (volume 1 by Doubleday, 2000; volume 2 by Yale University Press, 2009) and Bruce K. Waltke’s two volumes in the New International Commentary series (Eerdmans, 2004). The best theological treatments of the book are Raymond van Leeuwen’s contribution in the New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume V (Abingdon, 1997) and Christine Roy Yoder’s commentary in the Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries series (Abingdon, 2009).
On the book of Ruth, Katharine Sakenfeld, Ruth, Interpretation (Westminster John Knox, 1999), considers the cultural diversity of readings of Ruth along with a sustained literary and theological commentary. André LaCocque, Ruth (Augsburg Fortress, 2004), is a very recent and thorough critical commentary with attention to issues of language, culture, and interpretation. A different kind of commentary treatment is Ellen Davis and Margaret Adams Parker, Who Are You, My Daughter: Reading Ruth through Image and Text (Westminster John Knox, 2003) which offers a new translation, notes and a series of 20 artistic woodcuts that interpret the book of Ruth through visual image along with the text. Another three-volume resource for commentaries on the lectionary preaching texts (Old Testament, Gospels and Epistles) from the Revised Common Lectionary is The Lectionary Commentary, Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts (Eerdmans, 2001).
The Song is also now well served by good English language resources. M. Pope’s behemoth of a commentary in the Anchor Bible series (Song of Songs [AB 7C; New York: Doubleday, 1977]) remains a classic, idiosyncratic to be sure, but chalked full of all kinds of delightful tidbits and still very much worth consulting. Two of the most well rounded commentaries on the Song—both solid philologically and literarily inclined—are M. Fox’s The Song of Songs and the and the Ancient Egyptian Love Songs (Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1985) and J. C. Exum’s Song of Songs (OTL; Louisville: WJK, 2005). R. Murphy’s slim volume in the Hermeneia series (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990) is also solid. For those with German, Y. Zakovitch’s Das Hohelied (HThKAT; Freiburg: Herder, 2004) is highly recommend, especially for his wonderful literary sensibility. O. Keel’s The Song of Songs (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994) is notable for its use of iconography. There are two provocative attempts at a more literary rendering of the Song: M. Falk, Love Lyrics from the Bible: A Translation and Literary Study of the Song of Songs (Sheffield: Almond, 1982) and A. Bloch and C. Bloch, The Song of Songs: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Random House, 1995). For a sampling of recent feminist writing on the Song, see A. Brenner and C. Fontaine, The Song of Songs: A Feminist Companion to the Bible (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 2000). Other recent collections of essays on the Song include the July 2005 issue of the journal Interpretation and Perspectives on the Song of Songs—Perspektiven der Hoheliedauslegung (ed. A. C. Hagedorn; BZAW; Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 2005). For a brief overview of the Song, see F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp, “Song of Songs” in The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol 5: S-Z (ed. K. Doob Sakenfeld; Nashville: Abingdon, forthcoming 2009) and stay tuned for T. Linafelt’s forthcoming contribution on the Song in the Berit Olam series.
There used to be a dearth of good theological commentaries on Ecclesiastes, but the situation has changed. The most detailed treatments of the book that also pay attention to the theological issues are C. L. Seow’s commentary in the Anchor Bible series (Yale University Press, 1997) and Craig Bartholomew’s work published by Baker Academic Press in 2009. For pastors and lay people, William P. Brown’s volume in the Interpretation series may be especially helpful.
Since 1991 and the publication of I. Provan’s contribution on Lamentations in the New Century Bible Commentary series (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans), Lamentations has been well served by some very fine commentaries in English. D. R. Hillers, Lamentations (AB 7A; 2d rev ed; New York: Doubleday, 1992) remains the most philologically rich commentary available (those with German may still usefully consult W. Rudolph’s Klagelieder [KAT 17/3; Gütersloh, 1962], especially on text critical issues; now see also the text critical comments by R. Schäfer in BHQ and B. Albrektson, Studies in the Text and Theology of the Book of Lamentations [Lun,d 1963]). More literarily minded commentaries include, A. Berlin, Lamentations (OTL; Louisville: WJK, 2002), F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp, Lamentations (IBC; Louisville: WJK, 2002), and K. O’Connor, “Lamentations” in NIB VI, pp. 1011-72 (Nashville: Abingdon, 2001)—the latter two probe relevant theological issues as well. Among notable recent monographs on Lamentations, see C. Westermann, Lamentations: Issues and Interpretation (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994), T. Linafelt, Surviving Lamentations (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1999), K. O’Connor, Lamentations and the Tears of the World (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2002), C. Mandolfo, Daughter Zion Talks Back: A Dialogic Theology of the book of Lamentations (Atlanta: SBL, 2007), C. Maier, Daughter Zion, Mother Zion: Gender, Space, and the Sacred in Ancient Israel (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008), and W. Morrow, Protest Against God: The Eclipse of a Biblical Tradition (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2006). Also keep an eye out for E. Greenstein’s forthcoming contribution on Lamentations in the new JPS Torah series.
H. G. M. Williamson, Ezra, Nehemiah, WBC (Word, 1985) offers an excellent interpretation of these books, with thorough discussion of contemporary scholarship. Ralph Klein, “Ezra-Nehemiah,” The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 3 (Abingdon, 1999) is a good hermeneutical resource for the preacher, as is Mark Throntveit, Ezra-Nehemiah, Interpretation (Westminster John Knox, 1992).
The story of this biblical heroine has captured the imagination of Jews (and Christians) over the centuries, and there are a number of commentaries that attend well to the book’s literary dimension. Michael V. Fox, Character and Ideology in the Book of Esther (University of S. Carolina Press, 1991) is a rich study that focuses on Esther as a literary work and considers also the theological significance of a book that never mentions God. Jon D. Levenson, Esther: A Commentary, OTL (Westminster John Knox, 1997) incorporates rabbinic material in addition to standard historical-critical words. Sidnie White Crawford, “The Book of Esther,” The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 3 (Abingdon, 1999) offers helpful reflections for the preacher, including the story’s ethical implications for today.
For heavy lifting in critical, textual and background material on the book of Daniel, the standard remains John Collins, Daniel: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Hermeneia) (Fortress, 1994). An older but very fine commentary by Louis Francis Hartman and Alexander A. Di Lella, Daniel ([Anchor Bible] Garden City NJ: Doubleday, 1978) is also to be highly recommended. Two insightful, reliable and theologically suggestive commentaries are W. Sibley Towner, Daniel (Interpretation) (Westminster John Knox, 1984) and Leong Seow, Daniel (Westminster Bible Companion) (Westminster John Knox, 2003).
Sara Japhet, I & II Chronicles: A Commentary, OTL (Westminster John Knox, 1993) offers a thorough critical and exegetical study of these OT books. H.G. M. Williamson, 1 and 2 Chronicles, NCB (Eerdmans, 1982) is another excellent and detailed commentary that incorporates insights from his other work, Israel in the Books of Chronicles.
Recommended by the Department of Biblical Studies, Princeton Theological Seminary, Revised January 2019