Judges by David Gunn (Blackwell Bible Commentaries: Blackwell Publishers) (Paperback) The commentary is constructed around the biblical book's main constituent stories and characters. The first chapter deals with the entry into the land and includes the cameo stories of Adoni-bezek who lost thumbs and big toes, Achsah who asked for water, and Othniel the first "judge" (Judg 1:1-3:11); the second chapter is on Ehud's assassination of Ehud (Judg 3:12-31); the third chapter covers Deborah and Barak defeating Sisera, and Jael putting a spike through his head (Judges 4-5); the fourth chapter discusses Gideon testing God and defeating the Ammonites (Judges 6-8), and the next its sequel, Abimelech's abortive kingship (Judges 9); the sixth chapter examines Jephthah, his vow, and his daughter's sacrifice (Judges 10-12); the seventh chapter deals
with Samson the Nazirite, from annunciation to self-immolation, and, of course, his Timnite bride, the prostitute of Gaza, and Delilah (Judges 13-16); the eighth chapter treats Micah, his Levite, and the rampaging Danites (Judges 17-18); and the ninth chapter closes with a story of rape writ large, the Levite's woman and the Benjamite war (Judges 19-21).
Each chapter begins with an abstract of the story (the "argument;" as older commentaries called it) and a summary of the discussion. (Names are given as commonly found in English, usually Protestant, sources, with Catholic alternatives where these differ.) A reader desiring a brief overview of responses to Judges over the centuries is invited to read through these summaries. Two main sections follow: "Ancient and Medieval" and "Early Modern and Modern." The former runs from Josephus and Pseudo-Philo, includes the clas¬sical texts of rabbinic Judaism, the Christian Fathers of Late Antiquity, and sources from the Middle Ages. It concludes with the fifteenth century and the onset of printing. The latter starts with the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation, and continues through the Enlightenment up to the present day. Given its extent, this section is often broken up into topics, often main characters - for example, in the third chapter, "Deborah," "Barak, Sisera, and Sisera's mother," "Jael" - or main talking points - in the seventh chapter, "Typology," "Edifying history," "Foxes and fire," "Captivity and death," among others. By and large each section or subsection proceeds chronologically from earlier to later sources, and often the chapter ends with a "Recent reception" subsection focusing mainly on scholarly reception over the past century. This last review will seem cursory (to say the least), given conventional commen¬taries, but it does attempt to give the reader interested in the state of Judges scholarship today some guidelines.
The illustrations offer a small sample of the visual art of Judges, with pref¬erence given to works originally designed for reproduction, such as print suites or Bible illustrations, and to published engravings of paintings rather than photographs of the original, since these are what most people saw before the late nineteenth century. Because of limitations of space, most of the plates are composites of pictures, many of them cropped or providing detail only and much reduced, so providing only a flavor of the real thing. The folio engrav¬ings of Gerard Hoet and Caspar Luyken, for example, are magnificent, far beyond what can be conveyed here.
The Bibliography at the end of the book is subdivided into Ancient and Medieval, Early Modern and Modern, and Graphical sources. It is followed by a complete list of illustrations. Also included in the end matter are a short glos¬sary of terms, events, and interpretive methods perhaps unfamiliar to some readers, and a set of brief biographies (where information was available). Anindex of names includes both primary and secondary-source authors, and an index of main subjects concludes the book.
A few idiosyncrasies need to be mentioned. First concerns the reference system. In the main text, the date supplied for a source is the original (as best could be determined). Details in square brackets are those of the edition used, when it is reasonably certain that its content does not differ significantly from the original. In the bibliography, however, a date in square brackets is the original, and the principal date is that of the edition used. Second concerns the reference materials. There are many secondary sources discussing topics covered here. That they are not mentioned does not mean that they are unavailable. But I have chosen to focus on primary sources, and the bibliography reflects this choice. Third, where possible, life-spans are supplied when (deceased) authors and artists are first mentioned, as well as dates of their works. Likewise a few words describing the person are offered. In larger chapters, where a reader may be consulting only one section, this information is sometimes repeated. The result may appear (and be) inconsis¬tent as well as redundant to some readers, but it is intended to be helpful to others.