Book Reviews

Dictionary of the Old Testament Historical Books

Bill T. Arnold, H. G. M. Williamson, editors Downers Grove, IL 2005-11-17

Students of the Old Testament historical books (Joshua-Nehemiah, Esther excluded) will welcome the appearance of this fine dictionary, which summarizes current scholarly opinion and research on a broad spectrum of topics related to the interpretation of this corpus. Contributors include many evangelicals, though some entries reflect higher critical assumptions and conclusions with which some evangelicals may be uncomfortable.

The entries deal with individual books, important sites, archaeological discoveries, and key figures in the historical books. There is a lengthy survey of Israel’s history, as well as useful articles on the Hebrew language and linguistics (contributed by Cynthia Miller). Many articles deal with cultural backgrounds (e.g., “Agriculture and Animal Husbandry,” “Canaanite Gods and Religion,” “Cities and Villages,” “Hebrew Inscriptions,” “Water and Water Systems”), and other entries discuss the peoples of the ancient Near Eastern world with whom Israel came in contact. Several articles address hermeneutical issues and critical methods including “Canon,” “Hermeneutics,” “Inner-biblical Exegesis,” “Large Numbers” (by Dallas Seminary graduate David Fouts), “Methods of Interpretation,” “Narrative Art of Israel’s Historians” (by Israeli scholar Yairah Amit), “Social-Scientific Approaches,” and “Text and Textual Criticism.” Some articles have a theological orientation, including “Evil,” “Ethics” (by Christopher Wright), “Faith” (by Peter Enns), “Forgiveness” (by John Oswalt), “God” (by Daniel Block), and “Salvation and Deliverance.”

The volume will serve as an ideal supplemental textbook for courses on the historical books, especially at the seminary level. College students may find some articles to be overly technical, but on the whole the dictionary is informative and readable.

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