Genesis: A Commentary
This fine commentary, coauthored by an eminent evangelical Old Testament scholar and his former teaching assistant at Regent College, is a welcome addition to the corpus of works on Genesis. The commentary reflects the broad range of Waltke’s scholarly interests, containing many technical linguistic notes, as well as literary and theological observations. The commentary has a user-friendly format. The discussion of each pericope (Genesis is divided into acts and scenes) begins with literary analysis, followed by copious exegetical notes and then theological reflections.
The introduction addresses the issues of structure, authorship, historicity, literary genre, poetics, and themes/theology. The structural analysis of Waltke and Fredricks builds on the works of Rendsburg and Dorsey. Waltke and Fredricks argue for essential Mosaic authorship. While recognizing that Moses used sources, they challenge the presuppositions of the classical source critical consensus about the composition of Genesis. At the same time the two authors acknowledge the presence of anachronistic post-Mosaic additions (Gen. 14:14; 36:31), and they conclude, “Although a foundational Mosaic authorship is probable, it is not unquestionable from the text itself. The extent of scribal revisions, though probably minimal, cannot be determined” (p. 28). Waltke and Fredericks argue for the historicity of the account, pointing out that “internal evidence within the Pentateuch supports the narrator’s inferred claim to represent what really happened” (p. 29). They provide a particularly helpful introduction to narrative poetics and theology. Theologically they see four main motifs in the book: the seed, the land, God’s rule, and the ruler. Their conclusions on these matters are decidedly in line with Reformed theology (p. 54).
Their interpretation of Genesis 1:1–3 is consistent with Waltke’s earlier studies published in five issues of Bibliotheca Sacra in 1975 and 1976 (“The Creation Account in Genesis 1:1–3”). Verse 1 is taken as a summary statement for the entire narrative, verse 2 describes conditions at the time of Creation, and verse 3 sets the narrative in motion. The reference to “the heavens and the earth” in verse 1 is taken as a merism for “the organized universe in which humankind lives” (p. 59). In a note the authors argue that the terms “heavens” and “earth” must not be evaluated separately, but as a unit. This may be a bit simplistic, since the following narrative describes their creation separately—the “heavens” or sky on day two, and the “earth“ or land on day three. The terms as used in verse 1 must be understood in light of the referential value assigned them by the following discourse.
Waltke and Fredericks shy away from taking the days of creation literally; they prefer to see the sequential pattern as “a literary framework designed to illustrate the orderly nature of God’s creation and to enable the covenant people to mime the Creator” (p. 61). They suggest that “the lack of the definite article on the first five days suggests they may be dischronologized” (p. 62).
The authors understand the plural “let us” (1:26) as God addressing the angels or heavenly court, rather than as an allusion to the Trinity (p. 64). They take the introductory wayyiqtol form in 2:19 as pluperfect (rX,YIw", “had formed”) without offering a defense of this rendering or any discussion of how one is able to identify the presence of temporal overlay. One hopes in vain for some interaction with Randall Buth’s important work on the subject. It is also disappointing that they offer the traditional interpretation of 3:15 without interacting with approaches that challenge this interpretation as being pure allegory that is unsubstantiated linguistically or contextually. As for “the sons of God” in 6:2, they summarize three major views of the identity of the referent (Sethites, angels, tyrants who succeeded Lamech), and hold to the view that the sons of God were demon-possessed tyrants (p. 117).
Waltke and Fredericks opt for a passive rendering “will be blessed” in 12:3b, though they acknowledge that a reflexive translation is possible. In either case they regard Abraham as a mediator of blessing. However, if the blessing in view here is a formalized pronouncement (see the use of the idiom “bless by” in 48:20), it is more likely that the promise in 12:3 envisions Abraham achieving such fame that he becomes a paradigm of blessing whose name is used with “like” in blessing formulae (cf. Ruth 4:11).