This is the second volume on Genesis that Mathews has written in the New American Commentary series. The first, on Genesis 1:1–11:26, was published in 1996. This second volume continues many of the emphases of the first, though in this one the author has given more attention to what he considers to be the more important aspects of the compositional history of the canonical text. He believes that Genesis was written “in the main” in the second millennium during the wilderness wanderings of Israel under Moses’ authority. Under his study of each literary unit Mathews has included a section on “Composition” in which he has argued for coherence that points to a single author of Genesis and against some theories of multiple traditions proposed by historical-critical scholars. He also deals with the structure of each subsection of the text with emphasis on its literary characteristics. He does not deal with grammar, syntax, or textual criticism extensively but only when, for him, they are crucial to determining the meaning of the text.
His introduction includes discussions of the historicity and history of the second part of Genesis, the religion of the patriarchs, important themes and certain motifs (e.g., sibling rivalry, deception, and alienation/separation), and an outline. This is followed by a very readable, verse-by-verse exposition of the text. The commentary concludes with a selected bibliography, a selected subject index, a person index, and a selected Scripture index. Interspersed are two maps (of Israel and the ancient Near East) and several excursuses. The subjects of these special studies are Abraham’s career and legacy, the patriarchs’ wealth, Melchizedek, faith and obedience, the sacrifice of Isaac, Edom and the Edomites, and levirate marriage. The price of this commentary also makes it attractive.
The series of which this commentary is a part aims at helping preachers and Bible teachers primarily, and it has succeeded admirably. Mathews’s contributions in both volumes provide exegetical help so that readers may better understand the meaning of the text and the theology of Genesis.
Mathews is professor of Old Testament at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, in Birmingham, Alabama.