Until recently very few exegetical commentaries on the book of Judges were available. But between 1999 and 2009 four substantial works on Judges appeared in English, three of them from evangelicals: Daniel I. Block (Judges, Ruth, New American Commentary [Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1999], K. Lawson Younger (Judges and Ruth, New International Version Application Commentary [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002]), Susan Niditch (Judges: A Commentary, Old Testament Library [Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008]), and Trent Butler (Judges, Word Biblical Commentary [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009]). Webb’s commentary is a welcome addition to the list. Webb, senior research fellow at Moore College, writes from an evangelical perspective. He combines solid exegetical insight with literary sensitivity.
The commentary’s introduction provides a useful survey of the period of the Judges, discusses scholarly opinion regarding the book’s formation, surveys recent scholarly works on Judges, and includes a section entitled “Judges as Christian Scripture” that addresses the important topics of “Judges in New Testament Perspective,” “Women in Judges,” and “Judges and Violence.” One wishes that the brief section on Judges’ contribution to Old Testament theology were longer and that the author, who is active in ministry, had addressed more directly how to preach from the book of Judges.
The author’s select bibliography of about twelve pages includes the most important resources for the study of Judges, though several significant journal articles are not included. Two important works are conspicuous by their absence. Greger Andersson’s The Book and Its Narratives: A Critical Examination of Some Synchronic Studies of the Book of Judges (Örebro: Örebro University Press, 2001) challenges the synchronic literary approach utilized by Webb and deserves a response. Gregory Wong’s Compositional Strategy of the Book of Judges, Vetus Testamentum Supplement (Leiden: Brill, 2006) is an insightful synchronic study that deserves to be integrated into Webb’s study.
Pastors will find Webb’s verse-by-verse commentary helpful in answering the question, “What did the text mean in its ancient Israelite context?” This question is, of course, foundational to author/text-based application that carries scriptural authority. Readers will also benefit from Webb’s literary insights. A good example is his discussion of the intertextual links between the Ehud-Shamgar account and the Deborah-Barak episode (pp. 185–87). Many times exegetical commentaries on the Old Testament are encumbered by diachronic concerns as interpreters attempt to reconstruct alleged sources and the supposed literary or even pre-literary development of the text. What often results is an exercise in scholarly fiction that destroys the text’s literary unity. Readers will not need to sift through such speculation in Webb’s commentary. He respects the text as it is and uses sound literary and rhetorical methods to discover its message. A good example of this is his treatment of the Gideon-Abimelech narrative, which is typically divided up into sources based on the use of the names Gideon and Jerubbaal. But Webb sees the choice of names as literarily motivated (p. 267) and demonstrates the thematic unity of the narrative.