"Ruth: The King is Coming" by Daniel I. Block. A Review
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Biblical book known as "Ruth" is one of my favorites to read and preach through. Therefore I was delighted to see that Daniel I Block, Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College, has crafted a unique commentary on Ruth titled "Ruth: The King is Coming". It is part of the "Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament," a series that Block is general editor for. This 304 page hardback is meant for seminary professors, preachers, and knowledgeable Bible teachers. The Hebrew and Hebrew grammar is presented in such a way that a mild knowledge of Biblical Hebrew will make the commentary even more valuable.
Block looks at the authorial style of "Ruth" in which the initial recipients of the story are "hearers" not essentially "readers. The author of this commentary approaches his work through discourse analysis, which is not only to understand what the text says, but also how it is said. He thinks through the placing of Ruth in the canonical corpus, and the connection it makes to the Pentateuch as well as the prophetic writings of Judges, and 1 and 2 Samuel. Block continues to hearken back, through ears attuned to the story, to the canonical flow of Ruth. The Biblical depth is robust, and Block's directional reminders - how Ruth takes us to David, and ultimately the greater son of David - makes the commentary solid and sound.
The commentary's format has an all-out translation of Ruth, an introduction to the Biblical material, and an extended commentary. In the commentary itself the pattern follows a simple approach; there's the main idea of the passage; it's literary context; translational and exegetical outline; the structure and literary form found in the passage; and rich and in-depth explanation of the text; and finally the canonical and practical significance.
The commentary's time looking at the canonical and practical significance asks and answers five questions, very similar to worldview questions. What does the passage tell the listeners about God? What are we told about the world and society broadly? How does this text address the human condition, the nature of sin and the destiny of humankind? What does a particular section tell us about how God relates to humans? And finally, what, in the passage, is our appropriate response ethically and spiritually, to the work of God? This is a delightfully enriching approach to Ruth.
The commentary's author, out of a desire to restore "listenership" to a congregation or audience has an appendix piece that maps out a sample dramatic reading of Ruth. It is detailed enough to be easily picked up and employed. Thought there is some staging and gesturing, the focus is to be on the reading out-loud, and attuned hearing.
"Ruth: The King is Coming" is a technical commentary is well worth the time and cerebral sweat. The reader will find devotional material for themselves, as well as sermonic substance for their parishioners. While reading the commentary I thought to myself several times, "I think Ruth would make a great Advent series next year!" I gladly recommend this book.
My gratitude to Zondervan Academic and Netgalley for the loan of an electronic copy used for this review.
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