dinsdag 5 februari 2013

Review of: W. Brueggemann, 1 & 2 Kings (SHBC), Smyth en Helwys, 2002; in: Interpretation

W. Brueggemann, 1 & 2 Kings (SHBC), Smyth en Helwys, 2002

Review in: Interpretation 2002 56: 84
Review door: Walter Harrelson
Gevonden op: http://int.sagepub.com/content/56/1/84.full.pdf+html

1& 2 Kings
by Walter Brueggemann
Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary. Smith & Helwys, Macon, 2000.645 pp. $65.00 (cloth). ISBN 1-57312-065-0.

PUBLISHER AND AUTHOR HERE COLLABORATE in producing an entirely new kind of biblical commentary. The result is splendid, and both are to be congratulated. The intention of the series, of which this volume is the first to appear, is to provide serious, non-specialist students of scripture what they look for in commentaries but rarely find: scholarly interpretation of the ancient text, with some of the connections of the text to the contemporary world spelled out, with the visual imagination of readers stimulated and fed, and with special points and meaningful analogies from moral and political life underscored graphically as sidebars. Such a commentary series requires space; collaboration among writer, editors, and publishers; and the contribution of specialists in art and book design. All of these have been provided in this long and bulky work on the books of Kings.

Brueggemann's knowledge, theological and moral passion, and hermeneutical skill are all in evidence and fully coordinated in this stunning commentary. He knows the biblical text of 1-2 Kings intimately, as well as the scholarly literature on the book, and he brings to the writing a lifetime of experience in drawing the ancient text into conversation with contemporary theological and moral questions. He also sets the books of 1-2 Kings into relation with the book of Deuteronomy and its interpretive world, a world he also knows intimately.

Brief comments on three sections of the commentary may indicate how well the intentions of the series are being realized. At the beginning, Brueggemann retells the story of 1-2 Kings in such a way that analogies flood to the reader's mind: sexual politics, Saturday night massacres, ruthless elimination of one's enemies, gains and losses in the introduction of new forms of leadership. Artwork depicts the prophet Nathan with David, Solomon's anointing as king, and Marlon Brando as the Godfather plotting next steps. But Brueggemann regularly draws the analogies himself, moving back and forth between the world of the Bible and our own world.

A second treatment, commenting on the enormously rich chapter 22 of 1 Kings, once again lays out the scene and its personalities with stark clarity, and shows how prophetic leadership can be corrupted in the interests of power politics but can sometimes stand firm against such pressure. (Missing from this excellent treatment is the impressive way in which the chapter illustrates the biblical tests of true prophecy: true prophets tend to say what people don't want to hear; their words prove to be true; and they have visions that they are ready to discuss, explain, or even re-evaluate.) Here too the artwork is excellent: a haunting presentation of King Ahab in his chariot, bleeding to death, but refusing to stop the conflict or withdraw for medical attention.

The commentary ends with a penetrating analysis of King Jehoiachin's residence at the Babylonian court, showing what it meant and means for the Jewish community in exile, and for Christians as well, to accept exile as final. The author quotes George Steiner, who suggests that Jews in foreign lands may be destined to be guests whose task it is to make that society better than it is, while being ready simply to leave when the society seems irreformable: "[M]orality must always have its bags packed."

The volume includes a bibliography, a subject index, indexes of modern authors, the sidebars, and biblical texts. The type is large and readable, although the colored type in the sidebars may be difficult for persons with limited vision. Such a large book needs a strong binding, and that too the publisher has provided. Author and publisher have produced an extraordinarily attractive and luminous commentary form. Let us hope that coming volumes maintain the standard set here.

Walter Harrelson

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