*** (of 5)
The bottom line: A worthwhile reference with some notable caveats.
Before anyone uses this book as a reference, it must be understood how the author views the Books of First and Second Kings.
On the one hand he is critical of the writings as legitimate historical narratives due to modern skepticism and standards for history writing (he expounds on this in the introduction), and regards the recorded history as “no longer [having] any direct impact on us. This observation goes deeper than the obvious fact that “we are not Jews of the sixth century B.C.E.” Nelson views both books instead as pieces of literature and provides his commentary building upon this foundation.
On the other hand, he also affirms that I and II Kings mirror the Book of Deuteronomy as testaments and guidebooks to a scattered and oppressed people (in exile) to formalize and encourage their loyalty to Yahweh, their identity, their purpose, and their calling as the “chosen” people. The Books of Kings calls out to a fallen and distanced people and invites them to return home in a spiritual sense.
Further, if the book is used a means to interpret the meaning of the scriptures for teaching and/or preaching, beware that the author explicitly states, “This commentary does not provide pat answers or attempt to dictate what the text ‘means’. Instead it intends to draw the reader into an intimate engagement with the text itself.”
As a result, the book excels in extrapolating some practical theological implications behind the stories of kings in Ancient Israel and Judah, and highlights the relevance to contemporary Christians. I found many new insights on old stories exceptionally enlightening. In particular, Nelson’s analysis of the story of Naboth’s vineyard and how that relates to modern complacency and/or permissive silence is brilliant.
The book falters by devoting such a large amount of space to structural and chronological analysis that I find did not add much value to theological interpretation. The author subsequently spends much time actually recanting what actually happened in the text—information that can gained simply by reading the Bible itself.
In short, the book remains an adequate reference to extract some meaning and significance from two books of the Old Testament, but one would have to wade through some superfluous academic and historical analysis before reaching the core of “Interpretation.”
Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal
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