Monday, January 25, 2010

1 Kings Resources

This blog has been a bit quiet over the last few weeks while I have been absorbed (all consumed?) in leading a short Bible-teaching series on the book of 1 Kings for a local church. Although I was only asked to cover the first few chapters, which feature the comparatively good reigns of David and Solomon; these chapters have still thrown up several difficult issues of interpretation.

In response to an enquiry, here's four recommendations of resources that I have found particularly useful in understanding and applying the text.

Donald J. Wiseman's Tyndale OT Commentary on 1& II Kings is exceptionally good. It has three particular strengths to highlight: (i) The introductory essay which alongside the standard author/date stuff, contains a fabulous section on the 'theology of the book', with a very helpful overview and illustration of main themes. I'd recommend that anyone teaching from Kings at any level get hold of this introduction. (ii) On the details of the text, The Tyndale commentaries are thorough but not so excessively technical that they become impenetrable, saving for instance foray's into the subtleties of language and translation for occasions where some serious point of interpretation is actually at stake. Wiseman's textual commentary is hugely helpful with countless little points of reference which add depth to the narratives. (iii) The book is also enormously useful for its biblical cross-referencing, pointing out (for instance) where the author is drawing on older biblical stories; and where later writers would develop the points.

Dale Ralph Davis' "1 Kings: The Wisdom and the Folly" is a different sort of work to Wiseman. While the Tyndale series examines each sentence of the text - this 'Focus on the Bible' commentary takes chunks of text, and focuses on application for Christians in a New-Covenant context. Davis writes warmly, with anecdotes, touches of humour and with a strong applicatory emphasis - as such he makes a good contrast to Wiseman.

Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, has a number of sermons on 1 Kings available from Keller's ability to relate the individual Old Testament narratives to the Bible's central narrative of God's reconciling grace to sinners is inspiring. What is equally impressive is his use of ancient narrative to search the hearts of contemporaries. In his hands these texts are not points of antiquarian disputation, but mirrors by which we expose the condition of our own souls before God. These are worth hearing, not because they can be emulated (if only!), but in order to embrace the real challenge of Bible teaching and to see how high the bar must be set!

One final resource to mention is the IVP reference collection, a treasure trove of background to the Bible-books and dictionary resources to give clarity to the concepts under discussion. For instance, Solomon (famously) was wise enough to ask God to give him wisdom above all else. The reference collection has a brilliant essay on what the Old Testament concept of 'wisdom' is, and why that includes everything from philosophy to common sense to musical skill or science and engineering!

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