Judges/Ruth. The NIV Application Commentary

By K. Lawson Younger, Jr.
Grand Rapids : Zondervan (2002). 511 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
14.1 (Spring 2003) : 138-139

This is as a fairly good contribution by the Professor of Old Testament, Semitic Languages, and Ancient Near Eastern History, at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois. It is in a series representing, on several biblical books, some well-known scholars: Daniel Block (Ezekiel), David Garland (Mark, also Colossians and Philemon), Douglas Moo (Romans, 2 Peter, Jude), Craig Blomberg (1 Corinthians), Scott Hafemann (2 Corinthians), W alter Liefeld (Pastoral Epistles), and Craig Keener (Revelation). Brief evaluations for more of these appear in this reviewer’s forthcoming revision/expansion of Commentaries for Biblical Expositors (Grace Books International: The Master’s Seminary, Sun Valley, California, fall 2003). Several volumes are available, others in preparation. Each volume works through a biblical book, offering three parts on each passage: the original meaning, bridging the biblical setting and today, and then contemporary applications.

One finds a variation in value between different authors’ works, with some explaining the text well and others being quite cursory, and with some being topheavy in application but inadequate in commentary leading up to it. One sometimes wishes for more explanation to lay the groundwork. Younger does a fairly consistent job of providing light on the passages, then making usable applications. He devotes 387 pages to Judges and 104 to Ruth, then provides Scripture, subject, and author indexes. He surveys introductory concerns fairly well, for example on Judges’ main theme to give selectively the consequences of disobedience to God and His law (23). One can doubt his concept that numbers such as 40 years may not be literally accurate but a round or figurative number for a generation (25). Quite a number of evangelical works on Judges are unmentioned in an extended bibliography (50-58) even when they have seriously discussed problems (cf. e.g., Paul Enns, Judges, and Leon Wood, The Distressing Days of the Judges).

Sometimes comments on phrases are missing in general surveys of sections, for instance “lead captive your captives” (Judg 5:12; 151). One looking for verse by verse help is frequently disappointed. The decision of editors to have bits and pieces of explanations of a passage in three different sections can disunify matters and make it difficult for a student who is trying to work out the whole picture or find where an explanation occurs. One can see, for example, Jael’s killing of Sisera (Judges 5) strung out in various places. Still, much insight is present for the patient, even if the “user unfriendly” approach turns readers away with only a partial picture.

Younger often helps on customs, as when he argues in Jephthah’s coming home that he was surprised (shocked)—as seen in the word hinneh, “look”—in 11:34b, suggesting a look of recoil when off guard (264). The commander, having made a vow, did not expect his daughter, but an animal, to come out first, since homes then included a room for animals (263). Younger favors the view that Jephthah offered his daughter as a sacrifice, a calloused wrong (262-67). He goes on to make helpful applications about wife or child abuse in today’s world (268-70).

Insight on Samson’s desire for the Philistine woman being “of the Lord” (Judg 14:4) is helpful. “God uses Samson in spite of his wrong motives and actions (cf. Gen 50:20)” (302). Many comments on details are perceptive, for example, on Samson’s sins based on selfish will going against God’s laws. Yet often no helpful suggestion is offered. One case is the silence about how Samson may realistically have caught 300 foxes or jackals and managed to hold them until he could tie and loose them to destroy Philistine grain (326). Wisely, contrary to some interpreters, Younger sees Ruth’s encounter with Boaz by night as showing decency and integrity (463).

All in all, the less technical work is one of the more frequently contributive, careful efforts on the two books. Younger does furnish considerable expertise on context, grammar, words, customs, and overall content, and often is rich in sensible application. Teachers, pastors, students, and lay people will benefit.