Genesis 11:27-50:26. Vol. 1B in the New American Commentary

By Kenneth A. Mathew
Nashville : Broadman & Holman (2005). 960 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Grisanti
18.1 (Spring 2007) : 129-130

Kenneth Mathews is Professor of OT at Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and is also an adjunct faculty member at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Other commentaries in this series have been reviewed in TMSJ. In fact, the first volume on Genesis was reviewed by William D. Barrick in issue 8/2 (see his comments there). Each author of the New American Commentary (NAC) series affirms a commitment to inspiration and inerrancy and the series seeks to enable pastors, teachers, and students to read the Bible with clarity and proclaim it with power. In light of this focus, most issues relating to scholarly discussions and technical points of grammar and syntax appear in footnotes rather than in the text of the commentary. The first volume (1996) dealt with the primeval or early history of Genesis 1–11, and this volume begins with the call of Abram and follows the building of the nation of Israel through the death of Joseph in Egypt. Mathews argues that Genesis in its present form is a cohesive unit that shows thoughtful order and a self-consistent theology. “Essentially, there is one mind that has shaped the book, whom we believe to have been Moses.” The goals of this commentary are to describe the literary and theological contours of Genesis in light of the book’s overall structure. At the same time Mathews keeps an eye on the place of Genesis within the five books of Moses and within the OT canon.

The volume begins with a helpful introduction to issues related to this part of Genesis: history and historicity, religion of the patriarchs, themes and motifs, as well as a thorough outline for the book. Interspersed throughout the text of the commentary, Mathews provides two maps (Israel and Ancient Near East) as well as seven appendices: Abraham’s career and legacy, the patriarchs’ wealth, Melchizedek, faith and obedience, the sacrifice of Isaac, Edom and the Edomites, and Levirate marriage.

He begins every major section of the text by addressing key issues related to questions of composition and structure, in the first section providing brief responses to critical scholars. He consistently argues for a single author for Genesis (Moses) and critiques the various approaches that deny Mosaic authorship. The volume ends with a selected bibliography, selected subject index, person index, and selected Scripture index.

Although this commentary is not as technical as some, it represents a superb addition to commentaries available on the Book of Genesis. Mathews writes with clarity and depth and deals with most of the major exegetical issues in each passage he considers. There is no doubt that Mathews’ two volumes would be one of the first commentaries for which this reviewer will reach when working in Genesis.