NIV Compact Bible Commentary

By John Sailhamer
Grand Rapids : Zondervan (1994). 608 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Keith Essex
7.1 (Spring 1996) : 139-140

"The purpose of the commentary is . . . to show how the Bible fits together and how the parts fit the whole" (7). This is how John Sailhamer, formerly Professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and presently Scholar in Residence at Northwestern College, describes his purpose in writing this new commentary. His desire is that the reader of the Bible see the great themes in the Bible and how these themes develop throughout the whole of the Scriptures. Although this commentary uses the New International Version as its basis for comments, the author substitutes his own translations when he deems it necessary.

Sailhamer never explicitly states what he thinks the unifying theme of the Bible is. However, his emphasis seems to be that the theme that unites the Scriptures is "the universal reign of the future Davidic king whom the Old Testament anticipates and the New Testament identifies as Jesus Christ." From Genesis to Revelation, Sailhamer continually speaks of the coming kingdom. For example, when commenting on Genesis 12, he states, "The way of life and blessing . . . is now marked by Abram and his seed. . . . This one seed who is to come to whom the right of kingship belongs, will be the `lion of the tribe of Judah' (cf. [Gen.] 49:9)" (25). Concerning the book of Daniel, he affirms, "The eternal Davidic kingdom is pictured as a divine kingdom that rules over all the earth and puts an end to the kingdoms of humankind" (241). At his first advent, "Jesus came to establish the kingdom promised in the OT prophetic literature . . . a visible, universal rule of the Messiah" (444). And at his second advent, in fulfillment of Daniel 7, Jesus will bring "first judgment, then the kingdom" (598). Sailhamer subsumes all the other themes of the Bible (e.g., blessing, life, seed, covenants, land, judgments, salvation) under the dominant theme of Jesus and his coming kingdom.

One of the strengths of this compact commentary is the fact that it does concentrate on the "big picture." However, at times its brevity leaves the reader wishing for a fuller explanation of some statements. For this reviewer, a further clarification of the relationship between the kingdom and the church would have been helpful. Sailhamer states that because Israel rejected the kingdom at Christ's first coming, "that kingdom . . . would begin in a small, almost imperceptible, form" (444). This was something that was not a part of the OT view. During this age, the church equals the kingdom of God. "The establishment of the church and the spread of the Gospel is intended to be understood as the beginning of the reign of the kingdom of God" (497). The kingdom has been established, but not yet restored to Israel. He does not explain how the church is the kingdom. However, he does affirm the pretribulational rapture of the church (600) and the future establishment of Christ's earthly kingdom (593).

A number of jarring errors in presentation mar the excellence of this commentary's content. Foremost among these are many mistakes in the outlines which accompany the text. For instance, point "A" on p. 11 needs correcting to "(1:1-2:24)" (11). The discussion of Esther needs a point "D" for the section "5:9-9:17" (310). In 2 Corinthians, division "III" should read "(2:14-9:15)" (540). Many more of such mistakes appear. Further, on p. 356, the author refers to a unit on "Wisdom Literature." The commentary has no such unit. Hopefully, subsequent editions will correct these errors and others.

In spite of these shortcomings, the commentary will help the reader get a good grasp of the "big picture" of the Bible. A small investment will return rich dividends.