2 Kings: The Power and the Fury
By Dale Ralph Davis
: Christian Focus
Reviewed by Dr. Keith Essex
17.2 (Fall 2006) : 236-237
In 1988, Baker Book House published No Falling Words: Expositions of the Book of Joshua by Dale Ralph Davis as the introductory volume in the series Expositor’s Guide to the [OT] Historical Books. The stated purpose of Davis, a Presbyterian pastor and former OT professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, was “to provide a model of what a pastor can do in biblical study if he will sweat over the Hebrew text and assume the text as we have it was meant to be bread from God for his people” (7). Davis fulfilled this purpose superbly in his volume on Joshua. Volumes on Judges (1990) and 1 Samuel (1994) by Davis followed under the Baker imprint. However, after the publication of one more volume on Ruth and Esther by other authors (1995), Baker discontinued the series. Fortunately for biblical expositors, Christian Focus republished the three volumes by Davis discontinued by Baker and have allowed him to complete the three additional volumes on 2 Samuel (1999), 1 Kings (2002), and now 2 Kings (2005). Appreciative readers echo the words of the author of this work on 2 Kings, “I am especially thankful to the kind folks at Christian Focus, who picked up an ‘orphaned series’ halfway through” (9).
Readers of the previous five volumes by Davis will not be disappointed as they read 2 Kings. All of the strengths of the proceeding expositions reappear in this work. First and foremost, the author concentrates on explaining and applying the biblical text; significant manuscript, lexical, syntactical, historical, and geographical issues are dealt with in footnotes. The footnotes themselves cite good sources and expose the reader to the richness of traditional and contemporary scholarship on 2 Kings. The main text reproduces the exposition to be communicated to the audience. The exposition consistently blends sound exegesis, theological substance, and sound application. Second, the writer anchors the expositional outline to the structure of the biblical text and clearly demonstrates the connection to his readers. Third, the biblical text is explained with vividness and crispness. Fourth, the theological principles observed in a text are precisely articulated. Fifth, apt illustrations from church history, military history, and the writer’s own experiences in particular are sprinkled throughout the expositions. Sixth, the author’s wit surfaces continually in the writing. For example, one chapter is entitled “The Peril of Church Suppers” (71) and another “W hen God Gave a Preacher the Axe” (101).
Davis is also a master of variety. There is no dull monotony in the thirty expositions found in this work. The outlining at times is descriptive and at other times interpretive. There is also variety in the use of third person and second person in the outlines. Some chapters begin with a lengthy introduction before the exposition, while others delve right into an exposition of the text. In each chapter, Davis is concerned to communicate what the text of 2 Kings is revealing about the character of God and the necessary response of His people. Many times there will be an explicit or implicit connection between the OT text and the NT revelation concerning Jesus, but some of the expositions are content to remain in the OT and give a Yahweh-centered application to the readers.
Today, there is a renewed emphasis on the preaching of OT narrative in evangelical circles (see the review of Steven D. Mathewson’s The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative below). The six volumes of Ralph Dale Davis, of which 2 Kings: The Power and the Fury is the culmination, are excellent guides for the contemporary expositor as he preaches from the “Former Prophets.” Davis has laid an excellent foundation; may many biblical expositors build upon his work as they preach OT narrative.