Marvin A. Sweeney, an author who has written several major exegetical works, turns out this volume on First and Second Kings in the Old Testament Library (OTL) series. There seems to be a consensus that this volume is an improvement on the earlier volume on Kings in this series by John Gray that it replaced. I’ve noticed several positive reviews on this volume, and if you wonder how it compares to others in the series, I’d say it’s stronger on exegetical matters and weaker on theological ones. Just as the others in the series, though, it well expresses the viewpoint of the critical camp.
After a lengthy bibliography, Mr. Sweeney begins his Introduction by explaining the big picture of First and Second Kings being a narrative history of Israel and Judah. In presenting his historical views that a conservative reader like me could never agree with, he explains that he feels these books are more designed to tell us why Israel and Judah were exiled rather than to present with historical accuracy. He further explains that the people and the kings have failed to obey the Lord and His word, and have brought God’s hand against themselves. While I could easily believe that along with the historical accuracy of these books, there is no doubt that the explanation of what happened to Israel and Judah is in view in these books.
With a peculiar confidence, he reviews sources, or as he calls it, deuteronomistic history. He will trace that through Josianic, Hezekian, Jehu Dynastic, and Solomonic histories. While I couldn’t get into that sort of thinking, it’s there if that’s your cup of tea. He well explains the textual history of Kings by looking at the Masoretic version, Hebrew manuscripts from Qumran, the Septuagint version, Peshitta and Syriac versions, and even the Vulgate. Which version you favor also plays into how he explains the chronology of Kings. To my mind, he seems antagonistic to the Masoretic text and arrives at a chronology I couldn’t agree with. Still, he explains the common critical assumptions with aplomb.
In the commentary proper, he commentates mostly on the final form of the text. He does at times mention some of these issues regarding sources, but the forte of this volume is its rigorous exegesis. As I see it, this is the best volume to grab to get a clear presentation of the critical viewpoint on the books of First and Second Kings.
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