This new volume in the Old Testament Library (OTL) series replaces the old volume by J. Alberto Soggin. Niditch has improved on that older entry. I always turn to this series to grasp the critical viewpoint and to get some theology that you just don’t get in other places. This volume generally falls within the expectations of the series yet would not necessarily be my favorite. In the plus column, the book is well-written and it’s easy to follow the author’s train of thought, but on the negative side it pushes the envelope too far in some places and is too brief in others.
There’s a lengthy bibliography provided at the beginning of the book. The commentary section is substandard and only lists seven titles. On the other hand, the rest of the bibliography is quite thorough.
The Introduction begins by describing the Book of Judges as epic-style literature. There’s a discussion of the office of a judge that is quite interesting. Folklorist insights calling them epic heroes, social bandits, etc., are a little much for me. There’s discussion of the war and fighting in the Book of Judges, the history of the Book of Judges (the author at least sees the material as “meaningful” to the time of the Kings). I had trouble accepting the redaction history that was given as well as some of the discussion about genre. The discussion of the voice of the theologian and the humanist gave some food for thought. The section called texture provided some helpful structural insights. There seemed to be, however, an over-emphasis on the oral nature of the material in the text-critical section.
Where the commentary wasn’t too brief, there were some interesting observations in the commentary proper. At times there’s too much of a feminist angle, but at other times you will find some real help. The exegetical work is sufficient within the framework of the author’s outlook.
Critical scholarship is usually never too kind to the book of Judges. In any event, this book is probably as good as any in understanding a critical approach to the book. While not the equal of some in the series, it does have value.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.