1 and 2 Samuel (TOTC) by V. Philips Long

book samuel

Can you imagine the task that you would have before you if you were charged to write a commentary on a portion of scripture the length of both books of Samuel and stick to the typical parameters of the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series? To make it worse, you would have to allow within those constraints that your task was to delve into some of the most beloved stories of scripture. Did V. Phillips Long get the job done? Yes. How did he do it? Pithiness.

The trick would be to make every sentence count. There would be no room for fluff and every paragraph would have to carry quite a load. All of that you will find here. To make it even better, theological accuracy is not sacrificed and getting out such a myriad of details.

You will see the author’s pithiness in the introduction. To be honest, I found it ideal. Unlike many introductions, it sticks to the type of information that will actually do a Bible student much good. I noticed an honesty as well. For example, Long was willing to admit that there is no clear structure to the books of Samuel other than telling the story as it happened. The Lord, of course, develops the appropriate theology in the text. But this story is a history, a history that the Lord carried out in the persons of Samuel, Saul, and David. These stories need no help in being thrilling, only that we not miss the point of those stories.

I read some passages in this commentary that I thought are some of the more challenging to commentate on. Again the value of saying more with less was clear. I found myself nodding in agreement with the theological implications of the text brought out as well. The things in the story that needed explaining were well explained. The goal to illuminate more than the obvious was accomplished.

This is a fine commentary. Bible student, Sunday school teacher, or pastor we’ll find this a treat. That it is more economical than most helpful commentaries cements its value. You will enjoy this one.

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.

Grover Cleveland by Henry Graff (Presidential Bio. Series)


This biography on President Grover Cleveland in the American President series is typical for that series, but this volume is a little better than some others because of the author’s appreciation of the subject. Some I’ve read in this series have disdain for the president they write about and it colors the biography in a needlessly negative direction. Perhaps part of the this work is positive was the author’s determination to make Cleveland the progressive of a mostly Republican era. That is a stretch to be sure, but he was at least the only Democrat. In a few places, I thought the author really overworked that dubious connection. Still, I feel I know Cleveland from reading this book. It’s short length was perfect in my opinion for this lesser-known president.

Cleveland was a simple, fairly unassuming president. He was straight-laced, committed to work, had far more diligence than passion, and appears to be a generally likable person. To me, that almost seems to be a trend among a stretch of presidents in this time period. He was clearly a man of principle, though not necessarily one of vision. He was true to his word and possessed distinct integrity. He was a weak communicator, an average public speaker, and has no particular claim to fame other than the fact that he is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms. Still, his demeanor and service matched the times in which he served. He had no scandal, unless you count marrying a much younger woman while president. What I read here, makes it sound harmless enough. I personally feel that Cleveland is a man that you would be comfortable to sit down and talk to.

In these reviews of the presidents, I’ve been taking the additional task of particularly noting the religious beliefs of the president. Cleveland was raised in a pastor’s home and carried that influence throughout his life. The author of this biography did not find it interesting enough to tell us Cleveland’s personal convictions about Christ, but I read between the lines and suspect Cleveland was a believer.

Again, Cleveland was in that stretch of presidents between Grant and Teddy Roosevelt that are mostly unknown to us, but he seemed the caliber of most of them and better than a few of them. Garfield had great potential and McKinley was possibly the best of the bunch, but Cleveland was a fine man who made a competent but perhaps average president.

Romans (KEL) by John Harvey

book romans

I’ll be honest. When I first thumbed through this book, I wasn’t impressed at all. It looked too brief for an exegetical commentary. Then I started digging into it and I became more and more impressed. First, we need not forget that some commentaries are written for pastors or serious Bible students rather than scholars. That is the case here. Come to think of it, there isn’t exactly a shortage of those voluminous exegetical works on Romans! Second, there’s much to be said for writing succinctly with clarity. That is clearly present in this work. At times he says as many meaningful things in a paragraph that some of those larger commentaries would need 10 pages to say.

The Introduction was actually enjoyable to read. He made historical background actually interesting to read. When he delved into deeper, more scholarly issues, he gave a number of particularly helpful charts to synthesize his presentation. I give him kudos for all of them.

The commentary was a solid work. There were a few instances where Romans has become controversial that he did not say as much as many other writers. He usually outlined the various viewpoints, but didn’t seem to want to bog down in making that what his work was known for. He never lost his focus on pastors and Bible students. In some ways, the commentary reminded me of one of the better NAC volumes. In any event, this is a commentary worth having.

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.

Joshua, Judges, Ruth (RCS), edited by N. Scott Amos

book jj rurh

This latest volume of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture equals its predecessors in laying bear the contributions of the Reformation Era to the respective area of scripture. Somehow, at least in my opinion, this volume was a little more fun. Perhaps it is because the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth are at once unique and even controversial. What you will soon see is that passages that invite all sorts of wrestling among students had the same grappling with a text in the days of the Reformation. Particularly, some of those wild stories in the latter part of the Book of Judges prove for interpreters to run circles in trying to form an interpretation. From what I can see, we have not improved upon their commentating despite our decades of exegetical work.

Mr. Amos did a good job in the Introduction in describing his research. You will likely find answers to questions you will later have, like say, why are there fewer Anabaptist citations in this work compared to other RCS volumes. It’s simple if Mr. Amos is accurate. Very few Anabaptist authors tackled these books of the Bible. He lays out clearly what the Reformation had to offer in these three books from each strand of Reformation thinking.

The layout of this volume is identical to the others and Mr. Amos seems right at home in that setup. There are always many decisions to be made in what to put in and what to leave out, but I found many interesting contributions in what we find here. I enjoyed how he pointed out that whatever comments different Reformation personalities had about who wrote each of these books, that they had an overwhelming sense that the Holy Spirit was the ultimate author. I’m glad he didn’t scold these giants of biblical interpretation with modern gibberish.

This is a fine series that makes a distinct contribution and I find this one of the best books it has given us so far.

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.