In the recent spate of new releases in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT), we get this updated commentary on Numbers by Timothy Ashley. The first question, obviously, is what is different here from the original edition. Fortunately, he tells us right up front in the preface. First, he tries to take in a sampling if what’s been written in the last 25 years. Second, he changes a major earlier emphasis on arguing against the Documentary Hypothesis. Though he was on the right side of that issue, there could hardly be a more wasted labor than that of surveying the garbage can where that theory now resides. So this update has to be better!
For starters, this commentary has been rated in the top few on Numbers since it was released and the intervening years and releases of new commentaries did nothing to knock it off its perch. I’m convinced this update will keep it relevant and important for the next 20 years. The changes weren’t dramatic because its value was already established. The editors clearly made a wise choice in retaining Ashley.
The bibliography is quite large, though there aren’t as many post-1993 listings as you might have anticipated (where is Dennis Cole?). The Introduction is only 20 pages, but it does get sufficiently to the heart of the matter. Apparently, he prefers to discuss more issues in the commentary proper itself as that part is rather full. Structure gets short discussion, but it is not really debated as much as other books anyway. He still has an-depth discussion on authorship and composition that assumes sources and editing, but focuses on the final form of the text that he believes is authoritative. His section on theological themes looks at Numbers chronologically and well develops those themes. He is brief on his discussion of text and versions, but most of us would find little loss there.
It’s the commentary proper where this volume excels. The exegesis is masterful and top-flight. I couldn’t agree with his skepticism of the large numbers we find in this book, but otherwise there is all you’re looking for in a major commentary. In fact, the quality of the exegesis compensates for any criticism that you could level at this book. For that reason alone, the impressive exegesis, I must label this commentary 5-star all the way!
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.