1 Kings: For the Person in the Pew (A Review)

Jim West
Photo courtesy of Joel Watts and Facebook. 🙂

Jim West (ThD; Professor of Biblical Studies at the Quartz Hill School of Theology) has written an easily read commentary on the entirety of the Old Testament of which I have reviewed his commentary on 1 Kings. West has proven himself to be a capable scholar of the ancient Near East, but more importantly of the texts of Scripture and as a preacher of said texts. He has written extensively on Scripture (including this commentary series covering the entirety of the Bible) and is perhaps one of the foremost and most prolific of bibliobloggers today. West shows considerable concern for the average church goer in his writing of this commentary both in the use of language, brevity and pastoral injunctions.

the-person-the-pew-commentary-series

West here offers some of the most concise and on-point comments of any commentary I’ve read on 1 Kings. He writes with the skill of an artisan even as he limits his own comments to a minimum. Where he becomes prosaic is in the quoting of other commentaries (sometimes at length), but even more so in his not to be missed excurses (on such topics as suicide and theodicy) which offer delectables neatly prepared for consumption to those wanting more.

Several of the features which make this volume less helpful would firstly include the choice of translation (the RV) which is all but out of use by the Church and uses unhelpfully antiquated language. While West claims it is perhaps “one of the best ever produced” this offers little consolation to the contemporary reader in the pew who neither is likely to use it or to understand its language (and if they prefer such dated language likely already prefer the KJV).

Several other features which would greatly benefit this series: listing the excurses on the table of contents page, including a bit more detail in the introduction, and indicating the chapter being discussed somewhere on the page. The introduction at least offers a very basic indication of West’s ideas about the text, but could perhaps use some further boiling down of the overall theological themes of 2 Kings. On passage number citations, if one stops reading and then takes it up again it takes some searching to find the correct chapter/passage.

One final lamentable feature of this series: West opts too often to refer to deity as “God” even when the very point being made is to be made by using the divine name YHWH (Yahweh, or even as his translation of choice has it: LORD). This seems to be all to common a mistake (and not a trifling one) in commentaries of all varieties. While this may be missed by many readers “in the pew” it continues to validate notions of the generic sense of “God” rather than specifically the God of Israel, YHWH, who makes and keeps covenant by that name and whom the writers are specific to point to by that name. A point which he seems to understand when he points clearly to Yahweh as God on pages 122-123.

On page 117, West improperly states that there would be no more raising of the dead after Elijah until the time of Jesus. Though he must have written the commentary covering 2 Kings 4 where one encounters Elisha raising the Shunnamite’s son.

Overall, West is to be commended for producing among the most readable commentaries on 1 Kings and thus deserving of a wider readership. His work highlights throughout its pages many key ideas and could likely inspire further reflection upon the text proper. One cannot but help to hear the word of a preacher speaking as a prophet of the LORD and calling the community to faithful obedience in the voice of Jim West’s many comments. May this commentary bear fruit in the Church.

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5 thoughts on “1 Kings: For the Person in the Pew (A Review)

  1. Thanks for your considered and considerate review. I appreciate that you (and everyone else probably) would do a few things differently and that’s perfectly fine of course.

    Regarding the p. 117 issue- you’re overlooking the fact that the Elisha cycle duplicates the miracles of Elijah for various reasons. That point is made in 2 Kings. The death-raising of Elijah is storified in Elisha, so there was, in fact, just one such ‘resurrection’.

    Nonetheless, thanks!

  2. Reblogged this on Zwinglius Redivivus and commented:
    To which I replied

    Thanks for your considered and considerate review. I appreciate that you (and everyone else probably) would do a few things differently and that’s perfectly fine of course.

    Regarding the p. 117 issue- you’re overlooking the fact that the Elisha cycle duplicates the miracles of Elijah for various reasons. That point is made in 2 Kings. The death-raising of Elijah is storified in Elisha, so there was, in fact, just one such ‘resurrection’.

    Nonetheless, thanks!

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