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Recommended Old Testament Commentaries

Jul 14, 2010

With 39 Old Testament books, and numerous new commentaries pouring off the press each year, it is hard to keep up with the latest and the best. But that I have tried to do. Many hundreds of OT commentaries are around, but here I list only a handful for each OT book.

They feature my biases of course. Being an evangelical Protestant, most of the volumes listed here reflect that stance. And these are mostly newer volumes as well. In my introductory piece I explain my rational for choosing commentaries.

Here I simply list what I regard to be some of the better academic and scholarly works on the OT. If you read just one from each OT book, you will know a fair amount. If you read all four or five your learning on these volumes will be very extensive indeed.

But they need to be supplemented of course by direct Bible reading and study, as well as by some of the more devotional and expository commentaries. Happy reading!

Genesis
Hamilton, Victor – Genesis, 2 vols. (NICOT)
Matthews, Kenneth – Genesis, 2 vols. (NAC)
Waltke, Bruce – Genesis: A Commentary
Walton, John – Genesis (NIVAC)
Wenham, Gordon – Genesis, 2 vols. (WBC)

Exodus
Childs, Brevard – The Book of Exodus (OTL)
Durham, John – Exodus (WBC)
Enns, Peter – Exodus (NIVAC)
Stuart, Douglas – Exodus (NAC)

Leviticus
Gane, Roy – Leviticus, Numbers (NIVAC)
Harrison, R.K. – Leviticus (TOTC)
Hartley, John – Leviticus (WBC)
Ross, Allen – Holiness to the Lord: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus
Wenham, Gordon – Leviticus (NICOT)

Numbers
Ashley, Timothy – The Book of Numbers (NICOT)
Brown, Raymond – The Message of Numbers (BST)
Cole, Dennis – Numbers (NAC)
Wenham, Gordon – Numbers (TOTC)

Deuteronomy
Christensen, Duane – Deuteronomy, 2 vols. (WBC)
Craigie, P.C. – Book of Deuteronomy (NICOT)
McConville, J.G. – Deuteronomy (AOTC)
Merrill, Eugene – Deuteronomy (NAC)
Wright, Christopher – Deuteronomy (NIBC)

Joshua
Butler, Trent – Joshua (WBC)
Hess, Richard – Joshua (TOTC)
Howard, David – Joshua (NAC)
Woudstra, Marten – Book of Joshua (NIC)

Judges
Block, Daniel – Judges, Ruth (NAC)
Butler, Trent – Judges (WBC)
Cundall, Arthur/Leon Morris – Judges & Ruth (TOTC)
Younger, K. Lawson – Judges/Ruth (NIVAC)

Ruth
Atkinson, David – The Message of Ruth (BST)
Bush, Frederic – Ruth/Esther (WBC)
Campbell, Edward – Ruth (AB)
Hubbard, Robert – The Book of Ruth (NICOT)

1&2 Samuel
Arnold, Bill – 1&2 Samuel (NIVAC)
Firth, David – 1&2 Samuel (AOTC)
Klein, Ralph – 1 Samuel (WBC)
Tsumura, David – The First Book of Samuel (NICOT)
Youngblood, Ronald – 1,2 Samuel (EBC)

1&2 Kings
Hobbs, T.R. – 2 Kings (WBC)
House, Paul – 1,2 Kings (NAC)
Konkel, August – 1&2 Kings (NIVAC)
Provan, Iain – 1,2 Kings (NIBC)
Wiseman, Donald – 1,2 Kings (TOTC)

1&2 Chronicles
Braun, Roddy – 1 Chronicles (WBC)
Dillard, Raymond – 2 Chronicles (WBC)
Hill, Andrew – 1&2 Chronicles (NIVAC)
Selman, Martin – 1,2 Chronicles, 2 vols. (TOTC)
Wilcock, Michael – The Message of Chronicles (BST)

Ezra
Fensham, F. Charles – The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah (NICOT)
Kidner, Derek – Ezra & Nehemiah (TOTC)
Levering, Matthew – Ezra, Nehemiah (BTCB)
Williamson, H.G.M. – Ezra, Nehemiah (WBC)

Nehemiah
Fensham, F. Charles – The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah (NICOT)
Kidner, Derek – Ezra & Nehemiah (TOTC)
Levering, Matthew – Ezra, Nehemiah (BTCB)
Williamson, H.G.M. – Ezra, Nehemiah (WBC)

Esther
Baldwin, Joyce – Esther (TOTC)
Bush, Frederic – Ruth/Esther (WBC)
Jobes, Karen – Esther (NIVAC)

Job
Alden, Robert – Job (NAC)
Andersen, Francis – Job (TOTC)
Clines, David – Job, 3 vols. (WBC)
Hartley, John – The Book of Job (NICOT)
Wilson, Gerald – Job (NIBC)

Psalms
Goldingay, John – Psalms, 3 vols. (BCOTWP)
Kidner, Derek – Psalms, 2 vols. (TOTC)
Tate, Marvin – Psalms 51-100 (WBC)
VanGemeren, Willem – Psalms (EBC)
Wilson, Gerald – Psalms, vol. 1 (NIVAC)

Proverbs
Koptak, Paul – Proverbs (NIVAC)
Longman, Tremper – Proverbs (BCOTWP)
Murphy, Roland – Proverbs (WBC)
Ross, Allen – Proverbs (EBC)
Waltke, Bruce – Proverbs, 2 vols. (NICOT)

Ecclesiastes
Bartholomew, Craig – Ecclesiastes (BCOTWP)
Hubbard, David – Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (MTOT)
Kidner, Derek – Message of Ecclesiastes (BST)
Longman, Tremper – Ecclesiastes (NICOT)

Song of Songs
Garrett, Duane/Paul House – Song of Songs/Lamentations (WBC)
Gledhill, Tom – The Message of the Song of Songs (BST)
Hess, Richard – Song of Songs (BCOTWP)
Hubbard, David – Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (MTOT)
Longman, Tremper – Song of Songs (NICOT)

Isaiah
Goldingay, John – Isaiah (NIBC)
Motyer, Alec – The Prophecy of Isaiah
Oswalt, John – The Book of Isaiah, 2 vols. (NICOT)
Smith, Gary – Isaiah, 2 vols. (NAC)
Watts, John – Isaiah, 2 vols. (WBC)

Jeremiah
Craigie Peter/Page Kelley/Joel Drinkard – Jeremiah 1-25 (WBC)
Dearman, J. Andrew – Jeremiah/Lamentations (NIVAC)
Harrison, R.K. – Jeremiah & Lamentations (TOTC)
Keown, Gerald/Pamela Scalise/Thomas Smothers – Jeremiah 26-52 (WBC)
Thompson, J.A. – Book of Jeremiah (NICOT)

Lamentations
Dearman, J. Andrew – Jeremiah/Lamentations (NIVAC)
Dobbs-Allsopp, F.W. – Lamentations (Interp)
Garrett, Duane/Paul House – Song of Songs/Lamentations (WBC)
Harrison, R.K. – Jeremiah & Lamentations (TOTC)
Provan, Iain – Lamentations (NCBC)

Ezekiel
Allen, Leslie – Ezekiel, 2 vols. ((WBC)
Block, Daniel – The Book of Ezekiel, 2 vols. (NICOT)
Duguid, Iain – Ezekiel (NIVAC)
Stuart, Douglas – Ezekiel (MTOT)

Daniel
Baldwin, Joyce – Daniel (TOTC)
Goldingay, John – Daniel (WBC)
Longman, Tremper – Daniel (NIVAC)
Lucas, Ernest – Daniel (AOTC)

Hosea
Andersen, Francis/David Freedman – Hosea (AB)
Dearman, J. Andrew – Hosea (NICOT)
Garrett, Duane – Hosea, Joel (NAC)
Hubbard, David – Hosea (TOTC)
McComiskey, Thomas – Hosea, The Minor Prophets, vol. 1
Stuart, Douglas – Hosea – Jonah (WBC)

Joel
Allen, Leslie – Joel, Obadiah, Jonah & Micah (NICOT)
Dillard, Raymond – Joel, The Minor Prophets, vol. 1
Garrett, Duane – Hosea, Joel (NAC)
Hubbard, David – Joel & Amos (TOTC)
Stuart, Douglas – Hosea – Jonah (WBC)

Amos
Hubbard, David – Joel & Amos (TOTC)
McComiskey, Thomas – Amos (EBC)
Mays, James – Amos (OTL)
Smith, Gary – Hosea/Amos/Micah (NIVAC)
Stuart, Douglas – Hosea – Jonah (WBC)

Obadiah
Allen, Leslie – Joel, Obadiah, Jonah & Micah (NICOT)
Baker, David/Desmond Alexander/Bruce Waltke – Obadiah, Jonah, Micah (TOTC)
Niehaus, Jeffrey – Obadiah, The Minor Prophets, vol. 3
Stuart, Douglas – Hosea – Jonah (WBC)

Jonah
Baker, David/Desmond Alexander/Bruce Waltke – Obadiah, Jonah, Micah (TOTC)
Baldwin, Joyce – Jonah, The Minor Prophets, vol. 2
Nixon, Rosemary – The Message of Jonah (BST)
Stuart, Douglas – Hosea – Jonah (WBC)

Micah
Allen, Leslie – Joel, Obadiah, Jonah & Micah (NICOT)
Andersen, Francis/David Freedman – Micah (AB)
McComiskey, Thomas – Micah (EBC)
Waltke, Bruce – A Commentary on Micah

Nahum
Baker, David – Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (TOTC)
Kaiser, Walter – Micah – Malachi (MTOT)
Longman, Tremper – Nahum, The Minor Prophets, vol. 3
Robertson, O. Palmer – Nahum, Habak and Zeph (NICOT)

Habakkuk
Andersen, Francis – Habakkuk (AB)
Bailey, Waylon – Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (NAC)
Baker, David – Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (TOTC)
Robertson, O. Palmer – Nahum, Habak and Zeph (NICOT)

Zephaniah
Baker, David – Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (TOTC)
Kaiser, Walter – Micah – Malachi (MTOT)
Motyer, Alec – Zephaniah, The Minor Prophets, vol. 3
Robertson, O. Palmer – Nahum, Habak and Zeph (NIC)

Haggai
Baldwin, Joyce – Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (TOTC)
Boda, Mark – Haggai, Zechariah (NIVAC)
Kaiser, Walter – Micah – Malachi (MTOT)
Verhoef, Pieter – The Books of Haggai and Malachi (NICOT)

Zechariah
Baldwin, Joyce – Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (TOTC)
Boda, Mark – Haggai, Zechariah (NIVAC)
Kaiser, Walter – Micah – Malachi (MTOT)
McComiskey, Thomas – Zechariah, The Minor Prophets, vol. 3

Malachi
Baldwin, Joyce – Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (TOTC)
Hill, Andrew – Malachi (AB)
Kaiser, Walter – Micah – Malachi (MTOT)
Stuart, Douglas – Malachi, The Minor Prophets, vol. 3

For the NT see here: billmuehlenberg.com/2010/07/13/recommended-new-testament-commentaries/

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20 Responses to Recommended Old Testament Commentaries

  • There are two books that have been of immeasurable importance in my reading, particular of prophecy, which deserve a mention alongside a list such as this.
    Although they are not so rigorous in the sense of recent scholarship, they older, but nevertheless, outstanding works:

    1) Tregelles, Samuel Prideaux: “Remarks on the Prophetic visions in the book of Daniel”. It was out of print for many years, yet recently the 1923 Edition (First pub. 1852) has appeared in its original form: http://www.amazon.com/Remarks-Prophetic-Visions-Book-Daniel/dp/1144747600/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1279102362&sr=8-17"

    2) Baron, David: "Zechariah: A Commentary on his visions and prophecies". This book, written by a converted Orthodox Jew, is profoundly insightful. Baron founded the "Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel" in London and published this commentary in 1918. Kregel have an edition in print, as do Keren Ahvah Meshihit in Jerusalem.

    Despite being dated works, the language, the profound spiritual insight, the respect for Scripture and the excellent scholarship, demand they be re-read today.

    Blessings
    Matt Harris

  • Thanks Matt

    I have obviously gone for newer commentaries here, so it is good to get a wider selection. But given that you are the only one to comment here thus far (compared to the 40 comments under my NT list), this perhaps tells us something about where most believers put their emphasis today.

    Obviously the NT is a ‘Christian’ book, but Christians in fact believe that all 66 books are part of the Christian Bible. So it seems that much more needs to be done to interest Christians in the other half of their Bible.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Okay
    Yes. I like Oswalt for Isaiah. Its good he finished off Isaiah recently, and took a swing at people who want to chop Isaiah up into multiple books and authors.

    Haven’t spent the money to by too many OT commentaries yet – I try to steal them from my Dad.
    Malcolm Davey

  • Thanks Malcolm

    Great to find another OT fan, although I may need to remind you about the Eighth Commandment!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I whole-heartedly agree with you here. In earnest, I think that this change must come from the pulpit. However, in an age when feel-good anecdotal preaching is the norm, and expositional preaching is all but gone, it is genuinely surprising that people read NT commentaries at all.

    To understand the NT Sitz im Leben & especially the epistles of Paul, one must be steeped in an understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures, just as he was. You simply cannot understand 2 Cor 2-3 without a deep understanding of Ex. 32-34.

    Earlier this year Koorong were throwing out TOTC commentaries for $5. Among others I bought the Wenham (who is always good) ‘Numbers’ and the Harrison ‘Lev’; really good reads.

    Walton’s Genesis is in my next shopping cart purchase. Have you read his newish book on Genesis 1?

    Blessings
    Matt Harris

  • Thanks Matt

    I am with you, once again. As to expository preaching, or the lack of it in most modern evangelical churches, one of my favourite OT profs, Walter Kaiser, used to say: “I preach a topical sermon once every five years – then repent of it immediately”.

    As to the Tyndale comms at Koorong going for a song, they are still available. By all means they should all be snatched up. Unfortunately for me, I already own all the TOTC and TNTC commentaries! So no savings there for me I am afraid.

    And yes I do have Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. I like Walton, and this is an innovative look at some very contentious issues, and not everyone will be pleased with his directions. But I give him credit for trying. He has a lot of good stuff to say, although not all will like his take on the days of creation or his understanding of the age of the earth, etc.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Bill,

    Do you have any thoughts on Old Testament comment from R. J. Rushdoony? I suppose the Institutes of Biblical Law is one of his better known works – focusing on commentary/exposition of the Old Testament Law, particularly the ten commandments and the case law as an exposition of the principles in the commandments. He’s also got 5 commentaries on the pentateuch – although they are not especially rigorous.

    Blessings,
    Isaac Overton
    Canberra, AUST

  • Thanks Isaac

    I have discussed theonomy elsewhere, but a short comment cannot do it justice, and an entire article would just scratch the surface. Many issues have to be dealt with, not least of which is the relationship between the Testaments, and how much continues and how much is discontinued.

    The importance of the law is certainly brought home to us by the theonomists, but whether they are on the right track is a matter of much debate.

    As to commentaries, they should really exist to help determine the meaning of the text, and not just be used to push an agenda, even if a helpful agenda. It seems the OT comms by Rushdoony and North may at times fall into the latter category more so than the former. But we may have to agree to disagree here.

    (BTW, I do have 11 of Rushdoony’s books and 9 of North’s. along with many other theonomist writers, so I do have a good grasp of where they are coming from, and I appreciate a fair mount of it.)

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • One advantage of the older commentaries on Genesis, e.g. by the Church Fathers and Reformers, is that they didn’t capitulated to geological uniformitarianism and evolutionary biology. All the above ones that I’ve checked have abjectly done this, and butchered the text to make it fit.

    Waltke is particularly bad, and was recently resigned his position at Reformed Theological Seminary after urging Christians to accept evolution from goo to you via the zoo. See Doug Wilson’s take on this.

    Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One also has some bizarre eisegesis, claiming that Genesis 1 is not about creation but assigning function to the already-created material before taking up residence in it as His temple. He makes it clear that he is trying to appease the evolutionists: to the question “Where do the dinosaurs and fossil Homo specimens fit in?” he answers, “these creatures could be part of the prefunctional cosmos—part of the long stage of development that I would include in the material phase… The anthropological specimens would not be viewed as humans in the image of God. They would not be assessed morally (any more than an animal would), and they were subject to death as any animal was” (p. 169). Furthermore, he assert, “In the interpretation of the text that I have offered, very little found in evolutionary theory would be objectionable” (p. 170) and “Biological evolution is capable of giving us insight into God’s creative work” (p. 138).

    Jonathan Sarfati, USA

  • All I can say to those whose emphasis is on the New Testament alone is “How much you miss!!” I love the way the NT unfolds with deeper meaning with the underpinning of the OT. How can they truly appreciate the meaning of the New Testament if they aren’t interested in or can’t understand why the Old Testament references are liberally scattered through it?? I can’t see how one can fully appreciate the character of Jesus without the background of the servant passages in Isaiah – some of my favourites – or the holiness of God without the descriptive passages of the temple? No wonder people dumb down God and don’t have a grasp on how holy He is. I find it thrilling when I read the OT and come across all those prophecies that we recognise as being fulfilled in the New Testament.
    Kerry Letheby

  • Quite right Kerry. As Augustine put it, “The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed.” Or, “the New is in the Old contained, the Old is in the New explained”.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Scrolling through your list Bill, I realise I do not own any of the commentaries you mention. I am an avid student of both the Old and New Testaments and for commentaries I rely on Henry M Morris and H H Halley. I appreciate Jonathan Sarfati’s comments. I’m going to ring Koorong. Thanks for the tip.
    Dawn McGregor

  • Matt, Great to see someone mention Tregelles and especially David Barron the converted Jew. Another great commentator (Epistle to the Hebrews) in the same line was Adolf Saphir (1831-1891), a Hungarian Jew converted to Christ and a favorite of Spurgeon. It was said of him he preached Jesus from Genesis to Revelation.
    Just wish I had time to read some of the commentaries Bill and the others mentions. But with age catching up, a relative young family, home schooling and still working in my trade there just isn’t enough time. Presently working my way thru Jonathan Sarfarti’s brilliant The greatest Hoax on Earth, the eye opening The Islamic AntiChrist by Joel Richardson, and Son Of Hamas by Mosab Hassan Yousef.
    Rob Withall

  • Hello Bill. I stumbled upon your lists of commentaries and believe you are a discerning judge. I am a former pastor who’s been involved in theological education in Africa for about 14 years. Presently I teach OT at a grad school in Nairobi. It was gratifying to see how often our lists agree. (But I’m not giving myself a roundabout compliment, that I’m a “discerning judge.”)
    John F. Evans

  • Thanks John

    Hey it sounds to me that you are a discerning judge!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks for these very helpful recommendations. Lots of my favourites on there already. I would suggest adding Christopher Wright on Ezekiel in the BST series, Dale Ralph Davis on any of the historical books (Focus on the Bible Series), and I’m very much enjoying Leithart on 1 & 2 Kings for the Brazos series at the moment.
    Mark Heath

  • Thanks Mark

    Yes I would be happy to include Wright on Ezekiel. But I must confess I don’t have any of the Davis volumes, so I have not been in a position to recommend them.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • For Isaiah I would include Barry Webb’s “The Message of Isaiah” in the Bible Speaks Today series. It is first class, especially for “new” readers: it includes sage applications with sound scholarship. I particularly like his division of the book into seven sections (p 31): this seems more natural and less artificial than other proposed constructions.
    David Pickering

  • Thanks David

    Yes, like other volumes in the BST series, it is a nice introductory commentary for those who want a good overview without too much extra detail. I would not use it as my first choice, however, simply because Isaiah is such a large book (there are 66 chapters to be dealt with) and his 250-page volume therefore cannot even devote 4 pages per chapter. The two-volume works by Oswalt and Smith (both coming to around 1500 pages) can do much more justice to all the depth and complexities of a book like Isaiah.

    But Webb is quite good for an introductory text, as would be Goldingay in the NIBC series, or Motyer in the TOTC series. (The Motyer volume I mention above is a different volume, coming to around 550 pages, while his TOTC volume is just 400 pages.) These three are of course all much cheaper, and take up far less shelf space, which are genuine considerations! But yes Webb is well worth grabbing.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Long after this article, I wrote a commentary on Genesis 1–11, The Genesis Account (2015), already in its second edition.

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