K:JNWTS  30/1 (May 2015):23-24

Book Review

Barry G. Webb, The Book of Judges. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2012. 575pp. Cloth. ISBN: 978-0-8028-2628-2. $50.

This is a recent offering in the NICOT (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) and arrives with the ‘soft higher criticism” that we now expect from modern evangelicals. Webb does affirm the early date of the Exodus (1447/46 B.C.) as well as the literal 300-year era of the Judges mentioned in the Jephthah narrative (Jdg 11:26). But he cannot resist attributing portions of the text to post-monarchical crises, either that of Jeroboam I (931-910 B.C.), or the deportation of the Danites by Tiglath-Pileser III (734 B.C.) (p. 420)—all this in spite of numerous statements in the book of Judges that “there was no king in the land” (i.e., the text records pre-monarchical conditions and events).

Nor can he resist the Deuteronomic origin of sections the book (i.e., that it arises from Josiah’s 621 B.C. reform, when a gaggle of Jewish priests fabricated/invented the book of Deuteronomy, hid it in the garbage heaps of the Temple, then (re)discovered it to great applause and (falsely) revered it as the work of the ‘mythical’ Moses) (see his remarks on chapters 17-21 of Judges). Webb does venture a narrative approach to the book. While his story analysis is often tepid and lacks pizazz, nonetheless there are some hints for moving the exegesis in the direction of genuine narrative theologians such as J. P. Fokkelman and Robert Alter (whom he cites, but does not show he has mastered) or proficients of the method on the NT side of the canon (e.g., Alan Culpepper, Jack Kingsbury, Charles Talbert). The patient reader may be stimulated by our author so as to go beyond him and even deeper than his oft superficial and obvious exegesis.

Nor is there much Christocentric exploration of a book which falls under our Lord’s own exposition—cf. Luke 24:44. If our Savior indicated the (Former) Prophets witnessed of him, it behooves the genuine evangelical to seek the Savior revealed in the ancient text—Judges included. John Milton’s brilliant Samson Agonistes is more stimulating in this regard than Webb. (Our author cites Milton, but again misses the power of the drama of the “eyeless” slave of Gaza and its eschatological projection a la Heb 11:1 and 32.) Beside Milton, we may suggest Joseph Hall’s Contemplations on the Old Testament for provocative Christ-oriented insights.

Webb surveys recent scholarship on the book (35-53) and confesses his agreement with Daniel Block on the Christian canonical approach to the work. But, as noted above, he does not penetrate the implications and results of such an approach so as to draw the reader into the life and glory of the Lord Jesus. He does, however, have a fetish for the bizarre—a good example of which is his bringing the Lord’s supper into Deborah and Barak’s defeat of Sisera (p. 215).

All of Scripture is about Jesus Christ—either prospectively, actually or retrospectively. The Word of God is about God the Word (John 1:1) or it is a mere “clanging cymbal” and/or vacuous (Jewish) religious relic. Evangelicals deserve better, but Webb may force them to deconstruct then reconstruct his deficiencies, so as to advance the discussion as well as the Christocentric penetration of the book of Judges.

—James T. Dennison, Jr.