Schreiner, David B. and Lee Compson. 1 & 2 Kings. A Commentary for Biblical Preaching and Teaching. Kerux Commentaries. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Ministry, 2022. 315 pp. Hb. $36.99 Link to Kregel Ministry
The Kerux series is an exegetical commentary which includes as preaching strategies. The exegete in this volume is David B. Schreiner, associate professor of Old Testament at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Ridgeland, Mississippi. In addition to several journal articles, Schreiner previously contributed Pondering the Spade: Discussing Important Convergences between Archaeology and Old Testament Studies (Wipf & Stock, 2019) and has a commentary on 1 & 2 Kings in Cascade’s The Bible in God’s World series and a monograph The Omride Wars in Assyrian, Biblical, and Levantine Sources (Lexham, forthcoming). Lee Compson provides the homiletical notes. Compson serves as senior pastor at Milford First Brethren Church in Milford, Indiana, and Regional Resource Coordinator for the Midwest Region of The Brethren Church.
In the seventeen-page introduction, Schreiner suggests 1-2 Kings is “good history writing” but not in the same sense as modern history. Schreiner argues a single author produced 1-2 Kings, working with existing materials. The date of composition range from the middle sixth century or the mid-Hellenistic period. After a lengthy footnote on the Graf-Wellhausen Documentary Hypothesis, Schreiner states “options and reconstructions are legion” (43).
The occasion seems to point to the exilic community in the early Second Temple period. Ezra 9:5-15 draws lessons found in Kings “to declare humiliatingly that his community is on the path to committing the same deeds that precipitated the Babylonian exile” (43). Of course, this is a message that would resonate beyond the sixth-fifth centuries BC. Schreiner includes two pages on compositional history. He begins by observing that ideas about authorship were different in antiquity and writing was a “controlled skill,” part of the political infrastructure. The books certainly make use of source material, but he also sees the “ideological imprint of Deuteronomy.”
With this in mind, Schreiner offers an outline of the compositional history of 1-2 Kings. The first edition was Hezekiah’s history, sanctioned by the Judean court after Sennacherib’s third military campaign. A second edition is a Josianic history prompted by Josiah’s death just before the battle of Carchemish in 605 BC. The third and final edition was written during the exile while Jehoiachin was still living under house arrest 2 Kings 25:27-30).
The introduction makes several points under the heading theological emphasis, although this is really a literary analysis of the book. First Kings 1-14 serves as an introduction which sets the tone for readers and begins to answer the question “why did Judah survive longer but still end up in exile?” (49). The books contrast the Israelite Kingdom and the Judean Kingdom, helpfully summarized in a chart (53). Regarding the tone of the history, “positive memories are not permitted to overwhelm the reader” (54). Positive obedience stories are balanced with negative disobedience stories, all leading up to the Babylonian exile. “Kings does not celebrate Israel’s history. Rather, it mourns it through a sobering and critical evaluation” (54).
The body of the commentary is divided into twenty-three sections. Each section includes exegesis (about two-thirds of the chapter) and preaching strategies. Each unit begins by repeating the key ideas from the introduction. A short literary section traces the themes and offers an outline for the unit. The exposition is of the Hebrew text without transliteration. This is not a verse-by-verse commentary, key phrases appear in larger sections. For example, Schreiner discusses the phrase “fame of Solomon” in 1 Kings 10:1 (including a lengthy footnote on the phrase). Schreiner uses in-text citations to secondary literature and, occasionally, there are detailed footnotes. Following the exegesis is a section entitled theological focus. This develops the exegetical idea based on the exodus exegesis, usually highlighting a truth or principle for Christians, including occasional canonical connections to the New Testament. Even though the exegetical units are necessarily brief, Schreiner’s notes are excellent.
The preaching and teaching strategies section begins with an exegetical and theological synthesis (a general summary of the section plus another repetition of the preaching idea). Compson then offers a series of contemporary connections. What does it mean? Is it true? Now what? These sections make clear applications from the text to contemporary issues that will enhance a sermon or Bible lesson. Finally, the strategies section includes a unit on creativity and presentation. These are a few suggestions for illustrations and key ideas to apply the text in a sermon. These illustrations are drawn from contemporary culture (sports, film, etc.) as well as common life situations. Each section concludes with several discussion questions.
Like the other volumes of the Kerux series, the commentary includes numerous sidebars for historical details (Baal, Nebuchadnezzar, Neco) or an exegetical detail. Compared to other volumes in this series, there seem to be fewer sidebars, and none are more than a paragraph (no full-page sidebars). On the other hand, there are several long footnotes that might have been a lengthy sidebar. For example, the note on Naaman is nearly a full page (226, note 4). There are no sidebars in the preaching strategy sections. The exegetical section includes several types of additional analysis sections: syntactical, textual, lexical, and translation. In these sections, Schreiner deals with technical details which might be difficult for readers who have not taken a Hebrew at the seminary level.
Given the contents of the books, preaching a sermon based on 1-2 Kings is a difficult task. Some sections of the books lend themselves to preaching and teaching, others do not. The authors divide the forty-seven chapters of the two books into twenty-three preaching units, but twelve of these units cover the life of Solomon (1 Kings 1-11, about 40% of the total commentary). Some units on Solomon are quite brief. For example, one unit covers 1 Kings 3:16-28 in five pages. The unit on Elisha (1 Kings 17:1-2 Kings 1:18) is twenty pages. There is a great deal of difficult-to-preach material after Solomon, so it is understandable there is not much here on many of the Israelite kings (who preaches on Baasha anyway!) But only one preaching unit each for Elijah and Elisha seems brief considering the popularity of these stories. One preaching unit on 2 Kings 17-20 is far too brief, considering the importance of Hezekiah’s response to the Lord. Since they both appear in Isaiah, it is also a mistake to separate Ahaz and Hezekiah. It is likely the commentary had a limited page count, making it impossible to cover both books in as much detail as 1 Kings 1-11.
Conclusion. Despite the brevity of some sections of the commentary, Schreiner and Compson achieve the goal of guiding a busy pastor or Bible study leader through this lengthy and sometimes difficult material. The commentary remains focused on the goal of presenting this material in a church situation. Although this might frustrate some readers who want more historical detail, Schreiner and Compson remain dedicated to the goals of the Kerux series to combine exegetical and homiletical notes to serve Christian communities.
NB: Thanks to Kregel for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.
Other volumes reviewed in this series:
- Creighton Marlowe and Charles H. Savelle, Jr. Psalms, Volume 1: Wisdom Psalms
- Duane Garrett and Calvin Pearson, Jeremiah and Lamentations
- Gregory MaGee and Jeffrey Arthurs, Ephesians
- Thomas Moore and Timothy D. Sprankle, Philippians
- Adam Copenhaver and Jeffrey D. Arthurs, Colossians, Philemon
- Herbert Bateman and Steven Smith, Hebrews