T. Desmond Alexander, Face to Face with God: A Biblical Theology of Christ as Priest and Mediator

Alexander, T. Desmond. Face to Face with God: A Biblical Theology of Christ as Priest and Mediator. ESBT 6; Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2022. 156 pp. Pb; $24.  Link to IVP Academic

T. Desmond Alexander is senior lecturer in biblical studies and director of postgraduate studies at Union Theological College in Belfast. Has contributed the Apollos commentary on Exodus as well as numerous other works on biblical theology, including From Paradise to the Promised Land: An Introduction to the Pentateuch (fourth edition, Baker 2022) and Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission (with Andreas Köstenberger; second edition 2020).

Jesus Priest Alexander, Face to FaceThis new volume in the Essential Studies in Biblical Theology presents a biblical theology of Christ as Priest and Mediator. What does it mean to speak of Jesus as a priest? Alexander answers this question beginning in Genesis with Adam as a priest in Eden, but the primary text he uses is the book of Hebrews. Hebrews is an exhortation centering on the priesthood of Jesus Christ. How does this portrayal of Jesus as a priest and mediator contribute to a deeper understanding of our relationship with God?

The first three chapters of the book look back to the Old Testament description of the Tabernacle as a model of the heavenly sanctuary, representing God’s holy presence on earth. Here he follows closely the work of John Walton, who argued the cosmos is God’s temple and Eden is an archetypical temple. Alexander thinks the evidence is strong, but he also acknowledges Daniel Block’s caution: sanctuaries resemble Eden rather than the other way around. After all, God never dwelt in the garden of Eden (27).

The Tabernacle is a model of the cosmos and a “portable Mount Sinai,” the place where Israel experienced God’s presence. The innermost part of the sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, is the place “where God is.” This anticipates Israel’s experience in Jerusalem in the Temple. The closer one approaches the holy place, the closer one comes to God, therefore, high levels of holiness and consecration are required.

Only the high priest can enter the innermost part of the sanctuary, and then only after fully consecrating themselves. The next four chapters deal with the role of the high priest as an intercessor and mediator of the covenant. Alexander begins with Moses in the tent of meeting (Exodus 33), a story deliberately incorporated into the Golden Calf incident. This highlights the importance of intercession: Moses is the covenant mediator who enters God’s presence because Israel’s covenant relationship is in danger. The Aaronic high priest follows the same pattern. Aaron is a mediator in the book of Numbers, in contrast to the rebellion of the sons of Korah. The Aaronic high priests make daily intercessions in order to maintain Israel’s covenant relationship. The high priest sacrifices for the sins of the people who cannot themselves approach God.

To explain what a priest is, Hebrews looks back to Exodus and Leviticus and the nature of the sanctuary and the Aaronic priesthood. What happens at the tent of meeting? The high priest makes intercession for sinful humanity and reconciliation with God. Turning to Hebrews 7:27, Jesus Christ as priest makes a once for all sacrifice on behalf of the people for the sins of the people. Hebrews also compares Jesus to the mysterious Old Testament priest Melchizedek. “The introduction of Melchizedek enables the author of Hebrews to unite the priestly activity of Jesus with his royal status as the ‘son of David’ and the ‘anointed one/Christ/Messiah’” (106).

The final two chapters of the book deal with Christ as a mediator of a “better covenant.” Beginning with the discussion of the new covenant in Hebrews 8, Alexander describes the new covenant as a better covenant because it ensures the two parties will be reconciled (115). Just as Moses was the mediator of the old covenant (Galatians 3:19-20), Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant. Alexander observes there are no priests in the Christian Church because the church itself is a community described as a royal priesthood. Adam served as a royal priest in the garden and failed; Israel served as a Kingdom of priests and failed. Jesus is the ultimate high priest because he succeeds by reconciling sinful humanity to God through his sacrifice.

Conclusion. Alexander does an excellent job describing the importance of the sanctuary and sacrifices in the Old Testament as well as the role of high priest as intercessor and covenant mediator. He examines these as “shadows of the reality in Christ” through the lens of Hebrews and focuses on that book’s description of Christ as priest, intercessor and mediator of a new covenant. In fact, this book could be considered an introduction to the theology of Hebrews.


Other reviewed commentaries in Essentials of Biblical Theology series:

NB: Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the wor

Andreas J. Köstenberger, Signs of the Messiah

Köstenberger, Andreas J. Signs of the Messiah. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2021. 188 pp. Hb; $20.99  Link to Lexham Press 

Andreas J. Köstenberger has written extensively on John’s gospel, including an exegetical commentary (BENTC, Baker Academic 2004, second edition forthcoming), a shorter commentary (ZIBBC, Zondervan 2007), a theology (Zondervan, 2009), the notes on John in the ESV Study Bible, and a short introduction (Baker, 2013). This small volume from Lexham distills his work on John into a readable introduction for laypeople and pastors reading through the book of John. He avoids technical academic discussions. As Köstenberger suggests in his preface, the book is a companion that will further illuminate John’s core message. The book originated as a series of lectures given at the “For the Church Workshop” at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Occasionally, Köstenberger says something like “this might be helpful as you teach or preach this passage.”

Kostenberger, Signs of the MessiahThe introductory chapter presents a traditional view of the authorship and origin of the Gospel of John and a short overview of John’s prologue (1:1-18). The author is “the disciple whom Jesus loved. Köstenberger identifies this disciple as the apostle John, an eyewitness to the events recorded in the Gospel. He briefly mentions a few other options (John the Elder, Lazarus, etc.) He says “sadly, it is virtually impossible in today’s intellectual climate to hold to Apostolic John authorship and be respected and accepted by mainstream academic scholarship” (22). There is a brief note on John community (p. 150, note 15), but otherwise there is only brief engagement with theories of origin or sources.

Regarding John’s relationship with the synoptic gospels, Köstenberger suggests John’s gospel is a “theological transposition” (35). The miracles in the synoptic Gospels become the seven signs, “signs which point beyond what Jesus did to his true identity and purpose” (36). John’s gospel is therefore the apex of revealing the purpose of Jesus’s coming and redemptive work.

Some scholars follow Rudolf Bultmann and outline John’s Gospel in two parts: a Book of Signs (2-12) and a Book of Exaltation (13-20), with a prologue and epilogue (1, 21). Others divide the book into several parts: a Cana cycle (2-4), a Festival Cycle (5-10), the Farewell Discourse (13-17), the Passion (18-20). Köstenberger has it both ways, subdividing the Book of Signs into two cycles, with John 11-12 as a climax and segue.

Köstenberger devotes two chapters to the Cana cycle (John 2-4). Here, John “breaks new ground” by including unique information about Jesus not found in the Synoptic Gospels (37). He argues Jesus cleansed the temple twice and John included only the earlier occurrence. Jesus is acting like an Old Testament prophet, demonstrating the coming judgment of the people of Israel; the physical temple will be destroyed because God is condemning the corrupt worship performed there. In fact, John crafted all seven messianic signs to lead people to faith in Jesus as the Messiah and the son of God.

The next three chapters cover the Festival Cycle (John 5-10, although he dispatches John 7-8 on three pages). The festival cycle is characterized by escalating controversy. John presents Jesus at three Jewish festivals where “Jesus reveals himself as the typological fulfillment of the symbolism inherent in these feasts” (118). Jewish authorities become increasingly offended at Jesus’s claim to be God, trying to find ways to accuse him of making himself God. John calls on the reader to decide: is Jesus God in the flesh? Or is he a deceiver and blasphemer?

Chapter 7 focuses on raising Lazarus as a conclusion to the Book of Signs (John 2-12) and a segue to the Book of Exaltation (John 13-21). Raising Lazarus from the dead points to who Jesus is: “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). Although Köstenberger considers John 11-12 as the conclusion to the first half of John, this chapter only deals with raising Lazarus and says very little about the content of John 12.

The final two chapters cover John 13-21. First, Köstenberger describes the Farewell Discourse (John 13-17) as Jesus’s preparation of his new messianic community. The section begins with Jesus washing his disciple’s feet, symbolically cleansing the new messianic community, and preparing the reader for the passion narrative. Köstenberger covers actual discourse in only five pages. He recognizes this, calling his discussion “all-too-brief” and lamenting he does not have the space to “adequately explore the many spiritual dynamics that are in play in the Farewell Discourse” (152).

Occasional footnotes often point to more detailed arguments in his other works, but also up-to-date articles. There is no engagement with the historicity of John, although there is a brief note on the archaeology of the pool of Bethesda. As an appendix, Köstenberger includes a short list of books for further study (seven of the ten resources are Köstenberger’s other books). The book concludes with a few discussion questions for each chapter useful for a classroom or small group Bible study.

Conclusion. Köstenberger’s Signs of the Messiah is a brief introduction to the Gospel of John, which will guide a layperson or pastor as they read and study John. As he himself observes, the book is occasionally frustratingly brief, but that results from the book’s goals and Köstenberger has written extensively elsewhere for students who want to read more deeply on the fourth gospel. The book has an attractive design and is well edited for the non-specialist. Like most of Lexham’s books, Signs of the Messiah was simultaneously published digitally for Logos Bible Software.

NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Jonathan T. Pennington, Jesus the Great Philosopher

Pennington, Jonathan T. Jesus the Great Philosopher. Rediscovering the Wisdom Needed for the Good Life. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos, 2020. 230 pp.; Pb.; $18.99. Link to Brazos

Many writers have lamented the rise of the Nones, people who mark “none” for their religious affiliation. Pennington suggests the problem is the loss of Christianity as a whole life philosophy, in the view that Jesus is a great philosopher. Yet in an ancient church in Dura Europos a mosaic portrays Jesus as a philosopher, and Justin Martyr set up a Christian philosophy school. People describe Jesus as a wonderful teacher, a religious guru, but rarely as a philosopher.

Jesus the great PhilosopherPennington suggests four reasons for this. First, Christian faith is disconnected from other aspects of life. Second, we look for alternative gurus for wisdom on how to live a flourishing life. He specifically mentions people like Nick Offerman or psychologists like Jordan Peterson. Third, we stopped asking big questions this scripture wants to answer. Oddly, a high view of scripture might lead to not asking the right questions about life the universe and everything.

Fourth, this limits the Church’s witness to the world. Christians failed at addressing questions the world wants answered, and Nick Offerman has succeeded: people learn hard work and common sense outside of the church. Pennington refers to The Good Place, a popular TV comedy which seamlessly welds philosophical ideas (ethics, epistemology, metaphysics) with religious ideas about the afterlife and what it means to be a good person. Those two worlds were not meant to be separate (34).

After setting up the idea of Christianity as a philosophy, the book moves through four sections. First, the Bible as philosophy. Here he covers the big ideas in the Old Testament, and the New Testament. How does Scripture answer questions about metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, or politics? Pennington summarizes New Testament philosophy as helping humans “enter into what it means to be fully human” (78).

Pennington then covers three topics philosophy addresses: emotions, relationships, and happiness. There three are what it means to be human: we are emotional creatures developing relationships and seeking to be genuinely happy in life. Each topic contains two chapters, the first summarizing Greco-Roman philosophy (usually Aristotle, Epicureanism, Stoicism) and a brief look at modern thinking on the topic. In the second chapter, he describes how Christianity addressed the issue. Pennington creates a mini-biblical theology on the topic, surveying the whole canon. For example, commenting on Christian relationships, “every book of the New Testament contains instructions for the new Christian politeia, life together” (173).

Some Christians think philosophy and Christianity are opposite ends of a spectrum, so that anything a philosopher says is suspect (or assumed wrong). Because they are both dealing with the most basic questions of life, ancient philosophers sought answers to the same questions Scripture addresses. What is remarkable is how close a biblical view of emotions or relationships is to ancient philosophy.

Under the heading, “Being Human and Happy” Pennington describes Christianity as a sort of “pursuit of happiness.” Christianity is about living a whole, meaningful, and flourishing life. By flourishing life, Pennington means nothing at all like the “health and wealth gospel” or happiness, as defined in contemporary American pop culture. He does not mean Christianity promises someone will be a wealthy, successful person if they are just “spiritual” enough. The problem with the modern pursuit of happiness is that “happiness has been defined as health, wealth, possessions, status, etc. they will flourish in the place where God has called them.

It might surprise some readers to find Christianity described the way to live a happy life since contemporary American Christianity seems dissatisfied with life and is often cranky about other people’s sins (while secretly enjoying them). But that is not biblical Christianity!

In some ways, Jesus the Great Philosopher is like Pennington’s book on the Sermon on the Mount (reviewed here). In that book he suggested the Sermon is concerned not simply with theological questions but also with the important the existential question of “human flourishing.” By “human flourishing” Pennington means happiness, blessedness, or shalom, a true flourishing which is only available through fellowship with God revealed through his Son and empowered by the Holy Spirit (14).

Conclusion. Pennington’s Jesus the Great Philosopher is an excellent introduction to what the Bible has to say about being human and living in a Christian community. The book is written for a popular audience, Pennington draws from a wide range of pop cultural to illustrate his points and avoids technical jargon of philosophy. Jesus the Great Philosopher should appeal to both Christians and non-Christians.


NB: Thanks to Brazos for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Adam Copenhaver and Jeffrey D. Arthurs, Colossians, Philemon (Kerux)

Copenhaver, Adam and Jeffrey D. Arthurs. Colossians, Philemon. Kerux Commentaries. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Ministry, 2021. 281 pp. Hb. $29.99   Link to Kregel Ministry  

Adam Copenhaver (PhD, University of Aberdeen) pastors Mabton Grace Brethren Church in Mabton, Washington, and teaches biblical studies courses for the Ezra Bible Institute. Reconstructing the Historical Background of Paul’s Rhetoric in the Letter to the Colossians (LNTS 585; Bloomsbury, 2018) and Translating Colossians Clause-by-Clause: An Exegetical Guide (2016). Jeffery Arthurs (PhD, Purdue University) is Robinson Chair of Preaching and Communication and Dean at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and published Preaching with Variety (Kregel 2007) and Devote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture (Kregel 2012). He contributed the preaching section to the Kerux commentary on Ephesians (Kregel 2021, reviewed here).

Colossians CommentaryThe introduction covers both books. Colossians and Philemon were both written by Paul during an Ephesian imprisonment A. D. 52-55. They present the usual arguments for and against the traditional authorship of the letters and offer answers to objections. They argue Paul wrote the letters from an otherwise unknown imprisonment in Ephesus, although this has become a more common view. This solves problems of Onesimus’s escape: a one-hundred-mile trip to Ephesus is more reasonable for an escaped slave than a long journey to Rome. As Copenhaver says, the main problem with this view is the stubborn fact that no direct evidence exists for Paul being in prison in Ephesus (38). The introduction includes a brief comment on the origin of the Colossian church, the history, and geography of Colossae. There is also a brief note on slavery in the Roman world, which could be expanded given the context of Philemon.

As is necessary in most commentaries on Philemon, Copenhaver offers a brief reconstruction of the situation behind the letter. Onesimus encountered Paul in prison in Ephesus and was converted to Christ. Paul then found him useful in his ministry. Paul sent Onesimus back to his master with the letter to be read at a church meeting in Philemon’s home. Near the end of the volume is a long sidebar, an “epilogue” to the book of Philemon connecting Onesimus to the tradition that he became the bishop of Ephesus.

Colossians therefore offers a broader context for Paul’s appeal to Philemon. Colossians establishes Paul’s relationship to the church since he did not establish the church. He feels an apostolic responsibility towards those believers and offers some theological correction and pastoral encouragement. Copenhaver points out several exhortations in Colossians which set up Paul’s appeal in Philemon. For example, put aside anger and forgive one another (3:8; 13-15). “Surely the entire church had eyes on [Onesimus] and Philemon when they heard these instructions” (44). In fact, the theme of reconciliation is present in both letters. Paul establishes this theme early in Colossians: Christ has reconciled all of creation to God through the cross (1:20-22). Paul tells the church to do all things that bring about reconciliation one with another (3:8), and be bound by love (3:14)

The commentary divides Colossians into thirteen preaching units and three for Philemon. As with other volumes in the Kerux series, each preaching unit begins with literary and structural themes (an expanded outline) followed by exegesis of the unit. Greek appears without transliteration, although syntactical details in the main text are rare. The exegetical section includes two types of sidebars. First, word studies dig deeper into lexical data. Second, a translation analysis usually examines a difficult element of Greek syntax. These are rare, however, and some of this kind of information appears in the commentary’s body.

Following the exegesis is a short section entitled Theological Focus. This sums up the key themes of the unit and serves as a transition to the Preaching and Teaching strategies. Arthurs provides a Haddon Robinson style preaching idea for each unit and then makes a series of contemporary connections (What does it mean? Is it true? Now what?)

As with other commentaries in this series, there are sidebars covering theology, culture, and application. For example, there are several sidebars on slavery in Colossians 3:22-4:1—Aristotle’s definition of a slave, slaves and sincerity (citing Columella), do slaves serve two masters?, slaves and inheritance. Finally, Arthurs offers a few paragraphs in creativity in presentation. These include basic illustrations or activities to enhance a sermon or Bible lesson. There are several lists in sidebars in the preaching tips section (for example, “Ten ways parents provoke their children”; “One another commands in the New Testament”). Arthurs includes a wide range of contemporary voices, including John Steinbeck, Martin Luther, F. F. Bruce, Tim Keller and even Jim Gaffigan.

Given the importance of slavery as background for Colossians and Philemon, there is less background material on slavery in the Roman world than expected. Perhaps it is unnecessary to write several hundred pages as in the 588 pages Philemon commentary by Markus Barth and Helmut Blanke (Eerdmans, 2000). But some interaction with John Byron (Recent Research on Paul and Slavery, Sheffield, 2008) or Scott Bartchy.

Conclusion. Copenhaver and Arthurs are successful in their goals. They do indeed provide quality exegesis necessary to preach and teach the text of Colossians and Philemon. The preaching strategies will point pastors to creative ways to present these two books.


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:


James M. Hamilton Jr., Psalms (2 Volumes; EBTC)

Hamilton Jr., James M. Psalms 1-72. Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2022. xxxiii+677 pp.; Hb.; $49.99. Link to Lexham Press

Hamilton Jr., James M. Psalms 73-150. Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2022. xxix+569 pp.; Hb.; $49.99. Link to Lexham Press

James M. Hamilton, Jr. is Professor of Biblical Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as preaching pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church. He contributed a volume to the NSBT series, With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical Theology (IVP Academic 2014, see my review here) and a commentary on Revelation in the Preaching the Word series. Hamilton has written extensively on biblical theology ad typology, including What Is Biblical Theology? (Crossway, 2014) and a recent monograph, Typology-Understanding the Bible’s Promise-Shaped Patterns: How Old Testament Expectations are Fulfilled in Christ (Zondervan, 2022). This commentary on the Psalms combines his interest in biblical theology with a pastor’s heart. In fact, the commentary has its origins in a sermon series at Kenwood Baptist Church. Hamilton began this two-volume Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary when B&H published the series. When Lexham picked up the series a few years ago, he completed the commentary. Hamilton intends to study the Psalms as a whole. The book is a purposeful collection of poems that build on one another and interpret one another. “The psalms are true history, fulfilled prophecy, and enduring praise” (2)

Hamilton PsalmsHe begins his eighty-eight-page introduction by stating he is interested only in the canonical form of the Psalms in the Hebrew Bible as preserved in the Masoretic text. Unlike many commentaries on the Psalms, Hamilton is not interested in speculating on the form or content of the psalms prior to the final form. This means he rarely comments on the differences between the MT and the Septuagint.

Because he takes the canonical form of the Psalter seriously, he pays careful attention to psalm superscriptions. These are the short headings that appear before verse one in English translations. Hamilton says he “will be working from the hypothesis that a psalm’s superscription comes from the hand of the psalm’s author, and that the editor/anthologist who put the Psalter in its final form exercised a light editorial touch that followed trajectories he discerned in the materials” (50).

Regarding David is an author, he quotes Mark 12:35-37, where Jesus says David wrote Psalm 110. “I do not believe Jesus could have been wrong about this” (42). Nor does Hamilton believe Jesus was accommodating himself to his audience. Hamilton rejects arguments that David would not write psalms using the third person. He also rejects the common view that psalms with “of David” (לְדָוִֽד) are “about David” or “dedicated to David” (citing Peter Craigie’s WBC commentary). He also dismisses the view that the headers are often anachronistic. For example, he disagrees with DeClaissé-Walford, Jacobson, and Tanner (NICOT; Eerdmans, 2014, see my review here), who argued Psalm 23:6 refers to the Temple, which was not built when David was alive. For Hamilton, the superscriptions are not later editions and are in fact integral to the original composition of the psalms. Remember, Hamilton accepts the Masoretic text as the canonical form; since the headers are in that text, he accepts them as authoritative.

The Book of Psalms was purposefully arranged so that the individual psalms fit together to tell a wider story. He suggests the Psalms are like a collage of photographs telling an overall story. Given his lack of interest in the origins of individual psalms, it is striking that Hamilton argues this arrangement was David’s own idea, which later psalmists understood and added to enrich the project which David begun (50).

  • Book 1, Pss 1-41, The Suffering of the Historical David
  • Book 2, Pss 42-72, The Reign of the Historical David
  • Book 3, Pss 73-89, The End of the Historical Davidic House
  • Book 4, Pss 90-106, Moses Intercedes for the Davidic Covenant
  • Book 5, Pss 107-150, The Conquest of the Future Davidic King

Hamilton finds chiasms grouping psalms around themes within the five books. He begins with the observation Psalms 15 and 24 are very similar, suggesting “who may ascend?” brackets for a chiastic structure for Psalms 15-24. (In order to make this work, Psalms 20-21 are placed together in his outline.) Hamilton then works out chiasms for the sections of the entire book. Hamilton’s evidence for these connections is found in the section on context introducing the exposition of each Psalm. There he points out verbal and thematic links to surrounding psalms. Two examples will suffice. First, Psalms 15-24 describe the ways of a righteous king; they follow Psalms 3-9 (Absalom’s rebellion, a wicked king) and Psalms 10-14, which contemplate the ways of the wicked. Second, Psalms 51-72 is a unit beginning with Bathsheba and ending with her son, Solomon. The plot of this unit tracks with David’s struggles against traitors and other enemies, climaxing in Psalm 61 (“Prolong the life of the king”) and Psalm 62 (waiting in silence for salvation). The rejected king is then restored, concluding with David’s son Solomon on the throne forever.

The introduction concludes with several biblical and theological themes. The psalms are first the prayers of David the messiah. But Israel also sung the psalms as the people of the Messiah. The psalms therefore find their fullest meaning in Jesus the Messiah, the ultimate righteous sufferer. Hamilton briefly summarizes the master narrative of the biblical worldview (a creation-fall-redemption scheme). In the Psalms, David interpreted his own experience in the light of earlier scripture. “He identifies with Abel, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses, and he identifies his enemies with their enemies” (77). Hamilton contends David saw himself as the “seed of the woman” struggling against the “seed of the serpent” from Genesis 3:5. “What I am proposing can also be understood as a biblical-theological and typological way of getting at ‘prosopology,’ the idea that David assumes the perspective of Christ as he speaks in the Psalms” (87).

“I contend that the authors of earlier Scripture intended their audience to see the enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, and further that they wanted to encourage God’s people to stand fast as the seed of the woman against the seed of the serpent. For David to see the outworking of the pattern in his own life, then, was in keeping with the intent of earlier biblical authors, and likewise for later kings-including the man from Nazareth-to identify with David’s experience, even to see David’s experience fulfilled in his own, would be fully in line with David’s intent” (77).

As an example, in his commentary on Psalm 16, David is a righteous sufferer foreshadowing as a “promissory type” the experience of a future king in his line, Jesus. Hamilton finds scriptural warrant for this typological interpretation in Acts 2:20-31 where Peter quotes Psalm 16 as fulfilled in Jesus (217-18). The enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent grows and develops so that David, inspired as a prophet by the Holy Spirit, “understood the patterns that typified him” (218). David “meant to describe his own experience in such a way that the one to come was prefigured, foreshadowed, typified (87, italics original).

Commenting on Psalm 96, Hamilton suggests David composed 1 Chronicles 16:23-33 when he brought the ark to Jerusalem. Later, when he set the psalms in order, David used parts of his earlier composition in different place making what we know now as Psalm 96. What is remarkable is that in this case, Hamilton uses the header from the Septuagint to imply that David wrote Psalm 96 (despite no header in the Masoretic text). He then engages in speculation about the origins of the Psalm, something he would not do according to the introduction.

Hamilton begins his exposition of each Psalm with an overview and an outline of the structure of the psalm. Often these are in the form of a chiasm. The section then begins with the CSB translation alongside Hamilton’s own translation in parallel columns. Hamilton stated in the introduction his intention was to be overly literal in to draw out parallels to other psalms intended by the author. There are no footnotes to Hamilton’s translation offering explanations for his translation choices. For example, on 14:7, the CSB has “let Jacob rejoice”; Hamilton translates the phrase “will rejoice.” The CSB (and most modern Bibles) translates the imperfect as a jussive (“let”). Hamilton uses the future “will rejoice.” Why?

The next unit prior to the exposition is Context: Verbal and Thematic links with Surrounding Psalms. Here Hamilton connects the Psalm to the context to support his overall chiastic structure. Occasionally, he arranges parallels in a chart. Since chiasms are often in the eye of the beholder, he often provides an alternative to his own structure in a footnote.

In the commentary proper, sections follow his outline of the Psalm. The commentary is based on the English text, and he rarely uses Hebrew. When Hebrew appears, it is unpointed and not transliterated. He makes very few references to syntax, grammar, or textual issues (and then only in footnotes). On a few occasions, he refers to the Septuagint, mostly when there are differences in a superscription. For example, in Psalm 71, he has a footnote describing the header in the Septuagint which is missing in the Masoretic Text. There is little interaction with other exegetical commentaries, but this is not surprising. Hamilton is providing exposition of the text to assist Christian preaching and teaching, not to collate the views of other commentators on the psalms. The result is a distraction-free exposition of the biblical text, which is a joy to read.

The last section of the commentary is entitled bridge. These are often brief single paragraph summarizing the content of the psalm and connecting the psalm to its surrounding context. Here Hamilton makes larger Christological observations. In addition, he draws reasonable applications from the psalm to contemporary Christian theology. After the heavy emphasis on typology in the introduction, I found these bridge units to be less typological than expected.

Conclusion: At 1200+ pages, this is a substantial commentary on the Psalter. Hamilton exposition of each Psalm is clear, concise, and will be helpful to pastors and teachers preparing to present sermons on individual psalms. Hamilton writes from a solidly evangelical perspective, and he is quite clear on inerrancy (47) and inspiration of the psalms (52). He is doggedly committed to the Davidic authorship of most of the psalms.

I would strongly recommend this commentary as an excellent addition to any pastor’s library.


NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Reviews of other Commentaries in this Series: