I am a big fan of the New Studies in Biblical Theology series, and this title is no exception. In Dominion and Dynasty, Stephen Dempster walks you through a theology of the Old Testament, but in an easily accessible way, focusing on the literary character of the Old Testament as a Text (capitalized to help you think of it as a single unit).
The twist that will be unfamiliar to most readers is that his analysis follows the Hebrew ordering of the books rather than the English. And for good reason, as most of his analysis hinges on that particular arrangement. from which he draws out the editorial seams of the Old Testament to show us how it was meant to be read.
I’ll assume you either are familiar with the English ordering, or can look it up for reference. In light of that, notice how the Hebrew order differs slightly:
- Samuel (one book in Hebrew)
- Kings (ditto)
- The Twelve (one book of minor prophets, minus Daniel)
- Song of Songs
- Ezra-Nehemiah (one book in Hebrew)
- Chronicles (same as Samuel/Kings)
There are many reasons for this particular ordering, but one worth highlighting is that it creates a story-poetry/commentary-story ordering. The end of Kings is considered the mid-point of the Hebrew Bible, ending with Jehoaichin and the people of Israel in exile. At that point we are offered poetic commentary on the matter from God’s divine perspective.
Ruth provides a narrative flashback before we are giving more poetic commentary this time in the more familiar Psalms. The Psalms though are to be read in light of the minor prophets, as many of the questions raised in the Psalms find their eschatological answer in The Twelve.
Additionally, reading Song of Songs after the prophets is to serve as reminder to Israel how blissful marital love can be, just like they experienced right after the exodus. It also then stands in stark contrast to Lamentations that follows.
There are many more insights to be pulled from a canonical reading that follows the Hebrew ordering. To me, it seems much more literarily sound, as you are essentially following the “chapter order” that was intended. This interestingly is the same kind of ordering one finds in the NT, where we get story (Gospels-Acts, which also ends with a key figure in prison and on a note of hope), commentary (via the epistles) and then story (via the Apocalypse).
Just like we read in the NT before the story has consummated, so the Jewish people read the OT when the promises in Daniel had not yet come to fulfillment although there was progress in that direction. This book provides a very readable guide to helping you understand the nature of the Old Testament story better. I would highly recommend it, as well as the other Biblical studies in this series. They will definitely stretch you in your thinking, but they are easily worth it.