Daniel J. Estes, Job (Teach The Text). Grand Rapids: Baker Books, July 2013. 288 pp. Hardcover, $29.99
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Thanks to Baker Books for the review copy!
Daniel J. Estes is distinguished professor of Bible at Cedarville University and has written many a book on all things Old Testament, but mostly related to the Wisdom literature. 1
Here he offers readers fine commentary on the book of Job. After a brief introduction (where he favors agnosticism toward the historicity of Job), Estes treats each chapter of Job in a chapter of the commentary. Within each chapter, the following format is followed:
- The Big Idea (stated in a single sentence)
- Key Themes (bullet pointed in an sidebar)
- Understanding the Text (the commentary proper)
- Teaching the Text (suggestive directions for a focal point in a lesson)
- Illustrating the Text (helpful illustrations from literature, history, movies, etc.)
Because of the format of the “Understanding the Text” section, Estes does not necessarily comment verse by verse. Any many cases, his total comments in the verse by verse section are about as extensive as ESV Study Bible notes (which isn’t a knock on Estes, just a way of giving you a gauge). Some of this is because the “Understanding the Text” section is really composed of 4 parts:
- Text in Context (usually a couple of paragraphs)
- Historical and Cultural Background (another paragraph or two, usually very insightful)
- Interpretive Insights (the actual verse by verse comments)
- Theological Insights (varies in length depending on the chapter, but doesn’t shy away from issues)
Given that there are a total of 8 elements Estes address in each chapter, and that the book is under 300 pages in total, you have an idea how this commentary goes chapter to chapter. Not every verse is exegeted in detail, but that isn’t the aim of the commentary. Rather, the aim is to prepare you to teach the text (hence the series title). To do that, the framework seems to be given almost equal weight to the exposition. Because of that, this is probably not a stand-alone resource, but it might be for an average Sunday School teacher (especially if used in tandem with an ESV Study Bible).
I could see this commentary being profitably put to use in tandem with a more in-depth exegetical volume that maybe isn’t quite as concerned with communicating the message and theology of Job like Estes’ volume is. For many people, the more extended exegesis and background details of John Walton’s NIVAC volume might be a good supplement. Others might prefer Tremper Longman III’s installment in BCOTWP or Hartley’s in (NICOT). While a supplement isn’t necessary per se, for anything more than an overview of each chapter, Estes’ volume doesn’t have enough meat. If that is all you’re after, this book has the framework and the content for that.
In the end, I think that is what this series is aiming for. That is, the goal is to provide a commentary that gives a thorough framework for teachers of the word to teach that particular book. In my case at least, I would be doing a survey on Job in my Old Testament class, so I have plenty to work with in Estes’ volume. He covers the key background imagery as well as the theological takeaways of the book. That is basically what I’ll cover in the my class. If I were specifically teaching Job, and I was doing so at the university or seminary level, I’d probably still use Estes, but in conversation with the other volumes I mentioned above. Regardless of whether you are using other conversation partners, if you plan on teaching the text of Job, you’ll probably want to consult, if not just go ahead and add Estes to your library.