If there is one person fit for the job of writing this installment of Crossway’s perennial commentary series, Preaching the Word, it is Barry Webb. Webb has done much field work specifically in the book of Judges, most notably his 2012 Judges volume for the New International Commentary of the Old Testament series. Webb has also written elsewhere about Ruth, particularly in his book “Five Festal Garments,” part of the New Studies in Biblical Theology series. Needless to say, the author selected to write this volume for this particular series was not chosen off the cuff.
In the Preface, Webb, reflecting on the implications for this commentary, says that Judges and Ruth are “books for our times, an age of individualism when every man or woman does what is right in his or her own eyes, when love has been divorced from commitment, and when people need more than ever to discover, or rediscover, the redeeming love of God in Christ.” I couldn’t agree more, and it is these undertones that set the stage for the following work. This commentary is very focused on telling a story, outlining the sad state of the period of the Judges with conviction, even controversy. Webb is sure to balance the grim setting with the sweet deliverance and redemption themes we find in these books.
What I like about this volume is that it is obviously written for the preacher and teacher, and less for the seminarian or language scholar. Though important academic details are scattered here and there, Webb’s point is to help us pastorally understand the magnificence of these books, and the great redemption story being told. It is a bit cumbersome to walk through a book like Judges especially, with so much emphasis on judgment and depravity, yet Webb ushers us along and invites us to take a journey, observing the scenes around us and watching God work in the chaos. This narrative style greatly aids the preacher in communicating these difficult texts to the congregation with clarity, without compromising on detail or theology. Though I wouldn’t call it “elementary,” I would call it “simplistic” in the highest regard.
Few have set out to exegete and exposit the books of Judges and Ruth like Webb, and with that we have a real treat in this volume. It is an accessible work that is highly informative, but also highly applicable. Webb is sure to ask thought-provoking, “cut to the heart” questions to make sure we’re being driven back to the Lord. This pulpit-sensitive commentary will help the preacher and the layperson alike understand that these books deeply matter for our faith. I am thankful to Webb for his careful exposition and constant encouragement in this commentary.