Interpreting the Wisdom Books: An Exegetical Handbook is now the latest in Kregel Publications’ series Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis edited by David M. Howard Jr. This volume is written by Edward M. Curtis, professor of biblical and theological studies at Biola University and Talbot School of Theology. It is the seventh in a planned eight-volume series. (My review of Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature can be found here.)
Each volume follows an identical structure and each is designed as a textbook for seminary students or pastors preparing to preach within a given Old Testament genre. Therefore, a working knowledge of Hebrew is most advantageous when one engages with this or any of the volumes. That is not to say that they will be foreign to those without, however, one will not be able to take full advantage of the author’s expertise.
In Interpreting the Wisdom Books Curtis takes the reader through the various steps of exegeting, interpreting and proclaiming (preaching) Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs. I doubt there are few who do not have an interest in learning more about the ins and outs of these four books.
Curtis does an excellent job of explaining the details and even includes a highly useful Glossary that defines various terms encountered throughout the book. (Each of the Glossary entries in highlighted throughout the text.) The book does get bogged down in Chapter 3, “Preparing for Interpretation,” with discussions of how Ancient Near Eastern Background affects the interpretation of the wisdom books. One wonders how much time a pastor would have to do the extensive research that Curtis recommends. Nevertheless, a glance through this chapter may be worthwhile.
I found the most beneficial entries were on the book of Proverbs especially in those areas of interpreting and proclaiming Proverbs. Curtis provides many helpful suggestions for preaching a series on Proverbs. If you’re going to preach or teach Proverbs, digging out the information and suggestions would be beneficial.
The summary is this: Interpreting the Wisdom Books is worthwhile especially if one is preparing to engage these books. You may want to skim some areas and pick out the nuggets that Curtis provides.
Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by Kregel Academic for a fair and honest review.