The first five books of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Torah, are often called the Pentateuch. A helpful introduction to this part of Holy Scripture is the book From Paradise to the Promised Land by T. D. Alexander.
The first book of the Pentateuch is one of the most well-known books of the Bible. Understanding this first book, the book of Genesis, is crucial to understanding the Old Testament and the entire Bible. There is a wealth of commentaries on Genesis. In this post, I will briefly describe five of the most generally helpful commentaries available on the first book of the Bible.
1. Gordon J. Wenham — Genesis 1–15 and Genesis 16–50 (Word Biblical Commentary, 1987, 1994).
The layout of the Word Biblical Commentary series is not the most reader friendly, but in the case of Gordon Wenham’s commentary on Genesis, it is certainly worth the trouble. Wenham writes from a generally conservative evangelical viewpoint. His exegesis is careful and detailed and always worth consulting.
2. Kenneth A. Mathews — Genesis 1–11:26 and Genesis 11:27–50:26 (The New American Commentary, 1996, 2005).
In recent years, Broadman and Holman have published a number of excellent commentaries in their New American Commentary series. In 2005, with the publication of the second volume of Kenneth Mathews’ commentary on Genesis, they added another outstanding contribution.
3. Victor P. Hamilton — The Book of Genesis Chapters 1–17 and The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50 (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, 1990, 1995).
Like Wenham and Mathews, Hamilton writes from a generally conservative evangelical perspective. I rank Mathews slightly higher simply because Hamilton is a rather dry read. He is, however, always worth consulting.
4. Allen P. Ross — Creation and Blessing (1988).
Although not technically a commentary, this volume by Ross is an invaluable resource for expositors. If you are a pastor, you should not be without this book.
5. Derek Kidner — Genesis (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 1967).
This commentary is older and very short, but for those who are looking for a concise and helpful introductory commentary, this is probably the best place to begin.
There are a number of other helpful commentaries on the book of Genesis. Among them are those by Richard Belcher, Bruce Waltke, Nahum Sarna, John E. Hartley, and Umberto Cassuto (Vol. 1, Vol. 2. Cassuto’s works are sometimes difficult to track down. Sarna’s work is in the JPS Torah Commentary series, which is written from a Jewish perspective and is somewhat critical. This means that it must be used with great care and discernment.
Helpful Related Works
Because the major themes of Scripture find their origin in the book of Genesis, a good understanding of this book requires a basic grasp of the way in which Genesis introduces these themes. One of the more helpful works for understanding these themes is T. Desmond Alexander’s From Eden to the New Jerusalem (2008). Regarding the debate over the meaning of the days of creation, the best defense of the calendar-day view remains Douglas Kelly, Creation and Change. A good defense of the analogical-day view is W. Robert Godfrey, God’s Pattern for Creation. Pastors should also consider Iain Duguid’s Living in the Gap Between Promise and Reality: The Gospel According to Abraham and Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace: The Gospel in the Lives of Isaac & Jacob.
This article is part of the Top 5 Commentaries collection.