With this post, we begin to look at the best commentaries on the Old Testament Historical Books. For a good introductory overview of these books, I would recommend Victor P. Hamilton’s Handbook on the Historical Books and David M. Howard’s An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books. The two supplement each other well. Hamilton’s book is essentially a mini-commentary on all of these books, while Howard’s book focuses on introductory and theological issues. Today, we look at the transitional book of Joshua. The following are five of the most helpful commentaries on this book of Scripture.
1. Dale Ralph Davis — Joshua (Focus on the Bible, 2000).
I will go ahead and say now that all of Dale Ralph Davis’ commentaries on the Old Testament historical books are outstanding. They are non-technical, beginner-intermediate level works, but they offer more insight into these biblical books than many commentaries two or three times their size. If you can only have one commentary on each biblical book, get Davis on the historical books.
2. Richard S. Hess — Joshua (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 1996).
The original Tyndale Old and New Testament Commentary series was one of the most consistent commentary series available today. Most other series have some really good commentaries, some mediocre commentaries, and at least a handful of commentaries that are not very helpful at all. The volumes in the original Tyndale series, on the other hand, were consistently good. The original volumes are gradually being replaced by newer ones, some of which are better than others. The original Tyndale commentary on Joshua by Hess is a particularly good volume. Like Davis’ commentary, this one is also written at an intermediate level and is accessible to all readers.
3. David M. Howard — Joshua (New American Commentary, 1998).
David M. Howard’s introduction to the historical books of the Old Testament is an outstanding work. In this volume, he is able to devote much more space to Joshua. The result is a truly helpful commentary.
4. Marten Woudstra — The Book of Joshua (New International Commentary on the Old Testament, 1981).
Like the other commentaries in the NICOT series, this one is slightly more technical in nature than the commentaries mentioned above (although not much more technical than the commentary by Howard). Most of the really difficult material, however, is found in the footnotes. The body of the text is readable and insightful. Very helpful overall.
5. Trent C. Butler — Joshua 1–12 and Joshua 13–24 (Word Biblical Commentary, 2014).
Butler’s commentary was originally published in 1983. In 2014, it was revised and updated and re-released in two volumes. As mentioned in previous top 5 posts, the Word Biblical Commentaries have a layout that is truly unfriendly to the reader. It is also a bit more technical in nature than the commentaries already mentioned. For those doing in-depth exegesis, however, it provides helpful information.
Helpful Related Works:
One question that often arises today in connection with the book of Joshua concerns the conquest of Canaan. Many skeptics have begun accusing God of immorality, saying that the command for Israel to engage in holy war was evil. There are a number of books dealing with this question. A good place to start is C. S. Cowles, et al., eds. Show Them No Mercy: Four Views on God and Canaanite Genocide.
This article is part of the Top 5 Commentaries collection.