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ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 63, 2015

LINDSAY WILSON, Job (The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015). Pp xi + 420. Paperback. US$28.00; Kindle US$ 25.20.

The brief of contributors to the Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary series is to “locate their primary interests on theological readings” of the biblical text under study. More specifically, the “two horizons” alluded to (in an apparent nod to the hermeneutical works of Anthony Thiselton) are identified as biblical theology and “constructive” or presumably systematic theology (i). This twofold orientation is evident in Lindsay Wilson’s contribution on the book of Job. Its primary structure consists of Introduction, Commentary, Theological Themes and Job and Theology, the latter section being subdivided into “Job and Biblical Theology,” “Job and Systematic Theology,” “Job and Moral Theology” and “Job and Practical Theology.” This clear theological focus is also represented in the content and orientation of the commentary, and accords with Wilson’s background: following a legal career, he studied at Moore Theological College in Sydney, and has served on the faculty of Ridley College, the evangelical Anglican theological college in Melbourne, since 1991.

Wilson’s twenty-seven page Introduction is reasonably compact for the commentary genre, but intelligent and judicious. The theologically-trained reader will appreciate the significance of more of what is said, but the self-motivated lay reader should also find Wilson’s introduction quite accessible. I detect classroom experience speaking when Wilson writes “a story should only be read as history if it was intended to be an historical record,” which Wilson diplomatically explains is not the intention of this book (5–6). Whether we are safe to assume that “the first purpose of the book is to correct a misunderstanding of the book of Proverbs,” as heuristically useful as this might be (8), is open to debate. But the opening discussion of the way the parts of the whole book fit together, as opposed to an incoherent clashing of incompatible sections, is a promising indication of the competent and nuanced theological handling that is to come.

The 182-page Commentary section allows the reader to cover, e.g., Job 14 (within one of Job’s speeches) in less than six pages (86–91), and the more involved Job 28 in about eight (133–40). The discussion is disciplined and relatively nontechnical, mentioning textual elements in Hebrew text together with transliterations, and moving on from one verse to the next rather smartly. The reader who is undertaking a close study will want commentaries offering greater detail to supplement Wilson’s discussion, while the busy pastor or minister will surely appreciate his succinct discussion treatments of the book’s natural divisions. I appreciated Wilson’s exegetical integrity in this section; to return to the discussion of Job 14 as an example, Wilson warns, “It is tempting for Christians, for whom the resurrection from the dead is a central cause of hope, to read back into Job’s [language in Job 14:14] more than Job had in mind” (90). Wilson does not allow the theological expectations of a potential reader to over-ride the actual semantics of the text.

Wilson’s theological ruminations in the remaining two sections, “Theological Themes” and “Job and Theology,” demonstrate the fruits of a deep and mature meditation on the theological meaning of the book. It is a book that begs for a theological appreciation, and Wilson responds with a thematic treatment that is orderly, approachable and satisfying, though best read in a series of sittings, with time for digestion, than in great tracts. Much like the older Job commentary by Frank Andersen, Wilson’s pastoral sensitivity around the question of suffering suggests awareness of the lived experience of suffering. His consideration of the core theme of divine retribution is well-rounded, and he concludes along the way that Job’s speech toward God does not need to be renounced by Job, however harsh it sounds, in light of 42:7, although his understanding of God (and that of the simplistic interpreter of the book of Proverbs) needs to be extended beyond that of a formulaic and rigid reward and retribution system (e.g. 241–42, 279 and often). This is particularly the role of the climactic speeches of God (Job 38–41), for the character Job in the first instance and thence, vicariously, for the book’s hearer.

When the very modest price tag is taken into account, it would be hard to imagine a commentary on Job that offers better-value food for thought and promises better usefulness for the Christian worker and teacher.

Review by
Melbourne School of Theology