This review appeared in the Jan-Mar 2012 vol. 169 no. 1 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
The Theological Message of the Old Testament BooksBob Jones University Press, Greenville, SC September 28, 2010
Bell, chair of the division of graduate studies at Bob Jones University, has written a thorough work on the theological message of the books of the Old Testament. He calls these messages “book theologies” (p. 7), which, he says, seek “to arrange the theological content of a portion of Scripture under several major theological headings” (ibid.). “The goal of a book theology is to answer the question, what theological truth or truths was the Holy Spirit communicating” in this Bible book? (p. 8). Three aspects of a book theology are an analysis of the book’s structure, an analysis of the vocabulary (repeated words and phrases) in the book, and an analysis of the themes in the book (pp. 8–9).
More than one hundred tables are included in this work, on a variety of topics. For example in Exodus Bell has a three-page table on twenty references to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (pp. 42–44); a three-page table lists the occurrences of six different Hebrew words in the Psalms for praise (pp. 228–30); and a two-page chart lists the occurrences of eight key words in Proverbs: heart, fool, wise, wicked, righteous, evil, good, way (pp. 250–51). Themes in Psalms which he discusses are God’s titles, God’s works, man’s requirements, the work of the Messiah, God’s righteousness, man’s righteousness, and Messiah’s righteousness (pp. 227–35).
Tables in the chapter on Ecclesiastes include seven key words, seven key phrases, and seven key themes (enigma of life, hardships of life, justice and injustice, wisdom and folly, death, enjoyment, and fear of God). Each table includes the many references where these words, phrases, and themes occur in the book (pp. 262–64).
Bell comments on thirteen themes in the book of Jeremiah: God’s revelation; God’s greatness and power; God’s works; God’s relationship to Israel: the covenant; God’s warning: call to repentance; Israel’s refusal to hear; God’s knowledge of the heart; God’s wrath; God’s judgment; God’s restoration; God’s agent of restoration; and the Messiah (pp. 305–19).
Each chapter concludes with points of relevance for believers today. For example the chapter on Joshua concludes with these applications: (1) As God revealed Himself to Israel, so He has manifested Himself to us. (2) As God instructed Israel, so He has taught us. (3) As God demonstrated His power to Israel, so He has manifested His power in our lives. (4) As God dealt with and spoke to Israel through a mediator, so He has chosen Christ as His mediator. (5) As God brought judgment to His enemies, so He has planned a final defeat for His foes. (6) As God gave to Israel a promised inheritance, so He has pledged an eternal heritage for us. (7) As God reminded Israel of His work on their behalf, so He has urged us not to forget what He has done for us.
This book has a wealth of material that can benefit both beginning and advanced students of the Old Testament.
—Roy B. Zuck