Ezra/Nehemiah July 16, 2014

James Hamilton’s lively new commentary on Exalting Christ in Ezra and Nehemiah is a volume in the Christ-Centered Exposition series. The series, written for pastors, is founded on the premise that the Bible “contains a unified story of redemptive history of which Jesus is the hero” (ix). 

Hamilton’s volume handles the text with attention to literary features, recurring typological patterns, and theological/practical implications. He notes, for instance, that Ezra’s account of the second exodus follows the order of the account of the first exodus – a king lets Israel go to the land, the people are numbered, they leave captivity with treasures. But he also focuses on the key differences between the two events: Pharaoh let the people go under coercion; Cyrus volunteered. Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart; Yahweh stirs Cyrus’s heart (6-7). He observes that the book of Ezra moves in two cycles, each initiated by a decree of a Persian king (see the chart on 237), each following the order of the first exodus.

There are some weaknesses in the volume. I don’t buy the standard chronology of Ezra-Nehemiah (32), which requires that Ezra be read a-chronologically and separates the work of Joshua and Zerubabel from that of Ezra-Nehemiah by half a century. Cleaner readings are available.

There were times too when Hamilton jumped too quickly from Ezra-Nehemiah to a Christological or moral conclusion. I imagine that is partly due to the demands of a popular commentary series, but it left me wanting more of Hamilton’s often insightful treatment of the text. 

If the remainder of this series is like Hamilton’s, it will be a useful tool for pastors who want to discover Christ in the Scriptures.

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