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Opening up Deuteronomy

By Andrew Thomson
October 2016 | Review by Mark Johnston
  • Publisher: Day One Publications
  • ISBN: 978-1-84625-483-3
  • Pages: 137
  • Price: 7.00
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For someone surveying the books that comprise our Bible, wondering which to read, or for a preacher deciding which to preach, Deuteronomy would not be an immediate choice. But it is in the Bible and, according to Paul, is ‘useful’ for our instruction in the faith.

For many, this Old Testament book feels as though it is on the ‘top shelf’ of the Bible’s bookcase — out of reach for the average reader! The same is true for many commentaries on it. So this new addition to the Day One ‘Opening up the Bible’ series must be welcomed as a point of entry for all Bible readers.

It is short in length, but without skimping on substance. It is presented with attractive typeface and page format, both of which make the act of reading pleasurable in itself. Like the other volumes in this series, it begins with a helpful overview of the book’s background and main contours and then goes on to provide commentary on the actual text.

This breaks down into the three main sections of Deuteronomy, each of which is subdivided into larger units, sometimes of several chapters, which open up its message. Endnotes are kept to a useful minimum. Further reading resources are recommended and a useful appendix of quotations from Deuteronomy in the rest of Scripture is added.

Andrew Thomson’s fresh and readable handling of this material should in no way mask the depth of textual, theological and pastoral insight that lies behind it. He has clearly done excellent work on all three fronts and presents it in a way that shows the interconnectedness of the Bible’s message.

He catches the flow of redemptive history. He is careful to show at key points how this book leads us to Christ, and, on every page, he deftly weaves in helpful and up-to-date comments to make sure the reader sees its relevance.

One thread that runs through most of commentary that I took issue with was the repeated reference to God’s covenant(s) as ‘contract’ or ‘agreement’. Although there has been a trend towards using this language in recent popular literature, it falls short of being an accurate description of covenant(s) in the Bible.

Despite their similarities with ancient near eastern international treaties, they were not the same. The language used to describe the way these covenants were put in place and administered makes it clear there was nothing ‘contractual’ about them. Israel played no part in initiating them, drafting them, or even having the capacity to honour them. This highlights the connection between all the covenants and the grace of God.

Aside from that, I found this to be a delightful introduction to a much neglected, but hugely important Old Testament book.

Mark G. Johnston

Cardiff