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Longman’s Job Reviewed

Longman III, Tremper. Job. Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms. Baker Academic, 2012.

Tremper Longman III has written an excellent commentary on one of my favorite books of the Bible: Job. This commentary completes the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms series (in which series Longman also wrote the Proverbs volume). In his Introduction to Job, Longman helpfully avoids speculations as to the book’s composition history; his task is to interpret the book as it has come down to us. This Longman does ably and thus defends the authority and reliability of the Bible. Longman also structures Job in his Introduction into seven sections: The Prologue (1:1-2:13), Job’s Lament (3:1-26); The Debate Between Job and His Three Friends (4:1-27:23); Job’s Monologue (28:1-31:40); Elihu’s Speech (32:1-37:24); Yahweh’s Speeches and Job’s Responses (38:1-42:6); and Job’s Restoration (42:7-17).

In the commentary proper, Longman provides his own translation of Job’s text. His translation is readable but faithful to the original languages. Before commenting on individual thought units within Job’s chapters, Longman summarized that section’s message. These sections were very helpful in clarifying the progression of thought within individual chapters. Even more helpful are the Theological Implications sections at the end of each commentated section. If not giving direct application, the Theological Implication “reflective essays” at least drew out the broader implications of any given section of Job, oftentimes pointing explicitly to how the New Testament takes the principles espoused in Job and explicates them.

Despite the commentary’s excellence, however, there were a couple of points on which I disagreed with Dr. Longman. As I have written extensively in an earlier post, I believe that Longman is wrong in identifying Job’s accuser as an angel other than the fallen angel, Satan. My other primary disagreement with Longman comes later in the book of Job. In discussing Elihu’s speech of Job 32-37, I believe Longman was, at times, too harsh in his criticism of Elihu. Yes, Elihu was wrong at certain points, but even Job acknowledged that he had “uttered what [he] did not understand” (42:3). Longman never stigmatized Job for his evident shortcomings, but although Elihu is certainly not the titular character, I do not believe him to be deserving of the measure of harshness that Longman dishes out to him.

These two caveats, though, do not prevent me from wholeheartedly recommending Longman’s Job to any teacher or preacher who wants to exposit this book of the Bible. Longman was erudite but evangelical throughout the commentary; he was academic without eschewing pastoral consideration. For this he is to be commended. This is a commentary that I will readily turn to whenever I preach or teach Job. 4 out of 5 stars.

I am grateful to Baker Academic for providing me an advance review copy in return for an honest review.

  1. etcetera
    November 21, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    I’ve heard two preachers take a positive tack regarding Elihu: John Piper and Stuart Olyott. Hartley, in NICOT, also gives the angry young man a break.

    Most commentators, though, seem to write him off. I love that he takes God’s side, and it seems that much of what he says is correct.

    I would appreciate hearing how you arrived at your assessment of Elihu, and where you think he goes off track. Do you think his claim to be wise and apparent arrogance are meant to discredit him? It is hard to reconcile that idea with his name, role, and the seeming agreement between him and God.

  2. November 26, 2012 at 4:21 am

    Thank you for reviewing this. I’d been looking out for this commentary and might have to pick it up.

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