In modern writing, a variety of written markers—italics, bold type, punctuation, parentheses, and so forth—are used to indicate emphasis and clarify meaning. The authors of the Old Testament could not rely on such devices since their writings were originally composed for oral presentation. They instead used literary structure to highlight certain ideas and to convey meaning and emphasis accurately. Unfortunately, as we read the Old Testament we frequently overlook this inherent literary structure. What we need is a guide to help us see the literary structure that permeates the Old Testament and clarifies the meaning of each Old Testament book. David Dorsey has provided such a guide.
The author opens the book with a brief historical survey of the various approaches to understanding the structure of the Old Testament. He examines what is meant by the term literary structure and gives examples of how the structure of a given text illuminates the author’s writing, meaning, and purpose.
Dorsey then proceeds book by book through the entire Old Testament identifying the structure and offering commentary on how that structure clarifies the meaning of the text. He illuminates the big picture of each book, providing a framework for further study. No pastor, teacher, or student should embark upon the study of an Old Testament text without consulting this indispensable guide.
The Logos Bible Software edition of this volume is designed to encourage and stimulate your study and understanding of Scripture. Biblical passages link directly to your English translations and original-language texts, and important theological concepts link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. In addition, you can perform powerful searches by topic and find what other authors, scholars, and theologians have to say about the Word of God.
Herman Gunkel and the form critics have taught us that the meaning of texts cannot be divorced from the literary genres and forms in which they are composed. More recently the symbiotic connections between meaning and literature on a more macro-structural level have come to be appreciated. David Dorsey has now carried this important insight logically forward in his brilliant analyses and syntheses of not only Old Testament passages but of whole books and collections of books. With intuitively artistic sensitivity to texts in their wholeness, Dorsey has provided for the scholar and layman alike a fresh way of reading the sacred literature. He avoids the twin pitfalls of not seeing the forest for the trees or failing to discover the trees because of a focus on the forest alone. The trees are here all clearly exposed but not in isolation—they exist in such patterns and relationships as to produce a forest of wondrous beauty. Bible study will never be the same again for anyone who takes advantage of the creative insights afforded in this remarkable volume.
—Eugene H. Merrill, distinguished professor of Old Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary
Understanding structure is pivotal to understanding the meaning of Scripture. David Dorsey ably guides us toward a better sense of the structure and style of the books of the Old Testament. This book will become a standard reference tool for all serious students of the Bible.
—Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Religious Studies, Westmont College
This is an unusual and fascinating book. It is the first comprehensive treatment of the native structure of the Old Testament books and its significance for their meaning and message. Expositors will find it of inestimable value for looking at the books in a way that is natural to the literary nature of the Old Testament itself and, at the same time, the theological significance of that structure.
—Richard Averbeck, professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
The statement on the back of this helpful volume notes: ‘In modern writing, various markers—italics, bold type, punctuation, parentheses, and so forth—are used to indicate emphasis and clarify meaning.’ The authors of the Old Testament did not have or use such devices, writing out of an oral culture as they did. So what is the proper emphasis in certain texts? How do we understand the structure and style of certain Old Testament material? Dorsey . . . guides the reader into this subject with great care and sensitivity.
—ACT 3 Review
Serious Bible students will discover many insights in this valuable volume.
This is an important book because it provides in a large format volume an introduction to the study of structure of the books of the Old Testament. . . . This is one of the earliest works in this newly developing field. I expect much good from it in the future.
Dorsey writes with a clear, uncomplicated prose that enhances the value of the book. The Hebrew forms, all transliterated and translated, are kept to a minimum. I would certainly recommend this for all Old Testament translators and anyone looking for a good introduction to issues of literary structures in the Bible.
David A. Dorsey is professor of Old Testament at the Evangelical School of Theology in Myerstown, Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Roads and Highways of Ancient Israel.