Edited by Bill T. Arnold and Hugh G. M. Williamson, the Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books is the second volume in IVP's Old Testament dictionary series. This volume picks up where the Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch left off—with Joshua and Israel poised to enter the land—and carries us through the postexilic period. Following in the tradition of the four award-winning IVP dictionaries focused on the New Testament, this encyclopedic work is characterized by in-depth articles focused on key topics, many of them written by noted experts. The history of Israel forms the skeletal structure of the Old Testament. Understanding this history and the biblical books that trace it is essential to comprehending the Bible. The Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books is the only reference book focused exclusively on these biblical books and the history of Israel.
The dictionary presents articles on numerous historical topics as well as major articles focused on the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah. Other articles focus on the Deuteronomistic History as well as the Chronicler's History, the narrative art of Israel's historians, text and textual criticism, and the emergence of these books as canonical. One feature is a series of eight consecutive articles on the periods of Israel's history from the settlement to postexilic period.
Syro-Palestinian archaeology is surveyed in one article, while significant archaeological sites receive focused treatment, usually under the names of biblical cities and towns such as Jerusalem and Samaria, Shiloh and Shechem, Dan and Beersheba. Other articles delve into the histories and cultures of the great neighboring empires—Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia and Persia—as well as lesser peoples, such as the Ammonites, Edomites, Moabites, Philistines and Phoenicians. In addition, there are articles on architecture, Solomon's temple, agriculture and animal husbandry, roads and highways, trade and travel, and water and water systems.
The languages of Hebrew and Aramaic, as well as the study of linguistics, each receive careful treatment, as well as the role of scribes and their schools, and writing and literacy in ancient Israel and its environs. The Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books also canvases the full range of relevant extra-biblical written evidence, with five articles focused on the various non-Israelite written sources as well as articles on Hebrew inscriptions and ancient Near Eastern iconography.
Articles on interpretive methods, on hermeneutics, and on preaching the Historical Books will assist students and communicators in understanding how this biblical literature has been studied and interpreted, and its proper use in preaching. In the same vein, theological topics such as God, prayer, faith, forgiveness and righteousness receive separate treatment.
The history of Israel has long been contested territory, but never more so than today. Much like the quest of the historical Jesus, a quest of the historical Israel is underway. At the heart of the quest to understand the history of Israel and the Old Testament's Historical Books is the struggle to come to terms with the conventions of ancient historiography. How did these writers conceive of their task and to whom were they writing? Clearly the Old Testament historians did not go about their task as we would today. The divine word was incarnated in ancient culture.
Rather than being a dictionary of quick answers and easy resolutions readily provided, the Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books seeks to set out the evidence and arguments, allowing a range of informed opinion to enrich the conversation. In this way the Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books will not only inform its readers, but draw them into the debate and equip them to examine the evidence for themselves.
“Joshua falls neatly into four main sections: (1) an introduction comprising a series of speeches (Josh 1:1–18); (2) a collection of materials that relates a swift and comprehensive conquest of the land and its kings (Josh 2:1–12:24); (3) reports and lists associated with Israel’s settlement of the land (Josh 13:1–21:45); (4) a sequence of final episodes (Josh 22:1–24:33).” (Page 563)
“The books of Chronicles are a historical narrative that tells the story of Israel to the community of faith that was reconstituted after the Babylonian exile and living under Persian control in the province of Judea (Yehud). The author(s), in a prophet-like manner, represents the community’s past story from a postexilic perspective with a focus on the role of *David and the Davidic kings, the establishment of the proper temple cultus, and the need for kings and people to seek God. The author(s) apparently sought to establish for the postexilic community an identity of continuity with the past and to encourage them to actualize the traditions and lessons from their past in their current lives.” (Page 161)
“The books of Samuel address questions of the nature and purpose of Israel’s monarchy, and they offer the reader explanations of Israel’s covenant relationship with Yahweh as king. By presenting contrasting portraits of Israel’s first human kings, these books serve a programmatic function for Israel’s future perceptions of monarchs, as well as for individuals in God’s kingdom.” (Page 872)
“Especially central to this programmatic plan is the covenant between Yahweh and David in 2 Samuel 7. As we have seen, God’s promises that David’s son would build a temple in Jerusalem and that God would establish a permanent Davidic dynasty were unequivocally taken as a ‘covenant’ in *innerbiblical exegesis, even though the term bĕrît does not appear in 2 Samuel 7 itself (see 2 Sam 23:5; cf. 1 Kings 8:23–24; 2 Chron 21:7; Ps 89:1–4, 19–37). In this sense, the Davidic covenant is a vital link in the singular and organic covenantal trajectory building on Noah, Abraham and Moses in biblical theology, and it becomes programmatic for NT authors when defining Jesus as the ‘Son of David’ (or, relying on 2 Sam 7:14a, as the ‘Son of God’ [cf. Heb 1:5]) (see Arnold 2003, 478–87).” (Page 874)
The Logos Bible Software edition of these volumes is designed to encourage and stimulate your study and understanding of the Old Testament prophetic, wisdom, and poetic books, as well as the letters of Paul and other New Testament topics. Scripture passages link directly to your English translations and original-language texts, and important theological and exegetical 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 subjects like higher criticism of Isaiah, intertextuality, authorship of Lamentations, and other important topics.
Bill T. Arnold is Director of Hebrew Studies and Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books, including 1 & 2 Samuel, Encountering the Old Testament, and (with John H. Choi) A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. He co-edited The Face of Old Testament Studies.
H. G. M. Williamson is Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford University, on the faculty of The Oriental Institute and a Fellow of the British Academy. He is the author of several books and numerous articles on the Old Testament, including commentaries on 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, as well as The Book Called Isaiah and Studies in Persian Period History and Historiography.