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The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis–Malachi

The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis–Malachi

David A. Dorsey

| Baker Academic | 2004

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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.

Author Bio

David was born in Charleston, W.Va., a descendant of the infamous Hatfields. His mother came from a family of moonshiners and his father was a coal miner. David became a Christian at a Methodist church camp in 1967. That same year his family moved to Little Falls, N.J., where David became involved in Child Evangelism, Word of Life Ministries, Talk with Teens (a weekly Christian radio program), and various evangelistic outreaches. David met his wife Janet at Northeastern Bible College. During the year of their engagement he pursued graduate studies at the American Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem, while Janet completed her master’s degree in Albany, N.Y. In 1973, after a year at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, they returned to Jerusalem, and David began a Ph.D. program at Hebrew University. From 1973 to 1975 David studied modern and Biblical Hebrew, archaeology, Arabic, and ancient history, traveled extensively throughout Israel by motorcycle, and participated in archaeological excavations. In 1975 he transferred to Dropsie University in Philadelphia to complete his Ph.D. in Ancient Near Eastern History. David has taught at Evangelical since 1979. He serves as the curator of the seminary’s Pense Archaeological Museum. Every other year he conducts study tours to Israel, helping students from Evangelical experience the Holy Land first hand. He speaks regularly at churches, retreats, camps, and seminars. He is the author of two books, The Roads and Highways of Ancient Israel (Johns Hopkins), and The Literary Structure of the Old Testament (Baker); and he has written dozens of articles for various scholarly and popular journals, Bible encyclopedias, Bible dictionaries, and archaeological encyclopedias. He served on the translation team that produced the New Living Translation. David and Janet have three children, Jonathan (born in Jerusalem), Benjamin, and Sarah. Jonathan and his wife Melissa have one daughter, Kierra; Benjamin and his wife Marie also have a daughter, Alissa. Sarah is following her dad’s footsteps in Old Testament studies. She graduated from Evangelical with an MAR in Old Testament, studied in Jerusalem for a year of post-graduate studies, and is currently applying to Ph.D. programs in Old Testament. David enjoys reading, especially books on Roman history and the Civil War. He also enjoys traveling. He and Janet have traveled to Israel, Jordan, Greece, Rome, and England, and they hope to visit Egypt, Cyprus, and Turkey in the near future.