Excellent commentary! Helpful, trustworthy, and rooted in biblical theology. I highly recommend it!
As a pastor and former student of Dr. Jay Sklar at Covenant Theological Seminary, I cannot study the Bible without his continued phrase “context is king” coming to mind. In Numbers: The Story of God Bible Commentary, Jay masterfully exemplifies that which he teaches. First, Jay has his readers primarily focused on the text itself. He presents the text in light of the exodus Israelites immediate context; of their calling to walk by faith in-between their redemption from bondage (already accomplished) and their entry into the land that was promised them (yet complete). Second, Jay explains the context. He provides his reader with a better understanding of how the Israelites perceived their present situation, how they received God’s spoken word within it, and how they responded to God’s ability to accomplish that which he promised, even in the midst of impossible circumstances. Third, Jay expands the context as seen through the lens of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and makes contextually appropriate, biblically-sound, modern-day applications; likening our own time as Christians to that of the Israelites. That, as those who are living in-between our own redemption through Christ (already accomplished) and our full restoration on earth upon his return (yet complete), we are also called to walk by faith in God’s promises as spoken in his word, regardless of the circumstances. In The Story of God Bible Commentary on Numbers, Jay has provided an excellent, highly understandable, completely relatable resource for pastors and laypeople alike. In addition, though this is a non-technical commentary series, Jay’s contribution contains a wealth of information that even the most astute scholar will greatly benefit in reading. It is highly recommended! I received an advanced copy of this commentary from Zondervan Academic. Zondervan did not place any requirements or conditions on my review as a condition of receiving a complimentary copy.
Sklar's commentary on Numbers offers plenty of insightful information, as one would expect from any commentary. But more than that, his pedagogical approach helps the reader understand what it would have been like to live among the people of Israel during the climactic moments of its transition into the Promised Land. He is able to draw clear connections from their moments of faith, rebellion, and worship to our own. Sklar frames the narrative of Numbers by describing Israel as living in "the in-between times" (i.e. between the exodus and the Promised Land), and consistently relates that to the Christians' experience of living in-between Christ’s redemption and his return. However, rather than slipping into moralistic applications of do's and don'ts, Sklar rightly keeps the focus on the Lord as a gracious and covenant-keeping God, and he continually points us to how the text’s longings have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Sklar does many things well in this commentary. What I found most meaningful was his explanation of Israel's practices of worship, not simply as a description of what happened but also the purpose and heart behind them. Just listen to how he sagely handles the unsettling revelation of a death penalty in the event of a non-Levite assembling or disassembling the tabernacle: “Good hospitals guard the operating room, ensuring the only ones who enter it are surgical staff who are especially clean, thus preventing germs from defiling it and making it unsuitable for use. Similarly, the Levites were to guard the tabernacle, ensuring the only ones who touched it and its holy contents were holy priests… thus preventing impurity from defiling it and making it unsuitable for its use as the holy home of the holy King of heaven” (53). Language like that is both faithful to the text and relatable. It’s an act of scholarly hospitality. As its recipient, I repeatedly find myself grateful for it and encouraged to respond in worship to the Lord. I found the commentary format to be very accessible and non-technical, though just as insightful as the most technical of commentaries for what its length allows. Preachers and teachers will especially benefit from its three-part breakdown of each pericope (Listen-Explain-Live), which can guide them toward faithful expositional sermon/lesson outlines. I highly recommend it as a go-to resource for any pastor, teacher, or even the layperson who wants to dig a little deeper into this wonderful book. (I have received a complimentary copy but Zondervan Academic has not placed any requirements or conditions on my review as a condition of receiving the complimentary copy.)