For my birthday Kregel Academic gave me another opportunity to choose a book to review. We own Allen Ross’ first Psalms volume, and I had previously asked Kregel to review the third volume. I requested the second volume, completing the set. These commentaries are big. All three volumes have over 2,500 pages of information on the Psalms. This may sound overwhelming to some, but for the pastor who wants a full treatment on matters of the text, this is the place to go.
Many commentators comment on features that aren’t very relevant to pastors (manuscripts, text-form issues, hypothetical background issues). Ross treats these issues without going overboard. For instance, concerning Psalm 82, Ross notes that it is “impossible to determine the date of the psalm, because” the topics it picks up on “would be understandable at any time from the early period through the exile” (725).
Ross instead focuses on the message of each psalm. He begins each chapter with his own translation of that particular Psalm, providing footnotes on Hebrew or Greek textual variants, either noting either a literal translation, a note from one of the Targums, or something different in the LXX. Next he gives the composition and context of the psalm. He looks at different views on when a psalm could have been written (pre- or post-exilic), but, as I mentioned above, he doesn’t mind saying that it is hard to be certain, even impossible.
Ross seems not to consider the canonical placement of a psalm, even those that open and close Books II and III, to be very important. Very little is stated about how Psalm 42 opens Book II, and nothing about how Psalm 73 opens Book III and how Psalm 89 ends Book III. He does briefly note how “the Davidic monarchy has been behind all the psalms in the first two books in one way or another,” and that Psalm 72, the final psalm of Book II, attributed to Solomon, “looks to the future of the monarchy” (551). Besides that no comments are made about canonical placement (I could be wrong though).
For each psalm, Ross provides an exegetical analysis where he summarizes the psalm and gives a detailed outline. The outlines are an excellent way of breaking the text down, which is helpful with long psalms. After this Ross provides a commentary in expository form. Ross examines one or two verses at a time, and he shows how certain Hebrew words, expressions, or grammatical forms help us to better understand the text’s message. Psalm 49 is about “the folly of trusting in wealth.” In verse 3 when the Psalmist writes “My mouth will speak wisdom,” Ross notes that wisdom refers to “the disciplined and meaningful way of life that pleases God and proves successful and lasting in the community” (146). Along with this meaning, Ross has an extensive footnote looking at three different categories of what “wisdom” means. That the psalmist will “open” the dark saying/riddle/problem means that “he will not present it in an obscure way, but make it clear” (149). The psalmist will teach the meaning of this proverb to Israel, and they had better listen as it concerns “important choices in life” (148). Here too is another extensive footnote on the meaning and nuances of the Hebrew word for “proverb” (מָשָׁל, mashal). Ross focuses on the meaning of words and how they help us understand the psalm’s message.
Ross ends with the psalm’s message and application, where he summarizes the point of the psalm and provides a single italicized sentence as the expository idea. In his application he often connects the psalm’s theology with the New Testament, bringing in more relevance for Christians. For example, Ross’ expository idea of Psalm 71 is “Mature believers continue to trust in the LORD as they have all their lives, continue to pray to the LORd when additional crises arise, and continue to praise the LORD when they know he will redeem them from trouble” (533). He connects this to how James instructs people to call the elders of the church to pray for the sick (Jas 5:14), and how Paul writes that elders should not be recent converts (1 Tim 3:6). The church needs to draw on the wisdom of its older saints who have walked with the Lord for many years and who have seen his faithfulness at work through all those years.
If you’re a pastor, teacher, or layperson, Ross’ three-volume set is wonderful. They are long, but the Psalms need long exposition. There is so much theology that needs to be expounded upon. Thankfully, if you’re studying the Psalms, there is someone you can turn to to get a thorough treatment. Ross shows you the message of each Psalm, connects it to the New Testament, and brings in relevance to modern-day believers. Pick up Kidner for succinct interpretations and Hamilton for canonical understanding.
- Author: Allen P. Ross
- Hardcover: 894 pages
- Publisher: Kregel Academic (October 23, 2013)
- My review of Volume 3: Psalms 90–150
Buy it from Amazon or Kregel Academic!
Disclosure: I received this book free from Kregel Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.