Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
WTJ 53:1 (Spring 1991) p. 145
Eugene H. Merrill: Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987. 515. $24.95.
This work is a very fine introduction to OT history from a strongly conservative perspective. Merrill’s grasp of the scholarly issues is impressive. The manner in which he deals with these issues is clearly guided by his theological commitment (he is professor of Semitics and OT Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary). It is this factor that, ironically, serves both to strengthen some of his conclusions and weaken others. Nevertheless, this volume is to be recommended (1) as an introduction to the major scholarly issues (he does not seem to miss a single one) involved in OT historiography, and (2) as a clear example of very conservative thinking regarding these issues.
The work is divided into 14 chapters. A short introduction outlines the author’s views regarding the task of writing on OT history, an important chapter for understanding his presuppositions regarding historicity and literalism. After some preliminary remarks concerning the Pentateuch, he begins his study with Abraham and the Patriarchs. It is somewhat surprising that Merrill does not deal with the first 11 chapters of Genesis, especially in view of his commitment to the historicity of creation, original sin, the flood, and the tower of Babel. Most likely he would answer that the subject of his work is the history of Israel proper, a phenomenon which has its inception in history with the call of Abraham. Hence, his decision to steer clear of these chapters seems prudent. He then proceeds in a perfectly predictable and legitimate manner: exodus, conquest, Judges, Saul, David, Solomon, divided monarchy, fall of the Northern Kingdom, southern decline, exile, and return. These chapters are of fairly consistent length, about 30–50 pages. David’s reign is treated over two chapters (“Covenant Kingship” and “Years of Struggle”), as is the divided monarchy. In keeping with the stated purpose of the book, only prophetic material that has direct bearing on the history of Israel is included (he omits Obadiah and Jonah altogether). Understandably, Merrill makes no reference to Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, or Lamentations. His references to the Psalms are few. He concludes the volume with a bibliography that, unfortunately, includes only major works. Students would benefit greatly from a more comprehensive list, i.e., all works cited throughout the book arranged according to subject and type of publication (monograph, periodical, etc.).
There are several points that commend Merrill’s efforts. First, this is a marvelous example of erudition. The author exhibits a tremendous amount of interaction with the dominant scholarly trends. He is obviously well read in his...
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