Proverbs: Kidner Classic Commentaryby Derek Kidner
Length: Approximately 6 hours.
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Kidner’s commentary on Proverbs sets out to give a brief, theologically deep, and accessible introduction to the book of Proverbs. In truly exceptional fashion, Kidner introduces readers to the world of the Proverbs, even including a useful concordance for finding topics in Proverbs.
Who should read this?
Though this book is ideal for pastors, teachers, and church leaders, this resource will also prove beneficial for people who desire to take a deeper dive into the rich wisdom of Proverbs. It is not overly technical, devotional, or informal, thus making it a reliable and scholarly resource for believers of all levels of maturity.
Proverbs is written to provide a clear, concise commentary on a book of the Bible that is filled with infinite, Spirit-inspired wisdom for God’s people. The aim of this commentary is three-fold: to bring together eight grand themes from Proverbs, provide chapter-by-chapter commentary that is in-depth and concise, and present readers with a concordance by which to search the Proverbs to mine the depths of wisdom within. The book is structured with an ntroduction and subject studies, a brief outline, commentary, and a short concordance.
The purpose of this book is made clear in the preface. Kidner’s chief desire for this short commentary is provide an opportunity for the “neglected wealth of the Proverbs to find its way into many new hands.” (p.9). First printed in 1964, this volume certainly has something to offer to any generation, especially one which is largely shaped by biblical illiteracy and false notions of wisdom.
Wisdom is a theme that pervades the book of Proverbs. The essential question, “Is this wisdom or folly?” is a found throughout the many pages of the Proverbs. Set in its larger context, Proverbs is a book of wisdom found within a larger book—the Bible—which has wisdom as a thread running throughout and culminating in Christ, the all-wise Prophet, Priest, and King of God’s people. Kidner shows that Christ is Himself the Wisdom of God.
Though many people read Proverbs as a bunch of pithy sayings and rules for life, there is actually unity found within the several larger themes which helps the book of Proverbs minister to souls about topics, such as: God and man, wisdom, the fool, the sluggard, the friend, words, the family, and life and death. These are important topics in the lives of believers and when Proverbs is viewed in this light, it can prove to be an excellent tool in the sanctification of believers.
As an avid supporter of Ligonier ministries, when I saw this commentary on their top 5 list, I wondered how it would stack up to some of the much larger volumes on the book of Proverbs. I was not disappointed at all. Kidner’s Classic Commentary on Proverbs lives up to Kidner’s desire to bring the wisdom of the Proverbs to a new generation of readers. It is exciting to get a commentary that is the size of a standard nonfiction book with the depth of an Old Testament scholar like Derek Kidner.
Using this commentary was beneficial in meditating on the Proverbs. While not particularly devotional, I was able to use it during my personal devotion time. The concise notes included information on the meaning of the original Hebrew, theological implications found in various passages, and practical applications where necessary.
As a lay pastor and bible teacher, it is helpful to know the tidbits about the original language or the most accurate translation in order to better serve my exegetical work. Kidner’s use of other biographical resources to display points of agreement and disagreement gave me confidence in Kidner’s scholarship as well as providing other sources for further study on my own.
Kidner’s commentary is strong for several reasons. First, this commentary is concise. As a lay elder, sunday school teacher, and avid researcher, I find it extremely valuable to get scholarly insights on scripture in bite-size chunks that don’t require hours of reading. Kidner’s comments on various passages are direct and insightful. For example, his commentary on Proverbs 19:3 states: “The modern versions bring out the point implied by the Heb.’s emphatic against the Lord: i.e. God gets blamed for what we bring on ourselves.” (p.124)
Second, his comments often have headings to help give the topic of a verse or groups of verses. Too often, Proverbs seems to be a disjointed random assortment of knowledge and wisdom. With these headings, the sense of the verse or groups of verses is made clear, thus aiding in a better grasp of the unity of the Proverbs as a whole and the individual proverbs in a chapter.
Third, his technical notes on the translations are very helpful. As can be seen in the example above, he discusses how modern translations pick up on the nuance of the original language. This is helpful in understanding the original intended meaning. It is also helpful in comparing various translations of the Bible.
Fourth, the concordance is a great blessing. When searching for a topic in the Proverbs, readers can simply look for the subject and go immediately to some of the sections either in the subject-studies or the commentary on the proverbs. This is helpful for counseling, searching the scriptures regarding a situation in life, or just studying at topic from the perspective of Proverbs.
Due to the introductory nature of this work, some of the brief notes may not answer some questions for readers unfamiliar with Proverbs. Instead of explaining why and how he came to the conclusion about the meaning of some passages, he states it succinctly and moves forward. This is obviously supportive of the brevity, though there are times that depth has been sacrificed and may require readers to move to a more technical or complex commentary.
Another potential weakness for modern readers is some of the language used by Kidner. There is limited technical grammatical language in order to explain the differences or reasoning for the Hebrew to English translation. Kidner also writes in a more formal way than may be expected by today’s readers, so words like “unscrupulous”, “bewilderment”, or “dissipate” may be a bit of a challenge to Christians with limited language skills. This is not a fault of Kidner’s, but it may make reading the commentary more difficult.
Kidner’s Classic Commentary on Proverbs is an excellent introduction to the book of Proverbs. It is beneficial for pastors and beginning Bible students, and it will prove essential for Sunday School teachers, lay pastors and elders, community group leaders, and counselors due to its precision, brevity, and clarity. Kidner’s goal was to bring the practical and theological wisdom of the Proverbs to another generation of believers.
For this reason, it brings great joy to see these commentaries finding continued life in the hands of pastors over 50 years after it was first published.