Eric Freeman is the church planter and teaching pastor of The Refuge Church in Cadillac, MI. He is a graduate of Michigan State University (BA, Journalism, '10) and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv, '16).
Numbers. SGBC. Zondervan, 2023.
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.)
Leviticus. ZECOT. Zondervan Academic, 2023.
Dr. Jay Sklar is a master at taking complex ideas and communicating them in understandable and engaging ways. Though this commentary series is written for the pastor or teacher, Sklar's explanations of the Hebrew language, the historical context, and the religious practices of ancient Israel are very accessible. The ZECOT format is, in my opinion, the most helpful commentary format out there. Each section offers both broad summaries and detailed analysis, both explanation and application of the text. Sklar also includes many helpful diagrams and excursuses at points where more clarification is needed. It is a large volume, but it never feels laborious. As a preaching pastor, I especially appreciate the "Canonical and Theological Significance" at the end of each section, which includes applications and preaching points that are rooted in the original context yet still very relevant for the Christian today. It is also worth noting that Sklar does an excellent job at handling the contentious topics of Leviticus, giving them the breadth and sensitivity they deserve. Sklar anticipates the well-meaning objections and addresses them respectfully, but without compromise to the authoritative teaching of Scripture. Perhaps this commentary's greatest strength is Sklar's persistent effort to explain God's heart behind His law. This, unfortunately, is too frequently ignored in other commentaries on Leviticus. While the law needs to be understood in its historical context, the law is from God Himself, revealing His character, His cares, and His mission. A historical and theological context are required to fully understand the message of Leviticus. Sklar gives special attention to both. He also demonstrates each step of the way how Levitical law anticipates and is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. (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.)