Top 5 Commentaries on Genesis

1. Genesis: A Commentary by Bruce Waltke and Cathi J. Fredericks $

It’s truly astounding just how much depth Waltke and Fredericks communicated in this one volume commentary. You’ll learn something on almost every page. It is semi-technical with all of the Hebrew transliterated. The strengths of this commentary are manifold. Practically, it’s affordable, relatively short (600 pgs.), and in a user friendly format. More importantly, the content is superb. The commentary focuses most on the structure and narrative flow of the book and biblical theology (there are also more systematic reflections at the end of each section). Nonetheless, there is plenty of exegetical discussion, ANE backgrounds, and even some textual criticism. It’s a well-rounded commentary. I highly recommend this commentary for individual and devotional study, group study, for preaching/teaching, and scholarly work.

2. Genesis (WBC, 2 Volumes) by Gordon Wenham $$$

An extremely thorough and studied commentary by a well-respected OT scholar. Each section begins with a translation with detailed exegetical notes. This is followed by a discussion of the literary structure which sometimes includes dialogue in ANE backgrounds. Next is first-rate verse-by-verse exegetical commentary on the text followed by the “explanation” of the entire passage. This last section normally involves biblical-theological exposition. Wenham is very balanced, not overly conservative nor overly liberal. The only down side to this commentary is that it’s two volumes so it can get a little pricey. However, it is well worth the price if you’re able to buy it. Probably best suited for someone who has some knowledge of Hebrew, although the explanation section would be beneficial for all.

3. Genesis (REBC) by John H. Sailhamer $

Sailhamer’s interpretation of Genesis is a little eccentric, but nonetheless very eye-opening. You will not read Genesis the same after reading this commentary—in a good way. Sailhamer summarizes his view, “The final shape of the Pentateuch reflects an interest in reading its historical narratives both typologically and futuristically. The events of the past are presented as pointers to the future. The future is portrayed as ‘like’ the past. Second, the internal composition of smaller narrative units also reflects this same interest in typology and the future. As we will see, it is by this means that the ‘seed’ of Abraham in the Genesis promise narratives is identified with the future redeemer-king of the poems in the Pentateuch.” (37) I think he’s right, so he’s on my list! Highly recommended for all. (A neat bonus, you get commentaries on Exodus and Leviticus included in this volume.)

4. Genesis (NAC, 2 Volumes) by Kenneth Matthews $$

Personally, I believe this is the best commentary in the entire NAC series. It is exegetically sound and theologically rich. Matthews is a brilliant exegete and simply skilled at drawing meaning from the text. This two-volume commentary is more technical than most in the NAC series—with some in depth exegetical discussion—but all of the Hebrew is transliterated. So no worries if Hebrew isn’t your thing. There are also some beneficial excursuses splattered throughout the commentary such as: translation of Gen. 1:1-2, the image of God, and Melchizedek. This is an extremely helpful commentary especially for preaching and teaching purposes.

5. Genesis (NIVAC) by John H. Walton $ (what’s up with these John H.’s?)

An approachable and solid evangelical commentary on Genesis. Walton has written extensively on the early chapters of Genesis in his Lost World of Genesis One and Lost World of Adam and Eve (I highly recommend both, though disagree with both in part). He sees the Genesis narrative as covenant history, “Chapters 1-11 establish the need for the covenant, and chapters 12-50 establish the formation of the covenant.” (37) As per his other work, Walton argues (I think correctly) that the cosmos was to act as God’s Temple, which carries several biblical-theological motifs about human vocation, which Walton develops through the commentary. There is both significant exegesis and application in this commentary. It’s suitable for deep study and devotional use.

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