Numbers

by David L. Stubbs

978-1-58743-140-1

272pp.   $29.99c

Publication Date: October 2009



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David L. Stubbs (PhD, Duke University) is associate professor of ethics and theology at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, and has worked in college ministries and worship leadership for many years. He is also part of a task force on sacramental practice in the Presbyterian Church.

Endorsements

“David Stubbs is an able guide as he focuses on the literary shape of the final form of Numbers and its theological implications for the life of the Christian church. Stubbs provides a rich and substantive Christian reading of Numbers, focusing on its vision of who the people of God are to be (Numbers 1–10), the failure of the people to live up to God’s vision and God’s faithfulness in spite of that failure (Numbers 11–25), and the reorganization and new beginning of an emerging generation of God’s people as they prepare for life in the promised land of Canaan (Numbers 26–36). Stubbs interacts responsibly with current Old Testament scholarship on Numbers. He also expands his commentary into a dense theological dialogue with New Testament texts, modern Jewish interpreters like Milgrom and Levenson, and a wide array of Christian interpreters like Origen, Jerome, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Barth, Bonhoeffer, Hauerwas, Tanner, and Moltmann. And he takes up a host of substantive theological issues and concerns—election, blessing, eucharist, holiness, sacrifice, leadership, sabbath, sin, and forgiveness, to name a few. Stubbs manages to offer up a sumptuous theological feast out of what is sometimes seen as the dry fare of the book of Numbers.”—Dennis Olson, Charles T. Haley Professor of Old Testament Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary

“The Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible is a crucial venture, and David L. Stubbs’s Numbers is a most welcome addition. With great passion for the text and the people it seeks to form, Stubbs demonstrates that the theological wisdom of the past helps to display the profound importance of the book of Numbers for the cultivation of scripturally shaped ecclesial life. No less does Stubbs’s commentary show the interpretive merits gained by thorough interaction with modern biblical study. In short, Stubbs is to be commended for his steadfast rejection of the false alternative so often posed between ancient and contemporary hermeneutical strategies. Stubbs reads this Old Testament book with an interpretive patience, literary attentiveness, and theological freedom that invite us all to return to the text and consider it more closely—surely a proper end of any theological exegesis worth its name.”—C. Kavin Rowe, assistant professor of New Testament, Duke Divinity School

“In Numbers Stubbs shows us what theological interpretation of scripture should be: deeply attentive to the biblical text, whilst at the same time drawing richly from the church’s theological heritage. With the church of our day so divided and confused, we have never more needed to hear God’s word from the book of Numbers, this most ecclesiological of books. God willing, with the patient guidance of Stubbs and other theologians like him, we may yet find our way through the desert of our failings and besetting sins.”—Nathan MacDonald, reader in Old Testament, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and leader of the Sofja-Kovaleskaja Research Group, University of Göttingen, Germany

“Stubbs’s sophisticated literary approach is just what is needed to engage the interplay of law and narrative in this, the most complex book of the Torah. Moreover, his wide-ranging theological and ecclesial imagination is deeply informed by scripture and the history of its interpretation by both Jews and Christians. Stubbs has opened up the riches of a book that was effectively closed to the church, making it accessible and even indispensable for our journey with God.”—Ellen F. Davis, Amos Ragan Kearns Professor of Bible and Practical Theology, Duke Divinity School

“The Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible was born of the conviction that everyone interprets from a particular tradition, whether they acknowledge it or not, and that those steeped in the practices of the ‘Nicene tradition, in all its diversity and controversy,’ are best able to provide ‘structure and cogency to scriptural interpretation.’ The editors have chosen theologians for whom doctrine is a living engagement with the tradition, a habit of mind and heart, not a chiseling of propositions on stone tablets—theologians like David Stubbs. He sees in the diverse material of Numbers a consistent portrayal of God as a ‘burning fire that tests us and ultimately cleanses us to make us holy.’ He sees the burning fire of God creating a ‘people of zeal and hope and of humility and honesty.’ His commentary helps to bridge the divide that has arisen between theologians and exegetes. ”—Thomas A. Boogaart, Professor of Biblical Studies, Western Theological Seminary

Reviews

“Stubbs offers a fresh and helpful analysis of Numbers. Numbers is not easy to read as Christian Scripture, but Stubbs approaches the text with fresh eyes and offers creative solutions to textual problems as well as illuminating, but orthodoxy bound, interpretations. Any preacher who has never thought about a sermon series on Numbers has only to peruse this volume. Soon they will begin to get excited at the prospect of unpacking this long-forgotten, yet foundational, book of the Bible.”—David Griffiths, Theological Book Review

“Gives much space to how the stories and laws in the Book of Numbers connect to Christian practice and theology. [This aspect] will be helpful in preaching.”—Ray Van Neste, Preaching

“[Stubbs] adverts frequently to, and draws substantively from, people who are theologically, philologically, and critically adept Christian scholars. . . . I regard Stubbs’s commentary on Numbers the best in the series so far, not least because he permits his reading to be disciplined by the text. . . . Stubbs is neither dismissive of nor naïve about history and its relation—its variously potential relations—to scriptural interpretation. Most impressive about this commentary is its conjunction of close attention to the text of Numbers combined with its (the commentary’s) intratextual character—its treatment of Numbers also as a text to be read within the textual, scriptural, ensemble of which it is a component. That ensemble, as Stubbs plays it, can be breathtaking at times. . . . One gains the impression that Stubbs is less interested in some conflict between theologically incompetent biblical scholars and exegetically incompetent theologians than in engaging in actual scriptural interpretation. This he does well, and in exemplary fashion.”—Ben C. Ollenburger, Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought

“The book of Numbers is not necessarily the biblical book that jumps to one’s mind as a subject for an interesting Bible study or sermon series. . . . This is unfortunate, however, as David Stubbs’ commentary beautifully demonstrates. . . . Throughout the commentary, Stubbs uses his exegetical skills and keen theological sensibilities to elucidate the stories of Numbers, many of which are difficult to understand. . . . At least as helpful as his explanations are his applications of these stories to the church today. . . . While this commentary is informative and helpful for anyone interested in Numbers, it has special benefit for preachers. . . . The exegetical insights in the commentary deal with many issues relevant to the Christian community. . . . In addition, his clear writing style and pastoral tone make this volume a stimulating choice for all of us who must choose carefully from the numerous reading options available.”—Mary L. Vanden Berg, Calvin Theological Journal

“Stubbs consistently makes linkages with the entire Christian tradition. . . . Stubbs’s effort to relate Scripture and doctrine must be judged as very successful. He blazes the trail for teachers, ministers, preachers and, above all, students of the Bible!”—James Chukwuma Okoye, CSSp, The Bible Today