Book Plunge: Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament

What do I think about John Walton’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

For some time, John Walton has been one of my favorite Old Testament scholars if not my favorite. When I see a book from him coming out, I make a request for it immediately. Going through his book that he wrote now on thought from the ANE and the Old Testament, I was not disappointed.

To be fair, portions of this book seem to cover material that exists in his other books, which isn’t too surprising. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. If you’ve read the series of books for his Lost World ideas, then you will see a lot of material repeated.

You will also see material that you haven’t seen before. For example, I have not seen a work from Walton dealing very much with the concept of death and the afterdeath, as I prefer to call it, in his other books. You will find that here. Overall, the aim of the work is to give you a look at how the world was for Israel and its neighbors.

Some ways of thinking were similar. Some were different. Israel was much more focused on the idea of a covenant. Other societies couldn’t do that as much coming from a polytheistic background. One individual god might make a covenant, but no other people had one god that made them an everlasting covenant and refused any other gods.

Walton goes through to show what the similarities and differences are. This comes through in five different sections that include comparative studies, literature, religion, cosmos, and people. The third one might be misleading to some as it is the section that focuses on religion as religion, but all the other sections definitely had something to do with religion as the deities were involved with everything.

The book is also written in a layout whereby you don’t have to go straight through. If you want to study just one section, you can do that and not be missing out because you didn’t read earlier chapters. There are several sidebars that give interesting information that you can read if you want to, but I would not think they are required. The book is also easy to understand for the layman so you don’t need specialized knowledge to get at what Walton is getting at.

Christians who are wanting to understand the Old Testament better in light of the surrounding culture and how Israel saw its place in the cultural stream will want to read this book. I would also encourage skeptics to read this so they can have better informed disagreements instead of trotting out the usual concordist approach to the Old Testament. Frankly, just anyone wanting to understand the Old Testament should read this book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters