The Baker Commentary on Old Testament Wisdom & Psalms (BCOTWP) is a great set and even better on a great digital platform. Although I have not made a complete switch to electronic books only, when it comes to reference works like commentaries, I prefer the electronic versions.
Using digital commentaries in Accordance Bible Software has at least two advantages. First, Accordance’s “Info Pane” gives you immediate access to commentaries on each verse as you scroll through a Scripture passage. When the “Info Pane” is open, Accordance instantly displays the commentaries related to the highlighted Scripture reference. Second, Accordance gives several options for searching commentaries. For example, with the BCOTWP set, one can search by scripture reference, Greek, Hebrew, or English content, transliteration, translation, manuscripts, and much more. There is much flexibility in narrowing your search.
The BCOTWP set is primarily aimed at pastors and future pastors (seminary students), and includes seven excellent commentaries published by Baker Academic between 2005 and 2012. Respected OT scholar Tremper Longman III serves as the series editor and authors the volumes on Job and Proverbs and assembled an impressive team of contributors: Craig G. Bartholomew on Ecclesiastes, John Goldingay on Psalms (3 vols.), and Richard Hess on Song of Songs.
The introduction of each volume tackles the major issues that influence interpretation: book title, authorship, date, language, style, text, ancient Near Eastern background, genre, canonicity, theological message, connection to the New Testament, and the structure of the book. After the introduction, the authors interpret each book unit by unit. For each section, they give their own translation with explanatory notes, followed by an extensive “Interpretation” section. Each unit concludes with a “Theological Implications” section.
The authors place most of the technical discussions and interaction with secondary sources in the footnotes, which makes this set a delight to read for those who do not want to be distracted by the technical issues. But having those matters in the footnotes means they are readily available for those who are interested.
The goal of each of the contributors is to explain how God’s message from each book is relevant for God’s people in every age. The “Theological Implications” sections of these commentaries take you beyond the OT and the meaning of the text in its original contexts to the links it has with the NT and how its message is relevant today. Pastors will find these sections helpful for sermon and lesson applications. For instance, here is an excerpt on the theological implications of Ecclesiastes 1:12–18, a section of a book that is notoriously difficult to preach:
Qohelet clearly presents himself as a Solomonic figure, and thus one who has been immersed in the biblical traditions. His crisis and journey of exploration is one of a believer, not of one unfamiliar with the ways of the LORD. Believers are not exempt from this sort of profound crisis of faith, hence the pastoral relevance of Qohelet. What does one do when precisely as a believer everything one observes and experiences seems to lead to the conclusion that all is enigmatic and that the enigmas cannot be resolved? This is Qohelet’s struggle, and it resonates with any believer in a crisis of faith. (pp. 125–27)
Hess interprets the Song of Songs as a celebration of sex as a gift of God and draws applications relevant for all believers. For instance, he notes in Song 2:8–3:5 that “the female’s devotion to her lover brings to mind the command to love God with all one’s heart” (p. 108). Longman sees Job as a model righteous sufferer for believers but ultimately of Christ the only true underserving sufferer, who patiently endures suffering under a wise and sovereign God. Longman faithfully interprets Proverbs in its OT context and also shows Christ as the epitome of God’s wisdom and how Christ is associated with lady wisdom of Proverbs.
Bartholomew’s work on Ecclesiastes is masterful, but some might disagree with his understanding of הֶבֶל, one of the key terms in the book. Bartholomew prefers to translate הֶבֶל as “enigma” instead of the more common “vanity.” In his opinion, the translation “enigma … leaves open the possibility of meaning [to life as pictured in Ecclesiastes]—it is just that Qohelet with his autonomous epistemology cannot find it” (pp. 93–94).
Goldingay explains the meaning of each psalm in his Psalms commentaries, but he does not attempt to discuss the significance of the immediate and broader contexts of each. This lack is influenced by the fact that based on his own studies “the Psalter as a whole does not have a structure that helps us get a handle on its contents” (p. 36). Goldingay thus disagrees with scholars such as J. Clinton McCann and Gerald H. Wilson, who posit a careful and coherent arrangement of the Psalter. He prefers the more form critical approach of categorizing the various types of psalms (e.g., praise and lament), which taken together “suggest a structure of spirituality” (p. 37). In spite of Goldingay’s lack of attention to the shape of the whole Psalter, the commentary is rich with insights.
Accordance offers the BCOTWP set for $299.00, so each volume on average costs approximately $43, which is slightly less than the cost of the individual books in hardback. Considering the competitive price and the advantages of the Accordance platform, this set is worth the cost.