Joshua Bible Commentary: Interview with Dale Ralph Davis

Dale Ralph Davis JoshuaDale Ralph Davis is Minister in Residence of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. Prior to that he was pastor of Woodland Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. He is well known for his excellent Old Testament commentaries, and his book The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Joshua?

I had taught through the ‘Former Prophets’ several times in seminary classes, so, after I left the seminary the first time for a pastorate, I decided to try to pull together my notes and studies on Joshua and see if I could set it down in a coherent exposition. I’m sure that I had also preached on a number of passages in Joshua and that also fed into my writing.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

I suppose the proper answer is ‘pastors and interested lay people.’ I’ve had responses over the years from both ‘categories’–pastors often indicating that it was helpful for their preaching series in Joshua, and a number of lay people who may say that they’ve used it as a ‘pony’ as they have been reading through Joshua in their devotional reading. For pastors, I think that sometimes if they come on a commentary that ‘grabs’ them, they will be far more likely to preach through that biblical book.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Joshua?

I don’t know if my commentary makes a contribution exactly to studies of Joshua, but I think it is distinctive to a certain degree. It is an expositional commentary, it does not deal in detailed exegesis. As an expositional commentary it will stoop to application, and yet it’s not strictly a ‘devotional’ commentary in the smaltzy sense of that word. It tries to set forth a theo-centric approach to every passage, so that the focus is on what Yahweh is up to, on what God is doing not so much on our needs. The triune God is so much more interesting than we are, and yet, oddly enough, once we see him in the text, we at the same time find our needs met as well.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

I don’t know that any passage stands out in this regard. I find it very satisfying to see 24:29-33 as the climax of the book and not a bunch of floor sweepings to be collected at the end. The 3 burials in this last passage all take place in the land that was promised (the theme of chapter 1), in promise dirt, and therefore point to Yahweh’s faithfulness to his ‘old’ promise. So these burial notices at the end are not a few sundry and extraneous details but are hammering home Yahweh’s relentless faithfulness.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Ruins of ancient Jericho

Ruins of ancient Jericho

I think I was ‘personally edified’ in working with every passage. That, I think, must be the case. As John Bright once said, there are no non-theological texts in the Bible. Every text is meant to put the triune Yahweh on display in some way. When one sees him, one is bound to tremble or worship or be comforted and settled–whatever is appropriate. There are no cold facts about God, only warm truth, and every passage, however dry it may seem, delights in him in some way.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Joshua?

There are several that come to mind. Of commentaries, I think pride of place for me would go to Adolph L. Harstad’s in the Concordia Commentary series.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I am currently working, beyond the OT, in the Gospel of Luke and also continuing to work in the first ‘book’ of the Psalms. No need to follow my work or ministry–I don’t blog or do any cyber-stuff.

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