Recently I was contacted about reviewing a work called “Eco Bible: Volume 1, An Ecological Commentary on Genesis and Exodus”. I agreed to give it a look and a copy was sent to me for review purposes. As I have been reading in it, I have mixed thoughts about it.
Firstly, I find this an intriguing approach to the find insight and inspiration in the Jewish Scriptures. The authors; Rabbi Yonatan Neril and Rabbi Leo Dee, as denoted by their titles, are Jewish rabbis. Thus, the basis for much of the insights included come from the Midrash. As I am not Jewish, I am far from understanding the Midrash and it’s collective wisdom. That said, there is much commentary included in this volume, drawn from the Midrash, to give me a lot to think about.
An early example of the insight comes from the commentary on Genesis 1:3. This verse reveals to us that God said, “Let there be light”, but I had never connected the fact that the sun was not created until Day 4 of Creation. Thus, the “light” was not the physical but a spiritual one. While a reader may or may not agree with this interpretation, it must make one stop and think. This I find quite useful and beneficial. When one stops to think, the world becomes a bit more amazing.
There are many such insights and revelations which I came across, and will continue to discover as I continue reading this as a reference work. For me, it is not a cohesive read from cover to cover. I read it as I study a given verse or verses, much as I would other commentaries.
While I find some entries very insightful and thought provoking, other commentaries seem much more tangential rather than reflective. What I mean is some entries seem more agenda presentation than Bible commentary. Take the entry for Genesis 41:20,24 as an example. These verses refer to the dreams Pharaoh had regarding a coming drought. The first portion of the commentary has meaningful, thought provoking insight. However, as the written commentary continues, it devolves into a statistical analysis of how many calories a cow eats and how much water a cow drinks, all in an attempt to illustrate how livestock is a non-equitable food source.
I find this an interesting read, and it is quite informative in it’s content. There is much to cause one to pause and think about. I also find the tangential comments to be informative and thought provoking, but in many ways non-relevant to the Bible. Trying to merge an agenda with the Bible never seems to work in my opinion. This work is well written and informative, it is written with a purpose, and at times the purpose takes a dominant position and the Bible verse a submissive. These portions I don’t like. When the commentary is more on-point to the text of the Bible, I find it very thought provoking and insightful.
Would I recommend this book and the subsequent one which is yet to be published? Yes. As I said earlier, there is much thought provoking insight in this book. As I am a pastor, I read all types of reference works to help me gain a greater understanding of the background and context of the Bible. With commentary included which is as old as 3500 years, it is hard not to find information which is beneficial to my understanding of the Bible.