Chisholm, Robert, M. Jr. From Exegesis to Exposition: A Practical Guide to Using Biblical Hebrew. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998. 278 pp.
Robert Chisholm, professor of Old Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, set out to write a guidebook for sermon preparation from the OT that begins with the Hebrew text and ends with a timely, culturally relevant exposition of the Bible of ancient Israel. In this task, he has certainly succeeded. This work takes the reader through virtually the entire process of sermon preparation, starting with the bare Hebrew text and ending with a message ready to be preached. Along the way, he includes copious example from a wide variety of OT genres to illustrate virtually every point he tries to make. His list of suggested further reading at the end of each chapter will prove valuable to the student who desires to increase his knowledge in the areas covered by this book.
Chisholm begins with an excellent apologetic for the use of the Hebrew text by the pastor (chapter 1), and then he devotes a short section (chapter 2) to an analysis of various tools available to the exegete-pastor. Since the publication of this book in 1998, the availability of resources has drastically changed, rendering this section somewhat outdated. Nevertheless, his analysis of the various strengths and weaknesses of the lexical aids is valuable, since the aids he does list are still available, some in electronic format.
Chapters 3-5 cover some of the foundational matters of textual criticism, semantics and linguistics, and basic Hebrew grammar. While each of these topics can (and has) filled books all by themselves, Chisholm does an admirable job of boiling down some key points of each topic to provide a basic foundation. His chapter on Hebrew syntax (chapter 5) would be much improved, in this author’s opinion, by the relatively simple task of adding vowel points.
Chapters 6-7 cover the two basic genres of OT literature—historical narrative and poetry. His demonstration of how to analyze a narrative passage is helpful in seeing how to organize the passage around the relationships between the various clauses. It would be helpful to develop some sort of graphical scheme to supplement the labels (e.g. sequential, temporal, circumstantial) and emphasize the key parts of the narrative while subordinating the supporting parts. His discussion of the basic ingredients of a story and the types of characters (pp. 151-53) is helpful in analyzing the key parts of a narrative in order to isolate the significant from the insignificant, or at least less significant.
Chapters 8-9 flesh out the process by first advocating a seven-step process to determine the meaning of the text itself (chapter 8) and then “mak[ing] the ancient text come alive, so that it can impact the thinking and behavior of people living, struggling, suffering, and dying in the here and now” (p. 221; chapter 9). This chapter, as do the others, include a number of examples of Chisholm’s own work. Chapter 10 closes with some exercises that the reader can try his own hand at.
Overall, this is a valuable introduction for preaching Old Testament texts.