A Book for Those Who Seek to Better Understanding the Old Testament
This is a significant book of 219 Old Testament stories written for Christian adults who want to gain a better understanding of and a greater appreciation for the Old Testament (see the picture [and the link to Amazon.com] at the bottom of this page). This book, entitled I Will Make of Thee a Great Nation: Old Testament Stories, has been highly regarded and was a “Best Books Award Finalist” for USA Book News.
I am confident that you will love this book! And through it, I believe you will come to love the Old Testament because you will understand it better than ever before. The stories are simple without being simplistic. You will find them to be both very readable and true to the scriptures. You will also be pleased that there is no fictionalizing and no embellishing.
THE OLD TESTAMENT: UNDERSTAND IT, LOVE IT!
Following are three reviews of I WILL MAKE OF THEE A GREAT NATION:
The OT is a large volume or work and it isn’t easy to understand at first. I remember the first time I opened the bible at the beginning and felt utterly overwhelmed and unprepared to comprehend what lied within. If you feel the same about the OT, but would like to learn more about it, this is a perfect book for you. Also the OT is very underappreciated volume of scripture. Many bible students touch on it only when they have to in seminaries or Sunday school classes and rush off to study the New Testament (NT) to discover the mysteries therein…. Yet it is my belief and my experience that the OT is a treasure trove of wisdom, knowledge and a key to proper understanding of the NT and Christ’s atonement. So Mr. Greenwood did a great service to all of us by putting together this book. His experience in studying and teaching OT for a number of years clearly shows through. He gets to the essence of each story and when he gives an interpretation or explains the meaning of something he clearly documents his interpretation with references to biblical passages. Once again, it provides the reader with a fresh view of the stories many of us are already familiar with.
The book also includes a section with biblical maps, pronunciation guide, name index with description of each character and references to where to read about them, subject index and bibliography. I highly recommend it to both beginning and advanced students, but especially to parents and teachers interested in fostering the love of the scripture and of the Old Testament.
Mr. Greenwood’s writing is invisible. That sounds like an indictment, but actually that comment is meant as a compliment. I mean I didn’t notice whether the writing is good or bad, because I was flowing with the idea the writing is supposed to convey. If the writing was bad, I’d notice and be distracted from the content. If the writing was salient, I would have been distracted by my stopping to admire the phraseology or perhaps to decipher a phrase that was overly complex in nature. Either way I would be distracted and my absorption of the material would be impacted. The author’s goal here is not to impress us with his literary prowess. He’s trying to deliver the word of God in a more digestible and condensed format. I think he succeeded admirably. Since this is just a retelling of material that already exists, there is no major element of creativity involved here to critique. The author’s major challenge is to determine what to include and what to omit. After the decision on what to include, he had to determine what to focus on and what to mention briefly. This is an area that some might criticize. For example, some might want to see more about King Jehoshaphat and less about King Saul. I don’t know enough to be critical or laudatory here. I know I learned a lot, but I have no clue about what should have been included or stressed in this work but wasn’t. This type of analysis really requires a Biblical scholar…
Review on OnlineBookClub.org
Official Review: I Will Make of Thee a Great Nation by Val D. Greenwood
There have been countless Bible storybooks written for people of all ages. In I Will Make of Thee a Great Nation by Val D. Greenwood, we are presented with a compilation of Old Testament stories that goes a step beyond the expected. While all the well-known stories — from Cain and Abel to David and Goliath –- are certainly present, the author also includes many less-familiar stories that help to make this book more than a collection of disparate stories. Instead, it becomes a seamless history of the children of Israel. For example, Greenwood includes not only the captivity in Babylon but also the two separate returns from exile, first to rebuild the temple, and then to rebuild the city walls. Greenwood focuses on the historical books and, except for the book of Job, leaves out the books of poetry, like Psalms and Proverbs. He places the books of prophecy, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, into their historical context.
As a student of Scripture, I will agree with the author that there are many parts of the Old Testament that are difficult to read and understand. Add to that the fact that, as presented in the Bible, these books are not presented chronologically, and many people don’t even bother to read them. Greenwood arranges his stories in chronological order, so that the history presented makes sense. This is especially helpful with the books of Kings and Chronicles, which tell the history of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel from two different viewpoints. He seamlessly weaves the history together in a way that makes it much more coherent. Included in his retelling are historical accounts that allow the reader to follow the history of God’s people from creation to captivity and the return from exile.
The author also includes several appendices in the back, including maps, pronunciation guides, and a glossary of people. I especially appreciated the glossary, because there are so many people and places in the Old Testament that it’s easy to lose track. He also has endnotes throughout, which help to explain events or terms that may be unfamiliar. In the eBook, the reader can simply click on the number to toggle back and forth.
I very much appreciate the author’s complete historical retelling of the Old Testament. Though I have been a student of Scripture for over 50 years, I found myself opening my Bible and rereading the stories in their original form. He does an excellent job of retelling the stories and staying true to the Scriptural accounts. The one exception is his retelling of the Creation. There are currently two schools of thought among Christians about the length of the days of Creation. I am a Creationist, and the author is not. He goes into detail about the possible length of the six days, which allows for reconciling the Bible with science. Creationists take the Bible at its word and “evening and morning” denotes one 24-hour day. Putting that aside, I am not aware of any Christian teaching that God did not actually create the universe out of nothing, but instead simply arranged material available to bring forth life. I speak of this, not to engage in doctrinal debate, but instead because the distinction will narrow the author’s desired audience. In no other story did he add or subtract from the story as written in the Bible. I almost deleted the book on that merit myself, but I’m very glad I kept reading. The rest of the book would make an excellent companion book to a study of the Old Testament.
This book was obviously professionally edited. There were typographical errors and a few mechanical errors, but they did not detract from the story. There were frequent formatting errors, where half a page is left blank. I don’t know if this is a problem with the Kindle format or not, but it was distracting.
The author writes using language and grammatical style that is reminiscent of the King James translation of the Bible. For example, “When Jacob had learned of the destruction that Simeon and Levi had wrought in the city of Shechem….” When anyone is speaking to God, he speaks with “Thee” and “Thou.” For young children, or those unfamiliar with that style, it may be difficult to read. For this reason, as well as the inclusion of Biblical events that include rape and incest, this book is most appropriate for teens and adults. That being said, students of Scripture would benefit from reading this book. I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars.