Daniel Strain – Esther, Ruth Commentary – Q & A

Daniel Strain is the author of the Ruth and Esther commentary in the Focus on the Bible series. Dr. Strain, born in Glasgow, Scotland, holds degrees from Duncan Jordanstone College of Art, Trinity College Glasgow/School of Divinity, the Free Church of Scotland College in Edinburgh, and Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson.

Dr. Strain was ordained to the gospel ministry in the Free Church of Scotland in September 2003, and has held pastoral charges in London, England, and Columbus, MS. Since May 2013, David has served on the pastoral staff of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson and was installed as Senior Minister in May 2014. He was awarded a Doctor of Ministry degree from Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson) in 2016.

7 Questions on Ruth and Esther in the Focus on the Bible Commentary Series

Recently, Dr. Strain graciously answered my questions about his Ruth and Esther commentary. Readers will learn how this commentary came to be, what is unique about it among Ruth and Esther commentaries, and how the project edified him personally.

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

ruth esther bible commentary strainThe commentaries on Ruth and Esther both grew out of a deep love for Old Testament narrative, and began life as several series of sermons preached in two different congregations. Suffice it to say, the emphasis in both books on the covenant faithfulness of God and his sovereign providence has been a piece of profound comfort to me, and I trust, some help to those who first listened to much of the material that made its way into this volume.

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

In keeping with the ethos of the Focus on the Bible series in general, this commentary is aimed at the lay reader. There is a concern throughout to connect the narrative to the broader themes of redemptive history, and to lead the reader by safe paths to Jesus Christ crucified. The applicatory character of the material is undoubtedly popular and devotional rather than scholarly, though I hope that it will be precisely here that preachers will find it useful in their preparations for the pulpit.

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

I have tried to model Christ centered exposition, helping connect the already vivid, though sometimes quite alien, Old Testament narrative to the gospel. Many academic commentaries are invested in the study of philology and the various disciplines of biblical criticism. One sometime wonders if, in order to be credible as a scholar one must refrain from reading the Old Testament as Christian scripture, clearly pointing us to and teaching us about Christ and the salvation he has won. I contend that this is the only way for a Christian to read it faithfully.

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

Its very hard to single out a single passage in either Ruth or Esther, partly because they are both such brilliantly written works of literature. The story is a unit. Having said that the obvious absence of the name of God in Esther is a challenge, as are some of the obscure customs Ruth (like the fascinating scene in 4:7f. at the city gate where Boaz and Mr. So and So agree that Boaz should marry Ruth. The man takes off his sandal and gives it to Boaz. What Boaz was supposed to do with it, or how Mr So and So was supposed to get home after that, I don’t know.) One important note to sound in writing is to capture something of the humor and the pace of the narrative. In both there are laugh-out-loud-funny moments when sin is shown to be self defeating, or when the machinations of a scheming mother-in-law are unmasked. The text is meant to evoke joy and make us delight in the wise and good providence of God. We should finish reading Ruth and Esther with a broad smile on our faces. I didn’t want to write a commentary that left the reader frowning.

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

To see in both the marvelous wisdom of God who works in both the macro and the micro levels of life for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose!

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

Daniel Block, Judges and Ruth, NAC, (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 1999), Robert L. Hubbard, The Book of Ruth, NICOT, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans 1988), Iain Duguid, Esther and Ruth, REC (Phillipsburg, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2005) Karen Jobes, Esther, NIVAC, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999).

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

Please visit David Strain’s staff page at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi. You can listen to his sermons here and read his articles here.

Follow David Strain on Twitter here.

Own David Strain’s Ruth and Esther commentary

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