Song of Solomon by J M Flanigan and Isaiah by J M Riddle; published and available from John Ritchie Ltd.; price £18.95.
This, the fifth in the current Old Testament series of What the Bible Teaches commentaries, is the first to have two books contained in the one volume Song of Solomon and Isaiah. The result is that which contrasts as well as that which complements. There is contrast in the content and the style of writing, particularly as the commentary on Isaiah is based on extensive notes originally prepared for Bible Class use. There is that which complements in that each work directs attention to different aspects of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Song of Solomon
As one would expect from the pen of Mr Flanigan, and very much in keeping with the subject matter of the Song, the commentary is Christ-centred in approach and mainly devotional in character. There is, however, no lack of exposition, and, in his introduction, the author reviews the three main methods of interpretation usually adopted Allegorical, Literal, and Typical. Mr Flanigans approach is probably best summed up in his own words at the end of this section "It is truly a veritable mine of typical treasure".
The "love triangle" view of the Song is confronted and its implications pointed out. It is then positively rejected by the author, using both his own arguments and those of other authorities.
As we read through, we find that the Song is rich in pictures of the relationship between Jehovah and Israel, between Christ and the Church, between the Bride and the Bridegroom, and between Christ and the believer. Where there are differences of opinion as to meanings and interpretations they are pointed out, but the focus on these relationships is never lost.
The Bibliography is relatively large, and Mr Flanigan refers us to other writers on this subject, distilling their wisdom for us. However, the commentary is full of his own clear teaching, which exalts the Person of Christ and will delight the heart of the saint.
In dealing with the Song, Mr Flanigan desires to find in it "glimpses of Him who loved the Church and gave Himself for it". He succeeds.
For obvious reasons, the commentary on Isaiah takes up by far the major part of the book, and is written in Mr Riddles straightforward style.
The author views Isaiahs prophecy primarily in three contexts historically, prophetically (in both the short and the long term), and millennially, and he sets his exposition out in a manner which makes it easy to assimilate. Each chapter is divided systematically into easily digestible sections with headings which are often alliterative without being artificially so. This makes the message of the prophecy, its interpretations and its applications more readily understood and remembered.
While many so-called "higher critics" have put forward the theory that the book of Isaiah was written by at least two people, Mr Riddle (not unexpectedly) firmly rebuts "the arguments for plural authorship", and, while referring the reader to more detailed commentaries on this point, sets out his own views in a brief but cogent and positive manner.
The many Scriptural quotations and references demonstrate that the Word of God is not made up of disparate parts, but is to be seen as a whole, and the reader will benefit greatly by looking up and reading the verses indicated. These citations show fulfilment, parallels, and applications of the teaching of Isaiah. We are shown how his message often looks beyond the (for us) past reality of history to the future reality of prophecy. The past is thus shown to be anticipative of the future, with distinction being drawn between prophecies which refer to near events and distant events.
Although the distinction is made between the nation and the Church in the eternal purpose of God, the application of divine principles is made in relation to both nation and Church, as well as to the individual believer. The enduring relevance of Scripture is also demonstrated in the many examples of practical teaching for everyday living which are brought to the attention of the reader, and thus divine principles and purpose are seen to be interconnected throughout the ages.
Mr Riddle makes significant use of the comments of other expositors, which serves to give a richer texture to the work as well as introducing the student looking for further help to a relatively wide variety of resources.
This volume, by two well-known and respected teachers of the Word of God, gives help and instruction and whets the appetite for further individual study. It is a book which will both elevate and educate the mind of the spiritual reader, drawing the saint closer to the Lord and giving a greater appreciation of divine purpose.