How God Responds to His Children’s Suffering

A godly man’s suffering may be extreme, yet God never takes it lightly and never loses control. – Derek Kidner (1913-2008), on Psalm 34.19-22.

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“An Unsurpassed Example of What a Hymn Should Be”

This psalm is an unsurpassed example of what a hymn should be, celebrating, as it does, the glory and grace of God, rehearsing who He is and what He has done, and relating us and our world to Him, all with a masterly economy of words and in a spirit of mingled joy and awe.  It brings to light the unexpectedness of God’s ways in the roles He has assigned to the strong and weak (2), the spectacular and the obscure (3-5), and the multitudinous and the few (6-8).  But it begins and ends (1, 9) with God Himself, and its overriding theme is “How excellent is Your name!”

From: Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms by Derek Kidner; The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries series (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), pp. 65-66.  Commenting on Psalm 8.  Very slightly edited for clarity.

On the Nature of the Book of Psalms

The Psalter, taken on its own terms, is not so much a liturgical library, storing up standard literature for cultic requirements, as a hospitable house, well lived in, where most things can be found and borrowed after some searching, and whose first occupants have left on it everywhere the imprint of their experiences and the stamp of their characters. – Derek Kidner (1913-2008), British Old Testament scholar

From: Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms by Derek Kidner; Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries series (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), p. 18.

God Rules His Creation

Now, the fourth day of creation comes into focus…The rhythmic flow of the seasons is a result of God’s appointment of the sun, moon, and stars.  They were set in the expanse of the sky to “serve as signs to mark seasons, and days, and years” (Genesis 1.14).  The heavenly bodies were God’s gift, not to be worshiped (Deuteronomy 4.19) but recognized as rulers that configured the various time frames within which man operates  (commentator Derek Kidner: “In these few simple sentences, the lie is given to the superstition as old as Babylon and as modern as a newspaper horoscope” – commenting on Genesis 1.14.)  There is an orderliness about creation which is there by God’s design, and both men and animals regulate their activities according to the fluctuation of day and night and the various seasons of the year.

From: Psalms by Allan Harman; 2 volumes; A Mentor Commentary series (Fearn: Christian Focus Publications, 2011), 2:747.  Commenting on Psalm 104.19-20.

The “Simple” Man

The locus classicus of the “simple” is chapter 7, where he is seen at his most typical: aimless, inexperienced, drifting into temptation – indeed, almost courting it.  A person in such a state (and the reader is not encouraged to think himself beyond such folly) will not go far before he meets a temptress or (as in 1:10ff) tempters who know what they want and what he half-wants.  In short, the “simple” (and his elder brother, the “fool”) is no halfwit; he is a person whose instability could be rectified but who prefers not to accept discipline in the school of wisdom (1:22-32).

From: Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary by Derek Kidner; The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries 17 (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1964), p. 37.

Ancient Wisdom

The Bible often alludes to the wisdom and the wise men of Israel’s neighbors, particularly those of Egypt (Acts 7:22; 1 Kings 4:30; Isaiah 19:11-12), of Edom and Arabia (Jeremiah 49:7; Obadiah 8; Job 1:3; 1 Kings 4:30), of Babylon (Isaiah 47:10; Daniel 1:4, 20, etc.), and of Phoenicia (Ezekiel 28:3ff; Zechariah 9:2).  While the Old Testament scorns the magic and superstition which debased much of this thought (Isaiah 47:12-13) and the pride which inflated it (Job 5:13), it can speak of the Gentile sages with a respect it never shows towards their priests and prophets.  Solomon outstripped them, but we are expected to be impressed by the fact; and Daniel excelled the wise men of Babylon as one who stood at the head of their own profession (Daniel 5:11-12).  Admittedly, it was God who gave supernatural insight to these Israelites, but the Old Testament clearly implies that a man can still think validly and talk wisely, within a limited field, without special revelation.  This is put beyond doubt by the story of Ahithophel, whose advice continued to be “as if a man inquired at the oracle of God,” even after he had turned traitor (2 Samuel 16:23; 17:14).

The rapid spread of Solomon’s reputation and the flocking of foreign visitors to hear him (1 Kings 4:34; 10:1-13, 24) illustrate the intellectual climate of the time both outside and within Israel.  It was a common thing for sages to visit foreign courts and test each other’s wit and wisdom.  If Solomon paid no visits in return, at least there was an interest aroused at his court in comparing his sayings with the words of his visitors (1 Kings 4:30-31) and Proverbs shows, by its contents, that Israel’s wise men were ready to sift and assimilate some of his imported wealth.

From: Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary by Derek Kidner; Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries 17 (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1964), p. 17.

Derek Kidner (1913-2008) was Warden of Tyndale House, Cambridge University (1964-1978).

The Adulterer

The lesson is pressed home by a comparison.  A thief, even when he is pitied…must pay up heavily…but an adulterer has disgraced himself forever and made an implacable enemy…The last phrase of verse 32 perhaps glances at the death-penalty of Deuteronomy 22:22…but verses 33-35 contemplate his continued, if precarious, existence.  He destroys himself spiritually.

The picture of the adulterer as social outcast may seem greatly overdrawn.  If so, the adjustment that must be made is to say that, in any healthy society, such an act is social suicide.  [Condoning], as distinct from forgiveness, only proves the adulterer to part of a general decadence (cf. Jeremiah 5:7-9; 6:15).

From: Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary by Derek Kidner; Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries 17 (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1964), pp. 70-71.  Comment on Proverbs 6:30-35.

Derek Kidner (1913-2008) was Warden of Tyndale House, Cambridge (1964-1978) and a prolific writer on Old Testament subjects.

in memoriam, Derek Kidner (1913-2008)

No work that is known to us from the Ancient Near East is remotely comparable in scope, to say nothing of less measurable qualities, with the book of Genesis.  Certain epics from Babylonia tell of Creation, others of a Deluge; the fullest extant version of the Epic of Atrahasis, more than 1,200 lines long, links the two events in a continuous story which provides some sort of parallel to Genesis 1-8; but, when these come to an end, Genesis has barely begun.  Its story has started at an earlier point than theirs (since, with them, the waters, personified, are the beginning, and the gods who will overcome them are only their offspring) and it will not end until the church of the Old Testament has been firmly rooted and four generations of patriarchs have lived out eventful lives against the background of two different civilizations.

The book falls into two unequal parts, of which the second begins with the emergence of Abram at the junction of chapters 11 and 12.  Chapters 1 to 11 describe two opposite progressions: first, God’s orderly creation, to its climax in man as a responsible and and blessed being and, then, the disintegrating work of sin, to its first great anticlimax in the corrupt world of the Flood, and its second in the folly of Babel.

With this, the general history of man gives way, in chapter 12, to the germinal story of “Abraham and his seed,” with God’s covenant no longer a general pledge to all mankind, as in chapter 9, but narrowed down to a single family through which “all the families of the earth” will be blessed (12:3).  Abram, landless and childless, is made to learn that the great promise, the lodestar of his life, must be fulfilled divinely and miraculously, or not at all…

From: Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary by Derek Kidner (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1967), pp. 13-14.  This is a volume in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries series.

Frank Derek Kidner (1913-2008), an ordained Anglican priest, was Curate of St. Nicholas, Sevenoaks (1941-1947) and Vicar of Felsted (1947-1951).  He was, then, Senior Tutor at Oak Hill Theological College (1951-1964) and Warden of Tyndale House, Cambridge University (1964-1978).  He authored several Old Testament commentaries in this series.  I do not have an exact date, but his death occurred within the last two weeks, I believe.  He was 95.

Introductory Remarks on the Book of Psalms

The Old Testament repeatedly breaks out into poetry.  Even its narratives are graced, here and there, with a couplet or a longer sequence of verse to make some memorable point (cf. e.g., Genesis 2-4 in any modern version), and its prophecies predominantly take this form.  While the Psalms are the main body of poems in Scripture, and were given (with Job and Proverbs) a distinctive system of accents by the Massoretes to mark the fact, they are, themselves, surrounded by poetry and rooted in a long and popular poetic tradition.

By its suppleness of form, Hebrew poetry lent itself well to this widespread use.  A proverbial saying, a riddle, an orator’s appeal, a prayer, a thanksgiving, to mention only a few varieties of speech, could all slip into its rhythms almost effortlessly, for its metre was not parcelled out in “feet” or in a prescribed arrangement of strong and weak syllables, but heard in the sound of, say, three or four stresses in a short sentence or phrase, matched by an answering line of about the same length.  The lighter syllables interspersed with the stronger were of no fixed number, and the tally of strong beats in a line could, itself, be varied, with some freedom, within a single poem.  There was room, and to spare, for spontaneity.

From: Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms by Derek Kidner (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), p. 1.

Kidner’s two-volume commentary on the Book of Psalms was published as part of the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries series (D. J. Wiseman, general editor).  Kidner (born in 1913) was a tutor at Oak Hill College, in London (1951-1964) and then Warden of Tyndale House, Cambridge (1964-1978).  If the Lord wills, he will be 95 years old this coming September 22.