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Engaging the Old Testament

How to Read Biblical Narrative, Poetry, and Prophecy Well

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This introductory textbook invites students into the depths and riches of the Old Testament and shows the Old Testament's relevance for Christian readers. Rising Latino evangelical Old Testament scholar Dominick Hernández demonstrates how to read Old Testament texts well and put the ancient written word into practice in our day and age.

Hernández shows that four core commitments put readers on the right trajectory for reading and applying the Old Testament to their lives: (1) reading humbly, (2) reading successively, (3) reading entirely, and (4) reading deliberately. Students will learn how to become better readers of the text and how to read select Old Testament passages well, paying attention to how the biblical authors used rhetorical techniques to provoke readers to action.

1. What's the Old Testament "God" to Do with Me?
2. The Commitment to Really Reading
3. From Talking to Tablets to Tabernacle to Today
4. Reading from Today Back to the Text
5. The Confessions of a Close Reader
6. How the Old Testament Is Told: Narrative
7. Learning to Love the Law?
8. Seeds of Remembrance
9. Redeeming Rahab the Conqueror
10. Why Is the Book of Judges So Weird?
11. Hannah and Ruth: Mothers of the Monarchy
12. King David's True Legacy
13. Divided Allegiances to Divided Kingdom: The Tragedy of King Solomon
14. How Biblical Poets Wrote Poetry: The Importance of Parallelism
15. How Biblical Poets Wrote Poetry: The Proliferation of Metaphors
16. Metaphors and Retributive Justice in the Poetry of Job
17. How Prophets Prophesy
18. How to Engage Poetic Prophecy
19. Who Is Isaiah's Suffering Servant?


"This is a creative introduction to how to read the Old Testament well as an ancient text for today. To engage this literature properly, Hernández explains that we need appropriate attitudes and informed literary sensibilities. He then works carefully through multiple texts across the Old Testament canon to demonstrate the payoff of his exhortations. Not overly technical, this helpful tool by an important Latino Old Testament scholar should serve a wide audience."

M. Daniel Carroll R., Scripture Press Ministries Professor of Biblical Studies and Pedagogy, Wheaton College and Graduate School

"In this creative and helpful book, Hernández encourages us to approach the Old Testament as an honored conversation partner, listening carefully to what it has to say. Hernández explains that engaging the Old Testament well means reading humbly, not arrogantly assuming we already know its message or meaning. It means reading successively, not believing a single section of the Old Testament contains all the information about God and God's plans. It means reading entirely, not skipping the disturbing or confusing sections. And it means reading deliberately, not hastily or distractedly. With chapters covering much of the content of the Old Testament and analogies drawn from literature, this book demonstrates what riches we can gain through genuine engagement of the Old Testament."

Sara M. Koenig, professor of biblical studies, Seattle Pacific University

"What a delightful book! In Engaging the Old Testament, Hernández invites readers into a virtuous and careful reading of the Scriptures. Well-written, honest, and approachable, the volume both forms and informs its readers, so that they may engage Old Testament texts in all of their literary artistry and theological depth. Hernández meets beginning students where they are and provides all the tools necessary to begin reading--really reading--the Old Testament."

Michelle Knight, assistant professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"This book is exemplary not only because it consists of a number of examples of how to read the Old Testament but also because those readings demonstrate the humble, successive, entire, and deliberate engagement with Israel's Scripture that Hernández rightly claims is required if we are to hear it speak. Hernández combines clear and careful exegesis with an infectious enthusiasm for reading the Old Testament, conveyed in fresh and lively prose peppered with literary and cultural references."

Will Kynes, associate professor of biblical studies, Samford University

"Reading and interpreting the Old Testament is a daunting task since the writings are over two thousand years old and since they come from a culture dramatically different from ours. Hernández provides expert guidance in understanding narrative, poetry, and prophecy. Hernández wisely admonishes us to read the biblical text slowly, and the book is stocked with examples where the author has clearly followed his own dictum. This is not an ordinary textbook because it not only provides wise guidance for beginners but also offers bold interpretations that will provoke the most experienced reader to reflect anew on the biblical text. This is an ideal textbook both for new students and for those who want something fresh and challenging."

Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

"The first word in the title of Hernández's book, Engaging the Old Testament, says it all. This book is truly an engaging introduction to the Old Testament as inspired Scripture. Hernández's use of classic and modern literature outside the Bible to illustrate his points is a creative and effective way to stimulate one's appetite to read the Bible more and to appreciate its message better in our modern context. This book will become a standard for introductions of the Bible for years to come."

Seth D. Postell, academic dean, Israel College of the Bible

"Dominick Hernández has given us a tremendous resource for interpreting the Old Testament that is as accessible as it is wide-ranging! Contrary to the modern proclivity for rapid results, Hernández invites readers to slow down and listen carefully to the biblical text, all for the purpose of fellowship with God. Hernández patiently walks readers through every major genre of the Old Testament with sage counsel and practical examples of how to listen to an ancient text that is living and active. This book should be read by all interpreters who wish to take the Old Testament seriously."

Andrew M. King, assistant professor of biblical studies, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Spurgeon College

The Author

  1. Dominick S. Hernández
    Courtesy of the Office of Communications, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

    Dominick S. Hernández

    Dominick S. Hernández (PhD, Bar-Ilan University) is associate professor of Old Testament and Semitics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, in La Mirada, California. He previously taught at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Moody...

    Continue reading about Dominick S. Hernández


"This book is an introduciton to reading the literature of the Old Testament. . . . The book is an easy read and appropriate for both young people and adults. It is a good resource for any teacher trying to help students grow in understanding and love for the Old Testament."

Kate Oxsen,

The Bible Today