Review: The Word Became Fresh, by Dale Ralph Davis

[photopress:the_word_became_fresh.jpg,thumb,right]Any preacher who has read Ralph Davis’ commentaries on the Old Testament historical books, or heard him preach, will be in no doubt that he is a man who has that rare combination of exegetical thoroughness, no-nonsense application, warm-hearted pastoral concern, and not a little dry humour to boot. It is a brave preacher who will preach from a passage in Joshua – 2 Kings without at least consulting Davis first.

The logic of Davis’ exegesis is usually so compelling, that the preacher can often be left asking himself the question, Why couldn’t I see that? This makes this new book (full title: The Word became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts) extremely appealing.

After an introductory chapter on the right approach to the Old Testament, Davis deals with seven different ways in which Old Testament writers get their readers’ attention and make their point. Each chapter is full of brief, but pertinent, examples from Scripture, which makes one wish a Scriptural index of the passages discussed had been added.

Of course this little book (150 pages) cannot contain all the answers. That is not its intention. But what it does, it does remarkably well. It opens our eyes to the riches of the Old Testament, and the skill and insight of those responsible for its content (both human and divine). It reminds us that exegesis is truly a hard work. This book makes clear that there is no magical formula that will make our sermons just fall into place. Davis’ wisdom has come through years of patient study. This book may speed things up for us, but it won’t make endeavour unnecessary. This in turn reminds us of our great need for the Spirit to help our study. But, just as importantly, this book fills us with enthusiasm for the Old Testament. I wanted to preach a sermon every time I turned the page! As I read the book with an open Bible, what I learned was too good not to share (just ask my wife!). Davis’ intention was that the book is to be ‘an exercise in reading the Old Testament for fun and profit’. It is certainly that.

With this book, Ralph Davis has rescued us from any excuse to fear or neglect Old Testament narrative, or to put it out of the reach of our congregations through shoddy workmanship. If you can buy only one book on preaching this year, put this one at the very top of your list.


  1. Hello,

    I’m not familiar with Davis. What is his theological training and background? Nice blog you’ve got here. Take care brother.

  2. Ralph Davis is pastor of Woodland Presbyterian Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi (PCA). Previously he was Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary. You can listen to his sermons on his church website.

  3. Your review is very helpful. I am not familiar with Davis either, but it makes me want to take a look. I appreciate your well thought out blog.

  4. Thanks for your comments. Ralph Davis has written a number of incredibly helpful commentaries on the historical books. They are simple to read, brilliantly applied, yet reflect excellent scholarship. They’re published by Christian Focus, and several are also available on CD-ROM. They really are a “must-read”.


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