– Commentators and Commentaries –
by Tan Soon Yong

This is a canvass of some commentaries on Genesis available in the library. The nature of any such survey is that it is necessarily subjective and opinionated. This paper is strictly for personal information of, and internal circulation amongst, Sunday School teachers only. Please do not distribute this paper in either hard or soft copy to friends or students.

The remarks regarding each commentary are drawn from the excellent book by James Rosscup, Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works, (Sun Valley, CA: Grace Books International, 2004); as well as from Cyril J. Barber, The Minister’s Library (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985). Where I have used the commentary myself and know it rather well, I have added personal comments.

If you have any questions on any other commentaries, please drop me an e-mail at, and I will see what I can do to help.

Creation & Blessings

Expositional Survey Commentaries – Competent explanations drawn from English translations Ross, Allen P. Creation and Blessing.
Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1988.

This is a major contribution, growing out of immense study in relevant literature of recent times dealing with ancient literature. Ross does a broad exposition section by section, not verse by verse, and handles major problems with adept awareness of views and discussion of arguments. It is a valuable scholarly work in surveying issues and literature that deals with them.

The Expositor's Bible Commentary

Sailhamer, John. “Genesis.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 2.
Edited by Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980.

This Genesis contribution to the commentary is by the then Associate Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. It is a very good conservative work verse by verse, with insights from a wealth of literature from the ancient Near East that throws light on details and their relevance in their connections. Sailhamer shows much competency, conciseness, clarity, and is frequently perceptive on the applicational relevance. This effort is a good combination of exegetical depth and accessibility to lay readers. I recommend this as a first read, even a first buy.

Devotional Flavour Commentaries

Devotional Flavour Commentaries
– Predominantly devotional efforts, with an emphasis on application.
Boice, James M. Genesis: An Expositional Commentary.
3 volumes. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982-87.

Broad exposition here, not verse by verse. The long-time pastor of 10th Street Presbyterian, Philadelphia, chooses doctrinal and practical emphases, which can help a Christian grow by seeing how to apply truths. Boice is mostly helpful, though he can read in meanings that some will doubt are in Genesis, such as seeing the pact between Abraham and Abimelech as teaching on church and state matters.

Exploring Genesis

Philips, John. Exploring Genesis. Chicago: Moody Press, 1980.

A good expositor from the Moody Bible Institute gives a well-organized, often provocative survey of the meaning, with principles made evident for application. Philips’ works on many of the Bible books in recent years have been a help to preachers and laypeople. He is conservative, clear, and often has a very good outline of a passage.

Sunday School Texts

Below are brief notes with respect to the teachers’ and students’ textbooks. Note that these remarks are of a general nature, for the entire series; not specifically of the individual books that have been or will be given out to the students.

Welwyn Commentary. Auburn, WA: Evangelical Press.
The series provides readable surveys of Bible books, giving frequent principles and illustrations. It seems primarily useful for those wanting a simple, broad flow through a book, without spending much time on problem verses or giving views. In treatment, it is a hit or miss, sometimes up, sometimes down. Writers tend not to be much informed, or inform at all, about premillennial interpretations of key biblical passages, as explanations are amillennial and issues blurred.

Wiersbe, Warren. The “Be” Series. Wheaton, Victor Books, 1990.
One of America’s most appreciated staunchly evangelical Bible conference teachers gives diligent, refreshing expositions. He strikes a particular appeal with lay people as he crystallizes sections, deals with some of the verses, handles certain problems, and backgrounds and applies principles. He is premillennial.