The bulk of Bergant’s slender volume is a summary of Genesis through Kings (including Ruth), although it includes a final chapter on the prophets. Bergant presents the book as an introduction to the Old Testament. Although no intended audience is indicated, it seems most suitable for those seeking a basic familiarity with the content of the Old Testament. Bergant offers a highly readable retelling of the biblical story that includes minimal information from critical scholarship. As such, it may prove helpful to those attempting to read the Old Testament for the first time. Such students might read Bergant’s chapters before or after reading the relevant biblical material in order to better remember the sequence of events, appreciate the larger contexts, and gain some inkling of how scholars understand the material. The chapter on the prophets provides a brief introduction to prophets in general, but then discusses only Amos and Hosea. Perhaps such major prophets as Isaiah and Jeremiah will be included in the next volume. The finest quality of the work is Bergant’s clear exposition and selective use of background information. She stays focused on the text and does not delve too deeply into critical issues that might burden or discourage a beginning student.
Walsh’s work offers a similarly accessible discussion of part of the Old Testament. Students can find in it a readable analysis of Israel’s most infamous king, and scholars will appreciate a work devoted to a significant character not normally accorded this much attention. Walsh divides his discussion into three major parts. The first brief section deals with the Ahab of history as known from non-biblical sources. The next two parts offer a narrative-critical and historical-critical analysis of the materials, respectively. Walsh briefly summarizes the theoretical issues involved in the various approaches (narrative, source, and redaction criticism) at the beginning of the sections, and periodically revisits theoretical points in the course of discussion. The student thereby learns not only about Ahab, but about how biblical scholars develop the information that Walsh unfolds. Students may also appreciate the two brief excursuses on textual criticism and Israelite religion. For the student who has already learned what Bergant can teach, Walsh’s work is a next logical step for learning about methods of biblical study and their application to texts related to Ahab.