The Focus on the Bible series is similar to the Bible Speaks Today series, in that it reads more like a expository sermon than a commentary. The intention is very much to go beyond merely understanding the text, to allowing it to speak to us today.
Dale Ralph Davis is something of an expert in the historical books, having written the Focus on the Bible volumes on Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings. He writes as a pastor rather than a scholar, even though he does have a good grasp of Hebrew and is willing to interact with the issues raised by the more academic commentaries, often in footnotes.
He unashamedly approaches the text as “bread from God” – in other words, he writes from the settled conviction that God intends to speak directly to us through every part, even the lists of towns and cities that can seem so “dry” to us. He even criticises other commentators at various points for getting so bogged down in historical debate that they neglect to ask what God is saying to us. His writing style is engaging and he has a knack of presenting drawing out fresh insights from both well-known and obscure portions of Scripture.
Having said that, he is always cautious not to draw more from the text than is warranted. He does not fall into the trap of assuming that if any story triggers a particular devotional thought, then that must be the point of the story. He seeks to be faithful to the writer’s intention.
The subtitle to the book is “no falling words”, which is to say that the great theme of Joshua is that none of God’s promises fail. His approach is roughly one chapter of exposition per chapter of Joshua, although some of the chapters on the allocation of the land are treated as a unit. He often points out the significance of the way the story is structured, to help get to the heart of what the writer is trying to say.
Overall I would say this is a great model of how the Old Testament historical books should be approached. He demonstrates the importance of understanding the historical context and a careful exegesis of the text, but refuses to stop there, believing passionately that all Scripture is profitable and that it should never be “cold”. If you haven’t read any of his commentaries it is well worth checking one out.