Choosing a commentary is always a tricky thing - it mostly depends on what you need the commentary to do for you. Do you need a technical analysis of each Hebrew or Greek verb? Are you looking for syntactical analysis? Or, on the other end of the spectrum, are you looking for practical application and advice for modern living - something to bridge the cultural gap from the text to the modern day?
How you answer those sorts of questions will probably indicate which commentary is right for you.
I was very pleasantly surprised when I got into Iain Duguid's commentary on Esther and Ruth. I sort of expected a technical, heavy-handed type of commentary. I mean, what else would you expect from a "Reformed Expository Commentary"? We tend to major on the obscure and technical (or so it sometimes seems). What I found was an eminently readable book, which balanced the technical aspects with application. I also enjoyed that it was Christ-centered.
The book of Esther exhibits a surprising lack of mention of God. This detail has caused many to question how valid this book is as Scripture. Duguid handles this by explaining how those in Persia were actually still in rebellion against God. They hadn't returned under the decree of Cyrus. Apparently, they were too comfortable and well off under the Persian kings that they didn't want to return to a backwater land where life would be hard. Not too surprising, then, when trouble comes, they fast, mourn, wear sackcloth and ashes, but nobody prays.
While God seems out of the picture, he is still there. The whole story turns on the sleeplessness of the king - all Esther's bravery, all of Mordecai's refusal to bow, all of it turns out in favor for the Jews because the king couldn't sleep.
The book of Ruth also has some interesting turns. Duguid points out that Ruth is just as much about the Moabitess as it is about Naomi. Consistently, the author takes us from Boaz's fields to the house that Ruth and Naomi share. God has not given up on Naomi, no matter how difficult her circumstances seem. He first takes away her fullness in order to bring her back to the Promised Land. Then, through the unwanted concern of Ruth, he fills her back to the brim.
Unfortunately, both Esther and Ruth are relegated to women's Bible studies and aren't areas of study for the majority of the church. This does a disservice on both ends - first, it makes it seem as if these books have nothing to offer the whole congregation. Second, they are often skewed into morality tales for women - be an Esther or be a Ruth - as the principle message of each book. They have so much more to offer and it is my hope that Duguid's exposition will bring more people, both men and women, to these two valuable texts.