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Bible Commentaries 101: Your guide to finding a Bible commentary that fits you.



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I started reading the Bible when I was 22.

It was the first time in my life deciding that I wanted to be “all in” with my faith and that seemed like the best place to start. 

For a long time after that, my Bible reading wasn’t really that fruitful. I didn’t understand big parts of the text. I wasn’t grasping the meaning behind a lot of bigger concepts. I was simply doing it because everyone told me the Bible is where you find your deepest, most intimate relationship with God. 

It wasn’t until I went through a life-threatening depression at the age of 26 that I started to ask questions… to really ponder a lot of things within my faith. 

Those questions– and the desire to seek out the answers– changed everything for me. 

Reading the Bible is a really good practice. However, we need to understand what we are reading. We need to know the backstories and the context. We need to know the culture during that period of time. When you start to grasp the fuller picture, everything changes. 

Today, I have a vibrant relationship with the Bible and I didn’t have to go to seminary to cultivate it. I started at home. I started with a commentary. And I figured out how to dig from there.

I can’t encourage this enough. I feel like we are in danger of having flimsy faith if we cannot figure out how to study the Bible on our own. I’m so passionate about this because it the number 1 thing that made me become a devoted follower of Jesus. If I hadn’t figured out how to study the Bible, I would have left the faith a long time ago.

Let’s talk about commentaries.

A commentary is, at its simplest, a study companion for the Bible.

It’s your easy way to dip into the academic world of scholars and experts– people who have poured over the Bible and squeezed it tight to release the juices within. 

I’m an investigator at heart. I want to know the how, the where, the when– all of it. A commentary is a perfect companion if you’re curious about the Bible and want to read between the lines.

I love to learn. I love to find the “Easter eggs” within things— the hidden meanings and the passages that are easily overlooked though they hold much more power and wisdom than we can even imagine.

A good commentary will reveal things you don’t see just from the initial text. For instance, I was reading my Luke commentary the other day and I read a note about how ____________.

What a commentary is not.

A commentary should be a part of your Bible study but it should not take the place of your Bible study. 

The most beautiful thing you can learn to do within your faith is think and reason. Ask questions. Ponder. Really scratch your head and ask God “why?”

God desires a relationship with you. He wants to stand in the questions with you. A commentary can help you understand the Bible better but it doesn’t take the place of you becoming confident in your own study skills. 


001. Start with a Study Bible.

If you’ve never used a commentary before (or really studied scripture), then I recommend starting out with a study Bible. A study Bible will provide you with notes and resources on various texts. It will more than likely have cross-references, illustrations, and charts. Consider it your gateway to understanding the Bible in a deeper way.

When I wanted to understand the Bible better, I started with the ESV Study Bible (it’s still my Bible today that stays on my desk at all times).

As you learn new information, it’s not about becoming smarter… it’s about seeing just how good and crafty God is. How he is in all the details. How the point of every Scripture is to lead back to him.


The ESV Study Bible // English Standard Version

The ESV Study Bible was created to help people understand the Bible in a deeper way–to understand the timeless truth of God’s Word as a powerful, compelling, life-changing reality. To accomplish this, the ESV Study Bible combines the best and most recent evangelical Christian scholarship with the highly regarded ESV Bible text. The result is the most comprehensive study Bible ever published–with 2,752 pages of extensive, accessible Bible resources.


Awesome study Bibles to add to your collection:

002. Go deeper with a commentary.

The next level is a commentary that digs deeper into all the Scriptures, not just some of them.

I love the internet because Bible commentaries are at your fingertips for free. I definitely like having a physical copy of commentaries but they can be pretty massive and hard to lug around.

Accessing a free commentary online is a great first step to starting to use outside sources to boost your Bible study.

Some of my favorite commentaries online include:

  1. Bible Gateway

  2. Bible Study Tools

  3. Enduring Word Commentary

I understand how intimidating the Bible can seem when you start reading on your own. There is a lot of confusing things going on (especially in the Old Testament). But please don’t stop when you get confused. I figured out a few years ago that confusion around an event in the Bible was really just an invitation for me to dig deeper and seek understanding. That’s when I started accessing commentaries so I could learn the historical context of events or see how someone managed to tie this event into the bigger story of Jesus. My mind blew up in all the best ways.

My favorite commentary is Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. Matthew combines practical application, devotional insight, and scholarship on the entire Bible. Mind you, the text is very small in this very big book but it is pretty much guaranteed that you fill find the insight you are looking for on a particular scripture in the Bible.

As I am studying, I always have my Matthew Henry Commentary somewhere nearby so I can make sure I am fully grasping the text at hand.

The New Matthew Henry Commentary

A classic commentary in modern language … this volume contains the wealth of exposition, metaphors, analogies, and illustrations that have set Matthew Henry’s Commentary apart as one of the enduring legacies of faith—and presents them in the language of today. Passage by passage, its prayerful, penetrating reflections and rich insights into the very heart of God’s Word are sure to challenge and inspire you. Ideal for personal devotions, Bible studies, and lesson and sermon preparations, The New Matthew Henry Commentary will enable you to rediscover this classic work—or discover it for the first time. Forever fresh and never failing to render new pearls of wisdom, this beloved text is one that you will reach for often to obtain deeper understanding of and appreciation for the Scriptures.

Matthew Henry is only one of the voices when it comes to Bible commentaries.

I recommend doing your own research to know more about the author scripting the commentary: 

  • What does the author believe?

  • What is the author’s background?

  • What translation of the text are they tackling?

  • What are the reviews like for this commentary?

I’ve listed a diverse range of commentaries for you to look closer at:

As you know, the Bible is huge. So when it comes to a Whole Bible Commentary, the explanations will not be as long as a commentary on a single book within the Bible. If you are really looking for that deep dive then check out the next point.

003. Go book by book.

When I am feeling uninspired or unsure of where to travel next in the Bible, I’ll refer back to my go-to method: picking one book of the Bible and purchasing a commentary to go with it.

It’s important to note that commentaries are just people’s interpretations and knowledge of the scriptures. Commentaries will differ. One commentary might flag something that another commentary neglects to even touch upon. This isn’t an error. It speaks to the beauty and the depth of God’s word. We could spend 7,000 pages interpreting the Bible and still there would be left more to say and ponder over.

Here are some of my favorite individual book commentaries that I’ve studied over the years:

When it comes to studying with one of these books, I will typically read the passage they’re dissecting in that chapter and then read the chapter as I journal and dig on my own. If I manage to do a chapter a day, I can get through a commentary within 3-4 weeks and come out on the other side feeling more inspired and in awe of God.

A few last tips:

  • Read a diverse range of commentaries. I don’t just stick to my Matthew Henry commentary. Every scholar and spiritual giant has different takes and opinions on the Bible. It’s awesome to get different perspectives and use those to grow your view of God.

  • Ask someone you trust. If you’re stuck on how to choose out of the many commentaries, ask someone in your own life who you admire. Chances are, they can point you to a commentary that has been useful to them.

  • Welcome the questions + mystery. I used to think I needed to have an explanation for everything in my faith. To know all the answers. Now I realize there is so much beauty in the unknown. In the questions. In wrestling. Commentaries are a great tool but nothing compares to thinking critically and inviting God into your study so that He can reveal new truths to you. Make sure you spend time thinking for yourself and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you before you invite other great thinkers and scholars in!


  1. Jaimie says:

    I love this, and smiled SO big when you said that the Matthew Henry Commentary is also your favorite! I preach often and it is my #1 resource, and I haven’t found anyone else who says it’s their very favorite! Thanks for this great resource!

  2. Leanne says:

    Thanks so much for this resource list Hannah. You seem to think about the Bible in the same way I do and I’ve yet to find a good resource that helps me to discover more without just brushing the surface. I look forward to digging into your suggestion’s and seeing what I’ll find.

  3. Gaimeidun says:

    Hi Hannah really I appreciate… thankyou

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Hi, I'm Hannah

I love writing about all things faith, mental health, discipline + and motherhood. Let's be penpals!


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