“Words only have meaning within the code of their own language system and in their historical context. Exegesis assumes that the biblical writer is historically conditioned so that he is drawing on the same pool of words, idioms, motifs, and historical situations as his historical audience—a pool that is not shared by us today. Later audiences are historically conditioned by different environments from that of the original writer…But the ancient pool of the biblical writer’s world can be reconstructed with reasonable certainty and completeness through the disciplines of grammar, history, and literature,” B. Waltke, An Old Testament Theology (Zondervan 2007), 86.
“The process may be called reconstruction, because the Old Testament texts ere written in a different world from ours. We not only need to be aware of, but we must expect and respect this historical distance. To bridge this historical distance, we use the grammatico-historical method that allows us to piece together words, phrases, and historical situations while seeking to uncover material assumed by the text; and, if possible, we use archaeological artifacts to help shed light on that world as well. Only after we have done this work can we confidently ‘rebuild’ the meaning of the text. Most people do this intuitively, but it needs to be done with academic rigor,” ibid. 87.
“The grammatico-historical method is based in Scripture itself and thus is not foreign to biblical thought…Biblical authors themselves employ the method of historical reconstruction to define words and events of their stories that have not been experienced by their audiences. For example, to clarify geographical information such as old locales whose names had changed, biblical writers commonly use formulae such as ‘it is’ or ‘that is.’ In Genesis 14:17 the toponym ‘Valley of Shawe’ (NIV, ‘Valley of Shaveh’) is clarified by ‘that is, the King’s Valley.” In Joshua 18:13 Luz is contemporized by ‘that is, Bethel’,” ibid. 87.
“Biblical writers also defined terms as they thought it necessary, as in the case of the narrator of Samuel, who explains the change of words from ro’eh to nabi to designate a prophet (1 Sam 9:9). An ambiguous word like nwtw (‘oppress him’) in 2 Samuel 7:10, an imprecise word like hpsk (‘you want’) in 1 Kings 5:22 or an obscure nominal form like mwpz (‘refines’) in 1 Kings 10:18 is substituted by bltw (‘destroy him’), srkk (‘our requirements’; ‘your need,’ TVIV), and thwr (‘pure’) in the parallel interbiblical version: 1 Chron 17:9; 2 Chron 2:15; and 9:17, respectively. The same is true of patronymics. Esau becomes ‘that is, Edom.” As for ancient customs, the narrator of Ruth explains that the nearest kinsman took off his sandal and gave it to Boaz to signify Boaz’ right to redeem Nomi’s property (Ruth 4:7). Presumably, at some point in the writing or in the transmission of the story that practice was no longer used or understood. The narrator thought it necessary to explain this practice in order to bridge the historical distance. In other words, biblical authors took note of the differences between the historical horizons of the story and their audience and bridge the gaps so that their message was understood,” ibid. 877.
As an OT scholar writing an OT theology, Waltke naturally uses some OT examples to illustrate his point, but it’s easy to think of NT examples as well, such as the way in which Mark defines certain foreign words, or some of the Johannine asides in the Fourth Gospel.