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OLD TESTAMENT COMMENTARIES: HOSEA—MALACHI
Over the last four decades the best evangelical work on the Twelve Prophets
has surfaced in a succession of ambitious commentary series well known by
now. The best ones offer careful, expositional exegesis, with increasing
attention to rhetorical and literary issues of each book.
For exegetical clarity and theological richness, the “best buy” for commentary
on Hosea would be either J.L. Mays in the Old Testament Library (OTL;
Westminster, 1969) or D.A. Hubbard in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary
(TOTC; InterVarsity, 1990). For meticulous examination of the Hebrew
text at every level, historical exegesis, and exhaustive bibliography, F.I.
Andersen and D.N. Freedman’s contributions to the Anchor Bible in Hosea
(AB; Doubleday, 1980) and Amos (1989) are virtually unmatched, although
cumbersome to use. They offer theological insight for those who wade through
the detail. The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary
, three volumes, edited by T.E. McComiskey (MPEEC; Baker, 1992), avoids the
schizophrenia of the old Interpreter’s Bible by assigning both the
exegesis and the exposition to the same author. McComiskey’s study
on Hosea is excellent.
The two best commentaries on Joel are J.L. Crenshaw in AB (1995) and
H.W. Wolff’s Joel and Amos in the Hermeneia series (Fortress, 1976).
Both of these interpreters examine virtually every syllable, provide extensive
bibliography, and press on to both theological and applicational comments.
L.C. Allen regularly blends historical criticism with rhetorical-literary
sensitivity and theological richness. His commentary in the New International
Commentary on the Old Testament covers Joel through Micah (NICOT; Wm. B.
Eerdmans, 1976) and provides an excellent discussion for each of the books,
but is especially strong in Joel and Micah.
Both of the OTL’s offerings on Amos are valuable, though written from
opposite hermeneutical assumptions. J.L. Mays’ work (1969) offers concise,
penetrating historical exegesis with theological sensitivity. J. Jeremias’
commentary (Westminster John Knox, 1998) excels in literary, rhetorical,
and intertextual interpretation. D. Stuart, in the Word Biblical Commentary,
writes a sober form-critical exposition of Amos without atomizing the text
and with extensive attention to the covenantal background for Amos’ preaching
(WBC; Word, 1987).
For a theologically rich treatment of Obadiah, one can turn to L.C.
Allen in the NICOT (1976). For detailed exegesis and exposition, look to
J.J. Niehaus (MPEEC; 1993) or D.W. Baker’s brief, but excellent TOTC (1988).
Baker’s commentary packs more theological reflection into twenty-three pages
than P. Raabe’s tome in AB (1996) does in three hundred.
J. Limburg, in his OTL commentary, offers a skillful and effective interpretation
of Jonah as a didactic story developed around a historical figure
(1993). D. Alexander (TOTC, 1988) defends Jonah as didactic history, but
follows with limited commentary. Allen’s contribution to NICOT is also excellent,
but abbreviated when compared to his work on Joel. In contrast, after undermining
challenges to Jonah’s historicity and then moving on to a “Who knows?” stance
on the whole question, D. Stuart (WBC; Hosea-Jonah, 1987) supplies the reader
with solid exegetical commentary (and theologically rich!) that is attentive
to the poetics, rhetoric, and literary structure of the work.
Among recent works, perhaps the most substantial evangelical commentary on
Micah comes from B.K. Waltke in the MPEEC. Walkte’s mastery
of Hebrew syntax and ancient Near East materials funds strong exegesis, which
he carries forward to Christian exposition. The last of the J.L. Mays “trilogy”
in the OTL, his Micah volume (1976), is a monument to penetrating, edifying
scholarship. L. Allen’s treatment (NICOT, 1976) and that of R.L. Smith (WBC;
1990) are well done, yet disappointingly brief.
J. J. M. Roberts’ mastery of textual, philological, comparative, and redactional
matters, and his theological insight pay off richly in his brief commentary
on Nahum (Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah; 1991) in the OTL. Happily,
his treatment of these books as wholes outdistances his espoused approach
that minimizes book context for interpreting individual oracles. E. Achtemeier
writes powerful theological exposition in Nahum-Malachi for Interpretation
(John Knox, 1986). Her best work is found in Nahum, Zephaniah, and Malachi.
Solid expository exegesis along with a thoroughly conservative approach to
introductory matters makes R.D. Patterson’s work in the Wycliffe Exegetical
Commentary (WEC; Moody, 1991) valuable.
Two substantial treatments of Habakkuk come from O.P. Robertson’s
contribution to the NICOT series (1990) and that of F. F. Bruce in MPEEC
(1993). The latter is one of Professor Bruce’s last writings. In addition,
the work of J. J. M. Roberts in OTL would be on my desk, especially, but
by no means just for navigating chapter 3!
In spite of a disappointing introduction to Zephaniah, O.P. Robertson’s
commentary in NICOT (1990) provides solid exegesis with theological conviction,
as does the work of R.D. Patterson in WEC (1991). Once again, the MPEEC
(1998) comes through with J.A. Motyer’s good exegetical and expositional
work. J. J. M. Roberts’ meticulous exegesis with theological flair continues
in OTL (1991).
The fruitful teamwork of C.L. and E.M. Meyers on Haggai in AB is unrivaled
for its comprehensive, balanced, critical, and theological commentary (
Haggai, Zechariah 1-8 and Zechariah 9-12; 1987-1993). More limited is
J. Baldwin’s treatment of Haggai in TOTC (1972) and P.A. Verhoef’s commentary
in NICOT (1987). Both, though, still provide helpful background information,
exegetical attention, and theological reflection.
While separating First Zechariah (1980) from Second Zechariah (1989) for
AB, C.L. and E.M. Meyers provide an outstanding discussion of Zechariah
that tends carefully to this canonical book and its dense intertextuality.
R.L. Smith’s work in WBC (1984) is quite helpful both for its introduction
and its commentary. E. Achtemeier’s theological overview succeeds in bringing
ancient text to present life (Interpretation, 1986).
A.E. Hill’s magisterial commentary on Malachi for AB (1998) is superb
in almost every way. P.A. Verhoef, in spite of a surprisingly abbreviated
introduction, provides solid exegetical and theological treatment in NICOT
(1987). In MPEEC (1998), one finds strong exegesis and exposition of Malachi
by D. Stuart along with helpful attention to rhetorical-literary matters.
Although scholarly commentary on the Twelve Prophets as a whole (single author)
is not abundant, and, even rarer from the hand of evangelicals, interested
readers will want to peruse the two volumes by M.A. Sweeney in the Berit
Olam (Liturgical, 2000) series. Sweeney presents a plausible reading of the
Book of the Twelve as a compositional whole and also provides insightful
interpretation of each one based on a detailed, rhetorical-literary reading.
By David L. Thompson, Ph. D., and F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor
of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary.