Building an Old Testament Library: Hosea-Malachi

Bo H. Lim

For several years I served as a pastor in a town located hours away from the nearest theological library, so I have experienced the need to invest in good resources for preaching and teaching. Given that Catalyst is for ministry practitioners, my priorities for choosing commentaries are based on their insight on the biblical text, theological contribution, pastoral relevance, and accessibility. Whereas academic biblical scholarship may divide along the line of dating texts, this concern will not be of primary importance in my selections. Non-majority authors appear in my recommendations, but they are few given that they oftentimes write in genres other than a traditional commentary. What follows, then, is a curated list.

In addition to commentaries, students of the Minor Prophets ought to purchase a couple of books devoted to introducing the OT prophets. These works introduce readers to the most important hermeneutical issues, highlight key unifying features of the prophetic collection, and summarize the main contributions of each book. James D. Nogalski is the most influential scholar to advance the theory that the Minor Prophets ought to be read as a collection, and he has recently written his own Introduction to the Hebrew Prophets (Abingdon, 2018). While not everyone will agree with his redactional views, the intertextual connections he observes within the collection are invaluable. Paul L. Redditt also writes an excellent Introduction to the Prophets (Eerdmans, 2008), which presents the Minor Prophets as a collection from a redactional perspective. For an excellent work from a more conservative perspective, see Richard Alan Fuhr Jr. and Gary E. Yates, The Message of the Twelve (B&H Academic, 2016).

In recent years scholars have increasingly read the OT prophetic literature through the lens of forced migration and trauma. Louis Stulman and Hyun Chul Paul Kim have written You Are My People: An Introduction to the Prophetic Literature (Abingdon, 2010), where they read the prophets as disaster survival literature. The best reference work on the OT prophets is Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets, edited by Mark J. Boda and J. Gordon McConville (IVP Academic, 2012). See Interpreting the Prophets, by Aaron Chalmers (IVP Academic, 2015), for interpretive issues on the prophets. For a primer on exegesis, see Interpreting Prophetic Literature by James D. Nogalski (Westminster John Knox, 2015).

For reading the Minor Prophets as a collection, I would recommend James D. Nogalski’s two-volume The Book of Twelve: Hosea-Jonah and The Book of the Twelve: Micah-Malachi (Smyth & Helwys, 2011). These works are accessible and erudite, and their exegetical discussions conclude with a section entitled “Connections” that identifies canonical, theological, ethical, and pastoral implications. I would supplement Nogalski with Michael B. Shepherd, A Commentary on the Book of the Twelve (Kregel, 2018). Shepherd takes a more conservative approach to dating books and reads the collection synchronically according to their Hebrew canonical order. (Readers should be aware that two canonical orderings of the Twelve Prophets exist, which differ in the Masoretic and Septuagintal textual traditions.)

Marvin Sweeney has written an excellent two-volume commentary, The Twelve Prophets (Liturgical Press, 2000) in the Berit Olam series. He has written extensively on the Twelve as a collection and identifies important intertextual connections within the Twelve and the OT canon. Timothy Green has written Hosea-Micah (Foundry, 2014) and Laurie Braaten and Jim Edlin have written Nahum-Malachi (Foundry, 2020)—both for the New Beacon Bible Commentary, an expressly Wesleyan commentary series. These volumes provide close readings of texts and address important topics by following a “behind the text,” “in the text,” and “from the text” format. Terence Fretheim has written Reading Hosea-Micah (Smith & Helwys, 2013), and in the same series Steven Tuell has produced Reading Nahum-Malachi (Smith & Helwys, 2016). Although briefer works, they are informed, accessible, and attentive to theological and ethical concerns.

While it is best to buy commentaries according to the merits of each volume, ministers may have purchased entire series so I will comment on a few that are popular. In the NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan), readers will find sound biblical exegesis and pastoral reflection by evangelical scholars. The volume devoted to the Minor Prophets in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan) was revised in 2008 and shares similar concerns and perspectives to the NIV Application Commentary. The three-volume commentary, The Minor Prophets (Baker Academic, rep. 2018), edited by the late Thomas McComiskey, provides a sustained engagement with the Hebrew text.

Joshua Moon’s recent commentary on Hosea in the Apollos Old Testament Commentary may be the best resource for preachers on this book (AOTC; IVP Academic, 2018). It is informed by OT scholarship, attentive to the ANE contexts, and deeply theological and pastoral. J. Andrew Dearman’s The Book of Hosea, in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT; Eerdmans, 2010), is the most thorough resource on this book. Bo Lim, a biblical scholar, and Daniel Castelo, a theologian, have teamed up to write the commentary on Hosea in the Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (THOTC; Eerdmans, 2016); they read the text canonically and engage important theological topics such as the metaphor of divine sexual violence.

Joel has been called the “literary anchor” of the Book of the Twelve, so readers ought to consult recent works that read the Twelve as a collection. It is important to note that wide disagreement exists over Joel’s dating, so the precise nature of Joel’s intertextual relationships is disputed. For the most thorough treatments of the text and critical issues, see the commentaries by James L. Crenshaw in the Yale Anchor Bible (YAB; Yale University Press, 1995) and by John Barton in the Old Testament Library (OTL; Westminster John Knox, 2001). For a treatment of evangelical eschatological perspectives, see Duane A. Garrett’s Hosea, Joel in the New American Commentary (NAC; B&H, 1997).

Students of Amos have several excellent choices for commentaries. While some of the volumes in YAB may be overly technical, Göran Eidevall has written the informed yet lucid commentary, Amos (2017). Whereas Eidevall and most critical scholars assume several redactions to the book, Shalom Paul reads Amos against an eighth-century backdrop in his detailed A Commentary on the Book of Amos (Fortress, 1991), in the Hermeneia series. R. Reed Lessing has also written a lengthy commentary on Amos (Concordia, 2009) that pays close attention to the Hebrew text and reads the prophecy christologically. I have had the opportunity to view M. Daniel Carroll’s forthcoming Book of Amos (NICOT, 2020), and I believe it will set the standard on works on Amos for evangelical audiences. Carroll is attentive to historical and hermeneutical issues, yet writes with an eye toward theological and ethical concerns.

Even though Obadiah is the shortest book among the Twelve Prophets, its focus—Edom—is a prominent theme within the Twelve and throughout the OT. Paul R. Raabe has written the most thorough and detailed work on this prophet, in the Anchor Bible (AB; Doubleday, 1996). Particularly helpful is the attention he gives to the Edom tradition throughout the OT. While I am not convinced of the detailed structural proposal presented by Johan Renkema in his work, Obadiah in the Historical Commentary on the Old Testament (HCOT; Peeters, 2003), his exegesis is insightful and he is particularly good on textual matters. Daniel Block has written the most accessible commentary on the prophet, in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament (ZECOT; Zondervan, 2013). He, like Raabe and Renkema, is attentive to structural issues and provides a discourse analysis of the text.

Preachers and teachers of the book of Jonah will find Kevin J. Youngblood’s commentary in the ZECOT to be most helpful (2013). Youngblood attends to the important intertextual connections between Jonah and the Twelve and the rest of the canon. For a thorough analysis of the Hebrew and structure, see Jack Sasson’s volume in the AB (1990). James Limburg writes a helpful commentary and traces the reception of Jonah in the OTL (1993). Because of Jonah’s important intertextual links, students of Jonah will want to consult commentaries that read the Twelve as a collection.

On Micah, although it may be too brief for some, Stephen Dempster’s work in the THOTC (2017) provides the best combination of textual analysis, theological reflection, and pastoral insight for this prophet. While it ought not to be the only work read on the prophet, Daniel L. Smith-Christopher writes a provocative and stimulating work for the OTL (2015). Smith-Christopher utilizes contributions from historical-criticism, sociology, cultural studies, non-dominant readings, and reads from a Quaker pacifist perspective. For detailed works on the original Hebrew, see Bruce K. Waltke’s A Commentary on Micah (Eerdmans, 2007) from a conservative standpoint, and Francis I. Andersen and David Noel Freedman’s contribution to the AB (2000) from a critical perspective.

Commentaries are often written to address Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah as a group. Among these, I recommend Waylon Bailey’s contribution to the NAC (1998). The best, detailed commentary on Nahum is Klaas Sponk’s work in the HCOT (Kok Pharos, 1997). Two commentaries devoted to Habakkuk stand out. Heath Thomas has written the theological commentary in the THOTC (2018), in which he interprets the prophecy through detailed exegesis and the church’s tradition. For the most thorough and detailed commentary on the prophet, see Francis I. Andersen’s Habakkuk in the AB (2001). The most comprehensive work on Zephaniah is Marvin Sweeney’s Hermeneia volume (2003). Another fine volume devoted to this prophet is written by Johannes Vlaardingerbroek in the HCOT (1999).

For a single work covering all three of the final Minor Prophets, I would recommend Anthony Petterson’s Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi in the AOTC (2015). This work provides a substantive engagement with critical, textual, and theological matters in a lean commentary. For an up-to-date commentary on Haggai and Malachi that explores intertextual connections, see Mignon Jacob’s contribution to the NICNT (2017). For the most thorough treatment of Haggai, see William Koopmans’ volume in the HCOT (2017). Students of Zechariah are well served by two recent commentaries that attend to the critical, textual, and theological issues of the book: Mark Boda, in the NICNT (2016), and Al Wolters, in the HCOT (2014). Ray Clendenen does a nice job of addressing literary and theological matters in Haggai, Malachi in the NAC (2004), and Andrew Hill’s Malachi in the AB (1998) continues to provide detailed information on textual matters.

[I wish to thank Steve Perisho, the theological librarian at Seattle Pacific University, for his assistance in writing this article.]

Posted May 27, 2020