Book Review: JoAnna M. Hoyt, Amos, Jonah, Micah

Hoyt, JoAnna M. Amos, Jonah, & Micah. Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2019. 850 pp.; Hb.; $54.99. Link to Lexham Press

JoAnna Hoyt is visiting professor at Dallas Theological Seminary and an adjunct professor at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics. This new exegetical commentary is a major contribution to the study of these three minor prophets.

Joanna Hoyt, Amos, Jonah, MicahIn the twenty-eight-page introduction to Amos, Hoyt offers a standard overview of the authorship, date, setting and audience of the book. The introduction includes about 20 pages on intertextual issues, including possible allusions to Amos in in Joel and Jeremiah and a brief comment on the quotation of Amos in Acts 15. After a summary of the theology of Amos she turns to the style in genres used by the book. There is nothing particularly controversial in this summary. However, in her section on the unity of Amos she summarizes various redactional theories, especially Hans Walter Wolff’s complex theory found in his Hermenia commentary on Amos (Fortress, 1977). Hoyt concludes, “The proposal that portions of Amos are late additions is based on criteria that cannot be substantiated” (23). The introduction concludes with a lengthy discussion of various suggested outlines for the book of Amos, and exegetical outline, and selected bibliography. A more detailed bibliography appears at the end of each commentary section.

The introduction to Jonah is much more extensive (about seventy-five pages). Authorship is problematic for the book of Jonah; Hoyt herself consider is it at least possible Jonah wrote the book himself, but it is more likely the author is an anonymous third-party who lived “during Jonah’s lifetime or at some later point” (339). She provides two pages setting Jonah into the context of 1 Kings 14 and deals in detail with the problem of when the story was actually written. Here she follows John Walton and dismisses Aramaisms as requiring a late date. Intertextual connections with Joel may be more important, but it must be admitted the date of Joel is not certain either. After providing several pages on the historical setting of the book of Jonah and the end of the Syrian empire, she surveys several doubts scholars have about the historicity of Jonah. Most of these doubts center on the city of Nineveh, and why God would send an Israelite prophet like Jonah to Nineveh in the first place. These doubts also include the problem of three nights in a fish.

She cites approvingly Douglas Stewart who concluded “it is important to note that there is ample evidence to support the historicity of the book, and surprisingly a little to undermine it” (364). But of course, a fictional story could be set into a proper historical context, and the story could still be true. This leads to the very difficult problem of genre. Hoyt surveys and critiques suggestions including historical narrative, novella, parable, allegory, and midrash. The increasingly popular view of Wolff that Jonah is a parody or satire. A few have considered the book to be a fairy tale or a fable. Even the psalm in Jonah 2 has been identified as either a thanksgiving or lament, and possibly also satire. Ultimately, Hoyt concludes the book should be read as a historical narrative with satirical elements (377).

In the thirty-two-page introduction to Micah, Hoyt places Micah in the eighth century, responding to the last years of the northern kingdom and kings Ahaz and Hezekiah in Judah. The all of Samarian in 722 B.C. and the Assyrian Invasion in 701 B.C. for the main context for the book. As with Amos, there are several suggestions to explain the so-called hope oracles scattered through the book. For some, their presence shows either a late date for the entire book or a later revision of the book during the exile.

In the commentary’s body each section begins with an introduction followed by an outline. She then provides a fresh translation with textual notes, followed by a verse-by-verse commentary. Hebrew appears in the text of the commentary without transliteration. Matters of technical Hebrew grammar and syntax are found in the footnotes. Each unit ends with a selected bibliography of journal articles or other resources pertaining to the unit. If there is a difficult syntactical or lexical problem in the unit, she will include an excursus, “Additional Exegetical Comment.” Readers without Hebrew can skip these sections without too much loss. Chapter units in with very short Biblical Theology comments, followed by Application and Devotional Implications.

Each commentary ends with an excursus. For Jonah, Hoyt examines Jesus’ mention of the Ninevites in Matthew 12:41/Luke 11:32. In Micah, she has a two-page excursus on high places and three pages on Migdal-eder, the Birth of the Messiah and Christian Myth in Micah 4:8. This is the belief that near Bethlehem there was a special flock of sheep set aside for cultic use at the temple. Pastors often try this special flock of sheep to the shepherds in Luke 2. Although this makes for a great sermon illustration at Christmas time, it is not based on facts. It probably entered popular preaching through Alfred Edersheim’s Life of Jesus the Messiah (1896).

Hoyt interacts with a wide range of secondary literature. As expected by the use of evangelical in the commentary series title, her conclusions are more conservative, although she fully interacts with major English commentaries and monographs on these three prophets.

As with other volumes of this series, Lexham published the commentary simultaneously in print and in the Logos Bible Software. The Logos book takes advantage of all the resources of the software, including tagging cross references and links to other resources when available. To date, there are thirteen commentaries in the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary available to Logos users, with a total of forty-four volumes planned. The series has been redesigned with new covers and Andreas Köstenberger is now the editor of the New Testament. Purchase all thirteen volumes at 20% off through the Lexham website or subscribe to the series and receive new volumes as they are published.

NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book, both in print and Logos format. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

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