Robin L. Routledge, Hosea (Tyndale Old Testament Commentary)

Routledge, Robin L. Hosea. Tyndale Old Testament Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2020. xxxiii+181 pp. Pb. $25.00   Link to IVP Academic  

This new volume in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary series replaces the 1989 volume by David Allan Hubbard. Routledge previously published Old Testament Theology: A Thematic Approach (IVP Academic 2012) as well as several articles on the prophets.

Routledge, HoseaThe thirty-six-page introduction dates Hosea to 750-725 B.C., making Hosea a later contemporary to Amos. This implies the book was completed before Josiah’s reforms, and therefore is not part of the so-called Deuteronomistic redaction. In fact, Routledge suggests Hosea may have influenced Deuteronomistic movement in the late seventh century.

The immediate context for the book is the resurgence of the Assyrian Empire under Tiglath-Pilesar III, but also the syncretic worship in the northern kingdom Israel. Routledge includes a few pages outlining what can be known about Baal worship from Ugarit and other sources. Although this worship may have involved cult prostitution, it did not necessarily include the idea of hieros gamos, “sacred marriage.” The problem is Hosea is Israel’s syncretic worship which confused Yahweh and Baal.

The introduction sets Hosea in the larger context of the Old Testament. Although Routledge does not find arguments for a unifying redaction of the Book of the Twelve convincing, that Hosea is the first book of the collection may be significant. The book is clear: Israel’s unfaithfulness will result in punishment, but unfaithfulness will not ultimately affect Yahweh’s love for Israel. The book hopes for a final restoration in the future. This exile/restoration theme resonates throughout the Book of the Twelve. He also traces connections between Hosea, Deuteronomy, and Jeremiah (suggesting Jeremiah may have made use of Hosea). He briefly discusses several theories of composition, but it ultimately favors the unity of the book. Routledge finds it “unnecessary to accept the view that the book was compiled even later, for a posting exilic Judah during the Persian” (p. 19; contra Ben Zvi).

In the preface to the commentary, he observed that the book of Hosea is challenging for the commentator because it includes some of the most difficult Hebrew in the Old Testament. It often differs from the Septuagint, leading to suggestions that Masoretic text is corrupt. On the other hand, Routledge thinks Hosea’s peculiar dialect was unfamiliar to the Septuagint translators, resulting in more unusual translations than other books. The poetry in Hosea is not conventional and it makes a great deal of use of similes, metaphors, and wordplay. In addition, the judgment speeches form a judicial framework which may have been unfamiliar to translators.

With respect to the theology of the book, Routledge highlights Israel’s sin, their impending judgment, and their ultimate hope. The people no longer know the Lord (4:1), so their worship and sacrifices are unacceptable. They are stubborn like an unruly animal (4:16). But the Lord is unwilling to utterly destroy Israel, so the book is filled with a message of hope for a restoration of the broken relationship (11:10-11).

Hosea is the first prophet to make an explicit connection between the covenant and marriage, idolatry and adultery. Routledge argues Gomer is a promiscuous woman (rather than a prostitute) and was faithful at the beginning of the marriage. This better fits the prophetic view that the relationship between the Lord and Israel began well. He also thinks the woman in 3:1 is Gomer, so that chapter three is a restoration of the marriage to its original state. He also briefly deals with criticism of Hosea’s marriage metaphor which describe it as “patriarchal gender stereotyping,” misogynistic, as advocating sexual violence and humiliation toward women, and even as pornographic. He admits it is patriarchal (as the whole ancient Near East was patriarchal), but it goes too far to call the marriage metaphor misogynistic since it was intended to describe Yahweh’s relationship with Israel. The marriage metaphor emphasizes God’s sovereignty and the consequences for sin, but also divine love and vulnerability. Routledge covered this material in his article, “Hosea’s Marriage Reconsidered” (Tyndale Bulletin 69 (2018): 25–42).

A third theological issue in Hosea is the idea of hesed, which is mentioned in Hosea more than any other prophetic book. In the rest of the Old Testament, hesed is a divine attribute, but in Hosea it most often relates to human conduct (p. 32). Israel has been unfaithful to the covenant and mistreated those need hesed. In this section Routledge distills his much more detailed article, “Ḥesed as Obligation: A Re-Examination” (Tyndale Bulletin 46 (1995): 179–96).

The body of the commentary covers the fourteen chapters of Hosea in 144 pages. The book is divided into major sections (1-3; 4-11; 12-14) and shorter pericopes. Commentary units begin with a short setting the context, then a running commentary covering a few verses per paragraph. The commentary is based on the English text and often compares major translations, but Routledge comments on Hebrew (appearing in transliteration). Commentaries and other secondary literature are cited intext, footnotes are used for additional discussion or cross references. The commentary is concise and clear. The final section of each section is entitled “meaning” and provides a summary and theological comment on the section. These comments occasionally touch on biblical theology and Christian significance, but Routledge is more focused on the theology of Hosea.

Conclusion. Like other newer volumes of the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary, Routledge’s commentary on Hosea is clear and concise, shedding light on the text of Scripture for the pastor, teacher or student preparing to present Hosea to their congregations. It is not overly distracted with critical issues or syntactical minutia, yet Routledge demonstrates mastery both critical issues and the Hebrew text in order to focus on what Hosea says.

 

Other reviewed commentaries in third Tyndale series:

NB: Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

 

Thomas Renz, The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (NICOT)

Renz, Thomas. The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. NICOT; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2021. xxxix+703 pp. Hb; $56.00.   Link to Eerdmans 

Thomas Renz is the rector of Monken Hadley. Previously, he taught Old Testament and Hebrew at Oak Hill Theological College (1997-2009). Renz published a revision of his 1997 University of Bristol dissertation as The Rhetorical Function of the Book of Ezekiel (VTSup 76; Brill, 1999). He has contributed many articles on these books and a monograph on Hebrew Poetry, Colometry and Accentuation in Hebrew Prophetic Poetry (​KUSATU 4; Hartmut Senner, Waltrop 2003). This new volume of the New International Commentary on the Old Testament replaces O. Palmer Robertson’s highly respected commentary on these three obscure Minor Prophets (Eerdmans, 1990).

Nahum, Habakkuk, and ZephaniahRenz states in the preface he tried to confine himself to matters which “illuminate our understanding of the received Hebrew text” (xv). Initially he did not want to be overly concerned with text-critical or redactional issues. But as the commentary progressed, he realized some discussion of source, form and reduction criticism was necessary. But these are not what drives this commentary. Technical details appear in the commentary under the heading “composition” or in the footnotes. This will make the commentary accessible to pastors without being overwhelmed by technical details.

In the twenty-page general introduction, Renz suggests prophetic books were written soon after they were uttered, and he is skeptical about reduction criticism in various sources theories suggested for these books. It is uncontroversial to speak of the unity of the twelve Minor Prophets even if there is no actual agreement on what constitutes that unity. Renz suggests that Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah were grouped together because they share the same setting, the changing of the empires regarding the life of Judah. “Nahum speaks to a people for whom Assyria seemed invincible, predicting the fall of Nineveh and the end of its empire. Zephaniah speaks into the period when Assyrian domination was less keenly felt, but the Neo-Babylonian Empire was not yet on the horizon. Habakkuk addresses the problem that the divinely promised rise of the Neo-Babylonian Empire merely substituted one evil for another.” (p. 20).

The introduction also has a brief sketch of the implied historical setting of these three books, the late Neo-Assyrian and early Neo-Babylonian Period. Nahum dates before 612 B.C., Habakkuk a bit later, just after the rise of Neo-Babylon and Zephaniah to the reign of Josiah. This gives a range of 660-600 B.C. for the three books.

Each commentary section uses the book’s superscription as an introduction to the book (thirty-five pages for Nahum, twenty-four pages for Habakkuk, and twenty-seven for Zephaniah). The first section, Profile of the Book, begins with the superscription and moves to what he calls the “macro structure.” This is more than just an outline since Renz includes literary and rhetorical notes as well. In this section he includes language, style, redactional history, and the textual witness. In the textual witness section Renz compares the MT with the LXX, any Dead Sea Scrolls available and other versions and briefly summarizes the difficulties which emerge. For Habakkuk and Zephaniah, Renz sketches the historical setting of the book (omitted for Nahum). However, for Nahum he has an extended discussion of the development of the book.

Each of the individual introductions conclude with the section on the rhetorical function of the book divided into five sections. First, he summarizes the message of the profit in its original context, then he places it into the context of the Twelve Minor Prophets in the larger biblical canon.

Following this is a history of interpretation. Renz begins this section with the Dead Sea Scrolls. For example, in 4Q169 the pesher interpretation of Nahum turns Assyrian brutality into Hasmonean cruelty under Alexander Jannaeus. He briefly comments on the fragmentary Zephaniah pesher (4Q170) but 4QpHab is missing from the history of interpretation for Habakkuk (Renz mentions it under textual witnesses for Habakkuk). For Christian interpretation he comments briefly on ancient fathers, Renaissance, Reformation, and modern critical writers. Renz does not intend this as an exhaustive survey and these books are not often mentioned in ancient sources.

Finally, he discusses the place of the individual prophet in the church today. Nahum celebrates God’s sovereignty and justice, and Nahum invites readers to join the celebration. The book of Nahum becomes a token of God’s final judgment over evil. Remarkably, Nahum is a book of comfort for people who are suffering at the hands of evil, people who are helpless abandoned in afraid. Habakkuk invites the reader to reflect on the breakdown of the good order, the weakness of the Torah to restore justice and the role of God in this world. Renz suggests Habakkuk teaches that thoughtful, engaged prayer, informed by scripture, can help discern what is really going on in an evil world. Zephaniah is clear wealth and power count for nothing in the face of God’s judgment. In fact, there may be benefits to being powerless.

The body of the commentary begins with a new translation. This includes extensive textual and lexical notes often spanning several pages. For example, On Zephaniah 2:5-13 the notes run eight pages (through note nnn). The translation is often stunning. Renz strives for clear yet moving English phrases which reflect the heart of the Hebrew text. I would like to have his translation gathered into a few pages so one could read the whole of the book in a few pages.  Following his translation is a section commenting on the composition of the section, mostly form and redactional notes, but Renz also comments on rhetorical strategies in these brief sections.

The commentary is verse-by-verse with remarks on nearly every word of the verse. Renz provides clear exegesis of the Hebrew text, with all Hebrew appearing in transliteration. A non-specialist will have no trouble following the commentary. Virtually all secondary literature appears in extensive footnotes. Renz makes extensive use of recent European commentaries such as Jörg Jeremias on Nahum (BKAT; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2019), Heinz-Josef Fabry on Habakkuk (HThKAT; Herder, 2019), Huber Irsigler on Zephaniah (HThKAT; Herder, 2002), and Johannes Vlaardingerbroek on Zephaniah (HCOT; Peters 1999). Renz’s commentary may be the only access to the resources for many English readers.

Each commentary unit concludes with a reflection which draws a few conclusions and occasionally connects the section with the larger canon of scripture. For example, reflecting on is exegesis of Habakkuk 2:4-5, Renz asks, “who are the righteous in Habakkuk?” The righteous are those who are victims of injustice and the inability of the Torah to set things right (p. 294). This leads him naturally into a brief discussion of the use of Habakkuk in Romans 1:17. Righteousness from God as a matter of Faith from beginning to end. Habakkuk is to continue to trust God and cling to his commands despite the apparent uselessness of such obedience.

There are several excurses scattered throughout the book: The Relationship between Nahum 1:15 (2:1) and Isaiah 52:7 (106-09); The Destruction Nineveh (129-30); Different Hebrew Terms for Lion and Lion Imagery in Assyria (141-46); The Assyrian Campaigns against Egypt (164-70); “Look You Scoffers” or “Look at the Nations” (239-41, on Habakkuk 1:5); Significant words in Zephaniah (431-32); Finding the Book of the Law (435-43).

Conclusion. Thomas Renz’s commentary on Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah is an excellent exegetical commentary which demonstrates mastery of the Hebrew text and provides sufficient historical setting to understand with clarity the text of these obscure prophets. This the most extensive commentary on Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah and will serve both the those teaching these prophets in the academy and church for many years.

 

Eerdmans should consider reprinting O. Palmer Robertson’s commentary in their Eerdmans Classic Biblical Commentaries series.

Five Questions with Thomas Renz at EerdWorld.

Reviews of other recent commentaries in the NICOT series:

 

NB: Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

 

Book Review: Heath A. Thomas, Habakkuk (Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary)

Thomas, Heath A. Habakkuk. Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2018. 243 pp. Pb; $25.   Link to Eerdmans

Following the methodology expressed in his Manifesto for Theological Interpretation (written with Craig Bartholomew, Baker 2016), Thomas attempts to use academically rigorous exegetical, historical, sociological and literary dimensions of the text in order to draw out theological implications for contemporary readers. In other words, this is “biblical criticism recalibrated within the larger aim of hearing God’s address through the prophetic book” (4). Later in the introduction to the commentary, Thomas calls this a dialectic between systematic and biblical theology which he considers a “hard-won ‘thick’ analysis of a biblical text” (34).

Heath Thomas, Habakkuk CommentaryIn his 55 page introduction Thomas observes the obscure prophetic of Habakkuk is sometimes dismissed as too “hellfire and brimstone.” Rather than a “ragbag collection of unintelligible material,” Thomas suggests the book is theologically rich and “extraordinarily pertinent” to contemporary church life and culture (3).

Thomas reviews the “drama of Scripture” in order to introduce the historical context of the prophet. The commentary assumes the context claimed by the book: Habakkuk is living in the final years of the kingdom of Judah, specifically during the reign of Jehoiakim just prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE (26). Thomas considers an earlier context in the reign of Manasseh or just after the death of Josiah. That the book mentions the Chaldeans and the imminent threat of exile favors a date around 587 BCE. He therefore understands the wicked and righteous in Habakkuk 1:2-4 are wicked Judeans oppressing the righteous.

Theologically, Thomas says, this context “pits the faithful prophet against his own people and culture” (27). A major theological point made by Habakkuk is that wicked nations will be swallowed up in their wickedness and “Yahweh will but them to rights. This is true…whether that nation is Judah, Babylon, or the United States” (30). Thomas revisits this interest in applying the words of the sixth century BCE prophet living through the final years of the kingdom of Judah to contemporary experience throughout the commentary. These asides are usually vague, allowing the reader to draw out the implications for their own time and cultural context. Habakkuk’s critique of evil in the leadership of Judah or Babylon is universal and speaks to every political climate in history.

The introduction concludes with a section on Habakkuk and the church. Here Thomas offers short surveys of the use of Habakkuk in the apostolic era (Romans and Galatians), patristic, Medieval, Reformation and modern periods, concluding with “Habakkuk today.” This final section includes one or two international commentaries, but this section could have been more robust. Although this would not fit into the Christian theology of the Two Horizons commentary series, the reception of Habakkuk in Judaism would have been a helpful addition especially given the interest in Habakkuk at Qumran.

The body of the commentary devotes one chapter to each of Habakkuk’s three chapters, Thomas sub-divides the material into several paragraphs in order to treat individual issues in the text. He comments on the Hebrew text and all Hebrew appears in transliteration. For the most part he only lightly touches on lexical and syntactical issues, although occasionally he draws on cognate languages for obscure vocabulary (Ugaritic, for example).

Two excurses appear in the body of the commentary, one on power of silence and the second on the power of memory. I comment only on the first excursus. Drawing on Habakkuk 2:20, “be silent, all the earth, before him,” Thomas offers a short reflection on “The Power of Silence (135-38). He suggests Habakkuk 2:20 is a “call for his people to recognize God’s power to vindicate the righteous and judge the wicked” (136). He moves quickly from this observation to the importance of contemplation as a spiritual discipline, “contemplation centers the church within God’s life so that she might live authentically as the body of Christ, rather than be conformed to the idolatrous patterns of this present word” (137). This is quite true and there is much to be said for the practice of silence as a spiritual discipline, especially in the context of suffering and injustice. However, in the context of Habakkuk 2:20, the climax of God’s judgment on the nations, perhaps this silence is “An overt eschatological hope is formulated whereby “the wicked are silenced in darkness” because “the LORD will judge the ends of the earth” (1 Sam. 2:9–10)” (G. K. Beale, Revelation [NIGTC; Eerdmans, 1999], 446). Rather than “be still and know I am God,” this text seems to say, “stand in silence before the Lord who judges from his holy temple.” Thomas’s interest in drawing theological implications from Habakkuk may go beyond the meaning of the text.

The final third of the book collects three essays on the theological horizons of Habakkuk. The first is somewhat typical of a biblical theology in that Thomas sets out the main theological themes of the book of Habakkuk: the destructive power of sin, waiting on the Lord, righteous suffering and God, Israel and the Nations. This unit also includes the New Testament use of Habakkuk, including a short interaction with Richard Hays’s view that Paul has an apocalyptic reading of Habakkuk 2:4b which makes the “righteous one” a messianic title. Thomas disagrees, arguing (briefly) Habakkuk 2:4b is not a prediction of a messiah but rather a pointer to the incarnation of God’s faithfulness in this present age. For Thomas, Habakkuk focuses on “faith in the faithfulness of God” (164). By this phrase he wants to draw attention to God’s faithfulness as the one who both judges the wicked and vindicates the righteous. With this emphasis “Habakkuk presses toward and eschatological hope” (168).

The second theological essay, “Centering Shalom: Habakkuk and Prayer” is in large part re-telling of the “drama of scripture common to the theological interpretation of Scripture. The bulk of the chapter describes shalom as the orderliness of creation, then shows how sin has destroyed the shalom of the original created order. Habakkuk’s laments are desperate cries to a Holy God in a world full of injustice because sin remains powerful. Yet “Habakkuk’s prayers do not shake an angry fist at God in the fashion of a petulant teenager moaning about the injustice of having to carry out the rubbish to the bin at the parent’s request. As Christian Polke rightly says, ‘To lament is not to whine’” (188).

In his third essay “Dead Ends and Doorways: Habakkuk and Spiritual Formation” Thomas addresses two common issues which prevent people from spiritual formation or even coming to faith in the first place. For many, the violence of God on display in a book like Habakkuk leaves no room for faith, and the silence of God in the face of great suffering in this world is the biggest stumbling-block to faith. Thomas argues that the book of Habakkuk addresses both of these issues by leading the reader to an overlooked form of worship, the lament. Although common in the Old Testament, lament is rarely practiced in the modern church. Thomas believes if the church slowed down and worshiped God through the form of lament it would avoid both “blissful naiveté” and “sterile ambivalence” (209).  By following Habakkuk’s lead in lament as worship, the church will see suffering through the cross and be open to a divine response.

Thomas’s Two Horizons commentary on Habakkuk is a model for the method of theological interpretation of Scripture. He does serious exegesis and pays attention to the historical and cultural context of this obscure prophet and is able to draw out implications for how the lives and breathes in contemporary culture.

 

 

NB: Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

 

Logos Free (and almost free) Books of the Month – Todd Wilson, Galatians: Gospel-rooted Living

The first Logos Bible Software “Free book of the Month” for 2018 is Todd Wilson’s Galatians: Gospel-rooted Living. This 2013 commentary is in the Preaching the Word series from Crossway Books. Todd Wilson is has a PhD from Cambridge University and serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois. Wilson recently edited Becoming a Pastor Theologian: New Possibilities for Church Leadership (IVP Academic 2016). I happened to attend his paper on Galatians at the 2017 ETS meeting in Providence and found it very stimulating, so I am looking forward to this commentary.

Michael Bird blurbed the book:

“Todd Wilson has written a deeply pastoral and theologically competent commentary on Galatians that is an exemplary effort at Biblical exposition. There are some doozy passages in Galatians, especially on the Law, and Wilson provides a plain explanation and then shows readers how these texts relate to modern Christian living. A wonderful synergy of homiletical energy and honest exegesis.”

For only $1.99 more, you can add Ray Ortlund Jr.’s Proverbs:Wisdom that Works (2012) in the same Preaching the Word series.  Graeme Goldsworthy said “The strength of Ray Ortlund’s study of Proverbs is its Christ-centeredness. The wisdom of Proverbs loses none of its practical value, but rather is given its ultimate fulfillment as an expression of the wisdom of Christ.”

Logos is also offering Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s Acts 1-8 for $9.99. The Lloyd-Jones commentary was originally in six volumes, so Logos will add six separate resources to your library; that works out to $1.67ish per volume.

The giveaway this month is the Crossway D.A. Carson Collection (7 vols.,  $105.99 value). There are several ways to get chances to win this collection, visit the Logos Free Book of the Month for details. The free books (and almost free) books are only available through January 2018.

Logos Free (and almost free) Books of the Month – James Montgomery Boice, Exposition of the Psalms

The Logos Bible Software “Free book of the Month” for November is volume one of James Montgomery Boice’s Exposition of the Psalms. Volume 1 (Psalms 1–41) is free, volume 2 (Psalms 42–106) is $1.99 and Volume 3 (Psalms 107–150) is $2.99. This is about 1000 pages of exposition for $4.98, less than the price of a Venti Candy Cane Peppermint latte.

Psalms, Vol. 1: Psalms 1–41These are expositional commentaries, rather than exegetical. Boice comments on the English text and only occasionally interacts with other commentaries or scholarship. This is a commentary intended to be read by a layperson or pastor. He is not interested in the origins of the Psalms not does the commentary worry too much about the historical setting beyond what the Psalm header indicates. He says in the introduction, “The sermons appearing in this volume were preached in relatively short segments between the winter of 1989 and the fall of 1991 and were aired on the Bible Study Hour in special winter and summer series in 1992–93.” Boice is a preacher, and his expositions in these three volumes demonstrate his preacher’s heart. You can also get the complete James Montgomery Boice Expositional Commentary series for $99 during the “Twelve Days of Christmas” sale.

Logos also has a giveaway, this month it is the Baker D.A. Carson Collection (15 vols. $262.99 value). I am not sure why they did not choose to make the Boice collection the giveaway this month, but the Carson collection is worth entering the contest.  There are a few ways to get chances in this giveaway, so scroll down to the bottom of the page and enter early and often.

The free books (and almost free) books are only available through December 31, 2017.