Verhoef, Pieter A. The Books of Haggai and Malachi. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2018. 364 pp. Pb; $40. Link to Eerdmans
Pieter Verhoef’s commentary on Haggai and Malachi was originally published in 1987 as part of the NICOT series. Verhoef was replaced in the series by Mignon R. Jacobs in 2017 (reviewed here). Still a valuable and oft-cited commentary, Eerdmans has moved this to their Classic Bible Commentaries series.
The Haggai commentary runs about 150 pages, Malachi about 200 pages. Since Verhoef is South African scholar he interacts with more South African, Dutch, and German secondary literature than most commentaries published in North America. Most of the bibliography pre-dates 1984, but this is less of a problem since there have been only a few major commentaries in the last 35 years on these two obscure prophetic books. Until Mignon R. Jacobs replacement volume in the NICOT, the best commentaries for these books were Carol L. Meyers and Eric M. Meyers on Haggai and Andrew E. Hill on Malachi (both in the Anchor series), Richard A. Taylor on Haggai and Malachi (NAC) and Hans Walter Wolff in the Continental series (published in 1986 in German; 1987 in English).
For both books, Verhoef provides an introduction with the usual introductory material. Not much can be said about the prophets as individuals, and Malachi may not even be the name of the prophet (the name means “my messenger” and can be understood as a title rather than a personal name). For both books Verhoef deals with matters of authorship and unity, concluding the books do reflect the preaching of a real prophet and arguing for the unity of the over against source-critical theories.
Verhoef places each book into the context of Ezra-Nehemiah. For Haggai, he is active prior to the restoration of the Temple and his prophecies are dated to 520 B.C. For Verhoef, Malachi is likely the last prophetic voice in the Hebrew Bible. The prophet was active between the two visits of Nehemiah, shortly after 433 B.C. In his sketches of the background of these two prophets, Verhoef provides the necessary context to understand the prophetic encouragement to restore the Temple and for the people to devote themselves to wholehearted obedience.
The body of the commentary begins each section with a translation of the pericope with detailed notes on the text (citing variations found in the LXX, Peshitta, Targumim and Vulgate). A short section follows setting the pericope into the context of the book, then Verhoef proceeds through the text phrase-by-phrase. All Hebrew appears in transliteration and he often deals with matters of syntax and grammar. Footnotes cite secondary literature, although he often agrees with various commentaries on a particular issue.
One of the main problems in Haggai is the status of Zerubbabel as the Lord’s signet ring (Hag 2:20-23). These final words of the book are often described as an apocalyptic hope for the restoration of the kingdom of David. If this is true, then Haggai appears to be a failed prophet since there is no restoration of a Davidic Kingdom and Zerubbabel more or less disappears from the history after 520. Verhoef deals with this problem by reading Haggai 2:20-23 as a kind of typology foreshadowing the first and second coming of Christ (p. 149).
Verhoef reads these two prophets from a Christian perspective, often drawing some conclusion at the end of a section which illuminates the New Testament. Some scholars would say Haggai has no Christian theology, a view Verhoef strenuously denies. For example, in dealing with marriage and divorce in Malachi 2:10-16, he comments briefly on Jesus’s view of divorce in Matthew 19 as well as Paul’s teaching on marriage in 1 Corinthians 7 and the “profound mystery of marriage” in Ephesians 5:22-33. Although these short conclusions are not really “guides for preaching Haggai,” they do serve as canonical bridges, opening up the possibility of a Christian reading of these two prophetic books.
There are not many exegetical commentaries on Haggai or Malachi. Unfortunately commentaries in the Minor Prophets are often brief and published in one or two volumes. Although now an older work, Verhoef’s commentary on these two overlooked prophets remains a valuable resource for students of the Minor Prophets and the early post-exilic period.
NB: Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.