Book Review: Reading the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets

reading the book of the twelve minor prophets book review

I recently shared my pile of books from the November conferences in the USA – and one of those was the edited collection I’m reviewing today. Based partly on a Tyndale Fellowship Study Group in Cambridge, and featuring a great range of predominantly (though not exclusively?) evangelical scholars, this is the kind of edited collection that can be of real value to preachers and pastors, as well as a useful tool for generalists like me to keep up today with different scholarly debates.  I’ll give a brief overview of each chapter, with the odd quote here and there, and then sum up. Firth and Melton introduce the volume,

Firth and Melton introduce the volume, rightly concluding their opening words thus: “All of this requires that we return to the text(s), keeping in mind both the history of interpretation and what emerges from a close study of each part.” Isabelle Hamley provides the first essay, or second chapter, considering ‘Hosea: Marriage, Violence, and Yahweh’s Lament. Hamley closes her provocative and interesting chapter thus: “the ultimate function of lament however is to grasp for a change that cannot quite be imagined yet”. Hadjiev’s chapter on Joel is clear and helpful, with an interesting closing observation – “connecting Joel with the other books of the Minor Prophets can blunt their message and obscure their particular contribution.” Heath A. Thomas offers a slight curveball chapter, when compared to the other contributions, but it is an interesting conversation between Habakkuk and technology, with some good engagement with Ellul. Thomas Renz offers a readable examination of Luther’s exegesis of Habakkuk – a helpful reminder that we are all finite readers, and also that we should read the whole canon. Snyman rightly writes that “Human wisdom is inadequate to explain the riddles of life and the mystery of divine governance” – part of a careful and wide ranging discussion of theodicy in Habakkuk and Malachi.

Petterson’s printed Tyndale Lecture is a careful and thorough overview of the theme of ‘New Covenant’ in the book of the twelve – highlighting the new inclusion of the nations. It would pair well with Firth’s NSBT ‘Including the Stranger‘, published after the lecture was given. Beth M. Stovell offers a brilliant survey of ‘Gods Spirit and Presence in the Book of the Twelve’, carefully teasing out what it actually means for God’s people both then and today – in part “seeking good as a response of right worship before their God”. Woods’ chapter not only has a brilliant title/subject – ‘Furry, Feather, and Fishy Friends – and Insects’ – but is also illuminating, readable and fascinating. With the wonderful reminder that “when the king comes there will be no overtones or war; the warhorse will be replaced with a donkey”. Amen! John Goldingay closes out the volume.  His unifying chapter, ‘Twelve Books, One Theology’ is helpful. Showing the unity of scripture, the value of biblical theology, and a possible theme of sacredness/purity: “Yahweh’s sacredness is his distinctiveness”.

Overall, then, this is a good example of the utility of edited collections. It would be a worthwhile ‘extra read’ for anyone preaching any/all of the Twelve/Minor Prophets, and obviously useful for those engaged in scholarly work in this area. The chapters are all about the same chunk of the Bible, but their approaches and focuses differ in interesting ways. I would have appreciated an ‘about the contributors’ section – to help me as a reader locate the scholars in various ways, and I also wonder if a short code/afterword by Melton and Firth might have helped draw things to a unified close, as well as point the way for future work. Perhaps, though, the fact that there isn’t that neat conclusion is a fitting tribute to the subject matter. I’m grateful to Lexham Academic for the review copy.

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