Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Obadiah: The Kingship Belongs to YHWH - A Review


A Review

I first fell in love with the Old Testament during the summer of 1972 while attending a four week leadership training workshop sponsored by Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.  The first week was a study of the book of Amos led by Carl E. Armerding. This book helped to continue that appreciation for the Old Testament.

This new commentary on Obadiah and its companion on the book of Jonah are the first two volumes in a new series, “Hearing the Message of Scripture” from Zondervan.  For lack of a better term, the titles in this series best classified as a “Rhetorical Commentaries” with the author of this first volume also serving as the General Editor of the entire series.  

Recognizing that most commentaries and readers apply the syntactical tools available to the Biblical scholar to the either the word or sentence level, Block is responding to recent studies in “rhetorical and discourse analysis” suggest that similar concepts can be applied to the both the paragraph and to the literary unit as a whole.  It is this background that serves as the backbone of this new series of commentaries.  The series certainly assumes the authority of scripture, quoting II Timothy 3:16-17 early in the introduction; though it does not explicitly adopt the inerrancy of scripture as part of its foundation.

With this in mind, each unit of the text will include address a number of “issues”: 

  1. The Main Idea of the Passage: A one- or two-sentence summary of the key ideas the biblical author seeks to communicate.
  2. Literary Context: A brief discussion of the relationship of the specific text to the book as a whole and to its place within the broader arguments.
  3. Translation and Outline: Commentators will provide their own translations of each text, formatted to highlight the discourse structure of the text and accompanied by a coherent outline that reflects the flow and argument of the text.
  4. Structure and Literary Form: An introductory survey of the literary structure and rhetorical style adopted by the biblical author, highlighting how these features contribute to the communication of the main idea of the passage.
  5. Explanation of the Text: A detailed commentary on the passage, paying particular attention to how the biblical authors select and arrange their materials and how they work with words, phrases, and syntax to communicate their messages. This will take up the bulk of most commentaries.
  6. Canonical and Practical Significance: The commentary on each unit will conclude by building bridges between the world of the biblical author and other biblical authors and with reflections on the contribution made by this unit to the development of broader issues in biblical theology — particularly on how later OT and NT authors have adapted and reused the motifs in question.  The discussion will also include brief reflections on the significance of the message of the passage for readers today.
(Copied from “Series Introduction”)
Though a few other comments are made, one caught my attention.  Though smaller books may allow room for a significant word for word commentary, space may not allow authors of commentaries of larger books to include as many details.

The commentary on Obadiah begins with a translation of the whole book.  The author then begins to discuss the place of this shortest of books (291 Hebrew words) in the Old Testament canon.  To assist the reader, the text includes a number of images, charts, and footnotes, beginning with the first page of the commentary proper.  The author intentionally approaches the book as a piece of rhetoric, referring to the book’s spokesman as being its “Rhetor.”  

As mentioned earlier, because Obadiah is a short book, significant time is spent on each verse.  Of course, the importance of this is cannot be ascertained until one of the larger OT books is published.  Considerable time is spent discussing the parallelism between the book of Obadiah and Isaiah 49 – though other parallel passages are not ignored.

I enjoyed reading the practical nature of Obadiah, which focused, among other things, on the importance of YHWH to the Israelites.  Three extremely useful indexes are included at the rear of the book:

  1. Scripture Index
  2. Subject Index
  3. Author Index

The book is written for the trained pastor or scholar and will serve those audiences well.  The lay community may be put off a bit by the regular use of Hebrew and Greek (yes, Greek) throughout the text.

The book comes with a strong recommendation for addition to the pastor’s, the scholar’s, and the institutional library.  
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.  

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