By Andrew Judd
Christmas comes every month in the biblical studies department of Ridley College, as Dr Bird distributes his latest consignment of Old Testament books for reviewing by his more B.C.E. inclined colleagues.
As with any gift-giving season, however, sometimes a book arrives that I already have. In this case, it is McComiskey’s edited commentary set on the 12 Minor Prophets. I have used the massive single-volume hardcover edition since shortly after it was published in 2009. This 2009 edition was itself a re-release of three earlier volumes in a single binding. At almost 1500 pages I find it is a formidable book to browse while balancing on the number 19 tram to work. This new 2018 edition comes full circle, returning to the three volumes, but in a more weight-conscious paperback form.
Apart from the form-factor, the new books are almost identical in content and pagination. Unfortunately someone seems to have mislaid the 2009 typesetting files because the new edition is a lower resolution scan-based reproduction of the text. Call me superficial, but when you’re printing lots of Hebrew vowel markings, the higher the resolution the better. If you already have the 2009 edition then keep the brick.
The format makes the volume a useful reference for both Hebrew exegesis classes and sermon preparation, with each prophet receiving a solid introductory treatment (including historical background, textual notes and a thorough bibliography). Then, each slab comprising no more than a handful of verses is first presented with side-by-side English translations (NRSV and the author’s). An exegetical section follows, which gives key Hebrew words and explains the author’s translation choices. Below that is a verse by verse exposition, tying the verses to the broader themes. While the exegetical section uses Hebrew script, the exposition section transliterates Hebrew words, so the commentary is useful even to those who don’t know Hebrew.
The fact that each of the twelve prophets are dealt with by different authors, and sold in three separate volumes, should hint that the overall approach is to focus on the minor prophets as individual works rather than studying the message and theology of the Book of the Twelve as a whole. Indeed, there is no general introduction to the theological themes or history of the Twelve as a unified work. Depending on your own approach to the minor prophets, this will either be a feature or a bug.
A very solid resource, in every way, particularly for Hebrew students who are keen to explore, verse by verse and book by book, the marvelous world of the minor prophets.