Skip to main content

Interpreting the Prophetic Books




Interpreting the Prophetic Books: An Exegetical Handbook by Gary V Smith

Author and scholar Gary V. Smith has given his readers a concise, focused, and illuminating study on the prophets of the Old Testament.  With at least twelve other books on the OT, Gary is no stranger to the questions surrounding OT prophetic study including genre, theme, coherence, and theology.  With an eye towards the genres of speech in the prophetic oracles and key elements in helping people preach prophetic passages, Gary leaves no stone unturned in his book, Interpreting the Prophetic Books: An Exegetical Handbook.

In his section on the Poetry of Prophecy, Gary writes, “On the other hand, if a prophet wanted to focus only on conveying the words of God, a natural, more powerful, and memorable way of expressing these ideas in the ancient Near Eastern culture was to use poetry…Poetry was richer and more imaginative than prose and its structure and repetitions allowed for a more persuasive force (46).”  Poetry in the prophetic literature did not just illuminate or bring more richness to God’s words but actually was used as a driving force for change, to call people or persuade them to see God a certain way of follow after him wholeheartedly.  In Nahum 1.7-8 Gary notes that the antithetical parallelism in the lines contrasts the goodness of the Lord with the way he will swiftly deal with his enemies.  Both positive and negative actions are seen and the great contrast between the two heightens our awareness of what God can do for his people.

Gary helpfully brings out the major themes in the prophetic books from the major prophets to the twelve minor ones.  On the book of Joel, he writes, “On the final Day of the Lord, God would judge all sinful nations in the valley of decision (3:9-16, 19), but he would bless his people (3:17-18, 20-21) (75).”  The great judgement of the nations would not come without blessing for the people who had been ransacked by locust and human enemy.  Gary points us to the final Day of the Lord, an eschatological reminder that God will certainly mete out judgment for the wicked and blessing for the righteous. 

Lastly, Gary Smith gives us wise words when he writes about prophecy and its conditional and unconditional nature.  Concerning Jonah, Gary writes, “There was no conditionality expressed in Jonah’s brief announcement that God was planning to destroy the Assyrian capital of Nineveh in forty days (3:4).  But in response to this threat, the king and the people of Nineveh believing Jonah’s warning, humbled themselves, and turned from their violent ways (3:5—9) (124-5).”  Basing this story upon the strong words of Jeremiah 18:7-10 (Scripture interpreting scripture), Gary sees implicit conditions in prophetic passages where even in the context of an unconditional prophetic warning there is room for human response and human repentance. 

Overall, this was a very good introduction into the prophetic books of the Old Testament.  I hoped he would’ve spent more time in the minor prophets but I understand this book serves as an introduction.


Thanks to Kregel Academic for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

the great spiritual migration

The Great Spiritual Migration by Brian D McLaren

Brian McLaren and his own pithy way brings to the foreground and emphasis on a new kind of Christianity. The kind of faith that Brian envisions is a kind of migration not been set in the bedrock of beliefs that is unmoving but rather shifting with both culture and with faith. His new book the great spiritual migration is exactly that, a pointed work that encapsulates a vision towards the future where Christianity is changing and its peoples lives are changed as well.

Brian states in the introduction, "but we also know that for a lot of people Christianity is malfunctioning, seriously so, and it's not pretty. This kind of frustration with conventional Christianity is what McLaren gets gets to at the heart of this message is concerned with a number of different clusters unbelief. One, namely that Christianity has been stuck in a set of propositions or beliefs that has controlled churches in the faith, rather then a spirit of love t…

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder
Misperceptions, misconnections, and missed observations are just some of the issues that Timothy Snyder raises in his book, Black Earth, concerning the Holocaust.  Snyder, no stranger to the frontlines of scholarship on the Holocaust, with his previous book Bloodlands, that concerns the land from Hitler to Stalin, takes a look at the Holocaust from new sources and new avenues of thought.  How did some nation-states survive relatively unscathed from Nazi persecution while others, notably Jewish populations, succumb to a wave of killings?  Also, what was the role of the Soviet Union in the war and how did Stalin effect changes in the Final Solution?  These questions are only two of the many that Snyder answers in his detailed account of the Holocaust.
One of the best chapters was entitled The Auschwitz Paradox.  Generally when the public thinks about the Holocaust, we think of Auschwitz first or at the top of our mental m…

NKJV Study Bible by Thomas Nelson

NKJV Study Bible by Thomas Nelson Publishers
Growing up with the NIV, the NKJV was not a bible I was familiar with.  This new NKJV Study Bible takes all of the features of the Thomas Nelson Study Bible and makes them better.  Right out of the box I noticed that the Bible was considerably lighter than most study bibles I have read.  Further, the text font was much larger than most study editions, although I’m not quite sure of the size. The aquamarine color was a great touch and the Bible was finely put together, enduring the wear of many coming years of use.
Why is this Bible worth the purchase?  First, the study notes were great for extra handling of particular confusing and messy areas of Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments.  Yet, the study notes aren’t an obstruction to the reading of the biblical text.  Clearly, the editors have taken great care in making the text stand out and the notes illuminate certain themes and areas of Scripture.  Second, the NKJV takes into account all t…