The Minor Prophets are not easy to read, and certainly the post-exilic prophets (aka Zechariah). It’s hard to know what to do with the future prophecies, how to apply the texts, what to do with the judgment texts, and how to relate these books to life in the new covenant. I wrote this for my review of Joshua Moon’s volume on Hosea, but the same applies to Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. In this volume, Anthony Petterson——hits all the marks.
With each section of the commentary, Petterson provides his own translation of the Hebrew text, offers relevant notes on translational and linguistic matters of the text, notes the form and structure of the unit, comments on the passage, and gives a final explanation which often brings together the post-exilic prophets with the rest of the Bible and pairs it with our daily life and ministries in the new covenant.
Petterson’s introduction is 20 pages long and covers an array of topics. Petterson surveys the historical context, noting Cyrus and the rise of the Persian empire, the Jews’ return from exile, the changeover from Cyrus to Darius, and the political situation in post-exilic Yehud (Aramaic for Yehudah/’Judah’). While there are some ambiguities between text and history, Petterson lays out how both Cyrus and Darius came to power, and what likely led them, aside from God’s providence, to be favorably disposed to the Jewish people.
After this Petterson looks at the Minor Prophets as a single book, the Book of the Twelve. He offers an introductory sketch of the themes of the Twelve, and how one book thematically follows another. Petterson writes,
In terms of themes, the last three books in the Twelve concern the restoration of Jerusalem. Haggai and Zechariah focus on the restoration of temple and kingship. Zechariah and Malachi focus on the cleansing of the people and the land. All see the national covenant with Israel at Sinai continuing to be operative. (31)
Petterson sets the post-exilic prophets in a biblical-theological context. In disagreement with N. T. Wright, rather than Israel saying they were still in exile in Jesus’ day, Petterson believes the Jewish people believed there would be “another exile-like experience that the nation would have to go through before Yahweh’s kingdom would finally arrive” (35). Even though Israel had returned to the land, there was still a further refining purification that needed to take place “before God’s kingdom would come in all its glory” (35). Zechariah 9–14 connects this future experience with a future Davidic king. Petterson writes that “the outcome is cleansing and a new covenant relationship with God in which the nations will share” (35).
Petterson holds to a confessional approach which includes textual criticism and historical-grammatical exegesis, rhetorical criticism, historical analysis (e.g., comparison with ANE texts), and looking at the passage within the whole text of Scripture (a “redemptive-historical analysis” or “biblical theology”). Petterson asks, “What does this passage teach us about God?” Each passage is set within their OT context and their relationship to the fulfillment of Jesus Christ.
Petterson uses the rest of the commentary to comment on Haggai (59 pgs), Zechariah (200 pgs), and Malachi (85 pgs). Petterson introduces each book by looking at the setting, the author and date, the genre, or perhaps the unity of the text (like with Zechariah). He outlines each book and offers a few key themes. Zechariah pushes Yahweh’s return for his people to restore the covenant and bless them. At a time when Judah was very tiny in contrast to the mighty Persian empire, Zechariah reminds Israel that God is in control. He is the sovereign King. Zechariah holds out a hope for a future Davidic king who will serve as priest by cleansing sin and reversing its consequences (100).
Petterson’s volume is a good example of an exegetical commentary from a confessional Christian perspective. Petterson digs into the details of the text to understand what it means, moves out in concentric circles to understand difficult texts within the post-exilic literature, the Book of the Twelve, the Old Testament, and the Bible as a whole. Petterson shows how one can read the Old Testament and draw proper conclusions to the New Testament and the life of the new covenant Christian.
Both the people in the post-exilic period and Christians “live between the partial coming of God’s kingdom and a future more glorious realization” (35). Just as Haggai called the people to build God’s temple, Jesus calls his people to build his temple (the church), a task that is both hopeful and laced with disappointment. God has and is doing wonderful things, but the Christian life can be filled with such pain. Petterson should be one of the first commentaries you pull to understand these books. Pair this with Boda (NIVAC), Hill (TOTC), and Jacobs (NICOT).
- Series: Apollos Old Testament Commentary
- Author: Anthony R. Petterson
- Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: IVP Academic (April 27, 2015)
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Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.