The prophetic books of the Bible contain some of the most difficult passages in the entire Old Testament and can prove especially confusing for those new to this corpus. Handbook on the Prophets offers a thorough and insightful introduction for the beginning student of the Old Testament prophetic literature. Robert Chisholm guides students through the important and often complex writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the Minor Prophets.
Chisholm begins each chapter with a brief analysis of the social and historical setting of the book under discussion. As he works through each of the writings, Chisholm describes the structure, content, and important concepts found therein. Without becoming mired in overly technical issues or academic jargon, Chisholm considers critical issues whenever they are important for the interpretation of a particular passage. In general, however, he focuses more broadly on the theological themes that characterize the work as a whole. In each case, he considers how the message of the prophets would have been heard in their respective historical communities and the prophets' continuing importance for contemporary study.
In addition to those who are new to the prophets, seminarians and students of advanced biblical studies will find this volume enlightening and helpful as they forge their way through the prophetic books. Handbook on the Prophets will also be a valuable resource for pastors and teachers to refer to in their teaching and exposition of this portion of Scripture. The value of the handbook is further enhanced by the extensive bibliographies that are provided for continued study.
“Isaiah’s prophetic career spanned at least four decades. God commissioned him to be a prophet in 740 b.c., the year of King Uzziah’s death (see Isa. 6:1). His ministry continued through the reigns of Jotham and Ahaz and lasted well into the reign of King Hezekiah, who led Judah from 715–686 b.c. (see Isa. 1:1).” (Page 13)
“The author of Hebrews uses Habakkuk 2:4 in a way that closely reflects its original meaning. He urged his readers to remain faithful despite their trials, for God would eventually reward their perseverance. In a similar way, the Lord reminded Habakkuk that persistent godliness would sustain the innocent through the difficult times ahead.” (Page 438)
“By associating the king with Jesse, rather than David, the prophet pictures this ruler as a new David, not just another disappointing Davidic descendant.” (Page 44)
“The oracles view the nations as subjects of the Lord who have violated a covenant with him. The noun translated ‘sins’ in the introductory formula refers to ‘acts of rebellion’ against one in authority (see its use in 1 Kings 12:19; 2 Kings 1:1; 3:5, 7; 8:22). The use of this noun suggests that the cities/states addressed are viewed as rebellious subjects who violated the covenant stipulations of their divine king. This is readily apparent in the case of Judah and Israel, who had broken the law of Moses, but what covenantal arrangement with the God of Israel had the surrounding nations violated?” (Page 381)
“The Book of Amos exhibits a macrostructure of sorts. Following the heading and introductory portrayal of the Lord as judge (1:1–2), a series of judgment oracles appears (1:3–2:16), each of which begins with the words, ‘For three sins of [name of city or state], even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.’ The list culminates with the northern kingdom, Israel. The prophet then delivers three judgment speeches to Israel, each of which begins with the summons, ‘Hear this word’” (Page 377)
Chisholm's book is a welcome addition to the books on the Hebrew prophets. It will help readers find their way through the complexities of the writings themselves and also through the thickets of varying interpretations. The author takes a thoughtfully conservative approach to the knotty critical problems posed by the prophetic books, offering concise but incisive support for positions that take the Bible's own claims seriously. This book will make the prophets more accessible to a whole range of readers.
—John N. Oswalt, Wesley Biblical Seminary
Chisholm's Handbook on the Prophets is an excellent contribution. . . . He has provided an accessible commentary that offers an overview of the message of the biblical text with sensitivity to the historical context of the prophet.
—Mark J. Boda, Review of Biblical Literature
Here is a book on prophetic literature that is in a genre almost of its own! . . . Its major strength is to help students with interpretation of specific passages, less detailed than most commentaries, but interacting with a broad range of scholarship and providing clear presentation and argument. Students, irrespective of background, who explore this work will have a clearer understanding of passages, with an irenic and fair presentation of various views. Whether for exegesis courses or for further reading on exegetical issues raised in an introductory course, this book should become a much used reference.
—John Olley, Colloquium