donderdag 21 februari 2013

Review of: John Barton, Joel and Obadiah: A Commentary (OTL), Westminster John Knox, 2001; in: Interpretation

John Barton, Joel and Obadiah: A Commentary (OTL), Westminster John Knox, 2001.

Review in: Interpretation 2002 56: 432
Review door: Barry A. Jones
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Joel and Obadiah: A Commentary
by John Barton
Old Testament Library. Westminster John Knox, Louisville, 2001.
189 pp. $39.95 (cloth). ISBN 0-664-21966-7.
WITH CUSTOMARY CLARITY of thought and expression, John Barton demonstrates the particular contributions of these two later prophets within their own historical and religious contexts. Although aware of the recent skepticism about historical criticism and the attending emphasis on holistic interpretations, Barton aims to demonstrate the merits of a historical-critical approach. Barton sees a clear difference in character between the contents of Joel 1:1-2:27 and (English) 2:28-3:21. He argues that the first unit is the literary testimony to Joels prophetic speech concerning a catastrophe that threatened the Judean community during the early Second Temple period, probably prior to 400 B.C.E. The particular threat seems to be a locust plague, although the poetic language surrounding the day of YHWH includes imagery of drought and military invasion. The second part of Joel seems to be a disjointed series of eschatological predictions of a general and unspecified future. Barton offers a similar analysis of Obadiah, arguing that w. 1-14, 15b comprise a mid-sixth century prophecy of judgment against Edom for offenses during the Babylonians' sack of Jerusalem, while w. 15a, 16-21 are miscellaneous prophecies of an indefinite future time. Both Joel and Obadiah depict the canonical development of Old Testament prophecy as each book grew from specific messages about concrete circumstances to more general messages that addressed a broader ranges of audiences and contexts.

Barton's interpretations of Joel and Obadiah are fair, judicious, and well-reasoned, encompassing both critical and canonical approaches to these books. He clearly articulates the important theological themes of eschatology, divine mercy, the retributive character of divine judgment, YHWH'S zeal for Judah and Zion, and Joel's unique description of the outpouring of God's spirit on "all flesh." The commentary belongs in the personal libraries of all interpreters who would do justice to the historical and theological distinctives of these two Second Temple prophets.

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