Hosea Commentaries

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This is part of a larger project reviewing commentaries on each book of the Bible. Follow the links from that post for more information on the series, including explanations of what I mean by some of the terms and abbreviations in this post.

Duane Garrett's NAC is usually the first place I loook on Hosea. It's toward the more in-depth end of the mid-level commentaries, a little more in-depth than most volumes in the series. It's the most recent of the evangelical works on this book, and I find his judgments to be sane and reasoned yet without dogmatism when the issues are less clear. Garrett has also done Song of Songs for WBC and Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (all in another volume), and Joel (in this volume) for NAC. His Rethinking Genesis is one of the more reasonable defenses of conservative views on the authorship of Genesis (and the Pentateuch in general). It's not surprising, then, that he is a conservative evangelical. His strengths include philology and a good sense of the literary features of the book, and he offers lots of detailed excurses on exploring some particular issues in more depth.

Douglas Stuart's WBC is the classic evangelical treatment. It's getting pretty dated now, but Stuart is revising it for publication next year (according to Thomas Nelson). Several reviewers I've read have said they Stuart is their favorite on Hosea. His work on Hosea and Jonah in this volume generally get placed as the best of the commentaries on the five books it treats (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah). He is especially strong on theology but handles other matters judiciously also. One key strength is his tying the prophetic oracles back to covenant blessings and curses in the Torah, with his conception of prophets as enforcers of the covenant. One reviewer wishes Stuart spent more time explaining alternative views and thinks he's a little too willing to emend the MT. Stuart has also written the NAC on Exodus, the Preacher's Commentary (formerly Communicator's Commentary) on Ezekiel, and a commentary on Malachi in the same series as McComiskey's Hosea (see below). He is currently working on a second WBC volume to replace the current one on Micah-Malachi. Stuart is also a conservative evangelical. I don't like the format of this series, but I do think it's easier to read than McComiskey below, and Stuart is usually a clear writer. I look forward to the revised edition, which may well replace Garrett as my first choice on this book. [add link to Thomas Nelson site]

Thomas McComiskey wrote the Hosea and Zechariah commentaries for a three-volume, conservative, evangelical series on the Minor Prophets. Hosea, of course, is in the first volume. His two and Waltke's Micah are generally regarded as the best in the series. I don't like the format of this commentary. It gives exegesis on the top half of the page, with exposition on the bottom half. Each section is organized verse-by-verse, so it is possible to read the exegesis on each verse before reading the exposition on that verse, but it makes for convoluted reading, and each section will often refer the reader to the other section. This series in general is not intended to be heavily interactive with scholarship, though it clearly has been taken into account. It's more of a focused look at the Hebrew exegesis (using actual Hebrew in the exegesis section) without many references and then an exposition that relies on that exegesis. The bibliographies in this series also tend to be less extensive than a commentary on the Hebrew text would usually have. What McComiskey actually does do is excellent, but it seems more limited than I would have expected.

Francis Andersen and David Noel Freedman's 720-page AB (1980) is my favorite in-depth commentary from a more critical perspective. Andersen is a moderately critical evangelical, and Freedman is more toward the liberal end in comparison, but this work is a bit more moderate than some older commentaries (and in comparison with Macintosh below). Until Macintosh came along, this was the fullest Hosea commentary in print in English, and it does feel overwhelmingly detailed for those who just want a commentary for the sake of teaching through the text. It's especially helpful in text critical work, poetic elements of this prophecy, and the historical and cultural background. They treat the book largely as a unified work, compiled by reformers in the 7th century from materials going back to the actual prophet Hosea. Andersen's concerns include theology, but it doesn't get as much attention in this commentary as it could. Andersen and Freedman's work is highly respected across the theological spectrum. Though it's slightly more academic in focus than Garrett and McComiskey, it does not use Hebrew font and is thus easier to follow for those without Hebrew skills. It is a lot more detail, however, and it doesn't include the expositional or applicational elements that the above three commentaries do contain to some extent. Several reviewers complain about Freedman's syllable-counting metrical analysis of the poetry.

A.A. Macintosh's ICC (1997) is the most recent, in-depth critical commentary on Hosea. It is more detailed in some ways even than Andersen and Freedman, but its price is much higher than its added detail might lead you to expect. I wouldn't tend to recommend this except to scholars who will be doing work on the. Macintosh handles philology, text criticism (including DSS), archeology, and history of interpretation, especially Rabbinic Interpretation, but the focus is probably more on linguistic issues than anything else. He shows some interest in theology. He is generally more moderate than most commentators in this series. He considers Hosea to be the main author of this material, allowing for the possibly that some others reapplied his anti-Israel message to Judah, but he thinks Hosea may have done this himself. He argues that the linguistic peculiarities are a result of the northern dialect, in contrast to the common view that Hosea's manuscript tradition is hopelessly corrupt. He doesn't pay much attention to feminist interpretation and completely ignores both Stuart and Andersen/Freedman. The last is completely inexcusable.

Gary Smith's NIVAC has a good reputation. His work on Amos has been very well received, and he popularizes that in here and expands it for the format of the series (with Bridging Contexts and Contemporary Application sections in addition to his exegesis in the Original Meaning section). He spends less time comparatively on Hosea and Micah than he does on Amos, which is somewhat understandable given his previous work on Amos that was probably hard for him to skim down and had already invested much time and thought on. Still, Smith's 180-page Hosea commentary is held by some to be the best among the most recent popular-level works on Hosea. His concern with the structure of the book and the social implications of its message stand out, especially when he is discussing the original context. The Bridging Contexts and Contemporary Application sections of this commentary have had received more mixed reviews in comparison with some other volumes in this series.

Derek Kidner's BST (1981) is a nice, brief exposition of the book. Kidner has proved his insight in his many commentaries in the TOTC and BST series (including Genesis, Ezra-Nehemiah, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Jeremiah), and this book is no exception to his excellent work. Its very low price makes it an easy purchase for use alongside more in-depth works. Some of the historical issues that he can't cover as well in the exposition end up in appendices.

David Hubbard's TOTC (1989) is far more detailed than most commentaries in this series (234 pages), and this commentary has been fairly well received. I generally trust the judgments of Garrett, Stuart, or Kidner more than I would Hubbard's, but it's a pretty inexpensive way to get a somewhat detailed exegesis, with some focus directed toward literary and theological concerns. I consider Hubbard to be a moderate evangelical.

Peter Craigie's DSB (1985) is even briefer than Kidner, but his work in this series on all the minor prophets (Hosea-Jonah in this volume, Micah-Malachi in his second) is so good and not very expensive that I can't help recommending it. The series is designed to have a short reading each day, and Craigie's commentaries on the minor prophets and Ezekiel are among the best in the series. Craigie's more detailed work on Psalms 1-50 and Jeremiah 1-7 or so (WBC) and his NICOT on Deuteronomy have been very warmly received, but his simpler work here isn't really much less informed, just less informative about the details. He is pastorally aware but insistent on getting the original meaning of the passage right first.

Elizabeth Achtemeier's NIBC (1996) on Hosea is packaged with Joel through Micah. She had already done the Interpretation volume on Nahum through Malachi, so this volume completes her work on the entire minor prophets collection. Achtemeier is a moderately critical scholar with an excellent reputation. Her work in both of these volumes tends to focus on historical background, literary features, and theological significance. Her theological views tend to somewhat conservative, but her views on other issues, sometimes are called introductory issues (e.g. authorship, dating, unity of books), are less conservative. She tends to focus on the theological mesage in the final form of the book, but the other issues do enter the discussion at times.


James Limburg's Interpretation
(1988) offers a more pastoral perspective as opposed to some of his more academic work. Limburg's work on Jonah in the OTL series gets high marks from some. I haven't looked at this commentary myself, but it covers Hosea-Micah in a short enough volume that it has not a lot of space for each book. I would probably prefer Achtemeier if I wanted an expositional commentary from a more mainline perspective, just from what I know of both of the scholars.

I have seen little about Marvin Sweeney's two Berit Olam volumes on the minor prophets. He is a highly respected Jewish scholar, whose work in Hermeneia on Zephaniah is a contender for the best scholarly work on that book (though I think Berlin's Anchor Bible wins out in the end). His form-critical work in the FOTL series on the minor prophets is highly regarded among scholars who appreciate that kind of work (I can't say that I share their appreciation for the discipline). The series tends to be more literary in focus than other series (e.g. features of narrative, poetry), and that is probably of this volume.

Hans Walter Wolff's Hermeneia (1974) was the scholarly standard until Andersen and Freedman. Wolff is theologically adept from a mainstream critical perspective. Works in this series are pretty expensive and very detailed and technical, and this commentary is no exception. I would suggest that it's not worth a purchase by someone who just wants to teach the book in sermons or a Bible study, but scholars ought to pay attention to Wolff. Wolff is especially noted for his textual, form-critical, and tradition-critical work. He thinks much of the book was added to Hosea's original prophecies by other people. He is widely praised for his thoughtful theological discussion, and he does relate the message of Hosea to the New Testament, which might be worthwhile for Christians who are teaching this book, but his main focus might be a distraction for such purposes. Wolff has written commentaries on several other minor prophets (e.g. Joel and Amos for Hermeneia, Obadiah, Jonah?, Micah? and Haggai for Continental), so this is something of a specialty for him. [check on these]

James Mays's OTL (1969) was the scholarly standard before Wolff, and many people think of Mays as more insightful, but much has happened in Hosea scholarship since Mays wrote this book. As with Wolff, Mays has several important commentaries on other minor prophets (e.g. Amos, Micah in the OTL series). [check on these] His Interpretation commentary on Psalms is one of the best in that series, and his concern with speaking to the pastor as much as to the scholar shows through in this commentary. Mays considers much of the book to be later material added to Hosea's prophecies by other people. He's a little more theologically-focused than Macintosh or Andersen-Freedman, but this is primarily restricted to the theology just of Hosea without much connection to a more wide-ranging biblical theology. He isn't as strong on other common features of a commentary, e.g. philology or text criticism.

Ehud Ben Zvi's FOTL isn't a commentary, but people often include this form-critical series in commentary reviews. Ben Zvi discusses section of the text under the headings of structure, genre, setting, and intention. His concern for theology is a boon, but some reviewers think he somewhat ignores social implications. He separates the setting of the book (the time of Hosea, with Hosea the prophet as a mere character in a story) from the audience of the book (only the literary elite of postexilic Judaism, since those who cannot read must also be unable to hear when something is read to them). He uses postmodernist reader-response language when it suits him to allow for tentative judgments on matters he is less sure of but then ignores it and dismisses outright any interpretation that takes the prophecy to have been written around the time Hosea actually lived. He also tends to use theological intentions in opposition to historical issues, which leads him to ignore the Canaanite ritual background of Hosea's time. I can't recommend this to those who just want to study Hosea, but it's an important scholarly work that students and scholars should engage with.

Daniel Simundson's AOTC includes Joel-Micah. This brief exposition from a more mainline series has 108 pages on Hosea. Simundson engages in literary analysis alongside his exegesis, theological reflections, and application to contemporary settings. Simundson is sensitive to feminist considerations without thinking the idea of divine jealousy is in itself problematic, as the trend in feminist interpretation has tended to go. He has a theodical excursus that sorts through some of the problems related to God's participation in the kind of angry judgment that many today would consider immoral.

H.D. Beeby's ITC (1989) focuses on theological issues and offers a cross-cultural perspective from what one reviewer calls a conservatively critical position. Beeby teaches missions in Taiwan and comes out of the Newbigin "Gospel and Culture" movement. One reviewer describes it as one of the best commentaries in the series, which really does vary in quality and perspective.

Bruce Birch's Westminster Bible Companion also covers Joel and Amos. His attention is especially on the he>art issues related to social justice from a much more evangelical-friendly viewpoint than many of the other commentaries in this series.

G.I. Davies' NCB has more detail than some commentaries in the series. It's 315 pages. He is especially noted for his text criticism. He strangely thinks Hosea was actually a paying customer of Gomer the prostitute rather than her husband, and he posits lots of redactional work throughout the book. Since much of the work is devoted to such academic issues, the simply explaining of the text takes up less room than you might expect given the page count.

forthcoming:
Stuart's revision (due out Feb 2007, according to Thomas Nelson)
Andrew Dearman, NICOT
M. Daniel Carroll R. (EBC replacement)
Dwight R. Daniels (HCOT)
James D. Nogalski (SH)
Richard Patterson (CBC)
J.J.M. Roberts (NCBC)

I have to say that I am personally looking forward to Stuart's revision. I am impressed by most everything I have read by him, and having a more updated version of his minor prophets volume (along with the second volume, which was originally not by him) will be especially helpful.

Andrew Dearman's NICOT should be absolutely excellent. His more popular work on Jeremiah for the NIVAC series is high quality. It has the potential to become my favorite Hosea commentary, although there will be some strong competitors for that.

I was disappointed to hear the Carroll would not be doing the Apollos volume I had heard about, but I was relieve that his work would not be in vain. It is going to appear in the EBC revision. That series has nowhere near the depth of detail of the Apollos series, but I do look forward to Carroll's work. This will be packaged in one volume with the other minor prophets and Daniel (by other authors).

Like Carroll's work, Richard Patterson's Cornerstone commentary will also be a slimmer, popular-level treatment in an evangelical series, but what I've heard about that series is that it's going to be more like the equivalent of study Bible notes, which makes me less excited about it, despite my appreciation for some of Patterson's other work (Kings in EBC and especially Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah in WEC). This will almost certainly be packaged with other minor prophets, perhaps all twelve together.

Those four are conservative evangelicals. The others should be more mainstream works.

J.J.M. Roberts is a fine scholar whose work on Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah in the OTL series has been well received. The New Century series will have less detail, but the volumes so far have not been low on academic quality, just on detail.

Daniels has been described as conservatively critical. His dissertation was on salvation history in relation to Hosea. The HCOT generally has high standards. It sometimes has very high prices as well, but sometimes it doesn't. Volumes can vary in level of detail and length.

I also don't know anything about Nogalski, but the Smyth & Helwys commentary series is immoral, and I do not recommend anyone supporting it by purchasing any volumes. Its content is equivalent to some of the more slim series, and yet its pricing is as high as some of the most serious academic commentaries. The high price is for bells and whistles like color pictures, fancy formatting, trendy diagrams, and glossy pages. I do not support that kind of nonsense. In a series meant to serve pastors, they charge academic library prices. The publisher of this series ought to be ashamed at what they're doing.

2 Comments

Have you come across J.M. Boice's commentary, packaged in with the minor prophets through to Jonah? And any idea when Stuart's revised WBC might be appearing?

I don't have any idea about Stuart. Their website isn't listing the Hosea-Jonah revision anymore. It was originally listing it as due out last November. His replacement for Micah-Malachi is supposed to be 2009.

I haven't read Boice's commentaries at all. I suspect they're more sermons than commentaries. I haven't been listing them in most of these entries, usually because there are other things at the same level that the reviews I've read recommend more highly.

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