Book Review – CBC Jonah (Richard Patterson)

My quest to work my way through the twelve minor prophets with the help of the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary Volume 10 has reached its end with perhaps the best known and loved of the minor prophets.


Patterson briefly defends Jonah against those who charge the author with historical blunders, rejecting the view that the book is an allegory, and accepting the traditional 8th century B.C. dating.


Like the commentary on Obadiah, Jonah seems to get proportionally a little more space than some of the others in this volume, meaning that the “notes” section covers exegetical issues in reasonable detail.

Again, as is typical of the series, the “commentary” section moves quickly from explaining the text to linking its teaching in with the rest of the Bible. Obviously, this means some exploration of the parallels between the story of Jonah and that of Jesus. Patterson also makes connections between the calming of the storm and the stories of Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 27 and Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4.


I guess the challenge of writing an introductory level commentary on a book like Jonah is that it is hard to bring out anything that people have not heard before. This commentary on Jonah serves as a decent introductory level guide to the prophet’s story and message, and connects its key themes to other parts of Scripture.

Book Review – CBC Obadiah (Richard Patterson)

25 pages are devoted to the single chapter book of Obadiah in the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary Volume 10. I have always viewed Obadiah as one of the more difficult books to get anything out of, and so I was looking forward to what is the first commentary I have read on it.


We know little for certain of Obadiah’s identity, and Patterson does not state clearly what date he supposes, putting forth cases for both the sixth and ninth centuries BC. The basic theme of the book is the judgment of Edom.


Perhaps due to the brevity of the book, this commentary is more detailed than others in the volume, who normally devote around three or four pages to a chapter as compared to almost 20 here. This means that the “notes” section is unusually thorough, allowing various exegetical issues to be discussed for each verse.

Patterson draws out various moral lessons for believers from the various sins of Edom that Obadiah draws attention to. Particularly the sin of pride is highlighted as a danger for Christians. The section cataloguing the sins of Edom against God’s people (Ob 1:10-14) gives rise to an extended discussion of when these events might have been dated.

Patterson shows how Jesus took up Obadiah’s metaphor of the “cup” of judgment (Ob 1:16; John 18:11). He explains how the prophecies of the defeat of Edom have come to pass already in history, but that often future events are “telescoped” together – every judgment is in one sense a “day of the Lord”. These prophecies find their ultimate fulfilment in the return of Jesus.


Overall this is a helpful guide to Obadiah’s message of judgment, although it is a little puzzling that after complaining that there wasn’t enough space to cover Amos as thoroughly as I would have liked, Obadiah gets covered in much greater detail.

Book Review – CBC Amos (Andrew Hill)

Here’s my review of Andrew Hill’s commentary on Amos from Volume 10 of the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. For those of you who are getting fed up of these, there are now just two more minor prophets to go before I move on to studying some longer books of the Bible!


Hill dates Amos’ prophecy to 760-750 BC during the reigns of Uzziah and Jereboam II. Although it was a time of relative prosperity for both kingdoms (Judah & Israel), Amos saw through the facade. Although much of Amos’ message is devoted to pronouncements of judgment, he does include a call to repentance and covenant obedience.


The commentary follows the usual pattern I have described before, with “notes” filling in historical and exegetical issues while “commentary” seeks to explain the passage in question and tie it in with biblical teaching. Hill’s approach is slightly different from Patterson, in that he will often pick a single topic to home in on in the commentary section. This did mean that some questions I had were left unanswered. For example I wanted some comments on Amos 2:11-12; 6:10; 8:11-12.

Hill often focuses on the theology of each passage – what it teaches about the nature of God – his justice, sovereignty and universal rule. He shows how Amos eventually comes to terms with the inevitability of God’s judgment because of the covenant breaking through social injustice and religious hypocrisy. He interprets the restoration of David’s dynasty (Amos 9:11-15) in terms of Jesus and the worldwide spread of the gospel based on the teaching of Acts.

Overall, another helpful introduction to a minor prophet, but didn’t always manage to scratch where I was itching.

Book Review – CBC Joel (Richard Patterson)

I’ve finished the commentary on Joel from the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary by Richard Patterson, who is also the author of the commentary on Joel in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary series.


The primary theme of Joel is the day of the Lord, with a secondary theme of repentance. Patterson tentatively leans towards a pre-exilic date.


God’s people had become obsessed with the pursuit of pleasure, and times of ease had resulted in spiritual and moral lethargy. Their spiritual service had degenerated into meaningless theology. Into this context, Joel urged people to follow his example in fasting and pleading with God. Patterson understands Joel 1 as a literal locust invasion which Joel takes as a harbinger of the day of the Lord.

As with other commentaries in the series, the teaching of Joel is connected to the rest of the Bible, and Patterson has a strong emphasis on the importance of a consistent personal prayer life, and stresses the need for regular confession of sin.

On the prophecy of the outpoured Spirit (Joel 2:28-32), Patterson sees Joel’s prophecy as being fulfilled in four stages – Pentecost, the Preset Age, the End of the Age and the Second Advent. He focuses on explaining the prophetic significance of the three major feasts Passover, Pentecost and Shelters.

On Joel 3:1-8 he lists some of the historical defeats that the nations warned of judgement suffered. He also, as in his Hosea commentary, draws out some end times implications without managing to fully nail his colours to the mast. He hints at a belief in an end times battle near Jerusalem, and talks about “Zion theology” which is “integral to NT eschatology”. Probably the limited space available and the desire of the editors not to favour one end times view above the others explains the lack of clarity.

Book Review – CBC Hosea (Richard Patterson)

It’s time for another in my series of commentary reviews from Volume 10 of the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary series, this time Hosea.


Hosea was sent with a message of God’s undying love for his people, as well as a declaration of his unwavering standards. He portrays Israel as an unfaithful wife, as a harlot. They were covenant breakers, and their only hope lay in God’s redeeming love. Patterson also uses the introduction to explain some of the textual difficulties with the book of Hosea – there are many places where the correct translation is uncertain.


For an overview of the format of this series, see my review of the volume on Malachi. I’ll just pick out a few points of interest. Patterson favours the view that Hosea married a woman with promiscuous tendencies – i.e. her adultery came later. Many of Patterson’s commentary sections are very New Testament focused – he is keen to show connections to the gospel and the Christian life.

Patterson shows how Israel’s infectious flirtation with Baal had spread everywhere, and though he must judge their waywardness, his love never fails. In one interesting hint about his end times theology, Patterson interprets the nation of Israel as still living in the “many days” of Hos 3:3-5 – they are back in their land, but without king, temple or sacrificial system. However, he is also quick to mention that the New Testament identifies Jesus as the promised heir to the throne.

His comments on Hos 6:1-3 are helpful in explaining the biblical significance of the “third day”. The subject of the end times again comes up in Hos 10:8, where Patterson ties it in with the teaching of Revelation on an end times tribulation.

Overall, this is another good introductory level commentary. It strikes a nice balance between illuminating the meaning of the text, and suggesting theological and practical applications.

Book Review – CBC Malachi (Andrew Hill)

Continuing my series of commentary reviews from Volume 10 of the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary series, here’s one for Malachi. Andrew Hill is also the author of a much more detailed commentary on Malachi in the Anchor Bible series, so this present volume is able to benefit from much his prior work.


Malachi writes to a tough audience – they are disillusioned, cynical, callous, dishonest, apathetic, doubting, sceptical, wicked. In their minds, God had failed his people. But he brings a simple message to them “I have always loved you”. Hill provides a very helpful timeline fitting together the post-exilic characters of Zerubbabel, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Esther, Ezra and Nehemiah. Hill’s analysis of the structure of Malachi is that it falls into a series of “disputations”.


The format of the CBC series is as follows:

  1. A section (usually around half a chapter) of Scripture from the New Living Translation (NLT) version
  2. Some “Notes”, mainly explaining the meaning and background of key words or phrases. There are usually one or two notes per verse.
  3. A “Commentary” section which seeks to explain the overall message of the section, often with an emphasis on showing how it fits with similar teaching in other books of the Bible. Sometimes it focuses in on a single key concept found in the section, rather than trying to cover everything in the passage.

Each section of commentary concludes with a paragraph or two of application, such as key lessons on marriage from Mal 2:10-16, or how to live in the light of the Lord’s coming on Mal 3:13-4:3. He shows how the concept of “covenant” is important to Malachi (four covenants are mentioned: Abrahamic, Levite, marriage and Mosaic). In the section on Mal 1:6-2:9 he adds his voice to Robert Webber’s appeal that the modern church needs “worship education” – teaching on the history and theology of worship. It would be interesting to read Webber’s "Worship Old and New” to see exactly what his “nine proposals” are.

As with the others in this series, this serves as a helpful Bible study aid for those wanting to go deeper on the minor prophets. It gives you enough information to understand what is going on without getting bogged down in the fine points of exegesis. The commentary section may not always address the questions you might bring to the text, but is a profitable guide for exploring the theological themes raised throughout the book.

Book Review – CBC Zechariah (Andrew Hill)

It’s time for my another review from volume 10 of the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary.


Zechariah is one of the longer minor prophets, and despite being easy to date, offers a number of challenges to commentators due to the variety of hermeneutical approaches that could be taken to the visions and “proto-apocalyptic” material. Hill briefly describes four options (preterist, futurist, historicist and idealist), and in the commentary he (very) briefly summarises what the preterist and futurist interpretations of the passage in question are. He hints that he views many of these prophecies as having a dual fulfilment.

The introduction is slightly longer than some others in this series, allowing Hill to discuss the relationship of chapters 9-11 and 12-14 to the rest of the book. Hill considers it entirely plausible that they were written by Zechariah at a later stage of his life.

Zechariah and Haggai were prophesying in the same period, and while Haggai exhorted the people to rebuild the temple, Zechariah’s focus was on a call to repentance and spiritual renewal. His central theme is encouragement although the book also includes rebuke and exhortation. Zechariah’s theological concerns include right relationship with God, covenant renewal, social justice, restoration of divine presence and the enabling of the Spirit. Zechariah portrays God as a covenant-making and a covenant-keeping God.


As promised in the introduction, Hill does not lay out a variety of possible interpretations of the visions in the first section of the book. Space would not permit it in a commentary series of this type in any case. Instead, he focuses on explaining the meaning of the Biblical text, and highlighting the key theological truths that come out of the passage. The brief sentences at the end of each section outlining the preterist and futurist views tend to leave you with more questions than answers.

In Zechariah the translation choices of the NLT often require a little more explanation in the commentary. For example, “I am jealous … with great jealousy” in Zech 1:14 is translated as “My love is passionate and strong”, or in Zech 1:6 the NLT smoothes over an ambiguity concerning who is speaking, which more literal translations such as the ESV retain. But the NLT does make the reader’s job a lot easier, particularly when dealing with the vivid imagery found in Zechariah.

In several places, Hill highlights messianic titles (e.g. ‘servant’, ‘branch’) and pictures (e.g. priest, king, shepherd), and shows the way in which Jesus fulfils them (at least partially) in his first advent and (eventually completely) in his second advent.

In the latter part of Zechariah (chapters 9 onwards), the centre of gravity shifts slightly, with the ‘Notes’ section more detailed, and the ‘Commentary’ section being used to pick out key theological or application points. So for example, the commentary section for chapter 12 only really touches on Zech 12:1 and Zech 12:10. Over the course of the book, these theological reflections manage to cover a broad range of topics, and do a good job of showing how Zechariah builds on the prophetic hope held forth by Jeremiah and Ezekiel.


Overall I found this a helpful guide to Zechariah’s message. One of the big strengths of the Cornerstone series is the attention to finding links with the message of other books, both in the Old and New Testaments. Hill may not have explained everything in Zechariah, but he has taken us a step in the right direction by connecting the main points of the prophet’s message with the big picture of the whole Bible’s teaching.

Book Review – CBC Haggai (Andrew Hill)

Here’s another review from volume 10 of the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, this time on the short book of Haggai. Andrew Hill covers Haggai, along with Zechariah and Malachi, giving continuity to these three closely related books.


One nice feature of Haggai’s ministry is that it can be precisely dated and located in Israel’s history. Haggai was a herald sounding a wake-up call to a community that was spiritually asleep. In particular he wanted to stir them up to rebuild the temple. He emphasised the abiding presence of God’s Spirit. Some key themes of Haggai include:

  • A call to reprioritize community life
  • Reiteration of promises of blessing and restoration
  • Ritual purity for priests and people – they are to be holy
  • The prominence of the Davidic line


As with all the commentaries in this series, the authors explain the meaning of a section, and then move to some quick, theological reflection, often linking in other parts of Scripture. So for example, Hill offers helpful comments on putting the significance of the temple into its proper place. He highlights how Haggai makes regular use of the name “Lord of Heaven’s Armies” for God.

On the second chapter, Hill shows how Haggai draws on themes from Ezekiel and Jeremiah’s prophecies in previous times, and overturns Jeremiah’s curse on the Davidic line (Jer 22:24-30), rekindling the messianic hopes that had been dashed by the Babylonian exile. He points out that though the second temple did not outstrip the glory of Solomon’s temple in terms of architectural magnificence, the real glory consists of  God’s presence in and amongst his people.

Overall, this has been one of my favourite commentaries in this volume so far. Hill has made effective use of the short space available to make this a good companion to those wanting to do a brief study of Haggai.

Book Review – CBC Zephaniah (Richard Patterson)

Next up in my journey through the minor prophets with the aid of the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary Volume 10 is Zephaniah.


Patterson identifies the Day of the Lord as the primary theme of Zephaniah. He dates it early in Josiah’s reign, at a time where there was much syncretism. Zephaniah writes not just to inform people about God’s future program, but to exhort them to surrender to God, to repent and seek him.


On Zeph 1, Patterson explains that “the Day of the Lord” refers to that time when, for his glory and in accordance with his purposes, God intervenes in human affairs to execute judgment against sin and/or deliver his people. The people of Judah were behaving like pagans. Patterson sees a partial fulfilment of these prophecies in Jerusalem’s fall in 586BC, with other elements being fulfilled in various historical epochs (e.g. A.D. 70). Patterson draws out a challenge for Christians not to sit idly by as a lost world heads towards the day of the Lord.

Zeph 2 includes themes of a godly remnant, of judgment and hope, the seriousness of sin and the sovereignty of God. Much of the fault for the nations disobedience could be accounted to the leadership’s failure to encourage the fear of the Lord (Zeph 3:1-7).

Zeph 3:8-20 is a passage of hope for the remnant – God will deem his people’s punishment completed and bring them happiness as their ultimate good. I was somewhat surprised, and a little disappointed, to note that Patterson passes over Zeph 3:17 with barely any comment – a curious omission considering this is one of the most cherished verses in the Bible. Indeed, his comments on this section are more focused on the “divine shepherd”, but he fails to explain which verse(s) in particular he finds this motif in.

This is, I suppose, both a strength and weakness of the CBC series. It is brief enough to be useful to those without the time or inclination to engage with every exegetical option, and can be relied upon to provide some pertinent observations on the contemporary relevance of the major themes of the passage. However, its brevity means that several potentially fruitful theological avenues will inevitably be left unexplored.

Book Review – CBC Habakkuk (Richard Patterson)

This is another commentary contained within Volume 10 of the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary series, which I am gradually working my way through. For more thoughts on the layout of the series, see my review of Andrew Hill on Micah.


We know very little about Habakkuk. Patterson assumes a pre-exilic date, most likely during the reigns of either Josiah or Manasseh. The central theme of the book is faith, and we see how, despite how Habakkuk felt about the injustice he saw, he brought his doubts and perplexities to God in prayer and came to a place of trust.


The “notes” sections serve as a way of highlighting exegetical issues, particularly the meaning of individual key words. Patterson feels free to disagree with the NLT translation. The “commentary” on each section always moves from summarising the meaning of the passage to drawing out a significant theological theme and discussing it in the light of other related Biblical passages.

A good example would be how he handles Hab 2:4, where he first explores the meaning of the verse in Habakkuk, explaining faithfulness as having both an active (truthfulness) and a passive (trustworthiness) sense. He then goes on to show how the different ways in which it is used in the New Testament (Rom 1:17 and Heb 10:35-39), as well as pointing out the way it references Gen 15:6.

because the believer is one in whom God’s righteous character has been reproduced, he can be expected to conduct himself in a manner consistent with his renewed being. … a genuinely righteous person will live out the faith in faithful activity

Patterson also highlights the different names that Habakkuk uses for God throughout the book, and how they mirror his journey from doubt to a confident faith that meant he could trust in the Lord through the coming hour of judgment and rejoice no matter what may happen.


These CBC commentaries serve as good companions to a Bible study, allowing you to get a good understanding of the meaning of the text as well as seeing how they fit into a wider theological picture. They help you to break out of the trap of just focusing on the famous verses, and getting a better grasp of the message of the whole book. Whilst the exegetical notes aren’t exhaustive, they are fairly thorough, meaning that you would only need to go for a more technical commentary if you were doing more in-depth study on the book.