Book Review–The Message of Obadiah, Nahum & Zephaniah (Gordon Bridger)

This is the most recent addition to the Bible Speaks Today series, which is slowly approaching completion, filling in the few remaining gaps in the Old Testament. Bridger’s task is to cover three of the least well known of the minor prophets, whose short books are largely dominated by pronouncements of judgment.

The first thing that stands out is the length. Bridger has written over 300 pages on just 7 chapters of prophecy. This is both a strength and a weakness. It allows him plenty of space to highlight New Testament parallels and explore various areas for application. But at the same time I wonder whether it makes this less accessible than other BST volumes – this is longer than the commentaries on Isaiah and Jeremiah.

In the introduction, Bridger is keen to underscore the contemporary relevance of these books, by reminding us that all Scripture is God’s word to us. These books teach us the importance of facing up to sin and judgement and the importance of responding in repentance and faith.

Obadiah is divided into three sections – the sovereignty of God, the judgments of God and the triumph of God. Bridger has an interest in applying his teaching not just to individual Christians or churches, but also to the political arena and society in general. This is particularly true in the comments on Nahum, which he says has a particular message to super-powers. He tackles themes such as the legitimacy of war, climate change, and self-indulgent addiction to alcohol, sex and money. In his commentary on Zephaniah he draws several parallels between Baalism and the failings of our own society. Bridger writes from a British perspective, and illustrates his points with various recent events from the UK.

Although the general outlook of each of the three books is one of judgment, Bridger reminds us that the justice of God is a positive thing, and that a message of judgment is an implicit call to repentance. The day of the Lord is not just a day of destruction but also a day of deliverance. He defends the unity of Zephaniah against those who claim 3:9-20 is a later addition, and brings out an interesting alternative interpretation of the one well-known verse in these books (Zeph 3:17), in which he suggests that it may be God, rather than us, who is silent – he delights in us not just by singing, but by looking on in silence like a mother with her baby.

Overall, this is a thorough and solidly evangelical commentary on these three books. This shines through in the way Bridger makes several connections to other parts of Scripture, and New Testament teaching in particular. He demonstrates how these books point forward to Christ. The fact that the tone of the biblical material he covers is more gloomy than cheerful makes this a fairly sobering read in places, and by drawing out warnings for believers and the church Bridger himself takes on the mantle of a modern day prophet, calling God’s people and society as a whole to repentance.

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.