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 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.