Archive for October 9th, 2012

I am reviewing this commentary from the perspective of what a Bible expositor need or is looking for and whether this would be a resource that an exegete would consider helpful. Obadiah is not a book that you normally hear preached at church on Sunday so whatever commentary you can find is probably precious. In terms of the introductory work on Obadiah (such as the sitz im leben, date of composition, author’s background information, etc) it is not easy to be dogmatic on much. This is especially true concerning the dating of Obadiah and any survey of commentaries on Obadiah will reveal that there are no consensus, with suggested possibilities ranging several hundred years. Watts takes the position that Obadiah should be dated post-exilic.
The author has also written more than one commentary on Obadiah, with the other one being more lay-friendly. This volume caught my eye since an initial glance through the book reveals a format that was attempting to address the technical details of textual criticism and the author’s own translation from the Hebrew that has footnotes explaining the author’s understanding of how the verbs were functioning. This gave readers a good summary of how he did his translation. I thought the book’s format as I described is helpful for the exegete but while the format was worthy to emulate for future commentators, the content was not on par with the format of the book. Watts has an unusual method of textual criticism by imposing a metric Hebrew poetry system onto the text as a factor on whether to emend the text or not. Written in 1969, I think Old Testament scholarship today has pretty much acknowledge that the key to Hebrew poetry is not meter, but parallelism. He also has a questionable textual criticism method by emending the text according to Jeremiah. While acknowledging parallels exists between Obadiah with Jeremiah 49, I don’t think we can warrant the presupposition that Jeremiah was the original that Obadiah redacted from (why not the other way around?). Unless there are actual manuscript variants, I’m reluctant to emend a passage for the purpose of making it cohere to another parallel passage in Scripture because this fails to account for the actual variants (or lack of variants) in the manuscripts of Obadiah itself while also failing to acknowledge that Obadiah might depart from Jeremiah 49 to convey his own emphasis that he wants to communicate (of course, I’m granting for the sake of the argument that Jeremiah 49 is the original, which I don’t believe is a given). His emendation even goes further than that, Watts even rearrange the Hebrew lines and for any readers that’s not cautious he even goes on to identify syntactical forms of verbs that are not in the Hebrew text! This is a good example of why it’s important for the exegetes’ and expositors to know and consult the critical edition of the Hebrew text, and why commentaries ought to be a tool instead of a master when it comes to understanding the Bible. However, in comparison with other commentaries I read I thought Watts presented the best history of Edom given in his introduction. I also liked the conclusion of the book which has a short discussion about the theology of Obadiah in which Watts makes the point that Obadiah reveals that God is a God of history and that a key to interpreting God’s work in history is to understand how the nations relate to Israel in light of the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenant. I whole heartily agree.

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