While I’ve been preparing for the Hosea series of sermons (and blog posts!) I have had the wonderful chance to work through a few books, and I thought I should share a few I’ve found helpful. Looking for a commentary on any given text can be tough, because there is simply so much material available. I haven’t read all of the following cover to cover, but have used each at some point in my preparations on Hosea over the course of the last few months.
I worked through Luther Mays’ commentary of Hosea (1969) first, from the wonderful Old Testament Library series. I found it to be an excellent wonderful theological guide to reading Hosea. The themes of covenantal faithfulness resonate throughout the commentary. Mays is thorough, but typically is not overly so, and his commentary doesn’t burden the reader with too much technical language. It is perhaps a bit dated, (1969), particularly as regards the Caananite Baal cult and other archaeological data, but nonetheless the theology Mays read out of Hosea holds up well. He does not delve deeply into the many text-critical issues at play in Hosea, but I imagine most readers will find that a plus. He is certainly not ignorant of the issues and takes them well into account, but aside from very brief discussions at key places he judges that exhaustive textual discussion would overly burden the commentary, and I think that is correct. As the commentary stands, I think it provides a good level of theological material, such that will challenge most readers in a way that they can appreciate. Most other scholars seem to believe that Mays’s work is the landmark text.
The commentary by Andrew Dearman (2010) is perhaps the most well rounded and up to date volume that I worked with as I prepared to preach from the book. Dearman takes form critical matters seriously without swimming in them too much, and the same is generally true for his treatment of ancient Israelite religious matters. This commentary has a great balance, and doesn’t feel too heavy for the average user, but is also well-informed and dialogues with other treatments of the book well. There is also a kindle version available, which is the only of the commentaries listed here for which that is true. The kindle version doesn’t include (at this point) page numbers, which is a bit annoying, particularly if you want to cite the book. Nonetheless, I think this is a great buy, and if I was starting over I think I’d pick this up first.
Gale Yee’s commentary on Hosea in the twelfth volume of the New Interpreter’s Bible (1996) challenged me in some very helpful ways. While being extremely readable, Yee’s commentary provoked me to thinking through something of a feminist perspective of Hosea, particularly helping me see a new perspective on some of the rhetoric about Yahweh as husband. While I don’t know that the commentary would be sufficient by itself, it would make a fantastic second voice for a full conversation about Hosea. This volume includes commentary on each of the Minor prophets, as well as Daniel, from good solid scholars, and at $40 on amazon might be the best deal dollar for dollar, particularly in you’re going to work on the other minor prophets as well. As a side note, I think this whole set of commentaries has really been done well. The lineup of contributors is impressive, and the format is excellent.
Douglas Stuart’s commentary on Hosea (1987) is in a volume that also includes commentary on Joel, Amos, Obadiah, and Jonah. Hosea gets the lion’s share of the substantial book, though, and Stuart is very thorough in his treatment of Hosea. Writing from a very fixed perspective, Stuart heavily emphasizes that Hosea is a reformer, seeking to call the people back to the covenant made years ago as represented by the book of Deuteronomy. I appreciate Stuart’s perspective, but at several points felt as though he was a bit overconfident in his argumentation of the point—perhaps even condescending, although he certainly isn’t the only scholar to be guilty of such. On balance, I think the commentary is a nice contribution, and I found it helpful, although a little annoying. That in itself is not a serious criticism, because if you aren’t willing to learn from annoying sources occasionally, you just aren’t going to learn.
The mammoth commentary on Hosea by Anderson and Freedman (1980) in the Anchor Bible Series could be quite helpful to some, but this is a heavy (literally and metaphorically) book with a good bit of technical discussion in it. I think the authors offer some great analysis and fresh insight, but this book is just simply going to be too much for most readers of the text. If I was doing a paper on a specific text, I’d definitely check it, and on particularly difficult passages for preaching there is some very helpful work here. However, at 600 plus pages, I simply can’t imagine reading through this whole work. If you can, more power to you.
I only briefly looked at James Limburg’s commentary on Hosea (1988) in the Interpretation series. While I typically have enjoyed commentaries in that series, and have written elsewhere of my appreciation of Limburg’s work on Ecclesiastes, I was really quite disappointed with this volume. It was too stiff, and I just didn’t get the same vibe of creativity here as I did with his ecclesiastes work. Alas.