A Book Review from Books At a Glance
By Michael P.V. Barrett
In my book, Love Divine and Unfailing: The Gospel According to Hosea (P&R, 2008), I made the comment that I was concerned with the big picture of Hosea, not the minute details. My interest was in why and how the parts fit together to advance the revelation of Christ and the gospel, rather than offering a technical exegesis that interpreted all the specific parts. I said, “there are commentaries for that.” Such detailed commentaries are necessary and are valuable tools for thorough in-depth study. Eric Tully has provided such a work for Hosea. It is not for casual reading and requires a knowledge of Hebrew to benefit from his insight into the text. Hosea: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text is a technical analysis that in a succinct, yet thorough way, addresses the text-level issues that are the essential components that combine to provide the framework for the big picture.
For various reasons, the Hebrew text of Hosea is notoriously difficult both in terms of lexemes and syntax, so his comments on both are most helpful. I’m sure that they will be most welcomed by any Hebrew student who is slogging his way through the text. After a helpful introduction explaining his methodology and some of the interpretational issues of Hosea, he gives a detailed analysis of the text. Each unit begins with a synopsis of the section followed by a translation, the Hebrew text, and then the helpful comments sometimes focusing on the clause/phrase, sometimes on individual words, sometimes on particular morphemes. Overall, little attention is given to message of Hosea, but he does put sections in the context of the book’s argument. I would not recommend the book for devotional thoughts or sermon ideas, but it is outstanding for the help it offers at the ground level of the text. For the expositor who knows Hebrew, the data is there to utilize in the formation of sermons or other practical exercises. This is good because grammar is one of the important safeguards to proper interpretation. Although I’m not convinced regarding his rejection of the traditional understanding of the standard Hebrew word order of Verb/Subject in favor of Subject/Verb, that issue affects little of the overall analysis and certainly does not distract from the usefulness of this resource.
This handbook is a valuable tool for the serious student, and I highly recommend it not only for personal study, but for the classroom as well.
Michael P. V. Barrett is vice president for academic affairs/academic dean and professor of Old Testament at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Buy the books
Hosea: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text