This commentary on the Book of Micah is one of the latest entries in the Old Testament Library (OTL) series. A reviewer that I respect said he found this book to be “rich”, so I was anxious to dig into it. Daniel L. Smith-Christopher has produced this provocative commentary from the critical side of scholarship and “rich” is a fair assessment. Though I found many points at which I would disagree with the author, it’s the quality of writing that makes me rank this volume highly.
Mr. Smith-Christopher provides an introduction that is longer than some of those I have found this series. After a substantial bibliography, he dives into the introduction saying that he proposes “reading the book of Micah as an ancient Israelite ‘critical populist’, whose attitudes were fueled partially by his location as a ‘lowlander’”. Though at times he stretches the politics too far and reads too much of a modern take on Micah’s day, he does discuss issues that could have been in play in Micah’s day that other scholars overlook. His own background with Quakers and Mennonites, and their corresponding hatred of war, contribute to his outlook. Still, he pulls out insights that we can use in developing our own thoughts.
A strength of this commentary is how well he paints the picture of the historical context of Micah’s day. Those were turbulent times, and he captures how events help guide the struggle. He does well in viewing history internationally, regionally, and locally. His political take is best described as populism. Again, though that is overdone, some elements of what we call populism may have been in play then. These discussions take up the majority of the introduction. He does end with a discussion of the literary observations of the book of Micah including versions of the text, organization of the book including Micah’s coherence, and guiding principles in reading Micah. He summarizes what several other scholars say on those subjects. The last page of the introduction is his warning to remember how trauma affected the people of Micah’s day.
The commentary proper is in the OTL style. That includes a translation with plenty of technical discussion and commentary verse by verse. The textual help is first rate. The commentary soars and lags depending on where you are. In Micah 5:2 he never even mentions the possibility of it being a prophecy of Jesus Christ! In other places like the famous Micah 6:8 he was much more helpful. There are also eight excursuses of unexpected subjects along the way.
I consider this one of the best commentaries to own from the critical camp on the book of Micah. Even where you don’t agree, you will be challenged. I recommend this volume.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
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