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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

The Book.

1.

The outline and division of contents which we follow in the commentary is one which is generally and broadly accepted (variations are noted). The book, small as it is, shows the whole range of prophetic material including oracles of judgement against Israel/Judah, oracles against the nations, oracles of salvation for Israel or a remnant within her, and more cosmic or universal pictures of YHWH's future action tending towards what is sometimes called ‘apocalyptic’. General prophetic themes, especially as found in Amos, Hosea, and Isa 1–39 , include the ‘day of the LORD’, whether seen as a day of darkness and judgement for God's people or as salvation for Israel and judgement of the nations; a critique of both social injustice and religious apostasy; and calls for repentance in humble submission to and dependence upon YHWH. In addition, there are echoes of psalms and other worship material from the temple cult. There is a dearth of unambiguous references to historical events and, as we shall see, there appears to be a tendency towards a more generalizing interpretation of earlier prophetic material, which may suggest a complex redactional process as earlier oracles were edited, exegeted, and found to have relevance in new situations. It is difficult to be precise about the exact stages of such redaction. Some commentators see the book as mainly the work of the seventh-century prophet Zephaniah (e.g. Keller 1990, Roberts 1991 ). Many assume a redaction process, usually incorporating what they view as an exilic or Deuteronomic stratum and later post-exilic material, especially in 3:9–20 (e.g. Renaud 1987, Irsigler 1977, Krinetzki 1977). Ben Zvi (1991 ) has argued strongly that the book, while incorporating earlier material—he identifies three compositional levels—must be read as a post-exilic literary work from which we can deduce nothing certain of the historic prophet or his ministry. House (1988 ) attempts to read the book as a ‘prophetic drama’ based on alternating speeches of YHWH and the prophet, but this founders on the dubiety of his distribution of some of the speeches between the protagonists and the lack of any obvious dramatic plot or, indeed, any literary parallel for such a form.

2.

The text itself does not present major problems. The more important difficulties are noted in the commentary.

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