From Judgment to Hope, Walter Brueggemann. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019.
Summary: A survey study of the prophets centering on the movement in these books from judgment to hope.
Walter Brueggemann is one of the foremost scholars on the prophetic literature in the Bible. This book represents a distillation of his scholarship, suited for an adult education course in a church or other group. He focuses on a common thread running through the books, a movement from judgment to hope similar to the New Testament movement from cross to resurrection to return in glory. He helps us understand the prophets in their historical context, their canonical context, and our contemporary context.
He begins with a chapter on the three major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel offering this summary:
- Isaiah: Jerusalem lost and renewed
- Jeremiah: covenant broken and restored
- Ezekial: temple nullified and revivified
Brueggemann, like many scholars, adheres to a “three Isaiah” approach to Isaiah and devotes a chapter to First Isaiah and one to Second and Third Isaiah. First Isaiah traces the announcements of God’s justice due to the people’s injustices, the temporary salvation and eventual fall of Jerusalem, culminating in that fall and hope for restoration. Second Isaiah begins with the highway for our God and culminates with Israel the Servant. The discussion of Third Isaiah centers on the house of prayer for all peoples, God’s chosen fast, and the Spirit of the Lord speaking through the prophet of the new Jerusalem.
Then Brueggemann reviews the “Minor Prophets” in four groups of three, with correspondence to the major prophets:
- The eight century BCE prophets (Isaiah)
- Amos: justice and righteousness
- Hosea: steadfast love and knowledge of God
- Micah: justice and kindness
- The seventh century BCE prophets (Jeremiah) — focusing on punishment, both covenantal and cosmic dimensions
- The sixth century BCE prophets (Ezekiel) — focusing on restoration, both covenantal and cosmic dimensions
- The outliers
Brueggemann only focuses individual chapters on the eight and sixth century BCE prophets. Patricia K. Tull supplements Brueggemann’s work with an introductory overview and a book by book summary in rough chronological order. In the after matter, you will also find a timeline placing the books along key events, familiar quotations from Isaiah and a brief glossary.
This work does offer an introduction to the major contours of the prophetic books, but aside from reflection questions that seem better suited to individual reading, does not seem well-organized for an adult course. It is a good review, though it seems quite cursory especially in its treatment of the seventh century minor prophets and the “outliers.” Frankly, this was a bit disappointing for a Brueggemann work, and unless you are collecting everything he has written, I would pass this one by.
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