Among the excellent volumes of the New American Commentary series this is one of the strongest for a number of reasons, only a couple of which can be mentioned here. First is the depth of treatment that is possible in a work of nearly five hundred pages devoted to only six chapters of biblical text. This allows the luxury of detailed discussion and copious documentation, both of which are evident in both parts of the book. Second is the considerable exegetical skills both contributors bring to their task. Clendenen’s training in text-linguistics is especially helpful in drawing attention to the compositional strategy used by the author of Malachi to communicate his message as a carefully crafted product made up of discrete units but units cleverly placed like building blocks to create the pleasing architecture of the whole. His sections on literary style and structure (pp. 218–31) could stand alone as a worthwhile contribution. Taylor’s expertise in text criticism enables him to provide what is no doubt one of the best overviews of the text of Haggai currently available (pp. 92–100).
As is necessary in a brief review of a commentary, attention must be limited to a few select passages usually identified as particularly problematic. The following must suffice.
Haggai 2:7 reads, “ ‘I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty” (NIV). The term translated “desired,” sometimes understood as a reference to a promised Messiah, is correctly understood by Taylor as “a metonym referring to the object of . . . desire, namely, material wealth” (p. 161). However, to deny that it has “any Christological import” is an overstatement.
More convincing is Taylor’s view that Zerubbabel is not to be seen as fulfilling in himself the great promises of Haggai 2:22–23; rather, he is a representative figure fulfilled ultimately in Christ (pp. 200–201). In the same context, however, one would hope for a more detailed comment on the signet ring and its importance in the linkage between Haggai 2:22–23 and Jeremiah 22:24, and especially verses 28–30 which speak of the absence of a descendant of Jehoiachin ever to sit on David’s throne.
Clendenen devotes a great deal of attention to one of the most famous cruxes in the Old Testament, the meaning (and even translation) of Malachi 2:14–15. After painstakingly reviewing the history of interpretation, he follows Hugenberger in proposing that the covenant in mind pertains to marriage and not the national covenant, a point well taken (p. 347). However, his dismissal of the common view that “the one” can refer to Abraham rather then the Lord is not so convincing to this reviewer because of the strange idea of alluding to the Lord as “the one,” when the term is clearly used elsewhere of Abraham (pp. 350–51; cf. Isa. 51:2; Ezek. 33:24), whose relationship to Sarah surely left something to be desired, a strong sentiment of this passage.
Clendenen follows the consensus interpretation that the “messenger of the covenant” of Malachi 3:1 is the same as “the Lord whom you are seeking.” While this too enjoys broad acceptance, the fact that the pronoun “I” of the first line (identified as “the Lord of hosts” of the last line) is synonymous with the third person “he” of line two forces Clendenen and scholars who agree with him to understand the “Lord whom you are seeking” as the “I” who speaks throughout. His appeal to the Angel of the Lord as equivalent to the “Lord whom you are seeking” is unconvincing, though admittedly other identifications also have their problems.
These few caveats aside, the fact remains that Taylor and Clendenen have made a superb contribution to the study of Haggai and Malachi. Serious Bible students will overlook this work to their own academic and spiritual impoverishment.