Review of Schwesig, Der Rolle Der Tag-JHWHS-Dichtungen im Dodekapropheton

Paul-Gerhard Schwesig, Die Rolle der Tag-JHWHs-Dichtungen im Dodekapropheton, Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 366. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2006. IX + 347pp. ISBN-13: 978-3-11-019017-5; ISBN-10: 3-11-019017-6; ISSN 0934-2575. $132.30. Cloth.

Published in Bulletin for Biblical Research, 19.1 (2009), 104–105.

This slightly edited dissertation was accepted by the faculty of the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg in 2005. Schwesig sets out to examine the theme of the Day of the Lord in the Book of the Twelve. He builds on what he sees as a consensus in research: that the Book of the Twelve is a deliberately shaped, large unit of edited material. In addition to examining the relevant texts in their immediate context, Schwesig seeks to trace out the course of redaction that resulted in what we now have. He concludes that the first collection consisted of Hosea, Amos, Micah, and Zephaniah. Haggai and Zechariah can be seen as a second collection because of the string of dates related to the reconstruction of the temple. The rest of the process is disputed. The positions of Nogalski and Schart are briefly described, and Schwesig approaches the announcement of the Day of the Lord as a predominant link word and connecting leitmotif in the Twelve. His work is not focused on the idea of the Day of the Lord as such but on the texts that have the theme. Thus he examines other related turns of phrase, such as “the day” in Malachi 3:17–21. His study seeks to show that “the Day of the Lord expressions in the Book of the Twelve in their diachronic sequence reflect a complex history of the idea of the Day of the Lord, especially in its later phase with wide mutations in the understanding of the Day of the Lord indicated” (4). Schwesig contends that his study enables a synchronic reading of the Day of the Lord, which will only succeed when the unmistakable profile of each particular instance of the phrase will not be flattened.

The book consists of an introduction, eight chapters of exegetical work, followed by a ninth chapter on results and conclusions. The exegetical chapters fall out as follows: chapter one covers Amos 5:18–20; chapter two Zephaniah 1; chapter three Amos 5 and Zephaniah 1 in the growing prophetic book; chapter four deals with Obadiah; chapter five with Joel 2:1–11; chapter six with Joel 4:1–3, 9–17; chapter seven with Zechariah 14; and chapter eight with Malachi 3:13–21, 23 and following. Each chapter deals with literary and thematic issues, and along the way there are discussions of the expanding book of six prophets, eight prophets, ten prophets, and finally the Twelve.

When Schwesig presents the conclusions of his synchronic reading of the Day of the Lord in the Twelve, he finds a concentric ring structure that he summarizes in a helpful chart (311). The chart is presented in chiastic form as follows (Schwesig’s chart occupies a whole page and has more text than I present here):

Joel 1:15: Prelude: Warning of the nearness of the Day of the Lord

Joel 2:1–11: disaster for the people of God

Joel 4:1–17: disaster for the peoples, salvation for the people of God

Amos 5:18–20: disaster for the northern kingdom of Israel

Obad: disaster for Edom and the peoples, salvation for the people of God

Zeph 1:2–18: disaster for the southern kingdom of Judah

Zech 14: first disaster, then salvation for the people of God and the peoples

Mal 3:17–21: for the godless, disaster; for the just, salvation

Mal 3:23f: Postlude: the sending of Elijah as forerunner, who will bring repentance, before the coming of the Day of the Lord

This is a fascinating chiasm, but I wonder whether it was intended by whoever ordered the Twelve and whether it was perceived by the Twelve’s earliest audiences. Would this concept have been isolated by the framer(s) of the collection in order to produce this arrangement? Would the Twelve’s first audiences have isolated this concept and noticed the arrangement? Moreover, as David Morgan has pointed out to me, the inclusion of Joel 3:1–5 (ET 2:28–32), which mentions the Day the Lord (3:4, ET 2:31), would break the structure.

Schwesig demonstrates an impressive command both of the text of the Twelve and of the scholarly discussion it has generated. The discussions of these texts that deal with the Day of the Lord in their near and broad contexts are thought provoking and careful. The main concern I have about this volume has as much to do with the accepted scholarly consensus in general as it does with Schwesig’s work in particular. That concern is simple: since what we actually possess is the Book of the Twelve in its final form, all learned attempts to discuss the smaller collections that preceded the Twelve seem inescapably speculative. Thus, in my judgment, the diachronic discussion in the volume is less valuable than the synchronic. The careful exegetical work in this volume will have lasting value, but even the synchronic conclusions are based squarely on the presupposition of a high degree of editorial activity. What if it turns out to be the case that the Book of the Twelve did not undergo as much editorial shaping as scholars now think? The publication of John Van Seters’ The Edited Bible could point to a shift in the tide of scholarly opinion. What if the final form of each individual book in the collection that comprises the Twelve entered the collection virtually unaltered? Are there viable alternative explanations for what scholars now take to be evidence of editorial activity? Again, these questions arise more from the state of the discussion in general than they do from Schwesig’s interesting contribution to it.

In his preface, Schwesig notes a study that appeared too late to be taken into consideration in his own work, Martin Beck’s Der „Tag YHWHs“ im Dodekapropheton: Studien im Spannungsfeld von Traditions- und Redaktionsgeschichte (BZAW; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2005). Scholars working on the origin and history of the Book of the Twelve and/or the history of the Day of the Lord will not want to neglect this volume.

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1 Comment

  1. This book seems to be similar in emphasis to Don Collett’s University of St. Andrews dissertation. He strongly emphasizes the unity of the twelve in his work.

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