Interpreting the Prophets: Reading, Understanding and Preaching from the Worlds of the Prophets, By Aaron Chalmers alt

Interpreting the Prophets

Reading, Understanding and Preaching from the Worlds of the Prophets

by Aaron Chalmers

Interpreting the Prophets
  • Length: 173 pages
  • Published: July 17, 2014
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 9841
  • ISBN: 9780830898411

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The prophetic books are some of the most captivating and fascinating texts of the Old Testament, but they are also some of the most misunderstood. Interpreting the Prophets equips the reader with the knowledge and skills they need to interpret the Prophets in a faithful and accurate fashion.

Beginning with the nature of the prophetic role and prophetic books in Israel, Old Testament scholar Aaron Chalmers leads the reader through the various "worlds" of Israel's prophets—historical, social, theological and rhetorical— providing the basic contextual and background information needed both for sound and sensible exegesis, and for sensitive interpretation and application for today. He concludes with a helpful chapter giving guidelines for preaching from the Prophets—including advice on choosing the texts, making appropriate analogies, and the potential problems and common pitfalls to avoid.

"In this introduction to interpreting the Prophets, Aaron Chalmers helpfully majors on showing the way, rather than merely describing content. In exploring several prophetic 'worlds', the historical, the theological and the rhetorical, he negotiates with clarity some of the issues that students new to the prophets find perplexing. Always alive to pitfalls, he provides resources for a solid grounding in understanding and using this section of the Bible, culminating in intelligent guidance for preachers. An excellent resource for students and preachers alike."

Gordon McConville, professor of Old Testament theology, University of Gloucestershire

"Chalmers orients Christian readers to Old Testament prophecy, providing insights into the role of prophets and the books that arose from their ministry, as well as strategies for reading and preaching the prophetic collection. While engaging the best in recent scholarship, this book is accessible to the uninitiated. Interpreting the Prophets is a helpful resource for those who want to hear the breadth and depth of the message of the prophets."

Mark J. Boda, professor of Old Testament, McMaster Divinity College; professor, faculty of theology, McMaster University

"I'm very excited about the potential of this book to help people understand the Old Testament Prophets. The explanation of prophecy's distinctive genre, historical setting, rhetoric, theology and significance is engaging, informed and insightful. If the Prophets seem confusing and irrelevant to certain readers, or primarily about contemporary events in the Middle East to others—and if the church wants a user-friendly corrective to the misunderstanding—this is it. Every pastor and teacher seeking to nourish the church through messages from the prophets needs to drink deeply from Chalmers's well. And every professor hoping students will learn to interpret the Prophets correctly ought to assign this book. (Further, if scholars want a model for writing interpretive guides for other biblical genres—this is it.) Misinterpretations of prophecy have been a stumbling block to Christian maturity and to unity in the body of Christ. I hope and pray that this book will result in the trees of the field clapping their hands."

D. Brent Sandy, author of Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic

"Chalmers has captured the essentials for students, clergy and lay persons interested in studying the biblical prophets. His short handbook provides helpful insights on how to read, interpret and place in context these prophetic writings. Particularly useful are his numerous insets asking the reader to 'go deeper' and 'consider this' as they prepare to read the prophetic writings critically as a coherent body of literature and preach on the historical, social and theological aspects of the material. While suggesting a pathway to a more effective use of the prophets, he sounds the necessary cautions and suggests how to avoid pitfalls that can lead to superficial or incorrect readings."

Victor H. Matthews, dean of the college of humanities and public affairs, Missouri State University

"Readers will find in this compact volume a judicious introduction to the prophets of the Old Testament. The inclusion of compositional, historical, rhetorical and theological perspectives will serve well to provide an up-to-date and easily understood survey of the most relevant material. The hermeneutical tips allow easy access to prophetic literature, which is sometimes considered obscure and is often misunderstood or distorted, and a section on preaching the prophets completes the circle. This is therefore a welcome addition to the field that I plan to put to frequent use."

John H. Walton, professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College

"Happy are the students who take Aaron Chalmers's classes! He has assimilated a vast and complex range of materials from the Old Testament and its world, and from the scholarly world, and out of them has formulated a coherent and intelligible account of the Prophets for his readers. And it all serves a passion to help people read the Prophets for themselves."

John Goldingay, David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament School of Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary

"The book succeeds in providing an accessible resource for beginning level study within the intended audience."

Brad E. Kelle, Religious Studies Review, Vol. 43, No. 2, June 2017

"[T]he work is also accessible and clearly organized, demonstrating the author's rich understanding of the 'worlds' of the prophetic figures of ancient Israel and the peculiarities of the prophetic/apocalyptic genres. He is especially effective when warning contemporary readers, especially those preparing to preach, not to misread, overread, or abuse the words and messages of the ancient texts. Chalmers retains his faith perspective while maintaining deep respect for his subjects. An intelligent approach to an important component of Hebrew scriptures for the Christian reader, especially the seminarian or pastor."

Graham Christian, Library Journal, May 15, 2015

"Of the numerous recent works on this subject, this is among the best. All pastors, teachers, and others who are called upon to preach the Prophets should obtain and make regular use of this superb guide book."

Eugene H. Merrill, Themelios, August 2016

"Taken as a whole, Interpreting the Prophets is like a guided tour through the strange and often misunderstood world of Old Testament prophecy. The itinerary is clear (the detailed table of contents proves the book's meticulous arrangement!) and Chalmers skillfully directs readers to the most significant elements of his subject while explaining their significance in a way that is both informed and understandable. Citations of relevant Scripture abound, and each chapter ends with practical guidelines for interpretation, warnings against potential interpretive faux pas, and suggestions for further study. . . . The journey through Interpreting the Prophets is a worthy one. Students will benefit from the foundational and introductory nature of the book while pastors will be glad to have such a concise and clearly laid out reference work at hand."

Alex Gowler, Books at a Glance, June 30, 2015

"The whole is a student-friendly guide that I will gladly adopt forthwith as recommended reading to accompany a course on the prophets. . . . Whereas many guides seem to imagine leisurely classes that wend their canonical way through text after text, the reality of theological education today is that Chalmer's six chapters will probably match up to the full extent of most such courses. The book would also be an admirable refresher for those whose studies were longer ago."

Richard S. Briggs, Theology Journal, 118(4)


List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
1: What is a Prophet and What is a Prophetic Book?
2: The Historical World of the Prophets
3: The Theological World of the Prophets
4: The Rhetorical World of the Prophets
5: From Prophecy to Apocalyptic
6: Guidelines for Preaching from the Prophets
Select Bibliography
Scripture Index
Subject Index


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Aaron Chalmers

Aaron Chalmers (PhD, Flinders University) is head of the School of Ministry, Theology and Culture at Tabor Adelaide, a multidenominational, evangelical college located in Adelaide, Australia. He teaches in the field of Old Testament and hermeneutics and is passionate about helping Christians to engage with the Hebrew Scriptures. He is the author of Exploring the Religion of Ancient Israel: Prophet, Priest, Sage and People and is a member of the international Society of Biblical Literature. He is married with four children and currently attends Blackwood Church of Christ.