A Hebrew Bible/Old Testament scholar looks at the Bible and culture…

Solo Publications

Micah (Wisdom Commentary, 2015)

This volume brings gender studies to bear on Micah’s powerful rhetoric, interpreting the book within its ancient and modern contexts. Julia M. O’Brien traces resonances of Micah’s language within the Persian Period community in which the book was composed, evaluating recent study of the period and the dynamics of power reflected in ancient sources. Also sampling the book’s reception by diverse readers in various time periods, she considers the real-life implications of Micah’s gender constructs.

micah cover

By bringing the ancient and modern contexts of Micah into view, the volume encourages readers to reflect on the significance of Micah’s construction of the world. Micah’s perspective on sin, salvation, the human condition, and the nature of YHWH affects the way people live—in part by shaping their own thought and in part by shaping the power structures in which they live. O’Brien’s engagement with Micah invites readers to discern in community their own hopes and dreams: What is justice? What should the future look like? What should we hope for?
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Nahum (Second Edition)

Nahum (2nd ed)In its wanton celebration of violence, the book of Nahum poses ethical challenges to the modern reader. O’Brien offers the first full-scale engagement with this dimension of the book, exploring the ways in which the artfulness of its poetry serves the book’s violent ideology, highlighting how its rhetoric attempts to render the Other fit for annihilation.

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Challenging Prophetic Metaphor

book coverThe prophets of the Old Testament use a wide variety of metaphors to describe God. Some of these metaphors are familiar and soothing; others are unfamiliar and confusing. Still others portray God in ways that are difficult and uncomfortable: God as abusive husband or as neglectful father, for instance. Julia O’Brien searches the Prophetic Books for these metaphors, looking for ways that these images intersect and build off one another. When confronted with disturbing metaphors, she deals with them unflinchingly, providing a sharp critique and evaluation of their predominant interpretations. Attending to the possible uses of these metaphors in the church (for good or ill), O’Brien points us toward new ways to read these theological metaphors for a just faith today.

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Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

book coverThe Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries provide compact, critical commentaries on the book sof the Old Testament for the use of theological students and pastors. The commentaries are also useful for upper-level college or university students and for those responsible for teaching in congregational settings. In addition to providing basic information and insights into the Old Testament writings, these commentaries exemplify the tasks and procedures of careful interpretation, to assist students of the Old Testament in coming to an informed and critical engagement with the biblical texts themselves.

The six books found at the close of the Minor Prophets (Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) present distinctive understandings of God, humanity, and the future. This commentary engages those understandings, considers what the books may have meant in the past, and describes how they resonate with contemporary readers. With attention to issues of gender, violence, and inclusivity, O’Brien explores the ethical challenges of the books and asks how faithful readers can both acknowledge the problems these biblical books raise and appreciate their value for contemporary theological reflection.

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Nahum (First Edition)

book coverIn its wanton celebration of violence, the book of Nahum poses ethical challenges to the modern reader. O’Brien offers the first full-scale engagement with this dimension of the book, exploring the ways in which the artfulness of its poetry serves the book’s violent ideology, highlighting how its rhetoric attempts to render the Other fit for annihilation. She then reads from feminist, intertextual and deconstructionist angles and uncovers the destabilizing function of the book’s aesthetics. Finally, she demonstrates how mining Nahum’s ambiguities and tensions can contribute to an ethical response to its violence.