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How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets | Book Review

book cover how to read and understand the biblical prophets by peter gentry on shelf with stack of papers

What strategies do you use when your bible reading feels stagnant?

I’m well into the prophets for my yearly bible reading plan and I began to notice a little apathy creep in. Slowly abiding time seems equated to a chore rather than a delight, a task to complete instead of a relationship to grow, a heart on empty versus one filled with worship.

I resolved to read slowly—knowing my tendency is to hasten over the words— and seek further insight, rather than rush through passages I was struggling to make sense of..

It was in this shift I opened up a kindle book I’d had for awhile on How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets by Peter Gentry, and it was the right thing for the right time.

How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets | Book Review


quote from how to read and understand the biblical prophets


Purpose of the Book

This book is a short primer on how to read the prophetic books of the bible. It’s obviously not comprehensive, nor is it intended to be (the author points you to other resources for that). He leads you generally through some principles of Hebrew literature to show us how it's different from the way we're used to reading today.

Table of Contents


CHAPTER 1 Calling the People Back to the Covenant

CHAPTER 2 The End of the Covenant, Judgment, and Restoration

CHAPTER 3 The Function of Repetition in Hebrew Literature

CHAPTER 4 The Purpose of the Oracles concerning the Foreign Nations

CHAPTER 5 Describing the Future, Part 1: Typology and the New Exodus

CHAPTER 6 Describing the Future, Part 2: Apocalyptic Language

CHAPTER 7 Describing the Future, Part 3: The Already and the Not Yet

CONCLUSION APPENDIX Literary Structure of the Book of Revelation


In these 7 chapters, the author takes you through techniques of Hebrew literature, definitions of covenant and its central place in prophecy and an overview of how prophecy functions for the Old Testament readers, as well as New Testament.

I rated this book as moderate in difficulty, you’re going to be introduced to concepts like typology and Hebrew poetic structures, but these are all explained well and he makes the intent to apply them as well. Each chapter uses a passage from the prophetic books to illustrate the concept he is teaching, which is really helpful to see it unfold.

This book is meant to whet your appetite for studying these important, and often misunderstood, parts of Scripture. So you won’t walk away with a framework for study, but you’ll read with a new lens and curiosity.

quote from how to read and understand the biblical prophets

My Take

The call of the prophets for Israel to return to covenant faithfulness is central in reading through their words. It’s interesting to take note much of what the prophets share is a review of what the people already know from God’s words to them in the law.

It’s a call to remembrance and repentance.

For all their sinful pursuits they were told of terrifying, destructive, imminent judgement, but also of the hope and restoration in an ever-faithful God.

They would be faithless, but he would remain faithful.

As irritated as I feel toward Israelites as I read sometimes, wondering why they would ever abandon their worship of Almighty God, I’m humbly convicted because I struggle with exactly the same fickle heart. It’s wishful thinking on our part to consider ourselves any better than they. Our sinful nature wreaks havoc on our hearts and minds, just as it did then.

Aptly the hymn goes: Let thy grace, Lord, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee.

There would be time for weeping and lament as destruction came upon them and the exiles followed the dusty path away from their homeland, but the prophets would speak words of truth laced with promise for redemption in the Messiah who would make all things new again.

Grace to save us and to sustain us.

It’s a good word to remember these days as war continues to break out across the world. The already-not yet kingdom is under the sovereign hand of God and we, along with creation, cry out for the day of Christ’s return when his kingdom will be established. SDG

quote from how to read and understand the biblical prophets by peter gentry

My Recommendation

If you’re reading through one of the prophecy books of the Bible, or are interested to understand more about how to interpret these challenging books, here’s a nice short teaser to get you started.

Or, if you lead or teach a bible study, this will make a great addition for your shelf!

quote from How to Read and Understand the Biblical prophets by peter gentry

Quick Stats

# of Pages: 144

Level of Difficulty: Moderate

My Rating: 5 stars

More About How to Read the Bible Prophets

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Scriptures About Prophecy

For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet 1:21)
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Tim 3:16)
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (Rev 1:3)

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matt 1:22-23)

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