The Prophets

Judges: Shphat - shaw-fat, from a verb meaning to pronounce sentence for or against, to vindicate or punish, by extension to govern.

Seers: R’h - raw-aw, from the verb meaning to see.

Prophets: (Nevi’im) - nby’ - naw-bee, to speak, call, or sing.

Perhaps it would be true to say that prophecy had always been present in the religion of the Hebrews since charismatic leadership on behalf of Yahweh was typical of leaders as early as Moses himself. The figures of early Israel such as Joshua and the figures from the book of Judges are called "judges." Samuel, Nathan, and Gad who were contemporary with the United Kingdom are called "seers" (see 1Samuel 9:9). Thus the prophets according to the Christian classification began in the middle of the ninth century BCE. Those earlier books which are considered Nevi'im in the Hebrew Bible are classed among the historical books of the Christian Old Testament. (See Hayes, 4)

Factors contributing to the rise of the prophets.

1. Threats to the worship of Yahweh, especially the emphasis on the worship of Baal under king Ahab (869 - 850) and his queen, Jezebel, who actively oppressed Yahwism (1 Kings 18:4).

2. Economic and social development in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah which produced an oppressed lower class. The theology of the prophets insisted that all Hebrews were equal insofar as they followed the Mosaic Law.

3. The political instability caused by the Assyrians' return to international dominance and, of course, the division of the Jewish nation into two kingdoms after the death of Solomon (920).

Types of material in Prophetic Literature.

1. Autobiographical
2. Biographical
3. Oracles and sermons

This diversity reflects the presence of material from both the prophets and their followers.

Major Features of the Prophetic Books.

The prophet's call (Jeremiah 1:6), (Ezekiel 1:4), (Isaiah 6:1-13)
Reports of visions (Zecheriah 5), (Ezekiel 1:4, 40:2), (Isaiah 6:1)
Symbolic language (Jeremiah 2:3), (Ezekiel 22:18), (Isaiah 1:25)
Symbolic action (Jeremiah 32:6), (Ezekiel 37:16), (Isaiah 20:2)
Confrontation with kings (Jeremiah 36:27), (1 Kings 22:8), (Isaiah 7:1-19)
Opposition to inequality (Jeremiah 22:13, 7:5), (Ezekiel 18:7), (Isaiah 3:14-15)
Oracles (Jeremiah 46:2), (Ezekiel 27), (Isaiah 13:1, 15:1, 19:1).
Judgements (Amos 1), (Ezekiel 28:20, 29:2), (Isaiah 47:1).
Obedience/repentance (Jeremiah 3:14), (Ezekiel 18:32), (Isaiah 40:12).
Assurance of deliverance (Jeremiah 30:18), (Ezekiel 18:32), (Isaiah 40:12).

Other important elements of the prophetic theology.

Explicit monotheism - (Isaiah 45:5,14,18), (Zechariah 14:9)..

Discussion of the Free will/Determinism question - (Ezekiel 3:18).

Concept of vicarious suffering - (Isaiah 50:6-8, 53:3-5,12).

Growing Messianism - (Isaiah 52:13), (Malachi 3:1), (Jeremiah 31:31).

Strong ethical content - (Zecheriah 8:16), (Ezekiel 18:5), (Jeremiah 22:13).

Emphasis on Divine Justice and mercy - (Ezekiel 18:19,32), (Jeremiah 30:18).

Growing concept of afterlife - (2 Kings 2:11), (Isaiah 27:13) but cf. (Ezekiel 37).


The Divisions of the Book of Isaiah.

Proto-Isaiah, 1 - 39.
1. Biographical details of the life of Isaiah.
2. Assyria as major power.
3. Exile as future threat.
4. Emphasis on the judgement to come.
5. Implicit monotheism.
Before 587 in Jerusalem

Deutero-Isaiah, 40 - 55.
1. No biographical details.
2. Babylon as major power and Persia growing.
3. Exile as present suffering.
4. Emphasis on redemption.
5. Explicit monotheism.
Shortly before 538 in Babylon.

Trito-Isaiah, 55 - 66. Very similar to Deutero-Isaiah but contains evidence of the Persian takeover and the return from Exile.
After 538 in Jerusalem

Chapters 36 - 39 appear to be historical narratives edited into the book from 2 Kings 18:13 to 20:19 at a later date. Chapters 24 - 27 is proto-Apocalyptic, a literary style which developed only after the return from Exile and so is also probably a later editorial addition. Chapters 13 - 23 also appear to be later additions. This still leaves Chs. 1 - 12 and 27 - 35 as original material deriving directly from the late 7th and early 6th centuries BCE.


Approximate

Date (BCE)

Prophet

Biblical Source

Comments and probable locations

1200

1050

850

Joshua

Samuel

Elijah

Book of Joshua

Book of Samuel

I Kings 17-21,

II Kings 11 - 211

NB. Like Enoch (Gen 521-24) Elijah did not die an ordinary death (2Kings211) This sets a precedent both for the belief in an afterlife and in Elijah's return.

FP. Israel.

850

Micaiah

I Kings 228-29 FP. Israel.

825

Elisha

II Kings 2 - 10 FP. Israel.

750

Amos

Book of Amos LP*. Israel.

740-730

Hosea

Book of Hosea LP*. Israel.

The Assyrians destroy the northern kingdom of Israel in 722.

742-695

Isaiah (1)

Book of Isaiah (1-39)

LP. Jerusalem (Judah).

730-701

Micah

Book of Micah LP*. Judah.

630-622

Zephaniah

Book of Zephaniah LP*. Judah.

627-580

Jeremiah

Book of Jeremiah LP. Judah.

after 612

Nahum

Book of Nahum LP*. Location uncertain

605-600

Habbakuk

Book of Habbakuk LP*. Judah.

593-570

Ezekiel

Book of Ezekiel LP. Babylon

The Babylonians destroy Jerusalem and Exile Judah in 587.

after 587

Obadiah

Book of Obadiah

LP*. Judah.

540

Isaiah (2)

Book of Isaiah (40-55)

LP. Babylon

520

Haggai

Book of Haggai

LP*. Jerusalem.

520-515

Zechariah

Book of Zechariah

LP*. Jerusalem.

515?

Isaiah(3?)

Book of Isaiah (56-66)

LP. Jerusalem.

before 458

Malachi

Book of Malachi Note reference to Messiah to come 31.

LP*. Jerusalem.

400-350

Joel

Book of Joel LP*. Jerusalem.

uncertain

Jonah

Book of Jonah LP*. This is an unusual satire.

FP - indicates the "Former Prophets" of the Nevi'im (Classed as "Historical Books" in English Christian Bibles)

LP - "Latter Prophets" and LP* - "Minor Latter Prophets" = the Twelve.



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