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Topic 5 The Prophets

Topic 5 The Prophets

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Topic 5 The Prophets

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  1. Topic 5 The Prophets A. Nature of OT Prophecy 1. Prophet • Primarily a “spokesperson for God”: prophet delivers a message from God in and for a particular situation. • Messenger formula: “Thus says the Lord, ...” – often precedes prophetic speech; claims to speak in God’s name. • Prophets and the future • Prediction is not essence of prophecy – many prophetic speeches have nothing to do with predicting future. • Prophets’ predictions are related to past and present. • Prophets do not typically make long-range predictions for benefit of future generations. • Usually make near-term predictions for benefit of immediate audience: • Warn of impending disaster as judgment for sins of nation. • Promise God’s deliverance to give hope in time of oppression. 3. Prophetic literature • Prophets were not primarily writers but preachers. • Messages were preserved, recorded later; prophetic books are sometimes a bit disorganized.

  2. Perennial themes in the prophets • Denounce false worship – worship of foreign gods like Baal; idolatry; etc. • Call for social justice – champion the cause of the powerless who have no voice (poor, orphans, widows, aliens, etc.) • Classification of prophets • Pre-classical prophets (“Former prophets”: Joshua-Kings) • No separate books; their stories are told in historical books. • Nathan – David’s court prophet (2 Sam. 7, 12) • Elijah – opposed Ahab and Jezebel • Contest on Mt. Carmel (1 Kgs. 18) – challenges prophets of Baal to see whose god will answer with fire. • Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kgs. 21) – confronts king Ahab’s crime of executing Naboth and taking his vineyard. • Classical prophets (“Latter prophets”: Isaiah-Malachi) • Major: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel – long books • Minor: Book of 12 (Hosea-Malachi) – short books

  3. Classical prophets of the 8th-century • Amos (760-750 BC) – earliest of classical prophets • Shepherd from Judah – preached to Israel. • Time of prosperity – social injustice. • Impending threat of Assyria – gathering strength and will soon threaten security of whole region. • Passion for social/economic justice; Amos rails against: • Oppression of poor (Amos 2:6-7) • Greed/extravagant luxury (6:4-6) • Bribery in courts (5:10, 11) • Deceitful business practices (8:4-6) • Empty religious ceremonies (5:21-24) • What God really wants is not sacrifice and ceremony but justice and righteousness (5:24; cf. Hos. 6:6; Isa. 1:11-17; Mic. 6:6-8). • Warns of devastating destruction – Assyrian threat is God’s judgment against Israel’s injustice.

  4. Classical prophets of the 8th-century (cont.) • Hosea (750-25 BC) • Northern prophet during Assyrian crisis. • Married a prostitute named Gomer (Hos. 1:2-3) – she was unfaithful, broke his heart; he continued to love, won her back. • Parable of God’s relationship with Israel(2:2-5; 3:1-2) – Israel’s unfaithfulness breaks God’s heart; his discipline seeks to win her back. 3. Micah – another minor prophet who appeared in 8th century 4. Isaiah (742-01 BC) • Advisor to Judean kings during Assyrian crisis. • Call: vision of God in holiness (Isa. 6). • Denounces sins; warns of judgment. • Warns kings to trust God (not armies/alliances) for security. • “Immanuel” sign (7:10-17) – impending royal birth is assurance for King Ahaz during military crisis; reinterpreted in Mt. 1:23 as fulfilled in virgin birth of Jesus (doubtful this is what Isaiah had in mind). • Poems promising “ideal king” (9:2-7; 11:1-9) – his reign of peace will be based on justice/righteousness.

  5. What God Really WantsIn the Words of the 8th-Century Prophets • “I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:21-24) • “For I desire steadfastlove and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) • “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. . . . When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good;seekjustice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:11-17) • "With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

  6. g. Book of Isaiah– longest prophetic book; not all of it goes back to 8th-century prophet Isaiah; 3 mains sections: • ch. 1-39 – Isaiah of Jerusalem –pre-Exilic (742-01) • ch. 40-55 – Deutero-Isaiah – Exile (587-39) • ch. 56-66 –Trito-Isaiah – post-Exilic (539- ) • Jeremiah (627-585 BC) • Prophet to Judah during fall to Babylonia. • Called for repentance – warned of judgment. • “Temple Sermon” (Jer. 7) – warns against “temple superstition;” people thought temple would keep them safe regardless of how they lived; Jeremiah warns that apart from repentance even the temple would be destroyed; authorities took offense, nearly executed Jeremiah. • Saw Babylonia as instrument of God’s judgment – advised surrender. • Was viewed as traitor and persecuted. • Hope for “New Covenant” (31:31-34).

  7. Prophets of the Exile • Ezekiel (593-70 BC) • Preached judgment until 587 – afterwards, hope for restoration. • Vision of throne-chariot of God (Ezek. 1). • Vision of valley of dry bones (Ezek. 37). • Deutero-Isaiah (587-39 BC) • Announces end of Exile – new Exodus (Isa. 40). • King Cyrus of Persia will be liberator (Isa. 45) – Cyrus is even called “messiah” (God’s “anointed”). • Depicts universal God – strong monotheism. • Servant Songs – poems about a mysterious “Suffering Servant,”(42:1–4; 49:1–6; 50:4–9; 52:13–53:12). • Charged with bringing light, redemption to the nations. • Suffers innocently for the healing of others. • Is the Servant Israel, a remnant of Israel, or an individual?

  8. Hope for a Messiah Hope for an “ideal king” to restore Israel and rule over Golden Age of peace and justice. (Overall, this is only a minor theme in prophets; becomes more important for Christian readers.) • “Messiah” • Hebrew for “anointed one” – olive oil ceremony designated one chosen by God. • Grew out of royal ideology – each king was a “messiah,” charged with assuring justice, righteousness, and peace. • Prophets • Denounced failures of kings – pursued injustice, unrighteousness. • Depicted future “ideal king” (Isaiah 9, 11, etc.). • “Second Temple” period • Hope for Messiah intensified; promise to David would be fulfilled. • Variety of conceptions developed: political, military, spiritual. • No one expected a suffering and dying Messiah. • New Testament • Jesus is the “Christ” = Greek for “anointed one.” • Jesus fulfills hope for Messiah in unexpected ways; transforms concept.