INTRODUCTION - WHAT IS 'NVIIM RISHONIM'?
The popular name "
" - [trans. - the FIRST (or early) prophets] used to describe the books of Yehoshua, Shoftim, Shmuel, & Melachim can be very misleading!This name is used to differentiate between these four books and what we refer to as "
" [trans. -the LATER prophets], i.e. Yeshayahu, Yirmiyahu, Yechezkel, & Trei Asar.These two names imply that the PRIMARY difference between N'VIIM RISHONIM & ACHARONIM issimply WHEN those respective prophets lived. However, this distinction can not be accurate for a verysimple reason: Even though most of "n'viim rishonim" does deal with an earlier time period, the book of MELACHIM covers the same time period as most all of the "n'viim acharonim".So, what's the difference between them? The answer is quite simple when we consider the basic literary style of each group of "seforim".The four books of N'viim Rishonim are what we call 'NARRATIVE based', i.e. each sefer presents an ongoingstory (in a manner similar to the style of Chumash). In fact, Sefer Yehoshua actually continues theSTORY of Chumash for its narrative picks up right where the narrative of Sefer Devarim left off. [i.e.Yehoshua takes over immediately after the death of Moshe Rabeinu.]Similarly, Sefer Shoftim continues from where the narrative of Sefer Yehoshua ends, then Sefer Shmuelcontinues the narrative of Sefer Shoftim, and finally Sefer Melachim continues the narrative from Sefer Shmuel.Therefore, even though each sefer is written by a different prophet, we could almost consider "n'viim rishonim"as a continuous series. [Nonetheless, each sefer stands alone, as we shall prove during our study of eachsefer.]In contrast, the books of "N'viim Acharonim" are what we call 'PROPHECY based', i.e. each sefer presents aCOLLECTION of various prophecies delivered by a certain "navi". Even though these books often docontain several stories, those stories are not part of a continuous narrative, rather they either introduce or support a certain prophecy.To prove this distinction, simply take a quick look at the opening pasuk of each Sefer of N'viim Acharonim. Note how each sefer begins by introducing a set of prophecies. For example:
"The VISIONS [chazon] of YESHAYAHU, son of Amotz..." (1:1)
"The WORDS [divrei] of YIRMIYAHU, son of Chilkiyahu..." (1:1)
"And it came to pass on the thirtieth year... the WORD OF G-D [dvar Hashem] came toYECHEZKEL ben Buzi...' (1:1-3)
"The WORD OF G-D [dvar Hashem] which came to HOSHEA..."(1:1)
"The WORD OF G-D [dvar Hashem] which came to YOEL..."(1:1) etc.[Note also how after these introductions, we find a collection of prophecies, oneafter the other, with very little narrative connecting them.]In contrast, the books of Nviim Rishonim all begin with a continuing story. For example:
"And it came to pass after Moshe (G-d's servant) died..."
"And it came to pass after Yehoshua died..." (Shoftim 1:1) etc.Even though each sefer of Nviim Rishonim includes certain prophecies, these prophecies form an integral partof that sefer's ongoing narrative!In fact, the names of Sefer Yehoshua and Sefer Shmuel should not mislead us, for even though they soundsimilar, they are very different than the names of Nviim Acharonim. For example: When we say "sefer Hoshea", we mean a COLLECTION of prophecies given by the prophet Hoshea. Similarly, when wesay "sefer Yeshayahu", we mean a COLLECTION of prophecies given by the prophet Yeshayahu.