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In the Hebrew Bible
John R. Neal, Sr.
FD 9312 – Research Methods of Old Testament Criticism
I. Abbreviations …………………………………………………………iv-v
II. Introduction …………………………………………………………..1-14
A. Def. of Prophecy …………………………………………….1
B. Hist. Development of Prophecy ……………………………..1-3
C. Divisions or Era of Prophets ………………………………...3-6
D. Names/Titles of Prophets ……………………………………6-10
3. qc,oç ………………………………………………………….9-10
4. Man of God …………………………………………………10
E. Schools/Sons of Prophets ……………………………………10-14
III. Description of Prophetic Literature …………………………………14-21
A. Prophetic Literature …………………………………………14-15
B. Visions ………………………………………………………16
C. Poetry ………………………………………………………..16-17
D. Autobiographical Narrative …………………………………18
E. Biographical Narrative ………………………………………18
F. Prophetic Disputation ……………………………………….19-20
G. Prophetic Lawsuit …………………………………………..20-21
IV. Interpreting Prophecy ………………………………………………22-31
A. Nature of Prophecy …………………………………………22-23
B. General Characteristics ……………………………………..23-24
C. Finding Fulfillment …………………………………………24-26
D. Specific Principles for Interpretation ………………………26-28
E. How to Test a Prophet ……………………………………...28-31
V. How Prophets Fit in ANE World …………………………………...31-33
VI. Conclusion …………………………………………………………33-34
VII. Bibliography ………………………………………………………35-36
VIII. Appendix …………………………………………………………37-48
Abbreviations of Old Testament Books
1 Samuel 1 Sam.
2 Samuel 2 Sam.
1 Kings 1 Kings
2 Kings 2 Kings
1 Chronicles 1 Chron.
2 Chronicles 2 Chron.
Song of Solomon Song
Don Meredith, Supplement to Turabian 8
Edition (Memphis: Harding School of Theology, 2013).
www.hst.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Turabian-400-BW.pdf. Accessed Dec. 5, 2013.
Prophets and Prophetism
In the Hebrew Bible
Definition of Prophecy
In order to have a proper understanding of the Old Testament prophets, one must have a
clear understanding of a definition of who or what is a prophet. “According to the uniform
teaching of the Bible a prophet is a speaker for God. His words are not the production of his
own spirit, but come from a higher source.”
The prophet receives power from God, “which
comes over a human being and compels him to see or to hear something which otherwise would
be hidden from him, is called by various terms expressive of inspiration.”
defines the term “prophetism” as the “understanding of history which accepts meaning only in
terms of divine concern, divine purpose, [and] divine participation.” According to this definition
then, much of the Old Testament is written from a prophetic point of view and “reflects an
unmistakably prophetic understanding of history.”
Historical Development of Prophecy
A study of the Old Testament prophets is important in our understanding of the Hebrew
Bible. For one reason is due to the fact that the prophetic books and the nature of prophecy
C. von Orelli, “Prophecy, Prophets,” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol IX, Naarah-
Socho, ed James Orr (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939): 2459.
B.D. Napier, “Prophet, Prophetism,” in Interpreter‟s Dictionary of the Bible, K-Q, ed George Arthur
Buttrick (NY/Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962): 896.
males up over half of the Old Testament books. The Jewish Scripture is divided into three
sections: the Law (Torah), Prophets, and Writings. The Prophets are further divided up into two
groups: the “former” and “latter” prophets. The section of the former prophets consists of the
books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel (1, 2), and Kings (1, 2).
Originally Samuel and Kings were
one volume in the Hebrew Bible. This is probably why Josephus counts the Hebrew canon as
consisting of 22 books. The Jews of Alexandria combined Samuel and Kings into one book
known as “kingdoms” and then “subdivided each of them so as to form four books of
“kingdoms.”” We owe our designation in the English Bible of Samuel and Kings to the Latin
Vulgate, which removed the name “kingdoms” and placed the title of Samuel and Kings to each
book (thus 1, 2 Sam. and 1, 2 Kings rather than 1, 2, 3, 4 Kingdoms as in the LXX). However,
the 1517 edition of the Bomberg Hebrew Bible is the first to “make the partition of Samuel and
Kings into two books.”
The Jewish canon divides the prophetic section into the former and latter prophets. The
former prophets consist of the books of Josh., Judg., 1 and 2 Sam., and 1 and 2 Kings. Although
the English reader might consider these books as historical, yet “they were composed from a
prophetic viewpoint and possibly even the authors themselves may have been prophets by
The latter prophets are subdivided into the major prophets (the “big three” being
Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel) because of their length and the minor prophets (the “twelve”
R.K. Harrison, Introduction To The Old Testament with a comprehensive review of Old Testament Studies
and a special supplement on the Apocrypha (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969, Repr. 1991), 664.
Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, Rev Ed (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985),
minor prophets are Hos., Joel, Amos, Obad., Jon., Mic., Nah., Hab., Zeph., Hag., Zech., and
Divisions or Eras of Prophets
One would be mistaken to consider that prophetic activity did not begin in Israel prior to
century B.C. In fact, biblical prophecy goes back to the opening chapters of the Bible.
Unger notes that there is a mistaken notion that Hebrew prophets did not appear prior to the
eighth century B.C. when, in fact, spoken and written prophecy goes back to “ancient times.”
The “protoevangelium” or the very “first prophecy of a divine Redeemer” (according to Gen.
3:15-16) is spoken “directly by God without the necessity of prophetic intermediation.”
The so-called “Premonarchic prophets” refer to the prophets who spoke before the
ninth/eighth centuries B.C. Some of the great Old Testament characters who are designated as
prophets are Abraham (Gen. 20:7), Aaron (Exod. 7:1), Miriam (Exod. 15:20), Deborah (Judg.
4:4), and even Moses (Num. 11:26-29l 12:5-8; Deut. 18:18; 34:10).
The NT author Jude refers
to Enoch, the “seventh from Adam,” as a prophet (Jude v 14-15). The patriarch Noah likewise
“uttered prophetic oracles” (Gen. 9:25-27). Even the patriarch Abraham is called a prophet
(Gen. 20:7; Ps. 105:12-15). Moses is a prophet with whom God spoke to “face to face” (Num.
12:6-8; Deut. 34:10).
Another early example of “prophecy as an institution is the account of
The book of Daniel is not listed or classified in the Hebrew Bible as being among the prophets. Daniel is
listed in the section of the “sacred writings” (included in the writings: Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of
Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1 and 2 Chronicles). The Protestant
canon includes Daniel and Lamentations among the prophets.
Merrill F. Unger, “The Character Of Old Testament Prophecy,” Bibliotheca Sacra 108, no 430 (Ap-Je
the anointing of the seventy elders” in Num. 11:16ff.
The Spirit of the Lord comes upon these
elders to help Moses in judging the people. “The judgeship was not separated from the prophetic
office in Moses‟ day.” These two roles, judge and prophet, are combined in the role of the
“elders” of Israel. This is perhaps the “first evidence of a collective prophetism in Scripture.”
Moses is a type or prefiguring of the coming of the greatest prophet, Jesus Christ (Deut. 18:18;
John 6:14; 7:40).
While some prophets wrote down their message, still others did not. Those
who did not write down their message, or have a scribe write down their revelation, are referred
to as the non-literary prophets. Moses is the author of the Torah or Pentateuch, but is not an
author of a prophetic book. Thus he is not considered as one of the literary prophets.
There was never any lack of prophecy by Divine “Revelation” from the time of Moses
“onward” (Deut. 18:15). “Even when prophetic revelation was rare as in the time of the judges,
prophecy was not wholly dormant (Judg. 4:4).” From the time of Samuel, there existed “schools
of the prophets” (1 Sam. 10:10; 19:18-24). Samuel is the prophet who predicts where Saul
would find the donkeys of Kish and that he would meet a band of prophets, the Spirit of the Lord
would come upon him (1 Sam. 10:5b-6).
Samuel is called at an early age and serves this
threefold role of prophet, priest, and judge during “one of the darkest hours of Israel‟s life.” At
this time he “establishes himself” as the premier “seer” or prophet “whom God” is working
through. He anoints the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David.
After the time of Samuel, the
sons of the prophets arise during the time of Elijah and Elisha. The first mention of them is
found in 1 Kings 20:35. These two men “confront a syncretistic religion and an idolatrous
Jimmy L. Nelson, “His Servants the Prophets,” Southwestern Journal of Theology 24, no 1 (Fall 1981):
Kyle M. Yates,
Preaching from the Prophets (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1942), 19-21.
royalty.” The worship of Baal becomes the official state-sponsored religion.
The conflict is
that worship of Yahweh comes into conflict with Baal worship, “represented by their respective
prophets.” Thus from a “biblical-theological perspective,” both Elijah and Elisha are “sent to
call Israel back” to the covenant Yahweh made with them at Mt. Sinai and “to do battle with the
forces seeking to seduce the people of God into apostasy.”
Elijah‟s ministry endures the Omri
dynasty and his wicked son Ahab (and wife Jezebel). Through the influence of Jezebel, she
helps introduce Baal worship in Israel. Elijah stands up to them and predicts a “severe drought”
that would not end until his word says so. He predicts their end due to the deception and murder
of Naboth over taking possession of his vineyard. Elijah would also choose his successor,
Elisha, and is carried away by a chariot of fire.
“Until the close of Old Testament prophecy
with Malachi, prophets appear continuously in Hebrew history, while prophecy rose to great
literary heights in the pre-exilic oracles of Isaiah and Jeremiah.”
When considering the era of the major and minor prophets, some categorize them based
upon being pre-exilic, exilic, and post-exilic. The pre-exilic prophets are: Amos & Hos. (to
Israel), Jon. and Nah. (to Nineveh), Obad. (to Edom), and Joel, Isa., Mic., Zeph., Jer., & Hab. (to
Judah). The exilic prophets are: Ezekiel (to the Jews in Babylon). The post-exilic prophets are:
Hag., Zech., and Mal. (to the remnant who returned to Jerusalem). Some prefer to classify the
prophets during the time period of which empire dominated the world. These divisions of world
empires are knows as the Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, and Persian eras. During the Neo-
Assyrian we have the prophets: Jon., Amos, Hos., Mic., & Isa. In the Neo-Babylonian period,
Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture: The Application of Biblical
Theology to Expository Preaching (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 169.
we find the prophetic activity of: Zeph., Hab., Jer., Nah., Ezek., and Obad. Finally during the
Persian Period, one finds the writings of: Hag., Zech., Joel, and Mal.
Names/Titles of the Prophets
)¢i||v. First there is the term )¢i||v (prophet). Gesenius argues that the noun )¢i||v
comes from the Hebrew root, )|||v, meaning to “CAUSE TO BUBBLE UP, hence to pour forth
words abundantly, as is done by those who speak with ardour or divine emotion of mind.”
verb form does not appear in the Qal, but in the Niphal form in the sense of speak as a prophet)
and the Hithpael form (to act mad/act like a prophet).
The noun form nabi‟ is the normal OT
term for a prophet, whether he is a prophet of Baal (1 Kings 18:19, 22, 25, 40; 2 Kings 10:19;
22:6, 10, 12, 13, 22, 23), or of Ashera (1 Kings 18:19), or even Yahewh (such as the prophets
Elijah, Samuel, Nathan, Gad, Elijah, or Elisha). A nabi‟ can be a true prophet of God or a false
According to Brown-Driver-Briggs seem to follow the same position as Gesenius. They
define nabi‟ as a masculine noun meaning “spokesman, speaker, prophet.”
Holladay connects nabi‟ with the verb, )|v, meaning to “be in prophetic ecstasy” or to
“behave” like a nabi‟ (in the Niphal) and to “behave” like a nabi‟ or to “rave (in the Hithpael).
“Gesenius over a century ago plausibly but inconclusively connected nabhi’ with the Hebrew
C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction To The Old Testament Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 12.
Some commentators classify Lamentations and Daniel as prophets, but technically they make up part of the Writings
or kethubim, not the nebhi‟im.
H.W.F. Gesenius, Gesenius‟ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, trans Samuel Prideaux
Tregelles (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979, Repr. 1988), 525, 528.
Jack P. Lewis, “The Schools of the Prophets,” Restoration Quarterly 9, no 1 (1966): 1.
F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody,
MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), 611.
William L. Holladay, A Concise Hebrew And Aramaic Lexicon Of The Old Testament, Based Upon The
Lexical Work Of Ludwig Koehler And Walter Baumgartner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 224.
root nabha`, “to bubble forth.” To the present day many scholars, building shaky arguments on
the idea of ecstatic or excited utterance as the real basis of the prophetic message, erroneously
overemphasize this element in Hebrew prophecy, and put it on a par with the abnormal behavior
of a dervish.”
Another view relates the lost root of this Hebrew noun to the Akkadian term nabum
meaning “to name,” or “invoke, call, summon, appoint; to decree, proclaim.”
Hebrew noun nabi‟ with the Akkadian term for “to call,” Albright proposed the real meaning of
nabi‟ is one who is called by God (and thus parallels Akkadian/Babylonian usage).
evidence for this position is strong. The C-A-D give seven possible meanings for the verb and
noun form of nabum: (1) “to name, to give a name,” (2) “to invoke,” (3) “to summon, to call a
person (to exercise a function), to appoint a person to an office,” (4) “to decree, to proclaim, to
command, to make known,” (5) “to count among,” (6) “to cause to proclaim,” and (7) “to be
named, appointed, called upon.”
In particular, this Akkadian term is used to refer to one
appointed as a king/ruler or shepherd over the people, to be appointed as a priest, a governor, or
even to “proclaim” or “make known” some “decree.”
The data points to an individual who
receives a divine call for a specific task or purpose.
Holladay connects nabi‟ with the verb, )|v, meaning to “be in prophetic ecstasy” or to
“behave” like a nabi‟ (in the Niphal) and to “behave” like a nabi‟ or to “rave (in the Hithpael).
“Gesenius over a century ago plausibly but inconclusively connected nabhi’ with the Hebrew
Unger, “The Character Of Old Testament Prophecy,” 168.
John Huehnergard, A Grammar Of Akkadian (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2000), 508.
The Assyrian Dictinary Of The Oriental Institute Of The University Of Chicago, vol 11-N, Part I, Ed
Erica Reiner (Chicago, IL: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago/ Gluckstadt, Germany: JJ Augustin
Verlagsbuchandlung, 1980, Repr 1992, 2008), 32. www.oi.uchicago.edu/research/pubs/catalog/cad/. Accessed
October 21, 2013.
Holladay, A Concise Hebrew And Aramaic Lexicon Of The Old Testament, 224.
root nabha`, “to bubble forth.” To the present day many scholars, building shaky arguments on
the idea of ecstatic or excited utterance as the real basis of the prophetic message, erroneously
overemphasize this element in Hebrew prophecy, and put it on a par with the abnormal behavior
of a dervish.”
The Greek equivalent of the Hebrew term nabi‟ is always profh/thj in the LXX.
The original sense of profh/thj is that of speaking, saying, and is a close “synonym for the noun
kh/ruc or preach. Thus the nabi‟ is the spokesman or “mouthpiece” for God. Only later on
does the Greek term carry the idea of predicting the future.
qc)oµ – seer. Gesenius has qc)oµ as referring to a “seer,” a “prophet,” from the verb
q|)|µ, “to see,”
or to look at or even inspect. Thus, he is one who truly sees. One might say
this is a synonym of the Hebrew word for prophet (nabi‟). The word seer is “employed more
than any other word for an authentic prophet in receiving oracles from God.” Brown-Driver-
Briggs give the same idea, qc)oµ, as a masculine noun meaning “seer,” and old term for nabi‟,
coming from the verb to see.
According to Num. 12:6, God promised that He would speak to
his spokesman or prophet through a „vision‟ (mar‟ah, a noun form of the word for seer). The
verb “to see” (ra‟ah) is found throughout the major and minor prophets to refer to a prophet
seeing a vision (see Isa. 6:1; Jer. 1:11-13; Ezek. 1:1, 4, 15, 27, 28; 2:9; 8:2, 6, 7, 10, 15; 10:1, 9;
11:1). Samuel, Zadok, and Hanani were all referred to as seers. In reference to the prophet,
Unger, “The Character Of Old Testament Prophecy,” (C. Brown 1986) 168.
Rendorf , “profh/thj,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol VI. Ed. Gerhard Kittle and
Gerhard Friedrich, Trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968, Repr. 1993), 783, 795-96. Jimmy
Nelson, “His Servants the Prophets,” 90.
Gesenius, 748, 750.
Brown-Driver-Briggs, 909, 906.
priest, and judge Samuel, the Bible says: “…for he who is called a prophet (nabi‟) now was
formerly called a seer (ro‟eh)” (1 Sam. 9:9).
qc,oç – visionary. A third term used to describe a prophet is the word visionary (qc,oç,
from the verb q,ç, also rendered as seer or prophet). “Throughout subsequent Old Testament
usage every shade of meaning inherent in the verb form from which qc,oç was derived can be
paralleled in its counterpart underlying qc)oµ. Both were used in connection with divination
(Zech. 10:2; Ezek. 21:21), the perception of the significance of events (Ps. 46:8; Isa. 5:12), the
assessment of character (1 Sam. 16:1); Ps. 11:4, 7), the vision of God (Ps. 27:4; Isa. 6:5),
prophetic activity generally (Isa. 1:1; Ezek. 13:3), and the executing of vengeance (Ps. 58:10;
The exact meaning may be unclear, but the word refers to a person who receives a
vision. Out of the twenty-two occurrences in the Old Testament, eleven of these “are connected
with the name of a particular person, indicating his office as a prophet.”
“In Isaiah 29:10, nabhi‟ and ro‟eh were used in a parallel sense, as were ro‟eh and hozeh
in Isaiah 30:10. Whereas 2 Chronicles 16:7 described Hanani as a ro‟eh, a subsequent reference
in chapter 19:2 spoke of “Jehu the son of Hanani the hozeh.”” Then at some “later period” there
was little difference of meaning between these two terms.
The prophets Gad in 2 Sam. 24:1,
Iddo in 2 Chron. 21:9; 12:15, Haman in 1 Chron. 25:5, and Asaph in 2 Chron. 29:25 are all
referred to as a hozeh.
Robert D. Culver, “nabi‟,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol 2, v÷t, eds R. Laird
Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981): 544.
Man of God – „ish ha‟elohim. This title or designation man of God “seems to be a title of
distinction, which is also given to great leaders” like Moses (Deut. 33:11), David (Neh. 12:24,
36), Elisha (called this 29 times), and an unnamed prophet from Judah (see 1 Kings 13:1-31, 15
times). “This title expresses the close association of the person concerned with God.”
prophet truly was „God‟s man‟ in every sense of the word: by the way they conducted their lives
and by their teaching/preaching. Paul even uses this phrase to admonish the young preacher
Timothy to conduct himself as “God‟s man” or preacher before others (1 Tim. 6:11ff).
Schools/Sons of the Prophets
In an article by Jack Lewis entitled, “The schools of the Prophets,” he addresses the
various terms used of the old prophets like ro‟eh, hozeh, ish „elohim, and nabi. Yet he pays
particular attention to the “three terms” or phrases in reference to prophets, known as the
“school(s) of the prophets” (hebel nebi‟im, lahaget hannebi‟im, bene-hannebi‟im). This
expression is referred to in some scholarly works as prophetic “guilds.”
The first phrase, hebel nebi‟im, is found in 1 Sam. 10:5, 10. The LXX renders the
Hebrew as “choro propheton” and the Targums si‟at saprayya‟ or “band of students.” Samuel
tells Saul he is to look for a group of men coming down from Gibeah playing instruments (v.
After Samuel anoints Saul as king, the group passes by Saul and the Spirit of God comes
upon him. At that point Saul begins to prophesy with the rest of the men. The question is asked
whether Saul is now among the prophets or not (v. 11). Another asks who is this group‟s father
Colin Brown, “Prophet,” in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol 3, ed
Colin Brown (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986): 77.
(v. 12)? This is the last time habel occurs in the Hebrew Bible in connection with the prophetic
The second phrase, lahagat hannebi‟im, occurs in 1 Sam. 19:20. The LXX renders this
as ekklesia ton propheton and the Aramaic Targum siat saprayya‟ (meaning “group of
students”). On this occasion (1 Sam. 19:18-24), King Saul sends a group of messengers three
times to take David from Samuel at Rama. Each time the Spirit comes upon the messengers and
they prophesy. When Saul finally comes, the Spirit seizes the king, he strips off all of his
clothes, and prophesies all night before Samuel. The question again is raised, “Is Saul also
among the prophets?”(v. 24) Samuel is “said to stand over these prophets,” which may suggest
he is their spiritual leader.
The third phrase in connection with the prophets is bene-hannebi‟im. Yet Lewis points
out that the Old Testament is “silent” on these so-called schools of prophets for nearly one
hundred years, but then during the time of King Ahab (ninth century) the phrase bene-
hannebi‟im appears. While the LXX and Latin Versions follow the Hebrew in rendering this
group as “sons,” yet the Targum refers to them as talmide nebiyayya‟ or “students of the
prophets.” Many Old Testament scholars follow this interpretation of them being students.
Lewis is not convinced the term “guilds” is an accurate depiction of who or what they are. This
term occurs in the Hebrew Bible “only in the northern kingdom” during Ahab‟s reign (with one
exception). In Amos 7:14, the prophet Amos declares that he was no prophet nor the „son of a
Ibid., 2-3. This third term occurs eleven times in the Hebrew Scriptures.
prophet.‟ “This last example is the only occurrence of the singular of the term and its only
occurrence in a writing prophet.”
There are some similarities between prophets in general and these travelling bands of
prophets. However, Lewis asks four questions for which there are no easy answers. First, why
does the phrase bene-nebi‟im not occur in the Old Testament prior to 1 Kings 20:35? Secondly,
what little we can gather about this group “does not explain why all contemporaneous groups of
nebi‟im and single individuals are not all called bene-nebi‟im”? Third, why is this phrase only
used of those prophets in the “northern Kingdom”? Fourth, why does this phrase drop out all
While the bene nebi‟im are “contemporaries” of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, this
“term is not specifically applied to either” of them. This group announces the coming
“departure” of Elijah (in 2 Kings 2:3-5) and fifty of them look for him after he is taken up (2
Kings 2:17). They are even more closely related in the Elisha narrative. The prophet Elisha
“multiples” the oil for a widow of one of these bene-hannebi‟im (see 2 Kings 4:38, 43). Elisha
may in one sense be their “chief and leader.” These men refer to themselves as “servants of the
prophet” (2 Kings 6:3) and refer to Elisha as their “master” (2 Kings 6:5).
Then there is the passage in Amos 7:14 about his prophetic ministry. In the passage the
prophet declares that he is/was “not a prophet,” nor the “son of a prophet.” Dr. Lewis raises the
question, is Amos saying here that he is not a prophet (in the present tense) or that he was not a
prophet (past tense)? Lewis notes, “The latter seems more likely since he must say that the Lord
sent him to prophesy or to “act like a prophet.”
In this same article, the author also asks
whether Amos is making a distinction between a prophet and a son of a prophet. Perhaps what
we have here is an example of a “vav explicativum” which would indicate that “no distinction is
This would be like someone today saying, “I was not a farmer, nor the son of a
farmer.” However you slice the issue, one would not accuse this person of having grown up in
the country farming off of the land.
The word son should not be viewed in a biological sense (as one would refer to someone
as the son of a preacher in the literal sense), but in a spiritual sense (as Paul does with Timothy
and Titus). Lewis notes that while some prophets may have lived in groups (as Jesus‟ disciples
in the New Testament), there was no school to attend to train to be a prophet of god. They were
called and received visions in order to be one.
You cannot be „schooled‟ in prophecy.
Perhaps we should view this as a relationship like master/disciple (a reference possibly to
disciples or students of a prophet). This may just be a designation to refer to a prophet. He does
not subscribe to the belief that these schools were active due to “political crises”
and to read
into these schools that they helped write/shape particular books is going too far. Suffice us to
say that we do not have enough information to characterize who these men were or what they
were, other than they are prophets. Why the phrase is used in a “limited time” and in a “limited
area” we simply do not know.
Some try to connect these bands of prophets with the term disciples or limmudim of
Isaiah in Isa. 8:16; 50:4; 54:13, thus trying to support the claim of a wide-spread school or guild
of prophets not only in the north (Israel), but later on in the south (Judah). Isbell makes the
argument that these early roving band of prophets develops into the later disciples the prophets
Arguments like this are used to strengthen the claim for a school of Isaiah that
helped pen second and third Isaiah. The position of Lewis appears to be the safest approach to
the issue of explaining the origin of the school of the prophets and answering the question, who
Description of Prophetic Literature
Usually prophetic speech is introduced by the phrase “thus says the Lord” or “the word of
the Lord came to …”Napier refers to the two types of prophetic speech as: (1) invective and (2)
word of judgment. The invective (or Scheltrede) refers to an “extended and eloquent, commonly
passionate and bitter, and always portraying, although in different ways, the mind and disposition
and personality of the prophet.” The Word of judgment (or Drowhwort) is a “threat,” a
“contingent judgment,” a “brief, pointed, powerful, devastating, sometimes terrifyingly
impersonal, and characteristically devoid of personal0human animus.”
This type of prophetic
literature makes up the majority of their writings. There is found either a pronouncement of
judgment or an echo of salvation upon either Judah or Israel (or even the surrounding nations).
Some of the oracles are directed towards individuals. In the two books of Kings, the
pronouncements of judgment are directed “against individuals rather than the nation as a
Charles David Isbell, “The Limmudim in the book of Isaiah,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament
vol 34.1 (2009): 99-105.
C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction To The Old Testament Prophetic Books (Chicago: Moody Press,
The occasion is difficult with the so-called “literary” or “classical prophets,” who
declared judgments against the nation as a whole.”
As the prophets‟ beliefs developed and
their “eschatology” [i.e., study of last things] was framed, the concept of salvation had a great
part in their prophetic themes. In the case of Hosea, the 8
century prophet to Israel, after he
told Israel what their fate was for breaking the Mosaic covenant, he expressed “words of
salvation under the patriarchal covenant, which he may have considered to be the primary and
Oracles were not only pronounced against Israel and Judah, but to other nations as well
(See Isa. 13-23; Jer. 46-51; Ezek. 25-32; Amos 1:3-2:3; Zeph. 2:5-15). Some of these foreign
nations had turned against Israel, and these prophets spoke out against them.
indicate that the prophets offered the assurance that God would not allow pagan nations to go
unpunished (Jer. 27; 51:59-64).
While this type of experience only took on a minor form, prophets are probably referred
to as “seers” due to the fact that “they sometimes saw visions” (see 1 Sam. 9:9; Amos 1:1; 7:12;
Mic. 3:6-7; Num. 23-24). Scripture records Micah‟s vision that he received during King Ahab‟s
reign (1 Kings 22:17-23).
Sometimes, like with the prophet Amos, he was “merely a
With the prophets like Isa., Ezek., and Zech., the prophet “was a participant in the
Dr. William W. Klein, Dr. Craig L. Blomberg, and Dr. Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. Introduction To Biblical
Interpretation, ed Kermit A. Ecklebarger (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1993), 301. Bullock, 30-31.
action of the vision.”
Note the following prophets who received visions. Amos records five
visions (7:1-3; 7:4-6; 7:7-9; 8:1-3; 9:1-4). Bullock states that “even though they are not
specifically called “visions” here in Amos, we do find that the “verbal form” does occur in Amos
1:1. Both Isaiah and Jeremiah receive their divine call through visions (Isa. 6; Jer. 1). During
the Babylonian and Persian periods this vision form of revelation is popular. There is the
example of visions given to Ezek. (Ezek. 1; 8-11:4; 37; 40-48), Dan. (Dan. 7-12), and Zech.
We find that “much of the prophetic materials are written in poetic style.”
and poems used in “Israel‟s worship practices” undoubtedly influenced the prophet‟s sermons
There are examples in the literary prophets of doxologies (Amos 4:13; 5:8-9;
9:5-6), short sayings (Ezek. 18:2), as well as prayers (Amos 7:2b, 5; Isa. 6:11a).
Amos gives a short hymn of praise to glorify Yahweh
The One Who forms the mountains,
And Who creates the wind,
And he declares to man what are his thoughts;
Who makes light before dawn into darkness,
And Who treads upon high places of the earth,
Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard, 296.
Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard, 296.
Yahewh, God of Hosts, is his name.
In the above verse, the prophet pronounces “a climactic rhetorical end by painting a vivid picture
of Yahweh‟s majesty.”
In the “previous section” (Amos 4:6-12), the prophet announces that
Israel should prepare for God‟s judgment. Through poetic verse, the prophet warns God would
withhold the rain (v. 6), destroy their crops (v. 9), and send a plague among them (v. 10). God
even declared that he would overthrow them as he did to Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 11). The
prophets even utilized inclusion or inclusio, where key words or phrases are repeated at the end
to form a sort of book end to a particular unit. For example, in Amos 1:3-2:5, this literary unit
begins with the phrase, “Thus says the Lord,” and likewise ends with the phrase, “… says the
The prophets also use the poetic technique known as chiasm or chiasmus. Chiasms are
“forms of inverted parallelism,” but not all “inverted parallelism” are chiasms. A true chiasm
not only shows “inverted parallelism,” but also points out the “focus, the pivotal point, of a
passage.” A chiasm normally takes the form of A, B, B‟, A,‟ or A, B, C, C‟, B‟, A.‟ In Amos
5:10-13, one finds the A, B, C, B‟, A‟ form (where C is the focal point).
comes from the prophet Jon. while in the belly of the great fish (Jon. 1:17-2:10). This chiasm
takes the A, B, C, D, D‟, C‟, B, A‟ form (the center being 2:5-6b and 2:6c).
Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard, 296.
Sidney Greidanus, The Modern Preacher And the Ancient Text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical
Literature (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1988, Repr. 1989), 248.
There are two types of prophetic narrative. The first category shows how important that
these prophets really believed in their “words” and experiences.”
This literary type is also
known as “vocation” narrative or report, where the author recounts “the personal experience by
which god called and commissioned someone as a prophet (Isa. 6; Jer. 1; Ezek. 1-3; cf. Amos
7:14-15; Hos. 1:2). From a structural standpoint, this prophetic form contains these specific
characteristics: “a confrontation with God, a commissioning, an objection by the prophet, God‟s
reassurance, and a sign.” Perhaps this particular genre “derived from the ancient requirement for
ambassadors or messengers to present their credentials to the party to whom they had been sent”
(as in Gen. 24:35-38).
This genre of prophetic literature is written in the first person. “The call
narratives generally fall into the category (Hos. 3; Isa 6; Jer. 1).
This second type is of prophetic narrative contains “divine instruction about symbolic
actions that the prophet is to perform.” Some of the requirements God makes of the prophet is
the “command to perform an action,” the need to make a “report of the performance,” and the
“interpretation of this performance (see 2 Kings 13:14-19; Hos. 1:2-9).
This type of prophetic
genre is “composed in prose style” (see Isa. 37-39; Jer. 26-29; 32-45). “If autobiographical prose
was a clue to the prophets‟ own assessment of the value of his work, this form may be evidence
of the value of the prophets‟ work in the eyes of those who were closely associated with him.”
Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard , 301-02.
The literary prophets also utilize a rhetorical feature known as the “disputation.” The
prophetic disputation tries to “persuade the audience to accept the validity of some truth.” The
use of disputation comprises much of the book of Malachi, but Amos also addresses his audience
with disputation. An example of the disputation is Amos 3:3-8:
Opens with series of questions
Can two walk together,
unless they make an appointment?
Does a lion roar in the forest,
If there is no prey for him?
Will a young lion give his voice from his hidden den,
Except he captures?
If a shophar will be blown in a city,
Will not the people tremble?
If evil will be (fall) on a city,
And Yahweh has not done it?
Surely the Lord Yahweh will not do a matter
Except he uncovers his confidential conversation
Unto his servants the prophets.
A/the lion roars, who will not fear?
The Lord Yahweh has spoken, who will not prophesy?
Translation mine. Example from Klein, Bomberg, and Hubbard, 298.
There are some several characteristics that “distinguish” the prophetic disputation from a
“prophecy of disaster.” First, in the disputation the prophet speaks to the people and “not as the
direct voice of Yahweh.” Secondly, rather than the prophet announcing a “new revelation, he
simply argues for a point, in this case, that nothing happens without a cause.”
prophetic disputation typically uses “rhetorical questions” that involves the hearers and finishes
with a “lesson.”
At times the Old Testament prophets use legal arguments in their “speeches.” In the so-
called “lawsuit speech” (Hebrew term |¢µ), a prophet would bring accusations against Israel or
Judah as if she were on trial for a crime. The literary prophets make “references to trail
procedures,” such as pleading a “case,” appealing to “witnesses,” calling for eyewitness
“testimony,” as well as using lawyer terms such as “case,” “accusation,” and even “indictment.”
Yahweh serves dual role as prosecuting attorney and “judge” in the spiritual court. The main
offense for which the children of God are charged with is breaking “covenant” with God, the one
both parties agreed upon at Sinai (see Exod. 24). Since so much of this prophetic material deals
with violating the covenant, some scholars refer to this as “covenant lawsuit speech.”
Here is one example, from Mic. 6:1-5, that demonstrates the form of this lawsuit speech.
Call to hear
Here, I pray, that which Yahweh is saying,
Summons to trial “Arise, O mountains, contend, and let the hills hear your voice.
Ibid., 299. For other examples of the prophetic dispute, see Isa. 10:8-11; 28:23-28; Jer. 2:23-28; 3:1-5;
8:1, 8-9; Mic. 2:6-11; as well as most of the book of Mal.
Hear, O mountain, the dispute of Yahweh,
And hear foundations of the earth.”
Because the dispute (case) of Yahweh with his people;
And with Israel he will argue.”
O My people, what did I do to you,
Question and how have I wearied you? Answer me!
Because I cause to bring you up from the land of Egypt
And from the house of slaves I ransomed you.
I sent Moses before you, Aaron, and Miriam.
O My people, Remember I pray what Balak king of Moab advised
And what Balaam, son of Beor, answered him
From Shittim as far as Gilgal,
In order to know the righteousness of Yahweh.
The Nature of Prophecy
“An understanding of the nature of prophecy is the foundation for its interpretation.”
Prophets shared God‟s message with the people. God has something important to impart to His
people. “The essence of prophecy, thus, is the communication of God‟s word to humankind
through human speakers or writers.”
Translation mine. Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard, 299. Other examples of the prophetic lawsuit are: Isa.
1:2-3; 3:13-15; Hos. 4:1-3; Jer. 2:4-13; Ps. 50). Some also include prophecies against foreign nations as a category
similar to the disputation and lawsuit, but directed to those outside Israel.
Klein, Bloomberg, and Hubbard, 303.
God intends for His message to be clear, understood; holy men “preserved and passed
on” God‟s prophecy.” Prophecy is both “forthtelling” and “foretelling.” What is the difference
between the two?
Foretelling – refers to “predictive prophecy.” Predicting things to happen in
the future. This is what most people think about when they think of the word prophecy.
Actually, “very little of OT prophecy is predictive prophecy.”
Consider these statistics by Fee
and Stuart. “Less than 2 percent of Old Testament prophecy is messianic. Less than 5 percent
specifically describes the New Covenant age. Less than 1 percent concerns events yet to come.”
Fee and Stuart note that the old prophets did in fact “announce the future,” but that what they
announced “was usually the immediate future of Israel, Judah, and other nations surrounding
them that they announced, rather than our future.” One of the main “keys to understanding the
Prophets, therefore, is that for us to see their prophecies fulfilled, we must look back upon times
which for them were still future but for us are past.”
Forthtelling – this refers to “messages for
a prophet‟s own audience about their own day or the near future.” The OT prophets often
condemned their people of “social and spiritual” ills.
Note for instance these two prophets:
Hosea 4:1b-2 – here the prophet condemns them for bloodshed and Jer. 4:6 – the prophet says
the destruction of Zion is imminent.
“The fact that most prophecy spoke about the present or immediate future rather than the distant
future should encourage Bible students today.”
Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth, A Guide To Understanding
The Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 150.
General Characteristics of Biblical Prophecy
This category will help us connect Old Testament prophecies with the New Testament.
The OT prophets “have a telescopic view of the future.” Example of the Colorado Rockies
appearing to be closer together when in fact they are far apart. “Similarly, the prophets saw
future events as a succession of distant “peaks (i.e., events) without an awareness of the large
time gaps between them.”
An example is Isa. 9:6-7, there was an immediate fulfillment and a
distant fulfillment. The prophets also saw two major time periods or eras, the “present age”
followed by the “age to come.”
Phrases like “in the later days,” or “in that day,” or even the
“days are coming” (see Isa. 2:2; 23:21; Jer. 23:5; 31:1; Zech. 11:14). These prophecies all point
to prophecy that will occur in the age to come.
Prophecy may have “two fulfillments,” one immediate in the lifetime of the prophet and
another one after his lifetime. Example of the promise God makes to David (in 2 Sam. 7:14) that
is fulfilled immediately in Solomon being placed on the throne, but later on fulfilled through the
coming of Jesus. “Sound theology undergirds the idea of such multiple fulfillments – belief that
God rules all human history and can bring about both “sons.””
The NT teaches that ultimately all Messianic “prophetic fulfillments” are to be found in
“Christ‟s first and second comings.” No one should claim a certain Biblical prophecy applies to
current events (i.e., Middle East). We must understand any such modern claims or parallels as
Another important fact to remember about biblical prophecies is that they are also
“conditional.” Notice this case of Jonah‟s announcement to Nineveh (God was going to destroy
them unless they repent; they repented, so God relented).
The example of Jeremiah‟s prophecy
concerning Jerusalem, the prophet of God made the Lord‟s “conditions explicit.” If they would
only repent, God would not allow them to be punished (26:1-6; 7:1-15; 36:1-7). “Sadly,
Jerusalem rejected the offer, and two decades later God destroyed the capital (Jer. 52).” God
tells Jeremiah in Jer. 18:7-10 his conditions – anytime a nation repents whom He has warned,
then He will relent. If God plans to build up a kingdom and they do evil, then He will change
God‟s ultimate purpose cannot be changed (the Judgment Day/final day of
reckoning on the unrighteous).
There are four types of fulfillment with the Hebrew prophets. There is literal fulfillment,
figurative fulfillment, literal/spiritual fulfillment, and unexpected fulfillment.
This should help
answer the skeptics who often claim that prophecies often go unfulfilled. Each one of these
types of fulfillment will be briefly examined.
In a literal fulfillment, there are prophecies which “involve immediate predictions whose
fulfillment follows a short time later.” For example, the prophet Elisha predicts that Syria would
lay siege to them and cut off food supplies, but that they “would have inexpensive food by the
next day” (2 Kings 7:1-2; 19:20-36).
There are other prophecies whose literal fulfillment
takes place “within their perspective biblical periods.” A prophet predicts that “Josiah would
desecrate the idolatrous altar at Bethel” (according to 1 Kings 13:1-3). Then after three hundred
years, Josiah fulfills this prophecy (2 Kings 16:21, 27).
Second, certain Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in the New Testament in a
figurative rather than a literal sense. This is where typology enters the picture. In Zech. 13:7-9,
the prophecy is made that God would “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”
Jesus applies this to himself in Matt. 26:31. Jesus indeed would be struck down and the disciples
would flee. Yet in the context of Zech. 9, the prophet also states that the shepherd would be
judged “for his own sins, while Jesus, completely sinless, suffered God‟s judgment for the
world‟s sin” (see 1 Pet. 2:24-25; Ga. 3:13).
Nor did God “kill eight of them and bless the
remaining four.” Thus the fulfillment of Zech. 13:7 finds “fulfillment typologically in the death
of Jesus and the flight of the disciples.”
A third type of fulfillment finds a literal fulfilling in the New Testament with spiritual
implications. One of the best examples is of the promise to Abraham that God would give him a
country, give him a seed, and make him a great nation (Gen. 12:1-3). Through him, all the
people of the earth would be blessed. According to the apostle Paul, these promises are literally
fulfilled in Christ (Gal. 3:23-29). This prophecy also applies to Gentiles as well as to Jews.
Everyone who is baptized into Christ are declared to be sons of God (v. 26). Not only are we in
Christ, but we are also heirs of Abraham, part of his offspring through Christ (v. 29). This is the
spiritual component to the literal/spiritual fulfillment.
Some prophecies found in the Old Testament find an “unexpected fulfillment” in the
New. The understanding and fulfillment of Isa. 53 is a great example of this type of fulfillment.
Many rabbinic scholars interpreted Isa. 53 as a reference to the coming Messiah as the “suffering
servant.” Yet this understanding of Isa. 53 “did not prepare” those in first century Palestine for
the crucifixion of Jesus. They took this prophecy literally; they were anticipating a “conquering
Messiah” (see Isa. 9; 11), “not a suffering one.” Thus the first century audience “stumbled over
the cross of Christ.” The message that was meant to be a “bridge” between man and God
“became a barrier to their unbelief,” according to 1 Cor. 1:23).
Specific Principles for Interpretation – Prophecy
First of all, the “clarity of a text determines the degree of confidence we may hold in its
interpretation. The clearer the text, the greater the certainty about what it means. On the other
hand, the more obscure a text, the more humbly and tentatively we must approach its
Secondly, the Bible alone “offers the best guide to the interpretation of
prophecy. It indicates which prophecies were fulfilled during the OT and NT periods and
suggests patterns for interpreting OT prophecies today.”
Every Bible student must “seek the
most likely time for the fulfillment of a prophecy in history.” At this point one must be able to
“apply a knowledge of biblical history as well as of the NT‟s teaching about the future.” Then
we must ask ourselves the question, either when did God fulfill this prophecy or when will God
fulfill this prophecy? In the OT or in the NT, or in the future (second coming/judgment day)?
“Unless the NT indicates otherwise, the student should related OT prophecies about Israel and
Zion to those whose fulfillment the NT specifically teaches. Again, we follow the pattern that
the NT writers set out in their name and use of the OT. In most cases such prophecies find their
fulfillment spiritually in the Church. Those that seem more physical in scope may anticipate
A good Bible student will “strive to understand a text‟s major points rather than all of its
“We recommend that longer prophetic books be read in small sections (i.e.,
a context of verses, a whole chapter, or several chapters, etc.). God did not intend the prophets
to be read through at one setting. The goal is to understand the major point(s) that each section
“As for the application, once a section‟s major point(s) is understood, we suggest that
the student should find modern life situations analogous to the one which a prophetic section
handles. Ask the question, „What does this section say about that analogous situation?‟”
What about prophetic ecstasy? Unger notes, “That ecstasy was sometimes present,
especially in early Hebrew prophetism, cannot be denied. But it is a gross error to make it the
predominant or even the common element in the behavior of the Hebrew seer. If the so-called
ecstasy really contained confusion it could not be by the Spirit of God, “for God is not a God of
confusion” (1 Cor. 14:30-31). In such a case it must be attributed to the intrusive influence of
the same demon power energizing heathen prophets and dervishes in their excesses. For it must
ever be remembered that the genuine prophet of the Lord, like anyone dealing in the realm
spiritual, was exposed to demoniacal influence and consequent disorder, and continually had “to
prove the spirits” to see whether they were “of God” or not (cf. 1 John 4:1).”
Unger, “The Character Of Old Testament Prophecy,” 168.
How to Test a Prophet
How does one distinguish between a true prophet and a false prophet? According to
Deut. 18:21, 22, if they predict things that do not take place, then they are false and do not speak
in behalf of God. Does a prophet lead people astray from the one true God to other gods? If
they do, then they are false (Deut. 13:1-3). The law of Moses condemns any use of “instruments
of divination (crystal balls, teal leaves, etc.)? No true prophet of God would use occult methods
for contacting God (Deut. 18:10, 11).
Is Jesus the center of their prophecy and predictions? If He is not, then they are not from
God either (Rev. 19:10).
Geisler notes, “Occasional fulfillments do not constitute irrefutable
proof that he is a true prophet (Deut. 13:1, 2). Guesses, intuition, the power of suggestion, mind-
reading, or contact with demons can easily account for occasional fulfillments of prediction apart
from God. In this respect this test for a true prophet is not positive but negative: if some things
do come to pass it is inconclusive, but if some do not come to pass then it proves the predictor is
a false prophet. All of these prophecies of the Bible have come true as predicted; no alleged
modern prophet can claim the same.”
According to TB (Babylonian Talmud) Megillah 14a, there were forty-eight prophets and
seven prophetesses in the Old Testament. Although the primary litmus test for determining a
true prophet is the fulfillment of predictions, there are examples of those who are accepted even
before a prediction comes to pass.
Samuel declares that God would destroy the “house of Eli”
(1 Sam. 3:11-14) and his word comes to pass (1 Sam. 4:16-18), but the children of Israel accept
Norman L. Geisler, A Popular Survey of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986), 228.
Shimon Bakon, “True and False Prophets,” Jewish Bible Quarterly vol 39, no. 3 (2011): 152.
Samuel as a prophet long before the “fulfillment of his dire prediction.”
God‟s prophet is “one
who speaks the Word of God and whose message is confirmed” by a sign of God (a miracle).
When Korah challenges Moses‟ “prophetic office, God vindicated Moses by a miracle in which
the earth swallowed Korah and his evil followers (Num. 16).” Elijah was also “confirmed as a
true prophet of God on Mt. Carmel when the fire of God consumed his sacrifice in the presence
of the false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18).”
Prophets performed miracles as simple as helping
someone find “lost objects” (1 Sam. 9:6) to the more dramatic of raising the dead (1 Kings
17:22; 2 Kings 4:35). But signs or miracles are not the only determining factor in a true prophet
sent from God. From the time of Hosea and Amos to Malachi, these prophets became the moral
compass or “conscience of Israel.” They preached that “disaster would strike as a punishment
for sin” and spoke of a day of judgment, the day of the Lord, as well as proclaimed
Christians should beware of all false prophets (Matt. 23:23, 24). Christians
should prove every spirit (1 John 4:1). Christians should not listen to deceitful spirits or demonic
doctrines (1 Tim 4:1). We are not even to listen to an angel from heaven, even though he teaches
something new or different (Gal. 1:8).
The prophet Jeremiah would build upon this notion established by Moses in
Deuteronomy 18 of distinguishing between a true or “legitimate” prophet of God and one God
has not spoken through or an “illegitimate” one. The emphasis on prophecy in the book of Jer.
can be seen by the fact that the term nabi‟ occurs only seven times in Isaiah, 17 times in Ezek.,
and ninety-five times in Jeremiah. In Jer. 26-29, the author combines a literary unit that shows
the struggle or tension that goes on between Jeremiah and these illegitimate prophets. In fact,
there are six named prophets in this section. Jeremiah proves Hananiah is false by predicting he
would die within the year, and he did.
But what about prophecies that do not come to pass? Professor Hibbard shows that in the
case of Jeremiah, Micah, and even Jonah, at times a prophecy of gloom and doom does not come
to pass because the audience repented. First, Hibbard points out that Micah predicted Judah
would fall to the Assyrians, but this did not come to pass because Hezekiah leads a religious and
spiritual reform. Second, the prophet Jonah predicts that in forty days Nineveh would be
destroyed, but God relents because they repent. Third, in the book of Jeremiah, the prophet
offers the possibility that God would also relent if they would but turn back to him.
dealing with prophecy there is the theological aspect that the events the prophet of God speaks
may not come to pass if they people repent and turn back to God. Thus a prophet has the
possibility of changing the mind of the people and thus the mind of God. The message of the
prophet does not prevent the people‟s free will, in either accepting or rejecting, God‟s warning of
Yet Jeremiah warns that the children of Judah should not think God would not keep his
word if they did not repent. Jeremiah gives the example of Shiloh. For those who could not
conceive God would destroy the temple in Jerusalem, he harkens back to the destruction to the
the tabernacle shrine at Shiloh. If God could allow the tabernacle to be destroyed, then he could
cause the Jerusalem temple to be destroyed as well.
J. Todd Hibbard, “True and False Prophecy: Jeremiah‟s Revision of Deuteronomy,” Journal for the
Study of the Old Testament vol 35.3 (2011): 341-42.
How to Fit Old Testament Prophets into
The Overall ANE World
Some scholars suggest that prophecy going on in Israel is interrelated with an overall
“international movement” going on throughout the rest of the Near East. These ancient
“societies” demonstrated similar “prophetic phenomena” to that found in the Hebrew Bible.
Some of these cultures were likewise “Semitic-speaking” groups. One such similar society that
is rich in prophecy is Mesopotamia.
The existing prophetic texts from ancient Mesopotamia
date from two main eras: the Old Babylonian (18
century B.C.) and the New-Assyrian (7
century B.C.) periods.
The Hebrew Bible‟s bulk of prophetic texts are minute in comparison
with their Akkadian counterpart.
There are the Mari texts which are “letters that report revelations received and provide
insight into the various personnel, both professional and lay, acting as divine intermediaries.”
There also exists the Ischali texts, although they are “few and fragmentary,” which suggests that
this idea of “divine intermediaries” are not restricted to “Mari in this period.” The use of these
“intermediaries” during this early era “seem to be more marginal to the regular societal
practices,” because often “confirmation” of a divine revelation is “sought by other means such as
divination or confirmatory oath.”
Prophetic texts dating from the Assyrian period “include collections of revelations, as
well as individual texts.” At times these divine intermediaries are given the title of mahhu or
“ecstatic,” a term that is also found at Mari. While some try to find similar ecstatic prophetic
practices between Israel and Mesopotamia, there are “etymological cognates of the Israelite term
David W. Baker, “Israelite Prophets and Prophecy,” in The Face Of Old Testament Studies: A Survey of
Contemporary Approaches, ed David W. Baker and Bill T. Arnold (Grand Rapids: Baker/Leicester: Apollos, 1999),
nabi‟,” with the Mari texts. More recent evidence shows that a geographical site much closer to
Israel, which is Emar (Meskene) in the northern part of Syria, contains this cognate term. Baker
notes that perhaps the relationship between these cognate terms with the biblical word nabi‟
“could have originated in the west.”
Even closer to home both “geographically and linguistically” is the Aramaic Balaam text
(dating from the 7
century B.C.) from Deir‟Alla in modern Jordan. The text speaks of one
“Balam, son of Beor,” which “indicates a knowledge of the biblical character of that name in the
geographical area of his activities” as found in Num. 22-24.
There is also the “Egyptian” text
of one Wen-Amun which “describes the hero‟s encounter with ecstatic activity among the
Phoenicians.” The Bible likewise records prophetic “ecstatic activity” going on in this same
region (1 Kings 18), yet there are “no native texts to provide firsthand information.”
When examining the non-Semitic neighboring countries of Israel, the Egyptian literature
does not yield any “close parallels to Israelite prophecy.”
The Egyptians did widely practice
divination (Gen. 44:1-5), “but divine speech was not a source of revelation.” There is evidence
that Asia Minor does contain “divine speaking” recorded „in a list of sources of messages from
the gods compiled by the Hittite king Mursilis II” (dating from the 14
even suggest a “prophetic function as covenant mediator” (see Deut. 18:15-19) and connecting
this with Mesopotamian treaties dating to the second-millennium B.C., although the “rise in
interest in first-millennium prophecy has usurped some of the argument. While there may not be
any specific “covenantal references” in the prophets, yet some scholars see a “literary” genre
known as “covenant lawsuit” (see Isa. 1; Amos 3:9-15) in the prophetic books where the prophet
“recalls a national covenant” to which the children of God are to “return.”
Since this “legal
setting cannot be demonstrated in every case,” the covenant lawsuit category “must still be
treated as tentative.”
The Old Testament prophets are historical individuals, who speak a real message, about a
living God. They are “preachers” who did not lack the courage to proclaim God‟s message of
judgment and salvation to Israel, Judah, and the surrounding countries. Studying the non-literary
prophets‟ (in Samuel and Kings) as well as the literary prophets‟ shows the “gradual unfolding of
the plan of God” that ultimately leads to the fulfillment of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, in the New
The use of rhetorical criticism helps us better understand the techniques the
prophets use in proclaiming the message of the LORD. The study of Hebrew and cognate
languages gives on a better understanding of what a prophet is and does. Archaeology gives us
context and serves as a backdrop for comprehending prophetism in the Ancient Near East. There
is a need to see that some prophecies are fulfilled immediately, but others have far ranging
implications and fulfillment. Without seeing the whole picture of Old Testament prophets and
distinguishing true from false ones, there is a great danger in twisting the Scriptures and
misapplying them in the twenty-first century.
Hopefully this paper sheds light on one of the most important genres in all of the Hebrew
Bible. The prophetic books and even prophecies in the Torah and historical books make up well
over two-thirds of all the Old Testament. If one misunderstands these prophecies, he or she
Yates, vii, 1.
cannot understand the old covenant. If one misses the point of the past, they run the risk of
missing out on the prophetic element in the New Testament.
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by Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke R. Laird Harris, 544. Chicago: Moody
Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart. How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth, A Guide To
Understanding The Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982.
Geisler, Norman L. A Popular Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986.
Goldsworthy, Graeme. Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture: The Application of
Biblical Theology to Expository Preaching. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000.
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Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979, Repr. 1988.
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Chapter Sections on the Prophets From Bullock’s Book
Chapter 2 – Jonah: Preface to the Prophets
Dr. Bullock gives good background information and overview of Jonah and classifies
him as a good introduction to the classical prophets. He even discusses his brief mention in 2
Kings 14:26 and shows his prophecy mirrors the reign of Jeroboam (793/92-753 B.C.). There
are three main approaches to Jonah: Allegorical, Parabolic, and Historical. I agree with him that
this is definitely a historical account (not to mention Jesus uses his ministry as proof of God‟s
Divine judgment and His coming forth from the tomb on the third day). He does a good job
handling some of the difficulties in Jonah such as the “great city” statement, the 120,000
population and referring to the ruler as the “king of Nineveh.” The purpose of Jonah is to show
God‟s forgiveness, His grace, and willingness to relent if people will but repent. He dates him
near the reign of Asshur-dan III (771-754 BC) and that the eclipse followed by the famine may
have “ripened the city for repentance.”
Chapter 3 – Amos: Call for Moral Obedience.
Amos is an 8
century contemporary with Hosea and Micah, from the village of Tekoa,
some six miles south of Bethlehem. He goes into the discussion of how his being a “shepherd”
referred to a herder of certain typed of “short legged sheep” that grew “fine wool.”
also a piercer of wild figs (7:14). He prophecies against their sacrifices, which, for Israel, is
probably an indictment against their idolatry and admonishes them right worship must
accompany right living (and vice versa). Proposed dates for his prophetic ministry (during the
reigns of Uzziah and Jeroboam) are between 767-753 B.C. If we knew when the “earthquake”
took place, we could be more precise. Bullock suggests that “Amos 8:9 is a prediction of the
solar eclipse that occurred in 763 B.C., according to Assyrian records.” If this be the case, then
Amos‟ prophecy took place between 767-763 B.C. The book pronounces woes against the
nations (1:3-2:6) – the last of which are Judah and Israel - and five different visions (7:1-9; 8:1-
9:10). The book can also be divided up into “oracles” (1:3-2:16), “sermons” (3:1-6:14) and
“visions” (7:1-9:8b). The form of the form of the oracle includes: (1) the „thus saith the Lord,‟
or the introductory formula, (2) a pronouncement of God‟s judgment, (3) the indictment against
the nations, (4) a punishment formula, and the concluding “Says the Lord.”
rejects the notion this this prophecy is strewn together by various redactors, but rather gives this
as the “final plan” for Amos‟ book: “(1) details his oracles and visions delivered in the north two
years prior, (2) recognizes the confirmation of his prophecy by the earthquake, and (3) offers hop
in anticipation of the impending storm yet to occur at the hands of the unnamed Assyrians.”
This is an excerpt from the outline on Bullock’s book on the prophets for class. C. Hassell Bullock, An
Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books (Chicago: Moody Press. 1986), 51.
After many attempts to classify the genre of the prophetic oracle, Clement and Barton suggest
that this form is unique to Hebrew prophecy and draws from the various “aspects” of life in
The purpose of Amos was to show that no nation, including Judah or Israel, could
escape God‟s wrathful judgment. A conservative date places his ministry between 850-753 B.C.
One of the best aspects about this chapter is his chart on the oracles against the nations
chart on his five visions.
Bullock notes that since most of Amos‟ prophecies concern Israel
rather than Judah, more than likely “most of them were delivered in the sanctuaries of the
Northern Kingdom, even though they may not have occurred there. Bethel is the only once we
can be certain about. It is likely that all of them were announced there.”
The best explanation
Bullock comes up with for the meaning behind Amos‟ statement in 7:14 („I was no prophet …‟)
that he was not a professional prophet and that he was not the disciple of a prophet. He was a
simple farmer God told go preach, and he did.
Although Amos prophesied gloom and doom,
he also offered hope for the future.
Chapter 4 – Hosea: A Prophets Dilemma
We do not know where Hosea was born, but he seems to come from N. Israel. His father
is Beeri and may be the same individual deported by Tiglath-pileser (1 Chron. 5:6). Due to his
knowledge of politics and history, some suggest he comes from a middle or upper-class family.
His prophetic ministry extends from the time of Jeroboam II some time before the destruction of
Samaria in 722 B.C. If he references the Syro-Ephramite War, then his prophecy may end
around 734-44 B.C. (lasting some thirty years). Is this literary work prose or poetry? Some
argue between the two, but Anderson and Freedman describe this feature as something in
between that is “characteristic of the prophets.”
Some question whether Hosea‟s marriage to
Gomer is to be taken literal or figurative/spiritual (like the approach some take with Jonah).
There is even some question whether we are dealing with the same woman in chapter one that
we are dealing with in chapter three.
Perhaps the best solution is that we are dealing with the
same woman but different events. If the mother of his children was not the same one who
became the prostitute, then the message loses the dramatic effect upon Israel.
The structure of
Hos. 1-3 follows this pattern: A (1:2-9), B (1:10-2:1), C (2:2-4), D (2:5-8), C
23) and A
(3:1-5). Bullock note that this “pattern does justice to the theology of the book as a
whole because it identifies the fundamental sin of Israel to be the lack of knowledge of the
Hos. 4-14are viewed as a “fuller statement of God‟s mercy and love toward Israel, the
theme of chapter 3.”
Some argue that Hosea is a “covenant lawsuit” leveled against Israel by
a “prosecuting attorney.”
Whether one believes Hosea or an amanuensis copied for him,
there is no reason to argue the book was not completed during Hosea‟s lifetime.
prophecy was intended for Israel, he references Judah fifteen times in his prophecy. These Judah
warnings may be a sign of things to come. “The primary imagery of the book is Hosea‟s
marriage, which symbolized the marriage of Yahweh and Israel, Yahweh being the Husband and
Israel the wife (2:16). Hosea, unlike Amos, polemicized against the idolatrous Baalism of the
eighth century (8:4-6). Prostitution was the symbol of that idolatry.” Hosea‟s love for Gomer
reflected God‟s love for Israel.
Chapter 5 – Micah: Judgment, Hope, and Promise
Bullock states that Micah may not be as gifted an orator as Isaiah, yet his influence on the
nation as a whole would be felt years later, so much so that “the Judean elders who heard a
message of comparable passion from Jeremiah (Jer. 26).”
He does not believe there is any
connection between this Micah and another prophet by the same name (Micaiah, son of Imlah, 1
Kings 22). He hailed from Moresheth-Gath, but his prophetic activity probably took place in
cities like Samaria or Jerusalem. Micah‟s prophecy is summed up in these brief words: he
“aimed largely at the civil and religious leaders of Judah, but he was not blinded to the sins of the
people whose cause he took up and defended.”
There are four main views on when Micah
was active as a prophet. (1) The belief that Micah‟s work took place before Samaria‟s fall. (2)
That Micah‟s work took place before the fall of Samaria (722/21) and extended even past during
the time of further Assyrian campaigns in the region (711, 701 BC). (3) Some argue for a “time
frame that has Sennacherib‟s invasion of 701 B.C. as the focus.
” (4) A fourth group takes the
“superscription” at face value and place him during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah
(Judean kings). His ministry may have extended from 739-686 B.C., a length of some fifty
The style of writing and/or delivery of his message are not as smooth and polished as
that of Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah. He moves abruptly from “threat to promise” and changes from
“one subject to another,” as well as changes his “grammatical person and gender.”
critical era, most scholars took for granted the prophecy as a whole was either spoken or written
down by Micah, but now most critical scholars deny Micah is connected with chapters 1-3.
Bullock does a good job defending the unity of Micah and showing the 8
century prophets – no
reason why to believe all of the 8
century prophets did not speak of exile and return.
refers to Mic. 6:8 („He has showed you, o man …‟) the golden rule or text of the OT.
stressed practicing justice, hesed, and walking humbly with God.
God left Judah “no room to
escape the consequences of their sins,”
which included immorality, violence, and idolatry.
Chapter 6 – Isaiah: Prophet Par Excellence
Bullock refers to Isaiah as the prophet “Par Excellence” and that he was an 8
Prophet (along with Amos, Hos., and Mic.). He stood out like a “bright star in the prophetic
constellation” of that century.
We have very little background information on a prophet who
wrote so much. His prophetic career began with the death of Uzziah (740 B.C.) and continued
into the reign of Hezekiah (who died around 686 B.C.).
Bullock gives a good time line on pg.
129 of significant events in the life of his career. From pages 130-154, he breaks the book down
into two sections (chapters 1-33 and 34-66) and gives an overview of the various oracles). Most
scholars agree that there are seven main divisions in the book.
He deals with some of the
critical issues (such as authorship, Messianic references, who is the suffering servant) from pages
150-157. He gives evidence of those who support the unity of the whole book.
Chapter 7 – Zephaniah: Profile of a People
This chapter begins the section on the prophets of the Neo-Babylonian period (Zeph.-Lam.). On
pages 163-64, he gives an overview of the New-Babylonian period. The author gives some good
historical background of the era of King Hezekiah and his wicked son, Manasseh, to help us
understand the prophets of this era.
Zephaniah‟s name means “The Lord has hidden” and
traces his genealogy back four generations. The religious attitude of the people of his day was
There was a mixture of Yahweh and pagan ritual in their worship.
of questions that come up in this book is: who is the unnamed foe who would punish God‟s
people and did he prophecy before or after the religious reforms of Josiah?
The theme that
dominates this book is the “Day of the Lord” and he gives a chart of the judgments against the
various nations on pg. 169. While Zephaniah did not “champion” the cause of the less fortunate
as Amos, yet the prophet “was keenly aware of injustice (3:3-4) and that God would repay.
Chapter 8 – Habakkuk: Prophet of Transition
How is Habakkuk a prophet of transition? Bullock notes that from the “beginning of the
classical era of the prophets to the year 626, or possibly as late as 612 B.C., the Assyrian Empire
had posed either a viable or a real threat to the tiny kingdoms of Israel and Judah.”
prophet Habakkuk, however, is the prophet who concentrates “his attention upon the transition
from Assyrian to Babylonian domination of Judah.”
Thus this prophet is in the midst of a
transition period in that he focuses his attention “on the changing political fortunes of his world”
and shifts “from the Neo-Assyrian to the Neo-Babylonian period.”
There is a theological
burden placed on Habakkuk – why – why would God allow this to happen? All we know about
his personal life is that he is called a prophet; we do not even know the “kings in whose reigns he
may have prophesied.”
There are four types of prophetic material in Habakkuk: complaint,
oracle, woes, and psalm (chapter 3). The book can be divided into two Parts: Part I (chapters 1-
2) and Part II (chapter 3). The first part begins with a question (1:2) followed by an answer (1:5-
11). The second part contains a series of woes: (1) 2:6b-8; (2) 2:9-4; (3) 2:12-14); (4) 2:15-17);
(5) 2:18-19). The end of Part I (2:20) calls on all the earth to keep silence before God which
leads naturally into the psalm or prayer in Part II, chapter 3. Various dates are given for
Habakkuk‟s ministry. There are some who prefer a “Josianic date” of around 622/21 B.C., while
most modern scholars prefer some time during Jehoiakim‟s reign, 605-598 B.C. Habakkuk deals
with the justice of God (how can a righteous God allow an evil nation to punish His people), his
denouncement of idolatry (referring to them as a “dumb stone” in 2:19.
Chapter 9 – Jeremiah: Prophet to the Nations
Jeremiah is appointed by God to be a “prophet to the nations,” according to 1:5, 10,
although is time is “preoccupied with Judah,” whose constantly “changing political fortunes
shifted through Assyrian, Egyptian, and Babylonian cycles before his forty-year ministry
terminated” (184). Some of the nations that were denounced and would drink God‟s cup of
wrath are Jerusalem/Judah, Egypt, Uz, Philistia, Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, Sidon, Elam,
Media, and some unnamed countries (Jer. 25). We know more about Jeremiah and his family
than anyone else. There is background information on him in 2 Kings 21-25. The book of
Chronicles notes his important role during the “declining days of the Judean state (see 2 Chron.
36:12, 21, 22; Ezra 1:1). Daniel even makes a reference to Jeremiah in connection with the
seventy years or exile prophecy (Dan. 9:2). He is from the town of Anathoth (1:1) and is part of
a priestly family.
God announces that He “knew” the prophet and appointed him even before
he was “formed” or “born” (1:5) (187). While Isaiah lived to see the destruction of Samaria and
her citizens being exiled, Jeremiah had the unfortunate pleasure of seeing Jerusalem destroyed.
Bullock goes into detail of the kings that Jeremiah prophesied during (Josiah, Jehoiachin,
The book of Jeremiah can be divided up into three books: Book I (1:1-
25:13), Book II (30-31), and Book III (46-51).
Jeremiah‟s forty year ministry stretches from
about 627/26-586 B.C. “The reconstruction of the process by which they were written and
brought together in this collection must remain hypothetical.”
Bullock deals with the
differences between the LXX and MT versions of Jeremiah. The LXX does not place the oracles
in the same order as the Hebrew Bible (due either to scribal error or working from a different
Hebrew text type). The LXX version is likewise about “one-eighth shorter” than the MT.
Jeremiah chastises Judah for her disobedience and forsaking him for other cisterns (spiritual
adultery). Perhaps Jeremiah is best known for his prophecy about the new covenant (Jer. 31:31-
34). The Messianic Age would also bring about a “restored Davidic Ruler, the Righteous
Branch, who will dispense equity and justice (23:5; 33:14-16).
Chapter 10 – Nahum: The Reality of Judgment
While most of the prophets were preaching against the sins of Israel and Judah, in two or
three cases, they are involved in proclaiming judgment against foreign nations. They are John,
Nahum, and Obadiah. “Nahum even distinguishes himself from Obadiah in the sense that he
zooms in on the event of vindication and gives his audience an audio-visual experience by means
of his powerful poetic style.”
The prophets often view events in the future as if they already
have taken place.
Here in Nahum, he speaks as if the “fall of Nineveh” was occurring right
before their very eyes (2:3-7; 3:1-7), the idea of the “prophetic present.”
We know very
personal information about the prophet, only that he is an “Elkoshite” or from Elkosh, but the
exact location is uncertain.
Bullock gives some good background information about the
decline and fall of the Assyrian Empire and the destruction of Nineveh in 612 B.C. The name
Nineveh is only referenced three times in Nahum (1:1; 2:8; 3:7), but is referred to using
pronouns in 1:8, 9, 11, 13-14, and 2:1. We have a pretty good idea about the earliest and latest
date of Nahum‟s prophecies: his reference to the capture of Thebes in 3:8-9 gives us the earliest
possible date of 663 B.C., and his prophecy concerning Nineveh (612 B.C.) gives us a window
of opportunity of a few years before the fall.
The author deals with the supposed acrostic in
chapter one, but notes (has a chart on pg. 219) that when the evidence is laid out, “the acrostic
hypothesis is rather unconvincing.” He adds that analyzing the “Masoretic divisions of the lines”
shows how “disruptive” any attempt would be to create an acrostic.
While we cannot be
certain about an acrostic arrangement, we do know Nahum uses other “literary devices” such as
Ibid., 216. Bullock gives 3 possibilities.
“repetition, alliteration, assonance, and paronomasia.”
(220). He deals with the issue that some
believe Nahum is a liturgical book rather than prophetic, but shows that “oracle” and “vision” are
not usually part of a “liturgical composition.”
He gives a good thematic outline
to his general outline at the end of each chapter. Two key themes in Nahum is the sovereignty of
the Lord and the certainty of judgment upon Assyria.
Chapter 11 – Ezekiel: The Merging of Two Spheres
Ezekiel merges two roles, that of prophet and priest. He states in 1:3 that he is among the
priests. Bullock notes: “There is no certain way of knowing whether Ezekiel ever functioned as
a priest in the Jerusalem Temple,” but he is of the opinion that “he did not.” Perhaps he was in
line for the priestly role, but was taken into captivity beforehand. Yet he does classify himself as
part of the priestly class (1:3) and his “description of the New Temple and cultic functions in
chapter‟s 40-48 remove all doubt about his priestly orientation.”
Ezekiel identifies himself as
among the Judean exiles in 1:1 probably during the exile of Jehoiachin (597), according to 1:1.
Later on he says that dates his ministry to the 25
year of exile (i.e., 597 B.C., 228). “We also
know that he was married, and that his wife, also with him in exile, died suddenly in
approximately 587 B.C. while Jerusalem was under siege (24:16-27).” We are not told if they
had any children. While most scholars find very little that is original with Ezekiel, he notes that
Greenberg argues that the “evidence is weighted in favor of the sixth-century prophet, who
certainly shaped the book, if not provided the very words that have come to us.”
deals with the three traditional explanations of where Ezekiel resides between chapters 8-11:
the three-residence theory, the two-residence, and the single-residence. Bullock believes the
textual evidence supports the last, the he was taken into Babylonian captivity and there received
his message. This position is not difficult to accept if we hold to the view of predictive
prophecy/the role of the Holy Spirit.
He covers the four ways Ezekiel addressed his message:
through oral proclamation, visions, “symbolic actions,” and “prophetic discourse.”
also deals with the issue of Ezekiel being unable to speak for a period of time (3:22). One line of
thought is that his “silence was some form of inhibited speech that lasted until the Babylonian
conquest of Jerusalem.”
Another suggestion is that the term mochiah in 3:26 is a “legal term
meaning “arbitrator” rather than “reprover,”” and that what God prohibits is Ezekiel being a
“mediator or arbitrator between Yahweh and Israel” (234). The author explains the “thirtieth”
year as referring they year of Jehoiachin‟s exile and not how old he was when he began to
prophesy. Dr. Bullock includes a good section on Ezekiel as the “father of apocalyptic”
includes a chart on the fourteen specific dates mentioned in Ezekiel and the specific
events related to the date, and finally an overview and analysis of the three sections of Ezekiel:
(1) chapters 1-24, (2) chapters 25-32, and (3) chapters 40-48.
Chapter 12 – Obadiah: Edom‟s Day of the Lord
The theme “the day of the Lord” is an important one in the prophets. Dr. Bullock notes
that as Judah‟s history comes to a close, the prophets “”Zephaniah and Jeremiah renewed the
threat of the Day of the Lord.” When that day finally arrives in 586 B.C., the author of
Lamentations acknowledges not only the fulfillment of that prophecy but also prays that “God
might actualize the other aspect of that fateful Day upon Judah‟s enemies (Lam. 1:21). Obadiah
looked from the vantage point of the disaster that had befallen Jerusalem, reviewed its tragedy,
and announced that the Day of the Lord was near for the nations, and for Edom in particular
The name Obadiah means “servant of Yahweh,” but we have no personal
information about the man himself. Our author gives some good historical background to the
country/people of Edom and helps explain why there is so much animosity between them and
Judah. Obadiah, like the prophet Nahum, is referred to as a “national oracle.”
There are four
“other oracles” directed against Edom in the prophets, which include: Amos 1:11-12; Isa. 21:11-
12; Jer. 48:7-22, and Ezek. 25:12-14. While there may be “no elements common” to all of them,
yet the “vengeful conduct of Edom against Israel occurs in Amos, Ezekiel, and Obadiah (vs. 12),
as well as the “sense of security Edom had developed in his craggy home is condemned in Amos,
Jeremiah (49:16, 22), and Obadiah 3, 4.”
Various dates are batted around as to when this
prophecy takes place, from as early as 899 to as late as 312 B.C.
A sixth century date is not
out of the question. On pages 261-262, the author covers the message of Obadiah and a brief
Chapter 13 – Lamentations: Reflections of the Soul
While Job could be said to focus on individual suffering/human suffering, the book of
Lamentations focuses upon national suffering. The title of the book comes into our English
Bibles through the LXX and Vulgate, Threonine and Therein. While not part of the Hebrew
prophetic section, Lamentations is part of the Writings. The five short books that make up the
Five Maillot (for synagogue liturgical purposes) they are Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations,
Ecclesiastes, and Esther. Even though not technically part of the Hebrew prophets, one author
noted that Lamentations “is the “Amen” of the prophetic pronouncement of judgment for Israel‟s
The book of Lamentations consists of five poems (in five chapters). Four of these are
acrostics, but the last one is not. Bullock has a helpful chart on these poems.
spends time of discussing the structure of this book, noting the differences of opinion (lament, a
national funeral song, or even a communal lament). The Hebrew Bible does not attribute the
book to Jeremiah, but is based upon tradition from the LXX and the Vulgate. Dates vary for
composition, from as early as 586-530 B.C. While the book may be composed by Jeremiah, the
book is anonymous and conservative scholars should not be dogmatic about the issue.
book warns Judah‟s enemies that the Day of the Lord will come upon them.
Chapter 14 – Daniel: Witness in Babylonia
Whether Daniel should be classified as a prophet or not is up to debate. He falls first in
this section under the prophets of the Persian Period. On pages 277-78, he gives an overview of
the worldwide events going on during this era. He devotes a section to some of the major
problems in Daniel, such as time reckoning (the third year of Jehoiakim), the reference to
Belshazzar as King of Babylonia, or the reference to Darius the Mede, the Aramaic sections of
Daniel, and finally the use of supposed Greek loan words.
Most critical scholars want to place
Daniel late because of the issue of predicative prophecy, yet Bullock defends the early date of
Daniel as well as the unity of the book, even if parts of the work are not in chronological
Bullock closes out this chapter by examining the themes in the book
(persecution/God‟s providence for Daniel and his three friends) as well as some of the visions
such as Nebuchadnezzar‟s dreams (Dan. 2), the Four Beasts (Dan. 7), the ram and goat (Dan. 8),
the seventy years in exile (Dan. 9), and the final vision (Dan. 10-12). Bullock does an excellent
dealing with critical issues of Daniel in a non-technical style.
Chapter 15 – Haggai: The Temple and the Future
“Political events served as the weather vane for Israel‟s hope, and Cyrus‟s decree of 538 brought
a mighty gale of optimism. Haggai both encouraged and benefited from that optimism. He
encouraged it when he found that the Palestinian community had dropped into a lull after the
initial and unsuccessful effort to rebuild the temple.”
Haggai is referred to as “the prophet”
and is mentioned in the book of Ezra as well (5:1; 6:14). Since he is not listed among the
captives who returned in Ezra 2, some speculate that he grew up in Israel after the return and
“witnessed” first- hand the “waning enthusiasm for Temple restoration.”
We have both
biblical (Ezra 1:1-4:5) and extra-biblical information on the first few years after the return from
captivity. We do not know for certain when Haggai, Zechariah, Zerubbabel, or Joshua returned
from captivity, but they were “certainly in the land during the second year of Darius (520).”
After several groups attempt to halt the rebuilding effort, the temple is completed in the sixth
year of Darius (520 B.C.). One of the interesting facts about Haggai‟s prophecy is that with the
four main messages he delivers (1:1; 2:1; 2:10; 2:20), he indicates the date of each prophecy.
The author gives an overview of the some of the themes Haggai addresses: they are suffering
because they have built their houses but not the Lord‟s house chapter one); the encourages them
that the temple will be more glorious than the former and the poor physical harvest is the result
of a poor spiritual harvest, and stresses the importance of remaining ceremonially clean so as not
to defile the land, and closes out with a prophecy about an earthquake that would lead to the
reestablishment of a king (chapter two).
Chapter 16 – Zechariah: Prophet of the New Kingdom
Bullock states, “What Ezekiel was to the late pre-exilic and exilic eras, Zechariah was to
the post-exilic age. Not only did he outline the program of restoration, the heart of which was
the Temple and priesthood, but he, like Ezekiel, filled in much detail about the eschatological
age that lay ahead.”
According to Neh. 12:16, Zechariah was a “priest who succeeded his
father as head of his particular priestly family.” He thus served the dual role of prophet and
priest. Bullock notes that the post-exilic prophets seem to be closely connected with the temple,
which “became the rallying” cry for those of the return.
He is mentioned by Ezra (5:1) along
with Haggai and may have been a much “younger contemporary of Haggai.” The names of his
father (Berechiah) and grandfather (Iddo) are given. Bullock deals with an important question; is
his father the same priest who was slain by King Joash in the temple (2 Chron. 24:20-22) whom
Jesus alludes to in Lk. 11:51 (311)? His ministry extends from around 520 B.C. (same year as
Haggai) and to the time the temple is rebuilt (516/515 B.C.). Zechariah falls under the genre of
“apocalyptic literature,” and Bullock summarizes the visions he saw (311-321). Zechariah
reminds the people their fathers suffered because they did not heed the prophets (1:6). He
reminds them the need to care for the less fortunate (7:9-10). The prophet also makes both
“direct” and “indirect” allusions to the prophets of the exile, especially Ezekiel. Zechariah could
be called one of the earliest commentaries on Ezek. 40-48 (the vision of the temple). Bullock
notes, “The centrality of the Temple, as sketched out in Ezekiel‟s prospectus of the future
(chapters 40-48), and the de-emphasized role of the Davidic dynasty in the coming age are
underscored in Zechariah.”
Chapter 17 – Joel: The Day of Decision
Very little is known about Joel other than what we can derive from the text. His father‟s
name is Pethuel. He undoubtedly comes from Judah, for he makes numerous references to Zion
(2:1, 15, 23; 3:17) as well as Jerusalem and Judah (2:32; 3:1, 6, 8, 17-20). Some suggest that
since he has a good knowledge of the priesthood and a “healthy respect” for them, that he may
live near Jerusalem. He also is not one of the elders of Israel, for Joel calls upon them to avert
the day of the Lord in 2:16 (324). The style of this book is „Hebrew poetry.” The coming
locusts plague would be for real, but he uses poetic expressions to describe them.
45 examples of the imperative mood in Joel, emphasizing the “urgency” of his message and the
impending doom. There are two ways to look at the book. One is to divide Joel into two parts
based on content: part one dealing with “reality of a locust plague” (Joel 1:1-2:7) and the second
part dealing with the “future realities of the eschatological age” (Joel 2:28-3:21) (325). Another
way of analyzing Joel is to view part one as a lament (1:2-2:17) and the second part (2:18-3:21)
as “Yahweh‟s response to the lamentation.”
Bullock argues for the unity of the books, stating
that the “symmetrical arrangement, featuring a concern for the present and eschatological hope
for the future, a combination that characterizes the prophetic books generally, vouches for the
unity of the book.”
There are two view on the date of Joel, one a pre-exilic date and the other a
post-exilic date. Among the pre-exilic proponents, one group places him very early in the pre-
exilic period, and a second placing him late right before the exile.
The post-exilic group
likewise places him either early in the post-exilic period or late (some to the fifth century, near
the time of Ezra/Nehemiah).
(329-330). Bullock concludes these chapters by giving an
analysis of the locust plague vision followed by a discussion of the day of the Lord theme in
Chapter 18 – Malachi: Prophet of Covenant Love
Malachi is sent during a time when Persia began to “totter” and Judah began to show
“signs of wear and moral decadence.” He, like Hosea, speaks of God‟s unconditional love for
his people. But this unconditional love comes with a price, conditions and “demands.” God
calls for his people to live and act as people of the covenant.
Bullock discusses whether the name Malachi is really a name or just the Hebrew form of
the “possessive noun” meaning “my messenger.”
The author points out that there are
evidences of other names in the Hebrew Bible ending with the possessive pronoun “my,” but that
also Jewish tradition held this was a title used to refer to the scribe Ezra. Aside from this, we are
not able to tell much more about his identity. He does live in and around Jerusalem and directs
his prophecy towards those of Judah following the return.
The “disputation” form that we find in the book of Malachi is similar to that used by
Jeremiah and Ezekiel. In two cases, the prophet asks a question where he responds with the
obvious answer (such as, „will a man rob God‟). There are six disputations in the book: (1)
Disputation on love (1:2-5), (2) Disputation on honor (1:6-2:9), (3) disputation on faithfulness
(2:10-16), (4) Disputation on divine judgment (2:17-3:5), (5) Disputation concerning repentance
(3:6-12), and (6) Disputation on serving Yahweh (3:13-4:3). Malachi 4:4-6 servers as a
“conclusion” or sort of an “appendix” where the author recalls “Moses, the giver of the Law, and
Elijah, the exemplar of prophecy.”
There are three dates that are given for the prophecy and or writing of Malachi. The first
places somewhere at or near the time Nehemiah becomes governor, around 444 B.C. A second
argument dates the prophecy of Malachi to sometime during the ministry of Ezra the scribe,
around 450 B.C. Some scholars find parallel spiritual conditions here with what is going on in
Nehemiah 13:10-29. A third position places Malachi even before the time of Ezra and
Nehemiah, because “there is no mention of the legislation that Ezra and Nehemiah introduced
(Ezra 10:3; Neh. 13:13, 23-27).”
Finally Dr. Bullock concludes with an overview of
Malachi‟s message and the prophet‟s theological message of God‟s divine love or “grace” for
Judah. He also looks forward to the coming of the Day of the Lord when Elijah the prophet
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