The following is an assignment I did for my Bible As Lit course at WSUV.
Coogan, M. (2008). The old testament: A very short introduction. (pp. 74-90). New York City,
New York: Oxford University Press.
In the Hebrew Scriptures there are over 16 prophets from Moses all the way to Micah. Prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures were both male and female; two of the female prophets are Deborah and Miriam. In the New Testament we have Jesus Christ as the primary prophet but we also have John the Baptist. “In modern English, a prophet is commonly thought of as a person who predicts the future” (74). A prophet is also someone who speaks for the Lord. Prophets usually bring messages from the Lord about judgment or grace. Prophets are the primary means in the Hebrew scriptures for the Lord to speak to his people. All of the ‘minor’ prophets were sent to tell about judgment and how to be delivered from judgment. Prophets back in biblical times were the people that spoke with the divine and could explain divine things before science came about. Prophets were sought out for interpretation of things that could only be interpreted as divine like earthquakes or war—“rather, they were caused by god or gods” (75) instead of science. Several kings in the Hebrew scriptures sought out divine gudience from God through the prophets like King David, King Nebuchadrezzar, and various others. They sought advice from Solomon, Isaiah, Daniel, Elisha and Elijah, Jeremiah, and others. Throughout history there have been individuals who have had these special powers to talk to god or gods—they had “special, even divine given insight” (78). These can be explained as being truly divine given powers or they can be caused by psychological dysfunction like Temporal Lobe Epilepsy or psychosis. Some people have been attributed to that like St. Paul. Prophetcy was also common throughout this time period in other parts of the world and were not biblically related.
These biblical prophets functioned as the intermediary between the people and god. They could speak and be the mouth piece of God. Prophets were seen as “A seer or man of God” (79) of something that could not be found. Prophets would use various divination skills like spells or they would consult the spirits. Some prophets were on the margins of society and thought of as weird, like John the Baptist in the new testament or the prophet Ezekiel, “Other abnormal behavior is reported…including speechlessness…” (80). Some prophets were seen as weird people who did not fit in with society and some prophets were totally apart of society. The prophets that were apart of society were Amos, Jeremiah, Gad, Nathan, Isaiah. Some of these prophets were apart of society as being a farmer (Amos) or some were apart of the royal courts like Isaiah. Further, some prophets were appointed by royalty but most were appointed by the Lord (or chosen). Some were prayed for to be born and would than be turned over to be a prophet like with Solomon. In the New Testament an example of this would be John the Baptist becoming a prophet as the angel Gabriel said to his parents. They were also involved in the coronation of kings. Some prophets were installed to be with a King because they were appointed by God but when the king turned away the prophet would bring judgment like Isaiah. Also prophets generally did not go with the way things are, instead they would try a change things about the Hebrews-Jesus is a good example of this, teaching his people new things and challenging the Roman Empire and religious establishment. Also some were professionally trained as well (81). Prophets believed they received revelation from the divine-“that they received direct and special communication from the divine” (81). Speeches, oracles, dream interpretation, and visions are generally correlated to those just mentioned; “the prophets were both hearers and seers” (81). “The standard formula for revelation to the prophets is ‘the word of the Lord came to’ them ; then the prophets speaks, not in his or her own name, but in the name” (81) of the Lord. This can be seen throughout all the prophets. Jesus, in the New Testament, says it has been written has part of his formula referring to the Hebrew Scriptures. Further, the formula described above is referring to thus says the Lord (of hosts). Some of the prophets received instruction from dreams whether others received from hearing the voice of God or in a vision. Paul saw God speak to him in a vision. Each of these prophetical books were different types from historical accounts to poetry.
The overreaching theme of the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures is: “Underlying the immediate involvement of the prophets in the particulars of their own times, then, there is a consistent message. What had happened, what was happening, and what would happen were all the doing of” the Lord. “He was the Lord of all the Earth, and thus responsible for events throughout the entire world (throughout human history), not just within Israel’s borders. But his primary focus (in the Hebrew Scriptures) was Israel, his chosen people” (86) God’s primary means of making deals with is people was through the prophet making a covenants with his people by the ten commandments, 602 laws, the flood, creation accounts, and various others. When the people disobeyed God, “the prophets would proclaim the divine judgment: they were in the words of Malachi 3.1 – ‘messengers of the covenant’ (87).” In these prophets there was also accounts of future hope. These were not immediately fulfilled but would be in the future (end time) by the coming messiah or anointed one as prophesied by Isaiah. Also this hope was the end time where God would defeat the forces of evil which lead to apocalyptic books like Daniel and the Book of Revelation. Early Christian believed the end time, the future hope was fulfilled by Jesus Christ. However, messiah was never meant to mean the way we currently view the word, rather it was viewed as only past and present leaders not a future one. (90)