Sunday, December 13, 2009

A primer on the prophets (part 2 of 2)

The Word for today:
Isaiah 5

The Prophet Jeremiah Mourning over the Destruction of Jerusalem
--by Rembrandt, 1630

The poetical books (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) belong to the golden age of the nation.

The prophetical books (from Isaiah through the rest of the Old Testament) belong to the dark days of Israel’s history:
Yet the LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, "Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets." (2Kings 17:13)

The period of the prophets in Israel is relatively short compared to the history of Israel as a whole--just five hundred years from the ninth to the fourth century B.C.  These were times of idolatry and apostasy which resulted in the exiles to Assyria and Babylon. 
Then the voices of the prophets were silenced for 400 years--until John the Baptist.

The office of prophet was instituted in Samuel’s time. Later, at the close of Solomon's reign (see 1 Kings 12) the 10 northern tribes severed from the southern tribes.  As a political measure, to keep the 2 kingdoms separate, the Northern Kingdom ("Israel") adopted as their national religion calf-worship, the religion of Egypt. Soon afterward they added Baal-worship, which began to get a hold on the Southern Kingdom ("Judah").
At this crisis--when God's name was disappearing from the minds of men, and God's plans for the ultimate redemption of the world were coming to naught--the prophets appeared.

Prophets classified by length of book--
There are 17 books of the prophets, but only 16 writing prophets (Jeremiah also wrote Lamentations).
They are spoken of as the " major" (Isaiah to Daniel) prophets and the "minor" (Hosea through Malachi) prophets. This designation has nothing to do with importance. It has only to do with the relative sizes of the books.

Prophets classifid by time--
6 lived in the time (734-721 B.C.) of Israel’s destruction by Assyria – Joel, Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah.
7 lived in the time (606-586 B.C.)of Judah’s destruction by Babylon – Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Obadiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah.
3 lived in the time of the Restoration to their own land – Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

Prophets classified by intended "audience"--
3 to Israel – Amos, Hosea, Ezekiel.
2 to Nineveh – Jonah, Nahum.
1 to Babylon – Daniel.
1 to Edom – Obadiah.
9 to Judah – Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

The prophet was never sent while the nation was walking in obedience to God, so all of the writings are rebukes.  The prophets were the most unpopular men of their day.  Truth is seldom popular with the sinner.

Most of the prophets were slain (Luke 11:47; Acts 7:52; 1 Thesssalonians 2:15).

Isaiah was sawn in half (see Hebrews 11:37).

Jesus Christ was crucified.

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