Period Described, Written    
Exd & Cnq

The Latter Prophets & the Exiles

  • Institution of Prophecy:

    • Prophets are NOT primarily fortune tellers-

      • not in the Bible b/c they could predict future.

    • They assumed the 'Deuteronomistic Cycle'

      • the inevitability of the cycle made the future to some extent knowable.

      • they are in the Bible b/c of what they had to say about the present-

      • they criticize Israel for its infidelity to the law,

        • and warn of the coming punishment.

      • they console it in times of hardship,

      • and offer reassuring visions of future restoration.

    • There are genuine prophecies-

      • but their interpretation was fluid

      • and a specific prophecy could be seen as repeatedly fulfilled.

  • Overlapping w/ the DH, the books of the Latter Prophets can be divided into 4 major time periods:

    • The Assyrian Crisis (8th Century BC)

      • Amos
        From the south, but prophesied at Bethel in the North. Not a critic of idolatry, but of the failure of the North to emphasize social justice. Predicted fall of the North to Assyria.

      • Hosea
        Also a prophet in the North, uses metaphor of marriage/adultery to explain God's frustration w/ Israel's idolatry. Predicts both Israel's fall and eventual restoration.

        • See 2 Kings 17:20-33 & GJn 4:4-42

      • 'First' Isaiah (chs. 1-39)
        Prophet in the South, counseled Hezekiah to stay faithful to God and not form an alliance w/Egypt against Assyria.

        • 2:2-5= Vision of the End Time (Gk. εσκατον, or 'last thing'), with Jerusalem (Zion) restored in an Eden-like state.

        • 5:1-7= metaphor of the vineyard. Like a vineyard, God 'planted' Israel/Judah, expecting to produce justice (good grapes), but instead both nations were corrupt (wild grapes). Thus, the Lord must destroy the vineyard (exiles) and start anew.

          • See Mt 21:33-46

        • 7:1-14= Birth of Immanuel. Isaiah tells King Ahaz of Judah that a child will be born to a young woman/virgin, and be named Immanuel. In context, probably a reference to Hezekiah, but later understood as messianic.

          • The debate:

          • In MT (that's Masoretic Text) word used to describe the mother of Immanuel is 'alma, or 'young woman,'  more specifically, a girl who had reached the age of puberty and was therefore marriageable.

            • By Torah standards of purity, such a girl would have been presumed to be a virgin if unmarried, but the term does not require that meaning.

          • when trans. into Gk (LXX), παρθενος was used, which specifically means 'virgin.'

          • In context, the passage cannot refer to Jesus, b/c it would make no sense- what would be the point of reassuring Ahaz (late 8th cent) that God would send him a sign that he was with him- over 800 years later?

            • BUT- if the child to be born was a son to Ahaz-

              • then he would be a 'Son of David,' (Hezekiah)

              • assurance that the monarchy would continue.

              • ...but it didn't. Could it refer to someone else?

              • More to the point: Might God speak words in one time best understood in another?

        • 11:1-17= 'a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse'

          • Jesse= David's father.

          • Stump= the monarchy, cut down by God

          • shoot= renewal of monarchy

          • refers to a descendent of David,

            • 'Immanuel'?

            • described as a 'signal for the nations,' meaning that Gentiles will be drawn to him as well...

      • Micah
        From the south, a contemporary of Isaiah, critical of Judah for social injustice; Envisioned the downfall of Judah, but also its restoration through a Davidic Messiah.

        • 5:1-4= An oracle that a future ruler would be born in Bethlehem, the town in which David was born (also, in v.2, a reference to his mother, 'she who is to give birth')


    • Rise of Babylon (7th Cent. BC)

      • Zephaniah
        Prophet in the South during the reign of Josiah. Initially, describes a time of such great injustice that God will 'sweep away all things,' much like the Genesis flood. But concludes in light of Josiah's reform, with optimism that God will forgive and relent.

      • Nahum
        Interesting book...basically, it celebrates the conquest of Nineveh and downfall of Assyria. Written in the Southern kingdom.

      • Habakkuk
        Fairly precisely dateable- 605-597 BC. The prophet realizes that the conquest of Judah by Babylon is inevitable, and seeks to understand where God's justice is to be found.

    • Babylonian Exile & Return (6th Cent. BC)

      • Jeremiah

        • From a priestly family in Anathoth-

          • likely a descendent of Abiathar.

        • Prophet in the south from the time of Josiah to Zedekiah (626-587 BC).

          • from religious reform to exile.

        • A supporter of Josiah, Jeremiah was disappointed to see corruption return after his death.

        • Also, Judeans had favored the Davidic covenant over the Mosaic-

          • as a result of Sennacherib's failed attempt to seize Jerusalem,

          • they believed that the city and the temple could not be destroyed,

          • and that both, like the monarchy, would be everlasting.

          • As a result, they assumed that any sin they committed could easily and always be forgiven if the right sacrifices were offered.

        • 1:6= 'I know not how to speak'
          Jeremiah resists the prophetic calling on the grounds that he is not a good speaker...

        • 7: 1-34= The Temple Sermon
          At gate of the temple, Jeremiah warns Judeans that if they do not reform, they will be punished, and the temple destroyed.

          • refers to temple as a 'den of thieves' b/c it is filled with those who violate the Mosaic Law.

          • compares temple to Shiloh, a 'high place' destroyed by the Philistines.

        • 23:5= The 'Righteous Shoot'
          ref. to the 'shoot' from Isaiah 11.

        • 25:1-14= The 'Seventy Years'
          Jeremiah predicts exile of 70 years- a symbolic number representing the complete death of a generation.

        • 31:31-34= The 'New Covenant'
          envisions a new covenant between God and Israel/Judah:

          • ['I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and kinsmen how to know the Lord. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.']

          • A time when people will follow the law without having to have all of it spelled out for them.

        • Of Note:

          • 2 other Biblical books are connected to Jeremiah:

            • Lamentations is traditionally attributed to Jeremiah or his 'secretary,' Baruch.

              • A series of laments mourning the fall of Jerusalem.

            • and the prophetic/poetic book of Baruch is attributed to this secretary as well.

      • Obadiah
        In 587, the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem. The Edomites (descendents of Esau) had aided Babylon's conquest of Judah. This book is a condemnation of Edom for siding against Judah.

      • Ezekiel

      • A priest exiled from Judah during the 1st Babylonian Exile (@596 BC).

      • oracles recorded from Babylon

        the first prophet to receive his call outside of the PL.

        • 1:1-28= Ezekiel's call
          The Lord rides out of the PL in a sandstorm on a chariot drawn by cherubim.

        • 34:1-31= The Shepherd Parable
          The Lord rejects Israel's 'shepherds,' b/c they have neglected the flock for their own sake.

          • Instead, God will shepherd his own people,

          • and judge 'between rams and goats'

          • he will appoint a descendent of David to shepherd in his place.

        • 37:1-14= The 'Valley of Dry Bones'
          The Lord shows Ezekiel a vision of a valley filled with dry bones, and proposes the question: 'can these bones come to life?'

          • the bones rejoin, sinew and flesh reattach, and skin covers them.

          • the spirit of the Lord breathes life into them.

          • A promise from God: 'I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel.'

          • literal= earliest reference to belief in resurrection.

          • possibly a metaphor for renewal of the kingdom.

        • 47:1-12= 'The Wonderful Stream'
          After envisioning a new temple and a new law, Ezekiel sees a stream that appears starting at the temple flowing east to the Dead Sea.

          • makes the salt sea fresh,

          • causes the land by the point where the stream meets the sea to become fertile and Eden-like.

          • a vision of the establishment of the kingdom at the end time-

            • Essenes settled at the Dead Sea b/c of this passage,

            • believed that God would launch the final battle for his kingdom from there.

      • 'Deutero' Isaiah (40-55)
        Series of oracles/poems written by a poet possibly in Babylon as Cyrus the Great rose to power. Anticipates the renewal of the kingdom.

        • 42 (esp.1-4), 49 (esp.1-7), 50:4-11, 52:13-53:12=
          'Songs of the Suffering Servant'
          describe an anonymous servant of the Lord, whose suffering on behalf of the nation of Israel brings redemption.

          • 42:1 'Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.'

          • 49:1 'The Lord called me from birth, from my mother's womb he gave me my name.'

          • 49:6 'I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.'

            • like the 'shoot' from ch.11? (and Immanuel?')

          • 50:6 'I gave my back to those who beat face I did not shield from...spitting.'

          • 53:2 'He grew up like a a shoot from the parched earth.'

            • the 'shoot' from ch.11?

          • 53:4 'it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured...'

          • 53:5 'he was pierced for our offenses..'

          • 53:6 'the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all...'

          • 53:7 'though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth'

          • 53:11ff 'Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear...'


      • Haggai
        oracles proclaimed during the time of Zerubabbel, a descendent of David appointed governor of Jerusalem by the Persians. Criticizes wealthy Judeans for being more concerned abt themselves than abt rebuilding a temple for the Lord.

      • Zechariah

      • Chs. 1-8 ('first Zech') are from the prophet himself, a contemp. of Haggai; they encourage rebuilding of the temple during the time of Zerubabbel (see above) and Joshua the high priest.

        • 1:8-11= The 'Four Horsemen'
          sent forth by the Lord to confirm that the whole world is peaceful, provoking an angel to ask the Lord how long Jerusalem will suffer.

        • 3:8 & 6:11= the 'Shoot'
          refs. to a Davidic successor, but Zech sees Zerubabbel as the fulfillment, b/c he oversees the rebuilding of the temple.

      • Chs 9-14 ('DeuteroZech') were added later by an anonymous prophet. A series of end-time visions.

        • 9:9= The 'Meek King'
          A vision of the appearance of a (Davidic) king at the end time, who is meek, and rides into Jerusalem on a donkey.

        • 11:4-17= The Shepherd Allegory ( VERY difficult)
          The Lord commands the prophet to shepherd his flock b/c 'their own' shepherds are corrupt, selling them to be slaughtered for profit.

          • [He takes 2 staffs,

          • one called 'Favor' (symbolizing God's good will),

          • the other 'Bonds' (symbolizing bond between Israel & Judah)

          • the prophet breaks 'Favor,' breaking God's covenant with 'all people.'

          • The sheep merchants realize that the prophet's gesture is a 'word of the Lord,'

          • the prophet says to them: 'If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, let it go.'

            • they pay him 30 pieces of silver (price of a gored slave)- the value they place on the word of the Lord.

            • The Lord rejects the money, tells the prophet to throw it into the treasury of the temple.

            • then, the prophet breaks 'Bonds', severing Israel from Judah...]

        • 12:10= 'him whom they have thrust through'
          Like the Servant in Isaiah, 2Zech imagines a nameless figure whose suffering brings God's grace on the 'house of David.'


    • Post-Exile/Persian Period (Late 6th & 5th)

      • 'Trito' Isaiah (56-66)
        A collection of oracles from different periods in Jewish history, incl. some that criticize those who have returned from exile for religious infidelity.

        • 61:1-3= 'The Mission of the Anointed'
          A passage originally about the restoration of Jerusalem, spoken by Jesus in LK in reference to his own mission.

          • in the LXX, the word used for 'glad tidings' is
            ευαγγελιον, or gospel.

      • Joel
        Inspired by a terrible locust plague that struck Judah; Joel interprets as the wrath of God, brought on by His anger with the Judahites. The locusts are likened to an invading army in Ch. 2.

        • Also contains visions of the 'Day of the Lord':

        • 2:24 & 4:18= The 'Messianic Banquet'
          A vision of a great feast for the righteous in the kingdom of God at the end time, with overflowing bread and wine.

          • Also found in Isaiah 25:6-8 & 55:1-3

        • 3:1= The Outpouring of the Spirit
          'I will pour out my spirit upon all mankind. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.'

      • Malachi
        This book is actually anonymous. Malachi is Hebrew for 'My Messenger.' Criticizes the religious cynicism of the Judeans who return from exile and who doubt God's justice. The prophet warns that a day of judgment is coming, but first...

        • 3:1= 'I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me.

        • 3:23-24= 'I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and terrible day.'

        • See also Sirach 47:1-12

      • Jonah
        Satire of the prophetic worldview, which assumes that suffering is deserved as a result of sin, and that God's mercy is reserved only for his chosen people, not for the rest of humanity.

        • Jonah is sent to Ninevah (capital of Assyria) to warn them that God's wrath will be unleashed if they do not repent and change their ways.

        • When the Assyrians repent immediately, Jonah is disappointed that he will not get to see the city destroyed and the suffering of its citizens.

  • summary points:

    • the Prophetic Worldview (a variation of the Deuteronomistic)

    • Metaphorical Speech:

      • Marriage/Adultery for the covenant

        • God as bridegroom, Israel as (unfaithful) bride

      • Shepherding for leadership

        • God or kings as shepherds, chosen people as sheep

          • sheep/rams as the righteous, goats as the wicked

      • Vineyard for God's expectation of righteousness from His people

        • God as owner, vineyard as PL, grapes as the chosen people

      • Harvest for judgment

        • wheat as the righteous, chaff as the wicked

        • [the threshing floor as judgment on the wicked]

    • Unifying Themes & Imagery:

      • Social Justice: care for the poor, widowed, orphaned

      • Divine involvement in History (like the DH)

      • Zion/the 'Holy Mountain'/Jerusalem

        • An Eden-like vision of a final, eternal kingdom

      • The 'Day of the Lord'

        • ('on that day,' 'in days to come')

        • a judgment, or sifting of the righteous and wicked, to insure that Zion remains just eternally.

      • Messianism

        • Hope in the renewal of the Davidic Covenant, with a new king descended from David.(...or, a king like David himself?)