Developments in Hebrew Religion: Prophetic Revolution (800-600 BCE)
Social injustice + moral decay of landowners and kings: call for justice to avert divine punishment
Prophets of 8th + 7 th C BCE: reinvented/reoriented Yahweh religion - Isaiah, Elijah, Samuel, Amos, Hosea, Micah.
Innovations of the Prophets
Yahweh as one + only god of universe. Monotheistic religion dated no earlier than prophetic revolution. Before this, Monolatrous
Re-centered religion around ethics, away from cultic rules + ritual.
Problems of Israelite Kingship
Kingship: arises with external pressures
Hebrew Monarchy: conflict between Yahweh and Kings. Act of disobedience
Saul is disobedient: sets pattern for the rest
Major channel for foreign influence to seep into Israelite life.
What was criticized?
Brutality of war
Economic oppression of poor
Syncretism of cult of Yahweh with Baalism
Involvement in international politics
Quotes from Isaiah
Example 1: Isaiah 5.8, 20, 23, 25
“ Ah, you who join house to house, who add field to field,
Until there is room for no one but you….
Ah, you who call evil good and good evil….
Who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of their rights!....
Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people”
Example 2: Isaiah 1.12-17
“ Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile….
When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you;
Even though you make many prayers, I will not listen;
Cease to do evil, learn to do good;
Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow
Image: Northern French miniature of 1278 shows King Solomon reading his copy of the Torah, as laid down by Deuteronomy
“ One from among the brethren shalt thou set king over thee….and it shall be when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book…and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, and to do them; that his heart not be lifted up above his brethren” (Deut 17.15)
The Babylonian Exile of 586-538 BCE :
586 BCE : Babylonians (under King Nebuchadnezzar) destroy Judah, then conquer Jerusalem. 20,000 Israelites deported to Babylonia
Primary challenge of exile: lack of organized public worship
“ By the rivers of Babylon- there we sat down
and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung our harps.
For there our captors asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
“ Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”
Developments in Hebrew Religion: Post-Exilic Revolution
Period of exile: despair + reform
Theology of Salvation: Babylonian captivity as God's punishment for violation of divine laws
Ezekiel + Isaiah: Israelites will reunite again + unified Davidic kingdom will be re-established.
Second Temple Period
538 BCE: Cyrus, King of Persia - Hebrews return to Jerusalem.
515 BCE: Second Temple built in Jerusalem.
Religious practices organized + regulated under Ezra the Scribe.
Restored temple = center of religious life for 500 years
The Hebrew Bible (“Old Testament” to Christians) began to take shape
10 Commandments - code of moral imperatives. Violation = broken covenant + destruction of Hebrew nation
Law of the Torah: directly from God
Law as science of behavior
New value of the individual, i.e. highest value not to property, but life
Morality over ritual
Abraham's covenant: descendants will be given the promised land of Canaan "for an everlasting possession," in which to dwell (Gen. 15:17-21 and 17:7-8).
Exodus 19:5: “Now therefore, if ye will hearken unto My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be Mine own treasure from all peoples; for all the earth is Mine; and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."
Innovations in Hebrew Religion (after exile, 538 BCE)
Evil: human actions
No Eschatology/ Apocalypticism
No extensive mention of “messiah”
Afterlife: House of Dust (Sheol).
Eschatology + Apocalypticism
Messianism: Deliverer "messiah," or "anointed one."
Afterlife. Good rewarded, evil punished in next life
Hebrew vs. Egyptian and Mesopotamian Religions
God as fully sovereign
God not created – eternal
Transcendent – above nature, not part of nature.
No worship of idols: God unrepresentable
No ultimate loyalty to kings
Importance of individual
Lecture 3: What do you need to know?
General Characteristics of Hebrew Religion
Characteristics of reign of King Solomon, King David, King Hezekiah, and King Josiah
Prophetic Revolution: What caused it? What were the central innovations?
Israelite Kingship: Why did some resist and criticize?