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The Prophets By: Sara McMenamin, Tracy McGuire, Sam Marino, NicoArechabala, Jason Bruce, and Stephen Wildemann
Two Kingdoms: Israel and Judah Following the death of Solomon, the people of the south accept his son, Rehobam, as their king. All of Israel is divided into two kingdoms- Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Jeroboam is declared king in the north.
The Wicked Kings of the North A string of violent deaths follows the reign of Jeroboam. The sixth king, Omri, builds the city of Samaria King Omri is succeeded by his son Ahab. Ahab marries the Phoenician princess, Jezebel, they become the villains in the stories about the prophets Elijah and Elisha.
A Strategic Marriage Such marriages between royalty of two nations were common ways of building protective alliances against hostile empires. Ahab’s marriage gained for Israel the military strength of Phoenicia.
Elijah and Elisha The purpose of the stories in the books of kings about Elijah and Elisha was to show that when God spoke through the prophets, he expected Israel to listen. They prophesied from the reigns of the kings of Israel from Aham to Joash- about 874 to 796 B.C.
Elijah nourished by a starving widow God sends Elijah to tell King Ahab that he will be punished by a terrible drought. Elijah is then sent to hide by a stream, where ravens will feed him. When the stream goes dry he is sent to the village of Zarephath in Sidon where a widow will care for him. Elijah sees the woman and asks her for water and a crust of bread. He promises her God will provide for her if she shares with him. She does and her jug of flour and jug of oil are never empty.
Elijah goes to the Jordan River with Elisha, a man who had earlier become his devoted follower. There, Elisha parts the water with his cloak, and the two cross over.
Suddenly, a flaming chariot with fiery horses comes between the two, and Elijah disappears in a whirlwind; for three days a community of prophets search for Elijah but fail to find him.
Eventually this tale gave rise to belief that Elijah would return to announce the coming of the Messiah. This tradition was the basis for references to Elijah in the gospel stories of Jesus and John the Baptist.
From that time on, Elisha carries on the mission of his mentor, Elijah.
Elisha purifies Jericho’s water supply, which has been causing death and miscarriages and he helps a widow avoid selling her children to pay her debts.
He blesses a childless couple, and they beget a son. Later he raises this child form the dead. He purifies poisoned stew and multiplies loaves of bread to make enough for a hundred people.
Elisha becomes known for his healing powers. Even in death, Elisha heals.
Amos: A Cry Against Riches Gained by Injustice
Amos, a shepherd from Judah, goes north to preach against the sinful kingdom of Israel. He first appears in Bethel.
He condemns the people’s unjust, exploitative actions toward the poor and weak, and tells them God will punish them for this.
In Samaria, Amos condemns the rich women of Samaria, comparing them to fat cattle. He warns that it will not last; the day will come when, like dead animals, they will be dragged away with hooks through their noses and deposited on the refuse heap outside the city.
No Empty Ritual:“Let Justice Roll Down.” Amos says that the lord hates and abominates processions, sacrifices, and hymn singing that do not come from sincere hearts. God want hearts that believe.
Way of Worship In Amos’s prophesy, God condemns not formal worship, but empty worship, in which rituals of praise and sacrifice are not backed up with just actions toward others. False worship is a problem in modern times. Before civil rights laws, discrimination existed in many Christian Churches in the United States. (African Americans were not welcomed.) This discrimination still exists in some churches today.
Amos has visions of Israel's final fate when he works.
He had a vision of locust eating crops, Israel is so helpless. He sees fire ravage the land during a drought, Israel is being destroyed by people’s sins. He sees the Israel is about to collapse.
God won’t help because Israel has chosen evil.
Amos crosses the line too many times with the powers that be in Israel, and he is ordered by the high priest at Bethal to go back to Judah; so he then goes.
Hosea: God as a Betrayed Husband
Corrupt kings make the last years of Israel a sordid tale.
During the periods, Hosea appears> he is involved in a terrible marriage. His wife Gomer has deserted him for other lovers.
When Hosea speaks of himself and Gomer, he’s telling Israel a parable of its own betrayal of God.
He first three chapters of Hosea deliver his messages.
The other eleven chapters are fragments of oracles condemning Israel's sins.
The book start where God commands Hosea to take an unfaithful wife. Hosea and Gomer have three kids> God tells him to give them strange names.
By the Time the third name is spoken, the people recognize what Hosea is saying- that God will break the covenant> A more threatening image could not exist.
Be Exiled, but Come Back to Me
Chapter two of Hosea takes place in a divorce court, where Hosea testifies to Gomer’s unfaithfulness and ingratitude. His plans for her are harsh. She has forgotten that he gave her everything she had- grain, wine, oil, silver, and gold. He will take these away from her.
Hosea started fantasizing about Gomer after they broke up.
God and Israel reunited. God promises to make up for every deprivation Israel had suffered. Every good gift will be restored.
Hosea is the first book to feature the relationship between God and Israel as a marriage and to use the language and images of marriage in describing it.
To God, “Infidelity” in Israel's behavior means betrayal of justice, compassion, integrity or true worship.
Gomer could have been sentenced to death for her infidelity. Instead Hosea wanted to punish her for a while.
God will not wipe out the Israelites even though they deserved it. God will put them through a time of exile and abandonment, and this experience will bring Israel back into its loving relationship with the Lord.
Assyria Defeats and Scatters Israel
Even with warnings from Amos and Hosea, chaos and infidelity are in Israel.
Palace revolutions, assassinations of kings, and worship of Baal continue to weaken the nation. Israel turns more and more to making deals with foreign powers for security in a hostile world rather than trusting in God.
But the overwhelming might of Assyrians- the fiercest, most brutal empire of the ancient Near East- makes it impossible for Israel to be secure.
Finally, after a long siege of Israel’s capital, Samaria, the Assyrians take the city; Northern Kingdom of Israel, is finished.
A Flight to the South
Scripture scholars tell us that some of the Israelites fled south to Judah, where they knew they would have common religious roots. They hoped that despite past periods of war between Israel and Judah, the southern kingdom would accept them as their fellow Chosen People of God.
Some of the fleeing northerners brought their transitional stories and writings with them to Judah. Many of these stories found their way into the Scriptures as they were edited centuries later, during the Babylonian Exile.
The Samaritans were intensely disliked by the Jews.
The Jews disliked them because they ere descendents of the Israelites, who remains in the north after Samaria's collapse.
The Samaritan’s religion, with it has traces of the old Israelite worship, was seen by Jews of the South as polluted with paganism.
Isaiah Isaiah was the greatest writing prophet. Judah’s kings all came from the line of David, as promised by God. Solomon was David’s son, and Rehoboam was Solomon’s son. After Rehoboam, Judah’s kings were mostly bad; by the 740s BC Judah was idolatrous and greedy. A man named Isaiah has a vision in the temple and answered God’s call to be a prophet to his nation that was in trouble.
Book of Isaiah: A Work of Three Eras Isaiah is only mentioned in thirty-nine of the sixty-six chapters in his book, and only twelve of them were written by him. The Book of Isaiah is the longest and most influential prophetic book, covering between 200 to 250 years, and written by a number of authors. It is about infidelity, suffering, repentance, condemnation, consolation, threats, promises, and comfort. It is told in oracles and poetry. There were three main Isaiahs that wrote the book of Isaiah.
The Three Isaiahs First Isaiah (Isaiah of Jerusalem): Pleaded with Judah’s Kings and People before the Babylonian Exile (chapters 1-39) Second Isaiah: Spoke during and at the end of the exile (chapters 40-45) Third Isaiah: Was with the people when they returned form the exile (chapters 56-66) The entire collection was named after Isaiah of Jerusalem because he was the first and most important contributor; the other Isaiahs were disciples who shared his vision and passion.
First Isaiah: Isaiah of Jerusalem He was probably young when the prophet Amos was preaching in Israel, and lived during the reigns of the four kings of Judah. He was married and had at least two sons. His Hebrew, the best in the prophetic writings, suggests a high-placed, well-educated family background. The Book of Isaiah does not go in chronological order; the first five chapters get right to the message of Isaiah: a savage condemnation of Judah and Jerusalem for infidelity and corruption.
God’s Majesty and Goodness Characteristic of Isaiah’s message is his insistence on the majesty and glory of God. He calls God the one to whom all nations and creatures owe existence, and therefore, obedience and honor. Seeing Judah and Jerusalem ignore God’s majesty and goodness is the cause of his rage.
A Punishment of Judah’s Own Making Isaiah describes the coming fall of Judah and Jerusalem and the people’s deportation to foreign lands. Hero, warrior, judge, prophet, elder, captain, nobleman, counselor - all will be taken. Only the poor and weak will be left in the land. Judah and Jerusalem have brought evil on themselves (Isaiah 3:9). Wresting loot form the poor, grinding down the helpless; their punishment is their own doing.
Isaiah’s Vision and Response: “Here Am I; Send Me!” In the Temple, Isaiah has a shattering experience of the Allholy One. He sees God enthroned, surrounded by chanting angels, with the divine presence filling the Temple. Overwhelmed by his own sinfulness, Isaiah fears that he will die because he has seen God. An Angel descends and with tongs picks up a live coal from the altar. The angel purifies him of sinfulness.
Isaiah’s Vision and Response (continued) A voice cries out, “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah replies, “Here am I; send me!” God tells Isaiah to make the hearts of the people sluggish – dull their ears and close their eyes to the message of God. Isaiah asks how long it will continue and is told that it will be until exile.
A Child Will Be Born: “God Is With Us” God tells Isaiah to find Judah’s young king Ahaz outside of Jerusalem, where he is preparing for a siege by Syria and Israel. Isaiah tells Ahaz that faith in God, not elaborate preparations, will overcome these enemies, and bids him to ask God for a sign. The young king refuses to ask because he has already abandoned God. Isaiah becomes angry and replies that Ahaz will get a sign: a virgin that will bear a son named Immanuel.
A Child Will Be Born (continued) Another of Isaiah’s prophecies tells of a child that will come with the titles that belong only to the greatest of all kings, one who will rule forever. Isaiah also says that from the stump of Jesse will come a child that will lead the people to a time of peace never before experienced, symbolized by the contented friendship of traditional enemies of the animal kingdom, such as the wolf and the lamb or the calf and the lion.
The Future King Isaiah’s oracle about the birth of Immanuel has been interpreted as a passage of the coming messiah. However the belief in a messiah seemed to refer to the future birth of a Davidic Prince who would rule Judah in an age of peace. Christians have always believed that Isaiah’s longing for the ideal king was accomplished in Jesus Christ
Jerusalem is Saved from Assyria Assyria comes at Ahaz’s invitation and seizes Israel and Syria, Judah’s enemies Ahaz now must become a vassal to the Assyrian King in return for protection. Fortunately Ahaz’s son, Hezekiah, is faithful to God. As king of Judah he destroys pagan shrines and insists that sacrifices only be made in the Jerusalem Temple. Hezekiah plans to revolt against Assyria, but Isaiah advises him not to because it would be foolish to attack such a monstrous empire!
Jerusalem is Saved from Assyria A few years later, the Assyrians have captured some of Judah’s northern towns and are camped outside Jerusalem. Hezekiah turns to Isaiah in this dark moment and prays to God for help. Isaiah then insures the king that the town WILL be saved. That night the Angel of the Lord strikes the soldiers in their camps and thousands of Assyrians are found dead the next morning.
The people of Judah are grateful to be spared in the nick of time. They see their good fortune as a sign of God’s favor on Judah. This is more assurance of God’s Covenant with David and the Royal Line of Judah’s Kings. However, this divine protection backfires because Judah now thinks, “With God on our side, how can we ever be defeated?!”
Disaster and Hope Ahead
Although the past events have conspired, Isaiah knows that everything is not and won’t stay perfect. He knows that Judah will not be safe from suffering and disaster. However he also sees beyond defeat and sees hope-hope for new life to bloom for Jerusalem out of the desert exile. Isaiah hopes that one day Israel will reclaim its role as the light of the nations.
Micah in the South Micah is similar to Isaiah Sympathy for poor came from being poor Micah believes rulers abuse people Micah predicts that “one day men will beat their swords into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks, and no one will train for war”
Micah in the South (continued) Micah for sees that a descendant of David will rise up and lead Israel into a reign of peace and Justice “He shall be great to ends of earth and shall be the one of peace” Also predicted that Messiah will be born in Bethlehem and is of the line of King David Micah says god requires a sincerity of human heart, shown in Justice, kindness, and humility
Is Anybody Listening?? Prophets warnings were not heeded by rulers Prophets ideas passed on by exiled Many of religious movements are inspired by prophets ideas