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OT prophets – background information sheets

OT prophets – background information sheets



Some background information on the Old Testament prophets, including brief summaries of various prophetic genres (or sub-genres), and an introduction to Hebrew poetry.

Some background information on the Old Testament prophets, including brief summaries of various prophetic genres (or sub-genres), and an introduction to Hebrew poetry.



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    OT prophets – background information sheets OT prophets – background information sheets Document Transcript

    • OT Prophetic Books 1. Why do we have the prophets? So that we can know God, and know how to respond to God. (David Jackman) ‘Whether he is discussing the past, present or future, the prophet is seeking to make God the most genuine reality that men can know and experience.’ (A.B. Mickelson Interpreting the Bible, p. 287) a. Not fore-telling, but forth-telling Their function was to declare (speak forth) God’s word, not to predict the future. ‘Prophecy is essentially a ministry of disclosure, a stripping bare. Israel’s great prophets do not merely lift the veil of the future in order to destroy false expect- ations; at the same time, they expose the conduct of their contemporaries. . . . Prophets tear the masks away and show the true face of the people behind them.’ (Hans Walter Wolff, Confrontations) Many prophecies about the future were conditional – the outcome depended on how the prophet’s hearers responded to his message. b. ‘Covenant-enforcement mediators’ / covenant guard dogs i. Warning of judgment, having identified the sin of God’s people ii. Promising blessing, having declared God’s love for his people 2. Key themes in the prophets a. God is the ruler of all of history and every nation b. Humanity’s most fundamental need is to be right with God c. Religion, politics and society must all be on a firm moral base d. God offers us the choice of judgment or hope e. The future kingdom of God The prophets often had two horizons in view: their context and the future. f. The glory of God This is the prophets’ ultimate concern, because it is God’s ultimate concern.
    • Handling the OT Prophets 1. Six key questions What is the historical context? What is the biblical context? How is the prophet’s message presented? What main problems does the prophet diagnose? What are the remedies? What is the underlying message about God and humanity? 2. Genres within the prophets a. Oracles i. Messenger speech e.g. Amos 7:14–17; Ezekiel 35:1–15 • Prophetic word formula (the word of the Lord came to X) • Commissioning formula (Go and say . . . ) • Messenger formula (This is what the Lord says . . . ) • Message ii. Vision e.g. Amos 7:1–9; 8:1ff; 9:1ff; Ezekiel 1:1 – 3:15; 8:1 – 11:25 • Announcement of vision • Transition • Vision sequence iii. Judgment oracles e.g. Amos 2:6–16; Ezekiel 7:1–27 • Accusation • Link (logical connective) • Announcement of judgment OT Prophets © Tony Watkins! 2! www.tonywatkins.org
    • iv. Covenant lawsuit e.g. Hosea 4:1–19; Amos 3:1–15?; Ezekiel 20:1–44? • Summons • Charge • Evidence • Verdict v. Woe oracle e.g. Amos 5:18–27; 6:1–7(14?); Ezekiel 34:1–31 • Announcement of distress • Reason for distress • Prediction of disaster vi. Salvation oracles e.g. Amos 9:11–15; Ezekiel 36:16–38 • Indication of situation • Reference to the future • Proclamation of radical change • Blessing vii. Lament e.g. Amos 5:1–17; Ezekiel 19:1–14 viii. Oracles against the nations e.g. Amos 1:3 – 2:5 b. Narratives i. commissioning e.g. Ezekiel 1 – 3 • Divine confrontation • Introductory word • Commission • Objection(s) OT Prophets © Tony Watkins! 3! www.tonywatkins.org
    • • Reassurances • Sign(s) ii. vision e.g. Ezekiel 37:1–14 iii. symbolic action e.g. Ezekiel 4:1 – 5:17 c. Prayer e.g. Jonah 2 d. Apocalyptic e.g. Daniel 7; Ezekiel 38 – 39 e. Allegory e.g. Ezekiel 15, 16, 17 f. Poetry Most of the material by the prophets is written in poetic form. See ‘Biblical Poetry’ section. Resources Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All its Worth, 3rd edition (Zondervan, 2003) OT Prophets © Tony Watkins! 4! www.tonywatkins.org
    • Biblical Poetry 1. Terseness Hebrew poetry is very concise and compact, using few words in short lines. There are few conjunctions (‘and’, ‘but’, etc.), though translations into modern languages often add them to help clarity. e.g. ! [Like] a gold ring in a pig’s snout ! [is] a beautiful woman who shows no discretion. (Proverbs 11:22) Words are often dropped out of the second of a pair of lines, leaving the reader to infer them. This is called ellipsis (the verb is elide). e.g.! Bring your sacrifices every morning, ! ! your tithes every three years. (Amos 4:4) ! Thorns will ! ! overrun ! her citadels, ! nettles and brambles ! ! her strongholds. (Isaiah 34:13) ! 2. Parallelism Most, but not all, Hebrew poetry makes uses of parallelism. Lines (cola; singular: colon) are usually in pairs, sometimes in triples or more. g. Synonymous parallelism The second line (and any subsequent line) repeats the idea in the first line, developing it in some way, often subtly. e.g.! A! They sell the innocent for silver, ! B! and the needy for a pair of sandals. (Amos 1:2) ! A! The swift will not escape, ! B! the strong will not muster their strength, ! C! and the warrior will not save his life. ! D! The archer will not stand his ground, ! E! the fleet-footed soldier will not get away, ! F! and the horseman will not save his life. ! G! Even the bravest warriors will flee naked on that day (Amos 2:14–16) OT Prophets © Tony Watkins! 5! www.tonywatkins.org
    • h. Inverted (or chiastic) parallelism This is a form of synonymous parallelism, but the order of elements in the lines is reversed. e.g.! A thousand will flee ! ! at the threat of one; ! ! at the threat of five ! you will all flee away. (Isaiah 30:17) ! Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, ! nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim. (Isaiah 11:13) i. Antithetic parallelism Sometime the second line contrasts the first. e.g.! A! He who made the Pleiades and Orion, ! B! who turns midnight into dawn ! C! and darkens day into night, . . . (Amos 5:8 – C contrasts B) ! A! . . . though you have built stone mansions, ! B! you will not live in them; ! C! though you have planted lush vineyards, ! D! you will not drink their wine. (Amos 5:11 – B and D contrast A and C) 3. Imagery Imagery is found in prose as well as poetry, but it is generally more frequent and intense in poetry. a. Similes Direct comparison between two things. e.g. ! Let justice roll on like a river, ! righteousness like a never-failing stream. (Amos 5:24) b. Metaphor A stronger comparison, using one object or idea in place of, or in some way equivalent to, another. e.g.! Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, ! you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy. (Amos 4:1) OT Prophets © Tony Watkins! 6! www.tonywatkins.org
    • c. Symbol ‘A symbol is a concrete image that points to or embodies other meanings.’ (Leland Ryken) e.g.! The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; ! on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! (Isaiah 9:2) d. Hyperbole Exaggeration in order to make a point. e.g.! Edom’s streams will be turned to pitch, ! her dust into burning sulphur; ! her land will become blazing pitch. ! It will not be quenched night or day; ! its smoke will rise for ever. ! From generation to generation it will lie desolate; ! no one will ever pass through it again. (Isaiah 34:9–10) ! Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never ! done before and will never do again. (Ezekiel 4:9) e. Personification Attributing human characteristics to natural phenomena, objects or ideas. e.g.! Gladness and joy will overtake them, ! and sorrow and sighing will flee away. (Isaiah 35:10) ! Son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel and say, ‘Mountains of ! Israel, hear the word of the Lord.’ (Ezekiel 36:1) f. Apostrophe ‘Direct address to something or someone absent as though the person or thing were present and capable of listening.’ (Leland Ryken) e.g.! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, ! the world, and all that comes from it. (Isaiah 34:1) ! The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, set your face against the ! Ammonites and prophesy against them.’ (Ezekiel 25:1–2) Resources Longman, Tremper, III, How to Read the Psalms (Downers Grove Ill., IVP, 1988) Ryken, Leland and Longman, Tremper, III (eds.), A Complete Literary Guide to the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI., Zondervan, 1993) Ryken, Leland, How to Read the Bible as Literature (Grand Rapids, MI., Zondervan, 1984) OT Prophets © Tony Watkins! 7! www.tonywatkins.org