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Many great teachings have been given to us through the Law and the Prophets and the others that followed

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27 pages
An Introduction to the Prophets An Introduction to the Prophets of Ancient Israel and Judah Ciarán O’Callaghan CSsR Email: delegate@proclaim.ie Photo Images © Bibleplaces.com Encyclopaedia Articles © Wikipedia © Prophets of Ancient Israel and Judah: §1 – Introduction to the Old Testament 1.0 A Brief Introduction to the OT 1.1 Basic Terminology 11.1.1 Tānāk Jewish tradition recognizes three divisions in what Christians call the Old Testament. These are: The Tôrâ (hr"AT - Hebrew: Law). The Něvî’îm (~yaiybin> - Hebrew: Prophets). The Kětûvîm (~ybiWtK. - Hebrew: Writings). The initial letters of the Hebrew titles for these divisions form the acronym Tānāk (%n"T' T+N+K  Tānāk) by which Judaism refers to its canon of Scriptures. For Judaism the five books of the Tôrâ (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) form the most sacred centre of the Scriptures, while the Něvî’îm and Kětûvî m are considered to offer commentary and reflection on the Tôrâ. 21.1.2 The Pentateuch The term Pentateuch comes from penta (pe,nta - Greek: five) and teuchos (teu/coj - Greek: scroll) meaning five containers in a reference to the papyrus or leather scrolls on which the text was originally written. These five scrolls have been given the Greco-Latin names: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. In Hebrew their names are usually taken from the opening line of each scroll: In The Beginning (Genesis), ...
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An Introduction to the Prophets An Introduction to the Prophets
of Ancient Israel and Judah




Ciarán O’Callaghan CSsR

Email: delegate@proclaim.ie
Photo Images © Bibleplaces.com
Encyclopaedia Articles © Wikipedia






© Prophets of Ancient Israel and Judah: §1 – Introduction to the Old Testament

1.0 A Brief Introduction to the OT
1.1 Basic Terminology
11.1.1 Tānāk

Jewish tradition recognizes three divisions in what Christians call the Old Testament.
These are:

The Tôrâ (hr"AT - Hebrew: Law).

The Něvî’îm (~yaiybin> - Hebrew: Prophets).

The Kětûvîm (~ybiWtK. - Hebrew: Writings).

The initial letters of the Hebrew titles for these divisions form the acronym Tānāk
(%n"T' T+N+K  Tānāk) by which Judaism refers to its canon of Scriptures. For
Judaism the five books of the Tôrâ (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and
Deuteronomy) form the most sacred centre of the Scriptures, while the Něvî’îm and
Kětûvî m are considered to offer commentary and reflection on the Tôrâ.

21.1.2 The Pentateuch

The term Pentateuch comes from penta (pe,nta - Greek: five) and teuchos
(teu/coj - Greek: scroll) meaning five containers in a reference to the papyrus or leather
scrolls on which the text was originally written. These five scrolls have been given the
Greco-Latin names: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. In
Hebrew their names are usually taken from the opening line of each scroll: In The
Beginning (Genesis), [And These Are] The Names (Exodus), And He Called (Leviticus),
[And the Lord said to Moses] In The Wilderness (Numbers), and finally These Are The
Words (Deuteronomy).






1 Lawrence Boadt, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, 3rd. ed. (New York: Paulist Press,
1984) 15-16; John J. Collins, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis: Augsburg: Fortress
Press, 2004) 1-22.
2 Roland E. Murphy, “Introduction to the Pentateuch,” in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, ed.
Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmeyer and Roland E. Murphy (London: Chapman, 1989) 3-7,
here 3.
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© Prophets of Ancient Israel and Judah: §1 – Introduction to the Old Testament

1.1.3 The Former Prophets

The books of the Něvî’îm can be divided into two sections: The Former Prophets
and The Latter Prophets. The Former Prophets are also called the Historical Books
because they treat of Israel‟s history. They consist of the Books of: Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2
Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings. These books belong together since modern scholarship
considers that they have been put together and edited by the same school that edited the
book of Deuteronomy. For this reason they are sometimes called the Deuteronomistic
History. The redactor or editor is called the Deuteronomistic Historian.

1.1.4 The Latter Prophets

The Latter Prophets consist of:

The three Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel). They are
considered major because they are the longest books in the collection.

The Dōdekaprophētōn (Dw,dekaprofhtw/n – Greek: The [Book of the]
Twelve Prophets). These prophets are: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah,
Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and
Malachi.

The Latter Prophets contributed a powerful new aspect to Israel‟s idea of self - namely the
conviction that Israel was not YHWH‟s People unless it was morally upright. From the time
of the Prophets onwards, ethical behaviour was considered as important as the cultic
worship of YHWH.
The prophetic books are not self-contained books, but collections. This is very
obvious in the case of the Dōdekaprophētōn. Biblical scholarship has shown that the
Book of Isaiah can be divided into three collections:

Proto-Isaiah (Isa 1-39). This is the collection connected with the actual
prophet.

Deutero-Isaiah (Isa 40-55).

Trito-Isaiah (Isa 56-66). The authors of Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah remain
unknown.

As will be seen later, even the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel can be shown to be
collections. This course will study the following prophets: Amos, Hosea, the Major
Prophets, Zephaniah, Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah.




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© Prophets of Ancient Israel and Judah: §1 – Introduction to the Old Testament

1.1.5 The Kětûvîm

In modern editions of the Hebrew Bible the Kětûvîm consist of twelve books:
Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel,
Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles. In the Greek version of the OT (The Septuagint - LXX), the
collection is expanded, reordered, and relocated by the inclusion of Tobit, Maccabees,
Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, as well as additions to Daniel and Esther. Ruth, for instance, is
used to form a bridge between Judges and Kings, and the other narrative books are
grouped with the histories to which they are purported to refer. Modern Christian versions
have tended to follow essentially the LXX order, sometimes making a further division
between “historical” and “wisdom” books. It is possible to speak of certain types of literature
within the Writings. The principal types are as follows:

History Writing: there are three major collections - the Chronicler’s History
(1 and 2 Chron) which retraces the entire history of Israel from creation to
exile, and is largely a repeat of the history contained in the Deuteronomistic
history of the books of Samuel and Kings. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah
recount the history of the return from the Exile and the restoration of
Jerusalem and Temple as the cult centre of the re-established Israel under
Persian domination. The books of Maccabees tell the story of the Hellenistic
crisis, which arose under the successors of Alexander the Great.

Short Stories (Novellas): Under this heading can be placed Ruth, Tobit,
Esther, and Judith. Some of these are master-pieces of literary artistry and
deserve close attention.

Collections of Poetry and Songs: This collection includes cultic poems
(Psalms) of widely-differing genres and origins; love poems (Song of Songs)
and laments (Lamentations).

Wisdom Writings: Three books of “Wisdom Writings” are to be found in the
Hebrew OT - Proverbs, Job, Qoheleth but wisdom influence is to be found
elsewhere, notably in the Psalms. The term is also applied to two books in
the extended canon: the Book of Wisdom and the Book of Jesus Ben Sira.

Apocalypse: The Book of Daniel is of mixed type. While it has many of the
characteristics of short story, its main literary form is that of the apocalypse, a
type of writing which began to emerge in the post-exilic period, reached its full
flowering in the events of the Maccabean crisis and continued to exercise an
influence on both Qumran and the New Testament.






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© Prophets of Ancient Israel and Judah: §1 – Introduction to the Old Testament

3A schematic outline is given of the Hebrew Bible below. The following
p pabbreviations are used: P = Pentateuch; F = Former Prophets; L = Latter
pProphets; M = Major Prophets; Δ = Dôdekaprophêtôn


THE HEBREW BIBLE

Torâ Nĕvî’îm Kĕtûvîm

pGenesis P Joshua F Psalms
pExodus P Judges F Proverbs
pLeviticus P 1,2 Samuel F Job
pNumbers P 1,2 Kings F Song of Songs
p pDeuteronomy P Isaiah L M Ruth
p pJeremiah L M Lamentations
p pEzekiel L M Qohelet
pHosea L Δ Esther
pJoel L Δ Daniel
pAmos L Δ Ezra
pObadiah L Δ Nehemiah
pJonah L Δ 1,2 Chronicles
pMicah L Δ
pNahum L Δ
pHabakkuk L Δ
pZephaniah L Δ
pHaggai L Δ
pZechariah L Δ
pMalachi L Δ

DEUTEROCANONICAL / APOCRYPHAL BOOKS

Baruch Tobit
Letter of Jeremiah Judith
Esther (Additions)
Wisdom of Solomon
Wisdom of Ben Sira
Daniel (Additions)
1,2 Maccabees

TANAK + DEUTEROCANONICAL BOOKS =
CATHOLIC OLD TESTAMENT




3 Collins, Hebrew Bible, 4-5.
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© Prophets of Ancient Israel and Judah: §1 – Introduction to the Old Testament

A COMPARISON OF THE CONTENT OF THE HEBREW BIBLE
AND OF THE CHRISTIAN OLD TESTAMENT


In the Beginning, (And These Are) The
Names, (And YHWH) Called (To
Moses), (And YHWH Said To Moses) Torâ (Canonized 400 BCE)
In The Wilderness, These Are The
Words (Which Moses Spoke).


PENTATEUCH (Canonized 1546 CE) Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers,
Deuteronomy.

Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2
Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel,
Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Nĕvî’îm (Canonized 200 BCE)
Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah,
Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations,
Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel,
PROPHETS (Canonized 1546 CE) Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum,
Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai,
Zechariah, Malachi.

Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of
Songs, Qohelet, Lamentations, Esther, Kĕtûvîm (Canonized 150 CE)
Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 & 2
Chronicles.


WISDOM BOOKS (Canonized 1546 Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Qohelet, Song
CE) of Songs, The Book of Wisdom, Ben
Sira.

Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1
HISTORICAL BOOKS (Canonized & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra,
Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, 1 & 2 1546 CE)
Maccabees.





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© Prophets of Ancient Israel and Judah: §1 – Introduction to the Old Testament

41.2 The People and Lands of the OT

Ancient history can be divided into three major periods that get their names from the
5type of tools used by humans: the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. The
Stone Age lasted from pre-historic times down to the period about 3500 BCE. The Bronze
Age, which followed, lasted until about 1200-1100 BCE. The Iron Age began about 1200
BCE. Strictly speaking, OT history lies only in the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age.
However, many of the Ancient Near East's most important ideas and cultural patterns were
already set in the last BCE centuries of the Stone Age as people moved from a nomadic
and hunting life-style to settled urban and agricultural life. This change first took place in the
“Bible Lands,” stretching from the Mediterranean seacoast of Palestine and Turkey
eastward to modern Iran. This was the beginning of civilization, and it took place in the
period between about 9000 BCE and the beginning of the Bronze Age about 3500 BCE.
The term Ancient Near East (ANE) covers more territory than our modern term
6Middle East. It includes the country of Egypt, all of Palestine and Syria along the eastern
coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in
modern Iraq, Persia (the modern state of Iran), and Turkey, which was the homeland of a
number of peoples and states. It also included all of Arabia, even though little mention is
made of it in the OT. Different ethnic groups often lived side by side. The largest number
belonged to what we call the Semitic family, a classification based mostly on the type of
language spoken. These Semitic peoples were: the Akkadians (Babylonians and
Assyrians), Arabs, Arameans, Canaanites, Moabites, Edomites, Ammonites, and Hebrews.
There were other non-Semitic peoples. The earliest city-state rulers in the ANE, the
Sumerians, were of a language family quite distinct from any known today, while Hurrians
and Hittites and Persians are all related to the Indo-European family of language from
which Greek, Latin and German come. For OT study, the most important linguistic family is
Semitic, because the language of the OT is mostly Hebrew with only a little Aramaic in the
Books of Ezra and Daniel.



4 Boadt, Old Testament, 28-51.
5The Major archaeological time periods in the ANE are: Paleolithic or Old Stone Age (100000-
12000 BCE); Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age (12000-7500 BCE); Chalcolithic or Copper-Stone
period (7500-4000 BCE); Neolithic or New Stone Age (4000-3150 BCE); Early Bronze Age (3150-
2200); Middle Bronze Age (2200-1550 BCE); Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 BCE); Iron Age (1200-
586 BCE); Persian Period (586-332 BCE); Hellenistic Period (332-37 BCE) and Roman Period (37-
324 CE).
6 Collins, Hebrew Bible, 25-46.






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© Prophets of Ancient Israel and Judah: §1 – Introduction to the Old Testament

1.2.1 The Egyptians

In ancient times, as they still do today, the Egyptians lived on and farmed a narrow
band of land along the last 1600 km stretch of the Nile River, which flowed northward for
6500 km from central Africa to the Mediterranean. This narrow band of cultivated green is
never more than 20 km across except for its last 160 km when it widens into a lush delta
area nearly 260 km wide. Huge sand deserts surround this narrow band of life, and beyond
the river valley only a few oases exist to support any settled population. It was here that one
of the greatest of ancient civilizations arose, prospered, and maintained its way of life from
3000 until 500 BCE. From the beginning, Egypt was the “Two Lands,” “Upper” and “Lower”
Egypt. Around 3000 BCE, a king of Upper Egypt, Menes, conquered the Delta people, and
joined Lower and Upper Egypt into one nation. But from that time on, the pharaohs always
used two titles, wore two separate crowns, governed two regions. While the Egyptians were
7African in race, they were Semitic in outlook.

1.2.2 The Semitic Peoples
(a) The Sumerians

The beginning of the Bronze Age about 3500 BCE also saw the rise of the
Sumerians in lower Mesopotamia on the marshes and fields between the Tigris and
Euphrates Rivers. While their origins are unknown, they came possibly from Iran. They built
cities and large irrigation projects. Their major urban centres were Eridu, Uruk, Nippur and
Ur. They invented writing about 3200 BCE as well as an advanced mathematics based.
They seemed to have developed the cart wheel, the potter's wheel, the first systematic law
books, the idea of collections of proverbs and wisdom sayings, and formal schools.
Thousands of Sumerian tablets with writing on them have been found. These attest to the
fact that the Sumerians originally governed their city-states by an assembly of free citizens
drawn from different classes: elders, nobles and priests. In the period from 3000-2400 BCE
the local assembly gave way to the idea of divinely appointed kings who ruled as the god's
regent or deputy.

(b) The Akkadians

About 2400 BCE, Sargon of Akkad became the first great Semitic ruler to break the
power of Sumer. Akkad was a town in the middle of Mesopotamia, and from there Sargon
and his grandson built an empire that extended westward even into Syria. Apart from its
Semitic language, the Akkadians borrowed most of their cultural ideas from the Sumerians
before them. In the period from 2050-1950 BCE the Sumerians regained control under the
rulers of the city of Ur, but otherwise the Akkadians controlled Mesopotamia for the next
1800 years, until Cyrus the Great of Persia created his empire in the sixth century.

7 For the thirty dynasties of Ancient Egypt see Boadt, Old Testament, 38-40.


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© Prophets of Ancient Israel and Judah: §1 – Introduction to the Old Testament

After the fall of Sumerian power and the short-lived empire of Sargon from Akkad,
northern and southern Mesopotamia gradually developed in different directions. The
southern half, usually called “Babylonia” after the chief city of the region, Babylon, remained
the cultural centre and universally admired model of true civilization for all Ancient Near
Eastern peoples. The northern half, called Assyria, after its chief power, developed strong
trading connections with other nations and was more warlike. Both territories were settled
by closely related Semitic peoples and shared the same language and general culture. In
the period 2000-1000 BCE, Assyria never reached the status of a world empire, although
Babylon had two centuries of greatness under King Hammurabi and his successors (1750-
1550 BCE).

(c) The Babylonians

Although Babylon had reached world power under Hammurabi, it did not achieve
true independence until the reign of King Nabopolassar and his son Nebuchadnezzer
(625-562 BCE). Babylon was revered for its art, literature and science. The Babylonian
language was used all over the ANE as the common diplomatic language between nations.
Even Egypt's pharaoh used it to write the cities of Palestine. Copies of its literary
masterpieces, such as the Gilgamesh epic have been found not only in Egypt and Palestine
but also even in the Hittite capital of Hattusas in northern Turkey.

(d) The Assyrians

Assyria became a world power in the tenth century when it began to expand to the
north and west and to form an empire based on a policy of the deportation of peoples,
threats of brutal retaliation, and a tightly controlled province system for conquered lands. In
the ninth century, the Assyrian kings, Ashurnasirpal II (884-859 BCE) and his son
Shalmaneser III (858-824 BCE), extended their power over most of Syria right to the
borders of the northern kingdom of Israel. In 745 BCE, a new king, Tiglath-pileser III
(745-727 BCE), took the throne and began a reorganization of the empire and revitalized
his army. In order to better hold conquered peoples in line, he introduced the policy of mass
deportations of whole cities after they were taken. It became the standard Assyrian policy
from that time on. From Tiglath-Pileser in 745 BCE down to the fall of Nineveh in 612 BCE,
which ended Assyrian power forever, every ruler in Israel and Judah and every prophet
were concerned with the question of Assyrian relations. Crucial moments include: the
rebellion of the northern kingdom and its total destruction by Shalmaneser V (727-722 BCE
and Sargon II (722-705 BCE) in 722 BCE, the invasion of Judah by Sennacherib (705-
681 BCE) in 701BCE, and the revolt of Josiah in 628-622 BCE. The last great king of
Assyria was Ashurbanipal (669-63i or 627 BCE), who left a large library of ancient literary
works, many in Sumerian. After his death the empire quickly collapsed. By 609 BCE, the
Assyrian nation was no more, fallen to a coalition of Babylonians and Medes.




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© Prophets of Ancient Israel and Judah: §1 – Introduction to the Old Testament

(e) The Peoples of Syria

The discoveries at Ugarit in 1929 CE, in which thousands of tablets from before 1200
were found, and from Ebla, a nearby city, from which nearly sixteen thousand tablets from
2400 BCE or earlier have been found, have opened up a whole new view of the rich cultural
achievements of the Western Semitic peoples. The documents written in Ugaritic reveal a
religious and social life that matches the picture painted by biblical books about the native
Canaanites of Palestine. Scholars are now certain that the religious ideas, which the
Israelites encountered in Palestine, were much closer to the thought of the peoples of Syria
and Phoenicia (modern Lebanon) than they were to those of the Akkadians. Ugarit itself
was a flourishing seaport and trading centre. Its most important contribution to biblical study
is the number of religious epics and rituals that reveal the religious ideas of the Canaanites
in their own words. Ugarit was completely destroyed about 1200 by an invasion from the
sea. In its last years it was a vassal state of the Hittite empire.
Aram represents a later group of Syrian city-states formed after 1300 BCE. In the
ninth century Damascus became an important kingdom under Ben Hadad and Hazael. It
8was able to hold its own against Israel, and was only kept from attacking Palestine
successfully by the constant threat from the Assyrians behind them. The control of these
Aramean states became the chief aim of Assyrian expansion under Tiglath-Pileser III in the
eighth century.
Finally, the Phoenicians occupied the coastal cities of Byblos, Tyre, Sidon and Beirut
and created an economy built on shipping. They developed the alphabet, a major advance
over the awkward cuneiform writing of the Babylonians, which required hundreds of signs in
order to read or write. Their simple system of vowels and consonants was borrowed by the
Greeks about 1000 and forms the basis of our written language. The zenith of Phoenician
culture and commerce was in the tenth and ninth centuries; yet, it was still a power in
commerce as late as the sixth century.

(f) The Philistines

The Philistines are first recorded in Canaan around 1200 BCE. The Egyptians
recorded attacks by a group called the “Sea Peoples” in the early twelfth century, and one
of these groups had a name similar to the later Philistines. These Sea Peoples, whose
origins were in the area of southern Russia, represent a wave of non-Semitic invaders who
came through Greece, western Turkey, Crete and on to Canaan. The Philistine invaders
settled along the southern coastal area and formed a pentopolis or tight alliance of five city-
states: Ekron, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza and Gath. This happened about the time of the
Israelite settlement in Canaan. About 1050 BCE or so, a major expansion of the Philistines
into the hills where Israel had settled took place. Israel suffered several major defeats. The
crisis caused by these attacks was the catalyst for the establishment of monarchy in Israel.

8 1 Kgs 20 – 2 Kgs 8.




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