Prophets (Nevi'im)

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Within the narrative of Nevi’im Rishonim we encounter the first individual prophets, known to scholars as "preclassical" prophets. Samuel was known as a "seer"; Elijah and Elisha foretold drought and famine and called forth miracles from God. What links these prophets with the classical prophets of the Nevi’im Aharonim is their role vis-a-vis the political leaders of Israel. Nathan confronted David over his affair with Bathsheba; Elijah stood against Ahab when the king confiscated Naboth's vineyard.

elijah the prophet

Elijah

 Nevi’im Aharonim contains the prophecies and teachings of individual prophets, mostly recorded in verse. The books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel are the longest. They are followed by the books known collectively in Jewish tradition as the Trei Asar, "the 12"--shorter books of other prophets such as Amos, Micah, Hosea, and Jonah.

Amos and Hosea were prophets in the northern kingdom of Israel. Both prophets warned the nation that its turn away from God's covenant would lead to destruction by the Assyrians. Isaiah and Micah carried a similar message in Judah. Jeremiah delivered his prophecies of doom as the Babylonians approached and captured Jerusalem.

From exile in Babylonia, Ezekiel envisioned the restoration of Israel to its land. The last half of the book of Isaiah contains words of comfort and promise from one or two anonymous prophets speaking in exile. The last prophets spoke in Judea to those who had returned to rebuild the Temple.

The prophets before the exile spoke against idolatry and injustice. They saw God's people trusting in the Canaanite god Baal, in alliances with foreign powers, and in the power of Temple sacrifices to manipulate God's protection. They targeted the corruption of kings and elites who were recreating Egyptian oppression in the Promised Land. They critiqued not only the monarchies but the Temple cult as well, with the message that without justice and fair treatment in society, God would find sacrificial devotion to be hypocrisy.

Yet the prophetic role in the Nevi’im Aharonim was not simply to critique leaders and society. The prophets intercede with God on behalf of the people and argue their case. They imagine the eventual revival of Israel in a messianic future of peace and justice--though to some later prophets, an unsparing divine judgment would come first.

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