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COS 411 Hebrew Bible II. Dr. Rodney K. Duke. DAY 5 Assign: Homework : Love Jesus and love your people. Day Objectives: Identify the nature of biblical prophecy and prophetic literature. Identify reasons for reading the prophets and look at some key prophetic texts

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cos 411 hebrew bible ii

COS 411 Hebrew Bible II

Dr. Rodney K. Duke

  • Assign:
  • Homework:
  • Love Jesus and love your people.
  • Day Objectives:
  • Identify the nature of biblical prophecy and prophetic literature.
  • Identify reasons for reading the prophets and look at some key prophetic texts
  • Evaluate the NT writers’ use of the OT prophetic literature.
  • Explain the nature of apocalyptic literature.
C. 1. Obj.: Explore why and how prophetic words might have been recorded. (Case study)


a) (T) For what reasons, by whom, and in what form might this message have been preserved initially? How much would you expect the initial preservation to agree in form and content with what was literally spoken?

b) (T) For what reasons, by whom, and in what form would this account have been preserved for later generations? How much would you expect this later account to agree in form and content with the first account?

c) (W) What would you as a modern audience need to do or find out in order to understand the message as fully as possible? What comparisons and contrast to this process would you expect to apply to the message of the biblical prophets?

Point: Following generations must have believed that what happened had continuing meaning/application. They might have preserved the account partly orally and partly in writing..

C. 2. Obj.: Form an overview of OT Prophets and Prophecy.

Prequestion (W): Define "prophet," and "prophecy" based on your own understanding.

Read a Bible dictionary article on “prophets, prophecy.”

(W) Explain how your definitions would change. If they would not change, what is something new that you learned?

Prophetic Books: Difficulties (1 of 3)

Factors which make them difficult to read:

a) Not designed as "books" in modern sense. They are deposits or collections of the messages and activities of prophets along with historical and biographical elements.

b) Oracular style (poetic speeches) full of images and allusions - difficult for modern audience to follow.

c) The speeches were for specific occasions, the details of which are often lost; and were subsequently written for use by secondary audiences (i.e. they have been moved from an oral, specific context into a written more general context). It is difficult to reconstruct the original setting of the prophet's activities and speeches. (Like listening in to one half of a phone call.)


Hi, Pat. How're you doing?

Oh, that sounds bad. Do you think you will be able to stop the bleeding or will you need stitches?

Well then, as I recall you need to put 1/2 cup of mayonnaise on top of it.

Okay. Bye.

Prophetic Books: Difficulties (2 of 3)

Hi Shawn. This is Pat.

Well not too well at the moment. I was calling to ask how much mayonnaise goes on top of that 7-layer salad you told me about. But I had just cut my finger chopping up some celery and didn’t realize until after I dialed your number that it’s bleeding pretty badly.

I'm going to have to run to the sink and see if I can get this stopped. I hope I won't need any stitches. But first, how much mayonnaise do I need?

Thanks. Gotta run.

Prophetic Books: Difficulties (3 of 3)

d) They have often been shaped by two processes:

1) the original ministry and message(s) of the prophet, and

2) the selective arranging process of later editors producing a "book" with a new form and message.

It is now often difficult to reconstruct the process of development of a prophetic book into the final written form and get back to the original historical setting and original purpose.

Apparently the community of faith was not interested in historical reconstruction as much as application!

Why Read the Prophets?
  • (C. 3. Summarize what you learned about the prophets.)
  • Poetic value: Nahum 3:1-5
  • NIV Nahum 3:1-5a:Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! 2 The crack of whips, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses and jolting chariots! 3 Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses-- 4 all because of the wanton lust of a harlot, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft. 5 "I am against you," declares the LORD Almighty.

Assyrian battle of Til-Tubal.

Assignment #10

Obj.: Explore the prophetic literature.

Read: Nahum.

(W) Develop and write out any one main observation, question,

reaction, or comment you have about this prophetic text.

Do not retell the content.


issues raised by nahum
Issues Raised by Nahum
  • Why is God so "wrathful"?
  • Why would a loving God punish anyone?
  • Is God, as presented in the NT, more loving than God as presented in the OT?

Battle of Til-Tuba

How do you define "love"?

Is it “unloving” to punish people for crimes?

How do you define "righteous" and "just"?

Is it “just” to ignore crimes people commit?

Is a just God unloving and a loving God unjust? Is there a balance?


What is the story of the Book of Jonah about?

Why was it included in the Hebrew canon? Does it balance Nahum?

Why Read the Prophets?
  • (C. 3. set “a”)
  • Insight into others' personal struggles with God:
  • Isa 6, Jer 1, Ezek 1-2: “call” of these prophets, each felt unworthy, each faced with difficult task.
  • Jeremiahs’ struggles with his calling (“Laments”)
2) Insight into others' personal struggles with God

NIV Jeremiah 20:7-18

O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. 8 Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long.

9 But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.

10 I hear many whispering, "Terror on every side! Report him! Let's report him!" All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, "Perhaps he will be deceived; then we will prevail over him and take our revenge on him."

NIV Jeremiah 20:7-18 cont.

11 But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten. 12 O LORD Almighty, you who examine the righteous and probe the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have committed my cause. 13 Sing to the LORD! Give praise to the LORD! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.

14 Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! 15 Cursed be the man who brought my father the news, who made him very glad, saying, "A child is born to you-- a son!" 16 May that man be like the towns the LORD overthrew without pity. May he hear wailing in the morning, a battle cry at noon. 17 For he did not kill me in the womb, with my mother as my grave, her womb enlarged forever. 18 Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?

C. 7. Obj.: Explore the “life” of a prophet.

Case study on Jeremiah, “Being A Prophet”

Why Read the Prophets?

(C. 3. set “b”)

3) Call to morality and values (popular in 3rd world countries): Isa 1:10-20, Jer 2:1-13: called people to repentance, etc.

NIV Hosea 6:6

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

3) Call to morality and values

NIV Micah 6:1-8

Listen to what the LORD says: "Stand up, plead your case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say. 2 Hear, O mountains, the LORD's accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. For the LORD has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel.

3 "My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me. 4 I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam. 5 My people, remember what Balak king of Moab counseled and what Balaam son of Beor answered. Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD."

NIV Micah 6:1-8 cont.

6 With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly [carefully?] with your God.

כִּי אִם־עֲשֹׂות מִשְׁפָּט וְאַהֲבַת חֶסֶד וְהַצְנֵעַ לֶכֶת עִם־אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ׃

Call to morality, based on Holiness of God in Isaiah: (1 of 5)

NIV Isaiah 5:20-24 20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. 22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks, 23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent. 24 Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw and as dry grass sinks down in the flames, so their roots will decay and their flowers blow away like dust; for they have rejected the law of the LORD Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.

Holiness of God in Isaiah: (2 of 5)

NIV Isaiah 40:12-13 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? 13 Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor?

NIV Isaiah 40:25-28 "To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One. 26 Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. 27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God"? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

Holiness of God in Isaiah: (3 of 5)

NIV Isaiah 40:13-14 Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? 14 Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?

NIV Isaiah 45:11-12 "This is what the LORD says-- the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands? 12 It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts.

Holiness of God in Isaiah: (4 of 5)

NIV Isaiah 48:17-19 This is what the LORD says-- your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. 18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. 19 Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains; their name would never be cut off nor destroyed from before me.“

NIV Isaiah 55:8-9 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. 9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Holiness of God in Isaiah: (5 of 5)

Yet this same Holy One says:

“Come near to me and listen” (48:16);

“I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear: I will help you.’” (41:13);

“Your Maker is your husband” (54:5);

Unity of Isaiah?

One, two, or three “Isaiah’s”?

Specific name “Cyrus” and change to exilic and then post-exilic perspectives not “typical” of prophetic texts.

School of Isaiah?

Commentary and development of Isaiah? (Foresight into Babylonian trouble found in 1st half.)

Brevard Childs: canonical criticism/reading, canonical theology

Why read prophets? (2 of 2)

(C. 3. set “c”)

4) Hope for future:The prophets looked forward to a perfect time when God's rule would be established and all people would "know" God.

4) Hope for future

NIV Isaiah 11:1-9

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD-- 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

NIV Isaiah 11:1-9

6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

4) Hope for future

NIV Jeremiah 31:31-34

"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. 33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

Assignment #11

Obj.: Explore the nature of prophetic literature.

a) Read Ezekiel 3:16-21; 14:12-23; ch 18; and 33:1-9. (See also Jer. 31:27-30 and Exodus 34:6-7.) (W) Write out your reflection on what Ezekiel thought about his role as a prophet and what he thought about individual responsibility.

b) Skim through the texts on Ezekiel’s symbolic activities (Section C. of “Themes and Characteristics of Ezekiel’s Prophecy” (handout, p. 36). Pick out one of those symbolic acts and (W) write out your reflection on what you think the message and impact would have been on Ezekiel’s audience.

c) (T) Is there a place in the “pulpit” today for dramatic actions rather than sermons?

C. 14. Study a prophetic book.

Any questions about the “Prophets Research Form”?

Did it help?

  • Pre-Exilic
  • God is active in and sovereign over history.
  • God's ultimate rule would be established in the distant future.
  • Called people to faithfulness, away from idolatry.
  • Called people to righteous behavior (vs. meaningless ritual).
  • "Day of the LORD" will bring judgment on Israel, not just the nations.
  • Called leaders (kings, priest, judges) into accountability.
  • Called nation to depend on strength of God, not themselves or other nations.
  • Judgment was coming unless there was repentance; finally, judgment was inevitable.
  • Zion and the Temple were not invulnerable, God would abandon them in judgment.
  • Exilic
  • God was still with the nation, even in exile.
  • Called people to avoid idolatry and practice righteousness.
  • Promise of restoration, new covenant, nations would recognize God.
  • Post-Exilic
  • Called people and leaders to make God their priority, establish the cultic forms of worship and tithe.
  • Assured people that God was working through their current leaders despite their lack of independence.
  • Promise of restoration and ultimate rule of God.
Assignment #12
  • Obj.: Explore the nature of the Book of Jonah.
  • Read the book of Jonah and list (N) all of the unusual features (events, style, form, etc.) that you find, particularly when you think about it in comparison with the prophetic literature.
  • b) (T) Is Jonah prophetic literature? Why do you think Jonah was included in the Hebrew Bible/OT? What rhetorical functions does the book seem to have?
  • c) (N) How would you describe the genre of the Book of Jonah?
  • (Next slide)

Caution: The issue of genre is not determined by a conflict between world views. (E.g. Belief in demonic activity.)

In an honest communication process, we give genre clues to signal to our audience, whether we are speaking fictional or historical narrative. (E.g. “Once upon a time.” “Barbourville, AP”)

(a) Are there unusual narrative features in Jonah, which might be genre clues? What?

(b) Why was Jonah included in the canon? What seems to be the rhetorical intentions of Jonah? How do you think the Jewish audience was supposed to respond?

(I have not been able to discover when the following tradition began, but Jonah is traditionally read on the Day of Atonement.)

(c) Thoughts about the genre of Jonah?

Duke: Personal note.

I put more weight on the fallibility of the human mind than I do on the “assured results” of biblical scholarship.

At the same time, I try not to force my expectations on the Bible, but to “go with” what I find there and let it define itself.

How did the New Testament Writers “Read” the Prophets?

Main issue: Were the prophetic messages univalent (one meaning or application only) or polyvalent (more than one meaning or application)?

Case illustration: Read Matthew 1:18-23 and Isaiah 7:13-16 in its context of the Syro-Ephraimitic War of 734 BCE.

Does the prophetic word apply only to Isaiah’s day?

Does the prophetic word apply only to Matthew’s day?

Does it apply somehow to both times?

Discuss in groups/class

  • Other issues:
    • translation of “young woman” vs. “virgin”
    • b) pesher interpretation at Qumran, leads to:
  • “Liberal” position (NT writers’ suspicious use of OT) vs. “conservative” position (7:14 must mean “virgin”) feud.
Duke: Towards a Resolution

Oral culture vs. written: power of the spoken word.

I HATE you!

God’s word is dynamic, living, efficacious.

Therefore, the NT writers, inspired by God, had no trouble seeing the prophet words as polyvalent. (Pesherinterpretation: “This which happened today, is that which was said by God through the prophets.”)

How Matthew(?) might have come to realize this: (my imagined story.)

Daniel (1 of 5)

Genre: apocalyptic, with narratives

Nature of Apocalyptic:

Setting: "underground" literature of oppressed people (primarily Jewish) for whom symbolic language is a "code" not to be understood by oppressors.

Form: narrated accounts of visions and dreams, often with angelic interpretation; heavy use of symbolism: numbers and strange animals, many in fantasy forms rather than realistic forms.

Function: set present struggle in light of cosmic, spiritual perspective and in light of ultimate victorious outcome, in order to guide and encourage audience to be faithful. (Daniel 3:16-18)

Main theses: God is in control of history; conditions will not improve in this age; one is to live faithfully until God ushers in Age to Come / Kingdom of God.

Daniel (2 of 5)

Interpretive Approaches to Book of Daniel [Revelation]:

Preterist: focuses on original historical setting, what the text meant. Weakness: ignores what text "means" to community of faith.

Historicist: interprets as forecast of course of history (up to time of interpreter). Weakness: very subjective, little agreement, tends to ignore what text meant.

Futurist: reads as a guide book for events yet to come. Weakness: ignores what text meant and what it means to contemporary community.

Idealist: interprets as a timeless expression of basic principles regarding the activities of God and the community of faith. Weakness: sees no ultimate consummation of Kingdom of God in history.

Daniel (3 of 5)

Duke: Suggested "Blended" Approach: Typologico-historical:

1) Start with preterist perspective to ground symbolic language in its original setting, while

2) recognizing historicist perspective that text speaks of a real historical consummation of Kingdom of God, the pattern of which,

3) applies typologically (idealist) to the ongoing experiences of the community of faith.

Daniel (4 of 5)

Suggested Reading Tips/Strategies:

1) Read for overall story-line and message of the whole work.

2) Read each vision looking for the impact of the whole. Do not focus on and allegorize all of the details.

3) Explore allusions to other OT texts to get some control over the symbols and theological perspective.

4) Look for internal interpretation of images.

5) Recognize distinction between "oppression," which is the experience of the community of faith and "wrath," which is judgment on the opponents of God.

6) Identify how events fit typologically with the current setting of the community of faith and look for the book's message for such situations today, but exercise great caution about reading as blueprint for specific historical events.

Daniel (5 of 5)

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons ca. 139-200, said:

[In regard to using the number 666 in the Book of Revelation to

predict the person of the Antichrist]

“It is therefore more certain, and less hazardous, to await the fulfillment of the prophecy, than to be making surmises, and casting about for any names that may present themselves, inasmuch as many names can be found possessing the number mentioned; and the same question will, after all, remain unsolved.”

Against Heresies, Book V. in The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand

Rapids: Eerdmans, reprinted 1973), vol. 1, xxx. 3, p.559.

C. 15. Obj.: Reflect on the value of the prophetic literature for Christian faith and practice.

(W) Based on the above assignments regarding the prophets, explain, as if speaking to a member of your congregation, why it is valuable for Christians to read and study the Old Testament prophets.