Encountering the Old Testament, 3rd Edition

A Christian Survey

series: Encountering Biblical Studies


24. Introduction to the Prophets: Voices of God's Servants

Chapter Intro Video

Chapter Objectives

  • Explain the circumstances surrounding the dividing of Israel into northern and southern kingdoms
  • Trace the development of the Hebrew nation from Egyptian captivity to the age of the prophets
  • Summarize the basic content of the message of the classical prophets
  • Tell what the prophets were and what they weren’t
  • Compare the Hebrew prophets’ work with similar activities in other Near Eastern nations
  • Explain how the messages of the prophets were recorded
  • Relate the common themes of the prophets
  • Identify the prophets who prophesied during the following periods: Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian dominations.

Chapter Summary

  1. The classical prophets addressed all people, informed them of God’s wrath against their sin, warned of approaching judgment, called people to repentance, and proclaimed God’s salvation to all who would turn to him.
  2. Prophets were not hysterical babblers, fortune tellers, or religious extremists.
  3. Prophets were alike in that their hearts were devoted to God, they had a strong sense of calling, they were God’s messengers, they proclaimed God’s truth, they revealed the future, and they used a variety of literary and oral methods to communicate their messages.
  4. Although Babylonian omen texts do represent an attempt to discern the will of the gods, they have little in common with biblical prophecy.
  5. The ecstatics of Mari (mu??û) spoke only to the royal household, while the Hebrew prophets brought messages for all the people.
  6. Biblical prophecy differed from other prophetic types of activity in the Near East because it addressed the whole nation, it focused on people’s attitudes, it contained a moral imperative, and it looked at the far-reaching implications of people’s actions.
  7. Nonliterary prophets—those who did not write down their messages—tended to focus on the king and his court.
  8. Prophets’ messages were recorded by themselves, scribes, or disciples.
  9. Common prophetic themes included covenant obligations, the day of the Lord, and the Messiah.
  10. The prophets Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, and Zephaniah prophesied during the period of Assyrian domination.
  11. King Hammurapi of Babylon is best known for his law code.
  12. The prophets who prophesied during the period of Babylonian domination were Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Obadiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah.
  13. Joel, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi ministered during the period of Persian domination.

Study Questions

  1. Describe the historical and spiritual circumstances that led to the rise of classical prophecy. Why were the prophets an essential part of God’s plan for his people?
  2. What are some characteristics that all prophets shared?
  3. What parallels to biblical prophecy did other nations have? How is biblical prophecy unique?
  4. What are some common themes of biblical prophecy?
  5. What three major empires formed the historical backdrop for the classical prophets? Describe the basic characteristics of each.