REL1010 The Old Testament Story discussion

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The Prophetic Literature I: An Introduction to Prophetic Literature and the Book of Isaiah

Read:
Chapter 10 -The Old Testament Story (During Israel's final days God spoke to his people through men who were prepared to go to great lengths to warn Israel that its sin would bring judgment and that redemption was available to a repentant people.)
Isaiah

1.

What were the three major crises in Israel that the prophetic literature responds to?


2.

Do you think Isaiah's advice to Ahaz in the Syro-Ephraimitic crisis was sound? Explain your answer.


3.

How did Hezekiah prepare for a possible invasion by the Assyrians during Sennacherib's reign?


4.

What are the five major sections into which Isaiah 1-39 can be divided, and what is the central idea in each part?


5.

What are the Servant Songs?


The Prophetic Literature II: The Scrolls of Jeremiah and Ezekiel

Read:
Chapter 11 -The Old Testament Story (A weeping prophet, a valley of dry bones and a temple beyond description. )
Jeremiah & Ezekiel

6.

What is unusual about Jeremiah's call to be a prophet?


7.

What advice did Jeremiah give the exiles, and why did he feel it necessary to give such advice?


8.

What appears to be Ezekiel's understanding of his call experience?


9.

Compare Ezekiel's view of individual responsibility to that of Jeremiah.


10.

What was the meaning of Ezekiel's vision in the valley of dry bones?


The Prophetic Literature III: The Book of the Twelve and the Continuation of the Prophetic Tradition

Read:
Chapter 12 -The Old Testament Story (Lesser known prophets continue the message of judgement and restoration found in the "big three" (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel))
Hosea through Malachi

11.

What problems are raised by God's command to Hosea to marry a prostitute? How do different biblical interpreters address this problem?


12.

What do the Oracles Against the Nations (Amos 1:3-2:5) say about Amos's doctrine of God?


13.

Compare Isaiah's attitude toward Jerusalem with that of Micah.


14.

Why might Habakkuk be considered an early Jewish philosopher?

15.

How does the Book of Twelve function as a single book made up of twelve little books?

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CHAPTER 10 S A The Prophetic Literature I N F An Introduction to Prophetic Literature and the Book of Isaiah O R D , B Timeline E 735 B.C.E. Beginning of the reign of Ahaz and the Syro-Ephraimitic crisis T 715 B.C.E. Beginning of the reign of Hezekiah H 701 B.C.E. Sannacherib’s invasion A 700 B.C.E. Approximate beginning of the rise of the Babylonian Empire N 640 B.C.E. Beginning of the reign of Josiah Y 612 B.C.E. Fall of Ninevah 605 B.C.E. 597 B.C.E. 586 B.C.E. Beginning of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon First Deportation of Judahites to Babylon 1 3 Destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians Chapter Outline I. II. III. IV. An Introduction to Prophetic Literature Introduction to the Book of Isaiah A Survey of the Contents of the Book of Isaiah Summary of Isaiah 5 3 T S 208 The Old Testament Story, Ninth Edition, by John Tullock and Mark McEntire. Published by Pearson Learning Solutions. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc. Chapter 10 • The Prophetic Literature I CHAPTER OVERVIEW This chapter begins the discussion of a new kind of literature, so it opens with an introduction to Prophetic Literature, dealing with what it is, where it came from, and how it is related to the persons we refer to as prophets. A general introduction to theSfirst prophetic book in the canon, Isaiah, will identify issues specifically related to this example of prophetic literature. This introducA tion is followed by a more detailed survey of the contents of this sixty-six chapter book. The survey will describe the individual components of the book and attempt N to evaluate how they fit into the whole book. The position taken here is that the book of Isaiah is the product of many writers over F a period of two to three centuries. This is part of what provides the book such a complex nature. At O of Isaiah as we have received it is the same time, there is a sense that the finished form of the book about something, and we will search for the answer to the question, R “What is the book of Isaiah about?” even if our answers to this question can only be partial and provisional. D , AN INTRODUCTION TO PROPHETIC LITERATURE Definition B division of the canon. The eight Judaism uses the terms Prophets to designate the entire second books in this section are then divided into the Former Prophets E (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings) and the Later Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Book of the Twelve). For those T these designations can cause accustomed to reading the Bible within the Christian tradition, some confusion. Although books like Samuel and Kings haveHcharacters designated as prophets within them, Christianity has more often referred to the “Prophetic Literature” as the books that A have the names of specific prophets attached to them, beginning with the book of Isaiah, and N continuing through the book of Malachi. The Christian Old Testament also places two books that are not prophetic literature, Lamentations and Daniel, within this sequence of books. This chapY ter and the next two in this book will examine the fifteen books that fit into this category because they have the name of a prophetic figure attached to them and they are composed primarily of the work and words that emerged from the traditions surrounding 1 these prophetic figures. 3 5 during a period of about three These books designated as the Prophetic Literature were generated hundred years, from the middle of the eighth century to the middle 3 of the fifth century B.C.E. This time period is framed by what are often understood as the three major crises in Israel’s story. Twithin the narrative accounts of Previous chapters have dealt with these crises as they appear books like Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. The S Prophetic Literature might best Historical Context be understood as a particular kind of response to this part of Israel’s story. Although these books are complete literary works in their own right, knowing the historical background that gave rise to them will assist our understanding. The three major crises can all be portrayed as periods of several decades surrounding a focal event. Here is one scheme for doing that: The Assyrian Crisis —approximately 740–710 B.C.E. with the Assyrian destruction of the Northern Kingdom in 722 as its focal point. The Babylonian Crisis—approximately 610–550 B.C.E. with the Babylonian destruction of Judah in 586 as its focal point. The Old Testament Story, Ninth Edition, by John Tullock and Mark McEntire. Published by Pearson Learning Solutions. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc. 209 210 Chapter 10 • The Prophetic Literature I The Restoration Crisis —approximately 530–450 B.C.E. with the rebuilding of the temple in 520 as its focal point. All of the books that fall into the category of prophetic literature are responses to one or more of these crises. A few of the persons whose names are attached toS them, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Haggai, and Zechariah, appear as characters in the narratives we have been examining as the story of A names. Israel, while others we know only from the books that have their N F The prophetic books have been handed down in tradition to us in four large, complex scrolls, O each of which contains many different types of literary units. The primary type is the prophetic Rtwo primary types, salvation oraspeech or utterance most often called an oracle. These fall into cles and judgment oracles, but there are others that do not fit easily into these categories. Some of D the prophetic books present only these speeches, but others include various amounts of narrative material about the prophets themselves. One common type is ,the call narrative, which, usually in Prophetic Figures and Prophetic Scrolls first-person address, tells about the prophet’s initial experience in which God assigned him with a task and a message. There are also narratives about prophets performing symbolic actions, Binteracting with their audiences. rather than speaking in oracles, and stories about the prophets Because of this mixture of literary types, the relationships E between the prophets as people and the books that have their names on them varies, and can be the source of confusion. When Tnamed Isaiah or the book called we say “Isaiah,” for example, are we talking about the person Isaiah? Isaiah appears as a character only in a few places within Hthe book that shares his name, in Chapters 6–8, 20, and 36–39. Jeremiah, on the other hand, appears as a character frequently throughout almost the entire book of Jeremiah. The book of A Joel consists entirely of poetic oracles, and there is no character named Joel present at all in it.NThis is not the only way that the prophetic books extend beyond the persons with the same name. Many of these books show signs Y they are named for. The book of continued development long past the physical life of the person of Isaiah, for example, seems to have been written over a period of nearly three centuries. Parts of the book relate to all three of the Israelite crises listed above. Thus, the person named Isaiah, who 1 lived in Jerusalem in the eighth century, is the beginning point of this great scroll and its tradition 1 3 that Isaiah had disciples who rather than the author of the finished product. Isaiah 8:16 indicates preserved and continued his work, likely continuing to edit and expand the book of Isaiah for a 5 long time until it reached the form in which we have it. The book of Jeremiah is now present in 3 groups continued to develop and two quite different forms, indicating that perhaps two separate expand this scroll after the person called Jeremiah was gone. T S INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ISAIAH The Scope of the Book The book of Isaiah is a massive scroll, consisting of sixty-six chapters as they are now numbered. The composite nature of this work is evident in many ways. Isaiah 36–39 is an adapted edition of II Kings 18–20. In Isaiah 6, the prophet reports in first-person language about a divine encounter, a theophany, in which he was called to be a prophet, while Isaiah 7 is a story about a meeting between Isaiah and King Ahaz in the eighth century, and it refers to the prophet in the third-person. The person named Isaiah is never mentioned again after Chapter 39, and Isaiah 45 speaks about Cyrus, the king of Persia in the sixth century. These observations, among many others, lead most The Old Testament Story, Ninth Edition, by John Tullock and Mark McEntire. Published by Pearson Learning Solutions. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc. Chapter 10 • The Prophetic Literature I scholars to the conclusion that the book of Isaiah was produced by many people over a period of about three centuries. The greatest challenge may be how to read this book in its finished form as a unified work of literature. It has been common practice to divide the book of Isaiah into three parts. Some interS Isaiah (ch. 40–55), and Third preters go as far as to call these parts First Isaiah (ch. 1–39), Second Isaiah (ch. 56–66). The focus here will be on reading Isaiah as Aa unified work, but the observations that have led to these divisions can still prove helpful. Much of Isaiah 1–39 seems to have the Nprophet named Isaiah, who lived Assyrian Crisis of the eighth century as its background, and the in the eighth century, appears as a character in this part ofFthe book. The experience of the Babylonian Exile in the sixth century seems to be the background for most of Isaiah 40–55, in O which Cyrus, the Persian king who released the Israelites from this captivity, appears. Finally, the R restoration of worship in the second temple during the fifth century seems to be the most likely background for the final section of the book. The simplistic idea of three separate sections of the D book from different time periods laid end to end does not work well, however. Chapters 13, 20, , of 40–55, and Chapters 1–2 and and 33–34 seem more closely associated with the middle section 24–27 have strong connections to 56–66. This situation is better explained by the proposal that an original core of material closely associated with the prophet Isaiah underwent a series of major B massive work we now have. The and minor revisions over a long period of time, resulting in the E T H Summary of Arguments on Authorship of Isaiah A Single Author N 1. The oldest form of the book, the Dead Sea Scrolls manuscript, has the entire sixty-six chapters, Y much as it stands today. 2. 3. The primary emphasis in prophecy was on prediction. God enabled the prophets to see what would happen hundreds of years in the future. The author of the whole book, therefore, was Isaiah of Jerusalem in the eighth century B.C.E. 1 3 5 The prophets primarily spoke for their own time. The future they were most concerned with 2 3 was the immediate future. Isaiah 1–39 and 40–66 are different in a number of ways: T a. They differ in historical background: 1–39 was set in an eighth-century background, while 40–66 was set in the sixth and fifth centuries. S Multiple Authors 1. 2. b. They differ in style: 1–39 is narrative and constitutes typical prophetic oracles, while 40–66 is very elaborate poetry. c. They differ in their view of God: 1–39 speaks of the holiness of God, while 40–66 speaks of God as Creator. d. They differ in speaking of God’s representative: 1–39 speaks of the Messiah, while 40–66 speaks of the Suffering Servant. 3. Isaiah 45:1 specifically mentions Cyrus, who was the king of Persia in the sixth century B.C.E. 4. The most obvious explanation for these observations is that the book was produced by multiple people over a long period of time. The Old Testament Story, Ninth Edition, by John Tullock and Mark McEntire. Published by Pearson Learning Solutions. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc. 211 212 Chapter 10 • The Prophetic Literature I best strategy for reading the book of Isaiah includes the awareness that it is a composite work, the pieces of which have different historical contexts, but that the finished book is a deliberate work of literary art, which also has a context and a purpose. An additional benefit of this approach is that every generation needs to do the work of examining this prophetic tradition and using it to S engage the critical issues of our own context. A N The book of Isaiah begins with a superscription in 1:1 that introduces the prophet and places F him in Jerusalem during the eighth century. A second, briefer superscription appears in 2:1, raising questions about whether the original superscription, which O speaks of the “vision of Isaiah,” applies to the entire book or just the first chapter. Isaiah’s call narrative appears in chapter 6, an R odd placement, considering that call narratives in other prophetic books tend to appear at the D very beginning. There are two sets of stories about Isaiah’s interactions with two of Judah’s kings in Isaiah 7 (Ahaz) and Isaiah 36–39 (Hezekiah). Isaiah 2–5 and 9–12 contain numerous judgment , oracles, but oracles that seem to speak of salvation are also present. Isaiah 13–23 is a large collecSome Major Components of the Book tion of judgment oracles directed at other countries, such as Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, Moab, and Ammon, a collection often called the Oracles against the Nations. B In Isaiah 24–27 the language and perspective of the book change significantly, prompting many interpreters to refer to this Esignificantly in Isaiah 40 and the section as the Isaian Apocalypse. The voice of the book shifts chapters following this are dominated by salvation oracles. Mixed T in with these oracles about the salvation or redemption of Israel is a set of poems that refer to an unnamed figure as God’s servant. These Servant Songs are typically identified at 42:1–4, 39:1–6,H50:4–9, and 52:13–53:12. Once again, observations about these diverse components Aof the book highlight its composite nature, but they should also prompt us to ask, “What is the book of Isaiah about?” A more extenNquestion at the end of the chapter. sive survey of the book’s contents may enable us to return to this Y A SURVEY OF THE CONTENTS OF THE BOOK OF ISAIAH 1 3 Chapters 1–12 of Isaiah reflect the changing historical situations and the prophet’s reactions to those changes. There seems to be no pattern by which they are arranged, 5 except for certain catchwords that sometimes cause two oracles to be thrown together. For instance, Isaiah 1:9 mentions Sodom and 3 Gomorrah, using those cities to show the devastation that has come to the cities of Judah because of T lamenting Israel’s unfaithfulness: the sins of the people. The oracle, which begins in 1:2, is an oracle S Your country lies desolate, Isaiah 1–12 your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence aliens devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners. (1:7) Such a description fits well into the context of Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah in 701 B.C.E., when he captured city after city and laid siege to Jerusalem. The prophet’s only consolation is that if the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah. (1:9) The Old Testament Story, Ninth Edition, by John Tullock and Mark McEntire. Published by Pearson Learning Solutions. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc. Chapter 10 • The Prophetic Literature I The Literary Structure of Isaiah S The unity of the book of Isaiah is a much-debated issue. As the treatment of Isaiah in this book indiA cates, it falls rather easily into two sections, based upon the historical contexts assumed. Chapters 1–39 address the eighth century and the Assyrian crisis, and these N chapters involve the personal activity of Isaiah himself. Chapters 40–66 seem to address the sixth and fifth centuries in Israel, which F that followed the Exile. Thus, were dominated by the Babylonian crisis and the crisis of Restoration these sections have sometimes been labeled as First Isaiah and Second O Isaiah. Some analyses further separate Isaiah 56–66 from the rest of the book and label it Third Isaiah. R of composition lasting two or The argument that the book of Isaiah is the product of a process three centuries and involving a large number of individuals is almost certainly correct, but in recent D years more attention has been given to the final form of the book of Isaiah. This approach has raised, and attempted to answer, questions about the literary design of , the whole book, regardless of the process of composition that produced it. This work is still in progress, but some preliminary results are beginning to emerge. The gap between Chapters 39 and 40 is still significant, but rather than using this realization to divide Isaiah into two books, it may be appropriate B to ask how and why this material has been arranged in this way. Isaiah 36–39 becomes an important point of transition rather than E obedience and God’s deliverance a conclusion to the original book of Isaiah. The stories of Hezekiah’s in those chapters point back to the reluctance and disobedience of his father, Ahaz, in Isaiah 7–8. T They also point forward to the deliverance of the exiles in Isaiah 40–55, and further still to a future deliverance of Jerusalem that reflects its experience of salvation H in the past.3 The character named Isaiah does not appear often in the book, but the narratives that portray A cohesive elements in the first half this individual in Chapters 6–8, 20, and 37–39 serve as important of the book. Likewise, the character that the book of Isaiah refers N to as the servant, who appears in four poems in 42:1–4, 49:1–6, 50:4–11, and 52:13–53:12, helps hold together the central section of Y 13 begins the long section of the book in Chapters 40–55. An oracle against Babylon in Chapter Oracles against the Nations in Chapters 13–23 and points forward to the defeat of Babylon highlighted in the poem about Cyrus in 45:1–8. Many other features of the book of Isaiah serve to hold together this seemingly disparate collection of material. 1 Like several other large books in the Old Testament, Isaiah demonstrates a sense of polarity. 3 The majority of the first half of the book is negative in tone. Its contents are dominated by oracles of judgment, yet words of salvation are present. In the same way, 5 the second half of the book is dominated by positive oracles of salvation, with words of judgment playing a minor role. Thus, the overall movement of the book is from a negative to a positive tone. It3 is disturbing, in light of this general observation, that the final verse of the book of Isaiah (66:24) is so harsh. The Jewish tradition of readT ing of this text copes with this harshness by repeating the penultimate verse (66:23) after the conclusion of Chapter 66, so the book ends on a more positive note. S Some interpreters see the final form of the book of Isaiah as a context for the reading of older traditions that come from Isaiah the prophet. Edgar W. Conrad has identified Isaiah 6–39 as the “vision of Isaiah,” which was “bound up and sealed” (according to Isaiah 8:16–20) until a later point when it could become a coherent prophetic message. The book of Isaiah forms the context for this coherence. Isaiah 40:6 commands that this new reading of the old vision take place in a new social context.4 Thus, the book of Isaiah is a large prophetic complex that tells a continuous story. This story is about Israel’s past, present, and future. Each of these facets influences the others. The past provides a program for the present and a vision for the future. The needs of the present and the future shape the presentation of the past. The book of Isaiah moves through all of these parts of Israel’s ...
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