Neviim- the Prophets

September 04, 2011 Back

The Early Prophets: Life in Israel and Exile

The Prophets starts with the Book of Joshua (Yehoshua), which begins right after Moses’ (Moshe) death.  The book then discusses the conquest and division of the land of Israel, detailing of the wars with the Canaanites and other nations.  The book closes with Joshua echoing his teacher Moshe exhorting the Jews to continue serving G-d and warning of what could happen in the future if they do not.

Judges discusses Jewish history from Joshua until the first king of Israel.  The Judges included Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephtah, Samson, Shamgar, Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon and Abdon as well as Avimelech.  All of these Judges served as judges in matters regarding civil and criminal law.  However, the first six judges functioned more as leaders rather than as judges.  The book closes with the tribe of Dan conquering more territory and a war between the tribe of Benjamin and the other tribes which nearly caused the tribe to cease to exist.

The Book of Samuel (Shmuel) discusses the life of Samuel, the greatest of the prophets after Joshua as well as the first two kings of Israel, Saul (Sha’ul) and David.  The book is divided into two parts.  The first part opens with the birth of Samuel, his first prophesies and the command to anoint a king.  Then the book discusses how Samuel found Saul, anointed him and his reign until he violates G-d command to destroy the Amalekites and is told by Samuel that he will lose the kingship to someone else.  The second half of the book speaks of David’s rise to power, reign and the difficulties he endured with various rebellions against him as well as other bits of information about him that are unconnected to his reign.

The last book of the Early Prophets is the Book of Kings, or Melachim.  This book details of the historical information about the kings of Judea and Samaria, beginning with Solomon until Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian subjugation of the Jews and exile into Babylonia, Media and Persia.  Some of the well-known kings mentioned include Hezekiah and Ahab.   The book of Kings also discusses the actions of the Prophets Elijah (Eliyahu) and his student Elisha, such as the events on Mt. Carmel and Elisha’s curing of Naaman from leprosy.  It also mentions a few of the later prophets.

The Later Prophets: Destruction and Redemption

The Later Prophets opens with the Book of Isaiah (Yeshayahu).  The Book of Isaiah contains predictions of the destruction of the First Temple in shocking detail throughout the first half of the book, up until around Chapter 40.  The second half of the book consists of prophesies of redemption and the ingathering of the Jewish Diaspora.

The book of Jeremiah (Yirmiyahu), like his predecessor Isaiah, contains warnings regarding the Temple’s destruction as well as prophesies of consolation and redemption.  Jeremiah’s warnings were more imminent; he witnessed the Temple’s destruction.  This book also details the historical events that took place immediately following the destruction and exile.

Ezekiel, also known as Yechezkel , warned of the destruction, although Ezekiel focused more on the deeds of the people and urging them to repent and avoid punishment.  Ezekiel also witnessed the destruction, but unlike Jeremiah, he accompanied the Jews into exile.  Ezekiel’s opening prophesy of the “Divine Chariot” is used as the source for much of Jewish mysticism.  His book closes with a detailed description of the third temple that would be built during the Messianic Age.

The Twelve Short Books of Prophesy

The Twelve Short Books, known in Hebrew as Trei Asar, are shorter prophesies that for the most part echo those prophesies of Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Isaiah.  In fact, many of these prophets were contemporaries of well known prophets.  For example, Obadiah is known to have been around during Elijah’s lifetime.  Amos and Isaiah were contemporaries who warned the kingdoms of Samaria and Judea about destruction.  The most famous prophet in this group is Jonah.  The prophets in Trei Asar include, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Johan, Micah, Nachum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.  Malachi was the last prophet, whose prophesy was an exhortation to follow the Torah until the Messianic Age arrives.

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