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The Prophets

The Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the rulers of Assyria in 721 BC. The Southern Kingdom of Judah lingered on but had to yield to the Babylonian onslaught from 586 BC on. Before these upheavals, Prophets appeared in Israel that warned for the faults of the Jews and the inevitable wrath of Yahweh who would take revenge, punish and bring catastrophes on the heads of his favourite people. During and after the return from the Babylonian exile this tradition was continued and wise men assisted the Israelites. The sayings of these Prophets have been preserved. They were bundled in Books of the Old Testament.

The message in the prophecies is always the same. The Jews have offered to idols and have not lived according to the law of Yahweh. The Israelite Kings have abandoned the laws ordained by Yahweh and refuse to listen to the warnings. Therefore the people will be punished. The Houses of Israel and of Judah will be destroyed, Jerusalem burnt down, and the Jews taken off by God’s servant Nebuchadnezzar, the Chaldaean king of Babylon, to exile. Nebuchadnezzar is not just a conquering invader; he is the instrument of the God of the Jews, executing his sentence. Not all Jews will leave the land but those that stay will continue to abandon Yahweh and lose his favour. Therefore they will know only misery. Yahweh will set his hope only on the exiled. These Jews, humble, poor and enslaved, will again honour their God and be righteous. As a reward for their just life Yahweh will bring them back to the Promised Land of their ancestors after seventy years, and Yahweh promises them peace again in Israel. The message is that the poor Jews in exile, without a leader, who have nothing but their hope in Yahweh, will far more abide by his laws than the Jews living in ease at the court of the Jewish kings in the homeland. Religion in Yahweh comes from the humble people and so Yahweh cleansed Israel by disasters to bring the people back to him; the leaders that remained in Israel and Judah flocked to remnants of the kings’ courts and these would not find the true religion.

The prophets were Isaiah, Jeremiah and his secretary Baruch, Habakkuk and Zephaniah in the North; Ezekiel and Daniel already in Babylonian exile, whereas the Book of Joel was written after the return of the Jews from exile and around 400 BC. Also Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi were prophets after the return from exile. Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah. The Book of Nahum is but a short poem on the fall of Nineveh, which happened in 612 BC.

Copyright: René Dewil Back to the navigation screen (if that screen has been closed) Last updated: January 2007
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