Old Testament Prophets: An Analysis
Thus Saith the Lord
The Revolutionary Moral Vision of Isaiah and Jeremiah
by Richard E. Rubenstein
What is a prophet? What is the gift of prophecy, as described in the Book of Acts Ephesians? It is not telling the future or forecasting financial initiatives and trends. It is not divining. It is not having someone predict who you will marry.
Interestingly, many people do not like a prophet, because prophets loosen listeners from their complacency and comfort. A prophet warns the society in which he lives that they must avoid oblivion by returning to or finding solid foundations that support productive group living with integrity.
Unfortunately, many people do not want to hear that. They prefer the status quo.
Prophecy is not condemnation, however; it is a warning to turn away from disaster, not an irrevocable doomsday curse. It is also not Chicken Little shouting that the sky is falling and we need to look for that crucial difference.
Isaiah the Prophet
Jeremiah the Prophet
A Rough Life
Some do not want to hear that the mental results of mind-altering recreational drugs are a weak excuse for living life to its potentials. Others complain, "There are no jobs, when perhaps they do not want to put for the effort to find effective help in job seeking." Some do not want to accept the fact that abuse of over a dozen kinds plagues society worldwide and results in human rights violations, such as pimping out disabled teen beggars or 10-year-old prostitutes outside the Beijing Olympics or of killing Tibetan monks out of hand. Sudanese that declare Christianity have their arms cut off by the government. Some women are legally killed by their own families if an unrelated man sees a bare arm. Abu Grahib. Those two words are a description by themselves. Hurricane Katrina -- Another two words of human disaster. Tsunami aftermath. Racial genocide. All in the 21st century.
Sexism and Agism
Women are kept locked in closets or basement for decades in the US and Eastern Europe alike. Compounds of polygamists mishandle children who really do not know which men are their fathers. US health care and medications are too expensive, while there is a core group that once discussed denying any medial care at all to individuals after the age of 75. Full retirement benefits will be delayed to older and older ages until the goal of 75 years old is reached (is was already 67 in 2008).
One Chicago summer in the 1990s, a high-rise retirement center was the scene of 300+ deaths caused by broken air conditioning and windows built to not open in order to protect seniors from fatal falls out of upper story windows. No action was taken to help these people, so they cooked. A later French summer saw 100s of seniors die in the heat wave during a mass vacationing to other regions by the elders' children. While the world is overpopulated in the early 21st century, this is not the best way to control the problem.
Isaiah 53 - Whose report will we believe?
Adventures in Prophecy
Author Richard Rubenstein provides a compelling book of high adventure straight out of the Old Testament. He accomplished this through thorough studies of the the historical texts in original and translated languages. They cover pertinent eras of the Old Testament, high lighted with relevant scriptures.
Thus Saith the Lord provides an in-depth character study of the prophets Isaiah, Elijah, Elisha, and Jeremiah in their own time in a way that rings attention to their unique characteristics as prophets. Noting these attributes can help determine the prophets of today, compared to the crackpots.
The four men chosen by Rubenstein from the Old Testament were serious in their roles as prophets and would not take "no" for an answer when delivering their heart-felt warnings. The believed in the truth they were delivering and would die if necessary to get the message to the people that needed it.
Who are the prophets of the 21st century, (for prophecy has indeed not passed away)? Reading more closely about these Old Testament four should help us decide more clearly.
Old Testament Prophets
Poetry or Fire?
Jeremiah and Isaiah were both advisers to various kings and priests in Israel and Judah.
They, and others, warned society to resurrect their moral foundations to eliminate the problems of society in that day. To these men, it was their spiritual and professional calling to do so. Often, their words were not attended and war and other disasters befell certain populations. The dire results of prophecies' fulfillment were averted with action from the people who listened and organized to avoid calamity. However, all of the prophesies were fulfilled. Some individuals and groups feel that these are all legends; however, there is reason to believe that they are not, as follows:
Prophets often use different language devices to convey their messages.
Isaiah used poetry while Jeremiah used fire and brimstone.
It seems that every portion of the Book of Isaiah is poetic prophecy and this is even more clear in the original language than in any English Translation. In the 1970s, the Australian Wiinkey Pratney presented a series of lectures concerning the format of the Old and New Testaments, garnered from literary and mathematics research studies. The findings are that in the original languages, despite their being multiple authors at different times, the Old Testament is the only piece of literature in Hebrew that contains the pattern and number of syllables per line that is found there.
The same is true of the New Testament in its original languages. It is doubtful that authors over the course of 6,000 years of this writing would know about, or even care to follow, a tradition of such patterns and syllable counts. This is one basis for concluding that scripture is inspired by a single, higher source.
Who Are Our Heroes Today?
Elijah and Elisha were earlier Old Testament prophets, speaking messages from God and doing exploits to gain the peoples' ear in order to warn the leadership of the Middle East of impending calamity. Since that time, there has seemingly always been war in the Middle East.
In the 21st century, we search for heroes, but the chosen sports figures and starlets let us down hard and so have government leaders. On Stan Lee's superhero reality show, we see the deadly flaws in some that consider themselves heroes and they are wrong. Where can we find heroes? Prophets are sometimes considered too honest for hero status. We may want heroes that are not too heroic; we have our limits of tolerance. Heroes are troublemakers.
Rubenstein's chapter titles are interesting: If YHVH Is God, Follow Him!-Elijah, I Kings 18:21, The Heart Is More Devious Than Any Other Thing-Jeremiah 17:9, and I Will Make You the Light of the Nations-Isaiah 49:6.
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