The Former Prophets include the Books of Joshua,
Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings. The Latter
Prophets are the Books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the 12 “minor
of the Hebrew prophet in the monarchy depended upon the time periods
represented by the prophecy of interest.
The Latter Prophets reflect the sayings of
spokesmen, or wise men considered intermediaries between God and
his people. These oral sayings were recorded and later edited, annotated, and augmented to
formed a nucleus around which the books developed. They did not
assume canonical form until the 5th through 3rd centuries B.C.
indicates an interpreter or proclaimer who “speaks
forth” God’s word. Hebrew prophets did not necessarily
foresee or predict future events. They were messengers. Prophets were less concerned with
predicting the future than with analyzing present people and
their behavior in in terms of God’s requirements. Nathan’s
rebuke to David in 2 Samuel 12 is a good example. This rebuke
ends with a prediction of the future, but Nathan’s main purpose
is to chastise David’s present behavior.
However, Christian theologians interpreted the
prophets as foretelling the coming of Christ. To understand
the influence of prophets on the Western literary, we
must consider how these texts were interpreted both at the time
they were written and later when they had influence.
Four Major Periods of
In the early monarchical period (11th through
9th centuries B.C.), prophets advise and warned kings. Local
prophets, advised individuals and communities The advent of
the monarchy meant prophets could announce that God had chosen
an individual to be king or had rejected a king for wrongdoing.
During the 8th century B.C., the
prophets’ role changed from “kingmaker” to public adviser.
Social justice and religious practice issues were their concerns.
The Assyrian Empire had destroyed the Northern Kingdom (Israel)
and subjugated the Southern Kingdom (Judah). Prophets
interpreted these events as signs of God’s judgment against the
The Babylonian exile had the prophets
providing hope for an eventual return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding
of the Temple.
In post-exilic period, Cyrus of Persia
allowed the Jews to return to Judah. The main issue the
prophets addressed was the challenge of reestablishing a
community in postexilic conditions. Community’s identity, social
organization, and resistance to assimilation were concerns.
Prophet Isaiah's Three
different Time periods: First, Second, and Third Isaiah.
Isaiah (chapters 1–39) represent the life of
Isaiah who lived in the late 8th and/or early 7th centuries B.C. Chapters 40 through 66 dates to the 6th
century B.C. because these chapters refer to the fall of
Jerusalem and the deportation of the people.
Third Isaiah may be
One reappearing theme of these historical
events reflect God’s plan of the
Deuteronomistic History. An examples is the similar actions of great
empires, such as the Assyrian Empire in the 8th century B.C. and
the Babylonian and Persian Empires in the 6th century B.C.
Isaiah represents the manner in which the
prophet’s words were gathered in his own day and the process by
which they were reinterpreted and reapplied in later periods. In
his own day, Isaiah’s descriptions of hostile and threatening
foreign powers must have referred to the Assyrians. Later, these
descriptions were applied to the Babylonian conquest of Judah.
In its final redaction, the contrast between “worldly”
governments and the Jewish people is highlighted by the primacy
of Jerusalem and the expectation of a righteous “anointed
Second Isaiah’s depicts God as the only
god, the universal God of all peoples, not just a god
of the people covered by the covenant. In 45:5–7 Isaiah thus
articulates true monotheism.
In chapters 44 and 45, Cyrus is referred to as
God’s “anointed,” who will carry out God’s purpose. Cyrus is
identified as the/a messiah, an anointed one. This is the
only biblical passage where the term
refers to someone
who is not an Israelite.
Christian reinterpretation and reapplication
of Isaiah was a rich source for predictions concerning Christ. One
of the most important verses in this regard is 7:14: “Look, the
woman is with
child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”
Matthew 7:14 and later Christian works refer to
Mary, as a virgin.
Greek translation of X is based upon
parthenos, a “young
The Revised Standard Version uses Hebrew
Hebrew for virgin
Another crucial passage for later Christian
thought was the “suffering servant” of Isaiah 53:3–9. Early
Christian writers identified these verses with Christ,
especially with his Passion. The “suffering servant” of Isaiah
lent support to the developing idea of an atoning Messiah,
rather than a triumphant Messiah.