Posted by: religionthink | September 9, 2006

For this I will Lament and Wail: Role of the Proph…

For this I will Lament and Wail: Role of the Prophets Part III.

One of the pressing issues that so many seem to be confused with is the issue of prophesy. In the last essays on the topic, we covered the roles of a few prophets when Israel was a nation. However, this all changed when they were conquered. As mentioned, in the last essay “The Role of the Early Prophets”, we will examine the role of some of the later prophets particularly; Micah, Isaiah, and Hosea. We will see how the role of this office changed when Israel was no longer independent. We need to understand what time period each prophet was from and the set of circumstances, both politically and religiously, that each prophet was facing.

Looking first to Micah, it is thought that his first writings were just before the Tiglathpileser III’s Assyrian invasion of Israel’s Northern capital of Samaria in 722 B.C. The text of Micah consists of seven chapters. The composition consists of oracles of destruction followed by oracles of promise. It is a patchwork of editing. Some believe that 2:12-13 and parts of chapters 4 and 5 are later additions. Mainly, Micah seen the coming threat and started warning the people.

Micah saw the advancing Assyrian army as the arm of Yahweh moving against Samaria as a form of punishment to the people. We see this happening today also. After the devastating attacks on the twin towers many said it was brought on by an angry god because of homosexuality, Hollywood, and a host of other perceived sinful acts and conditions in our society. Micah complained also about a false sense of security that prevailed.

Micah was the accuser in the name of Yahweh. So just like some of the other prophets he was concerned with social and political justice and rails on the corruption that in his view, had become a part of the reason for the fall of Samaria. A ray of hope is put in the middle of the writings, where the temple will be restored, people from all nations will come to worship, and a new ruler will be in place who will promote peace and sin will be eliminated.

Putting all this into modern day perspective we have seen this type of scenario run its course many times. The Assyrians were sweeping across the landscape in that region conquering the surrounding nations and it was only a matter of time. Sin or no sin the same would come to Israel. When a nation is facing an unknown adversary or an unknown fear, the prophets start their work. This, in my opinion, serves a three fold purpose. First, it causes self reflection on ones place in the world and life’s meaning. Next, it unites a nation or group behind a common cause. And lastly it gives a people, group, or nation the ability to act or prepare. In the end we see an address to the enemy:

But as for me, I will look to the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I must bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he takes my side and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall see his vindication. Then my enemy will see, and shame will cover her who said to me, “Where is the Lord your God?” My eyes will see her downfall; now she will be trodden down like the mire of the streets. (Mic 7:7-10)

So the question should be asked, Is this a prediction of the future, or is this a religious elder who took it upon himself to express his views of why the coming destruction was about to come? So do people like Dr. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Jerry Falwell, and other serve a purpose in our society? Many questions can arise on such a hot topic issue, especially in the United States where fervent religious convictions can lead to such views of the world. As it was in Micah’s time, such perceptions of the world offer us the chance to reflect of our lives if we believe or not. Next we will take a look at Isaiah and his views of the pending destruction and examine his political and religious role in Israel’s society.

Brown, E. Raymond., Fitzmyer, Joseph. And Murphy, Ronalde. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Prentice-Hall, Inc, New Jersey, 1990.

Walton, John H, Matthews, Victor H. and Chavalas, Mark W. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. InterVarsity Press. Illinois 2000.

Quoted biblical texts are taken from the New Revised Standard Version.

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