March 5, 2020
FRANCISCO-FACT: What is so important about the prophets, and how can I learn more about them?
The second half of this question is the easiest to answer. To learn more about the prophets, who they were, what they did, and what they meant to the development of Judaism and to the Church, come to the Lenten Potluck dinners from 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM on Sundays March 8, March 15 (beware the ides!), March 22, March 29, and April 5, where we are learning about the prophets from Walter Brueggemann, a leading scholar of Old Testament in the Protestant seminaries since the 1980's. Bring some food to share, listen a fifteen minute video, and spend time with the questions the video evokes.
The first half of the question is expansive and will take more than this space has to answer it. Here is the Cliff Note version. The prophets were in among the children of Israel from the time of Moses (traditionally c. 1250 BCE) on. They were not primarily soothsayers, instead they were men and women who spoke to the people on behalf of God. Moses was the conduit for the Torah. Later, Elijah defended God in Israel against Baal and his prophets, to King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, and then the classical prophets both major (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel) and minor (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) began their careers in the middle of the eighth century BCE through the middle of the fifth century BCE.
Prophets came from the countryside and from Jerusalem. They could be the dresser of Sycamore trees or part of the temple priesthood. They intensify the understanding of the children of Israel that their God is not only a God desiring worship and sacrifice, but that God has a spirit to embrace those whose lives are lived at the margins, the homeless, the widows, the orphans, and those who need help.
Their calling makes the Judaism that Jesus inherits in the first century CE, a religion where ethics, morals, and behavior matter more than position, power, or authority. Judaism is available to be an empire wide faith, then a worldwide faith, to be followed by its close relative—Christianity.
That is who the prophets were, what they did, and why they mattered.