chapter  21
10 Pages

History and Rhetoric in the Prophets

A traditional Anglo-Saxon way of interpreting the prophets minimizes the degree of artifice in their message, and enables us to go on believing that they were essentially right when they spoke of inevitable judgement on a sinful nation. Prophetic rhetoric skilfully assimilated the shortcomings of Israel and Judah to models which were generally held, in the ancient world, to cause divine displeasure. The plausibility of the classical-prophetic proclamation of judgement in political terms was very high, however much in the popular mind wishful thinking prevailed over it. Thus the history of Israel becomes an extended illustration of the justice and mercy of God, an acted parable of the prophetic message. An important point to note here is that the prophetic concern to show that historical events reflect divine decisions, not merely human intentions, is not in itself any kind of novum in the ancient Near Eastern context.