The wider meaning of prophet

The term prophet had a wide meaning among the Israelites, since it also included people like Abraham, Moses, and Miriam.  That is why some so-called historical books are often called the early prophets.  Jewish traditions hold that there were 48 male prophets, and seven female prophets, Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, and Esther.  Others have recognized Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah as female prophets also.  Thus, there is a wide range of written prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament.  The Hebrew prophetic dominant message was a return to Yahweh and his laws.  They were to protect the poor, the orphans, and the widows.  Justice and righteousness dominate in their messages.  Yahweh would judge them.  Although some Israelites were sinners, they would have a bright future if they turned from their evil ways to Yahweh.

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Judgment against the wicked (Mal 3:5-3:5)

“‘Then I will draw near

To you

For judgment.

I will be swift

To bear witness

Against the sorcerers,

Against the adulterers,

Against those who swear falsely,

Against those who oppress

The hired workers

In their wages,

Against those who oppress

The widow

With the orphan,

Against those who thrust aside

The alien,

Against those who

Do not fear me.’

Says Yahweh of hosts.”

Yahweh was going to deliver his judgment against various wicked people.  He was gong to bear a swift witness against them.  Then he specifically mentioned them, the sorcerers, the adulterers, and the liars.  He also would bear judgment against those who oppressed their hired workers, the widows, and the orphans.  He also would bear witness against those people who did not treat aliens correctly or did not fear Yahweh.  There was no ambiguity in what he was talking about.

True judgments (Zech 7:8-7:10)

“The word of Yahweh

Came to Zechariah,

Saying.

‘Thus says Yahweh of hosts.

Render true judgments!

Show kindness

To one another!

Show mercy

To one another!

Do not oppress

The widows!

Do not oppress

The orphans!

Do not oppress

The aliens!

Do not oppress

The poor!

Do not devise evil

In your hearts

Against one another!’”

This oracle of Yahweh came to Zechariah.  Yahweh of hosts told him to tell the people that they should render true justice in the land, since they should show kindness and mercy toward each other.  They were not to oppress the widows, the orphans, the aliens, and the poor people.  They should not devise evil in their hearts against each other.  This is good old be kind and nice to each other.

Amend your ways (Jer 7:5-7:7)

“If you truly amend your ways,

If you truly amend your doings,

If you truly execute justice,

One with another,

If you do not oppress the alien,

If you do not oppress the orphan,

If you do not oppress the widow,

If you do not shed innocent blood

In this place,

If you do not go after other gods

To your own hurt,

Then I will dwell

With you

In this place,

In the land that I gave of old

To your ancestors forever.”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, says that he will dwell with them if they amend their ways. This was very conditional. It depended on them being just with one another. They were not to oppress the aliens, the orphans, and the widows. They were not to shed innocent blood. They were not to go after others gods. If they did all this, Yahweh would remain with them forever in this land that he gave to their ancestors.

False justice (Isa 10:1-10:4)

“Woe to you

Who make iniquitous decrees!

Woe to you

Who write oppressive statutes!

You turn aside

The needy from justice!

You rob the poor of my people

Of their right!

Widows may be your spoil!

You make the orphans your prey!

What will you do

On the day of punishment?

What will you do

In the calamity

That will come from afar?

To whom will you flee for help?

Where will you leave your wealth?

Will you crouch among the prisoners?

Will you fall among the slain?

For all this

His anger has not turned away.

His hand is still stretched out.”

Isaiah then curses those who practice injustice, those who make evil decrees and oppressive statutes. He was against those who took away justice and robbed the poor people of their rights. These unjust people took stuff from the widows and the orphans as if they were taking spoil after a war or prey for an animal. What were they going to do on the punishment day? In troubles, who would help them? Where were they going to leave their wealth? They might end up as a prisoner or get killed. Once again, this little section ends with the refrain that the angry hand of Yahweh has not turned away, since it is still stretched out today.

Worthless money (Isa 1:22-1:23)

“Your silver has become dross.

Your wine is mixed with water.

Your princes are rebels.

They are the companions of thieves.

Everyone loves a bribe.

They run after gifts.

They do not defend the orphans.

The widow’s cause does not

Come before them.”

Isaiah reminds the Israelites that their silver money in Jerusalem has become worthless scum dross. Their wine is not pure, since it is mixed with water, or watered down. The princes of Jerusalem have become rebels and companions of thieves. They love bribes and run after gifts. There is no one left to defend and help the orphans and the widows, which is so important for Israelite life.

The works of the wicked (Ps 94:4-94:7)

“They pour out their arrogant words.

All the evildoers boast.                                              

They crush your people!

Yahweh!

They afflict your heritage.

They kill the widow.

They kill the stranger.

They murder the orphan.

They say.

‘Yahweh does not see.

The God of Jacob does not perceive.’”

Now the psalmist gives a description of what the wicked do. They pour out their arrogant words. They boast about their evil deeds. They crush the people of Yahweh’s heritage. They kill the widow, the stranger, and the orphans. Basically, they kill the weak people in society. They say that Yahweh does not see them. They proclaim that the God of Jacob does not perceive what is going on.