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.

To preach or not to preach (Mic 2:6-2:7)

“‘Do not preach!’

This is what they preach.

‘One should not preach

Of such things.

Disgrace will not

Overtake us.’

Should this be said?

O house of Jacob!

Is Yahweh’s patience

Exhausted?

Are these his doings?

Do not my words

Do good

To him

Who walks uprightly?’”

Micah indicated the difference between false preaching and true preaching.  Was Micah to preach or not?  Did he only have to say good things in order to preach?  Should he be careful about what he said?  Is it disgraceful to speak about bad things?  Has Yahweh exhausted all his patience?  However, Micah believed that his harsh words from Yahweh would help those who were upright.  The evil ones would not like to hear about their evil ways.

God saves Nineveh (Jon 3:10-3:10)

“When God saw

What they did,

How they turned

From their evil ways,

God changed his mind

About the calamity

That he had said

He would bring upon them.

Thus,

He did not do it.”

This is one of the few cases where God changing his mind.  God did not bring destruction to Nineveh.  God saw how the people and the leaders of Nineveh had turned from their evil ways.  Thus, he decided not to bring destruction to this non-Israelite town, because of their repentance.  God showed mercy to them.

Yahweh speaks to Jeremiah (Jer 26:2-26:3)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘Stand in the court

Of Yahweh’s house!

Speak

To all the cities

Of Judah!

To all those

Who come to worship

In the house of Yahweh!

Speak to them

All the words

That I command you!

Do not hold back a word!

It may be

That they will listen.

Maybe they will turn

From their evil ways.

Then I may change

My mind

About the disaster

That I intend to bring

On them,

Because of their evil doings.’”

Yahweh told Jeremiah to stand in the Temple court. He was to speak to all the people from the cities of Judah who came to worship Yahweh in the Temple. Jeremiah was, as usual, to say only the words that Yahweh was going to tell him to say. However, he was not to hold back any words. Maybe the people of Judah would listen to him and turn from their evil ways. Then Yahweh would change his mind about the impending disaster that he intended to bring to the people of Judah because of their evil actions.

The message of Yahweh’s prophets (Jer 25:5-25:7)

“They said.

‘Every one of you!

Turn now

From your evil ways!

Turn now

From wrong doings!

You will remain

Upon the land

That Yahweh has given

To you

As well as your ancestors

From of old

And forever.

Do not go

After other gods

To serve them,

To worship them!

Do not provoke me to anger

With the work of your hands!

Then I will do you no harm.’

Says Yahweh.

‘Yet you did not listen to me.

Thus you have provoked me

To anger

With the work of your hands

To your own harm.’”

Jeremiah says that Yahweh’s prophets had told all of them to turn away from their evil ways and wicked doings. If they had done that, they would remain in the land that Yahweh gave to them and their ancestors forever. However, they were not to go after other gods, serving and worshipping them. Thus they should not provoke Yahweh to anger with their own hands. Yahweh was not going to harm them. However, they did not listen. They had to provoke him to anger with the works of their own hands that only brought harm to them.

Yahweh did not send false prophets (Jer 23:21-23:22)

“I did not send the prophets.

Yet they ran.

I did not speak to them.

Yet they prophesied.

But if they had stood

In my council,

Then they would have proclaimed

My words to my people.

They would have turned them

From their evil way,

From the evil of their doings.”

Yahweh clearly indicated that he had not sent these prophets who pretended to run and prophesize in his name. They were never part of his council. If they had been, they would have proclaimed to the people to turn away from their evil ways of doing things. However, they did not do that.

The disobedience of their ancestors (Jer 7:24-7:26)

“However their ancestors

Did not obey.

They did not

Incline their ears.

But in the stubbornness

Of their evil will,

They walked

In their own counsels.

They looked backward

Rather than forward.

From the day

That your ancestors came out

Of the land of Egypt

To this day,

I have persistently sent

All my servants,

The prophets,

To them,

Day after day.

Yet they did not listen to me.

They did not pay attention.

But stiffened their necks.

They did worse

Than their ancestors.”

Yahweh points out to Jeremiah that their ancestors did not obey God’s commands. They did not listen because they were stubborn in their evil ways. They relied on their own counsels, looking backward rather than forward. Yet since the day that they left Egypt, Yahweh has sent his prophet servants to them on a daily basis. However, they still have not listened or paid attention. Instead they stiffened their necks and were more disobedient than their ancestors.