Looking in more depth at the prophets Amos, and Hosea to compare their messages to Isaiah:
More about Amos
Amos was written first who focused on oracles against the nations. It has an introduction written in the third person and discusses the kings of the Israelite nations similar to both Isaiah and Hosea in style. It differs by using a very precise date noted as happening prior to a major earthquake. (Amos 1:1-2) Another style of Amos is the characteristic of an angry God. Amos makes it clear God is not happy with nations who harm Israel but also turns God’s wrath on the people of Judah and Israel specifically the wealthy as referenced in Amos 4:1-3. And because they have sinned so disgracefully they can’t repent and must face their consequences. He rebuffs the people’s belief that God will come and protect them by instead stating that if God comes it will only be to punish as they were unfaithful which has earned them God’s wrath and nothing else. (Amos 5:18) The book of Amos also has a series of oracles five deal with what God will do based on the Israelites behaviors in the first two God relents, in three and four God punishes, in five the leaders get punished, and in the last peace and prosperity return which is why this was most likely added to Amos as a revision later because the rest of the book is too much doom and destruction.
Isaiah sounds a lot like Amos in his criticism of religious practices not being in line with issues of social justice and that could be because he was most likely influenced by Amos. Isaiah is calling out the leadership in Jerusalem and not those in the northern Kingdoms of Israel and Samaria which is the main difference to Amos.
More about Hosea
The book of Hosea was written after the prophet died and is broken into two relatable parts. Chapters 1-3 discuss Hosea’s marriage to Gomer, a woman who worshiped other gods than Yahweh which is why she is called a prostitute. Arguably, only her first-born son is attributed in the text as being Hosea’s child so some believe she was unfaithful in marriage also. Of course, this is a theory trying to explain a story written for an audience a long time ago and not us. Known as the first prophet to make examples of his family life Isaiah would copy him in Isaiah 7-8. The second part of the book Chapter 4-11 is a collection of oracles discussing disasters and salvation.
Isaiah might have been familiar with Hosea since they both use the harlot/prostitute metaphor but again was instead applying his teachings to the people living in Judah.
Isaiah differs from both Amos and Hosea in that the writings do not utilize the Exodus Mosaic teachings and the Covenant code but instead focuses on David’s rule.
It is my hope that this letter finds you well and in good spirits, for I believe spring is just around the corner!
As you know I am in my first semester of seminary studies at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and I have been working hard in four classes. I am excited to share some of the information I am learning with you. My wish is that you may be challenged to think about things you currently know about the Bible differently as I share with you things I thought I knew but am discovering were taken out of context from when they were written. The class I will be sharing knowledge with you is from my Hebrew Bible class. Over the past few weeks in class, we have been focusing on the prophets. In a further examination of Second Isaiah, which is Chapters 40-55, my instructor Dr. Brook Lester informed us it was written in the time of the Babylonian exile from the perspective that the suffering Judeans of this generation who are still paying for the debts of the preceding generations. Basically, this prophecy means that the people will soon be released from their oppression because of their imploring to Yahweh, another name for God.
So then Dr. Lester says Second Isaiah writes that Yahweh will give power to Cyrus the Persian who will come to defeat the Babylonians and allow the Israelites to be able to return home. The first part of the story is found in Isaiah 41:2-3 where Yahweh has told the prophet someone is on the way to save them. In Isaiah 44:24, 28 it can be seen that Yahweh makes it clear Cyrus is the one who will be sent to help the Judeans get back to Jerusalem so that they may rebuild the city and the temple. As I am reading the next part of the story about Cyrus in Isaiah 45:1-7 I see that the writer has described Cyrus as the “anointed one” which reminded me of what scholar Christopher D. Stanley says, “Cyrus’s role in Yahweh’s plan is so crucial that the prophet can describe this pagan king as Yahweh’s “anointed one”, the same Hebrew word that is elsewhere translated as “Messiah”. (pg. 462) Can you believe it!?! My mind was blown! I thought Jesus was the only messiah. Then I recalled how Dr. Lester has shared that this title was given to kings of Judah and sometimes priests because they were the anointed ones having to do with their roles in leadership.
I was curious as to why the writer had chosen to use that same word considering Cyrus wasn’t a Judean and I bet you are too! Scholar Barry Bandstra shares that Isaiah chose to do so to indicate that even though Cyrus was a foreigner Yahweh had been the one behind it all. So for Cyrus to defeat Babylon in 539 BCE it was really because Yahweh made it happen. (pg. 351) Doing a bit more research I was able to learn even more from an online article by Lisbeth S. Fried. She writes that “The Persian emperor Cyrus is the only foreigner in the Bible to be identified as the messiah or anointed one of Yahweh”. She reminds us that in Isaiah 45:1 Yahweh even says God spoke to Cyrus and took his right hand to guide him in subduing the Babylonians. Crazy, I know. Sometimes God’s chosen people aren’t even Jewish. Love that! I guess when the Universe calls certain people we can say it really is because they are the best person for the job. Maybe we shouldn’t question why God does it that way and instead just accept it and our part in it? What do you think?
Anyway, like I was telling you Fried goes on to state that this title wasn’t just a title. When Isaiah used it in this context it was to share ancient theology. She defines theology as “writing, speech, or thought about the nature and behavior of God” proving that because it was Yahweh’s will to have King Cyrus conquer the Babylonians proves he was protected by God. One last scripture reference from Isaiah reinforcing Yahweh’s blessing on Cyrus is found in Isaiah 48:14. It is a restatement that the Babylonians will be defeated and not in power forever.
Are you still thinking about that whole Messiah thing? I know me too! In newer translations of the Bible like NIV they have chosen to not use messiah, but anointed one instead possibly in order to not confuse people? Another reason we are so committed to the image of Jesus as the sole Messiah is because in the New Testament that title of honor is used about 70 times. I am not sure about you but the other time I think about messiah as a word is in connection with George Frideric Handel’s musical composition with that title. Bandstra referenced it in his writing by saying “In Christian interpretation, the servant of Yahweh is identified with Jesus of Nazareth, a connection made movingly through the use of Second Isaiah in Handel’s The Messiah.” I thought about listening to it, but it is two hours and twenty minutes of such great music I didn’t want to get distracted. Instead, I just listened to the “Hallelujah Chorus” three times in a row singing at the top of my lungs. Good thing for me none of the neighbors came up to ask me to quiet down!
Well it looks like I need to head off to other things. Thanks for reading through this letter to the end. I do hope you learned something new. I look forward to your response and I’m sure that I will see you soon. Remember you are created in the image of the Universe that created you and because that is in the image of love, go be love in the world. Don’t forget I love you too!
P.S. – at the end of this letter you will find all of the resources I used so that you might find them and learn even more!
I should have guessed at some point I would be challenged to think about why I decided to market myself as the Modern Prophet and what that means compared to Hebrew Bible prophets. So here we go! As a poet, I am a fan of Merriam-Webster as the place to find words which I believe will assist me in telling my stories. Definition two: prophet states “one gifted with more than ordinary spiritual and moral insight; especially: an inspired poet”, a sentiment which resonated with my ministry. Today I shall explain what biblical prophecy is in regards to the following prophets: Isaiah, Hosea, and Amos because their prophecy is not the same as mine. Barry Bandstra defines prophecy as using ancient Israelite literature and culture to state what peril lies ahead for people if they don’t change their disrespectful behaviors. Meaning these men were not “future” predictors instead they were leaders called by the Universe to speak about social conditions and the politics of their day. Prophetic messages informed people how to live meeting the Universe’s demands (pg. 195).
Who was Isaiah?
Isaiah was a prophet who lived in the eighth century BCE and is believed to have only written Chapters 1-39 in the book of Isaiah and scholars theorize that these Chapters have been supplemented by later writers. He had a wife and they had at least two sons. It is believed that he may have been a wealthy aristocrat and even a priest. His preaching took place in Judah (click here for map link)and he is set apart from the other two for his use of how the Universe/God related to the people and their actions (Stanley, pg. 433-434). Dr. Brooke Lester in the second half of his lecture points out that the prophets were able to speak out against governments and those in leadership because these prophets had their own wealth and stature which afforded them that ability. Let’s take a look at some scripture from Isaiah 1:1-31; 5:1-30; 10:1-27; 28:1-22.
In Chapter 1:1-31 Isaiah reminds the people they are disobedient and not acting like they should. He talks about how those noncompliant individuals should “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” As he continues on in his tirade it reinforces the consequences to come if behavior changes don’t happen. Unlike laments and apocalyptic lessons which often ended positively prophecy typically does not.
Chapter 5:1-30 includes lines about drunkenness and a part where God’s wrath destroyed evildoers so that “their corpses were like refuse in the streets.” Reading this makes me wonder about those who chose not to listen. If a preacher was sharing this message out in public today I would have nightmares and lose sleep!
Here are the opening verses of Chapter 10:1-27; “Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, in the calamity that will come from far away? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth, so as not to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain? For all this his anger has not turned away; his hand is stretched out still.” After reading these verses do you feel those sentiments are applicable today?
We find in Chapter 28:1-22 another prophecy targeted at those individuals who choose to consume copious amounts of alcohol and again the consequences the Universe will be brought upon those who do not change their actions and do what is pleasing to the Universe.
Okay, who is Hosea?
According to Christopher D. Stanley, Hosea’s ministry took place in about the same time as Isaiah but he was prophesying to the north in Israel. Hosea’s background story is very likely allegory used to symbolize the Universe’s relationship with the people of Israel. The Universe demanded he marry a woman of ill repute, an unfaithful woman, (whatever THAT means). Yet if true it may explain why Hosea chose to use marriage comparisons throughout his prophecies. Not much about him is known. He may have been a priest. His wife bore three children and only one may have been his. Hosea’s style of prophecy is to focus on personal behavior and not social ills like poverty and abuse of power by the wealthy. He preaches people must return to a covenant with the Universe to be spared. Finally, Hosea feels the reason people are so off-course is because religious institutions are not doing what they need to be. (pg. 430-432) Do you feel religious institutions are creating behavior problems that can apply to our society today?
*Head's up to any warriors reading this blog if you choose to read Hosea trigger warnings are needed because domestic violence is discussed.
And what about Amos?
And last is Amos who ironically is first. Amos is the earliest known prophet written about in the Hebrew Bible. Like Hosea, he was living in Judah but was called to preach in Israel. Amos was a foreigner and because he was claiming that the rich were going to be punished by the Universe if they didn’t change their ways and provide for the poor the authorities ordered him to stop preaching. He persisted. Unlike Hosea targeting religious institutions, Amos felt the problem was with the government and wealthy leaders. They were abusing others using their wealth and power (Stanley, pg. 429-430). You may have head Amos’s famous quote, “Let justice roll down like water”. Amos strove to bring justice and warned as the others did that the Universe would punish those who didn’t change. Amos probably took many years to write and is why when the prophecy that Israel would be overrun came true the last part was written of Judah rising again, not Israel where he had been preaching. The book closes reminding the reader that salvation comes through the Universe so that people were not left in complete despair (Bandstra, pg. 288-293). How might Amos be heard in our current political time? If Amos was preaching now do you feel the wealthy would take heed? Why or why not?
What does Dr. Brooke Lester have to say about the importance of studying the prophets for us today?
In his Prophecy lecture: Part ADr. Lester challenges students (including those not enrolled in his class) to read the scriptures as if you are analyzing them for the first time (for some of you on my blog it may be your first time and I am proud of you!) so that you might discover new ways of thinking about them. Knowing the history behind them will help us to “hear” lessons as they are applicable to us today even if these understandings of the lessons were not possible or intended for the original audience.