In my previous post I began to explain who the prophets of Scripture are, what they stand for, and what their message is.  In my experience, most people — even most Bible readers — don’t actually know.  The general idea appears to be that prophets were all about predicting the coming of Jesus and the end of the world.  Nope.  Just read them and see.

Here I can give some broad historical information about the prophets to get the ball rolling.  I am taking this discussion from my book The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction, 2nd ed.  (Oxford University Press), slightly edited.


The Narrative Prophets: Elijah and Elisha

The earliest major prophets of the Old Testament (after Moses) show up in the narratives of the collection of books scholars call the Deuteronomistic History  (the historical books that come right after the Pentateuch: Joshua through 2 Kings which tell about the establishment and early centuries of the nation of Israel).  These  prophets are not known to have left anything in writing (in contrast to the “classical prophets” of the Hebrew Bible; that is, the “Latter Prophets” that we will be discussing in a moment).  As a rule they are individuals called by God to speak words of judgment against the nation, its rulers, and/or its religious leadership—including “false prophets.” These “narrative prophets” are empowered to deliver a message from God, and proof of their power comes in the fact that they can do miracles. The two best known are Elijah and his successor Elisha. Their stories can be found in 1 Kings 17–2 Kings 13.

Elijah first appears during the rule of the wicked king Ahab of Israel, who sponsored and participated in the worship of the Canaanite deity Baal. According to the Deuteronomistic Historian, Ahab “did more to provoke the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, than had all the kings of Israel before him” (1 Kings 16:33). Elijah comes on the scene out of the blue and announces that there will now be a drought. And there is a drought. It soon becomes clear why this has happened. As Elijah later tells Ahab, it is “because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals” (1 Kings 17:18). Here we have a prophet confronting a leader of the people over an issue of religious allegiance. It is a story that will get played out time and again in the Hebrew Bible.

Just as Yahweh has his prophets, so too does the Canaanite god, Baal, whom the apostates of Israel often choose to

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