The Role of the Prophets in God’s Case against Israel -- By: J. Carl Laney

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 138:552 (Oct 1981)
Article: The Role of the Prophets in God’s Case against Israel
Author: J. Carl Laney


The Role of the Prophets in God’s Case against Israel

J. Carl Laney

[J. Carl Laney, Assistant Professor of Biblical Literature, Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, Portland, Oregon]

The seventeen books of the prophets (in the English Bible) constitute the crowning culmination of Old Testament biblical literature. They draw on the theology of the Pentateuch, the history of Kings and Chronicles, and the practical application of the wisdom books to communicate a life-changing message to God’s forgetful people. Unfortunately this great body of the Old Testament canon is often deemed too complicated, confusing, or irrelevant to be the subject of serious study. One of this writer’s students recently asked, “Why should I spend time studying the prophets? I don’t think I would ever preach from material that is so obscure.”

Admittedly, the major and minor prophets are difficult books. They contain some of the most challenging interpretive problems in the Bible! They must be approached with a sound understanding of the Mosaic covenant, Israel’s history, and the role of the prophet in God’s case against Israel. The purpose of this study is to investigate the role of the prophet in God’s legal case against His disobedient people. An understanding of the role of the prophet will not only enhance one’s appreciation of the prophetic materials, but will also serve as an important exegetical tool in interpreting the prophets.

The Prophets’ Office

The divine origin of the prophetic office is set forth by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15–22. Having condemned certain

illegitimate methods of attempting to discern God’s will (Deut 18:9–14), the Lord reveals the true and legitimate means by which God’s Word would be delivered to His people.1 Freeman rightly contends:

…the origin of the prophetic institution in Israel is not to be found in Canaan nor in other Near Eastern cultures as negative criticism contends, but was itself established for the specific purpose of guarding Israel against Canaan’s superstitious practices, as well as those of her neighbors.2

Since the Israelites at Mount Sinai were afraid to listen to the voice of God (Deut 18:16), the Lord spoke to His people through Moses. Now Moses declares that this mediatorial office would continue as God raised up men from among the Israelites to speak His word.

There is no common a...

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