A Response to Reviewers -- By: Samuel A. Meier

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 43:0 (NA 2011)
Article: A Response to Reviewers
Author: Samuel A. Meier

A Response to Reviewers

Samuel A. Meier*

I am grateful for David Baker’s initiative to host a written forum entailing critiques of my book (abbreviated below as T&T) in order to provide the opportunity for me to continue to think through matters that will continue to concern any who are involved in prophetic research in the Bible. I am grateful to the four respondents for their careful reading that clearly shows in their comments, for it is clear that they have understood me well. Their helpful observations have given me the opportunity to further clarify my thoughts and engage the issues with greater precision, and below I attempt to respond to their comments.

1. Prognosticating with Precision

I learned, indeed, that I need to modify my use of the term “precision” itself (T&T, 207) with respect to vaticinations by the poetic literary prophets. I suggested too hastily that the oracles in the literary prophets and the Dtr history were commensurate with respect to their precision in prognostication. There is, in fact, a difference. In addition to terms such as “in that day” or “in the latter days” or “the foe from the north” or the difficulties accompanying occasional dates (e.g., seventy years, forty days), multivalent allusive word-plays distinguish these poetic oracles so that the hearer cannot normally hope for precision. Thus, Isaiah’s son Maher-shalal-hash-baz (“Quick is the plunder, speedy is the prey”) has a name that remains ambiguous as to who will be plundered, allowing Isaiah to apply its message both to those who opposed Jerusalem on the one hand (Isa 8:1–4) as well as to Jerusalem itself on the other (Isa 10:5–11; cf. v.6). Or Hosea’s son, Jezreel, is so called in memoriam of Jehu’s massacre in the Jezreel Valley that God condemns (Hos 1:4), but that same name becomes a name communicating hope when the prophet interprets it as “God will sow” Israel again in restoration (Hos 2:23 [Heb 2:25]).

Where narrative or prose accounts appear in these early prophets, it is true that they can conform more closely to the precise predictions found in the Dtr history, such as Isaiah’s timetable for devastation relative to the birth of Maher-shallal-hash-baz (less than a year; Isa 8:1–4), Amos’ claim that Jeroboam would die by the sword and the priest Amaziah would die in exile (You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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