Prophecy in the Tanakh

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In the Tanakh , the Hebrew Bible , prophecy isan integral part of YHWH's revelation for Israel and the peoples. There the Nebi'im (prophets) form the second main part after the Torah . Your verbal message includes, to a lesser extent, the promise of the future and , to a greaterextent, criticism of the present and past of its addressees and an active engagement with it, which at the same time claims to remain topical. That is why it was later collected, handed down in writing and constantly related to its own time.

Israelite prophets appeared again and again from the beginning of the royal period (around 1000 BC) until the end of the Tanach (around 200 AD). Some apocrypha also make prophetic claims. In addition, figures from the time before the formation of the state were later represented as prophets. In terms of content, a distinction is made primarily between prophecy of judgment and prophecy of salvation for Israel (where sayings against foreign peoples usually mean salvation for Israel), and above all pre-exilic, exilic and post-exilic prophecy. Within the pre-exilic epoch, a distinction is also made between written prophecy and written prophecy.


The Septuagint (originating from 250 BC) translates the Hebrew word נָבִיא - nābi with prophetes , which is related to the Akkadian nabū for “to name, to call” and the Arabic نبأ nabbāʔa for “to communicate”. In the Tanach it always denotes someone passively “called” by YHWH , not his active “calling”. It thus distinguishes the proclamation of God's will from the ancient oriental mantic : a prophet did not receive his message from his own observation and analysis of certain signs ( inductive ), but from visions , dreams and hearing experiences that came over him without his intervention ( intuitive ).

Often the recipients and conveyors of divine messages in the Bible are also called “ seers ” (Hebrew רֹאֶה ro'ӕh or חֹזֶה ḥozӕh ) or “man of God” (אִישׁ־הָאֱלֹהִים 'îš ha'älohîm ). The first scriptural prophets did not call themselves nāvīʔ ; Amos even rejected this (Am 7:12). This is explained by their contrast to paid court and cult prophets, who then called themselves nāvīʔ . It was Jeremiah who took over this title for himself, but criticized his opponents, the cult prophets, all the more sharply.

Προφήτης Prophet's ( ancient Greek : "advocate" messenger) was in ancient times a person who on behalf of God claimed publicly communicate its messages. Since some of these people communicated oracles , the term was given the secondary meaning of "predictors". However, her self- image of having received a personal divine calling distinguished her from fortune tellers .

Origin and sources

Biblical information and ancient oriental parallels indicate different roots of Israelite prophecy:

  • nomadic seership,
  • the ecstaticism after the conquest ,
  • the charismatic judicial office in the pre-state era.

Oracle and mantic, on the other hand, hardly play a role. The drawing of lots appears as a priesthood ( Urim and Thummim , Ex 28,30) or in the case of a king's election (1 Sam 10, 20ff); both times the lot only confirms God's already established choice. With an ephod David tries several times to secure God's support for a battle (1 Sam 23.9ff; 30.8). However, a prophet is never questioned. According to Deut 18: 10-14, such practices were strictly forbidden in Israel because they misunderstood God's freedom. That may have influenced the presentation of the story.

From the prophets before the 8th century there are no collected sayings and books, only scattered individual statements, narratives or wreaths of legends, which were passed on orally for a long time and later incorporated into the Deuteronomistic History (DtrG).

Many collections of sayings have been preserved from the written prophets of the 8th to 6th centuries, from which the books of the prophets known today became in a centuries-long process of transmission. The collections were expanded, rearranged, supplemented and combined with other collections. Proper words and editing are therefore often hardly distinguishable. There are also only a few precise details about the dates and times of these prophets.



Mirjam is the first woman who is referred to as nabi in the Tanach (Ex 15.20) . She praises YHWH singing after the wonderful passage of the people through the Red Sea . The Mirjamlied is considered the oldest core of the Exodus tradition and the Pentateuch .

After the conquest of the land , the Israelites lived as a loose union of twelve tribes around the respective tribal shrine. If one of the tribes was attacked, charismatic military leaders , called "judges" , appeared spontaneously , who called on the other tribes for military support and set up an all-Israelite army. The fourth in this series is the prophet Deborah in the book of Judges (Judges 4,4). She also sings a song of praise after a victorious battle, the Debora song . The office of the prophet in Israel arose from the pre-state judicial office and the tradition of the YHWH war .

Other prophets in the Tanakh are Hulda (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chr 34:22) and Isaiah's wife (Isa 8: 3). Noadja (Neh 6:14) appeared as a false prophet. Sarah , the ancestral mother of Israel, like her husband Abraham (Gen.20.7), Moses (Dtn 33.1) and Aaron (Ex.7.1) was only called a prophetess after the exile and was endowed with prophetic features.


Some prophets of Israel were called "seers" ( ro'aeh ) or "shivers" ( hozaeh ) , as in the world around them , because they received their divine messages through visions or dreams. Biblical historians were aware that these terms came from the ancient oriental oracle survey at fixed cult sites ( 1 Sam 9.9  EU ):

“In Israel, when you went to ask God, you used to say: We want to go to the seer. For whoever is called a prophet today was previously called a seer. "

Amos shows that this was not always the case: he rejected the designations nabi and ben-nabi ( son of the prophet), but raised no objection to the external designation as hozaeh (Am 7,12ff), probably because he carried out independently of cult or court prophets Visions was called (Am 1.1; 9.1). Isaiah can also have understood himself as a seer (Isa. 2.1 compared to 37.2; 29.10; 30.10).

Balaam was a non-Israelite seer who was commissioned by kings to curse their enemies before battle. Its existence is confirmed by an extra-biblical inscription from around 700 BC. According to Zakir of Hamat (around 800 BC), such seers conveyed messages from Baalschamem to the king when he asked them. According to Num 22–24, however, Balaam could not fulfill his mission against Israel, but was called against his will to be the prophet of YHWH, who had to bless Israel according to Gen 12: 1–3.

According to 2.Sam 24:11ff, Gad was a "seer of David", that is, a court prophet. In 1 Sam 22: 5 he advises David, who is persecuted by Saul , to go to Judea and thus begins his ascent to king. At the end of his reign, however, because of his unauthorized census - a measure to record able-bodied men and taxation - he had to give David a choice between three serious evils on God's behalf, which could only be averted by an altar building. Gad remained independent of the king in his message and not only announced salvation to him, but also judgment.

Israelite seers were evidently not oracles, as their questioning, for example before battles, is not mentioned. Some of God's promises before a battle could have originally been oracles (Ex 14.13; Dtn 20.1ff; Ps 110.1ff and others).


Religious ecstasy appears in the Tanakh among followers of YHWH as well as other gods. 1 Kings 18: 19ff and 2 Kings 10: 19 mentions ecstatic followers of the god Baal in Canaan : These groups danced and deliberately injured themselves in order to get into a frenzy and then utter calls to prayer, similar to the dervishes . However, they did not receive any divine word messages.

1 Sam 10.5ff reports of a “host of prophets” in Gibeah who come from a cult height, play musical instruments and are “in ecstasy”. So they were connected to a sanctuary and got ecstatic through music , not self-harm. According to 1Sam 19,18ff, there was also such an ecstatic group in Najot, led by Samuel , who had anointed Saul as king. The Spirit of God had also ecstatic uninvolved messengers sent by Saul to arrest David who came too close to them.

Peasants and soldiers sometimes disparagingly viewed such groups as "crazy people" ( Meshugge , 2 Kings 9:11). The scriptural prophets remained reserved towards ecstasy: Hosea rejected a derogatory polemic that he was a “spirit man” (Hos 9,7). Ezekiel was the first to trace the receipt of his messages back to ecstasy (Ez 3:12 et al.).

Num. 11: 24ff tells of 70 men whom Moses chose as helpers for his leadership tasks. To this end, God “laid something of his spirit on them” so that they fell into ecstasy and prophesied. Moses had approved this transmission of his charism with the wish ( Num 11.29  EU )

"If only the whole people of the Lord became prophets, if only the Lord laid His Spirit upon them all!"

Num 12.6ff emphasizes accordingly: God spoke face to face only with Moses, not through dreams and visions. It was precisely this immediacy that could not be transferred. God's spirit, which only he himself can give because it belongs only to him and not to any human being, thus appears as an essential feature of biblical prophecy.

Men of God

Repeatedly in the books of Samuel and Kings a “man of God” appears who proclaims God's historically powerful word without specifying his name or origin. In Deut. 33: 1, Moses is called that only time before he blesses all the Israelites and dies. He is also otherwise presented as the God-called prophet and leader of the people in one person (Ex 3), who received the Torah and orders for temple service , transmits them to the people and punishes offenses against them.

After Ri 13,6ff mother tells Samson her husband, a man of God in the form of an angel had announced the birth of her her son and it as consecrated Nazarite confiscated. In 1Sam 2,27ff, a man of God suddenly announces the death of his sons to the priest Eli and thus the downfall of his priestly dynasty, in whose place God Samuel will be called to be his mouthpiece. According to 1Sam 9: 6.9, Samuel was also called the man of God before he anointed Saul as the first king and thus endowed him with God's spirit to protect Israel.

In 1 Kings 13, a man of God appears from the southern kingdom of Judah in the northern kingdom of Israel to announce to Jeroboam I the reform of Josiah 's cult that took place centuries later , with which this king removed the remains of the syncretistic cults of the mountains. An ancient place of worship at Bethel beheimateter nabi attracts him and persuaded him einzukehren against God's instructions to him, after which the man of God dies the next day. Here the later gulf between individual prophets and cult prophets is already indicated.

It is therefore assumed that the god-man figure goes back in part to Deuteronomistic editing. This resorted to wreaths of legends that told anonymous, typified and legendary stories by well-known historical prophets such as Elisha. It portrayed the Man of God as the successor of Moses, called directly by God, who appears at decisive stages in the history of Israel in order to align and enforce God's will. Word prophecy appears as the real engine of this story and the temple destruction of 586 BC. As a result of disobedience to God's true prophets.

Court prophets

A ruler received “God's notices” from paid court prophets employed at the royal court. Often they were also employed as cult prophets at a shrine or temple , were trained by priests or were priests themselves. Their addressees and subjects were the rulers, not the people.

Oppositional word prophets

Solitary prophets differ from the civil servants, who have appeared independently of and often against the court or sanctuary since the early days of Israel. Some had groups of followers (biblically bene nabi - prophet sons, disciples). According to traditional sources, some experienced their calling as an unprepared coercion and had to direct their commission against the rulers, court and cult prophets of their time. This type of oppositional word prophet can only be found in the Tanakh. Most scripture prophets are among them. At the time they appeared, they were isolated, rejected or persecuted, and at times their lives were in danger. They did not set up any schools of prophets or organize reform movements. Nevertheless, their words were collected, recorded and passed on. They shaped tradition and have been interpreted and updated for centuries.

Schools of prophets

Related to ecstasy groups were probably those "sons of the prophets" (2 Kings 2,3) or "disciples of the prophets" (1 Kings 20,35ff; 2 Kings 9,6), who appear in the wake of Elisha . This in turn was in a student relationship with Elijah , who had apparently also earlier belonged to a group of prophets. For according to 1 Kings 18:22; 19:10, 14 he remained as the last prophet of YHWH of those who had Queen Jezebel killed.

Elisha's disciples "sat before him" (2 Kings 2.15ff; 4.38; 6.1), apparently to learn prophecy from him, so they were subordinate to him as pupils and not just as directly called. They wore a costume, the "prophet's cloak" (1 Kings 19:13, 19; 2 Kings 1: 8; 2: 8.13f; Zech 13.4), possibly also a head covering by which they could be recognized, met in one Room for a common meal (1 Kings 20: 38ff; 2 Kings 2:32) and partly joined together like a cooperative (2 Kings 6: 1-4). Like the rural population to which they belonged, they lived without the material security of a cult office (2 Kings 4: 1-7). They helped families and clans in everyday life through divine sayings and acted as popular healers and miracle workers . According to 2 Kings 9.4ff, they also took part in an uprising by part of the army against the royal family, the so-called Jehu Revolution. Then they disappear from biblical historiography.

Gerhard von Rad saw such groups as the origin for the later individual prophets who were independent of court and cult and who appeared against them. The pre-state, charismatic belief in YHWH as the savior of the tribal union lived on in them and became socially critical and anti-monarchist radicalized. Werner H. Schmidt suspects that these student groups collected the prophetic words of their teachers and handed them down in writing. Although the books of the prophets do not mention any such groups, they do occasionally pass them on (Isa. Some third-party reports acted like additions that imitate the language of a scriptural prophet and can therefore come from such groups of students (Am 7.10ff; Isa 7; Isa 20). This could also explain the lines of tradition between scriptural prophets over centuries: Hosea took over themes and motifs from Elijah, Jeremiah referred to a word of judgment from Micah, Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah followed up Isaiah and remained anonymous, perhaps because they saw themselves as Isaiah students.

The anonymous carriers of this tradition, which can only be deduced from editorial additions, are called literary or traditional prophets. Moses became the liberator and leader of the people of God who was directly called by YHWH and thus became the prototype of biblical word prophecy.

Features of word and writing prophecy


Israel's individual prophets could not acquire or inherit their mission, but only received it as a free, unpredictable calling from God. Amos therefore distinguished himself from the commission of another prophet (Am 7,14f). Elijah only handed over his prophetic office to Elisha on God's command (1 Kings 19:16; 2 Kings 2: 9f). In the course of their work they remained dependent on God's initiative and were always taken by the spirit (1 Sam 10: 6, 10) or the “hand” of God (1 Kings 18:46; 2 Kings 2:16; 3:15 f). Ezekiel often speaks of this hand that "lifts" him up in his dream visions (Ez 3.12; 8.3 etc.), "pulls away" (Ez 3.14), "falls on him" (Ez 11.5) or " brings "(8.3; 11.1.24; 43.5). This expression was otherwise used in the ancient Orient for serious illnesses or strokes of fate.

The first scriptural prophets, on the other hand, did not speak of the Spirit of God as the author of their actions. The category of election is also missing (except in Jer 1,5), obviously since in the Tanach it is otherwise related to the whole people of God.

Special calling stories embed prophetic calling experiences in external reports that were supposed to legitimize the prophet. B. Ex 3; 1Sam 3; On 7.1ff; Isa 6; Jer 1,4ff. They illustrate God's initiative, which also overcomes human resistance: Jeremiah declares himself too young (Jer 1,6); Jonah flees out of fear (Jon 1,3). Moses defends himself with five objections up to and including open refusal (Ex 3.11.13; Balaam first follows the enemy kings, who wanted to destroy the Israelites, until his mount opens his eyes to God's true will and he confesses his blindness (Num 22: 21ff). Isaiah confesses his unworthiness as a transitory person, receives forgiveness of guilt and then declares himself ready: "Here I am, send me" (Isa 6: 8; cf. Gideon in Ri 6). Deutero-Isaiah also confesses that he is impermanent to God's eternal Word (Isa. 40: 6-8). One assumes a literary scheme behind it, in which God's call is followed by the distancing of the person called and then God's promise “I want to be with you”.

Accordingly, the authors of the Bible did not see any particular suitability, such as a gift of rhetoric , for the office of prophets, but instead what was decisive for them was exclusively God's will, which asserts itself against human self-power. Accordingly, word messages and visions are often specifically dated in the biblical books of prophets, but biographical data are missing and vocational experiences are not illustrated. Often these books begin directly with the messenger formula: "The word of the Lord came to me ... This is how the Lord says: ..." Thus the messenger is already linguistically fully at the service of the message assigned to him.

True and False Prophecy

Since Israel's early days, the problem has arisen that different people simultaneously claimed to represent YHWH's will for their presence. According to Ex 32, of all people, Aaron, who was called by God as the spokesman for Moses and thus God's (Ex 4,15f), seduced the Israelites into falling away to a self-made idol. This turns out when Moses returns with the Torah revealed to him and destroys the tablets of the law and the golden calf (v. 19ff).

Already the first prophets of Israel appeared not only against kings and prophets of foreign gods, but also against other Israelites acting in the name of YHWH. This exacerbated the question of how “true” and “false” prophecy can be distinguished. The individual word prophets could not refer to tradition, official privileges, personal performance and ritual support, but only to their commission themselves and had to wait and see what would come of it. Her appearance was therefore characterized by shrinking from her mission, renouncing offers of a certainty of salvation, a lack of self-confidence and arrogance, the refusal to accept pay and rewards, and a way of life that reinforced her message by symbolically illustrating it and agreeing with it.

The “law of the prophets” Dtn 13,2ff presupposes that false prophets also do impressive signs and wonders and announce events that will come first. In contrast, it refers to the first commandment: Anyone who proclaims a god other than YHWH lies and deserves death. Accordingly, Deut 18: 14ff forbids listening to interpreters of signs and fortune tellers in the manner of foreign peoples, but also promises every generation of God's people a prophet in the manner of Moses, i.e. one who will validly update God's already revealed Torah. Who this will be is impossible to determine in advance. Only the future could prove whose message was a lie ( Dtn 18,21f  EU ):

“And if you think: How can we recognize a word that the Lord has not spoken? Then you should know: If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord and his word is not fulfilled and does not come true, then it is a word that the Lord did not speak. "

Jer 26ff shows the acute conflict between true and false prophecy: According to Jer 23,9ff, Jeremiah had to announce the destruction of the temple and the temple city to the entire cult personnel, which according to Jer 23,9ff belonged to hordes of corrupt prophets of salvation referring to dream visions. Only the intercession of the population, which reminded of Micha's prophecy (Mi 3,12ff), saved his life at that time. According to Jer 28, two years later there was one statement against one statement: The cult prophet Hananiah had announced in the name of YHWH an early liberation from Babylonian foreign rule and the return of the stolen cult implements, i.e. continuation of the previous temple cult. Jeremiah directly contradicted this and referred to God's revealed future to him. When Hananiah then broke his yoke, which he wore as a sign of the announced foreign rule, he walked away in silence (v.11). Then, however, the death of his opponent occurred without his intervention. According to Jer 42, Jeremiah had to wait ten days in prayer for a new message from YHWH, until he could warn the oppressed Israelites who had murdered a Babylonian governor about their planned flight to Egypt.

According to Ez 13, Ezekiel had to announce his expulsion from the people of God to the lying prophets who acted “of their own accord, because they would have weighed the people in false security with the promise of the missing Shalom . They only distributed wrist bands and head covers (illusory warmers and blenders) in order to “catch souls ” out of self-preservation and gain and to meet the needs of the listeners. YHWH would tear off these covers and disempower the false prophets so that they too would have to recognize the true God. Accordingly, according to biblical theology, only YHWH himself can and will reveal in the end who actually spoke in his name.

Prophet murders

After the Tanakh, Jewish prophets were sometimes not only fought against verbally by their Jewish opponents, temple priests and false prophets, but also persecuted and murdered. The cult-critical scriptural prophecy shows first traces of this since the eighth century BC in Hos 9,8, later with attempted murder of Jeremiah according to Jer 2,30f; 26.20-23. After the Babylonian exile, biblical historiography made it a firm tradition of past prophetic murders, complaints and accusations about them, as well as criticism of them: as in 1 Kings 18 (persecution of Elijah); Neh 9.26; 2 Chr 24.20ff. The catastrophe of exile has been interpreted as the result of Israel's culpable refusal to listen to God's messengers.

This tradition was followed by later extra-biblical Jewish writings and apocrypha such as Jub 1,12–15; MartJes 1,7f; 3.11; 5.1ff. away. The “ teacher of righteousness ” also appears in some of the Dead Sea Scrolls as a prophet, whom other Jews from around the temple aristocracy sought to kill. Some prophets also tell of a wonderful rescue from such fatal persecution, for example in the Ethiopian Book of Enoch 89.51ff.

Palestinian Judaism at the turn of the century knew this tradition. Jesus of Nazareth (Lk 13,34f.) And the early Christians used them to interpret his suffering and death (1Thess 2,14ff .; Mk 12,1–9; Mt 23,29–36), but also their own persecution ( Lk 6.22f; 11.47-51; Heb 11.32-38). The Koran also mentions this biblical tradition in sura 5 , verse 70: “We (at that time) accepted the obligation of the children of Israel and (again and again) sent envoys to them (who were supposed to confirm the covenant). (But) every time an envoy brought them something that was not what they wanted, they declared him lying or killed him. "


time dish Salvation
~ 1200 -1000 Mirjam
~ 1000 -750 Samuel
Ahijah of Shiloh
Micaiah ben Imlah
~ 750- 700 Amos
~ 650- 600 Zefaniah
~ 600–539
~ 520-470 Malachi Haggai
~ 167-163 Daniel

Individual pre-exilic prophets


Samuel appears as a disciple of the priest Eli, who works at the sanctuary of Shiloh , whom God has chosen to succeed him in place of his corrupt sons (1 Sam. 1-3). With the anointing of Saul, the first king of Israel, he enforces God's preserving will for his people (1 Sam 8-10), interprets and fulfills God's Torah valid for all tribes of Israel (1 Sam 7; 12; 15). With that he took over the duties of the charismatic pre-state “judges”. If this military leadership and theological leadership were united, these tasks now separated and in the roles of king (politics) and prophet (religion) opposite one another.

In the historical interpretation of the DtrG, the prophet represents God's sovereignty over human self-power: The people's desire for a king, "like all other peoples have" breaks the first of the Ten Commandments (1 Sam 8,5ff). With Saul's anointing, Samuel, on God's command, legitimizes kingship in order to simultaneously subordinate it entirely to God's will. That is why Samuel has to announce the negative consequences of the kingship to the people before Saul takes office: armament, latifundia economy with serfdom, land expropriation, harvest taxes, slavery like in Egypt , from which there will be no escape (1 Sam 8: 10-18; cf. Dtn 17: 14-20).


David rose as a successful military leader of Saul, first defeated his troops, then those of the neighboring peoples, created a standing army, made Jerusalem the capital and transferred the ark there (1 Sam 16 - 2 Sam 6). In doing so, he centralized the YHWH cult and adopted the sacred traditions of the Twelve Tribes of Israel to stabilize his great empire . With this he finally disempowered the charismatic judge's office and the institution of the spontaneous defensive war in the belief in YHWH's leadership.

Like Gad, Nathan was a single court prophet of David: He promised David the eternal succession to the throne and thus subsequently legitimized David's cult centralization in Jerusalem and the plan to build a temple (2 Sam 7). The later expectation of the Messiah goes back to this promise . On the other hand, according to 2 Sam 12, Natan confronted David with his murder of Uriah and adultery with his widow Bathsheba and withdrew God's blessing from him. This shows a role otherwise unknown to court prophets in the ancient Near East: the prophet reminds the king of his duty to protect God's right for the people, addresses him unasked for individual guilt and holds him accountable in accordance with the Ten Commandments by withdraws earlier promises of salvation.

Because the kingship was constantly threatened by abuse of power and battles for succession. In addition, kings often had indebted former passed pawns expropriated. The prophets of the royal era appeared to remind priests, kings and the population of God's original, current will and to enforce it against the social order now dominated by kingship. In doing so, they tied in with the theocratic traditions of the tribal union.

Ahijah of Shiloh

According to 1 Kings 11: 29ff, Ahijah of Shiloh anointed Jeroboam I, the royal official, to be the future king of ten tribes of the Israelites . He thereby caused the division of the great empire created by David into the northern kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam and the southern kingdom of Judah under Rehoboam , the son of Solomon . The background was attempts to revolt against the oppressive taxes for Solomon's temple building and fortification of Jerusalem as well as his religious policy, which relied on syncretism with Canaanite cults.

With Ahijah, a prophet appeared for the first time as an opponent of a royal dynasty. He led the opposition to Solomon to success with a prophetic symbolic act: he tore his new cloak into twelve parts and gave Jeroboam ten of them as a sign of his coming kingship. In doing so, he tied in with symbolic acts when the old army was called up (cf. Ri 19: 29f). He committed the designated opposition leader on YHWH's instructions, especially on the first commandment. This intervention in politics, critical of the king, in order to enforce the Torah, became the main feature of biblical word prophecy. Since Natan had theologically legitimized David's hereditary succession to the throne, however, biblical historiography compensated for this contradiction by allowing Natan's promise in Ahija's message to continue to apply, but reducing its scope to Judah .

According to 1 Kings 14, Jeroboam's wife in disguise visited Ahijah to ask him about the healing of her sick son, the desired heir to the throne, for a fee. Before she can ask her question, she receives Ahijah's disastrous news that God has withdrawn Jeroboam's kingship and that he will die because he worshiped foreign gods even more than his predecessors. What was meant was the installation of images of bulls in old cult places of the northern empire ( Bet El and Dan ), which were supposed to combine the Baal cult with the YHWH cult. This became the proverbial "sin of Jeroboam" in the Bible, which is also behind the story of the golden calf (Ex 32). Biblical historians interpreted it as the cause of the downfall of the northern empire.

Micha ben Jimla

1 Kön 22  EU shows for the first time in biblical historiography the contrast between a group of court prophets and prophets of salvation who speak to the king to the mouth, with a single incorruptible judgment prophet. 400 assembled prophets hadunanimously predicted victory in the upcoming battle forKing Ahab of the northern kingdom of Israel. His ally Jehoshaphat warned him and asked about a credible prophet. Then Micha ben Jimla was brought in, who had fallen out of favor with the King of Israel because of his disastrous messages in the name of YHWH. He initially confirmed the message of the 400, as expected, but revealed his mandate when asked: YHWH had given the 400 a lying spirit because he had decided the death of the king. Israel would be scattered because the king would fall in battle. After Ahab Micha was imprisoned for this and disguised as a simple farmer for the battle, he was nevertheless fatally hit by a fighter's arrow and died as announced.


Like Ahijah, Elijah sharply attacked the syncretism between YHWH and Baal cults in the northern kingdom. He contradicted the religious policy of the kings Omri , Ahab and Ahaziah aimed at integrating the Canaanite urban population . They had made Samaria with its Baal stamp ( 1 Kings 16.29.32  EU ) a center of cult; Ahab's wife Jezebel from Tire promoted the Baal cult and had the YHWH prophets exterminated. According to 1 Kings 18  EU , only YHWH's own wonderful intervention in the public judgment of God on Mount Carmel could authenticate and save the last of his prophets. Thereupon he carried out the decision by killing the prophets of Baal according to the commandment Ex 23.19  EU (in Dtn 13.13 ff  EU subsequently tightened to the complete ban ).

For the first time, the following chapter focuses entirely on the individual and describes the desperation of the prophet because of the foreseeable failure of his faith and life's work, despite God's judgment. In his loneliness at Horeb he meets YHWH as directly as Moses, but not in powerful natural phenomena ( Ex 19  EU ), but in a "gentle, quiet whisper": a voice that does not command and demand, but asks about the will of the prophet and admits his complaint of personal suffering. Then YHWH announces the inescapable judgment to the idolaters: from the outside by a foreign ruler, from the inside by an insurgent. In this way God would save the rest of his people loyal to him and fulfill what Elijah could not manage. This encourages him to complete his mission in the knowledge of a future that does not depend on him.

In 1 Kings 21  EU , Elijah confronts the king, who saw himself as the landlord in his kingdom and arbitrarily appropriated land from indebted peasants, with his injustice, addresses him as a murderer and threatens his entire dynasty with destruction. So he subordinates him to the actual landowner YHWH and his rights and appears as the guardian of the pre-state social order in which freelance farmers kept their inheritance or received it back after seven years ( Lev 25  EU Lev 25).

In 2 KingsEU , Elijah confronts the king when he sought help for his ailment from a Baal sub-god, who was apparently known for miraculous healings, and pointed out to him that he would have had to expect help from YHWH alone even in his own illness gambled away from his infidelity. So he asserts the unconditional claim of the first commandment in public as well as in private life.

Pre-exilic scriptural prophets

The first prophets, whose sayings were collected and later written down, appeared around 750–700 BC. When the rising great power Assyria threatened the two states: Amos and Hosea in the northern Reich of Israel, a little later Micha and Isaiah in the southern Reich of Judah. All address their messages to the whole people of God, even when addressing individuals. Amos and Micha almost exclusively announce calamity, namely the inevitable fall of Israel decided by God, which denied its task as God's people and therefore gambled away its right to exist. Hosea and Isaiah also mostly proclaim judgment, but then see a complete new beginning of God with his people.

They all assume that Israel knows its task as God's people, namely to create and maintain a just social order. In accordance with this fundamental legal will of God, they castigate the conditions of their time: above all the exploitation and expropriation of the formerly free rural population by large landowners and latifundia management of the royal court (including Am 4.1–3; 7.10–17; Wed 2.1–4 ; Isa 5,8ff). In the centuries before, a class society had developed that contradicted the pre-state condition and ideal of the solidarity community supported by equal and free peasant clans, united in the belief in YHWH.

Social criticism is accompanied by an equally radical cult criticism, which makes Israel's priestly ruling class liable for the misery of the people: Amos announces the destruction of all traditional sacrificial sites of YHWH, which, in view of social injustice, could not stand before God (Am 3:14; 5 , 4f). Victims are not only superfluous, but have become harmful (Am 4,4f). Micah for the first time announces the destruction of the temple (Mi 3.12), followed centuries later by Jeremiah (Jer 7; 26) and Ezekiel (Ez 8-12). For Isaiah even the prayers have become meaningless (Isa 1: 10-17).

With Hosea, cult criticism comes to the fore: like Elijah, he fought against the mixing and confusion of YHWH with Baal and insisted that God's fruitful blessings could not be enforced through sexual rites, i.e. the worship of natural forces (Hos 2.23ff). Following him, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Tritojesaja criticized YHWH's equation with Baal-Shamem, Asherah and Molech , to whom child sacrifices were brought, and the cults of the heights. They rejected it less as a breach of the commandment, but as self-destructive and unreasonable, because vain idols drag their worshipers into nothing (Jer 2:15; Isa 57:13).

See also


  • Ernst Sellin : Old Testament prophecy. A. Deichert'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Leipzig 1912.
  • Hans-Joachim Kraus : Prophecy and Politics. Christian Kaiser Verlag, Munich 1952.
  • Gerhard von Rad : Theology of the Old Testament, Vol II, Theology of the prophetic tradition. Christian Kaiser Verlag, Munich, 1960.
  • Georg Fohrer : The prophets of the Old Testament. Gütersloh publishing house Gerd Mohn, Gütersloh, seven volumes (1974–1977):
Volume 1: The Prophets of the 8th Century. 1974, ISBN 3-579-04481-8 ,
Volume 2: The Prophets of the 7th Century. 1974, ISBN 3-579-04482-6 ,
Volume 3: The Prophets of the Early 6th Century. 1975, ISBN 3-579-04483-4 ,
Volume 4: The prophets around the middle of the 6th century. 1975, ISBN 3-579-04484-2 ,
Volume 5: The prophets of the late 6th and 5th centuries. 1976, ISBN 3-579-04485-2 ,
Volume 6: The Prophets since the 4th Century. 1976, ISBN 3-579-04486-9 .
Volume 7: Tales of the Prophets. 1977, ISBN 3-579-04487-7 .

Web links


Individual evidence

  1. Alfons Deissler: Then you will know God. The basic message of the prophets. Herder, Freiburg 1990, ISBN 3-45120914-4 , p. 11
  2. ^ A b Claus Westermann: Abriß der Bibelkunde , Calwer, Stuttgart 1979, ISBN 3-7668-0620-3 , p. 78
  3. H. Krämer, ThW VI, p. 795
  4. a b Otto Kaiser: Introduction to the Old Testament - An introduction to their results and problems , 4th edition 1978, p. 188
  5. Werner H. Schmidt: Old Testament Faith in His History , 4th edition 1982, p. 233
  6. Gerhard von Rad: Theologie des Alten Testaments , Volume 2, Munich 1975, pp. 35–37.
  7. Werner H. Schmidt: Old Testament Faith in His History , 4th edition 1982, p. 235
  8. Erich Zenger: Introduction to the Old Testament. Kohlhammer, 6th edition, Stuttgart 2006, pp. 418-421.
  9. JJM Roberts: The Hand of Yahweh , Vetus Testamentum 21/1971, pp. 244-251
  10. Werner H. Schmidt: Old Testament Faith in His History , 4th edition 1982, p. 233
  11. Walther Zimmerli: Outline of the Old Testament theology. Stuttgart 1972, p. 86f
  12. Erich Zenger: Introduction to the Old Testament , 6th edition 2006, p. 423
  13. Walther Zimmerli: Outline of the Old Testament Theology , Stuttgart 1972, pp. 90f
  14. ^ Hans Joachim Schoeps: The Jewish Prophet Murders , Volume 2 of Symbolae Biblicae Upsalienses, 1943; Odilo Hannes Steck: Israel and the violent fate of the prophets. Investigations into the transmission of the Deuteronomistic view of history in the Old Testament, late Judaism and early Christianity. WMANT 23, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1967
  15. ^ Translation after Rudi Paret
  16. ^ Gerhard von Rad: Theologie des Alten Testaments , Volume 2, Munich 1975, pp. 24–34
  17. Klaus Koch: Prophetie II , in: Theologische Realenzyklopädie, Volume 27, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1997, pp. 487f