OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETICAL BOOKS

Comments by John T. Stevenson


SESSION ONE: HERMENEUTICAL ISSUES IN OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECY

WHAT WAS AN OLD TESTAMENT PROPHET?

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son... (Hebrews 1:1-2a).

There are many different ways in which God spoke to men in the Old Testament.

The Prophets served as a mouthpiece for God.

He spoke through them.

1. Old Testament Designations for "Prophet."

Now the acts of King David, from first to last, as written in the chronicles of Samuel the SEER, in the chronicles of Nathan the PROPHET, and in the chronicles of Gad the SEER. (1 Chronicles 29:29).

a. Prophet (Genesis 20:7 - first usage; Exodus 7:1).

The Hebrew word nabi is thought to be related to the Akkadian nabu, meaning "to summon or call." Thus the prophet was one who announced a message from God or who was called by God.

This was the primary word for a prophet in the Old Testament.

    1. Seer (1 Samuel 9:9).
    2. The prophets had special insight into the workings of God in the past, the present and the future. They were often given the privilege of looking into heaven to see what God was working.

      The idea of a seer has as its counterpart in the New Testament the idea of a WITNESS. You recall the words of Jesus to His disciples: You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8).

    3. Servant:
    4. Moreover, we have not listened to Thy servants the prophets, who spoke in Thy name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land (Daniel 9:6). The prophets served as servants of the royal court of God.

    5. Messenger.
    6. The same word is used of both heavenly messengers (angels) as well as earthly messengers. In Haggai 1:13, the prophet describes himself as, "Haggai, the messenger of the LORD."

    7. Man of God (used of prophets and especially of Elisha).

This suggested a message based on relationship. The prophets were men who had a relationship with God.

2. The Function of the Old Testament Prophet.

a. They functioned as Preachers.

Jonah provides an excellent example of this role as he travels to Nineveh and warns of coming judgment. He preaching brings about repentance throughout the city.

b. They functioned as Predictors.

If the preaching function was that of forth-teller, then the predictive function was that of foreteller. These predictions were never meant to satisfy menís curiosity. They were given to produce faith and obedience.

3. The Distinctive Roles of Prophet Versus Priest.

Priest

Prophet

Represented the people to God.

Represented God to the people.

Ministered the ceremonies of worship

Ministered the proclamation of the Word.

Priests and prophets held two very different roles. The priest faced toward the Lord while the prophet faced toward the people.

 

PROPHETIC ACTIVITY - WHAT DID THE PROPHETS DO?

  1. Covenant Dynamics in Ancient Near East and Covenant Diplomats.
  2. The idea of a covenant was a regularly established principle in the culture of the ancient world. In the similar manner in which we have diplomats who travel to another country to represent the interests of their homeland, so also the Old Testament prophets served as traveling diplomats to represent the interests of God to the nation of Israel.

  3. Covenant Dynamics in Israel and the Prophets.

a. Received messages from God.

b. Called by God to the role of a Prophet.

The prophets came from all sorts of varied backgrounds.

    1. The Scriptures were Written by the Prophets
    2. Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith (Romans 16:25-26).

      But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:20-21).

    3. The Biblical Tests for a True Prophet.

But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. 21 And you may say in your heart, "How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?" 22 When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).

One wonders how quickly modern prognosticators would fare if judged according to such stringent standards.

 

WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS?

1. Pre-Monarchial Patriarchal Prophets.

There are very few prophets during this period. The term "prophet" is used only a couple of times in this period and, more often than not, the reference is to prophets who are to come in the future.

a. Abraham was considered to be a prophet (Genesis 20:7).

The Patriarchs WERE prophets.

They spoke with God and God communicated His word to them.

i. The institution of the covenant (Genesis 12:1-3).

The message of the prophets relates primarily to Israel and the covenant family, but has ramifications that extend to the entire world.

ii. Prophets were not exclusively Jewish (Melchizedek - Genesis 14:18-20).

      1. Future foretold (Genesis 15:12-16). Message relates primarily to Israel.
      2. God viewed as the "Judge of all the Earth" (Genesis 18:25).

b. The Prophets of the Exodus and Conquest. Moses and Joshua.

(i) While Aaron served as the mouthpiece and spokesman for Moses, he was designated the prophet of Moses (Exodus 7:1-2).

(ii) The promise was that God would someday raise up a prophet like Moses.

I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. (Deuteronomy 18:18).

c. Prophet/Judges.

The Judges of Israel served in the dual role of prophet and leader of the various tribes of Israel. There were also others who were merely prophets (Judges 3:8).

2. The Prophets of the United Kingdom.

With the rise of kings in Israel, we begin to see a great many prophets. Why is this? Because now that the country was under the rule of kings, it was necessary for them to be guided by the Lord.

We have a saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Kings were often tempted by that sort of power and so they were held accountable by the prophets.

a. Samuel's career actually begins with the time of the Judges (1 Samuel 3:20).

b. Gad (1 Samuel 22:5).

c. Nathan (2 Samuel 7:2-17).

3. The Early Prophets of the Divided Kingdom.

Ahijah

Prophesied the division of the kingdom

1 Kings 11:29-33

Shemaiah

Prophesied judgment upon Judah and the hands of Egypt

2 Chronicles 12:5

Shemaiah, Gad and Iddo

Served as record keepers for Israel

2 Chronicles 12:15; 13:22

Jehu

Prophesied against Baasha, the man who had assassinated his way to the throne of the Northen Kingdom

1 Kings 16:1-7

Elijah

Prophet to the Northern Kingdom

1 Kings 18-19

Elisha

Asked for a double portion of the Spirit

2 Kings 2:9

It is only in the days after Elijah and Elisha that we come to the period of the Major and Minor Prophets.

The Major and Minor Prophets cover the period of Israelís history from about 850 to 400 B.C. This was a period of great change and upheaval. It saw periods of prosperity and it also saw periods of great trouble. It was a time for the rise and fall of nations and people and cultures.

    1. Israel - A House Divided.

Israel was a family. The tribes of Israel were made up of the descendants of 12 brothers. They all enjoyed the same ancestry and the same heritage. There was among them a bond of blood as well as a bond of faith. But these bonds were broken soon after the death of Solomon.

When Rehoboam came to be crowned king, he was faced by a group of tribal elders who came to him with a petition to lower their taxes. Instead of relenting, Rehoboam threatened to raise the taxes even higher.

When all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying, "What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse; To your tents, O Israel! Now look after your own house, David!" So Israel departed to their tents.

But as for the sons of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them. (1 Kings 12:16-17).

The response of Israel was one of rebellion and a desire for independence. Since the king had refused to look out for their interests, they would now look out for their own interests. Accordingly, they chose for themselves Jeroboam to be their king. Only the tribe of Judah would remain under the rulership of the house of David.

The story of the Divided Kingdom is one of wars, political intrigue, and rebellion against God. Both kingdoms saw periods of rebellion, but in the Northern Kingdom it was a case of rebellion without reprieve.

SOUTHERN KINGDOM OF JUDAH

CATEGORY

NORTHERN KINGDOM OF ISRAEL

19 Kings, 1 Queen

Kings

19 Kings

Jerusalem

Capital

Samaria

1 Dynasty

Dynasties

5 Dynasties and several independent kings.

Judah & Benjamin

Tribes

10 Northern Tribes.

Most were unstable; some were good & some were bad.

Character

of the

Kings

All were bad, but only Ahab and Ahaziah were Baal worshipers.

By Babylon in 586 B.C.

Conquered

By Assyria in 721 B.C.

Returned to the land.

Afterward

No return.

From this time onward, Israel would be a land divided into two separate nations. The Southern Kingdom would be known as Judah with its capital in Jerusalem. To north and to the east were the other ten tribes that now became a separate independent nation. These ten northern tribes are known collectively as:

The prophets that arose over the next 400 years would speak to the needs of both the Northern and the Southern Kingdoms. They would call both King and Country to turn back to the Lord. And occasionally they would even speak to the needs of the surrounding nations.

b. The Spiritual Departure of the Northern Kingdom.

Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. (1 Kings 12:25).

Shechem was already an ancient city, nearly a thousand years old dating back before the days of Jacob. Jeroboam built up this city and made it his initial capital city. Later he built a secondary palace at Penuel, the place where Jacob had wrestled with the angel on the Jabbok River.

These two sites were located amidst the center of the Northern Kingdom and were designed to unify the people under his rule. To further cement this unity, Jeroboam determined to change the manner of worship in Israel.

Jeroboam said in his heart, "Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah."

So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt."29 He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. (1 Kings 12:26-29).

Jeroboam was now the king of the Northern Kingdom. But he was a king with a problem. The law of the Lord mandated that all Israelites make a pilgrimage three times a year to worship the Lord in His Temple. And here lay the problem. The Temple was in Jerusalem. And Jerusalem was in Judah. And this land was under the domain of Rehoboam. This state of affairs would give Rehoboam ample opportunity to wage a propaganda campaign that could ultimately result in Jeroboam being removed and the Kingdom being reunited.

Jeroboam came up with an alternative plan of worship. It was a plan that appealed to convenience. The plan was for two centers of worship to be set up within the Northern Kingdom. They would be located at the extreme northern and southern borders of the kingdom.

Bethel ("House of God").

This was the place where Jacob had his vision of a ladder reaching to heaven (Genesis 28:11-19). It was located a mere 12 miles north of Jerusalem and sat atop a bare mountaintop.

Dan.

The tribe of Dan had originally been given an allotment of land between Judah, Ephraim and Benjamin. This had proven to be uncomfortably close to the Philistines and in the days of the judges they migrated northward to the area north of the Sea of Galilee on the slopes of Mount Hermon (Judges 18). Capturing the Canaanite city of Laish, they renamed it Dan and made it their religious center with their own Levitical priesthood descended from Moses (Judges 18:30).

At each of these two locations there was erected a golden calf. Perhaps it was reasoned that such a means of worship had been instituted by Aaron at Mount Sinai. In actuality, both Aaron and Jeroboam had borrowed this calf worship from Egypt where the sacred cow was the symbol of the goddess Hathor.

Many of the Hebrews who remained faithful to the teachings of the Law fled to the south to where they could worship in peace. Included in this exodus were many of the Levites. As this strong core of faithful moved out, the Northern Kingdom would find itself subject to apostasy and eventual ruin.

    1. The Surrounding Nations.

Egypt.

The Pyramids are nearly 2000 years old as we enter the period of the Divided Kingdom. Egypt had been at her strongest during the days of the 18th and 19th Dynasties, but those old days of glory and fame were of the past.

Egypt was in a state of decline during the reigns of Saul, David and Solomon. That began to change in the latter days of Solomon as a Dynasty of Lybian Kings took the throne.

Following the death of Solomon, Pharaoh Shishak actually invades Judah and plunders the Temple. Egyptian records list the thousands of pounds of gold and silver that the son of Sheshonq offered to the Egyptian gods following his raid into Canaan. This was the plunder that he had taken from Solomonís Temple.

Damascus.

The city of Damascus was already an ancient city in the days of the Divided Kingdom. It was home to a people known as the Aramaeans. It was their language that would become the common language of the day so that, even in the days of Jesus 800 years later, Aramaic would continue to be commonly spoken.

Some English Bibles will make reference to "Syria" or "Syrians." That is an Anglicized name. The Hebrew consistently speak of them as the people of Aram.

Aram was the northern neighbor of Israel. Because of its proximity, the Aramaeans were constantly involved in the politics of Judah and of Israel. Sometimes Aram would enter into a treaty relationship with one of those countries and sometimes with the other.

Babylon.

The golden era of Hammurabi had come and gone by the days of the Divided Kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Babylon continued to be a world power, but the time would soon come when she was overshadowed by her northern neighbor, the kingdom of Assyria.

Assyria.

The Assyrians settled in the northeastern area of Mesopotamia that lies around the banks of the Tigris River. In contrast to southern Mesopotamia that is full of marshy reeds and swamp lands, this is a high plateau, broken up by small river valleys. The summers are blistering hot and the winters of this land are very cold.

The Assyrians became known for their terror-tactics. In a world that was already cruel and harsh, they developed a reputation for the most extreme sorts of cruelties and tortures.

The idea of these terror-tactics was to so demoralize the enemy with fear of the cruelty of the Assyrians that they would submit rather than fight. Unfortunately, it often had the opposite result. Knowing the torture, mutilation and death that they would face if they lost a battle, Assyriaís enemies were often ready to fight to the death rather than to submit.

"I built a pillar over against his city gate and I flayed all the chief men... and I covered the pillar with their skins; some I walled up within the pillar, some I impaled upon the pillar on stakes... and I cut off the limbs of the officers... Many captives from among them I burned with fire... From some I cut off their hands and their fingers and from others I cut off their noses, their ears... of many I put out their eyes... their young men and maidens I burned in the fire." - Assurnasipal.

Beginning around 900 B.C. and continuing for the next 250 years, the armies of the Assyrians began an aggressive campaign of conquest that eventually took them all the way to Egypt. In the path of this devouring host were the tiny kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

  1. The Literary Prophets of the Divided Kingdom.
  2. Obadiah

    His prophecy concerns the judgment of God against the land of Edom.

    But it also introduces a concept - the DAY OF THE LORD (15).

    Joel ?

    He takes up the same theme of the Day of the Lord and applies it to the judgment of God upon Judah.

    Jonah

    While his book is mostly narrative, it poses the question - what is God's attitude toward the pagan Gentiles? And what is to be the attitude of God's people?

    Hosea

    His family (both children and wife) served as object lessons for Israel.

    The main message of this book is that Israel has played the harlot rather than remaining as the bride of the Lord.

    Amos

    Amos is contemporary with Hosea. He has the reputation for being the prophet of social injustice.

    It is interesting that his prophecy begins with a phrase taken from the last chapter of the book of Joel (Compare Joel 3:16 with Amos 1:2).

    Isaiah

    Writes mostly to Judah (though Israel is included).

    While there are local applications to many of his prophecies, Isaiah seems often to have the future Messiah in view.

    Micah

    Micah was a contemporary to Isaiah. Like Isaiah, he prophesies both to Judah and to Israel.

  3. The Fall of Israel.

The Northern Kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 721 B.C. and most of the inhabitants of the land were carried off into captivity. In their place were settled outsiders who eventually intermarried with those living in the land. The resulting union became known as the Samaritans. They were looked on with disdain by the Jews who considered them a race of half-breeds.

The author of the book of Kings summarizes the reason for the fall of the Northern Kingdom.

Now this came about, because the sons of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and their had feared other gods 8 and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord had driven out before the sons of Israel, and in the customs of the kings of Israel which they had introduced. (2 Kings 17:7-8).

Israel had turned away from God. This seems surprising when we consider that she had seen great miracles. Time and time again, the Lord had miraculously intervened in history to save His people from destruction. If any nation on earth could testify to the power of God, it was Israel.

Nor was she without warnings. Prophets continually warned of the coming judgment if Israel did not turn from her evil ways.

But all to no avail.

The people of Israel had hardened their hearts to the teachings of God. Warnings which might have pierced their hearts now bounced off their callused souls.

This is a warning to believers today. We must never allow the teachings of the Bible to pass through our minds without allowing them to change our lives. Otherwise, if we permit these teachings to hit against our hearts but not to change our lives, we develop spiritual calluses.

The end would be as inevitable as Israelís. Our enemy ó Satan ó would soon sweep into our lives and entangle us in the chains of this world. As was true for Israel, we have a way of escape. It is through repentance and the applying of Godís Word to our lives.

6. The Pre-Exilic Prophets of Judah.

These are the prophets who ministered after the fall of Samaria but prior to the fall of Judah.

Nahum

He prophesies after the fall of the Northern Kingdom. His prophecy is directed as a judgment against Nineveh.

Zephaniah

Prophesies the coming of the Day of the Lord and its judgment which is soon to fall upon Judah.

Habakkuk

His book is written as a prayer.

7. The Fall of Jerusalem.

Judah continued to exist under the shadow of the Assyrian threat for another hundred years. Then in 612 B.C. a coalition of Chaldeans, Medes and Scythians led by a young prince named Nebuchadnezzar brought the Assyrian Empire crashing down. That year marked the fall of Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrians.

From here, Nebuchadnezzar was virtually unstoppable. The next several years took him all the way to the borders of Egypt. In his path lay the tiny kingdom of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem on three successive occasions from 605 to 586 B.C. On the last occasion, he pulled down the walls of the city, burned the Temple to the ground and hauled the inhabitants into captivity.

8. Prophets of the Exile.

Jeremiah

Known as the "weeping prophet."

Daniel

Written from Babylon. The book contains both historical narrative as well as a number of prophetic visions.

Ezekiel

While Daniel had been carried to Babylon in the first captivity of the young nobles, Ezekiel had been taken in the Common Captivity.

9. Post-Exilic Prophets.

The Babylonian Empire did not long survive the death of Nebuchadnezzar. In 539 B.C. Babylon fell to the Persian King known to history as Cyrus the Great. One of the first things that Cyrus did after the fall of Babylon was to issue a decree allowing the Jews to return to Palestine and to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia - in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah - the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, 23 "Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ĎThe Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up.í" (2 Chronicles 36:22-23).

This decree was not an isolated act of kindness just to the Jews, but rather was the general policy of Cyrus. He realized that it is much easier to rule people who are happy in their own homes and who are not trying to overthrow their rulers.

Cyrus also realized that a tribute-paying nation would be more profitable than a devastated country. Thus, he looked forward to turning the desolation into a profitable source of revenue.

However, not all Jews wanted to return to Palestine. Many had settled down, started their own businesses, and were doing quite well financially. They had no desire to uproot and move away to the desolation that had been the homeland of their ancestors.

In total, there were three major migrations of Jews returning to the land following the Babylonian Captivity.

RETURN

FIRST

SECOND

THIRD

Reference

Ezra 1-6

Ezra 7-10

Nehemiah 1-13

Date

538 B.C.

458 B.C.

444 B.C.

Leaders

Sheshbazzar Zerubbabel

Ezra

Nehemiah

Persian King

Cyrus

Artaxerxes Longimanus

Elements Of the Decree

As many as wished could return & rebuild Temple.

As many as wished could return & complete the Temple. Allowed to have own civil magistrates.

Allowed to rebuild the walls around the city.

Related Events

Work begun but then halted until 516 B.C.

Problems with inter-marriage

Wall rebuilt in 52 days.

Prophets

Zechariah Haggai

Joel?

Malachi

There were several of the prophets who wrote and ministered during the period after the return to the land.

Joel?

The Day of the Lord and ultimate Restoration

Haggai

Written to encourage the rebuilding of the Temple

Zechariah

A series of visions

Malachi

A call back to faithfulness

After 400 B.C. there followed a period of prophetic silence. Several times the writers of the various books of the Apocrypha allude to the fact that there was no prophet in the land.

So they tore down the altar, 46 and stored the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until a prophet should come to tell what to do with them (1 Maccabees 4:45-46).

The Jews and their priests have resolved that Simon should be their leader and high priest forever, until a trustworthy prophet should arise (1 Maccabees 14:41).

 

WHAT ARE THE CONTOURS OF PROPHETIC PREDICTIONS?

1. Blessings and Cursings.

The prophets spoke in a structured format that came to them from the covenant language of the Torah. That covenant had been established in the wilderness and then it had been ratified when they came into the land.

There were two types of covenants that were used in the ancient world.

Deuteronomy 28

If You Obey

If You do Not Obey

The LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey the LORD your God.

All these curses shall come upon you and overtake you

  • Blessed shall you be in the city
  • Blessed shall you be in the country.
  • Blessed shall be the offspring of your body...
  • Cursed shall you be in the city
  • Cursed shall you be in the country.
  • Cursed shall be the offspring of your body...
  • 2. Greater and Lesser.

    Leviticus 26 presents an entire cycle of disciplines and punishments that God threatens to bring upon His people if they continue in disobedience.

    In verses 1-13 there are promises of blessings that will come "if you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out" (26:3).

    Beginning in verse 14, we see a promise of the curses that will come upon the people if they reject the Lord.

    Throughout this chapter we see a great amount of patience on the part of God. Five times throughout this chapter we see the repeated refrain: "If you will not listen to meÖ"

    At the same time, the people are warned against taking this patience for granted. Therefore the Lord brings judgment in cycles of increasing severity, culminating finally in exile from the land.

    Greatest Possible Curse

    Greatest Possible Blessing

    To be exiled from the land

    To be restored to the land

    3. High and Low Determination.

    The prophets would often give prophecies that were contingent upon the actions of those to whom the prophecy was directed. This is graphically illustrated in the book of Jeremiah.

    In Jeremiah 18, the prophet goes to the house of a potter and watches him in action.

    Jeremiahís Observation

    The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD saying, 2 "Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I shall announce My words to you." 3 Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something on the wheel.

    4 But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

    Significance of the Experience

    5 Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, 6 "Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.

    Godís Elaboration

    7 "At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; 8 if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.

    9 "Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; 10 if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it.

    Notice the flow of thought in God's elaboration of this lesson:

    Prediction

    Historical Contingency

    Fulfillment

    If I speak concerning a nation to destroy it...

    If they turn from their evil...

    I will relent of the calamity

    If I speak concerning a nation plant it...

    If they do evil and do not obey...

    I will think better of the good

    The point is that God is free to act in response to the obedience or to the disobedience of people.

    An example of these is seen in Jonah 3 where the prophet travels to Nineveh and proclaims that the city will be destroyed within 40 days. He then moves to the bleachers outside the city to watch the fireworks. Forty days come and go and there is no destruction.

    Prediction

    Historical Contingency

    Fulfillment

    Nineveh will be destroyed in 40 days

    They turned to the Lord in repentantce

    God relented concerning the calaminty

    What happened? Did the word of God fail? Not at all. There had been repentance in the city as the people turned to the Lord. As a result, the city was spared the judgment of God for the time being.

    Even though the passage does not specifically state that this is the case, we understand the prophecy of Jonah to have been conditional upon their continued lack of repentance.

    There are times when a prediction shall come to pass, no matter what. How do we determine what are these sorts of predictions? God confirmed these predictions in two ways:

    This is seen in the first two chapters of Amos as God repeats again and again the phrase, "I will not turn back my wrath." Yet even in these situations, Amos 5:4 calls for sincere and extensive repentance to "Seek Me and live."

    Signs and symbolic actions were given as guarantees that the Lord had a high degree of determination to bring the prophecy about. Isaiah 7:11-14 gives this sort of sign.

    The Lord takes a divine oath to show that His promise shall indeed come to pass.

    We pointed at the outset of this class to Deuteronomy 18 and the test of a prophet. However, when applying that test, we must ask whether the prophecy was a matter of a contingency based upon the actions of the listeners or whether the prophecy was a case of confirmed or even sworn predictions.


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