This book does not contain footnotes, but it does contain a bibliography at the end which is fairly extensive. It reads much like an introduction to the prophets. The book contains summaries of each prophet, or section of the book (in the case of Isaiah, three sections). The book seems to be aimed at undergraduate students or perhaps M.Div. students as it is not very technical – transliterated Hebrew, limited background notes and text critical notes. Matthews does make use of a glossary at the back of the book to explain some of the terms that uses in a nuanced sense throughout the book (words which appear in bold).

He begins with a summary of the geography of Syrio-Palestine. The description is basically a summary of what Dr. Tolar taught in his biblical backgrounds class, or in the Holman Bible Atlas by Thomas Briscoe.

Then he moves on to describe the aspects of a Hebrew prophet, how they differed from the surrounding cultic prophets, etc. This is one of the more interesting parts of the book. Yet, it is very short.

Matthews organizes the material by each time period in which the prophets acted. For example, he discusses Moses and Balaam in the Premonarchic prophets. This helps the reader to synthesize the material and better understand which prophets were contemporaries.

In describing the Early monarchic prophets, Matthews includes some which are not usually discussed by biblical scholars or pastors – Ahijah and the “unnamed man of God from Judah”. These two appear only in minor roles in the biblical text, but Matthews still feels the need to discuss these individuals. This helps to illustrate his point that prophets were immune from judgment since their message is perceived to be from God and not from themselves.

The idea that the prophets repeated the theme found in 1 Sam 15, “to obey is better than sacrifice” is found throughout this book. He explicitly notes this in his description of Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah. It seems that this is a major idea which Matthews wishes to demonstrate running through the prophets as a common thread.

As mentioned previously, the author does not discuss Isaiah in one time period. Instead the author adopts the three part Isaiah approach. He discusses first Isaiah in the pre-exilic prophecy, and then second Isaiah within the exilic prophecy. He then discusses what he believes to be the Isaiah of the return written even later. Obviously then, Matthews takes the approach of three independent authors. The first he considers to be the authentic Isaiah, and the latter two are perhaps disciples who continued on the tradition or “school” of Isaiah – my words not his.

Matthews points out that the prophets have several characteristics in common, which is probably a literary device to show validity. They each experience a call, followed by a demurral. Then they accept the mission, and deliver a message in one of several literary genres. He notes that prophets are judged to be true prophets by the success of their messages. If they predict an outcome that does not come true, then they are not accepted as a true prophet. In addition, prophets make use of a common type of language – “thus says Yahweh”, and other types of forumlations. He notes that there were even enacted prophecies which did not always contain a spoken element. Furthermore, there were even female prophets, because the prophet was thought to have been chosen by God, and challenging his choice in a woman would be futile.

Matthews also notes that prophets generally promoted the language and idea of a ‘remnant’ which would persevere. He also describes the fact that prophets reinterpreted early prophets such as reinterpreting the exodus event by Hosea, and then later in Matthew. These prophecies must not be understood to only have value in their final reinterpretation. Rather, Hebrew people saw time as a cycle of events, so these themes and events repeated themselves with new meanings. Therefore the prophecy of a young woman giving birth in Isaiah 7:14 has merit in and of itself, and is then later applied to Christ by Christians. This does not take away from the validity of the former sense of the prophecy, but adds a layer of reinterpretation that Westerners generally do not engage in today.

He points out that Habakkuk describes Yahweh’s power as transcendent creator by describing natural phenomena (3:12,15). He notes that this is a characteristic of incorporating wisdom literature into a poetic form of prophecy. I think it could have ecological implications.

Matthews also points out that arguments for the validity of the Bible and of Christ which are based upon the “proof” of prophecy are generally insider arguments (146). He advises against using these types of arguments to engage those who are not Christians, because as he says it would be a nonsensical argument. He says, “Insiders must try to understand the positions of outsiders – to develop an appreciation for the positions of others while continuing to hold to their own conclusions” 150. He says this because he thinks that outsiders may reach different conclusions because they bring a different set of presuppositions to their interpretation of these symbols.

He notes the covenant promise implications  of the statement about the land in Joel 2:23-24. This could have ecological implications as well.

Matthews interprets Jonah as a product of a later writer describing an earlier “fake” prophet as a comical figure to illustrate that God is indeed universal. He says this because he feels that the message of the prophet would not have been accepted in the time period which it is describing. The people at that point were greatly afraid of Assyria, and would not have accepted the words of hope for Assyria. Since he gives no footnotes, it is hard to argue for or against his statement (163,167).

            He also considers Daniel to be wholly the product of Hellenistic Judaism since it contains concepts such as the resurrection. The language (aramaic) is another ‘proof’ for him. He considers the book to be composed of the legend of the the young men. This would be a sort of fairy tale illustrating ways to keep one’s identity in a time of cultural upheaval. The other section would be the apocalypse, which in keeping with the idea of apocalypse, he believes was written later and the ascribed to an exilic figure, the fictional Daniel. He takes an amillenial interpretative stance akin to that of Goldingay in his commentary on Daniel regarding the interpretation of the apocalypse

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