The Prophets

At one point the author summarizes We and the prophets have no language in common To us the moral state of society for all its stains and spots seems fair and trim to the prophet it is dreadful

At one point, the author summarizes:'We and the prophets have no language in common. To us the moral state of society, for all its stains and spots, seems fair and trim; to the prophet it is dreadful. So many deeds of charity are done, so much decency radiates day and night; yet to the prophet the satiety of conscience is prudery and flight from responsibility. Our standards are modest; our sense of injustice tolerable, timid; our moral indignation impermament; yet human violence is interminable, unbearable, permanent. To us life is often serene, in the prophet's eye the world reels in confusion" (10). This near-classic treatment of the prophets, written by Jewish theologian, Abraham Heschel, is full of helpful insights and reorientations of perspective. I only read the first half of the book, since the latter discussion of the psychology of ecstasy and such didn't interest me. But the main section on OT prophets reinforced my sense that the biblical prophets saw the message or gospel of God as clearly focused on communal justice and even perhaps foreign policy, not on our post-Reformation obsession with individual salvation. The book also highlighted how idolatry, too, was not some individual doctrinal error (the way we assume) but itself an alien politics and economics. To worship Assyrian or Egyptian gods was not just to worship a god of a different personal trait. It was to embrace an opposing politics, an opposing way of life. The book also highlighted the prophets' continual denunciations of violence and war (I hadn't realized how many). At the same time, their general opposition to violence and military might set them not only at odds with the conservatism of their day but also with the violent pagan systems surrounding them."Others have considered history from the point of view of power, judging its course in terms of victory and defeat, wealth and success; the prophets look at history from the point of view of justice, judging its course in terms of righteousness and corruption, of compassion and violence" (219).Still, the more one reads the communal perspective of the prophets, the more strange become the deep individualism and pietism of much of Christian faith, whether Roman, Protestant, or Eastern. All our traditions show a deep divide with the concerns of the prophets, and then we force our individualism on Jesus, though His teaching directly repeats their perspective. At the same time, every Christian tradition has sub-traditions that follow Jesus and the prophets. Still, how to explain the divide between the concerns of Jesus/the prophets and a precisionist concern about where our soul would go if we died tonight. That is our evangelism, but it doesn't dominate the horizon of Jesus and the prophets (and I'd add, not Paul's or the other apostles' either). I suspect there's a political/social answer for our deep pietism (even in those traditions, such as the Reformed, which pretend to denounce pietism). Historically, individualism and pietism and a general overemphasis on the inward tends to accompany those who have been compromised by systems of Mammon. This clearly happened to the Pharisees, once dangerously social but then tamed by Rome. And perhaps the same thing happened to Protestants when we sided primarily with German nobles and Elizabeth's quests for gold and American nuclear domination. In other words, once we surrender to Mammon, we're allowed only nonthreatening, private religion, nothing that would provoke persecution. Apart from being provocative on a few points, the book overall didn't knock me over. Much of it was common knowledge but still good.Neat opening line: 'This book is about some of the most disturbing people who ever lived.'A viral The Prophets Creat Abraham Joshua Heschel Susannah Heschel are Book Abraham Heschel is a seminal name in religious studies and the author of Man Is Not Alone and God in Search of Man When The Prophets was first published in 1962, it was immediately recognized as a masterpiece of biblical scholarship.The Prophets provides a unique opportunity for readers of the Old Testament, both Christian and Jewish, to gain fresh and deep knowledge of IAbraham Heschel is a seminal name in religious studies and the author of Man Is Not Alone and God in Search of Man When The Prophets was first published in 1962, it was immediately recognized as a masterpiece of biblical scholarship.The Prophets provides a unique opportunity for readers of the Old Testament, both Christian and Jewish, to gain fresh and deep knowledge of Israel s prophetic movement The author s profound understanding of the prophets also opens the door to new insight into the philosophy of religion.. Heschel was a descendant of preeminent rabbinic families of Europe, both on his father s Moshe Mordechai Heschel, who died of influenza in 1916 and mother s Reizel Perlow Heschel side, and a descendant of Rebbe Avrohom Yehoshua Heshl of Apt and other dynasties He was the youngest of six children including his siblings Sarah, Dvora Miriam, Esther Sima, Gittel, and Jacob In his teens he received a traditional yeshiva education, and obtained traditional semicha, rabbinical ordination He then studied at the University of Berlin, where he obtained his doctorate, and at the Hochschule f r die Wissenschaft des Judentums, where he earned a second liberal rabbinic ordination.. Good Book The Prophets Wow! This is the best book I have read in years! When I read books, I try to take notes, but books like that almost make me feel like I have copy large portions and portions of the book in my notebook for later reference. A while back I read F. B. Meyer on some of the characters of the Old Testament. I was turned off. Christian Fundamentalists don't help the situation either for me. They keep talking about judgement and anger and all these words that remind me of the god of Islam called Allah. But as I have come to read Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, I have come to rejoice in the God of the Old Testament and his judgement and be at peace when I hear about his anger. If I was still a Muslim and heard Rabbi Heschel and what he had to say about the Lord in the Hebrew Bible, I would have converted to Judaism right away. He reads the legacy of his Jewish mindset and not like those who read fragmented, mutilated passages here and there in order to justify their self-righteous "fire and brimstone" version of faith. On p. 21 Rabbi Heschel introduces us to the prophet. In my mind as a Muslim, the prophet was just a messenger. And in the Baptist seminary they taught us that the prophet is just "telling forth" what he hears from God. To me this sounds more like a mouthpiece, not too far from the Muslim concept of a prophet. In the Hebrew Bible the prophet claims to be far more than a messenger. He is a person who stands in the presence of God ( Jer. 15: 19), who stands "in the council of the Lord" ( Jer. 23: 18), who is a participant, as it were, in the council of God, not a bearer of dispatches whose function is being limited to sent on errands. He is a counselor as well as a messenger. In Amos 3: 7, we read "Surely the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets". In Islam, the prophet is nothing more than a mouthpiece who conveys what is told to him verbatim, mechanical dictation. Never is it so in the Hebrew Bible. That is why people make huge mistakes when they say that the God of Islam is the same as the God of the Old Testament or that Mohammad functioned like any prophet in the Hebrew Bible. Not really. They can just wish all they want. This secret of the Lord that the Lord is dying to reveal to His servants to the prophets, as Amos has already told us, is one of awe. Yet the prophet does not hesitate to challenge the intention of the Lord, something that never happens in Islam. Yet here the prophet says to the Lord, "Oh Lord God, forgive I beseech Thee! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!". When the lives of others are at stake, the prophet does not say "Thy will be done" but rather "Thy will be changed". in Amos 7: 3, the prophets reports that he had a way with God and "The Lord repented concerning this; It shall not be, said the Lord". Rabbi Heschel assures us the that the prophet does not prove anything. He is not in the business of arguing his message. He is merely a witness. As a witness, the the prophet is more than a messenger... and as a messenger he bears witness that the Lord is divine. Mohammad used to argue and curse those who will not agree with his message of Islam and made it a divine mandate to curse those who will not be subjugated to his religion. This is called mubahalah in Islam. Read Family of Imran verse 61. Essentially it is, if we don't reach an agreement and you don't convert to a Muslim as a result of the debate, let us raise our hands to the sky and vehemently curse those who refuse to convert to Islam. On the other hand, the prophet in Hebrew Bible is not interest in the least to argue or prove anything to you. He is just a witness. He bears witness to the message he received from his Lord. The thought he has to convey is more than the language can contain. Divine power bursts in the words. The authority of the prophet is in the Presence His words reveal. You just have to hear his words and sense the power coming from the Presence behind them and they are to cut to the core of our hearts. This prophet didn't have to worry about Richard Dawkins or worry himself about giving proofs for anything. The prophet had the right concept: there are no proofs for the existence of the God of Abraham. There are only witnesses. The greatness of the prophet lies not in the ideas expressed, but also in the moments he experienced. As a witness, he experienced his moments with the Lord he has been with, and his words are a testimony to that- to God's power and judgement, to His justice and mercy. If we look for prophetic coherence, it won't be in what the prophet says but of WHOM he speaks. Indeed, not even the word of God is the ultimate object and the theme of his consciousness. The ultimate object and theme of his consciousness is God, of Whom the prophet knows that above his judgement and above his anger stands His mercy. On p. 24 Rabbi Heschel states that the attitude that the prophet takes to the tension that obtains between God and the people is characterized by dichotomy. In the presence of God he takes the part of the people. In the presence of the people he takes the part of God. On p. 25, he says that the conception of the prophet as nothing but mouthpieces, the assumption that their hearts remain unaffected, would almost compel us to apply to them the words that Jeremiah used of the people in chapter 12 verse 2, "Thou art near in their mouth, and far from their heart". The prophet is not a mouthpiece, but a person; not an instrument, but a partner, an associate of God. In chapter 2, Rabbi Heschel deals with concept that we all know, Israel being the chosen people of God. He explains that from the beginnings of the Israelite religion the belief that God had chosen this particular people to carry out his mission has been both a cornerstone of Hebrew faith and a refuge in moments of distress. What Rabbi Heschel is so important for Muslims to hear, especially Palestinian Muslims who chose Atheism as they accuse the God of the Old Testament of being a racist god. Rabbi Heschel says, the prophet had to remind the people that chosenness must not be mistaken as divine favoritism or immunity from chastisement, but, on the contrary, that it meant being more seriously exposed to divine judgement and chastisement. In Amos 3: 1-2, he says,1 Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up out of the land of Egypt: 2 "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.Does chosenness mean that God is exclusively concerned with Israel? Does the Exodus from Egypt imply that God is involved only in the history of Israel and is oblivious of the fate of other nations? Amos 9: 7 has the answer:"Are you not like the Ethiopians to me, O people of Israel?" says the LORD. "Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir? 8 Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground; except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob," says the LORD. 9 "For lo, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall upon the earth. 10 All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, 'Evil shall not overtake or meet us.'The nations chosen for this comparison were not distinguished for might and prestige- countries such as Egypt and Assyria- but rather, nations which were despised and disliked. The color of the Ethiopian is black and in those days many of them were sold on the slave markets. The Philistines were the arch enemies of Israel, and the Syrians continued to be a menace to the Northern Kingdom. The God of Israel is the God of all nations, and all men's history is is His concern.On p. 46 Rabbi Heschel discloses : He is a God of pathos. No matter how angry he is, he is always on the side of his people and is seeking every means to show his redemption to them and restore them to Himself. His anger simply means he responds to how we act and his not without emotion or passive or uncaring. But as we speak about his anger we have to instantly mention his compassion. The two go hand in hand inseparably. All prophets felt the pathos of God even in the midst of his anger. That anger of the Lord did not express all that God felt about the people. Intense is His anger, but profound is his compassion. It is as if there were a dramatic tension in God. Rabbi Heschel puts is so beautifully when he says, God is conceived, not as the self-detached Ruler, but as the sensitive Consort to Whom deception comes and Who nevertheless goes on pleading for loyalty, uttering a longing for reunion, a passionate desire for reconciliation. Of all prophets, only Jeremiah has sensed a wider scale of personal relations, a more intense subjectivity. Hosea has given us a supreme expression of the vision of the subjective God so typical for prophetic awareness (please read Hosea chapter 11: 8-9). On p. 83, Rabbi Heschel presents with a beautiful concept that didn't cross my mind before. The prophets were moved by sympathy for God. Isaiah is animated by a sense of dread and the awareness of the transcendent mystery and exclusiveness of God and only secondarily by a sense of intimacy, sympathy, and involvement in the divine situation. Isaiah's sympathy for God comes to expression in a parable describing the crisis in the relationship between God and Israel(Isaiah 5: 1- 7):Let me sing for my beloveda love song concerning his vineyard:My beloved had a vineyardon a very fertile hill.Here Isaiah knows how his beloved feels. He sings about it. He feels the pain of his beloved. He is fully sympathetic. He is telling the people, Look at how the Lord feels, see where He is, see what you did and how that is making him feel. Feel for him. What intimacy!

About Author

  1. Heschel was a descendant of preeminent rabbinic families of Europe, both on his father s Moshe Mordechai Heschel, who died of influenza in 1916 and mother s Reizel Perlow Heschel side, and a descendant of Rebbe Avrohom Yehoshua Heshl of Apt and other dynasties He was the youngest of six children including his siblings Sarah, Dvora Miriam, Esther Sima, Gittel, and Jacob In his teens he received a traditional yeshiva education, and obtained traditional semicha, rabbinical ordination He then studied at the University of Berlin, where he obtained his doctorate, and at the Hochschule f r die Wissenschaft des Judentums, where he earned a second liberal rabbinic ordination.

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The Prophets Comment

  1. Wow This is the best book I have read in years When I read books, I try to take notes, but books like that almost make me feel like I have copy large portions and portions of the book in my notebook for later reference A while back I read F B Meyer on some of the characters of the Old Testament I was turned off Christian Fundamentalists don t help the situation either for me They keep talking about judgement and anger and all these words that remind me of the god of Islam called Allah But as I h [...]


  2. As much as I love Abraham Heschel s writing I probably wouldn t have picked this up if my Catholic women s book club hadn t selected it We read book 1 the first half and it was simply superb It is common to characterize the prophet as a messenger of God, thus to differentiate him from the tellers of fortune, givers of oracles, seers, and ecstatics Such a characterization expresses only one aspect of his consciousness The prophet claims to be far than a messenger He is a person who stands in the [...]


  3. At one point, the author summarizes We and the prophets have no language in common To us the moral state of society, for all its stains and spots, seems fair and trim to the prophet it is dreadful So many deeds of charity are done, so much decency radiates day and night yet to the prophet the satiety of conscience is prudery and flight from responsibility Our standards are modest our sense of injustice tolerable, timid our moral indignation impermament yet human violence is interminable, unbeara [...]


  4. My spiritual director, a Benedictine monk, recommended Abraham Heschl s The Prophets to me I had brought to him some badly muddled thinking about the prophets, despite my knowledge of Israelite history and the Bible Heschl s book profoundly altered my thinking He called me to a clearer understanding of the God who called the Hebrews out of Egypt, named them as a people peculiarly his own, and demanded their unwavering fidelity The prophets were those men who were called by God and given a clear [...]


  5. Abraham Heschel s The Prophets offers a thorough and insightul analysis of the phenomenon of the prophet in the Hebrew Bible.The first part of the book begins, modestly enough, as something of a commentary on the texts of the prophets This begins with a general discussion of the sort of man that the prophet was, before going into individual readings of the prophets and discussion of the historical contexts in which they operated.The book then moves into a theological and philosophical discussion [...]


  6. A tome, indeed.I first became aware of Abraham Joshua Heschel by his presence when he walked across the Pettus Bridge, linked arms with Martin Luther King And that is certainly an important way to remember him, as a man who put his faith on the street He was, of course, also a traditional scholar, carrying understanding of Torah and the other Hebrew Testaments from the past and translating them for new generations and new understandings Revelation is not a voice crying in the wilderness, bur an [...]


  7. Absolutely awesome He had me in tears in the Introduction That s pretty good It is a study of the prophets from the standpoint of divine pathos A tremendous reflection upon the emotional concern of God for man There are some dangers I suppose if you took this too far, but if you or anyone needs a cure for a view of God a dispassionate stoic this is it This one goes right up toward the top of my list


  8. I originally found Heschel s The Prophets in the references on the site for the prophet Jeremiah I had been reading the book of Jeremiah for my scripture study, and hand found some of the particulars difficult to understand I knew Jeremiah was a bit of a downer, but his constant calls of destruction, his apparent self hatred were a bit confusing at one point, he cries, cursed be the day my mother bore me I didn t want a verse by verse explanation, but a little context was appreciated.I got than [...]


  9. Less a work of historical criticism than a philosophical tract though certainly thoroughly researched and highly critical , Heschel holds up the prophets of the Tanakh as exemplars of not just divine revelation, but also of divine pathos and prophetic sympathy, men attuned to God s concern for humankind and brave enough to speak His word to those who ve forgotten it The key here is reciprocity between the divine and the human, a concept to which I fully subscribe.


  10. I have read the vast majority of this book for a graduate level Prophets course It s commentary is extraordinarily helpful in understanding both the major and minor prophets of the Hebrew Bible In particular I appreciated how Heschel embeds the word into his commentary Through his work, Heschel helps develop what the prophet Hosea calls daath elohim an intimate sensitivity for who God is and God hopes and desires for relationship with humanity and all creation.


  11. Volume Two is scholastic than Volume One and a slower difficult read As I read it, I had the sweet feeling of being in the presence of a master What a beautiful mind What a beautiful soul


  12. Is God involved in prophecy The late Abraham Joshua Heschel 1907 1972 was one of the great Orthodox Jewish scholars, theologians, and philosophers of his generation His books made a striking impression on many people, including me His many insights are eye opening His book The Prophets is one of his classics.He tells us that he will not address the well known question about prophets Did God really speak to them Did they actually communicate with God Yet, I think it is clear that he did not belie [...]


  13. I read this book after reading The Prophetic Imagination by Brueggemann who often mentions The Prophets as a major influence After reading The Prophetic Imagination, I concluded The Prophets was probably the most important work of scholarship of the Hebrew scriptures in the last 50 years After reading, The Prophets, I have concluded it is the most important work of scholarship of the Hebrew scriptures in the last 100 years Wonderfully researched and clearly written, Heschel builds up his thesis [...]


  14. Heschel does a wonderful job in this classic text deconstructing Greek influences on our conception of God and the prophets He brilliantly states that the job of the prophet is to empathize with the pathos of God It s the same kind of thing we do Heschel marched with King and is a radical thinker, right up our alley I don t think he ever became a Christian But in his polemic against other faiths, he seems to protect Jesus and Paul, in particular never hurling a critique of them But he does have [...]



  15. Feb 2012 Recently completed Book II also excellent, a bit less of direct argument and historical contextualising against other faiths Oct 2011 This review is for Book I am taking a break before digging into Book II I generally enjoyed Book I and really like how as a Jewish author he argues solely from the Old Testament and yet the message resonates very strongly with the message of the New Testament The structure of the text is a reading of individual books, then a few thematic summaries chiefl [...]



  16. Finally finished this big boy The first half of the book less dated and readable is an introduction to the Hebrew prophets and a number of their biblical books The second half is technical, and explores the theory and nature of Hebrew prophecy Heschel s literary scholarship becomes a work of profound theology, as he centers his analysis on the prophets unique contribution to our understanding of God and humanity In his opinion, this is pathos, which at one point he defines as divine attentiven [...]


  17. This book is an absolutely incredible argument that the literary prophets main agenda is God s pathos as a call for justice in humanity In Heschel s meditative yet highly persuasive tone, he shows why the literary prophets are so relevant and what we should do about it And of course, Heschel enacted the social justice the prophets called for throughout his own life.However, I sometimes found his assumptions inconsistent with his arguments, and sometimes, inconsistent with the literary text Also, [...]


  18. This is an excellent, comprehensive treatment of the Biblical prophets Heschel opens with brief summaries of a few notable prophetic books in Scripture, and then moves to an understanding of the person, office, convictions, and emotions associated with Biblical prophecy Most interesting is the description of the prophet s intimate relationship with God Heschel contrasts the Hebrew prophets with those of other cultures, and particularly within Greek philosophy He discusses the emotions of God as [...]


  19. Longish, but a very interesting read overall The first part is quite good, giving a clear description of the prophets, their message and the political theological rationale behind their rhetoric When Heschel delves into the concept of Pathos as his hermeneutic horizon for understanding the unique approach of the prophets, he is thorough and rigorous The concept of Pathos is interesting and useful to describe the distinctive character of Jewish Monotheism However, the final hundred or so pages ge [...]


  20. This is a phenomenal book Other theologians should take note Heschel has proven that it is possible to express profound ideas in understandable, even eloquent language Obscurity is not a measure of the greatness of a book In addition, Heschel writes unapologetically, but intelligently, from a faith perspective, and avoids the modern error of trying to understand religious faith from a non faith stance The big contribution he makes is his understanding of God s pathos, or, popularly put, God s c [...]


  21. Where s the option for Loved what I read, but lost interest halfway through when the focus changed Heschel s portraits of the individual prophets were very helpful, and different from other things I ve read I liked their depth and nuance quite a lot, and will certainly be referring back to those chapters in the future When he turns to the prophetic genre broadly, that s where he lost me, perhaps because that s not what I wanted from this book I wanted the bits about the specific prophets.Still, [...]


  22. Can t deny this is a magnificent work on the Prophets which elucidates and scrutinizes many aspects of that literature, keeping at the same time a focal point It can be tough at some times But it s a great read for someone that has interest to approach the prophetic mind It really shows us how revolutionary ideas like world peace and ever lasting justice appeared in history I wouldn t recommend it to someone that has no prior reading in theme or just curiosity But again, there s a greatness in t [...]


  23. It took me a long time to finish this book, that s because it is a book that needs to be studied rather than being only read The book is profound and somehow academic, it needs some elementary knowledge of philosophy, history and the bible.However it solves many riddles about the God of the Old testament that can t be solved in rationalistic apologetic books I highly recommend this book.The author is Jewish and I am a christian but the book was enlightening to me than many Christian books.


  24. Deeply spiritual, insightful, and historically cognizant Heschel s mystical, scholarly spirituality oozes into his reflections on the Old Testament prophets His ability to get into the psychological depths of agony, ecstasy, and emotions of the prophets and their call to their respective situations makes way for many pauses and selahs Wonderful resource for devotional, contemplative spirituality.


  25. This was the first work of Abraham Heschel I read, and I fell in love The teachings, the lives, the struggles, the dreams and the hopes of the prophets all became so real and alive Complexities became understandable, and the bizarre was made relevant.I refer to this book as a reference book, again and again however, it is also a good read I love just to pick it up and enjoy.


  26. This is a powerful book bringing light to the Old Testament in a way I have not heard it It stands as an invitation to enter into the pathos of God and to see the world and ourselves from His perspective I ve had this book for a long time, but finally got around to reading it I will be pondering it for some time to come.


  27. Heschel approaches the biblical witness of the prophets by diving in as best he can to the content of their experience what is it like being a prophet, seeing the world as they see it Heschel certainly can write, and his treatment of prophecy as a genre unto itself offers tremendous insight to any student of the Ketub im.


  28. Heschel s serious take on the prophets is well worth the read He provides an Old Testament, Rabbinical look at the prophets by book as well as overarching themes including history and justice It is most commonly read in the academic setting, but I would encourage every minister lay and ordained to have a copy on hand.


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