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A History of the Bible

Dr. William S. Sadler

8. Prophetic Literature and Wisdom Literature



    PROPHETIC LITERATURE:
  • I. EARLY SPOKEN WORD
    • 1. Hebrews divided their Scriptures into the law, the prophets, and the writings.
    • 2. The prophets were two divisions:
      • a. Fomer Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Kings, Samuel.
      • b. Later Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the 12 minor prophets.
    • 3. Lamentations and Daniel were placed among the "writings."
    • 4. The early prophets were all preachers. Some later wrote out their exhortations,
    • 5. Jeremiah dictated to Baruch. Chap- 36.
    • 6. Language of sound was more effective than the language of sight.
    • 7. The early prophets were ecstatic. Their behavior was almost orgiastic. There was music and dancing; a frenetic frenzy.
    • 8. Illustration: Saul joins the prophets. Dances--throws a spear at David. Dances with frenzy all day in the nude.
    • 9. The dancing and shouting were like a mad dervish.
  • 2. TRANSFORMATION OF PROPHETISM
    • 1. The rhythm of dancing was changed to the rhythm of poetry. The cataleptic trance prophet was turned into the more dignified poet.
    • 2. Serious-minded preachers like Hosea, Micah, and Jeremiah began to appear.
    • 3. But the older.visions persisted even in Isaiah and Amos.
    • 4. The prophets became sort of mediators between man and God.
    • 5. Sometimes the prophecy was written out by the prophet, sometimes by others.
  • 3. THE EVOLUTION OF PROPHECY
    • 1. The early prophets uttered threats of destruction. Later editors added hope--promises of salvation dependent on repentance.
    • 2. Much of the apparent growth of prophecy was the work of the priests--editors of the captivity.
    • 3. Isaiah the Second is an exception. He presented hope and salvation as a part of his original message.
    • 4. The latter-day prophets began to talk about the end of the world--the triumph of Israel as ruler of all nations.
    • 5. This apocalyptic message was centered in the Messiah who would come to sit on David's throne and rule the world.
    • 6. Prophets were less and less concerned with predicting future events. They dealt more with present predicaments.
    • 7. The prophet was a "man of God"--declaring the "will of God." He was inspired.
    • 8. The five hundred years of the "prophets of Israel" represent the greatest period in the spiritual history of the world.
    • 9. New Testament founders honored the prophets. "Because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." II Peter 1-.21.
    • 10. The prophets preached holiness, love, and justice, and,opposed sacrifices and overmuch ritual.
    • 11. Prophets were not ascetic--they did not separate themselves from the people. And they were patriotic.
    • 12. They were fearless and honest. The later prophets spurned all ecstatic performances.
    • 13. "The sons of the prophets" were counselors and religious teachers--like the evangelists of the Christian era. They had schools at Bethel, Gibeah, Gilgal, and Ramah.
    • 14. There were always to be found false and mercenary prophets.
    • 15. John the Baptist is spoken of as "the last of the prophets."
    • 16. But they still referred to "prophets" during the apostolic days.
    • 17. In both Old Testament and New Testament times there were prophetesses--Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and Anna.
    THE WISDOM LITERATURE:
  • 1. WISDOM IN THE NEAR EAST
    • 1. The "wise men" must not be confused with magicians and astrologers.
    • 2. The Orient had "wise men," but not philosophers. The Greeks and the West had philosophers, but not "wise men."
    • 3. Egypt's Amenhotep was a combination of wise man, philosopher, and religious teacher.
    • 4. Proverbs is typical of the mood and method of the Levantine "wise men."
    • 5. Proverbs ranges from "riddles" to sublime philosophy.
    • 6. Makes large use of plant and animal fables.
    • 7. The "wise men" were "scholars," and really sought to find out the meaning and worth of human life.
    • 8. Egypt and Babylonia had "wise men," but we hear nothing about such in Assyria or Edom.
  • 2. WISDOM IN EARLY ISRAEL
    • 1. The Canaanites had wisdom literature--findings at Ras Shamrah.
    • 2. Israel also had "wise women"--Song of Deborah borders on wisdom literature.
    • 3. When Joab wanted to persuade David to let Absalom come home, he sent to Tekoa for a "wise woman."
    • 4. The "wise woman" suggested going to Abel to seek wisdom-the site of ancient "wisdom schools." II Sam. 20-.16-22.
    • 5. The one pure plant fable of the Oriental type is that of Jotham. Judg. 9:8-15. Lesson: Respectable persons are too busy for politics, so the reprobates take over.
  • 3. WISDOM OF SOLOMON
    • 1. Typical case: The disputed baby. I King 3:16-27.
    • 2. Solomon was astute--and a good psychologist.
    • 3. David was a country man--Solomon was a city man--he knew both the graces and vices of city life.
    • 4. Solomon was a patron of the arts and sciences.
    • 5. They tell us that Solomon authored 3,000 proverbs and wrote 1,005 songs. We have no record of all this--unless in a few Psalms and Prov. 14.
    • 6. Passages ascribed to Solomon--Prov. 30:18,19; Chap. 24-31
  • 4. WISDOM BEFORE THE EXILE
    • 1. Jewish "wise men" were sometimes half humorists and a bit cynical. The Hebrews had three sorts of literature: priest, prophet, and wise man.
    • 2. Many of the Psalms belong to the wisdom group. Ps- 15, 24, 19, 16, 49, 73.
    • 3. Ps. 19:2 may be an Oriental riddle. The riddle: "What is it that speaks by day and night, and yet has no voice?" Answer: "The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork."
  • 5. WISDOM AFRER THE EXILE
    • A. Proverbs
      • 1. Prov. 1 is the symbol of post-Exilic wisdom. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
      • 2. Prov. 1-9 is certainly post-Fxilic.
      • 3. Proverbs is a compilation like the Psalms.
      • 4. There are two sections of Proverbs:
        • a. The humanist: Little is said about God. Man is largely the master his mortal destiny. If you want to be happy and prosperous, look to your method of living--be intelligent, industrious, frugal, and moderate.
        • b. The religious: Advocates typical Hebrew morality. Be pioust unselfish, and moral.
      • 5. There are eight divisions of the book.
        • a. Praise of wisdom. 1:7-9
        • b. Proverbs of Solomon. 10:l-22:16
        • c. Words of the wise. 22:17-24:22
        • d. Sayings of the wise. 24:23-34
        • e. Proverbs of Solomon. 25:1-29;27
        • f. Words of Agur. 30:1-33
        • g. Words of King Lemuel; 31:1-9
        • h. Praise of a good wife; 31:10-31
      • 6. It was the Hebrew custom to assign Proverbs to Solomon and Psalms to David.
      • 7. Proverbs exalts the individual rather than the nation.
      • 8. Prov. 22:17-24:22 sounds like the wisdom of Amenemope. 1000-600 B.C. Ps. 1 and Jer. 17:5-8 come from the same source.
      • 9. Proverbs advocates that man is entitled to enjoy material pleasures; perfume, wine, friendship, and married life.
      • 10. The wise man shuns adultery, usury, fraud, theft, and ill-gotten gains.
      • 11. Self-interest, rather than moral law, dictates good conduct.
      • 12. Take an interest in the widow and orphan--even in your enemies.
    • B. Job
      • 1. Job is the greatest of Israel's wisdom literature. The question of Job:1-- "Why do the righteous suffer?"
      • 2. Jesus' discussion of Job. The Urantia Bool@,p. 1662.
      • 3. Job is a challenge of the Egypto-Hebraic doctrine that the righteous and the wicked receive their just deserts here on earth.
      • 4. Job is an immortal poem about a just soul that suffered, despaired, and battled on until it found peace and salvation.
      • 5. The book is a great philosophic debate concerning the ever present but unanswered problem of EVIL.
      • 6. Job's miserable comforters and their smug orthodoxy did not have the answer.
      • 7. Job is constructed somewhat on the order of the Greek drama.
      • 8. Multiple authorship in Mesopotamia. Representative of the Salem school at Kish. See Urantia Book, p. 1043.
      • 9. Jesus called the book of Job a parable. He said it was ffthat masterpiece of Semitic literature."
      • 10. After the failure of theology and the breakdown of philosophy, Job gained his victory by personal experience.
      • 11. Job at last, by faith, reasons himself out of his troubles. He declares:- "I know the way I take; when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
      • 12. Job's triumph was complete. He exclaims: "I know that my vindicator liveth." (19:25) "'Though he slay me, yet will I trust him." (13:15) King James Version.
    • C. Ecclesiastes
      • 1. This book is a strange mixture of Egyptian pessimism and Greek philosophy.
      • 2. The author is searching for the "value of human life."
      • 3. The theme song is: "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."
      • 4. It is cynicism and pessimism. It presents the theory that all history and nature move in a circle, an ever-revolving and recurring cycle.
      • 5. The pursuit of pleasure, wealth, and wisdom--all end in futility.
      • 6. The author harps on the sorry plight of the oppressed, the lonely, the discontented, and the hazards of daily work.
      • 7. There is much Epicurean philosophy: "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die."
      • 8.Yahweh, the God of Israel, is never mentioned. Elohim is not interested in our daily life. (5:2)
      • 9. In Chap. 8 he equivilates wisdom with individual education. The book is devoid of the "cosmic viewpoint."
      • 10. Prayer is not mentioned in the entire book.
      • 11. The educated and spiritually-minded reader can't help feeling something of pity for the author.
    • D.The Apocrypha
      • 1. Both Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon continue the presentation of Hebrew wisdom.
      • 2. Ecclesiasticus is shot through with the philosophy of the Stoics.
      • 3. Some of these Old Testament teachings were carried over into the New Testament.