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The Book of the Former Prophets

The Book of the Former Prophets

Thomas W. Mann
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: James Clarke & Co Ltd
Pages: 435
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  • Book Info
    The Book of the Former Prophets
    Book Description:

    The Former Prophets of the Hebrew Bible includes the books of Joshua through 2 Kings; it is a narrative of ancient Israel's history of some seven hundred years from the "conquest" of Canaan to the exile, when Israel lost the land. Thomas Mann adopts a critical perspective and incorporates many distinct literary sources from different times into his work. The result is a compelling example of ancient historiography as well as an impressive artistic achievement. The book contains fascinating (and often horrifying) stories of war, religious fanaticism, terror, and disaster, as well as stories of deep personal loyalty, friendship, and faith. Finally, in a deeply thoughtful and constructive way, The Former Prophets addresses perennial questions like, amongst others, "What is the relationship between divine sovereignty and human political institutions?" or "In what sense are historical events the result of human acts and also of divine Providence?"

    eISBN: 978-0-227-90113-7
    Subjects: Religion
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. ii-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Excursuses (pp. viii-viii)
  4. List of Figures (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Abbreviations (pp. xi-xi)
  6. Introduction (pp. 1-12)

    In my senior year of college I took an advanced course in the Hebrew Bible that concentrated on the Former Prophets, the biblical books of Joshua through 2 Kings. The professor was Bernard Boyd, a legendary lecturer who had captivated me, like so many others, and converted me from a pre-med major to a religion major, much to the puzzlement of my friends. At the outset of this course, which had only a handful of students, Prof. Boyd presented each of us with a box of crayons. We then spent the rest of that session coloring in our Bibles, an...

  7. ONE Joshua (pp. 13-49)

    The book of Joshua is a complex combination of texts reflecting quite different literary and theological interests put together over a long period of time, immediately illustrative of the editorial process in the Former Prophets that we have outlined in the Introduction. There are exciting stories that all biblically literate children will recognize, like the defeat of Jericho, when the ear-splitting noise of trumpets makes its walls fall down, a story immortalized in the Negro Spiritual, “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho.” But then there are geographical survey lists that offer an antidote to insomnia. There are stories of the...

  8. TWO Judges (pp. 50-93)

    The canonical movement from the book of Joshua to Judges and then to Ruth and Samuel suggests the political developments that preoccupy the books: from a unified people under a single leader (Joshua), to increasingly disintegrated tribal relations and no single leader (Judges), to another single leader (Samuel and then King Saul) and (temporarily) social cohesion (1 Samuel).¹ Historically, the tribal period was probably far more ambiguous sociologically.² The book consists of stories of “judges” and their exploits, many of which no doubt existed independently prior to being collected and arranged, certainly prior to the first Deuteronomic edition (the latter...

  9. THREE Ruth (pp. 94-106)

    Jewish readers of the Former Prophets traditionally would not include the book of Ruth, for it is notpartof the Former Prophets in the Hebrew Bible. There the book occurs among the Writings, the third part of the Tanak.¹ The Christian canon, however, following the ancient Greek Septuagint, inserts the book in between Judges and 1 Samuel, for the obvious reason that the opening line poses the narrative setting “in the days when the judges ruled.” Moreover, the conclusion of the story places Ruth within the ancestry of the future King David, making the story part of his “family...

  10. FOUR 1 Samuel (pp. 107-170)

    The book of 1 Samuel presents the reader with a rich potpourri of narrative characters and subjects: an infertile woman who gives birth to a national leader, a supernatural box that topples an idol and causes a plague, a man who searches for a donkey and finds a crown, another a king caught with his pants down, gory scenes involving mutilated and dismembered bodies, a God who has both a good and an evil spirit, a “witch” who is far from wicked, and, of course, “David and Goliath.” Above all, it is a story about a powerful prophet of authoritarian...

  11. FIVE 2 Samuel (pp. 171-242)

    In the Hebrew Bible, the textual division between 1 and 2 Samuel is apparent only in that suddenly we are at chapter 1 again. It was the Greek translation (the Septuagint) that made the first division, followed by Christian readings. Not until the fifteenth century did the Jewish canon follow suit. Moreover, the character Samuel is not even mentioned in 2 Samuel (even his ghost does not reappear, cf. 1 Samuel 28!). Developmentally, the material in 2 Samuel reaches both backwards and forwards, stitching together the so-called “rise of David” (1 Samuel 16—2 Samuel 5) and the socalled “succession...

  12. SIX 1 Kings (pp. 243-317)

    The books of Kings can hold their own for fantastic stories: a king who burns himself to death; an ax head that floats on water; a mother who cooks and eats her own child; and a queen who becomes dog food. There is a prophet who can make a king’s hand shrivel (and unshrivel), and another who can raise the dead, and who, to evoke Superman, is faster than a speeding chariot, is a survivalist who can live forty days in the wilderness without food or water, and who departs this mortal life like a rocket. The books often refer...

  13. SEVEN 2 Kings (pp. 318-379)

    Given the confusing duplication of names, intermarriage, and assorted murders, a brief genealogy of the House of Omri (father of Ahab) may help the reader: The books of Kings were originally a continuous document. Perhaps those who divided it into two saw fit to do so after the death of Ahab. After noting his death, the narrator tells us that “Moab rebelled against Israel,” but waits until 3: 4–27 to give us the details. Probably the editorial move is similar to that in 1 Kgs 11:26, where the initial report of Jeroboam’s revolt leads into a retrospective theological reason...

  14. Summary and Conclusion (pp. 380-414)

    On January 22, 2010, shortly after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, many celebrities from the film, music, and television industries presented a television benefit concert. The program consisted of musical performances and brief appeals for donations, along with film clips of the disaster and many uplifting stories of rescues. Some of the musical pieces were well known songs that took on a special meaning in context: “We Shall Overcome,” “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” “Bridge over Troubled Water.” The last group of musicians was Haitian, and they began their set with another song, perhaps less familiar: “Rivers of...

  15. Glossary (pp. 415-416)
  16. Bibliography (pp. 417-423)
  17. Back Matter (pp. 424-424)