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Posted on Jun 04, 2024 by Mike LeDuke Next article:The Writings

The Prophets

What is a prophet? And who was the first prophet in the Bible?

As far as I can tell, the first prophet mentioned in the Bible is Abraham (Genesis 20:7), and the role of a prophet appears to be fairly straightforward: it referred to those who spoke God’s words (Numbers 12:6; Deuteronomy 18:18). Nevertheless, as noted in the last post, the Jewish Bible is divided up into three sections, with the second section being “The Prophets,” and Abraham, the first prophet, isn’t part of that section. The prophets begin with the book of Joshua, skip over the book of Ruth, include Judges through Kings, and then skip Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon, and begin again with Isaiah and continue all the way to the end of what Christians consider the Old Testament. Thus, Joshua, the judges, and the time of the kings are all included in the prophets. Considering that there were a number of prophets throughout these times, this form of organization makes sense.

Yet, what does this section claim about itself? How did it come about? Just like the Torah, the books of the prophets describe how they were written: So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and put in place statutes and rules for them at Shechem. And Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone and set it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. (Joshua 24:25, 26). In fact, not only does Joshua write out his own book, but he also, throughout the story, writes out a copy of the Torah (Joshua 8:32).

The same thing happens in the time of Samuel: Then Samuel told the people the rights and duties of the kingship, and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the LORD. Then Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his home. (1 Samuel 10:25).

The books written by the prophets almost all state their authors. In other words, the prophetic section of the Hebrew Scriptures is fairly clear about its authorship: in many cases, the people whom the books describe are typically the ones who wrote them. Yet, just like the Torah, which clearly described its origin as divine, the prophetic books do the same thing. Throughout the prophets, God approaches the prophet and tells him to say a specific thing or record a specific prophecy. Thus, by simply reading the text, one can see that this section was written by many well-known Israelites, who were approached by God and given a message.

The third section, the Writings, is somewhat different, however. Unlike the first section, which was mostly law, and the second section, which was focused on prophets, the third section is a blend of many things: poetry, wisdom literature, prophecies, lamentations, and history. Does it describe itself in the same way as the other sections? Was it also written by the people that it discusses? We'll delve into that in our next installment, God willing. Stay tuned!

— Jason Hensley, PhD