Survey of the Old Testament - Lesson 21

Latter Prophets

The Latter Prophets are covenant lawyers. They are executing the lawsuit of God against Israel for unfaithfulness to the covenant. Prophets use both oracular prophecies and sign acts to communicate their message.

Miles Van Pelt
Survey of the Old Testament
Lesson 21
Watching Now
Latter Prophets

I. Introduction

II. Call of a Prophet

A. OT call narratives

B. NT Call Narrative

III. Types of Prophecy

A. Oracular

B. Sign act

IV. Covenant Lawsuit

A. Broken Lawsuit

B. Implications

  • Dr. Miles Van Pelt is offering an opportunity to study the Old Testament and understand its overall message in more detail. The Old Testament consists of 2/3 of the Bible, and serves as a foundation for many teachings found in the New Testament. Its main purpose is to point towards Jesus who makes possible a new covenant with God's people. The structure of both Testaments follows a covenantal pattern that compels humans to make choices regarding their relationship with God, while demonstrating His patience and perseverance in doing so.
  • Knowing the purpose, structure and theological center of the Old Testament, will help you understand more accurately the character of God, and his purpose in the world and in your life. The Old Testament teaches you about Christ and describes his ministry. Colossians 3:15-16 reads, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly."

  • What you decide is the theological center of the Bible will determine how you understand the Bible and apply it to your life. You can see unity in biblical authorship by the number of times the phrase, “thus says Yahweh” is used in the Old Testament.  The person and work of Jesus is the theological center of the Old Testament. The living force of the canonical word must be the incarnate word. The proper nouns used in the Bible indicate the important characters and themes.

  • Jesus claims that the Old Testament finds its ultimate meaning in him. After his resurrection, Jesus meets two disciples on the road to Emmaus and gives them a lesson in biblical interpretation. The Father and the Scriptures testify about who Jesus is. In Romans 1:3, Paul refers to the Gospel being revealed through his prophets, in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son. Every book in the Bible teaches about Christ so every sermon should teach about Christ. Hebrews 11 refers to the great cloud of witnesses.

  • The Kingdom of God is the over-arching theme of the whole Bible. God governs his kingdom by his covenants. The covenant of grace is in effect throughout the Bible and has different administrations.

  • The form that our Bibles come to us in is meaningful for interpretation. The Hebrew Bible has a different order of the books than the English Bible.  

  • The order of books in the English Bible and the Hebrew Bible is different because the criteria for determining the order is different. The order of the books in the Hebrew Bible reflect an emphasis on covenant, and also teaching important concepts then giving a practical example to illustrate how to put it into practice.

  • The three divisions in the Old Testament are the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. Genesis and Revelation are the introduction and conclusion to the Bible and have parallel themes. Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are the four covenant books that record the birth and death of the covenant mediator and contain his life and teachings. The former prophets record the history of Israel. The latter prophets call people to repent and return to God.

  • Your presuppositions about whether or not the authors who wrote the books of the Bible were inspired by God will influence your position the authorship of the Pentateuch. The traditional view is that Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament at about 1200 to 1400 B.C. The documentary hypothesis claims that there were four or more separate authors that wrote beginning in about 900 B.C.

  • Genesis is the covenant prologue and is both protological and eschatological. It is the most covenantal book in the Bible. One way to outline the book is into twelve parts, each beginning with the phrase, “these are the generations.” Creation is described using a theological order.

  • Chapter 2 is a detailed description of the sixth day of creation, culminating in the creation of woman. Chapter 3 describes the Fall and the consequences. Hebrew homonyms link the passages and intensify the descriptions.

  • Noah functions as a prophetic covenant mediator. God promises a remnant in his covenant with Noah and also renews the covenant of common grace. God continues his redemptive covenant with Abraham and his descendants. The book of Genesis ends with the narrative of Joseph.

  • This is the beginning of the formal documents of the covenant of God with the people of Israel. It begins with the birth of Moses and ends with the people of Israel coming out of Egypt.

  • Leviticus is primarily instructions to promote the holiness of God’s people. It provides a system that allows for a holy God to live among an unholy people. In the sacrificial system, there are 5 kinds of offerings. Jesus is the fulfillment of the observance of the Day of Atonement.

  • The book of Numbers is a record of the events of the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. The purpose is to contrast the faithfulness of God with the faithlessness of the Israelites. The time in the wilderness was a period of testing for the people of Israel.

  • This is a renewal of the Mosaic covenant in preparation for entering the Promised Land. It’s an encouragement to keep the Law and a reminder of blessings for obedience and cursings for disobedience. Deuteronomy points us to Jesus who ultimately fulfills the Law.

  • Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings describe the nature and purpose of the Sinai Covenant and the historical events of the occupation of the land. God know that the people of Israel would fail to obey the Mosaic Covenant, so he had planned from the beginning to establish the New Covenant when the time was right.

  • Joshua was the successor to Moses. The book of Joshua focuses on the Promised Land. The people of Israel enter the land, conquer the land, divide the land between the tribes and then renew their covenant with God. Holy war and covenant obedience are important themes.

  • Judges has two introductions, two conclusions, six major judges, six minor judges and one anti-judge. It can be described as the, “uncreation” of Israel. Their purpose was to judge the nations and to deliver the people of Israel from their oppressors.

  • The book of Samuel provides the answer to the crisis of kingship. Samuel, as the last judge and first prophet, anoints Saul as king. The people of Israel reject Yahweh as king. Saul is anointed by Samuel and serves as king but is later rejected because of disobedience. David is anointed king because God acts according to his own will. Solomon begins well and ends badly.

  • The book of Kings is the story of the monarchy in the nation of Israel. It begins with the united monarchy under Solomon, then after his death, is divided into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. We can learn about God’s character and the importance of living in a covenant relationship with God.  

  • The Latter Prophets are covenant lawyers. They are executing the lawsuit of God against Israel for unfaithfulness to the covenant. Prophets use both oracular prophecies and sign acts to communicate their message.

  • Isaiah is sometimes described as the, “fifth gospel” because it is quoted so much in the New Testament. The themes in Isaiah are both timely for his generation and also point to their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus and the end of time.

  • Jeremiah’s call was to tell the people of Judah why they were going into exile and also to give them hope for future restoration. The book contains oracles, accounts of visions and symbolic actions, prophetic laments and historical narratives.

  • One key to understanding Ezekiel is the glory of God in the temple. The book begins with God appearing to Ezekiel, then God leaves the temple and, in the end, God returns. Ezekiel’s oracles and signs illustrate each of these.

  • In the Hebrew Bible, these 12 minor prophets are treated as one book. Each one is a covenant lawyer that is prosecuting God’s lawsuit against the unfaithful nation of Israel and also preaching a message of hope for restoration. The Day of the Lord is the day of the king’s victory over his enemy, either to crush an enemy or to save a people.

  • These books are about how you think and live in light of the covenant. The genres include narrative, poetry and prophecy. The Hebrew Bible order emphasizes teaching then example.

  • Covenant life is a life of worship. The book divisions in the manuscripts were purposefully arranged so the book as a whole has a meaningful narrative. It emphasized the kingship of Yahweh, the Davidic line and the temple. You can use specific patterns of construction for understanding lament, thanksgiving and hymns of praise psalms. You can also use the same patterns to help you respond to God and worship him.

  • Job deals with the issue of human tragedy and suffering. Job never knows what happened in heaven that resulted in his suffering. His three friends made correct theological arguments but they were misapplied. Job speaks about suffering and hope. God challenges Job at the end of the book, and also restores his possessions and children.

  • Solomon created a collection of practical wisdom sayings. Some were for instructing children, some for instructing kings, but they all are applicable to help everyone live in the light of the covenant of grace in the context of common grace.

  • Ruth follows Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible. Even though she is from Moab, she lives in Israel with her widowed Israelite mother-in-law to take care of her. She marries Boaz and is included in the genealogy of David and Jesus.

  • Marriage should be both rock solid in terms of covenant commitment and white hot in terms of sexual intimacy. If it is both, you can better resist temptation, endure hardship and promote wholeness.   

  • The message of Ecclesiastes is that true knowledge, wisdom and meaning in life begins with the fear of the Lord. The author of Ecclesiastes, likely Solomon, tests this conclusion and is unsuccessful in finding ultimate meaning in activities, “under the sun,” like wealth, relationships, power, projects, etc.

  • Lamentations is a collection of funeral dirges lamenting the fall and exile of Jerusalem. The elegant structure of the book is a contrast to the chaos and destruction of the events that are taking place. Each poem gives you a different perspective on God’s character and his covenant faithfulness.

  • Esther is a story of living a life of faith in exile. It Bringing “shalom” into a hostile environment sometimes even requires risking your life. The festival of Purim commemorates God saving his people and is still celebrated today.

  • Daniel and Esther are examples of living a life of faith while in exile. Daniel was different than the writing prophets because he is not primarily a covenant lawyer prosecuting God’s lawsuit against the people of Israel. The first six chapters are biographical stories highlighting God’s power to save and his sovereignty over the nations. The second six chapters are visions of the future.

  • The book of Ezra-Nehemiah records the last events, chronologically, in the Old Testament. Ezra returned from exile with authorization to teach the Law of the Jews and institute the sacrificial system. Nehemiah returned to rebuild Jerusalem. They fail in their human attempt to rebuild heaven on earth, which encourages you to look forward to the city built by God.

  • The return from exile is not the greater one prophesied by the prophets. We still look forward to the return from exile with them in the resurrection. Chronicles traces the seed that was promised and gives an account of the return from exile.

Take this opportunity to study with Dr. Miles Van Pelt as he shows you patterns and themes that will help you understand the Old Testament and the whole Bible. He will give you an overall view of the Old Testament then discuss specifics about each of the books. 

For instance, you might ask, "What kind of book is the Old Testament?" The OT is a single story told three times over: once in Genesis, once in Exodus through Nehemiah, and once again in Chronicles (just like day 6 in Genesis 1–2). The OT loves to repeat itself, repeat itself, repeat itself. This is how it teaches us. The Old Testament is about 2/3 of the Bible and is the basis for everything you read in the New Testament. The better you understand the Old Testament, the clearer you will understand the message of the Bible. 

What is the Message of the Old Testament? The Old Testament points to the New Covenant. The teachings, prophecies and examples of covenant life point to Jesus who makes the New Covenant possible and inaugurates it. There are also examples in the Old Testament of how human efforts to create heaven on earth fall short, so that we will anticipate and yearn for our ultimate deliverance from exile.

What is the Structure of the Old Testament? The structure of the Old Testament, and the Bible as a whole, is covenantal. God offers to live in the covenant of grace with him and compels them to make that choice. The administrations of the covenant with Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus demonstrate God's patience and perseverance to include as many as are willing.


Recommended Books

Survey of the Old Testament - Bible Study

Survey of the Old Testament - Bible Study

Take this opportunity to study with Dr. Miles Van Pelt as he shows you patterns and themes that will help you understand the Old Testament and the whole Bible. He will give...

Survey of the Old Testament - Bible Study

Dr. Miles Van Pelt

Survey of the Old Testament


Latter Prophets

I. Introduction (00:13):

This is going to be a brand new section in the Hebrew Bible. We've covered the law, the former prophets, and now we're in the next major section of the prophets, the latter prophets. There are going to be four latter prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the 12. The 12 minor prophets are considered one book. If you look at our diagram that we worked on at the introductory lectures, you can see that we're roughly halfway through the Hebrew Bible at this point. We've covered Genesis and next is Deuteronomy, Joshua to Kings, and now we are moving into the prophetic literature. So we're covering these four books. We're in the midst of covenant history. Covenant history has two parts, both the history itself, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, and the interpretation of that history, Isaiah Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the 12. The latter prophets are covenant lawyers. They are executing the lawsuit of God against Israel for unfaithfulness to the covenant.

We're going to talk about four things in these introductory lectures. Some introductory matters about the prophets in their time and what they're doing. We're going to talk about the call of the prophet, types of prophecies, and the covenant lawsuit.

The latter prophets comprise almost 5,000 verses spanning approximately 400 years of Israelite history. They run from about, let's say 800 to 400. It's 790 to 425, but okay, that's hard to remember. The writing prophets cover about 400 years of Israel's history, 800 to 400 BC. There are 23,213 verses in the Hebrew Bible for the latter prophets. It's 21.4% of the Hebrew Old Testament. What's amazing is that in God's providence and the way in which He organized it, which is what David Noel Freedman worked out in his unity of the Bible, is that the amount of words in each of these four sections is roughly the same. It's one of the thing that provokes him to see the symmetry in it. 23,000 total versus here. Now, just by way of comparison, so you know what size of literature this is, the New Testament has 8,000 verses, just almost 8,000 verses. Here we're looking at over 20,000 verses.

It's a tough thing. I'll just tell you personally, it's so hard to know what to say and what not to say. So I hope the Lord will give me the right words to say, and think of it this way. I'm just surveying and summarizing. The most important thing I'm doing for you is giving you a framework, a covenantal redemptive, historical, biblical, theological framework to go back to use all this material. If I covered everything, it would just overwhelm and crush us and we wouldn't get anything out of it. It would be like making you drink from a fire hose, which this already probably feels like, so I'm going to give you the big picture frame.

The latter prophets, or we can call them also the writing prophets because their ministries are written down. The latter prophets provide the theological interpretation of the former prophets. They interpret Israel's life and the land, according to the standards of the Deuteronomic covenant. They testify to the faithfulness of Yahweh, the infidelity of Israel, and the coming of judgment without repentance. That's what they do. It is because Isaiah and his colleagues in the latter prophets wrote down their prophecies and the corresponding biographical episodes that surround him. They're called frequently, like I said, writing prophets. Who are these so-called writing prophets? What about the earlier prophets like Moses, Deborah, Samuel, Nathan, Gad, Elijah, and Elijah? The earlier prophets, those before Isaiah, for example, function as covenant guides or covenant officials until the fulfillment of all the promises of God had taken place. So before all the promises of God had taken place, He sent covenant officials to help administer His kingdom. So like Deborah and Baruch and Gideon and Samuel, even David, and then the priests.

So they were helping until the time would be full and all God's promises would be fulfilled. It was not until this time that God could begin to enact the full force of His covenant lawsuit. Until all of His promises were fulfilled in Solomon, first King's eight, then Israel's corruption could be fully impugned because God had completed all of His work, but Israel was now no longer faithful to the covenant. So it was a timing issue. God was patient to wait until their sin had become too much. So step one would be, God would fulfill all His promises. Step two would be, there would no longer be an excuse then for the people of God, because they have all they need. They couldn't say we have no judge, no king, no prophet, no land, no temple, no rest, et cetera. They had all of that.

At this time, God was now ready to execute His formal and written lawsuit. This is the primary task of the latter prophets. That is, they are Yahweh's prosecuting attorneys. That's the way you've got to think about them. Just like we thought about the allotment of the land in the book of Joshua as the formal literary proof that Yahweh was faithful to the land He promised. Then we had judges, Samuel, Kings, as the formal literary proof that Israel broke the covenant. Now we're going to have formal literary documents of the covenant lawsuit. These are the legal briefs. Now, even though they're covenant lawyers executing a covenant lawsuit, it doesn't feel like that to us because we have a different legal system. So it's going to feel like, to us, sermons, and they really are. They're preaching the truth of God's work, the folly of their ways, calling them to repent, and waiting for Yahweh. That's what they're doing over and over and over again. That's how their prophetic lawsuits worked.

The primary way in which the covenant lawsuit is going to be affected is it's going to be affected through the lens of Deuteronomy 32. Just by way of reminder, remember Deuteronomy 31:19 says, "Now for Moses to write down for yourselves this song and teach to the Israelites and have them sing it so that it may be a witness for me against them." So that time is coming now. The time of the witness is coming. The beginning of the prophetic office in Israel begins with the emergence of Israel's greatest prophet, Moses. Now, we had prophets before. Adam was a prophet. Noah was a prophet. Abraham was a prophet, but this is the theocratic office of prophet that we have in the mosaic economy, in this administration of the covenant of grace, and Moses was the first one.

It says, for example, in Hosea 12:13, "The Lord used the prophet to bring Israel up from Egypt. And by a prophet, he cared for them." The prophetic office of Moses begins with his call at the burning bush. Of course we know because we've had it now in Exodus three and four. The mediatorial nature at the prophetic office is exemplified first in Exodus 20:18-19. So prophets are mediators. Mediators of the covenant or the covenant lawsuit. Listen to these words from Exodus 20:18-19. "When the people saw the thunder and the lightning, and they heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and they said to Moses, 'Speak to us yourself and we will listen, but do not have God speak to us, or we will die.'" And later it says, "They desired the right thing, because I would've killed him," right? God's going to point a mediator to speak to Him.

The establishment of the prophetic legacy or the continuing need of a prophet in the history of Israel's legislated in the well-known text of Deuteronomy 18: 9-22. Remember in Deuteronomy 17, God legislated for the king. In Deuteronomy 18: 9-22, God legislates for the prophetic office. It's helpful to understand the call or the commission of the various prophets throughout redemptive history, and they come to us in certain form with distinctive elements. So remember how I told you in the birth narrative, there's all these little things that happen. The Angel of the Lord appears, announcement to the father, disbelief of the parents, commission, naming, some kind of sign, and then disappearing. Then it was the realization that that was the angel of the Lord.

II. Call of a Prophet (08:48):

The call of the prophet is similar to that. There's a set of components to that. It's set up first for us in the call of Moses. We'll use that one as the paradigm, and I'll show you how that works in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and no, I won't do them all, but I'll show you how they fit. There are six elements of the divine call for a prophet. This comes from a couple places. In the book, Christ of the Prophets, by Palmer Robertson on page 68, as well as the book, Form and Significance of the Narrative Calls of the Prophets, by Norman Habel. I'm borrowing this material, it's not original to me.

Here they are. Element number one is vision or appearance of God. The vision of God or the appearance of. So Isaiah can say, "I had a vision," all right? Or Moses can just say, "The Lord appeared," right? That kind of thing. A vision or appearance of God. So for Moses, we can see in Exodus three, two, there, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within the bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire, but it did not burn up. So that's the vision or the appearance. We're going to see that. Ezekiel's going to have a vision of these fiery chariots with funny wheels. Isaiah's going to have a vision of the throne room of God, that kind of thing. Introductory word, this identifies the parties and the purpose, the parties and the purpose. Number two is introductory word of God, the parties and the purpose. First, there's oftentimes a twofold naming. "When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the Bush and said, 'Moses, Moses.' And Moses said, here I am."

Remember the same thing happened to Samuel? "Samuel, Samuel." He said, "What? What's going on?" He had to go back several times. And the Lord appeared to Saul, who became Paul. "Saul, Saul," right? In his. So you got to say it twice. He's not stuttering. It's just kind of the sign there of what this is. So there's the twofold naming and then a statement of caution that's a part of the introductory word. So we're still under number two. In introductory word, there's a twofold naming, and the statement of caution. "Do not come any closer." God said, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you're standing is holy ground." Isaiah makes his own statement of caution. "Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, dwelling among people of unclean lips," kind of thing.

Then in the same thing, in the statement of caution, there's also a historical review. Related to the historical prologue, identifying God as the covenant Lord to His people. So, "I'm the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." So that's what it is.

The third element of prophetic lawsuit is the divine commission, where it says, "So now go, I'm sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt," right? Think of Isaiah's. "I want you to do this. I want you to preach so that when they hear, they really don't hear. When they see, they really don't see. And when they think they don't understand, they don't understand, because I'm going to harden their hearts." Isaiah's got a very bummer ministry. It's not secret sensitive. It's not to get convert. It's to harden. So Isaiah, "Go and have an unsuccessful ministry." So that's rough. Maybe I'm experiencing that at this point. So divine commission.

Then there's a statement of reluctance or disqualification. Everyone who's truly called says, for Moses, but Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" Right? Then he says, "Hey, I've got a speech problem," right? What does Isaiah say? "I'm a man of unclean lips. I can't do it." What does Jeremiah say? "I'm way too young." He's got the Timothy syndrome. So obviously, excused. What's one of the funny things is that when I hear about someone in the modern day and age trying to say that they're a prophet, they never really say, "But really I'm not qualified." They say, "I got gifts, baby. I'm called. I'm prepared. I'm fulfilled. I got this." No, that's not how it works.

If you're really called, you understand, you do not want to do this job. It only brings you grief. You are bringing bad news to God's people, okay? Remember, they killed him. They sawed him in two. They crucified them. This message was hard. Think of Steven. It did not have good retirement benefits on this earth. Death was the retirement. There was no retiring. You retired at death. So number four is statement of reluctance or disqualification.

Number five is divine reassurance. That comes in a number of different ways. But most frequently, with the statement, "I'll be with you, or I'll be with your mouth," or with the touching of the coal on the thing, or with God saying, "Don't worry, I'll make you a wall. No one can stand against you if you faithfully proclaim my word like you did to Jeremiah." Then finally, there's a confirmatory sign. For Moses, it went like this. "And this will be the sign to you that I have sent you. When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain," and they did.

So again, just to review those for you. There is the vision or appearance of God, a threefold introductory word, where you have a twofold name or a name, statement of conclusion, historical review, divine commission, statement of reluctance, divine reassurance, confirming sign. That's the call. So if someone comes around you and says, "I'm a prophet," you've got to make sure all these are checked off. A true prophet.

A. OT Call Narratives (14:12):

So we have four such call narratives in the latter prophets. It's not recorded in everyone. We don't know Hosea was called. We don't know how Malachi was called, but we do know that Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel all stood in the divine council, and even Amos, to receive their word. So that's what prophets were. So up in heaven, Yahweh sits enthroned with all of the host of heaven around Him, and then He's got a divine council of perhaps 70. I don't know the exact number. There are reasons to think it's 70. For example, the table of nations, 70 nations there. It's kind of a mirror of heaven. When God appoints judges and elders for Israel in the wilderness, there are 70 of them. Even baal in Ugar, he had 70 lower deities underneath him.

We know that from Deuteronomy 32, that God put angels in charge over divine beings in charge of all the nations, but He Himself oversaw Israel. He was Israel's person like that. These guys would go up and stand at that divine council. You see that also in Job when they assembled for the divine council, they invited Satan, and God would interrogate him, that's the divine counsel. So we see that. So that's where these guys are getting their messages, from the divine, from the throne room, the divine counsel. So that's the courtroom. That's the courtroom that we're talking about. So we have a call for that, for Isaiah's calls in Isaiah's six, Jeremiah's call is in chapter one, verses four through 19. Ezekiel's call is rather large. It runs from chapter one, verse one, to chapter three, verse 11. It's very big.

B. NT Call Narrative (16:03):

It important to note that not every element will occur in every call account. Moses is a paradigm, he has all of the elements. It's just like, [Athneal 00:16:13]. He had all the elements, he became the paradigm, but then the other ones kind of rift off of it and modify. Then you know that they don't have to be all the elements, but you can see them enough. It's in the covenant of creation at the beginning, the word covenant's not used, but there are so many covenantal elements there that it's a covenant. Same thing with the Levitic covenant in second Samuel seven, the word covenant's never used. But when you have the preamble, the historical prologue, the blessings, you're saying it's a covenant. Just because your car doesn't have the word car written on, it doesn't mean it's not a car. There we go.

There's also in Acts chapter nine, when Jesus appears to Saul on the road, it's the call narrative. He has a vision, an introductory word, he has a twofold naming, a commission, he's reluctant, he gets reassured, and has a confirming sign. He has all of them. So he stands in that tradition. It was important for Saul/Paul to have that because Jesus didn't call him personally in life. So now we have the record that he actually officially is that, because it matches these. So you don't have to have guesswork. You just have to have homework when it comes to this stuff. That's my whole thing about the fleece. The fleece is not about guesswork. It's about homework.

III. Types of Prophecy  (17:35):

Let's talk about types of prophecy. There are two main types of prophecy. One is oracular, and those are the speeches that you'll hear, the oracles. In Hebrew, it's massa, but it's a different word than massah and meribah, it's massa. It's from the verb to lift up. It's a noun form, it means massa, something lifted up. It's a burden to carry. You can translate to the burden of the Lord. What is lifted up from the Lord, an oracle of the Lord, it's the massa.

 A. Oracular (18:06):

Oracles come in a lot of different forms. There's a woe oracle. "Woe is me," right? That's one that Jeremiah uses a lot. There's a war oracle. There's a salvation oracle. Then you can have all kinds of different ones like that. So they usually begin with something like, "Thus says the Lord. [Co Omar Yahoy 00:18:29]." As members of the divine council, the prophets delivered the word of the Lord to his people and to the nations. This type of prophecy includes covenant lawsuits, war oracles, oracles of salvation, oracles against four nations, that's another one. Calls to repentance, and even parables, and perhaps allegory, but that's debated. With Ezekiel 16. I don't know if you just said a parable. This is the verbal aspect of prophecy. So oracular is verbal, and it has a lot of sub forms that you can use. Just like any kind of, Jesus used a lot of different things. He told parables, he was didactic, he did comparisons, he asked about the law, all kinds of stuff. Jesus taught in many ways, These are some of the prophecies.

As we mentioned this earlier, but the prophetic messenger formula, [Co Omar Ya, 00:19:23]," where it says the Lord occurs 293 times in the Hebrew Bible, first with Moses in Exodus four, all the way to second chronicles. But it occurs 227 times, or 77% of all times in the latter prophets. So this material right here is a thus says the Lord prophecy. Thus says the Lord prophecy. We could say thus, even though it's hugely archaic. It would not find its way in the NIV or the ESV, for that matter. The second type of prophecy I want to talk about are sign acts. I like the word enactment prophecy, sign acts or enactment prophecy. You can do either one. These are fun, because it's like acting out what the prophecy's going to be.

B. Sign Acts (20:15):

Here's an official definition. Sign acts are nonverbal actions and objects intentionally employed by the prophet so that the message content was communicated through them to their audiences. Sign acts are nonverbal actions and objects intentionally employed by the prophets so that the message content was communicated through them, to their audiences. This comes out of the dictionary of the prophets. You’ve got to look it up in a dictionary to get the official definition. Then you can tweak on it. What is the form of a sign act? Sign acts are recounted through a literary form, which is called the report of a sign act. They're not very creative.

The distinct literary form has two components. Here's the first component. The divine command to the prophet to perform an action. Secondly, the interpretation of the sign act. That is no sign act occurs without its interpretation. Which means you can't make up what it's about. It's going to tell you. But the sign acts is supposed to be a picture that gets burned into your head that helps you remember it. So you can lecture, lecture, lecture, right? You can have all these sermons all your life, but you remember that illustration the longest. That's what these are. These are pedagogical. There are lots of them. Let's see, there's one sign act in Isaiah. Jeremiah has either eight or nine, depending on how you count them. Ezekiel has about 15. Hosea, two, and Zachariah, one. So that's how they're kind of distributed. So there's lots of them, if you think of, there's 10, 25 close to 30 sign acts in the later prophets.

One of the worst ones is when Ezekiel's wife has to die and he can't mourn because Israel's going to perish and the Lord's not going to mourn her. So that's a rough one. I'd rather have been sawn in half before that happened to me. Let me give you a couple of examples, just for fun, so you can feel what they're like. Here's one, Isaiah 21 through four. This is a real bummer. In the year that the commander in chief who was sent by Sargon, the king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and fought against it and captured it, so the Assyrian persecution at that time. The Lord spoke to Isaiah, the son of Amos, saying, "Go and loose the sack cloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet."

He did so, walking around naked and barefoot, even talks about his buttocks later. But I kept that out for this class, I wanted to be PG. Oh, it's going to be down here in the interpretation. So what does that mean? He's got to walk around either naked or naked. Do you know the difference between the two? So there's naked in the south and naked in the south. Naked means you're undressed. Naked means you're undressed and you're up to no good.

So this was the first part. In Isaiah 20 verse three, it says this. Now we're going to interpret it. "Then the Lord said, 'As my servant, Isaiah, has walked naked and barefoot for these three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Cush, so shall the king of Syria lead away Egypt captives, and the Cushite exiles, both young and old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, the nakedness of Egypt.'" So his nakedness is a symbol of the exile and nakedness of the Egyptians coming. Once you see Isaiah naked, you're never going to forget it and so you're never going to forget that prophecy. Thankfully the Lord does not call pastors into the modern world to do sign acts anymore, but you can now do illustrations.

Here is the one for Ezekiel that I mentioned earlier, and you can just see how profound it is. "The word of the Lord came to me, son of man," which is His favorite title for Ezekiel. "I'm about to take away the delight of your eyes," He said, "from you in a single stroke, and yet you shall not weep or mourn, nor shall you have tears run down your face. Sigh, but not aloud, make no mourn for the dead, bind on your turban and put on your shoes on your feet. Do not cover your lips nor eat the bread of men." So I spoke to the people in the morning and evening my wife died. And on the next day, on the next morning, I did as I was commanded.

Notice that what he describes here, there, because this is how the Lord felt of Israel. Israel was the delight of His eyes. That's what He's saying. So it's both endearing, but also tragic, because she's whored after the nations, and it's coming on the wake of Ezekiel 16, right? It's going to be just like Hosea one to three.

Here's the interpretation. "And the people said to me, 'Will you not tell us what these things mean? Why you're acting in this way?' Then I said to them, 'The word of the Lord came to me, say to the house of Israel, thus says to the Lord, God, behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and the yearning of your soul, and your sons and your daughters, whom you left behind shall fall by the sword. And you shall do as I have done. You shall not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men. Your turban shall be on your heads and your shoes on your feet. You shall not mourn or weep, but you shall rot away in your iniquities and groan to one another. Thus shall Ezekiel be to you a sign according to all that he has done, you shall do. When this comes, you will know that I am Yahweh, your God.'"

So very, very intense. They're concentrated basically in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, but Hosea, Isaiah, and Zachariah have one or two each. So that's going to be an important feature. So these are just oracular. Then you've got ones that are actions taken out. Again, they have two parts. They've always got the sign act itself, like, "Lay on your side, dig a hole through a wall, make a house, destroy it, make a house, destroy it," kind of thing, that kind of business.

IV. Covenant Lawsuit (25:59):

We've got the call of the prophet, the two basic types of prophecies, and now we want to talk about a covenant lawsuit. The reason it's an important for us to talk about a covenant lawsuit is because covenant lawyers have legal briefs, and the lawsuit is it. I'm going to bring up the form right here for you so you can see it. What we're going to do is we're going to compare the covenant and the covenant lawsuit, because the covenant lawsuit is a modification of the covenant. They have corresponding parts. So you can see here, it begins with a so-called preamble where you have the author of the titles and the genealogies and a covenant. But in the covenant lawsuit, you just have the identification of the judge or the Suzerain, and who's coming to judge. It's going to be the Suzerain and king who's offended.

In the historical prologue section, we're going to have the testimony of innocence, a history of the Suzerain's fidelity. Then we're going to have a list of indictments regarding the vassals breaking the covenant stipulations. So you've got the stipulations over here, and we're going to have the breaking of the stipulations here. You have the faithfulness of the Lord here, the infidelity of Israel here, in the form. Then you're going to have, there's no document clause here, but you're going to have witnesses. Gods are natural elements called to witness the treaty of the oath. Summons of the witnesses, usually heaven and earth, but also Israel, because remember they are witnesses? That song is a witness. In the Song of Songs, they call gazelles and does as witnesses to the judgment. Then you have blessings and curses. This is the enactment of the covenant curses. Then you have the oath or blood ritual. Instead of sealing and confirming the treaty, you have a call to repentance to go back to the treaty.

So you've got identification of the judge, the innocence of the judge, the guilt of the vassal, calling of witnesses, the enactment of judgements, and then a call for repentance. In Isaiah, one, one is just the historical call here. Isaiah's having a vision. Listen to this opening speech. This is the Isaiah one through five, is not just the opening of Isaiah, but the opening of the whole system of latter prophets. And Isaiah one to five, the series of prophetic lawsuits and sermons based on those. Then we'll talk about where we get these from. Here we go.

"Here, o heavens, give ear o earth, for the Lord has spoken." Okay. Right away, we get two things in our system over here. "Here, o heavens, give ear o earth." Those are the witnesses, right? They have born witness to the covenant. And that's how actually, Deuteronomy 32, the song of witness opens up the exact same way. And then who is speaking? The Lord. So now we've identified the Suzerain in the top part there.

And now we're going to go to the section where the Lord recounts his faithfulness and Israel's infidelity. "Children have I reared and brought up." So the Lord is faithful to bring up a children, or a children, his children, "but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner and a donkey its master, but Israel does not know. My people do not understand. A sinful nation and people laying with iniquity, offspring of evil doers, children who deal corruptly. They have forsaken the Lord. They have despised the holy one of Israel. They are utterly estranged. Why will you still be struck down while you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick and the whole heart faint from the soul of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds, they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil. Your country lies desolate, your cities are burned with fire, in your very presence, foreigners have devoured your land. It is desolate as over up by foreigners.

"And the daughter of Zion left like a booth in the vineyard, like a lodge in the cucumber field, like a besieged city. If the Lord of host had not left a few survivors, we would've been cut off like Sodom and Gomorrah,". So it says, for example, we'll call it a repentance. We'll get there, where it says here, "I don't desire sacrifices." It says, "Therefore, wash yourselves and make yourselves clean. Remove the evil from your deeds," in verse 16, "cease to do evil, learn to do good, seek justice, corrupt depression, bring justice to the fathers, plead the widow's case. Come now, let us reason together. Though your sins are like scars, they shall be as white as snow. Though they are like red as crimson, they shall become like wool. If you're a willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."

So do you see that call repentance right there? So that's that last part that we're getting. There's this funny thing, you feel this schizophrenia in some sense, when you read these narratives, because the Lord is mad, He's been faithful. Israel's been unfaithful. He says, "I'm bringing these covenant curses, but if you repent, I'll be quick to return." So you get these great oracles of doom and these great oracles of hope, which is really, if you think about it, Isaiah one to 39, oracles of doom, 40 to 55, oracles of hope.

A. Broken Lawsuit (30:50):

Now it's not always 100%, but it's 90/10, then 90/10. Does that make sense? So you've got that pattern in there. So we're going to be seeing that language throughout all of covenant. What it's going to be doing is saying the mosaic covenant is coming to an end and judgment is coming, but there will be hope. One scholar has called that, a broken lawsuit. [Jearinist Wright 00:31:16] in the mid 1950s, Harvard University, archeologists, biblical theologian, wrote on Deuteronomy 32. Remember we talked about the fact that that Deuteronomy 32 is the backbone of the latter prophets, just like Deuteronomy 29 to 31 is the backbone of the former prophets. Deuteronomy 32 is a full-fledged covenant lawsuit with a gigantic broken part to it.

We can turn to Deuteronomy 32 and spend maybe five minutes there, and then we'll be done with the end of this lecture, because then we can just flesh all that out as we go together. Deuteronomy 32. Whenever I teach a course in the latter prophets, we always spend or two weeks in Deuteronomy 32 and covenant lawsuits and all the oracles. But here, I'm just going to give you the beginning of it. Okay, so we're going to have a call of witnesses, identification of the parties, the judge, the Suzerain, and the vassal, and then I'll keep you going with the part.

So here is versus one and two where it says, "Give ear o heavens and I will speak and let the earth hear the words in my mouth," just like Isaiah opened up, right? So you see how they're connected. "May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, like showers upon the earth, for I will proclaim the name of the Lord, ascribe greatness to our God." Now, here we go. We're going to be right here. Testimony of innocence, a historical review of the Suzerain's fidelity. The rock. Now this is not the modern rock, the wrestler. This is the real rock.

"His work is perfect for his ways are just. A God of faithfulness, and without iniquity, just as upright as he, but they," now here's the bad part, "but they have dealt corruptly with him. They are no longer his children because they're blemished, they are a crooked and twisted generation. Do you thus repay the Lord, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father who created you, who made you and established you? Remember the days of old consider the years of many generations ask your fathers, he will show you, elders and they will tell you, when the most high gave to the nations their inheritance, he divided mankind. He fixed the borders of the people according to the numbers of the sons of God." Some of you may have sons of Israel in your translation. It's a text critical issue. Best answer, sons of God, probably. There you go. Michael Heiser, The Unseen Realm. "But the Lord's portion is his people. Jacob has allotted his heritage."

So here's how it worked. In the divine counsel, after the tower of Babel, the Lord scattered the people, and He assigned His divine counsel or some other beings to supervise the nations. But He was going to keep Israel for Himself. Israel was His portion. So that's why He's so special, Israel's so special. So again, more testimony of innocence. He found him in a desert land in a howling waste of the wilderness. He encircled him. He cared for him. He kept him as the apple of His eye, like the eagle that stirs up the nest. And 12, the Lord alone guided them. No foreign God was with them. He made them ride on high places, down, down, down to 15. But Jerusalem grew fat and kicked. You grew fat, stout, and sleek.

So see how right here, it's going back and forth between these. Innocence, guilt. Innocence, guilt. Innocence, guilt. It's weaving the pattern there. In chapters 19 to 25 was a judgment. In the beginning, at 26, there's going to be a shift. "I would have or should have said I will cut them off to pieces, or cut them to pieces. I will wipe them from memory, had I not feared the provocation by the enemy, unless their adversary should misunderstand, unless they should say our hand is triumphed. It was not the Lord who did all this. For there, a nation void of council, and there's no understand in them. If they're wise, they would understand, they would discern their latter end. How could one have chased 1,000, and two put 10,000 to flight, unless their rock had sold them and the Lord had given them up? For their rock is not as our rock. Our enemies are by themselves, for the vine comes from the vine of Sodom and from the fields of Gomorrah, the grapes are grapes of poison, clusters of bitterness. Their vine is the poison of serpents and the cool venom of asps."

Then it's going to go on and he's going to reverse and says in verse 36, "But I will vindicate, or for the Lord I'll vindicate, as people have compassion on them." See that where the broken part starts? It's that schizophrenic thing again. When he sees that their power is gone and there is no good remaining, bond or free, then he will say, "Where are their high places? The rock in which they took refuge. Who ate the fat of the sacrifice and drank the wine of the drink offerings? Let them arise and help you, let them be your protection. See now, that I, even I am He, and there is no God besides me. I kill and make alive. I wound and I heal." Then all the way down to the end where it climaxes in 43, "Rejoice with Him, o heavens, bow down to Him, all gods, for the avengers of the blood of His children. And He will take vengeance on His adversaries. He repays those who hate him. And he cleanses his people and his land."

In other translations, better it says, "He will atone for his people and his land," which is what you might have there. So we have that whole thing here. We have all the official sections here, but instead of the call to repentance, we have the promise of restoration. That's why Wright calls it a broken lawsuit. All of the latter prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the 12, are preaching sermons after this fashion. This is their test. They've got to say that the Lord is innocent and you are guilty. They've got to bring the covenant curses, but they also must preach hope, because they're bound at Deuteronomy 32 in the Deuteronomic covenant. That's super important. That's what explains the prophet.

B. Implications (37:18):

Whenever I feel like the prophetic literature to the uninitiated is the hardest literature to get into because it says so many different things in so many different ways. Does Lord like the nations, hate the nations? Sometimes the nations are the object of His wrath. Sometimes they're the object of His blessing and love. Sometimes they're the instrument of His wrath, and then He gets mad at them for being the instrument of His wrath, and all are true. All are true. You've got to figure out how that works, because first comes judgment, then comes restoration. There's no restoration without judgment. There's only a restoration through judgment. There's no restoration without judgment because then God would be really unjust. There's only a restoration through judgment. That's what's happening here and you've got to understand that, that God's just judgment is exactly the path to reconciliation.

So think about Noah. Here's a sign of act for you. Think about Noah. Noah was not saved from judgment. Noah was saved through judgment. He experienced the flood judgment ordeal, but he was saved through it. In Christ, we're not free from judgment. We've already experienced with him through him. Does that make sense? It’s because he passed through judgment and we're united to him. We've passed through judgment with him. So you're never saved from judgment, just through judgment. That's an important thing to remember as we're working together.

V. Conclusion (38:50):

In the latter prophets or the writing prophets, God will show Himself to be both just and merciful. He'll require punishment for sin, but ultimately, He'll take the punishment upon Himself. This explains the alleged schizophrenia of the latter prophet. Is God going to judge His people or bless His people, destroy them or renew them? The answer is yes, it's both. The prophets always begin with the lawsuit, announce judgment, hope of repentance, and then announce future restoration. A new heaven and earth, Isaiah. A new covenant, Jeremiah. A new temple, Ezekiel. The end of the old order means the beginning of the new order. So that's what we're looking for. That's our basic introduction to the latter or writing prophets. Our next lecture will be on the book of Isaiah and we'll work all this stuff out.