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The Prophets as Preachers: An Introduction to the Hebrew Prophets Paperback – September 1, 1998
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Smith begins his work with a very helpful discussion of the method of communication utilized by the various OT prophets. He rightly notes, “The prophets functioned as spokesman for God so their main role was to communicate God’s word to others…The prophets were preachers who communicated God’s words in order to transform their audience’s thinking and social behavior.” When a prophet declared “Thus says the Lord” the intent was that the recipients of that word from the Lord would take the message to heart and return to following God’s commands. This declarative style of communication was prophetic in that often God declared through the prophets things that would indeed take place in the future should the people of God refuse to heed God’s words. Furthermore, the style of communication the prophets utilized involved the preaching of God’s word “to their audience to elicit a response.”
Building upon this discussion of the transformational nature of the Hebrew prophet’s message, Smith next engages the societal elements of his the transformative word of God took place or quite often, did not take place due to the rejection of God’s message by the people. In this section, Smith takes a look at the various methodologies presented by scholars on the nature of society during the period of the prophets focusing specifically on matters of objective reality, subjective reality, and the application of externalization to the social setting. After thoroughly discussing each of those aspects, Smith saliently brings the world of the prophets to our time, noting the similarities that exist when the gospel is shared in modern culture. He aptly comments, “Since socially accepted cultural norms and behavior patterns naturally resist change, it is not always easy for those hearing the message to transform their old habits. Regardless of the response, the messenger must faithfully deliver the message, yet recognize that it is God who sovereignly works to produce results that will glorify His name.” Understanding that the methodology of preaching God’s word remains the same, namely the declaration of truth, provides the reader with a grasp of the need to always remain true to preaching and teaching God’s word as the prophets were devoted.
The remainder of this helpful book uses the aforementioned foundation of understanding the methodology and purposefulness of the prophets preaching to elaborate on each of the Old Testament prophets on an individual basis. Each chapter provides the reader with a brief yet informative introduction to that particular prophet, followed by an engagement of the social setting in which the prophet lived and into which he declared the Word of the Lord. Continuing his focus on matters of a societal nature, Smith lucidly connects the message provided by God through the prophets to the particular issues addressed by each prophet. For example, in his discussion of the prophet Nahum, Smith states, “Nahum said little about social institutions, behavior patterns, or the theology of the people of Judah. Instead, Nahum focused on the predominant force that influenced the Judean conception of objective reality: the Assyrian empire. Its culture shaped Judah’s political and religious conditions and suppressed economic prosperity.”
When engaging the message of the prophets, approaching their declarations from a more developed understanding of the societal issues and framework that formed the milieu of the day is quite important and Smith does an excellent job of focusing on those particular issues throughout this book. Understanding the life and times in which people lived and the historical events that shaped their lives is a valuable part of solid and thorough bible study and exegesis. Thus, Smith’s focused effort at noting exactly what the message of the prophets was directed or also to whom God’s message was directed and why, provides the reader with a clear framework upon which to better understand the why and what of their message. Furthermore, Smith adeptly brings the message and approach of each prophet forward to our own time, noting how events of the past continue to take place today albeit in slightly different societal contexts. Such an approach helps the reader cross what is often called the “principlizing bridge” or the necessity of understanding something written to a group of people in the past and how that message still applies to people today.
Also of great assistance are the questions for discussion located at the end of each chapter. Given this book is likely geared towards Bible College or seminary students, the provision of such questions provides additional means by which the reader can review and apply the information discussed by Smith. Additionally, this text is also useful for personal study or a small group setting as it is academic in focus without being overly academic in its approach. While there are certainly other texts available that may engage the Old Testament prophets in greater detail, Smith’s effort is nonetheless timely and provides the reader with a great deal of information that will assist them in understanding the role of the prophets as watchman on the wall, men called by God to deliver His word to societies grappling with outside influences, unbelief, and leaders who more often than not were leading the people astray. I highly recommend this book for those interested in better understanding the Old Testament prophets and how to apply their timeless message to our own milieu.
I received this book for free from B&H Academic for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Chapters 1 and 2 give theories about the nature of communication and social change, the remaining sixteen chapters apply the theories to each of the sixteen writing prophets, and a final chapter summarizes principles characterizing prophetic endeavors.
After a short introduction suggesting the book's key issues, each chapter has several pages on "Social Setting" that give the historical context, structure of the social order and social location and role of the prophet. The main section of the chapter, entitled "Social Interaction," presents an outline of the book and then follows the book's own sequence in a review of its content.
Recommended for college and seminary students who wish to have a better grasp on the OT Prophets.