Nevi'im (The Prophets)

The next major division is called The Prophets. The Prophets are divided into two groups. The first subdivision is called the "Former Prophets," Christians put these books in a History division as they continue the story of the Children of Israel that is begun in the Torah. The Latter Prophets are generally different in tone. They focus primarily on the sort of prophetic oracles that are generally associated with prophets and contain less in the way of historical narrative. They are generally in the prophetic division in the Christian Bible.

Many people think of prophecy as telling the future. We see, especially in the former prophets, that is not the Jewish notion. The Jewish notion of prophecy has more to do with the transmitting of G-d’s message to his people. This can and often does involve a predictive element but to the Hebrew mind prophecy is more often about pattern. A more common theme, especially in the Latter Prophets, is G-d calling people back to the covenant relationship which would be expressed in obedience. In this sense there is a prophetic component to all of scripture.

Some of the latter prophets fit historically into the time covered by the former prophets. There were quite a number of prophets, named and unnamed, thought out the books of Kings. The office of prophet served to keep the king and the people informed of G-d's will. There were no doubt others of whom we know nothing. We do know Nathan ministered to David and Adonijah who advised Solomon. It is interesting to note that David was a prophet in his own right. Many of the Psalms are attributed to David and contain prophetic material. Even with this being the case David still needed Nathan, and others to remind him of the ways of G-d. There are Prophets like Elijah and Elisha who minister in the Northern Kingdom as well. Their stories intertwine with the stories of the Kings but they do not have books of their own.

The writings of these latter prophets contain less historical narrative. The cannon order of the books is not helpful in this regard as they are no longer purely chronological. The facts of the exile are not helpful either as not all of the people are in the same place. The story does continue through the exile and restoration of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple. There are those who say that the Jews became Jews as a distinct people and culture in captivity. To the extent that the captivity sifted out the faithful remnant that may be true. While the Land and its promises are central to the former prophets, the relationship between the Remnant of Israel and the L-RD is the focus of the latter prophets. The borders of the land may define a nation but the relationship with G-d defines this people.

The Former Prophets carry the story from the crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land though the rise and fall of the Jewish state. In this story, G-d has delivered His people first from slavery and then through the desert. They now stand on the brink of the inheritance that was promised to their fathers.