March 8-14: Pre-exilic Prophecy
Prophecy, in that span of time between the fall of Israel (the northern kingdom) to Assyria in 722, and the fall of Judah (the southern kingdom) to Babylon in 586. Here is a beginning list of “Big Ideas and Essential Questions” relating to prophecy and the Latter Prophets
Don’t go too crazy trying to understand "Deuteronomism" and the "Deuteronomistic History": we’ve got a whole Unit on that coming up on a couple of weeks. This week, you’re just trying to understand the historical narrative spanning the fall of Israel to the Assyrians and the ensuing period of “Judah alone,” as Assyria recedes in importance and Babylon becomes a threat. The Rollston article will also help you understand pre-exilic Israelite polytheism in this context.
Read Bandstra’s Chapter 11 Kings and Prophets 3: The Babylonian Crisis. Or, in your Introduction of choice, read on the 7th-century prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah, and on the historical period between 722 BCE (the fall of Samaria to the Assyrians) and 586 BCE (the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians). On Judah’s last years before its fall to Babylon, see too this handout.
Recommended Reading: I strongly recommend Christopher Rollston’s “The Rise of Monotheism in Ancient Israel: Biblical and Epigraphic Evidence.”
View or listen to the two-part lecture, “Jeremiah and Jerusalem”:
- Jeremiah and Jerusalem Part A on YouTube
- Jeremiah and Jerusalem Part B on YouTube
- MP3s available at this Dropbox link
“Make” of the Week
Pick one of the following options for this week’s “make,” sharing it on your blog, remembering to tag your post with our tag, “ootle17.” (Garrett students: Remember that your work is assessed according to the course rubric. You may need to add analysis or other elements that will allow you to include each element of the rubric. Remember too that you must have commented, thoughtfully and substantively, to at least three  other OOTLE-ers on the 8th-century prophets or on Jeremiah & Jerusalem by Sunday evening.)
Make Option 01: Read Jeremiah 20:7-13, the last of the “laments” of Jer 11-20. There, Jeremiah complains that God has “deceived” or “enticed” him: the word has elsewhere connotations of sexual entrapment, perhaps even rape (cf. Exod 22:16 [English verse numbers]; Judges 14:15; 16:5). Ezekiel says that God will “deceive” prophets in order to destroy them (Ezek 14:9), and Micaiah has a vision of God sending a “lying spirit” to “deceive” prophets and make them unwittingly prophesy falsehoods (1 Kgs 22:20-22). Other ancient Near Eastern religious texts also accept that the gods may deliver lying oracles.
Read Jer 20:7-13 again, holding in view his concerns about a God who lies. What do you think of Jeremiah’s “deceiving God”? What is his complaint? What is his petition? Can you think of modern examples of ways people contend with the possibility of God lying? How about God withholding truth? Does Jeremiah have anything to offer someone who feels betrayed by a lying God?
Make Option 02: Read these passages from Jeremiah: 1:1-19; 2:1-13; 4:23-28; 5:1-5; 7:1-34; 8:18–9:3; 18:1-12; 20:7-13; 23:9-32; 31; 32:1-15. Which of these texts sound to you like prophecies of “doom”? Which, by contrast, of “hope”? What make the differences? Do you find it credible that these types of utterance could both come from the same prophet? To what of Judah’s political circumstances might each be appropriate during Jeremiah’s career? If you are someone who preaches, do you preach both “doom” and “hope”? Under what circumstances, and what makes the difference?
Make Option 03: Read the Rollston article from the recommended reading (above). You should know that this piece is not controversial in scholarly circles; that is, it is a "teaching" piece, communicating to laypeople a body of information that is well-known and well-accepted in biblical scholarship. What is Rollston trying to get across, using what evidence, and reasoning from it how? What differences emerge between the “world in the text” (the biblical narratives) and the “world behind the text” (the actual history that produces the biblical narratives)? How might a religious community of your own experience respond to Rollston’s piece...or to the discovery that the piece’s claims are not even slightly controversial in the field of biblical studies?
Activity of the Week: Continuing Analysis of MLK “Letter from Burmingham Jail” as Prophecy.
For the three weeks of the Latter Prophets, we are joing in a shared annotation of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
This week: During this second week, we engage and challenge one another on our annotations, on accuracy and in terms of how closely we engage course materials and methods. Reply to the Comments of your classmates. Dig into course materials to support, challenge, and extend their observations. Think of yourself as a team, all getting stronger together. (Obviously, many of you were already doing this in the first week, which is terrific.)
At the same time, continue making new annotations, using our course materials as a resource regarding the genres and activities typical of ancient Near Eastern and biblical prophecy. How does the letter’s form and content, historical setting and function “stack up” as prophecy (again in the senses of that word used in academic study of the Hebrew Bible)? How not? Annotate profligately! Where you are unsure of your observations, simply indicate that in your annotations. But engage course materials rigorously.
We will do our analysis on this shared Google Doc. As a group, you will decide how to order and organize analysis. You may use the Comments feature, interlinear additions (with or without hyperlinks), and anything else you think works well. Just be sure we can distinguish the original text from your annotations. And, be aware that dependence upon “color coding” can make your work unavailable to the visually or cognitively impaired. Keep it simple.
During the third week, we will collaborate on a few paragraphs summarizing our observations.
OOTLE17 "Office Hours"
I have sent everyone invitations for Zoom meetings happening Tuesday March 7th, the first at noon and the second at 7pm. I look forward to them both!