B.4 Prophets of the Hebrew Bible
Presiding: David Bernat, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Robert McBride, Providence College
The Exilic Elders of Israel: A Contextual Analysis of Ezekiel 20
Ezekiel 20 presents readers with several interpretative challenges: the identity of the “elders of Israel;” their reason for inquiring a word from Yhwh through Ezekiel; various features of the form, style, and content of Ezekiel’s oracle. After raising the issues and presenting the current “state of the question,” the author proceeds to identify the original content of the pericope and to then make sense of its content by comparing it to various oracles and prophetic acts in the Book of Ezekiel. The author concludes that, rather than seek to use Ezekiel 20 in order to hypothesize the development of Israel’s exodus-wilderness traditions, one should view Ezekiel 20 as another example of Ezekiel’s prophetic creativity. As in the allegories of chapters 16 and 23, Ezekiel 20 is about the sins of Jerusalem.
Christopher D. Anderson, Brandeis University
‘A Cedar In Lebanon’: A Picture of the Assyrians in the Book of Ezekiel
This paper explores the complicated image of Assyria in Ezek 31 from a historical perspective. It argues that the image contains a subtle, though penetrating, condemnation of both Egypt and imperial Babylon encoded in an unusually positive memory of Neo-Assyrian imperialism. The Neo-Assyrian empire had a significant impact on the people who lived in the territories of the southern Levant from the eighth century on. The administrative policies of their expansive empire, implemented by Assyrian officials, continued to shape these populations even after their actual presence. Ezekiel is one place where this is clearly evinced, containing several oracles that mention the Assyrians during a time when their empire was no longer in existence. The primary purpose of this study is to show how one particular memory of Neo-Assyrian imperialism was used by Ezekiel to interpret and judge the current policies of Egypt, as well as the Neo- Babylonian empire’s subjugation of the Levant in the aftermath of Assyrian hegemony. This paper has two parts: the first will provide the historical context in which Assyria declined and Egypt rose to power in the southern Levant, and the second will examine the picture of the Neo-Assyrian empire in Ezekiel’s oracle against Egypt in chapter 31 and assess its relevance for the political environment prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BCE. Only in the light of a brief sketch of the major episodes during the final years of the Assyrian empire in the Levant, the transition to Egyptian dominance, and the emergence of the Neo-Babylonian empire as an imperial power, can the picture of the Assyrians in Ezek 31 be properly understood.
Sung Soo Hong, Yale Divinity School
Discerning the True Prophet of YHWH: Interpreting the Death and Survival of Prophets in Jeremiah 26
The literary functions of Jeremiah 26:20-24 have long been discussed among scholars with no consensus achieved to date. Since commentators often remark that the pericope is not fabricated seamlessly with the preceding verses about the trial of Jeremiah, it is not surprising that they sometimes appeal to contingency, arguing that Uriah was an authentic prophet, even a “martyr,” who, unlike Jeremiah, happened to lack protection from princes.
The present paper offers a coherent interpretation of the chapter, reading it with regard to the Deuteronomistic concern for recognizing the true prophet of YHWH. This paper argues that the performance and the subsequent fate of prophets reveal their identity. The cowardice and death of Uriah are analyzed in contrast to the boldness and survival of Jeremiah, in light of select passages in Jeremiah including ch 1. Also, Uriah’s flight to Egypt, the behavior of the two princes, Uriah’s death by the sword, and the improper treatment of the corpse will be discussed to conclude that Uriah is not a prophet whom YHWH sent. The implication of the pericope is twofold: First, the audience can discern whether the prophets who prophesy in the name of YHWH are authentic messengers before the prophesied events, by observing their behaviors and fate. Second, as the death and survival of prophets demonstrate that YHWH’s words (cf. 1:17) do not fail, the readers are faced with the literary evidence that obeying the words of YHWH is the only way to survive.