Prophets of Zion and the Babylonian Exile

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Prophets of Zion and the Babylonian Exile
In ancient Jewish culture, prophets were a part of every-day life. They proclaimed what they understood to be God’s word, and lived according to it. In times of crisis, prophets were even more present, to warn and give consolation to the people. One time period in which there were many prophets was the Babylonian Exile, where the people of Judah were taken and deported to live in Babylon. Of the books of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, Isaiah 63:7-64:12 and Jeremiah 29:4-23 will be examined together.
The book of Isaiah can essentially be divided into three groups of authors, the first being an eight century prophet called Isaiah of Jerusalem. The second is an anonymous prophet who shares Isaiah of Jerusalem’s same ideal of the Davidic king. The third prophet is possibly the same person as the second, or his disciple or group of disciples (Meeks 1013). The third prophet or group lived in the land of Judah after the Babylonian exile and wrote the chapters which will be discussed, and thus will be referred to as Isaiah, rather than adding an indication of his place in the sequence of prophets under the book of Isaiah. Whereas Isaiah was firm in his belief of the Davidic king which stemmed from the southern land of Judah, the prophet Jeremiah was from a small tribe whose influences were the older traditions of Mosaic theology, which is closer to the ideals of the Northern Kingdom’s many Tribes of Israel (Meeks 1110). The excerpt that will be analyzed from the book of Jeremiah was written during the exile, and will automatically have a different viewpoint than that of Isaiah.
The first difference to note between the two passages is who is speaking, and who is being addressed. “I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord…and the great favor to the house of Israel that he has shown them according to his mercy…Thus you led your people, to make for yourself a glorious name” (Is 63:7,14b). Here, Isaiah is the speaker, who, aside from the initial referral to God in the third person during the first seven lines, is actually talking to God. Looking at the Jeremian passage, God is the speaker who speaks through Jeremiah to his people, as he writes “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent from exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them…multiply there, and do not decrease” (Jer 29:4,5,6b).

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