Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel

Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel

Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel

Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel

Synopsis

Using comparative anthropology to get at the social dimensions of prophetic activity, Robert Wilson's study brings the study of Isrealite prophecy to a new level. Looking at both modern societies and Ancient Near Eastern ones, Wilson sketches the nature of prophetic activity, its social location, and its social functions. He then shows how these features appear in Israelite prophecy and sketches a history of prophecy in Israel.

Excerpt

I first became interested in the social dimensions of Israelite prophecy as a result of having to teach courses in the interpretation of the prophetic literature. in spite of all of the scholarly work that has been done on the prophetic corpus, much of this material remains tantalizingly enigmatic. in the course of my exegetical work, I became increasingly convinced that some interpretive problems could be clarified, if not solved, if we possessed more detailed information on the social settings and characteristics of Israelite prophetic activity. I therefore began to survey the biblical evidence on this subject, and in the process of trying to understand what I had found, I was inevitably led to consult extra-biblical sources dealing with prophetic phenomena. This study of prophecy and society in ancient Israel presents some of the results of my research.

No single work can hope to explore all of the social dimensions of prophetic activity in Israel, and for this reason I have tried to achieve only two goals in this study. First, I have attempted to present a fairly comprehensive survey of ancient and modern comparative evidence relevant to the study of biblical prophecy. in the case of the modem evidence, I have provided a summary of recent anthropological studies on prophecy without trying to relate all of this material directly to the Israelite prophets. I hope that this format will make the material more accessible to biblical scholars who may wish to utilize the anthropological evidence but who do not share my views on its application to biblical prophecy. in the case of the ancient Near Eastern evidence, which is more familiar to bibli-

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