We have concluded the historical period of the kingdom of Israel and now we will go on into the prophets and discuss their significance in the Bible. There are three “major” prophets in the Bible, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel and we will cover them in this article. Let’s dig in.
With the conclusion of the Chronicles narrative, it seems to be that the story of Israel has ended and these prophets are going to bring a new narrative into place. These prophets actually take place during the times of the split kingdom of Israel before the exile and some during the exile. The first book we are going to discuss is the prophet Isaiah.
The prophet Isaiah brings two themes into focus throughout the poetry. Judgment for the nation of Israel for its unfaithfulness is a huge theme for Isaiah. The first half of Isaiah is about the judgment for Israel’s sins and the hope they still have for their repentance of their ways. There are also links that point directly to the Messianic promise we have been hoping for. In Isaiah, this Messianic figure is this seed of the woman we have been looking for all along. He is the one promised to restore Israel and be literally “God with us”. Now all we have to do is wait for this figure to come. Isaiah knows this figure will come but he also knows that exile is awaiting the Israleites if they don’t repent. They don’t repent and the Israelites are carried into exile by Babylon. They conquer the great city of Jerusalem and God’s people are carried into exile. It is a situation nobody wanted, but it is what their sins deserved.
Chapter 40 and following describe the hope the Israleites have after they go into exile. Now it’s interesting here because this poetry is supposed to take place after the exile but Isaiah died long before the exile. So the question we have is who is the one speaking if its not Isaiah? This question can be debated but it is certain that whoever it is has in mind the prophecies of Isaiah and the hope God has for His people. In these chapters, God makes it clear that He has a plan and a hope for His people through the Messianic promise. At the end of the book, there is this beautiful vision of hope for all of the nations for a restored creation that all who come to Him will inherit this new creation in the end. It is a wonderful hope for those after the exile and the fulfillment of all God’s promises of His covenant.
After Isaiah, comes the prophet Jeremiah who is mostly known for his gloomy warnings of judgment and exile to Israel. His main theme is accusing Israel that they have broken the covenant and that Babylon is coming to carry them to exile. The rest of the book is divided between the judgment and hope for Israel and for the other nations as well. The book ends with the announcement of the Messiah and judgment for Babylon for their ways. Babylon is depicted in these books as the archetype of rebellion from God. They are depicted as the rebellious snake in Genesis 3 and the city of Babel in Genesis 11. Babylon has cosmic significance as the rebellious creature that lured the humans into exile of the garden in the beginning. So we can see them in the narrative as the one bringing the people to exile but they are also the rebellious snake that has cosmic significance for sin and God’s people. Babylon is depicted as the one who the seed of the woman will crush. So here we can see the smaller and bigger story lines of the Biblical narratives.
Then we get to the wonderful prophet of Ezekiel. Ezekiel was actually one of the exiles that was carried off in the first wave of people Babylon took into exile. The book starts out with a grand vision of God’s throne chariot that Ezekiel’s sees while in exile. Then there are accusations Ezekiel gives to Israel because of their sin. Ezekiel also performs sign acts about the sin of Israel and its leaders. Then there are a series of judgments on Israel, Jerusalem, and the nations by using poetry and parables and allegories. Then there are a series of hopeful visions and poetry about Israel, the nations, and all of creation.
With this, Ezekiel brings visions of a restored Israel through the Messianic promise and the new Adam. God brings visions through Ezekiel like the valley of dry bones as a sign of the restoration of life God will bring to Israel. These are all pointers back to the garden. It includes humanity, dust and the breath of God. God says that He will defeat evil in the world and end the rebellion in the nations. This is followed by the visions of the new creation with a grand temple which is a symbol of God’s presence in the new creation. Ezekiel ends with a vision of an Eden type area which points back to the garden as a cosmic reference to restoration God will being to those who are faithful to Him. So even though Israel is an exile, there is hope for restoration. Even with the big story line of the Bible, these visions point back to the garden which points to Jesus and to the future restoration of creation. It is a beautiful book regarding all of these things.
The book of Daniel is a narrative that takes place during the exile in Babylon. Daniel is of royal bloodline in Israel and is chosen for the king of Babylon’s service. Daniel is certainly a man of God and even interprets a dream for King Nebuchadnezzer. There’s a strange story of a fiery furnace and God saving three men who don’t bow down to an idol and Daniel is saved from a den of lions. Daniel then has visions and dreams of kingdoms rising and falling and then a “son of man” figure that represents the Messiah that will be exalted forever and reign victoriously. Daniel is a narrative about having faith even during hard times. Daniel was a man who was fully devoted to Yahweh and had an immense amount of faith to withstand the forces of evil and see hope for a future Messianic king.
As we can see, these prophets and Daniel not only point to Israel but also to Jesus and the future of God’s people. It is very interesting to look and see how these books relate to the garden in the beginning, to Jesus, and to the future restoration. They truly are an amazing part of the story of the Bible.