Major Prophets (Nevi’im)
(Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel)
Isaiah is the first of the prophetic books. Prophetic is not predicting the future or soothsaying; it is speaking the "word of the Lord." The prophets, especially Isaiah, reminded the people about the importance of what we would call social ethics: "No matter how much you pray, I won't listen....See that justice is done. Defend widows and orphans and help those in need." (1:15-17) The prophet Isaiah speaks to Judah during the period 742 to 701 BCE during the defeat of Israel by Assyria. The book of Isaiah, covers a much larger time period. Chapters 40-66 speak to the people during and after the exile (587 BCE).
The book of Jeremiah contains stories of the life of the prophet Jeremiah as well as his oracles. Jeremiah speaks to Judah during the period 609 BCE to 587 BCE. His words are harsh warnings of the impending doom upon Judah and Jerusalem. It is Jeremiah's tone of doom that gave birth to the word "jeremiad." Yet Jeremiah contains wonderful words of hope as well including the famous promise: "I will write my laws on their hearts and minds. I will be their God and they will be my people." (31:33) The book of Jeremiah is unique in that it contains laments describing the deep spiritual struggle between the prophet and God inviting a comparison between Jeremiah and Jesus.
The prophet Ezekiel is one strange guy. He lied down on his left side for 390 days as a sign of Israel's punishment; he ate a scroll; he had wild visions of bones coming back to life and a chariot flying through the air. The book of Ezekiel speaks to the people in exile from the period 593 to 563 BCE. His words are ultimately of comfort and hope. The Lord has not abandoned them but (through the image of the chariot) has traveled with them to Babylon.