The Latter Prophets of the Tanak (i.e., the Jewish form of the Hebrew Bible) are found within the second section of its tripartite structure (i.e., Torah-Prophets-Writings) and include the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi). The Old Testament (i.e., the Christian form of the Hebrew Bible) includes the Latter Prophets, called simply “Prophets,” as its final section immediately prior to the New Testament, but this section also differs from the same section in the Tanak in that it includes the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel and treats the twelve “Minor Prophets” as individual books.
The Latter Prophets of the Tanak and Old Testament each form an important component of their respective Bibles, one that plays a key role in expressing the respective theological outlooks of Jewish and Christian forms of the Bible. But each of the prophetic books also has a complex compositional history pointing to the significant roles that the individual prophets played within ancient Judean and Israelite society. The prophets are especially well known for their attempts to interpret the major historical, economic, and religious events of their day; to identify the divine will in relation to those events; and to call on the people of their times to follow the prophets’ understanding of the divine will. Although prophets are frequently understood as figures who predict the future, their basic function is to persuade people to follow the divine will. Their efforts to envision the future were a means to indicate to people what possible consequences or outcomes their actions might hold, either for judgment or for blessing, and to convince them to adopt a course of action that was in keeping with the will of YHWH.
In an effort to provide a basis for understanding the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible, this chapter examines (1) the phenomenon of prophecy in the ancient Near Eastern world, including speech and narrative forms, in order to demonstrate their importance for understanding prophecy in Israel and Judah, (2) each of the prophetic books of the Latter Prophets so as to discern their distinctive literary forms, compositional histories, and theological outlooks on the world of their time, and (3) the literary and theological significance of the Prophets in both the Jewish and Christian forms of the Bible.