The Post-Exilic Prophets (Old Testament History)

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The prophetic books of the Old Testament are of great theological, spiritual, and practical significance for millions of religious believers both past and present. Professor and specialist in Israelite history and historiography Ehud Ben Zvi explains that the,

“Prophetic books were written texts meant to be read, or more properly, to be re-read and studied. Texts written to be read many times tend to show more than passing instances of ambiguity or multiple meanings… Traditional Jewish interpreters maintained that the prophetic books were given to Israel to call for its repentance and to provide guidance, that is, to affect, not merely to inform, their readers” (The Jewish Study Bible, p. 1140)

There is much history behind the books attributed to the post-exilic prophets. For instance, the exile refers to the historical events of the capture and deportation of the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in the 6th century BC. This was a monumental event as Judeans fled for foreign lands, many were deported, and few remained in the area. However, in 539 BC the Babylonian Empire was superseded by the Persian Empire led by Cyrus the Great.

The post-exilic prophets were those prophets active after 539 BC when Cyrus the Great, after having defeated the Babylonians, allowed the Jews to return to Judah, and even offered financial support for them to do so. These events left a mark in the consciousness of the people especially after they returned to their homeland to find their buildings and society destroyed. The post-exilic prophets reflected upon these events and the aftermath. For example, they were particularly concerned with the social and religious reconstruction of Judean life after its destruction, and many advocated for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem and for the people to support these efforts. The prophets also helped shape a distinctive theological perspective which created hope and purpose following the tragedy the people had experienced. The following outline provides a chronological order of the post-exilic prophets:

1. Third Isaiah (537-520 BC)
2. Haggai (520 BC)
3. Zechariah (520-518 BC)
4. Malachi (500-450 BC)
5. Joel (400-350 BC)
6. Jonah (400 BC (?))
7. Second Zechariah (400 BC)

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