YHWH in the Prophets

How the 8th & 7th century prophets saw YHWH. Texts chosen from Amos to Habakkuk

Our aim here is to see how the prophets thought of God and God’s essential relationship with the world and his people.

We leave aside the prophet’s judgment of how we should behave, though this teaches us something of their image of God. They called for justice, because they believed God is just. They called for care for the poor and slaves, because they saw God as the one who liberated their people from slavery in Egypt.

We leave aside also their understanding of God’s anger and punishment. These teach us that our behaviour matters to God and that we are judged by the choices we make. However, the picture given of God is distorted by the assumption that everything that happens is willed by God who controls history. This meant that when catastrophes occurred they drew the conclusion that God must be angry with them.

Our aim is to listen to the prophets’ words to glimpse the essential image of God that comes through.

1. Amos (762-750BC) I found 4 verses out of 146

‘It was I who brought you up out of the land of Egypt,
and led you forty years in the wilderness,
to take possession of the land of the Amorite’ [2:1]

‘Seek me so that you may live’ [5:4]

‘... so YHWH, the God of hosts, will be with you’ [5:14]

‘I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel’ [9:14]

2. Hosea (750-724) I found 10 verses out of 19

‘Where it was said to them, “You are not my people,”
it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God”.’[1:10]

I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak to her heart ... There she shall respond as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. [2:14-15]

‘I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in justice and in just judgment, in covenant love, and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know YHWH’ [2:19-20]

‘Let us know, let us press on to know YHWH; his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he is coming to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth’ [6:3]

‘When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son ... It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I cared for them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like one who lifts an infant to his cheek. I bent down to him to feed him’ [11:1, 3-4]

‘It is I, Ephraim, who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress; your fruit comes from me’ [14:8]

3. Micah (740-725BC) I found 8 verses out of 106

‘I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob,
I will gather the survivors of Israel’ [2:12]

‘O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
and redeemed you from the house of slavery;
and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised,
and how Balaam son of Beor answered him,
and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,
that you may know the saving acts of YHWH’ [6:3-5]

‘I will watch for YHWH, I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me’ [7:7]

‘Who is a God like you? – pardoning iniquity and passing over the treachery of the remnant of your possession, who does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in showing clemency. He will again have compassion [hesed] upon us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and unswerving loyalty [hesed] to Abraham, as you have sworn to our ancestors from the days of old’ [7:18-20]

4. Isaiah (740-700BC) I found 37 verses out of 764

‘Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow’ [1:17]

‘What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor? says the Lord YHWH of hosts’ [3:15]

‘YHWH will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its places of assembly a cloud by day and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night. Indeed over all the glory there will be a canopy. It will serve as a pavilion, a shade by day from the heat, and a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain’ [4:5-6]

‘In the year that King Uzziah died I saw YHWH seated on a throne,
high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.
Seraphs were in attendance above him, each with six wings:
With two wings they covered their faces,
with two they covered their body, and with two they hovered.
And they were calling to one another:
‘Holy, holy, holy is YHWH Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook
and the temple was filled with smoke’ [6:1-4]

‘To us a child is born, to us a son is given; authority rests upon his shoulders. He is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there will be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with just decrees and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of YHWH of hosts will do this’ [9:6-7].

‘The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The infant shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of YHWH
as the waters cover the sea’ [11:6-9]

‘Surely God is my salvation. I will trust and not be afraid, for YHWH is my strength and my might. He has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation’ [12:2-3]

‘On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom YHWH of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage”.’ [19:24-25]

On this mountain YHWH of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death forever. [see 1 Corinthians 15:54]
Then the Lord YHWH will wipe away the tears from all faces,
[see Revelation 7:17; 21:4]
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the
earth, for YHWH has spoken. [25:6-8]

‘It will be said on that day, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is YHWH for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. For the hand of YHWH will rest on this mountain”.’ [25:9-10]

‘Open the gates, so that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in.
Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace – in peace because they trust in you. Trust in YHWH forever, for in YHWH you have an everlasting rock’. [26:2-4]

‘The way of the righteous is level; O Just One, you make smooth the path of the righteous.
In the path of your judgments, YHWH, we wait for you;
your name and your renown are the soul’s desire.
My soul yearns for you in the night,
my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.
For when your judgments are in the earth,
the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness’ [26:7-9]

‘A pleasant vineyard, sing about it!
I, YHWH, am its keeper; every moment I water it.
I guard it night and day so that no one can harm it ...
Let it cling to me for protection,
let it make peace with me, let it make peace with me.
In days to come Jacob shall take root,
Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots,
and fill the whole world with fruit’ [27:2-6]

On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a scroll, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.
The lowly shall obtain fresh joy in YHWH,
and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel. [29:18-19]

‘YHWH waits to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you. For YHWH is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him’ [30:18]

5. Zephaniah (628-620BC) I found 6 verses out of 53

‘At that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of YHWH and serve him with one accord. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, my scattered ones, will bring my cereal offering’ [3:9-10]

‘They will pasture and lie down, and no one will make them afraid’. [3:13]

‘YHWH, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will dance over you with loud singing, as on a day of festival.’[3:17]

‘I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says YHWH’ [3:19-20]

6. Nahum (620-612BC) I found 2 verses out of 47

‘YHWH is good, a stronghold in a day of trouble;
he knows those who take refuge in him’ [1:7]

‘I will break off his yoke from you
and snap the bonds that bind you’ [1:13]

7. Habakkuk (605-590 BC I found 7 verses out of 55

‘Your eyes are too pure to behold evil, and you cannot look on wrongdoing; why then do you tolerate the treacherous, and are silent when the wicked swallow those more righteous than they?’[1:13]

‘The righteous lives by his faithfulness’ [2:4]

‘The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of YHWH,
as the waters cover the sea’ [2:14]

‘YHWH is in his holy temple;
let all the earth keep silence before him!’ [2:20]

‘Though the fig tree does not blossom,
and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails
and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in YHWH; I will exult in the God of my salvation. YHWH, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
and makes me tread upon the heights. [3:17-19]