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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hearing voices..., 8 May 2007
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Rabbi Abraham Heschel is an intellectual and prophetic hero of mine. Any one who would stand up to the pope and say 'I'd rather die than convert' (when trying to get the Roman Catholic Church to drop 'conversion of the Jews' as an official aim of the church) has the sort of integrity of belief and identity that I aspire to and most likely will never attain.

Heschel's book 'The Prophets' became an almost instant classic. Simply reading through the chapter titles and subtitles (a partial list of titles appears at the bottom of this review) will give a sense of the breadth and depth of this work.

Heschel sees an urgent need for prophets and prophecy in today's world. He said the things that horrified the prophets are even now daily occurrences all over the world. In examining the prophecies of Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nathan, &c, he discerns the common strands of the word of God in all that they said and did, and teaches the reader how to discern similar prophetic aspects in today's world. 'The prophet is human, yet he employs note one octave too high for our ears.'

The Bible says, let him who has ears to hear, listen. Alas, ordinarily we do not have the hearing range to be able to give adequate attention and comprehension to today's prophetic voices. Most often the voice of the prophet is one we do not want to hear (look at how the Israelites reacted to their prophets!). Prophets were often seen as doom-sayers and problematic people.

Indeed, every prediction of disaster is in itself an exhortation to repentance. The prophet is sent not only to upbraid, but to 'strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees.'

Every prophetic utterance, according to Heschel, has to have within its core a message of hope. Without hope, without a promise to greater community and participation in the love of God, there is no true prophecy. The road may be hard and long, involving pain and even death, but in the end, the prophet's goal is greater life for all.

According to Heschel, 'To be a prophet is both a distinction and an affliction.' Being a prophet has never been a chosen profession. Indeed, like Jonah, we'll often go to extraordinary lengths to avoid even the smallest call to prophecy. Prophetic voices are inconvenient, not least of which to the person charged to be the speaker of that voice. Yet the prophet is much more than a mouthpiece.

Heschel also says the prophet claims to be far more than a messenger. He is a person who stands in the presence of God. The prophet becomes one with God in many ways, yet remains a human being. This creates a tension in the prophet, as Heschel writes about Isaiah: Indeed, two sympathies dwell in a prophet's soul: sympathy for God and sympathy for the people. Speaking to the people, he is emotionally at one with God; in the presence of God, beholding a vision, he is emotionally at one with the people.

Yet prophecy has its limits. Heschel states that a prophet can give man a new word, but not a new heart.... Prophecy is not God's only instrument. What prophecy fails to bring about, the new covenant will accomplish: the complete transformation of every individual.

It was the prophet who, long before ideas of political unity and divers peoples living together in community, first conceived of the idea of a unity that binds all human beings together.

Read and prepare to be enlightened, inspired, irritated, and educated.

Chapters include:

- What manner of man is the prophet?

- History

- Chastisement

- Justice

- The Theology of Pathos

- The Philosophy of Pathos

- Anthropopathy

- The Meaning and Mystery of Wrath

- Religion of Sympathy

- Prophecy and Ecstasy

- Prophecy and Poetic Inspiration

- Prophecy and Psychosis (there is a fine line between prophecy and madness, after all!)

Heschel sums up in a sense in this way: This, then, is the ultimate category of prophetic theology: involvement, attentiveness, concern. Prophetic religion may be defined, not as what man does with his ultimate concern, but rather what man does with God's concern.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hearing voices..., 21 Oct 2004
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Prophets (Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Rabbi Abraham Heschel is an intellectual and prophetic hero of mine. Any one who would stand up to the pope and say 'I'd rather die than convert' (when trying to get the Roman Catholic Church to drop 'conversion of the Jews' as an official aim of the church) has the sort of integrity of belief and identity that I aspire to and most likely will never attain.
Heschel's book 'The Prophets' became an almost instant classic. Simply reading through the chapter titles and subtitles (a partial list of titles appears at the bottom of this review) will give a sense of the breadth and depth of this work.
Heschel sees an urgent need for prophets and prophecy in today's world. He said the things that horrified the prophets are even now daily occurrences all over the world. In examining the prophecies of Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nathan, &c, he discerns the common strands of the word of God in all that they said and did, and teaches the reader how to discern similar prophetic aspects in today's world. 'The prophet is human, yet he employs note one octave too high for our ears.'
The Bible says, let him who has ears to hear, listen. Alas, ordinarily we do not have the hearing range to be able to give adequate attention and comprehension to today's prophetic voices. Most often the voice of the prophet is one we do not want to hear (look at how the Israelites reacted to their prophets!). Prophets were often seen as doom-sayers and problematic people.
Indeed, every prediction of disaster is in itself an exhortation to repentance. The prophet is sent not only to upbraid, but to 'strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees.'
Every prophetic utterance, according to Heschel, has to have within its core a message of hope. Without hope, without a promise to greater community and participation in the love of God, there is no true prophecy. The road may be hard and long, involving pain and even death, but in the end, the prophet's goal is greater life for all.
According to Heschel, 'To be a prophet is both a distinction and an affliction.' Being a prophet has never been a chosen profession. Indeed, like Jonah, we'll often go to extraordinary lengths to avoid even the smallest call to prophecy. Prophetic voices are inconvenient, not least of which to the person charged to be the speaker of that voice. Yet the prophet is much more than a mouthpiece.
Heschel also says the prophet claims to be far more than a messenger. He is a person who stands in the presence of God. The prophet becomes one with God in many ways, yet remains a human being. This creates a tension in the prophet, as Heschel writes about Isaiah: Indeed, two sympathies dwell in a prophet's soul: sympathy for God and sympathy for the people. Speaking to the people, he is emotionally at one with God; in the presence of God, beholding a vision, he is emotionally at one with the people.
Yet prophecy has its limits. Heschel states that a prophet can give man a new word, but not a new heart.... Prophecy is not God's only instrument. What prophecy fails to bring about, the new covenant will accomplish: the complete transformation of every individual.
It was the prophet who, long before ideas of political unity and divers peoples living together in community, first conceived of the idea of a unity that binds all human beings together.
Read and prepare to be enlightened, inspired, irritated, and educated.
Heschel sums up in a sense in this way: This, then, is the ultimate category of prophetic theology: involvement, attentiveness, concern. Prophetic religion may be defined, not as what man does with his ultimate concern, but rather what man does with God's concern.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly yet down to earth, 17 Jun 1998
By A Customer
Abraham Joshua Heschel's two volume work on the prophets is scholarly in the sense that Heschel's wide reading and research enable him to talk quite knowledgeably about these men, their messages, and how they concern modern society. Volume 1 of The Prophets deals more with the specific prophets, with chapters on Amos, Hosea, Habakkuk, Jeremiah etc., although some of my favorite sections of the book were his wise commentary chapters, such as chapter one "What manner of man is the prophet" or chapter 11 on "Justice". I don't always view things as Heschel does (e.g. I don't see Israel as being the suffering servant described in Isaiah, nor do I think the book of Isaiah was authored by multiple people: "First Isaiah" or "Second Isaiah"), yet I find Heschel's approach sound and practical. This book can be read by seminary students, but it is geared more for the lay reader as it avoids heavy esoteric problems of linguistics or textual criticism and concentrates more on the MESSAGE of the prophets. I found the text an exhortation to my own spirituality. It is easy for me to recommend reading, underlining, and contemplating this fine work.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comforting and illuminating, 25 Dec 2008
By 
Pieter Uys "Toypom" (Johannesburg) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Prophets (Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Heschel examines the minds of the Israelite prophets, mainly those of the 7th and 8th centuries BCE, by considering the totality of thoughts, impressions and emotions of the prophet's soul. He thus investigates the interface of theology and psychology but in the latter case, only where motives are consciously revealed.

Besides identifying the decisive features of the prophet's consciousness, he highlights their uniqueness in history and attempts to illuminate the essentials of prophetic religion. Between the introductory chapter and the concluding chapters on history, punishment and justice, the individual prophets and their particular circumstances are covered in turn.

This brings history to the fore as political and social conditions in the Northern Kingdom, the Kingdom of Judah and the surrounding nations such as Ammon, Edom and Moab are at issue. After the reign of King Solomon, the Israelite kingdoms and these neighbors were always caught between the powers of Mesopotamia and the Nile.

Egypt was weak and divided when Assyria became world a power in the 8th century BCE. After the fall of Nineveh in 612 came the rule of Babylonia. Around 760 Egypt was united by and experienced a 100 year revival under the Napatan 25th dynasty. The area between Sinai and the Euphrates became the battleground of clashing superpowers.

Amos, in his concern for Israel's neighbors, made it clear that God cares for all people. Hosea proclaimed that Israel is The Lord's consort, warned against political promiscuity, and affirmed divine tenderness and mercy. The sorrow in God's anger is revealed by the first Isaiah who warned against foreign alliances while denouncing obstinacy and pride. Micah distilled the essence of true worship: do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with the Divine.

Gentle by nature, Jeremiah had to convey messages of wrath and suffering. This caused him overwhelming anguish. The first Isaiah and Habakkuk spoke of ultimate redemption through an outpouring of the Spirit whilst the second Isaiah proclaimed God's eternal love for Israel, His concern for all mankind and the idea of Israel as a light to the nations.

Heschel identifies the major trait of the prophets as a profound sensitivity and revulsion to evil. Their loathing of violence and their sympathy for the weak may appear extreme as the soul of the prophet strongly resonated with the cry of the afflicted. Driven by compassion, they were fiercely intolerant of injustice and indifference as their harsh words reveal.

The prophets knew that religion could distort that which the Lord requires. A coalition of indifference and established authority was their adversary. They fiercely repudiated mankind's subservience to might, holding up the moral law in the place of force. The theme that might is not right is central to their message. Unlike the lofty philosophers they focused on the mundane, the way people treat one another. The prophets also emphasized linear as opposed to cyclical time, promising ultimate salvation.

The author shows that the prophets were torn between compassion for mankind and empathy with God, acting as advocate for the one to the other. They constantly intervened, imploring mercy for the people whilst denouncing the abusive practices of the mighty in explosive language and admonishing the whole nation for its lack of compassion. "The opposite of freedom is not determinism, but hardness of heart," they implied.

In the chapter on history, it is observed that people worship power and are easily impressed by force. Opposed to that, the moral law is inconspicuous. History may thus be considered the sphere where God is defied and justice defeated. Oppression of the human being is an affront to the Creator, while concern for justice is an act of love.

What sets the prophetic act apart from artistic, intellectual and mystical experiences is its moral aspect. The prophetic warning against calling good evil and vice versa, reveals a penetrating insight into the human psyche. While justice is the strict standard associated with the divine name Elohim, the ineffable Tetragrammaton represents the quality of mercy.

It emerges that judgment is never final, always conditional and that the door of repentance remains open. In history justice suffers defeat but the prophets predicted future peace and salvation. Over and over they emphasized that kindness took precedence over wisdom, wealth and might. More than strict justice only, righteousness encompasses loving concern. Above all, the prophets proclaimed the divine pathos, revealing the Creator as Father more than judge.

This compelling and completely unique work succeeds in solving many riddles and clarifying plenty of puzzles on both the mental and emotional level. Written in graceful prose, the concepts are easy to understand while Heschel's words speak to the heart. The Prophets is a most moving and comforting book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hearing voices..., 6 Dec 2005
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Prophets: Pt. 1 (Hardcover)
Rabbi Abraham Heschel is an intellectual and prophetic hero of mine. Any one who would stand up to the pope and say 'I'd rather die than convert' (when trying to get the Roman Catholic Church to drop 'conversion of the Jews' as an official aim of the church) has the sort of integrity of belief and identity that I aspire to and most likely will never attain.
Heschel's book `The Prophets' became an almost instant classic. Simply reading through the chapter titles and subtitles (a partial list of titles appears at the bottom of this review) will give a sense of the breadth and depth of this work.
Heschel sees an urgent need for prophets and prophecy in today's world. 'The things that horrified the prophets are even now daily occurrences all over the world.' In examining the prophecies of Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nathan, &c, he discerns the common strands of the word of God in all that they said and did, and teaches the reader how to discern similar prophetic aspects in today's world.
`The prophet is human, yet he employs note one octave too high for our ears.'
The Bible says, let him who has ears to hear, listen. Alas, ordinarily we do not have the hearing range to be able to give adequate attention and comprehension to today's prophetic voices. Most often the voice of the prophet is one we do not want to hear (look at how the Israelites reacted to their prophets!). Prophets were often seen as doom-sayers and problematic people.
Indeed, every prediction of disaster is in itself an exhortation to repentance. The prophet is sent not only to upbraid, but to 'strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees.'
Every prophetic utterance, according to Heschel, has to have within its core a message of hope. Without hope, without a promise to greater community and participation in the love of God, there is no true prophecy. The road may be hard and long, involving pain and even death, but in the end, the prophet's goal is greater life for all.
`To be a prophet is both a distinction and an affliction.'
Being a prophet has never been a chosen profession. Indeed, like Jonah, we'll often go to extraordinary lengths to avoid even the smallest call to prophecy. Prophetic voices are inconvenient, not least of which to the person charged to be the speaker of that voice. Yet the prophet is much more than a mouthpiece.
`The prophet claims to be far more than a messenger. He is a person who stands in the presence of God.'
The prophet becomes one with God in many ways, yet remains a human being. This creates a tension in the prophet, as Heschel writes about Isaiah:
`Indeed, two sympathies dwell in a prophet's soul: sympathy for God and sympathy for the people. Speaking to the people, he is emotionally at one with God; in the presence of God, beholding a vision, he is emotionally at one with the people.'
Yet prophecy has its limits.
`A prophet can give man a new word, but not a new heart.... Prophecy is not God's only instrument. What prophecy fails to bring about, the new covenant will accomplish: the complete transformation of every individual.'
It was the prophet who, long before ideas of political unity and divers peoples living together in community, first conceived of the idea of a unity that binds all human beings together.
Read and prepare to be enlightened, inspired, irritated, and educated.
Chapters include:
- What manner of man is the prophet?
- History
- Chastisement
- Justice
- The Theology of Pathos
- The Philosophy of Pathos
- Anthropopathy
- The Meaning and Mystery of Wrath
- Religion of Sympathy
- Prophecy and Ecstasy
- Prophecy and Poetic Inspiration
- Prophecy and Psychosis (there is a fine line between prophecy and madness, after all!)
`This, then, is the ultimate category of prophetic theology: involvement, attentiveness, concern. Prophetic religion may be defined, not as what man does with his ultimate concern, but rather what man does with God's concern.'
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A work which lives, 23 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Prophets (Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Heschel's fundamental thesis is that the prophets were people whose heart and soul willingly or not resonated with the spirit of Adonai, and reflected a state and purpose which cannot be characterised in any other way or subsumed under any other intellectual tradition. Accordingly, he reflects a faith perspective within the Jewish tradition, for which he gives further justification and testimony in most of his other works, including texts such as Man Is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion and God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism. Since some core elements of this book were first published in 1936, when he was in his late 20s, it is clear Heschel's conception of God as having passionate concern with his creation was an early structure of his thought which informed everything he thought and wrote thereafter, offering a bridge to greater faith commitment to those of us brought up on secular assumptions. Apart from what it provides to Jewish people, this work also provides a strand of informed support to those Christians who encounter debates about whether God in his omnipotence cares, in any way resembling that of (some of) his human creation, for the issues humanity perennially faces in the 'this-world' struggle for social justice among human beings (fired by concern for the paradigmatic 'widow', 'orphan', or otherwise weak or dispossessed...), as well as how to make productive but respectful use of the rest of creation, over which we have power. In his own life, Heschel was a person passionate about social justice and personally involved in some of its causes. In that sense, he listened to his own sense of what the prophets were about, beyond offering an account of it. As both an academic (of its time) text and reflection of the work of an amazingly thoughtful theologian, this work deserves to be read and referenced in any course of theology or religious study of any substantive duration.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The mind of the prophet, 13 Feb 2011
By 
Pieter Uys "Toypom" (Johannesburg) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
Heschel examines the minds of the Israelite prophets, mainly those of the 7th and 8th centuries BCE, by considering the totality of thoughts, impressions and emotions of the prophet's soul. He thus investigates the interface of theology and psychology but in the latter case, only where motives are consciously revealed.

Besides identifying the decisive features of the prophet's consciousness, he highlights their uniqueness in history and attempts to illuminate the essentials of prophetic religion. Between the introductory chapter and the concluding chapters on history, punishment and justice, the individual prophets and their particular circumstances are covered in turn.

This brings history to the fore as political and social conditions in the Northern Kingdom, the Kingdom of Judah and the surrounding nations such as Ammon, Edom and Moab are at issue. After the reign of King Solomon, the Israelite kingdoms and these neighbors were always caught between the powers of Mesopotamia and the Nile.

Egypt was weak and divided when Assyria became world a power in the 8th century BCE. After the fall of Nineveh in 612 came the rule of Babylonia. Around 760 Egypt was united by and experienced a 100 year revival under the Napatan 25th dynasty. The area between Sinai and the Euphrates became the battleground of clashing superpowers.

Amos, in his concern for Israel's neighbors, made it clear that God cares for all people. Hosea proclaimed that Israel is The Lord's consort, warned against political promiscuity, and affirmed divine tenderness and mercy. The sorrow in God's anger is revealed by the first Isaiah who warned against foreign alliances while denouncing obstinacy and pride. Micah distilled the essence of true worship: do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with the Divine.

Gentle by nature, Jeremiah had to convey messages of wrath and suffering. This caused him overwhelming anguish. The first Isaiah and Habakkuk spoke of ultimate redemption through an outpouring of the Spirit whilst the second Isaiah proclaimed God's eternal love for Israel, His concern for all mankind and the idea of Israel as a light to the nations.

Heschel identifies the major trait of the prophets as a profound sensitivity and revulsion to evil. Their loathing of violence and their sympathy for the weak may appear extreme as the soul of the prophet strongly resonated with the cry of the afflicted. Driven by compassion, they were fiercely intolerant of injustice and indifference as their harsh words reveal.

The prophets knew that religion could distort that which the Lord requires. A coalition of indifference and established authority was their adversary. They fiercely repudiated mankind's subservience to might, holding up the moral law in the place of force. The theme that might is not right is central to their message. Unlike the lofty philosophers they focused on the mundane, the way people treat one another. The prophets also emphasized linear as opposed to cyclical time, promising ultimate salvation.

The author shows that the prophets were torn between compassion for mankind and empathy with God, acting as advocate for the one to the other. They constantly intervened, imploring mercy for the people whilst denouncing the abusive practices of the mighty in explosive language and admonishing the whole nation for its lack of compassion. "The opposite of freedom is not determinism, but hardness of heart," they implied.

In the chapter on history, it is observed that people worship power and are easily impressed by force. Opposed to that, the moral law is inconspicuous. History may thus be considered the sphere where God is defied and justice defeated. Oppression of the human being is an affront to the Creator, while concern for justice is an act of love.

What sets the prophetic act apart from artistic, intellectual and mystical experiences is its moral aspect. The prophetic warning against calling good evil and vice versa, reveals a penetrating insight into the human psyche. While justice is the strict standard associated with the divine name Elohim, the ineffable Tetragrammaton represents the quality of mercy.

It emerges that judgment is never final, always conditional and that the door of repentance remains open. In history justice suffers defeat but the prophets predicted future peace and salvation. Over and over they emphasized that kindness took precedence over wisdom, wealth and might. More than strict justice only, righteousness encompasses loving concern. Above all, the prophets proclaimed the divine pathos, revealing the Creator as Father more than judge.

This compelling and completely unique work succeeds in solving many riddles and clarifying plenty of puzzles on both the mental and emotional level. Written in graceful prose, the concepts are easy to understand while Heschel's words speak to the heart. The Prophets is a most moving and comforting book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic statement of the phenomenon of the Hebrew Prophets., 24 Sep 1997
By A Customer
A modern classic, this two volume set studies the books of the Prophets in depth. It covers the life of the Prophets, the historical context their missions were set in, summarizes their work, and discusses their psychological state. It gives a detailed treatment of the entire phenomenon of prophecy, what it is, and what it means.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A THOUGHTFUL, IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS, 24 Mar 1999
By A Customer
Amos, Hosea, Isaiah (first and second), Micah, Jeremiah and Habakkak all come alive in this book. Be sure to read the footnotes too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 18 July 2014
By 
Luns Hubert (Brugge, Belgien) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Prophets (Hardcover)
Excellent book. Delivered nice and neatly.
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