How the pagan prophets differed …

Campaigning in southern Iraq: soldiers piling ...

Assyrian artwork, 640-620 BC

LeClerc notes some fascinating historical context: Prophets also proliferated in Mesopotamia in the 7th century BC. They differed sharply from biblical prophets, however, in supporting those in power rather than challenging them.

Prophets of Nineveh, whose writings were preserved in the royal archive, were primarily women and many of their messages purport to be the words of the goddess Istar. Rarely did they address matters of morality or social injustice.

“The biblical prophets,” LeClerc writes, “are regularly critical of the king and the ruling classes and are very concerned about the social, economic, and political welfare of the common people. Whereas the Assyrian gods and goddesses are concerned that their cult and temples are properly maintained, the God of Israel shows disdain for worship if it is not accompanied by justice. In theology and moral vision, the difference between Assyrian and biblical prophecy is quite evident.” (Introduction to the Prophets, 211)

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