Missouri State University
Skip Navigation LinksMissouri State     Pentateuch




Religious Studies 312--Hebrew Prophets--Fall 2006

Michelangelo - Sistine Chapel - Jonah

Dr. Victor H. Matthews

Strong Hall 207

Ph: 417-836-5529

Fax: 417-836-8472

Email: VictorMatthews@missouristate.edu

1. Texts Required:

a. V. Matthews, The Social World of the Hebrew Prophets (Hendrickson, 2001 = SWHP)

b. V. Matthews, A Brief History of Ancient Israel (Westminster, 2002 = BHI)

c. D. Stuart, Old Testament Exegesis (Westminster, 2001 = OTE)

d. Bible. Use any modern translation. NRSV will be used in class by the instructor.

2. Course Description: The intention of this course is to do a close reading of the portion of the Hebrew Bible which includes the major and minor prophets. Methods will be demonstrated for study and analysis of these materials, including the use of sociological, anthropological, historical, and literary criticism. In particular, the emphasis will be on a comparative study of prophecy in the ancient Near East and in other cultures.

3. Class Routine: This course will include some lectures on methods, but the bulk of class time will be taken up with in depth discussion of the prophetic texts. Study questions will be provided for each class period. These will form the basis of class discussion. Students also will be expected to develop additional questions to enrich our class discussion.

4. Exams: There will be two formal exams: a midterm and a final. 

5. Make-up Exams: Students are expected to notify the instructor prior to an exam if they are unable to take it as scheduled.  A make-up exam will be administered, but may consist of a different format than the original exam.

6. Written Assignment: One short  paper (12-15 pages minimum) will be required in this course. The paper will explore a well defined pericope, a self-contained unit of text (http://www.godward.org/archives/BS%20Notes/Bible%20Study%20Notes%20No%20One%20Pericope1.htm)A list of potential topics appears below. Any other pericopes must be approved by the instructor.  The paper must be double-spaced, typewritten, and must follow a consistent style of documentation (either footnotes, endnotes, or MLA style). Proofread the paper carefully since a paper containing too many errors will be handed back to the student for revision and will receive a reduction in grade. If you choose to use Internet sources, please read the caution found at: http://www.slu.edu/departments/english/research/page02.html. An on-line bibliography of sources dealing with Hebrew Prophets can be found at: http://courses.missouristate.edu/vhm970f/bib/PROPHET.html.

Written Assignment Due: December 1, 2006

Jeremiah Lamenting

Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem

Rembrandt van Rijn - 1630


Most of these topics will be touched on in class discussion, but students can choose to explore one of them in more depth in their written assignment. If you would like to suggest a topic for class discussion or for your written assignment that is not on this list, please check with the instructor.


Comparisons between reports of prophetic activity in the Mari texts and biblical prophetic texts


Moses' "Call Narrative" (Exodus 3)


"It is Better to Obey Than Sacrifice" (1 Sam 15:10-26)


Evidence of Ecstatic Prophecy in the Hebrew Bible (1 Sam 10:9-13 and 2 Kgs 3:15)


The Role of the Court Prophet (Nathan, Ahab's 400, and Huldah)


The Use of the Juridical Parable: Nathan's accusation against David (2 Sam 12:1-15)


"Pointing the Finger" -- the unnamed prophet of Judah and Jeroboam at Bethel (1 Kgs 13:1-10)


The Mt. Carmel Contest as it compares to other "contests between gods" (1 Kgs 18)


Huldah and Josiah's Reform (2 Kgs 22:11-20)


Elisha and the Shunammite Woman (2 Kgs 4:8-37)


Micaiah and God's deception of Ahab: Divine Trickster Images (1 Kgs 22:1-28)


Amos and Social Justice  (Amos 2:6-8)


The "Marriage Motif" in Hosea: Use of Marriage Taboos as Enacted Prophecy (Hosea 1)


Isaiah's use of the "Stump" image and "Renewal" Stories - Isa 11:1-5


Isaiah's "Song of the Vineyard" as a juridical parable/oracle - Isa 5:1-7


Isaiah's "Emmanuel" prophecy - Isa 7


Tthe Rabshakeh’s Claims: Theodicy and Assyrian Propaganda - Isa 36


Micah's use of the "Law Suit" in 6:1-8


The Use of "Sacred Space" as a factor in Jeremiah's "Temple Sermon" - Jer 7:1-15


The role of Baruch in the book of Jeremiah - Jer 36


Jeremiah’s use of execration ritual - Jer 19


Prophet vs. Prophet: Jeremiah and Hananiah – Cognitive Dissonance in Prophetic Encounter - Jer 27


Ezekiel's vision of the "abominations" in the Temple - Ezek 8


Ezekiel's image of the "foundling" and unfaithful wife in Ezekiel 16:1-22


Ezekiel's use of the "individual responsibility" theme – Transformation of Tradition during Periods of Cultural Trauma - Ezek 18:1-18


Ezekiel's vision of the "Valley of Dry Bones" – Creation and Recreation Stories - Ezek 37:1-14


Street theater and pantomime in Ezekiel - Ezek 5:1-4


Obadiah's Condemnation of Edom - Obad 10-16


Jonah and the Attempt to Flee from a God - Jonah 1


The Song of Joy - Zeph 3:14-20


The Use of Comedy in Jonah - Jonah 3


"Fear Not" Oracle in Isa 41:8-20


Habakkuk's use of the "Woe oracle"- Hab 2:6-20


Joel's use of the motif of the Plague of Locusts - Joel 1:4


Malachi's denunciation of the priesthood (1:6-2:9)


Isaiah 45 and the Cyrus Cylinder as Comparative Theodicy


The social setting of Haggai 1


Joshua and the satan in Zechariah's 4th vision - Zech 3


Apocalyptic images in Daniel 7


Apocalyptic images of the "New Jerusalem" in Zech 14:1-11 

  1. Attendance: Since this is a discussion class, it is essential that you make every effort to attend each class. A significant portion (25 %) of your final grade will be based on your active participation in class discussion.

  2. Cheating: Missouri State is a community of scholars committed to the ideal of academic integrity.  All members of the University community share the responsibility and authority to challenge and make known acts of apparent academic dishonesty. Cheating and plagiarism, as defined in the Missouri State Student Judicial Code (http://www.missouristate.edu/studev/Judicial/code.html) will not be tolerated in this course. Anyone caught cheating will be assigned an "F" for the course.  Those who plagiarize the work of others will either be subject to a penalty of one letter grade on their written assignment or the imposition of an additional written assignment.  Each student should carefully review the Student Academic Integrity Policies & Procedures: http://www.missouristate.edu/acadaff/StudentAcademicIntegrity.pdf 

    I would also direct you to the university statement of community principles at (http://www.missouristate.edu/declaration).

9. Grading: The final grade will be determined as follows:

Written Assignment = 100 points

Mid-term Exam = 100 points

Final Exam = 100 points

Class Participation = 100 points

The grade will be determined on a ten point scale: 90-100 = A.

Borderline grades will be determined by such factors as attendance, completion of work on time, evidence of hard work, and a willingness to seek help as well as general contribution to class discussions.

Final Exam:  Monday, December 11, 2006; 8:45-10:45 am; STRO 404

10. Special Services: Students with disabilities who may require accommodations should contact the Coordinator of Disability Support Services (DSS), Plaster Student Union, 4th floor, (417) 836-4192 or TDD (417) 836-6792.  Information about DSS can be found at http://www.missouristate.edu/disability/   DSS refers some types of accommodation requests to the Learning Diagnostic Clinic (LDC). The LDC also provides diagnostic testing, for which a fee is charged.

11. Inclusive Language: In line with the newest style guides, I will be using inclusive language. This means that I will use language that includes women whenever possible. Instead of "man" I will use "human beings." Instead of "he" I will use "he or she," etc. I urge you to follow my lead both orally and in written form.

12. Equal Opportunity: Missouri State is an equal opportunity employer/affirmative action institution, and maintains a grievance procedure incorporating due process available to any person who believes he or she has been discriminated against.  The Missouri State Nondiscrimination Statement can be found at: http://www.missouristate.edu/equity/nondiscrimination_statement.htmAt all times, it is your right to address inquiries and concerns about possible discrimination to Jana Estergard, the Equal Opportunity Officer, Siceluff 296, (417) 836-4252. Concerns about discrimination can also be brought directly to your instructor’s attention, and/or to the attention of your instructor’s Department Head.

13. Office Hours: Students should feel free to consult with me about the course and their work. My office is STRO 207. I will be there 10-10:50 M-F. If you can not meet with me during posted office hours, make an appointment to see me at a mutually agreeable time. Associate Dean's office: 836-5529.


Reading assignments will list textbooks by abbreviations (SWHP, BHI, and OTE). Reserve materials will be listed by the author’s last name. Reading should be completed as assigned and before class. You are responsible for all reading assignments & they will serve as the basis of each class' discussion. It is also expected that students will initiate topics for discussion during the semester.

Since this course will emphasize cross-cultural analysis of the phenomena of prophecy, discussion will include parallel materials from other ancient Near Eastern cultures.

Unit One
: Lectures on Methodology and Exegesis of the Hebrew Prophets. Read SWHP 3-37 and OTE 5-65, 89-163.

Eliade, "Sacred Space and Making the World Sacred"

Weber, Sociology of Religion: Prophets section (C) only!


Spatiality and Ancient Israel: http://www.cwru.edu/affil/GAIR/papers/2001papers/mcnutt.htm (Paula McNutt article)

Emic and Etic Perspectives: http://faculty.ircc.cc.fl.us/faculty/jlett/Article%20on%20Emics%20and%20Etics.htm and http://www.sil.org/~headlandt/ee-intro.htm

Social Scientific Criticism

Historical Geography:



Unit Two: The earliest Hebrew prophetic practices: Divination, Necromancy, Ritual Performance, Ecstasy:

bulletMoses and Balaam (Ex 3-14; 24, 32; Num 11; 22-24). Read SWHP 38-41; BHI 15-33.
bulletSamuel and other early monarchic prophets (1 Sam 3; 8-11; 13-16; 19, 28; 2 Sam 7; 12; 1 Kgs 1; 11-14; 16); Read SWHP 42-52; BHI 35-63.
bulletElijah (1 Kgs17-2 Kgs 2) and Elisha (2 Kgs 3-13). Read SWHP 53-66;  BHI 65-70.

Unit Three: The Last Days of Israel:

bulletAmos and Hosea. Read SWHP 67-80; BHI 70-75.

Unit Four: Judah as Vassal State:

bulletRead SWHP 81-103; BHI 77-85; Isa 1, 5-11, 20, 24-27, 36-39; Micah 1-6.
bulletZephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk. SWHP 104-112.

Unit Five: Last Days of Judah:

bulletRead SWHP 116-131; Jer 1, 5, 7, 13, 16, 18-21, 25-29, 32, 34-41, 52; BHI 85-99.

Unit Six: Exile:

bulletRead BHI 101-118; SWHP 132-151; Ezek 1-5, 8-10, 14, 16, 18, 33-34, 36-37, 43; Isa 40-53.

Unit Seven: Return and Restoration:

bulletRead SWHP 151-167; Haggai; Zech 1-4; Isa 56-58, 62, 65; Obadiah; Joel; Malachi; Jonah; BHI 119-125.

Unit Eight: Hellenistic Period:

bulletRead BHI 125-127; SWHP 168-176; Zech 12-14; Daniel 1-7, 12.

Final Exam:  Monday, December 11, 2006; 8:45-10:45 am; STRO 404


This syllabus was last updated on 9-12-06.  Consulted by Hit Counter