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The Prophets

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  902 ratings  ·  67 reviews
Abraham Heschel is a seminal name in religious studies and the author of Man Is Not Alone and God in Search of Man. When The Prophets was first published in 1962, it was immediately recognized as a masterpiece of biblical scholarship.

The Prophets provides a unique opportunity for readers of the Old Testament, both Christian and Jewish, to gain fresh and deep knowledge of I
Paperback, 704 pages
Published October 1st 2001 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (NY) (first published 1962)
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4.38  · 
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 ·  902 ratings  ·  67 reviews

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♥ Ibrahim ♥
Wow! This is the best book I have read in years! When I read books, I try to take notes, but books like that almost make me feel like I have copy large portions and portions of the book in my notebook for later reference. A while back I read F. B. Meyer on some of the characters of the Old Testament. I was turned off. Christian Fundamentalists don't help the situation either for me. They keep talking about judgement and anger and all these words that remind me of the god of Islam called Allah. B ...more
Julie Davis
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As much as I love Abraham Heschel's writing I probably wouldn't have picked this up if my Catholic women's book club hadn't selected it. We read book 1 (the first half) and it was simply superb.
It is common to characterize the prophet as a messenger of God, thus to differentiate him from the tellers of fortune, givers of oracles, seers, and ecstatics. Such a characterization expresses only one aspect of his consciousness. The prophet claims to be far more than a messenger. He is a person who st
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
My spiritual director, a Benedictine monk, recommended Abraham Heschl's The Prophets to me. I had brought to him some badly muddled thinking about the prophets, despite my knowledge of Israelite history and the Bible.
Heschl's book profoundly altered my thinking. He called me to a clearer understanding of the God who called the Hebrews out of Egypt, named them as a people "peculiarly" his own, and demanded their unwavering fidelity.
The prophets were those men who were called by God and given a
Tristan Sherwin
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
It’s only took me several weeks (and several highlighters), but I’ve finally made it through this gem.

Heschel, though sometimes a little bit all over the place with his thoughts (some parts of this could do with some developmental editing), is never anything short of illuminating.

*The Prophets* is a must read on the biblical prophets; especially with regards to their distinction, and their message’s distinction, within the ancient world.
Mar 09, 2010 rated it liked it
At one point, the author summarizes:'We and the prophets have no language in common. To us the moral state of society, for all its stains and spots, seems fair and trim; to the prophet it is dreadful. So many deeds of charity are done, so much decency radiates day and night; yet to the prophet the satiety of conscience is prudery and flight from responsibility. Our standards are modest; our sense of injustice tolerable, timid; our moral indignation impermament; yet human violence is interminable ...more
Simcha Wood
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Abraham Heschel's The Prophets offers a thorough and insightul analysis of the phenomenon of the prophet in the Hebrew Bible.

The first part of the book begins, modestly enough, as something of a commentary on the texts of the prophets. This begins with a general discussion of the sort of man that the prophet was, before going into individual readings of the prophets and discussion of the historical contexts in which they operated.

The book then moves into a theological and philosophical discussio
Carl Williams
Nov 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A tome, indeed.

I first became aware of Abraham Joshua Heschel by his presence—when he walked across the Pettus Bridge, linked arms with Martin Luther King. And that is certainly an important way to remember him, as a man who put his faith on the street. He was, of course, also a traditional scholar, carrying understanding of Torah and the other Hebrew Testaments from the past and translating them for new generations and new understandings.

“Revelation is not a voice crying in the wilderness, bur
Jan 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely awesome. He had me in tears in the Introduction. That's pretty good. It is a study of the prophets from the standpoint of divine pathos. A tremendous reflection upon the emotional concern of God for man. There are some dangers I suppose if you took this too far, but if you or anyone needs a cure for a view of God - a dispassionate stoic - this is it. This one goes right up toward the top of my list!
Anthony Locke
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thm-reading, 2019
This book was (mostly) excellent. I appreciated how Heschel forces his readers to grapple with the human part of the Prophets, particularly their call and the privilege/burden of representing God to the people and the people to God. He has many profound and provocative one-liners - for example, he uses the words seduction and rape to describe the (ongoing) call of the prophets. Though graphic and jarring, his point is made well and helps readers understand the prophets better. In general, his wr ...more
Brian Wilcox
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
A classic !
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish-history
A work of moral, theological, and intellectual genius. I will be revisiting this book for many years to come.
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I originally found Heschel's The Prophets in the references on the Wikipedia site for the prophet Jeremiah. I had been reading the book of Jeremiah for my scripture study, and hand found some of the particulars difficult to understand. I knew Jeremiah was a bit of a downer, but his constant calls of destruction, his apparent self-hatred were a bit confusing (at one point, he cries, "cursed be the day my mother bore me.") I didn't want a verse-by-verse explanation, but a little context was apprec ...more
Feb 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
I have read the vast majority of this book for a graduate level Prophets course. It's commentary is extraordinarily helpful in understanding both the major and minor prophets of the Hebrew Bible. In particular I appreciated how Heschel embeds the word into his commentary. Through his work, Heschel helps develop what the prophet Hosea calls daath elohim - an intimate sensitivity for who God is and God hopes and desires for relationship with humanity and all creation.
Jun 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Less a work of historical criticism than a philosophical tract (though certainly thoroughly researched and highly critical), Heschel holds up the prophets of the Tanakh as exemplars of not just divine revelation, but also of :"divine pathos" and "prophetic sympathy," men attuned to God's concern for humankind and brave enough to speak His word to those who've forgotten it. The key here is reciprocity between the divine and the human, a concept to which I fully subscribe.
Nov 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Volume Two is more scholastic than Volume One and a slower more difficult read. As I read it, I had the sweet feeling of being in the presence of a master. What a beautiful mind! What a beautiful soul!
Israel Drazin
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Is God involved in prophecy?

The late Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) was one of the great Orthodox Jewish scholars, theologians, and philosophers of his generation. His books made a striking impression on many people, including me. His many insights are eye opening. His book “The Prophets” is one of his classics.
He tells us that he will not address the well-known question about prophets: Did God really speak to them? Did they actually communicate with God? Yet, I think it is clear that he did
Trey Benfield
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this book after reading "The Prophetic Imagination" by Brueggemann who often mentions "The Prophets" as a major influence. After reading "The Prophetic Imagination," I concluded "The Prophets" was probably the most important work of scholarship of the Hebrew scriptures in the last 50 years. After reading, "The Prophets," I have concluded it is the most important work of scholarship of the Hebrew scriptures in the last 100 years.

Wonderfully researched and clearly written, Heschel builds u
Neil Harmon
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was a text for a course, "Interpreting the Hebrew Bible II." I honestly wasn't looking forward to spending a lot of time with the prophets. They seemed so depressing, judgemental, and vindictive. Between the wonderful professor and this book, I came to see a whole other side of these books. Herschel comes across as knowing these somewhat difficult to approach figures as old, beloved friends. He helps see the human side and context the prophets lived in. He shows how there is a lot of p ...more
Circle of Hope Pastors
"Heschel does a wonderful job in this classic text deconstructing Greek influences on our conception of God and the prophets. He brilliantly states that the job of the prophet is to empathize with the pathos of God. It's the same kind of thing we do. Heschel marched with King and is a radical thinker, right up our alley. I don't think he ever became a Christian. But in his polemic against other faiths, he seems to protect Jesus and Paul, in particular (never hurling a critique of them). But he d ...more
Aug 14, 2018 rated it liked it
This is not lightly to be entertained. The mode of reflection would be strange to someone unaccustomed to theology (a/o religion), but that is not a critique. It's thoughtful and a sensible attempt to explore the human dimension and individual qualities of prophets without attempting to rationalize them or reduce them to that dimension and those qualities. Requires simultaneous meditative and reflective effort.
Rev. S. Madison
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Again, there can be no end date with this book. It is constant revelation. It needs to be memorized, not read.
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great book, but start with God in Search of Man
Steve Bender
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an eerily good read; I'm a little scared of its relevance. Skimming, so not reviewing, but I'm sure I'll revisit as I read through the rest of the Bible.
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: god
Feb 2012: Recently completed Book II -- also excellent, a bit less of direct argument and more historical contextualising against other faiths.


Oct 2011: This review is for Book I -- am taking a break before digging into Book II. I generally enjoyed Book I and really like how as a Jewish author he argues solely from the Old Testament and yet the message resonates very strongly with the message of the New Testament. The structure of the text is a reading of individual books, then a few themat
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion-faith
A tremendous work of scholarship, and of inspiration.
Steve Watson
May 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Finally finished this big boy. The first half of the book - less dated and more readable - is an introduction to the Hebrew prophets and a number of their biblical books. The second half is more technical, and explores the theory and nature of Hebrew prophecy. Heschel's literary scholarship becomes a work of profound theology, as he centers his analysis on the prophets' unique contribution to our understanding of God and humanity. In his opinion, this is pathos, which at one point he defines as ...more
Yael Shahar
Sep 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: values-and-memes
Still a classic!

A. J. Heschel's The Prophets remains one of the most readable and moving works on prophecy in Israel. He points out that, while most religions concern themselves with attaining mystical union with God, the Jewish prophet is concerned with the well-being of the common man or women in the mundane world:

In contrast, the prophet's field of concern is not the mysteries of heaven, but the affairs of the market place; not the glories of eternity, but the blights of society. He address
Dec 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is an absolutely incredible argument that the literary prophets' main agenda is God's pathos as a call for justice in humanity. In Heschel's meditative yet highly persuasive tone, he shows why the literary prophets are so relevant and what we should do about it. And of course, Heschel enacted the social justice the prophets called for throughout his own life.

However, I sometimes found his assumptions inconsistent with his arguments, and sometimes, inconsistent with the literary text. A
Oct 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent, comprehensive treatment of the Biblical prophets. Heschel opens with brief summaries of a few notable prophetic books in Scripture, and then moves to an understanding of the person, office, convictions, and emotions associated with Biblical prophecy. Most interesting is the description of the prophet's intimate relationship with God. Heschel contrasts the Hebrew prophets with those of other cultures, and particularly within Greek philosophy. He discusses the emotions of God ...more
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Heschel was a descendant of preeminent rabbinic families of Europe, both on his father's (Moshe Mordechai Heschel, who died of influenza in 1916) and mother's (Reizel Perlow Heschel) side, and a descendant of Rebbe Avrohom Yehoshua Heshl of Apt and other dynasties. He was the youngest of six children including his siblings: Sarah, Dvora Miriam, Esther Sima, Gittel, and Jacob. In his teens he recei ...more
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“Few are guilty, but all are responsible.” 96 likes
“A prophet's true greatness is his ability to hold God and man in a single thought.” 17 likes
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