Messages of the Pre-exilic and Post-exilic Prophets

The pre-exilic prophets ministered before the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon in 586 B.C. which led the the exiling of the Israelites. They prophesied during a time of decline in the history of Israel and Judah. Most of the pre-exilic prophets voiced the central themes of sin-exile-restoration, but they are primary focused on the first two addressing personal and societal sins in the form of covenantal disobedience, social injustice and idolatry. They declare present and future judgement of the covenantal people and the nations for their sins. A remedy to judgment was repentance, and so there was a constant call to repent and return to a relationship with their loving God. A few pre-exilic prophets prophesy messages of restoration, hope and future promises regarding a future savior and kingdom. Others mention God’s plan for inclusion of the nations in his salvation history.[1]

The post-exilic prophets delivered their messages following the Babylonian/Persian exile and upon the return of God’s people to Jerusalem. While many of the Jews did return from exile historically and geographically, there was much to be desired for a true theological return from exile. “This return hardly signaled the inauguration of the glorious restoration that had been prophesied by the pre-exilic prophets.”[2] The post-exilic prophets explain that the return was not the promised restoration, and so they prophesied of a future and glorious hope of restoration. While this message was their primary focus, they still addressed sin, covenantal disobedience and insincere worship.  [3]

In summary, the post-exilic prophets differ from the pre-exilic prophets in their challenge to fix one’s eyes to the future horizon for the coming of the anointed one who would fulfill the promises concerning restoration. Whereas the pre-exilic prophets focus primarily on turning back to a proper relationship with God before it is too late.[4]

[1] Marvin C. Pate et al., The Story of Israel: a Biblical Theology (InterVarsity Press, 2004), 91-99

[2] Ibid., 99-100. 

[3] Paul R. House, “Introduction to the Prophetic Books.” ESV: Study Bible (Crossway Bibles, 2007), 1230.

[4] Pate et al., The Story, 103.

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