Previous generations of scholars believed that prophecy was unique to ancient Israel. However, recent archaeological discoveries reveal that numerous societies in the ancient Near East practiced prophecy. This study examines the similarities and differences between Neo-Assyrian and biblical prophecy, particularly focusing on the 7th c. BCE prophets Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, and discusses what implications these differences may have for our understanding of these prophets.
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Previous generations of scholars believed that prophecy was unique to ancient Israel, but archaeological discoveries reveal that prophecy was widely practiced in the ancient Near East. This study examines the similarities and differences of Neo-Assyrian and biblical prophecy.
Recent scholarship has utilized Neo-Assyrian prophecy to illumine the issue of biblical prophecy. While these attempts have focused primarily on the role of the prophet, this study focuses on prophetic literature. Neo-Assyrian prophecy of the 7th century BCE reflects a specific socio-political locus of production. Monarchic patronage shaped the content and ideology of this prophecy, demonstrating that prophecy was a political institution in service to the Assyrian crown. Since the dating of this material is secure, it can serve as a benchmark for analyzing biblical material. Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, three books traditionally dated to the 7th century BCE, are where one would expect to find the greatest degree of correspondence between Assyrian and biblical prophecy assuming that both corpora were produced under a similar socio-political locus in the 7th century BCE. However, a detailed literary analysis highlights significant differences in ideology and genre adaptation in the biblical material suggesting a different socio-political locus of production and raising questions concerning when these books were written.