The Difficulty of Prophetic Books

What makes prophetic books so difficult to understand?

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At least two issues make prophetic books so difficult to understand. First, readers don't know the details well for most of the events related to the prophetic books. This is different, for example, from approaches to the Pentateuch. In the Pentateuch, when we read the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis, the readers can easily follow the sequence of the story: Joseph was sold; he went to Egypt; he was imprisoned and then became the second-ranked man in Egypt. The details are clear. But in the prophetic books, there are many events. There are numerous kings and more than one exile. There is the Assyrian exile and the Babylonian exile. The Babylonian exile occurred in three stages. So, because of the many details, people get lost as they read the text. This creates difficulty for us. The second issue that makes understanding the prophetic books difficult is the extensive imagery and metaphors used in the prophetic books, especially since these metaphors are related to the time when these books were written. For example, in Isaiah 5, we read the parable of the vineyard. It's important to understand agriculture methods of that time, the terms used, and the tools used, to be able to understand what exactly the writer wants to say. These two issues make the prophetic books difficult to understand.

Answer by Mr. Sherif Atef Fahim

Mr. Sherif Atef Fahim teaches at Alexandria School of Theology in Egypt.