The Dependence of the Prophets on Mosaic Covenant

How did Old Testament prophets depend on Moses' covenant?

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The Old Testament prophets had a good view of time so that they were able to look to the past, they were able to live in the present, and then look ahead to the future. The prophets depended on God's covenant, in particular I'll say the Mosaic covenant. Let's kind of confine it to that. So, if we're talking about God's law that he gave at Sinai, for instance, that law that he gave provided the basis, the foundation for everything that the prophets were teaching the people. One of the problems that we see in the Prophets — and this has been a problem with critical scholars for, you know, well over a hundred years — is the fact that many of the prophets don't refer specifically to specific laws. We get some of that in Jeremiah where he seems to list off some of the Ten Commandments at times, but we don't get them just having these explicit discussions about the law at Sinai. And so, for many liberal scholars … that has created problems. But if we look at it instead that they have the law at Sinai, that they assumed that all of their readers, all of their listeners, knew that, then we can look at this in a bit of a different light because now we have the prophets speaking to the people. They've got God's covenant. It's assumed that this is their basis for life. This is their basis for understanding the relationship with God, for instance. They can, then, preach to the people about the present situation, having that foundation in the past. This past, present and future terminology, I think, is helpful also with the prophets because what we're seeing is that the prophets were not just future fortune tellers. They didn't just tell things that happened in the future, but instead they were looking to the past; they saw God's acts, the things that he did on behalf of Israel in the past. They had that as a foundation for what they then preached to the people about their present situation. But then also, they were always looking ahead to the future, to what God was going to do in the future, perhaps through judgment, more often through restoration, through salvation of his people. And so, this view of the prophets as having a past perspective to the covenants, a present perspective where they preach to the people to that age, and then a future view to what God was going to do in the future is very important to understanding the prophets.

Answer by Dr. Todd Borger

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary