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SIMPLIFIED JOURNEY (18): The Social Prophets

Among other things, the prophets were social critics.

Over a span of years, from at least 750 BC through 600 BC and beyond, the prophets were a force calling for social justice and righteousness.

Here are just a few of the things they had to say about how people abused one another, destroyed family life, ground the poor into the dirt, and enriched themselves at the expense of others. The governments were corrupt, and the prophets of God stood out as one of the few forces for good in both Israel and Judah.

The immorality of the people stood as a barrier between them and their God.

When you spread out your hand in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen.

Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. – Isaiah 1:15-20

There was corruption at the very top levels of society:

The LORD enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people:

“It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?” declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty. – Isaiah 3:14-15

The Women of Israel and Judah both loved their luxury and cared not where it came from:

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!” – Amos 4:1 [women of Israel]

The LORD says,

The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, tripping along with mincing steps, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the LORD will make their scalps bald. – Isaiah 3:16-17 [women of Judah]

There was little regard for family values, as even women acted like animals in heat:

How can you say, ‘I am not defiled; I have not run after the Baals’? See how you have behaved in the valley; consider what you have done. You are a swift she-camel running here and there, a wild donkey accustomed to the desert, sniffing the wind in her craving – in her heat who can restrain her? Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves; at mating time they will find her. – Jeremiah 2:23-24

The men were also eager participants in these crimes against the family:

“Why should I forgive you? Your children have forsaken me and sworn by gods that are not gods. I supplied all their needs, yet they committed adultery and thronged to the houses of prostitutes. They are well-fed lusty stallions, each neighing for another man’s wife. Should I not punish them for this?” declares the LORD. “Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?” – Jeremiah 5:7-9

The sins of the divided kingdom against the poor were many. Solomon had done his building with slave labor. His successors continued this – and the abuse of the poor became endemic in the ruling class of the nation. All who had money used it for power over others:

This is what the LORD says:

“For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and girl use the same girl and so profane my holy name. They lie down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge. In the house of their god they drink wine taken as fines….” – Amos 2:6-8

Again and again, Amos cried out against the injustice that filled the land:

You hate the one who reproves in court and despise him who tells the truth. You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts. Therefore the prudent man keeps quiet in such times, for the times are evil. – Amos 5:10-13

Those who had power used it just because they could. They laid awake at night thinking what they could do to enrich themselves at someone else’s expense!

Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance. – Micah 2:1-2

The common theme of the prophets was that Israel had turned away from God to follow other gods that are no gods. In doing this, they became like the immoral gods they adopted. In forsaking the LORD, the forsook His worship and His character.

Yet, God pleaded with them through the prophets to turn back to Him with all of their hearts. In our coming posts, we will examine their religious sins and God’s offer of redemption.

NEXT (19): Messianic Prophets

PREVIOUS (17): The Early Prophets

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