Re: prophets gave little support as a rule to the Levitical Law?

From: Don Winterstein (
Date: Sat Feb 22 2003 - 03:16:49 EST

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    Rich wrote:

    > I will concede that in the examples below, it is the priests and scribes who supported levitical law, but it is inconceivable to me that the prophets would be anti-supportive. Perhaps the prophets might be anti-supportive of the priestly class when they abandoned the law as Jesus was when they favored the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law, but I would appreciate if you could give me an example of a prophet with a reference who gave little support 'as a rule' to Levitical law and an example of a prophet who was 'anti-supportive.'

    A good example of what I mean by anti-supportive is Isaiah 1:10-17. Isaiah tells the people that all their observances of the ceremonial laws are offensive to God because they are not observing the moral laws and the law against having other gods, which have priority. The prophets are not exactly telling people to stop obeying the ceremonial laws; they're saying that obeying such low-priority laws while violating the high-priority laws wins them God's ill will rather than his favor. It would be better for them, the prophets seem to be saying, if they didn't even try to obey the ceremonial laws. That's what I mean by "anti-supportive."

    The prophets of course were well aware of the Levitical laws, they just rarely concentrated on promoting them. Isaiah, however, promotes observance of the Sabbath in chapter 56, as does Jeremiah in chapter 17 (in a section I find out of place; I think some scribe added it later). Ezekiel also mentions several times in chapter 20 that a man who obeys God's laws will live by them--but that is in connection with a recitation of how the Israelites had been persistently unfaithful, and it's not primarily an admonition to keep the laws. Ezekiel himself seemed to be a stickler for keeping ceremonial laws (see chapter 4:12f). A tentative conclusion from this hit & miss-type survey is that the prophets felt keeping the Sabbath had a rather higher priority than doing the sacrifices and observing the festivals.

    I believe the Babylonian captivity was so traumatic for the Jews that it shrank them in the sense that they could no longer love God in freedom--like David, for instance--but felt tied down to the letter of the law like never before. They became legalistic nit pickers. Rather than heeding the prophets and getting their priorities right, they started down the road to Phariseeism.


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