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An abbreviated Life.


First, the Prophet Adam, the naked man, the seedling, the beginning, the prototype: he "walked with God" (Genesis 2), was still undifferentiated from his environment. And yet, true to the human form, he was beginning to differentiate himself from his environment: by the act of naming.

Adam is the seed.

Secondly, there is the Prophet Noah. Noah represents the vessel of the seed, the carrier of the seed over the Deluge, through total obedience to the Will of God. The Ark of Noah represents the spermatozoon, that which is willed towards life.

Thirdly, there comes the Prophet Abraham. Abraham represents an attitude of surrender, the Hasid, the pious one. This attitude is expressed in the story of Abraham's son Isaac: from the child's miraculous birth while Abraham was well beyond a time when procreation came naturally (he was into his nineties), to the child's sacrifice (see Genesis chapters 17, 20-22). Abraham was commanded by God to kill the son God had given him. Abraham followed through, placing God above the survival of his very own race. In one version of the story, Abraham is stopped at the last moment from committing progenicide. In another version, he actually goes through with it, only to look up and see that it was not his son he had slain, but a wild beast. The point is the same: Father Abraham displayed perhaps the penultimate form of sacrifice in obedience with God's command.

This attitude of complete surrender is the seminal fluid.

Fourthly, there is Moses. The Tzaddik. The Law Giver. The archetypal Patriarch: stern, commanding, organizing. Moses is the channeler of the seed, through the Law, the Torah (lit., process). This Law is the phallus circumsized -- that is, consecrated.

The seed is planted. The seed takes root.

There is Advent. The Child of Man is born. Jesus Christ, son of Mary, representing the fruition of God's work in His creation Man. The humanization of the law. The Prophet of compassion, surrendering absolutely completely, even unto his own death.

But this is not the end of the story.

The fruit ripens. The child grows up, into a man. The Man of God, Prophet Muhammad (lit., man), the Messenger, the Witness. The Declaration of Faith in Islam (lit., peace, submission) is: There is no God but God. And Muhammad is his Messenger. This means that in all he does, the man of God bears witness to the Power of God pervading everything, suffusing everything, and this man follows out this Will with his own.

The end. Or not.

Abraham Joshua Heschel was a Jewish rabbi who felt strongly about the message of the various Old Testament Prophets:

"The crack of doom is in the air, but the people, unperturbed, are carried away by a race to be merry."
One of his most famous works, The Prophets, gives a short commentary on several minor prophets and two major prophets.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction (by Susannah Heschel)
  2. What Manner of Man is the Prophet?
  3. Amos
  4. Hosea
  5. Isaiah (Isa 1-39)
  6. Micah
  7. Jeremiah
  8. Habakkuk
  9. Second Isaiah
  10. History
  11. Chastisement
  12. Justice



Heschel's insight into these books of the Bible, which are so often misunderstood, help the student, believer, and historian more fully understand the context in which each prophet spoke, and what Heschel understood as the main message of each prophet. I would especially recommend comparing his commentaries of each prophet with commentaries by Luther, John Calvin, and also ancient commentaries.

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