The prophets Who they were, what they are

Norman Podhoretz

Book - 2002

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2nd Floor 224/Podhoretz Due Aug 27, 2022
New York : Free Press c2002.
Physical Description
390 p. ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Norman Podhoretz (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

What can a commentator on contemporary politics teach us about religion in ancient Israel? More than we might expect. Podhoretz, now a leading light of neoconservatism, studied Hebrew literature during college and still reads his Bible with both passion and intelligence. As a self-acknowledged amateur, Podhoretz engages Amos and Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Isaiah with a directness typically lacking in the dryly academic exegeses. That directness illuminates the courage with which the classical prophets excoriated the Israelites for their perennial lapses into idolatry. Though he refuses to blink at their failings as men and as writers, Podhoretz still admires their courage with a warmth than enlivens his chronicle of their lives and animates his interpretation of their words. Nothing Podhoretz draws from the prophets will kindle hotter controversy than his concluding appeal to prophetic morality in condemning the modern idolatry of self--in sexual liberation, drug use, radical feminism, gay rights, and multiculturalism--that has reshaped American culture since the sixties. Podhoretz justly anticipates that many readers will hotly dispute his perspective. ((Reviewed October 1, 2002)) Copyright 2002 Booklist Reviews

Review by Library Journal Reviews

The former editor of Commentary and a contributor to the National Review and the Wall Street Journal, Podhoretz steps away from the political writing for which he is noted to address the prophets of the Old Testament. Writing with a deep appreciation of the Bible, he provides an analysis and commentary that brings the prophets to life. He starts by describing the biblical setting and ends with a chapter that relates the prophets and their messages to the contemporary period. The specific prophets whom he considers are Amos, Hosea, Micah, First Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Second Isaiah. Each chapter describes the prophet's message, historical and social context, and religious setting through narrative and both biblical and scholarly quotes. Written for lay readers and students, this book is especially appropriate for public and academic libraries serving patrons interested in the acquisition of biblical commentaries by contemporary and/or popular authors as well as religious scholars. (Index not seen.)-Naomi Hafter, Baltimore Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In what initially appears to be a radical departure from his previous eight books, some of which were autobiographical accounts of Podhoretz's move from left to right, this effort deals with the Hebrew prophets, a new subject for the former editor of Commentary magazine. To his credit, he does indeed present a scholarly analysis of the prophets, but it is interwoven with too many references to himself. Moreover, the lessons that Podhoretz derives from his study of the prophets, as detailed in the last chapter, "The Prophets and Us," are a rehash of the neo-conservative views expressed in his other books. He condemns relativism, the counterculture, political correctness, the women's movement, deconstructionism, multiculturalism and environmentalism. He likens his own views to those of the biblical prophets as they fought for monotheism and opposed paganism. Podhoretz gives consideration to all 21 prophetic books in the Bible, as well as to Abraham and Moses. However, he focuses mostly on Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah ("First" and "Second"), Jeremiah and Ezekiel. He examines their writings, drawing extensively on the work of biblical scholars. Although he describes himself as an "amateur" and a "non-specialist," he doesn't hesitate to give his opinions on disputes among the various schools of biblical interpreters. Podhoretz deserves to be applauded for venturing beyond himself (at least in part) as the subject of his books, but readers interested in the prophets may wish to consult scholarly sources directly rather than rely on Podhoretz's rendering of their ideas. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

One of the nation's most controversial biblical scholars reinterprets the biblical prophets and their messages, finding new meanings and enduring truths in these enigmatic writings.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A radical reinterpretation of the biblical prophets by one of America's most provocative critics reveals the eternal beauty of their language and the enduring resonance of their message.Long before Norman Podhoretz became one of the intellectual leaders of American neoconservatism, he was a student of Hebrew literature and a passionate reader of the prophets of the Old Testament. Returning to them after fifty years, he has produced something remarkable: an entirely new perspective on some of the world's best-known works.Or, rather, three new perspectives. The first is a fascinating account of the golden age of biblical prophecy, from the eighth to the fifth century B.C.E., and its roots in earlier ages of the ancient Israelite saga. Thus, like large parts of the Bible itself, The Prophets is a history of the Near East from the point of view of a single nation, covering not only what is known about the prophets themselves -- including Elijah, Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel -- but also the stories of King David, King Saul, and how the ancient Israelites were affected by the great Near Eastern empires that surrounded them. Layered into this work of history is a piece of extraordinary literary criticism. Podhoretz's very close reading of the verse and imagery used by the biblical prophets restores them to the top reaches of the poetic pantheon, for these books contain, unequivocally, some of the greatest poetry ever written.The historical chronicle and the literary criticism will transport readers to a time that is both exotic and familiar and, like any fine work of history or literature, will evoke a distinct and original world. But the third perspective of The Prophets is that of moral philosophy, and it serves to bring the prophets' message into the twenty-first century. For to Norman Podhoretz, the real relevance of the prophets today is more than the excitement of their history or the beauty of their poetry: it is their message. Podhoretz sees, in the words of the biblical prophets, a war being waged, a war against the sin of revering anything made by the hands of man -- in short, idolatry. In their relentless battle against idolatry, Podhoretz finds the prophets' most meaningful and enduring message: a stern warning against the all-consuming worship of self that is at least as relevant in the twenty-first century as it was three thousand years ago. The Prophets will earn the respect of biblical scholars and the fascinated attention of general readers; its observations will be equally valued by believers and nonbelievers, by anyone with spiritual yearnings. Learned, provocative, and beautifully written, The Prophets is a deeply felt, deeply satisfying work that is at once history, literary criticism, and moral philosophy -- a tour de force.