The hebrew bible is a prophetic document. It contains the words of a rare breed of people who appeared in a small corner of the ancient Near East 3,000 years ago and transformed history. Or, if you will, it is a divine message articulated by those highly unusual individuals over a period of some 1,000 years, beginning with Moses, whose historicity is shrouded in the mist of antiquity, running through someone like Jeremiah, whose historicity is fairly well established, and ending with Malachi, who is probably a composite figure rather than a specific individual.

What is typical about the prophetic message is that it is loud and clear and unequivocal. Talmudic scholar Saadia Gaon compares it to the blasts of the shofar. The prophet Micah summarizes it in one sentence: “What does Adonai your God ask of you, but to do justice, and love...

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