This book 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 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 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.
Introduction: The Biblical Context -- Clouds of Ancestral Glory -- In the Beginning -- Wielding the Sword -- Plunging into Politics -- Rebuking the King -- Before and After Elijah -- Eruption -- Amos: The Lion Roars -- Hosea and the Whore -- Micah: Pax Israelitica -- The First Isaiah and the Blood of Bullocks -- Up from Underground -- Jeremiah: The Reluctant Prophet -- Ezekiel and the Jealous God -- The Second Isaiah and "Universalism" -- The End of the Line -- Aftershocks -- The Prophets and Us.