“Peace, peace, but there is no peace”: prophetic conflicts in Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Micah
This work looks at a peculiar blaming of the religious class (especially, the prophets) as it appears in the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Micah. In these three books, the prophets (coupled with the priests on two occasions but only in the book of Jeremiah) are said to have promised peace ( שלום ) to the nation. Such promises are exposed as blatant falsehood ( ,(שקר and the prophets who uttered them are dismissed as liars who lead the people astray from YHWH. This accusation appears with minor variations in several excerpts throughout these books (Jer 5:30–31; 6:13–15; 8:10b–12; 14:13–16; 23:13–32; 27–29; 37:19; Ezek 13:1–16; Mic 3:5–8). Moreover, especially in the book of Jeremiah, the reader comes across a connection between “falsehood” and the idea of “promising peace”. In the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Micah, the dynamics of “prophet of the book vs. other prophets” often turn up and seem to be intertwined with the motif of having promised a false peace. Hence, this study aims to explain the reasons behind such peculiar allegations, which are presented as prophetic conflicts. The terms often used to express these conflicts, in the tradition and in scholarship, are “true” prophets vs. “false” prophets. These labels are however ambiguous, since an analysis of all the passages mentioned above does not appear to delineate the so-called “false” prophets as a homogenous group, who is antagonistic towards the “true” prophets of the tradition. It seems that the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Micah originally presented an anti-prophetic attitude, thus accusing all the prophets, and only later new readings (supported by redactional interventions) emphasized the prophetic role bestowed upon their main characters (the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Micah), thereby generating an interpretation that favours the division of the prophetic class into legitimate and illegitimate members. Consequently, as this work argues, prophetic conflicts are literary creations of some later redactors of the books and are always aimed at backing up their ideological stances. In addition, while analysing the false promises of peace, the present thesis also covers the literary growth and transmission of this theme in the books of Jeremiah (where it seems to originate from), Ezekiel and Micah (where it appears to be secondary and modelled on Jeremiah). Although prophetic conflicts are expression of the ideology of the redactors, such ideology is the product of a cultural and historical environment that at some point during the history of Israel produced this strand of thought within the biblical prophetic tradition. Hence, this research acknowledges that the biblical texts, although not providing any reliable historical reconstruction (because the redactors were not historians by any means), still allow the biblical scholar to attempt to recreate the historical moment and context that may have given birth to the ideology which lay behind prophetic conflicts (and the theme of the “false” prophets), and to trace its historical and literary development in the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Micah.