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Simon Holloway

Very nice summary! The point-form section is somewhat structurally reminiscent of Allen Ginsburg's "Howl"; I enjoyed reading it.

To pick on a very minor and entirely incidental statement, I would disagree with your suggestion that Moses constitutes "the first and greatest prophet". I see no convincing indication within the text that Moses was a prophet and, on the contrary, much that would seem to suggest a certain antagonism towards institutional prophecy.

I also don't agree that Qohelet is being ascribed to Solomon, but that all hinges on your understanding of בן־דוד.


Hi Simon,

It's not easy to give a balanced summary of the Primary History. It is a complex work, and Gen-Deut is often read apart from Josh-2Kgs.

Deut 34:10-12 lifts up Moses as the first and greatest prophet. Deut 18:18, more simply, makes him the ideal term of comparison - "a prophet like yourself."

But it is often overlooked that Moses has prototypical run-ins not only with Aaron but also with Miriam, and tribal leaders such as Dathan and Abiram. I would be interested to know where you see the strongest evidence for a "certain antagonism towards institutional prophecy."

Simon Holloway

Numbers 11 recounts the story of the seventy elders who partake of the spirit and begin to prophesy as a result (which, incidentally, is not something that Moses ever does as a result of the spirit). Two of them remain in the camp and cause some consternation, which Moses dissipates by suggesting that their experience is actually a positive one.

I would like to withdraw my sentiment that animosity towards the institution of prophesy necessarily existed here, as my argument was based upon a reading of Joshua's and the young man's reactions, combined with the wording of Deut 34:10-12 - but I have not taken Moses' sentiments properly into account, and need to think about this some more.

As for Deut 34:10-12, what I would like to stress is the passage's ambiguity. "No other prophet ever arose like Moses" could be seen to imply that the prophets were unlike Moses (who was, himself, not one of them). The same is the case with Deut 18:18, which may imply that the prophet was like him in a certain regard, but not in regards of his prophesy.



Now I follow you. I think a key way in which Moses is presented as a prophet is with regard to intercessory prayer.

Samuel, in his role as a prophet I would suggest, continues to pray on behalf of the people even after they fail to heed him (1 Sam 12:23).

Amos, Jeremiah and Ezekiel intercede for the people and “stand in the breach” (Amos 7:1-6; Jer 12:1-4; 18:20: Ezek 22:30-31).

The book of Habakkuk, a cult-prophet to judge by the book as a whole and the rubrics in chapter 3, is full of intercession.

Along the same lines, Moses stands between God and Israel more than once – and prevails (Ex 32:11-14; 34:8-9; Ps 106:23).

The other way Moses is a prophet is that Moses is the means through which God makes the predictions in Lev 26; Num 33:55-56; and Deut 28-30. They are not entirely pleasant predictions either - a hallmark of true prophecy, traditionally understood.

shawshank redemption 5

I personally didn't know which country was referred to as "a great nation" until after i read the fifth-to-last paragraph, so before that I took it to mean any member of humankind who suffered. The first part of the Primary History seems to me to begin by, in a way, bashing humankind by stating that after the creation, the result was expulsion from paradise. This seems like a valid idea because you'd assume the world wouldn't have been much of a paradise after the flood and with all the oppression. I believe it still was a paradise though, because now more people knew of God and his powers. They not only knew him, but BELIEVED in him and to me, despite all the horrible things in the world and anything that goes wrong with my life, I still have and will always have my faith.
Exodus-1 Kings states that God reached out to the those who suffered defeat, eviction, slavery, and extermination and saved them from those who controlled them, specifically the Pharaoh of Egypt, the Midianites, the Amalekites, the Philistines, and the Arameans. Some might say, "Well if God was truly there, why did people like the Pharaoh and the Arameans treat others so badly? Doesn't God love his children? How could he let them endure such pain?" I believe it's because people like the Pharaoh and the Amalekites didn't know God. They may have heard of his power, but they had not accepted him as their Lord. The Pharaoh, for example, wanted to be worshiped, something that is against the Ten Commandments. He refused to believe and instead chose to reign over those less powerful, so God instead turned to those oppressed and made them believe they would get through hard times, always reminding them of his eternal love.
Exodus-2 Kings tells of the triumphs of prophets, those who God gave special missions, missions that would change not only their lives but also the lives of those around them. They represented God and acted on his wishes even if his true intentions weren't clear at the time. They followed his words because they knew their God would not fail them. Exodus-2 Kings also talks about the triumphs of priests, those who taught and lived by the word of God. It was not always an easy job, but they changed many lives with this profession. Warriors, judges, kings, and queens also acted for their Lord, even if they had to suffer to do so. Both prophets and priests, warriors and judges, kings and queens, all had to sometimes endure ridicule, punishment, or even death for their Lord, but they did it because they knew they were part of God's plan. Even those who died were not afraid, for they knew a marvelous heaven awaited them. Stories like these reinforce my faith because it's beautiful to hear about people who loved their God so much. I also admire anyone who fights for what they believe in, especially when it's not easy to do.


Hi SR 5,

It is true that the story of this one nation's deliverance, Israel/ the Jewish people, is understood to be one example among many of the way God delivers people from oppression; see Amos 9:7.

But there are also ways in which, according to the contents of the Primary History, the history of Israel is unlike the history of any other people.

At the foot of Mt. Sinai, this people, originally a mixed multitude, is constituted as one nation under God, and gifted with law and covenant. God elects them as his treasured possession among all the peoples (Exod 19-14). They are to be a holy nation, a kingdom of priests, set apart.

Furthermore, the promises of the covenant, once the covenant is violated, are reinstated in a new covenant (Jeremiah 31-33).

The new covenant is then understood by a movement within Judaism, beginning with Jesus, in a way that ends up breaking the mold of Judaism in important ways such that Christianity becomes a universal, missionary religion of the first order.

But now we have moved far beyond the Primary History. Note that the hope of a marvelous heaven awaiting believers arrives late in the history of the Jewish people. During the time period covered by the Primary History, it is not attested. For Adam, Noah, Moses, and David, there was one life, and it's this life, and it wasn't always beautiful.


This is a very well written summary of the primary history. The Bible is full of accounts that happened to God’s people in the very early history and of all the prophets. However, I was particularly confused with your statement that stated that Moses was “the first and greatest prophet.” I feel as though he may have been a great prophet and spread of the Word of God, there were other people who also followed God’s law. Look at David, Joshua, and Solomon for example, they too were great prophets. Just because they may not have been the first does not make them any less superior. The primary history also gives current believers a sense of hope because God fulfilled his promises to his early believers and helped them through their hard times. Knowing that God helped his believers in the past, reassures that he will continue to fulfill his promises today. If there was ever a time when God did not fulfill his promise to a nation or appeared evil towards a nation, these people may not have known God. They may have been disbelievers and therefore didn’t believe what God was capable of.


Hi Nell 1,

Here's the thing. David, Joshua, and Solomon are not called prophets in the Primary History.

To be sure, David in particular was understood to be a prophet in later times, on the basis of 1 Sam 23:2 and a tradition of interpretation that understood the psalms to speak about the future.

Joshua came to be understood as the author of the book that goes by his name, as such, a prophetic writer of history; Solomon came to be considered the author of Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes; insofar as these books were taken to preview the future, Solomon might be understood to be a prophet.

Still, that way of thinking is absent from the Primary History.

Once you read Deut 30:10-12, it will be seen that the History thinks of Moses as the first and greatest prophet. Nonetheless, in Deut 18:15-19 God promises a line of prophets who will be like if not equal to Moses.

Truman 1

Truman 1,

I enjoy reading about the primary history of the bible because it really gives you an understanding of how everything began. It lays a foundation to understand future events in the Bible. I also think that the primary history is interesting because most of the religions of the Bible would agree on these books. I find it amazing how different books from then are included in some Bibles and not others and how much each faith branches off.

Truman Show 2

I think that describing the “Primary History,” is a very rough task because there is so much going on. Not only are you learning the foundation of the beginning, but many lessons are also being taught along with the stories of so many people. Every time that you think Israel is going to be alright and follow God’s direction something happens. Adam and Eve listening to the serpent was the first of many problems that we can learn from.
I personally feel that 1 and 2 Kings was the most confusing part of the “Primary History.” David seems to constantly have problems to face but always over comes them with God’s help. But then why when he falls in love with a beautiful woman does he send her husband to the front lines of war to die? Isn’t he afraid of God’s wrath? Is he not appreciative of what God has given him? What about his son Solomon? In his younger years he pleases God and gets a remarkable amount of knowledge from his request. He builds the greatest place of worship, and seems to have everything under control. Then he marries a woman from another land against God’s warning and falls.
This part of the Bible is very chaotic at times. You learn about the amazing miracles that God performs to save his people of Israel and how they fall away from him every time. It is full of leaders that rise up and fall or ones that rise but the people of Israel simply ignore, and seal their own fate for disobeying God’s rules. None the less it is definitely a part of the history that you need to know to understand everything else that happens.

Praying With Lior 2

I really agree with Truman Show 2 about Kings 1 and 2. Up until these books, the primary history of faith is revealed and explained to the reader. However, once the reader encounters Kings 1 and 2, the lesson behind the Bible takes a more personal approach. I feel like these books are extremely important to the primary history, though. The story of David brings together the previous teachings of the primary history with a sinful human being. David has free will, and although he does many great things, he also sins. It shows the power behind not only God’s love and mercy towards sinful humans, but also His wrath.

Pulp Fiction 4

I am kind of a history buff, so reading through the primary history of the Bible is very interesting to me. I think this really gives a clear understanding of how everything and such came about. It also gave me a good understanding of what is to come in the Bible, as in the future events and stories. Another thing that I also found interesting, and I never knew this before, was how not every book is printed in every Bible. It's astonishing to me, to actually have different books in different Bible.

Nell 5

Certainly a large part of the Old Testament is a compilation of stories that chronicle the history of the Hebrews, but I believe more importantly that these narratives provide some insight to what God’s personality is and how he interacts with people. It is the only time period when God interacts with humans directly with two way communication.
The text describes a God that has many human emotions. He shows favoritism when he picks the Jews as his people and even Moses as he selects him to lead them to a new land. He shows anger, when he wants to destroy the people after Aaron creates a golden calf at the crowd’s requests. Reasoning is displayed when Moses talks God out of acting on this anger. A person can really talk God out of something? There is patience, as the people, time and time again complain about no food, then bad food (Manna), no water and wandering around the desert too long. Many times these complaints are heeded, but it seems only after they suffer a little and gain a little faith. There is even war like aggression as he takes his people into lands that are not theirs.
There is one trait that to me, is the most important. It is one that applies so much today, because people have not changed since these stories took place. Just like the Hebrews, even the most devout believers behave in this manner. Time and time again, the Hebrews go through a repeating a cycle of betraying God’s commands and sinning, then asking for forgiveness. This God accepts their request, forgives and provides relentlessly.

Corey Schmitz

What's really amazing about the bible is how accurate it can be historically speaking. I remember watching documentaries or reading articles on how archeologists have used the bible to find lost cities or settlements. It certainly gives the bible some credibility.

Pulp Fiction 2

Something I find intriguing throughout the Primary History portion of the Bible is just how gritty, diverse, and sometimes perverse the stories are when compared to the rest of the Bible. A few examples are in Genesis, the first story after creation is a brother murdering his own brother out of religious jealously. Then the perverse happenings in Sodom, where Lot stands between the entire population of the town and two strangers who the town’s people wish to rape. Then, in the same chapter, after the total destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s two daughters take turns raping him, from which they bear two children. Then later, Chapter 34 details the rape of Dinah and the bloody revenge her brothers take against the assailants and their family. Moving on to the book of Joshua, the chapter describes the absolute annihilation of town after town, killing tens of thousands of men, women, and children so that the people of Israel could populate the land. These are just a few examples (with many more in the Primary History), which all seem to not support the usual ideals of what is interpreted from the Bible. I also do not feel that there are as many impious stories found so continuously elsewhere in the Bible as found in the Primary History.

Nell 6

This summary of the Primary History of the Bible is a really good overview. There is a lot of information on this and it really helps to get a little better understanding. I feel like I learned a lot about the Bible from reading this. It is very interesting to know how different, different Bibles actually are. That not every book is printed in every Bible, this is something I never knew. I like that it shows how the first few books really lead up to the rest of the books and it helps us to get into the different stories.

Dead man walking 4

I am also surprised that Bible’s has different variations and was unaware that not every book had printed the same text. I feel that these stories could be as equally as important and may have great meanings behind them as well. They need be presented because it will allow the religion to expand even more and perhaps reach faith to more people in the world.

Dead Man Walking 2

It always seemed funny to me how we can learn through the bible. People in the stories mess up or go against god in some way. It is written in the bible so we can learn about it. I like how God is always forgiving and even though he has wrath he is a forgiving God. We can learn a lot about God by reading the primary history of the bible.

Shawshank 1

I have to tip my hat to the person that was able to put together a 1000 word compilation of the Torah. As I read through it I couldn’t help but thinking that for each section covered, for the description of the beginning of creation to the prophets, a person could write a thousand words on each one of the areas covered. This was a great depiction, that in areas, could of gone deeper in explanation (about the priests and prophets), however to take one of the greatest works ever written is impressive and of course was limited by their words. I think that just using what was written in this post gives a beginner enough knowledge to pique their interest into reading more into this book, which means to me, mission accomplished!

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    by Mike Heiser, academic editor at Logos Bible Software
  • The Reformed Reader
    by Andrew Compton, Ph.D. student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (focus on Hebrew and Semitic Languages) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • The Sacred Page
    a blog written by three Catholic Ph.D.s who are professors of Scripture and Theology: Michael Barber, Brant Pitre and John Bergsma
  • The Talmud Blog
    a group blog on Talmud News, Reviews, Culture, Currents, and Criticism
  • Theological German
    a site for reading and discussing theological German, by Mark Alter
  • theoutwardquest
    seeking spirituality as an outward, not an inward quest, by David Corder
  • This Lamp
    Incisive comment on Bible translations in the archives, by Rick Mansfield
  • Thoughts on Antiquity
    By Chris Weimer and friends, posts of interest on ancient Greek and Roman topics (archive). Chris is a graduate student at the City University of New York in Classics
  • Threads from Henry's Web
    Wide-ranging comment by Henry Neufeld, educator, publisher, and author
  • Tête-à-Tête-Tête
    smart commentary by "smijer," a Unitarian-Universalist
  • Undeception
    A great blog by Mike Douglas, a graduate student in biblical studies
  • What I Learned From Aristotle
    the Judaica posts are informative (archive)
  • Bouncing into Graceland
    a delightful blog on biblical and theological themes, by Esteban Vázquez (archive)
  • Weblog
    by Justin Anthony Knapp, a fearless Wikipedian (archive)
  • Writing in the Dust
    A collection of quotes by Wesley Hill, a doctoral student in New Testament studies at Durham University (UK), and a Christian who seeks the charism of chastity
  • גֵּר־וְתוֹשָׁב
    by David Miller, Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism, Briercrest College & Seminary, Caronport, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • ואל-תמכר
    Buy truth and do not sell: wisdom, instruction, and understanding - a blog by Mitchell Powell, student of life at the intersection of Christ, Christianity, and Christendom
  • משלי אדם
    exploring wisdom literature, religion, and other academic pursuits, by Adam Couturier, M.A. in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible (graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)

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  • Ancient Hebrew Poetry is a weblog of John F. Hobbins. Opinions expressed herein do not reflect those of his professional affiliations. Unless otherwise indicated, the contents of Ancient Hebrew Poetry, including all text, images, and other media, are original and licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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