The Hebrew prophets were dramatic speakers first and foremost. The prophets, as orators and performers, used communication techniques that gave life and vitality, and often a sense of urgency, to their messages. It is easy to imagine the prophet Amos commanding attention as he bellows, “The Lord roars from Zion” (
The prophetic performer asks the audience to imagine reality differently—to see through the prophet’s eyes. With practiced skill, the prophet draws his audience into the alternate world of his drama by weaving together the familiar and the unexpected, creating a series of reversals that open the audience to alternate social possibilities. A cheer of military victory becomes a dire warning (
Through his oration, the prophetic performer moves his audience past appearances, behind the everyday and familiar, to unveil the true nature of Israelite social constructs: a world of abuse, pain, and sorrow. The stunning direct address (
By the power of his words and the force of his delivery, the performer compels his audience to confront unpleasant truths about themselves, creating a sense of regret that is intended to propel the audience to action. As with any good theater, the prophetic performer does not leave his audience as he found them. Rather, the prophet leads his audience to imagine a world that could be, a world in which evil is hated and goodness is loved (
- Giles, Terry. “Performance Criticism.” Pages 578–83 in Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets. Edited by Mark Boda and J. Gordon McConville. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2012.
- Mathews, Jeanette. Performing Habakkuk. Eugene, Ore.: Pickwick Publications, 2012.
- Doan, William, and Terry Giles. Prophets, Performance, and Power: Performance Criticism of the Hebrew Bible. New York: T&T Clark, 2005.