Now, what was the purpose of ancient Israel? YHWH told Moses to say to Israel: “If you will carefully listen to my voice, and keep my covenant, then you will be a treasured possession to me out of all the peoples. For all the earth is mine, but you will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation to me.” 1
They were also to be God’s servant, and his witnesses. “You are my witnesses, says YHWH, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you will know and believe in me, and you will understand that I am He. No God was formed before me, and neither will there be after me.” 2 In other words, there was no infinite regress of gods. If YHWH formed somehow, as I have suggested previously, then he declares that no gods were formed before or after him. In other words, his formation was unique, and I have already proposed how this may have come about.
Now, a witness testifies on behalf of someone. Israel’s purpose was to bear witness to God, despite being one of the smallest nations on earth. Because of this, it was prevented from boasting about its own power. It consisted of people who had been slaves in Egypt, captives to Babylon, and subjects of Rome.
As a kingdom of priests and God’s witnesses, they had the necessary motive to preserve the accounts of God’s dealings with humans. Trained scribes copied the sacred writings for future generations. Since they had a duty to preserve the writings as accurately as possible, it is highly unlikely that later generations could have invented or heavily edited the stories that formed the basis of their nation.
Another important role for the ancient nation of Israel was to preserve the promise made to Abraham, that “all the nations of the earth will bless themselves by your offspring.” 3
Did the people of ancient Israel live up to their special calling? Unfortunately, for the most part, they didn’t. This is why large sections of the Bible consist of prophets rebuking them. However, if the Jewish faith was merely the invention of human priests, it is remarkable that they would preserve and treat as sacred the very writings that condemned them, because it is human nature to hide one’s failings. On the other hand, if those writings were somehow inspired by God, and the nation saw themselves as God’s servant and his witnesses, it would be natural for their scribes and priests to preserve even the words that rebuked them.
For example, the prophet Micah wrote, “Zion will be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become as a garbage heap, and the mountain of the House as the high places of a forest.” 4 Yet when Jeremiah prophesied a similar thing at a later time, “the priests and the prophets spoke to the chiefs and all of the people, saying, ‘this man deserves the judgment of death, for he prophesied against this city, just as you have heard with your own ears.’” 5 Yet what Jeremiah foretold came true, when Jerusalem was desolated by the Babylonians.
The prophet Daniel foretold that, after the restoration from Babylon, Jerusalem and the Temple would be rebuilt, but then it would be destroyed once again, all within a period of about 500 years.6 If this was merely an educated guess, it was a good one, for the Romans fulfilled it accurately. Daniel’s prophecies are explored in more detail in “Letter To The Jews” which shows how they foretold the rise of the Roman empire, and the deaths of Julius Caesar and his successors Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and also Nero. 7
The prophet Malachi, which in most Christian versions of the Bible is the last book of the Old Testament, also wrote many unflattering things about the priests and the people. Why would the Jewish priesthood preserve such unflattering prophecies, if they were made up? These are just a few of the many examples I could give, as evidence that the prophets YHWH used to speak to Israel weren’t controlled by an official priesthood. The evidence is consistent with the idea that they were inspired by God to rebuke their own people.
1 Exodus 19:5,6. 2 Isaiah 43:10. 3 Genesis 22:18. 4 Micah 3:12. 5 Jeremiah 26:11. 6 Daniel 9:24-27. 7 See chapters 4, 6, 12, 29 and 30 of “Letter To The Jews” at lettertothejews.com