From around 740 to 520 BCE we find the ministry of the Hebrew prophets (with the possible exception of Malachi). It was a time of significant social crisis, cultural decay, and political instability. The small farmers were the backbone of the Israelite society but were consistently losing their farms to large landowners. Heavy taxes and debtor laws allowed the wealthy elites to exercise foreclosures and take the lands from small farm owners, forcing them to become indentured servants. Instead of protecting them the Kings justified the practice. He profited from the creation of growing estates. What was once a fairly equitable society committed to the Law of Moses had become a society dominated by a small class of large landowners and business people whose power outstretched the reach of the small farmers and common folk.
In come the prophets as statesmen, patriots, poets, and moralists filled with passion for Yahweh’s creation and justice. Each one set out to lovingly confront society and the systems of power. Animated by their engagement with divine love, they found the courage to condemn oppression, call out unjust systems, and invite society into a different way of imagining life in the hope they would envision an alternative future with Yahweh as King. If they could imagine it and see it, a more just and equitable society could be cultivated in light of Yahweh’s covenant. They could live in to their divine vocation to become a light unto all the nations.
Society didn’t listen. The commitment to their economic systems, interpretations of freedom, and blindness to nationalism was too strong, despite their claim as worshippers of Yahweh. The prophets were persecuted. The Israelite way of life was utterly destroyed.