First, we started out with a question from a classmate. She had been involved in a discussion of a story involving Noah, his son, and incest. She was questioning why tradition considered it incest, when the text merely said, "uncovered his nakedness". She wanted to argue for a literal interpretation, that Noah was drunk and passed out and, you know, stuff happened.
The Rabbi explained that "to uncover nakedness" is an idiomatic expression used in the Bible as a euphemism for sexual activity. To uncover a man's nakedness could mean to have sex with the man, or with his wife. In this case, sleeping with the wife is logical, because in the morning after, Noah curses his son's sons. If you go through ancient texts of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean origin, cursing your offspring doesn't happen often, and when it does, it's because he usurped the father's power, or his bed.
As far as the Rabbi's concerned, this very cultural explanation that should be proof enough. I buy it. The classmate did not, and respectfully agreed to disagree. The Rabbi bought that.
On to the history portion. We left off last week at about 920 BCE, and began this session at 905 BCE, when King David's son, King Solomon, died.
The monarchy is split into two factions, following a rebellion. The Hebrews are now in two separate countries, Judah in the South, and Israel in the North.
The two exist in parallel until 722 BCE, when Israel is attacked by the Assyrians and falls. You see, the Israelites and the Judeans had to pay tribute to Assyria, who were the powerful people in the area. At some point, the Israelites had had quite enough of their shenanigans, and decided to rebel. According to the Rabbi, the Assyrians were the first fascists, and Israel wasn't the only country to rebel against their rules. Judah didn't join in the rebellion, and that's probably why they survived.
This becomes the time of the Prophets.
There were two early Prophets: Elijah and Elisha, who emerged around 850 BCE.
Around 750 BCE, you start to see more Prophets emerging. There was only one Israelite prophet, Hosea. The rest were Judean: Micah, Amos, Isaiah (up through chapter 30 or so).
Another wave comes in about 650 BCE: Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Joel.
Before the fall of Israel, the two groups are aware of each other, and the prophets wrote about each other's countries. It is interesting to note that the Israelites referred to their country as "Jacob", "Ephraim", "Joseph", and "Sumeria". The Judeans initially only referred to their country as "Judah", but in about 650 BCE, they co-opted that name and all the nicknames as well, in an effort to take on their identity.
We spent the rest of class talking about what the Prophets do, and what purpose they served.
Some people thought they could see the future.
Some thought they were scholars and politicians.
I thought they were particularly insightful teachers and leaders.
The Rabbi said that there were three words for "prophet":
Navi: to interpret
Ro-eh: to see
Hozeh: to view
He said that they were the analysts of the time, that they used their theology as a lens through which to view the events of the time and predict what could be expected in the future.