How the Prophets Understood the Relationship between Ritual and Ethics

March 2, 2023 | Jeremiah Unterman
About the author:

“‘What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?’ says the Lord, . . . . ‘I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats,’” states the opening chapter of Isaiah—expressing a sentiment also echoed by the prophets Jeremiah and Amos. To some, such passages express a worldview that elevates ethics while giving little consideration to ritual. But, argues Jeremiah Unterman, this reading constitutes a fundamental misunderstading of the text, employing a distinction that meant little to biblical authors. The prophets, as Unterman explains, rejected not ritual or sacrifice, but a pagan view of a deity who could easily be bought off with gifts of “food.” (Video, one hour. To listen in podcast form, click here.)

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