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Prophetaphobia: Fear and False Prophecy in Nehemiah VI

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While it has long been recognized that Nehemiah vi is animated by the twin concerns of fear and false prophecy, the present study offers a new reading of this chapter which brings Nehemiah's account of his opponents' terror tactics into sharp focus. How does Nehemiah unmask Shemaiah as a false prophet? What were Nehemiah's real reasons for rejecting Shemaiah's prophetic oracle? Why does Noadiah, the prophetess, come in for special criticism from Nehemiah? The author suggests that Nehemiah's account of his enemies' actions and his own reactions may be brought into focus by viewing it through the lens of the Deuteronomic torah-instruction regarding the false prophet (Deut. xviii). By scrutinizing Nehemiah vi through this lens, the present study illustrates how many of the vexing interpretive questions which have long been asked of it, may best be answered by carefully attending to the text of the chapter itself.

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