When the people of Israel first came to Sinai, God gave them a vision of what it means to be delivered and be in a covenantal relationship with him. Israel shall be (1) God’s treasured possession among all peoples, (2) a kingdom of priests, and (3) a holy nation (Exod. 19:5–6; 22:31). It is striking that this Exodus vision finds its way through a period of about eight hundred years when the Old Testament prophets spoke for God through the monarchy, broken nationhood, and the destruction of the purification system.
In this essay, I will trace the motif of holiness via the vision of Exodus 19:5–6 in the Latter Prophets with an approach that traces words connected to holiness and priesthood within their larger macrostructural-rhetorical contexts in view of the Exodus vision. That is, I will not only identify the presence of the Exodus vision but show how it fits within the major structural sections of a major prophetic corpus.
I repeatedly find a specific group of highly positive texts that keep the Exodus vision in strategically significant locations (esp. Isa 61–66; Jer. 30–33; Ezek. 33–39; Zech. 3, 6, 9–14). In Isaiah, the final holy state of God’s people is accomplished through the redemption of a suffering servant and the Holy One of Israel. Jeremiah looks forward to future days when the Davidic kingship and Levitical priesthood are perpetual and measureless. The latter chapters of Ezekiel depict the people of God positively, ministering in the new temple (43:18–19, 24, 27). In the XII, specifically in Zechariah, we see an eschatological imagery of Zion at the center. Through a messianic figure called the Branch, there will be a cleansing of sin (13:1) and God’s people will once again be recognized as God’s own possession (13:9).
The Latter Prophets are critical in expanding and detailing what it means to be God’s people, a holy nation, and a kingdom of priests. With the failure of God’s people, God rises to vindicate his holiness. The Latter Prophets show us that God does this through his servant, the Branch, a messianic king who will remove the iniquity of God’s people and transform them to live righteously, enabling them to fulfill the Exodus vision.