FAITH & ECONOMICS
NUMBER 73, Spring 2019
Markets and Prophets: An Examination of the Silver Hypothesis
John Lunn and Barry Bandstra
Abstract: We examine a hypothesis by the economic historian, Morris Silver, concerning the role of the prophets in Ancient Israel. Based on a model he developed earlier, Silver speculates that the Hebrew prophets such as Amos and Isaiah were heeded by the government, there was land reform and a movement away from international trade and specialization. The result was a weaker economy and ultimately the destruction of both Israel and Judah as independent nations. Silver utilizes a model he developed relating affluence and altruism, leading to government attempts to benefit the poor. However, the actions only weakened the economy and made the poor worse off. We examine the Hebrew Scriptures, archaeological data and the work of biblical scholars to determine whether Silver’s hypothesis can be supported or refuted. We also examine the model he used as well as other models used by biblical scholars, and argue the models are being used to create data and facts rather than let data support or refute hypotheses.
Key Words: Ancient Israel; altruism; biblical prophets; social science models