Lecture 15. Hebrew Prophecy: The Non-Literary Prophets



so we were talking last time about the deuteronomistic historian and their interpretation of the events that befell Israel a very special interpretation that would make it possible for Israel to remain intact after the destruction of the state the temple in the national basis of their society and according to the deuteronomist it's the sin of idolatry specifically the sin of idolatry and particularly the idolatry of the king for which the nation is punished with exile and destruction punishments come for other sorts of sins but the national punishment of exile and destruction follows upon the idolatry and particularly the idolatry of the king so in the book of second Kings a king who permits sacrifice only at the Jerusalem Temple is praised no matter what other faults he may or may not have and one who does not is condemned no matter what other accomplishments he may have to his credit now the deuteronomistic historian is aware that the historical record doesn't lend itself very easily to this kind of interpretation because there are some good Kings who reigned very briefly and there are some very bad Kings on their view who reigned for a very long time and ashes a case in point he reigned for over 50 years and is viewed as the most wicked of all kings sometimes disaster would strike right after the rule of a king that the Deuteronomists review is a good king because of their faithfulness to Yahweh and sometimes it would not strike after the rule of a king that was viewed to be very wicked so the deuteronomist sounds the theme of delayed punishment delayed punishment deferred punishment so for example solomon's misdeeds in allowing the building of altars for the worship of foreign gods to please his many wives his foreign wives is blamed for the division of the kingdoms but the punishment was deferred until after his death and the time of his sons and then you have this split between north and south with Jeroboam and Rehoboam reigning respectively in the north and south the deuteronomist sees israel's defeat at the hands of the Assyrians in 722 as deferred or delayed punishment for the sins of Jeroboam the first Jeroboam the first 922 or so came to the throne and installed two cultic centers dan and beth-el erecting golden calves this is seen as a sin for which the nation was punished two hundred years later as for the southern kingdom of Judah he had some good kings in the view of the deuteronomist in the south Hezekiah he's judged to be a good king he instituted sweeping reforms and got rid of idolatrous altars and managed to maintain Judah's independence against the Assyrians but his son Manasseh who reigned for a large part of the seventh century is viewed as extraordinarily wicked he turned the Jerusalem Temple into a pagan temple and it was a time of great misery for those who were loyal to to Yahweh time of great terror and yet he reigned a long time his eight-year-old grandson Josiah came to the throne in upon his death some time probably in the six 30s and the deuteronomist views Josiah as a good King we've already heard about the story which is reported in 2nd Kings chapter 22 of the refurbishing of the temple which happens when he's about 25 or 26 years old discovers the book of the law reads it and is distressed because its terms are not being fulfilled and so Josiah orders the abolition of outlying altars and pagan cults he brings all of the priests to Jerusalem and centralizes all worship there in Jerusalem so in the deuteronomist view Josiah is believed to be a very good king for purging the country of these idolatrous rites and centralizing worship but the sin of Manasseh was too great and it had to be punished so a prophetess a prophetess named hilda tells Josiah that God plans to bring evil punishment on Judah for it for these sins but it will be after Josiah's lifetime as something of a mercy to him and in fact it's in the next generation that Judah Falls in 586 the walls of Jerusalem are breached and the Temple is destroyed and the king at that time King Zedekiah is blinded and taken in Chains into exile with his court and only the poor are left behind this is the Deuteronomists at attempt to account for these anomalies within their historia sapphic view right and the result of the Deuteronomists interpretation was remarkable because if the defeat of the nation were to be seen as the defeat of the nation's God by the God of the conquering nation then the Israelites would have turned from the worship of their God Yahweh and embraced the new ascendant God Marduk and undoubtedly there were Israelites who did do this right that would have been the argument of history in their view but not all did for some defeat did not lead to despair or apostasy because it could be explained by the likes of the deuteronomistic historian or the deuteronomistic school as fitting into the monotheistic scheme right this did not impune God's kingship or lordship over the universe it was proof of it God was punishing Israel for the sin of idolatry which was in violation of his covenant and to punish Israel he had raised the Babylonians they were merely his tool the historiosophy of the deuteronomistic historian finds its classic expression in 2nd Kings chapter 17 I'm going to skim through sections of it so you can see the argument that's laid out there in the ninth year of Hoshea a' the king of Assyria captured Samaria the capital of the Northern Kingdom he deported the Israelite the Israelites to Assyria and settled them in various places and this happened because the Israelites sinned against the Lord their God who had freed them from the land of Egypt from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt they worshipped other gods and followed the customs which the kings of Israel had practiced putting again the blame on the kings as well as the head of this idolatry the israelites committed against the Lord their God acts which were not right they built for themselves shrines and all their settlements from watchtowers to fortified cities they set up pillars and sacred posts for themselves on every lofty Hill and under every leafy tree and they offered sacrifices there at all the shrines like the nation's whom the Lord had driven into exile before them so now he's going to follow through since they behaved the same way to drive them into exile also they committed wicked acts to vex the Lord and they worshipped fetishes concerning which the Lord had said to them you must not do this the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet in every seer so God didn't just stand by idly he was constantly sending prophets messengers to tell them to turn back to the Covenant we'll start talking about those prophets today he sent warnings by every prophet and every seer saying turn back from your wicked ways and observe my Commandments and my laws according to all the teaching that I commanded your fathers and that I transmitted to you through my servants the prophets but they didn't obey they stiffened their necks like their fathers who did not have faith in the Lord their God they spurned his laws in the Covenant that he had made with their fathers and the warnings he had given them they went after delusion and were deluded they made molten idols for themselves to calves specifically now the sin of Jeroboam at dan and beth-el two calves and they made a sacred post and they bowed down to all the hosts of heaven and they worshiped by all we'll hear more about that today they consigned their sons and daughters to the fire they practiced augury and divination and gave themselves over to what was displeasing to the Lord and vexed him the Lord was incensed at Israel and he banished them from his presence none was left with the tribe of Judah alone but nor did Judah keep the commandments of the Lord their God they followed the customs that Israel had practiced so the Lord spurned all the offspring of Israel and he afflicted them and delivered them into the hands of plunderers and finally he cast them out from his presence it's a very depressing ending of such things that started so auspicious Liebeck in genesis 1 but if the Deuteronomists laid the blame for the tragic history of the two kingdoms at the door of the sin of idolatry and particularly the idolatry of the royal house a different answer will be provided by israel's classical prophets no less an answer no less an interpretation and the lesson interpretation that was intended to shore up faith in this God that one might sink had abandoned his people and will be turning to the prophetic answer to this to this great crisis that faced the Israelites in the next lecture in this lecture I first want to talk about the phenomenon of prophecy and some of the prophets who appear in the historical narrative so in the historical books that we've been looking at of the section of the Bible we call the former prophets remember the section called the prophets we divided into former prophets latter prophets the section we call former prophets is a historic will narrate if it from Joshua through second Kings it reads like a narrative and in that material you have several prophets who appear and they play a very important role in the national drama the prophets of the 10th century the ninth century BCE were associated with religious shrines on occasion they were associated with the royal court but starting in about the eighth century you have prophets whose words were eventually set down in writing and they come to be in the books that now bear the names of the prophets to whom they are attributed so these prophets ones whose words get recorded in books that bear their name these prophets we call the literary prophets or the classical prophets in contrast to the prophets who are characters in the stories that we read from Genesis through 2nd Kings right so there are two kinds of prophets the literary prophets those books are collected together in the section we call the latter prophets I hope this is making sense so former prophets is the historical narrative which happens to feature kings and prophets as characters in the narrative the latter prophets those are the books of prophetic Oracle's that bear the name of the person who gave the utterance or the Oracle okay and as I just said the literary prophets just like the Deuteronomists struggle to make sense of Israel's suffering and defeat and to come up with an explanation and a message of consolation and we will get to that next time today we'll look at the phenomenon of prophecy in ancient Israel by comparing or examining narratives in Samuel and kings particularly narratives that feature prophets and that will provide very important background for the next lecture when we turn to the books of the literary or classical prophets and the themes of that literature now prophecy was very widespread in the ancient Near East it took different forms in different societies but ultimately very widespread we know of ecstatic prophets from second millennium BCE texts in Mesopotamia 7th century Assyria also have ecstatic prophets their primary focus was on delivering Oracle's for Kings usually favorable was always wise to give a favorable Oracle to your King and we have ecstatic prophecy in the Bible also among the earliest prophets in particular the term ecstasy when it's used in this context refers to the state of being overcome with such powerful emotions that reason seems to be suspended self-control is suspended what we might think of as you know normative behavior these things normal behavior these are suspended ecstatics would employ music and dance they would that they would induce a sort of emotional seizure or a frenzy they would often be left writhing and raving and the Bible attributes this kind of ecstatic state to the Spirit of the Lord spirit of Yahweh which falls upon a prophet or rushes upon a prophet comes upon a prophet and transforms him then into some sort of carrier or instrument of the Divine Will or the divine message we'll see that we have bizarre behavior among many of the prophets we even have bizarre behavior among many of the later literary prophets Ezekiel for example will engage in all kinds of unusual outrageous dramatic behavior as a vehicle for the communication of his message and I think this is the heritage of The Ecstatic prophecy that was so much a part of ancient near-eastern prophecy but not all Biblical prophecy has this ecstatic character the Hebrew word for prophet is an avi and then the word Navi seems to mean one who is called or perhaps one who announces that's important because it signals to us that a prophet is someone who is called to proclaim a message to announce something called by God to carry a message and so in the Bible we have this phenomenon of what we call apostolic prophecy an apostle is merely a messenger the word apostle means messenger one sent with a message so apostolic prophecy this refers to messenger prophets they are called by God and charged with a mission they can even be elected against their will they must bring the Word of God to the world this is very different from prophets who are consulted by a client and given a fee to divine something this is different this is the deity now charging a prophet with a message to to a people so these apostolic prophets are represented in the Bible as the instrument of God's desire to reveal himself and reveal his will to his people and many scholars have noted that in a way Moses is really the first in a long line of apostolic prophets in the Bible and in some ways his call and his response are our paradigmatic for some of these later classical prophets in many of the literary prophets you will read they will contain some account of their call you know this sudden dramatic encounter with God usually the call consists of certain standard stages you first have this unexpected encounter with God maybe a vision of some kind or a voice that issues in a summons or a calling and then you have the reluctance of the individual and that was also paradigmatic with Moses wasn't it the the reluctance of the individual concerned to answer this but ultimately the individual is overwhelmed and eventually surrenders to to God and his persuasiveness that happens in many of the prophetic books so in the Bible this kind of apostolic prophecy is a little different from ecstatic prophecy it's also distinct from divination divination is an attempt to uncover the divine through some technique or excuse me the Divine Will through some technique perhaps the manipulation of certain substances perhaps inspecting the entrails of a sacrificed animal divination of this type as well as sorcery and spell casting and consulting with ghosts and spirits are all condemned by Deuteronomy this is very important part of the Deuteronomists diatribe against the practices of other nations but the fact that Deuteronomy polemicist is so vehemently against these practices is a sure sign that they were practiced until they were practiced at a popular level this is probably what Israelite judy and religion consisted of to some degree and some of you will be looking in section I know at the story of The Witch of Endor right when Saul goes to a rich to conjure up the spirit of the ghost of Samuel to to consult with him moreover we do have divination in the Yahweh cult itself but this was performed by priests they consulted some sort of divinely designated irregular object or objects we call these the Oram and the tomb in which should be familiar to all of you here at Yale but or Amman to me are usually untranslated in your text because actually we don't really know what they mean they might be related to the word for light which is or and the word for integrity perhaps or perfection which is Tom so it might be it's probably something like abracadabra a little bit of a nonsense syllable that plays on words that did have meaning we don't really know what the Orem entombing were but they are said to be assigned by God we think they may have been colored stones that were manipulated in some way by the priest to give a yes or no determination to a question but these are said to be assigned by God as a means that he himself authorizes for divining his will and so the deuteronomist accepts accepts these but in general it's the view of the deuteronomistic historian that divination sorcery and the like are not only prohibited they're quite distinct from the activity of prophets that's not what the prophets were about according to the deuteronomistic representation the Hebrew prophet wasn't primarily a fortune-teller and I think this is a very common misconception the Navi the Prophet was addressing a very specific historical situation and was addressing it in very concrete terms he was revealing God's immediate intentions as a response to the present circumstances and the purpose of doing this was to inspire the people to change to to come back to faithful observance of the Covenant any predictions that the Prophet might make had reference to the immediate future as a response to the present situation so in reality the prophets message was a message about the present what is wrong now what has to be done to avert the impending doom or to avert a future calamity there were some women prophets in Israel none of them are found among the literary prophets that is to say none of those books bearing the names of the prophets who uttered the Oracles in them are named for women so we have no women among the literary prophets but you do have prophetic or prophesying women besides Miriam and the Pentateuch there's also Deborah who was a tribal leader and a prophet featured in judges 4 and 5 I mentioned Hulda her advice is sought during the reign of King Josiah and you also have no idea no idea prophesied in the post-exilic period so this doesn't seem to be limited to two males prophecy and kingship are closely connected in ancient Israel and this is going to be very important you'll recall first of all that the king is the Anointed One of Yahweh and it's the Prophet who's doing the anointing and that makes the connection between kingship and prophecy quite strong if you think about Israel's first two kings you also see a strong link with the phenomenon of prophecy the first King Saul who was anointed by the prophet Samuel is in addition said to have prophesied himself in the manner of The Ecstatic prophets when he has anointed king he's then seized by the spirit of Yahweh he joins a band of men this is in 1st Samuel 10 verse 5 they're playing harp tambourine flute and lyre and he joins them and this induces a an ecstatic frenzy of religious frenzy that transforms him into another man according to the text and on another occasion during his ecstatic prophesying Saul strips himself naked we have other accounts in the Bible of ecstatic prophets who would engage in self laceration David the second King is also said to prophesy himself he also receives Yahweh's spirit or charisma from time to time in addition to being anointed by a prophet subsequent monarchs aren't said to prophesy themselves so that ends really with David it's only Saul and David who are among the prophets but even so those subsequent prophets do not the monarchs do not themselves prophesy the connection with prophecy remains very very close and it's exemplified in several ways again profits not only anoint kings but they also announce their fall from power right they are king makers and king breakers to some degree also you have a remarkable motif that runs through so much of biblical narrative and that's the motif of prophetic opposition to Kings every King had his prophetic thorn in his side so you have Samuel against Saul right you have Nathan against King David we'll talk about him a bit later you have other prophets Elijah of course against Ahab Makia against Ahab have Elijah against the house of Ahab Jeremiah is going to also stand against the king quite quite dramatically so that prophetic opposition to the monarch to the king sort of God's watchdog over the king is an important theme throughout the stories of the former prophets right it sets and it sets a stage for us to understand the writings of the named prophets that will come later those are very often given in opposition to official policy or royal policy and very often you have this sort of literary motif that introduces the prophets opposition the word of the Lord came to ex prophet X against Y against King Y and then you get the content of it because you have sinned I will destroy you I will rescue the kingship from you and so on so I want to take a quick look though at some of the roles that are played by prophets in the stories and Samuel and kings and I have them listed over on the far side of the board the first thing I want to consider is the notion of what I call yes-men as opposed to true prophets like the kings of Assyria the kings of Israel and Judah found it politic to employ prophetic guilds and in many cases these court prophets who were in the Kings employ were little more than endorsers of royal policy so on numerous occasions we see these professional prophets these royal prophets at odds with figures that the biblical writer will view as true prophets they are truly proclaiming the Word of God and not just endorsing royal policy and they proclaim it whether the king wants to hear it or not whether the people want to hear it or not and the classic example is my ko the son of imlah Makia prophesized the truth from Yahweh even though it displeases the king and ultimately is going to cost him his freedom not to be confused with Micah Makia his story is told in first Kings 22 this story is a pointed critique of the prophetic yes men who are serving as court prophets for and automatically endorsed the policy of King Ahab he's the king in the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the ninth century and during King Ahab's reign the kingdoms of the north in the south of Israel and Judah have decided to form an alliance they want to try to recapture some of the territory that has been lost to the north territory in Syria but you didn't undertake any military expedition without first obtaining a favorable word from the Lord so King Ahab's profits and he has four hundred of them and they're called and the King asks them shall I march upon remote Gilead this is this region in the north for battle or shall I not march they said and the Lord will deliver it into your Majesty's hands so we see that prophecy here is an institution it's functioning as a source of royal advice but the king of Judah King Jehoshaphat he had been perhaps hoping for an Oracle against the campaign and he says isn't there another prophet of the Lord here through whom we can inquire and the king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat there is one more man through whom we can inquire of the Lord but I hate him because he never prophesized anything favorable about me only disaster Makia son of imlah well Jehoshaphat insists and my kia is summoned and he's warned by the messenger who summons him that he better speak a favorable word like all the other prophets the messenger says the words of the prophets with one Accord are favorable to the king let your word be like the word of one of them and speak favorably it's almost an open admission that the prophets are in a little more than yes men so my kia answers the king's question when he asks about the advisability of marching to the north and he says march and triumph the Lord will deliver it into your Majesty's hands he's done what he's been told to do give the same answer as the other prophets but he doesn't use the prophetic formula he doesn't say thus says the Lord or some other indication that he's had a vision that he's prophesying that he's actually conveying the word of the Lord and the King seems to sense this and sense this deception and he says how many times must i adjure you to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord so my K let's the King have it and he tells of this vision that he received from God a vision of Israel scattered among sorry of Israel scattered over Hills like sheep so you sing sheep right without a shepherd the implication being that Israel's Shepherd who is the king is going to be killed in battle and like the Sheep spread on the hill Israel will be scattered so the king is very irritated by Micah's prophecy he says didn't I tell you he would not prophesy good fortune for me but only misfortune what's interesting is in the section that follows my kia gives an explanation for why he is the lone dissenter he doesn't accuse the other prophets of being false prophets he represents them instead as being misled and is being misled by God if you will so for the second time my kia utters the word of the Lord he has a second vision and this vision is a vision of God who is seated on the throne and the hosts of heaven are gathered around him and God asks who will entice a hab so that he will march and fall at remote Gilead and a certain one comes forward he volunteers for this task and he tells how he's going to do this he says I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets God says you will entice and you will prevail go out and do it so my kia concludes this vision by saying and so the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours for the Lord has decreed disaster upon you it's all part of God's plan God is setting up a hab for disaster presumably as punishment for his many sins just as he set up Pharaoh by hardening his heart so that he would be punished and hardening his heart against Moses's please to let these relights go this is God's Way of ensuring their demise ensuring their punishment the Kings a little upset he doesn't know whom to believe so he doesn't kill my kia on the spot he imprisons him he puts him on rations of bread and water just to see what the outcome of the battle will be first and Mikey agrees to this he says if you ever come home safe and the Lord has not spoken through me his prophecy proves accurate of course the King tries to disguise himself so that no one will know that he is king and no one will be able to target him in the battle so he disguises himself nevertheless he's killed in the battle and his army scatters the story of my Kia is Palama sizing against what the biblical writer perceived to be the nationalisation or the co-optation of the prophetic guild and in the process it paints a portrait of what the true prophet looks like Makia is someone who is determined to deliver God's Word even if it's opposed to the wishes of the king or the view of the king and the view of the majority he's going to proclaim God's judgment and it will be a judgment against the nation it will be a message of doom and interestingly enough this will eventually become understood as the mark of a true prophet you know the prophet of doom is the one who's the true prophet as you can imagine this kind of negativity and didn't sit well with established interests but at a later point in time looking back the tradition would single out some of these prophets as the ones who had spoken truly so that's one role the true prophet stands up against the prophetic guilds the the prophets who are employed by the Kings by the Kings a second role that we see prophets playing in this section of historical narrative we see prophets as gods zealots and here again there's a contrast between true prophets and false prophets you find it particularly in those zealous yahwah's Elijah and Elijah the Elijah stories are found in first Kings chapter 17 through 19 and 21 first 17 through 19 and 21 the Elijah stories appear towards the beginning of second Kings chapters 2 through 9 a little bit in Chapter 13 these materials are good examples again of independent units of tradition popular stories that were incorporated into the deuteronomistic history they are highly folkloristic they have lots of drama and color plenty of miracles animals who behave in interesting ways that this material began as a set of folk stories is also suggested by the fact that there's a great deal of overlap in the depiction of the activities of the two prophets so you have both of the prophets um multiplying food both of them predict the death of a Habs queen Queen Jezebel both of them part water and so on but in their final form the stories have been interspersed with historical footnotes about the two prophets and then set into this framework this larger framework of the history of the kings of the Northern Kingdom so they've been appropriated by the deuteronomistic school which remember is a southern Judean based deuteronomistic school they've been appropriated for its purposes which include a strong condemnation of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and and her Kings as idolatrous so Elijah Elijah the Tishbite which means that he comes from the city of Tisch Bay in Gilead which is the other side of the Jordan Elijah is a very dramatic character he comes across the Jordan he's dressed in a garment of hair and a leather girdle at the end of his story he's sort of whisked away one of the Kings servants surmises by the wind of God he does battle with the cult of Baal and Asherah we associate elijah most with the battle with the cult of Baal and Asherah this had been introduced by King Ahab to please his ba al worshiping Queen Queen Jezebel and as his first act Elijah announces a drought he announces a drought in the name of Yahweh now this is a direct challenge to bow because vile is believed to control the rain he's believed to control the general fertility of the land and life itself so Elijah's purpose is presumably to show that it is Yahweh and not Baal who controls fertility we have very good evidence that was in fact worshiped in the northern kingdom right down to the destruction this is something we touched on earlier as well it's quite possible that Israelites in the northern kingdom saw no real conflict between the cult of Baal and the cult of Yahweh but in the Elijah's story the deuteronomistic historian represents these two cults as being championed by exclusivist it's one or the other Jezebel a Habs Queen kept a retinue of 450 bottle prophets and was killing off the prophets of Yahweh right and by the same token Elijah is equally zealous for Yahweh he refuses to tolerate the worship of any god but Yahweh and he performs miracles constantly in the name of Yahweh to show that it is Yahweh and not Baal who gives life for example he he raises a dead child he multiplies oil and flour and so on all of this in the name of the Lord to show that it is Yahweh and not Baal who has true power but as I've mentioned before there are some some scholars who argue that biblical religion again as opposed to Israelite Judea in religion what actual people were doing in Israel and Judea that's one thing but biblical religion which is this exclusive yahwism or the tendency towards monotheism there are some who believe that that biblical religion originated in the activity of zealous prophets like Elijah and Elijah in the North doing battle with the with the bow with Baal worship after the fall of the Northern Kingdom those traditions those yahweh-only traditions came south and were eventually absorbed in the deuteronomistic school so this in fact may be on the origin of some of this is this yahweh-only party represented by figures like elijah and elisha the conflict between the two cults the Yahweh cult and the BAL cult reaches a climax in the story in 1st Kings 18 s wonderful story in which Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal and Asherah to a contest we have to remember that a severe drought has fallen on the land which Alijah attributes to God's punishment for Ahab's sin in introducing Baal worship on on a broad scale now Elijah is hiding from the King who is very angry with him for declaring this drought in the name of God after three years he returns to Ahab Ahab sees Elijah and he says is that you you troubler of Israel and the Prophet responds it is not I who have brought trouble on Israel but you and your father's house by forsaking the commandments of the Lord and going after the bowels now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel together with the 450 prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Ashura who eat at Jezebel's table that are supported by the royal house when all of these people are gathered Elijah challenges the Israelites he says how long will you keep hopping between two opinions if the Lord is God follow him and if Baal follow him you're hopping between two opinions so it seems that at the popular level there's no problem with integrating these two cults but you have the prophets of both that are demanding a certain exclusivism he's met with silence so Elijah prepares for a dramatic context contest two bulls are slaughtered and they are laid on altars one and altar to Baal and one and altar to Yahweh and the 450 prophets of Baal are to invoke their God and Elijah will invoke his God to send a fire to consume the sacrifice the God who answers first or the guy who answers with fire is truly God so the bow prophets invoke their God morning to noon and they're shouting oba I'll answer us and the description that follows is wonderfully satirical but there was no sound and none who responded so they performed a hopping dance about the altar that had been set up when noon came Elijah mocked them saying shout louder after all he is a god but he may be in conversation or he may be relieving himself in the bathroom or he may be on a journey or perhaps he's asleep and will wake up so they shouted louder and gashed themselves with knives and Spears according to their practice until the blood streamed over them and when noon passed they kept raving until the hour of presenting the meal offering so more hours have gone by and still there's no sound and none who responded or heated and then it's Elijah's turn Elijah sets up twelve stones to represent the twelve tribes he lays the bowl out on the altar he then digs a trench around the altar and he orders water to be poured over the whole thing so that it's completely saturated and the trench is filled with water this is going to highlight of course the miracle that's about to occur and then he calls upon the name of the Lord and instantly a fire descends from God and consumes everything offering wood stone earth water everything and the people prostrate themselves and declare Yahweh alone is God Yahweh alone is God the prophets of Baal are all seized and slaughtered Elijah expects an end to the drought and a servant comes to report to him that a cloud as small as a man's hand is rising in the West and the sky grows black and there's a strong wind and a heavy storm and the drought is finally over the language that's used to describe this storm is the language that's typically employed for the storm God Baal um it drives home the point of the whole satire that Yahweh is the real god of the storm not by gamma controls nature not by al it's God who's effective by all is silent and powerless and Israel's choice should be clear Yahweh should be the only God for Israel just as he is for Elijah whose name Eliyahu means my god Allah my God is Yahweh so Jezebel is pretty upset and she threatens Elijah with execution so he flees into the desert and he will spend forty days and forty nights at a mountain called Horeb or Sinai that of course is the site of God's revelation to Moses Moses also spent forty days and forty nights there and many scholars have pointed out the numerous parallels between Elijah and Moses it seems that the writer there was a conscious literary shaping of the Elijah traditions on the model of Moses in more ways than just these two we'll see a few coming up Elijah is in great despair at Sinai he wants to die he feels that he has failed in his fight for God and so he hides himself in an Iraqi cleft and this is also reminiscent of the cleft that Moses hides himself in in order to catch a glimpse of God as God passes by similarly Elijah hides in a cleft where he will encounter God as passages in 1st Kings 19 verses 9 through 12 then the word of the Lord came to him he said to him why are you here Elisha he replied I am moved by zeal for the Lord the God of hosts for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant torn down your altars and put your prophets to the sword I alone and left and they are out to take my life come out he called and stand on the mountain before the Lord and lo the Lord passed by there was a great and mighty wind splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of the Lord that the Lord was not in the wind after the wind an earthquake but the Lord was not in the earthquake after the earthquake fire but the Lord was not in the fire and after the fire a soft murmuring sound or perhaps a still small voice a lot of translations used that phrase which is very poetic and when Elijah heard it he wrapped his mantle about his face and went out it stood and stood at the entrance of the cave soul I just seems to be renewed somehow at Sinai this was the mountain that was the source of Israel's covenant with God but whereas the earlier theophanies there at Sinai had involved earthquake and wind and fire the narrative here seems to be making a point of saying that God is not in the earthquake and the wind and the fire he's in the lull after the storm this might then be providing a kind of balance or corrective to the preceding story that we've just had of Mount Carmel Elijah on Mount Carmel God may be the master of the storm and Elijah dramatically demonstrated that but he isn't to be identified with the storm in the same way that bow was he's not a nature God and he's known only in silence a kind of awesome vocal silence in the theophany then that follows to Elijah God instructs Elijah to return he has to leave Sinai he has to return to the people he has work to do he has to foment rebellion or I should say in the royal house this task is one that Elisha will not complete his disciple Elijah will end up completing it but the importance in this scene I think is its emphasis on God as the God of history rather than a nature god Israel's God acts in history he's been he's made known to humans by his acts in history his prophet cannot withdraw to a mountain retreat he has to return and he has to play his part in God's plans for the nation so we've discussed the Prophet as God's zealots particularly as Illustrated or exemplified by Elijah and Elijah the Prophet also had other roles and we'll see this in Elijah Elijah succeeds Elijah the cycle of stories about Elijah ends with Elijah's ascent into heaven on a fiery chariot and chariot and a whirlwind that's a detail in the story that has contributed to the long-standing belief that Elijah never died and so Elijah will be the harbinger of the Messiah he will come back to announce the coming of the Messiah Elijah left his prophetic cloak to his disciple and successor Elijah Elijah's involvement in the political arena was also important and highlights another prophetic role we've touched on before that of kingmaker and king breaker so just as Samuel anointed Saul King and then David King in private meanings you also have Elijah he sends an associate to secretly anoint Jay who Jay who is 1 of a Habs ex captains as king of Israel this is going to initiate a very bloody civil war Jay who's going to Massacre all of a Habs family all of his supporters his retinue in Israel he also assembles all of the vile worshippers in a great temple that was built by Ahab in Samaria and then he orders all of them killed and the temple demolished so it is a pitched battle and all-out war between the yahweh-only party the bow party we're not going to be looking at Elijah in great detail but I will just point out one last aspect of his prophetic profile that I think is notable here in the book of kings and that is the characteristic of prophets as miracle workers like Elijah Elisha performs miracles he causes an iron axe to float he raises a child from the dead he fills jars of oil he makes poison soup edible he causes 20 loaves of barley to feed a hundred men and he heals lepers these legendary stories in which divine intentions are affected by means of the supernatural powers of holy men this represents a popular religiosity people would turn to wonder-working holy men when they were sick or in crisis when they needed help and this kind of religious activity which was clearly widespread in the ancient Near East in Israel this kind of popular belief this fascination with wonder-working charismatic s' it's also seen very prominently in the Gospels of the New Testament a final prophetic role is very well illustrated by the Prophet Nathan Nathan is a classic example of a prophet who serves as the conscience of the king in 2nd Samuel chapters 11 and 12 we have the dramatic story of David and Bathsheba King David's illicit union with Bathsheba as you know she's the wife of Uriah who's fighting in the king's army his illicit union with Bathsheba results in her pregnancy and when David learns that Bathsheba is pregnant he first tries to avoid the issue he grants Uriah you know a leaf from from the front lines he's come on home and have a conjugal visit with your wife and your eye is very pious leaves you to wonder who knew what when it's a great story it's told with a lot of subtlety and indirection but your eye is very pious and he refuses now how could I enjoy myself when people are out there dying which is an implicit criticism of the king who just did that very thing and so David is foiled there and he plans to then just dispose of Uriah so he orders Uriah's commanders to place urea in the front lines of the battle and then pull back so that your eye is basically left on his own and he will be killed and indeed he is so David adds murder to adultery but not even the king is above God's law and God sends his prophet Nathan to tell the king of fable this is in 2nd Samuel 12 verses 1 through 14 there were two men in the same city one rich and one poor the rich man had very large flocks and herds but the poor man had only one little ewe lamb that he had bought he tended it and it grew up together with him and his children it used to share his morsel of bread and drink from his cup and nestled in his bosom it was like a daughter to him one day a traveler came to the rich man but he was loath to take anything from his own flocks or herds to prepare a meal for the guests who had come to him so he took the poor man's lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him and David flew into a rage against the man and said to Nathan as the Lord lives the man who did this deserves to die he shall pay for the lamb four times over because he did such a thing and showed no pity and Nathan said to David that man is you it's such a wonderful story and it's and it's wonderful to think that Nathan wasn't struck down on the spot he escaped with his life after this accusation but it's symptomatic of the biblical narrators view of monarchy the subjugation of the king to Yahweh to Yahweh's teachings to Yahweh's Commandments to Yahweh's true prophets that we don't hear that Nathan is carted off but instead David acknowledges his guilt and he repents he doesn't escape all punishment for this deed the child of the Union does in fact die and there's a great deal of future strife and treachery in David's household as we know and the writer does blame a good deal of that on the deeds these terrible sins of David's Elijah similarly is going to function as the conscience of King Ahab in first Kings 21 there you have a story of a vineyard the king covets this particular vineyard of a particular man so the King's wife Jezebel falsely accuses the man of blasphemy that is a capital crime and the man is stoned to death even though these are trumped-up charges and his property is transferred to the crown shortly after that Elijah appears and he pronounces doom upon a hab and his descendants for this terrible deed a habit MIT's the sin he repents and so his punishment is delayed but as we've seen he is later killed in battle at remote Gilead so in these stories we see the prophets functioning as troubler of Israel you know certainly from the royal point of view and their relationships with the royal house these relationships are quite adversarial so we're ready to move into what we call the period of classical prophecy and the literary prophets and that's a period that begins with two prophets Amos and Hosea who we'll be talking about next time they the last prophet of the classical prophets was Malachi so you have about a three hundred twenty year period if the prophets prophesy from about 750 down to about four thirty three hundred and twenty years that's what's that's the span of time covered by these books of the literary prophets and these prophets were responding to urgent crises in the life of the nation it's it's easiest if we think of them as being grouped around four periods of crisis or four critical periods which I've listed here first we have prophets of the Assyrian crisis right remember the fall of Assyria of fall of Israel and 722 so around that clustering around that time we have prophets of the Babylonian crisis the destruction of course there is 586 so we have prophets who cluster around that time a little bit before then you have prophets of the Exile the years that are spent in exile in Babylon and that's primarily Ezekiel and then we have profits of the post-exilic or restoration community when the Israelites are allowed to come back to restore their community and we'll see certain prophets there so in the eighth century the Assyrian empires threatening Israel and Judah you have to northern prophets Amos and Hosea the N is for north so Amos and Hosea are prophesying in the north and then in the their warning of this doom it's going to come as punishment for violations of the Mosaic Covenant Israel fell in 722 you have a similar threat being posed by the Assyrians to the southern kingdom Judah and so you have two Judean prophets Isaiah and Micah they carry a similar message to the Judeans so those four we associate with the Assyrian crisis with the fall of nineveh the capital of Assyria that falls in 612 and that's something that the Prophet Nahum celebrates then Babylon is the master of the region Judah becomes a vassal state but tries to rebel and the prophets Habakkuk and Jeremiah they prophesy in the southern kingdom in Judah Jeremiah he urges political submission to Bab to Babylon because he sees Babylon as the agent of God's just punishment but we'll come back and look at all these messages in great detail post-exilic profit or exilic prophet Ezekiel as I said a prophet of the Exile who is consoling the people in exile in Babylonia but also asserting the Justice of what has happened and then finally at the end of the sixth century when the first exiles are returning to restore the community returning to the homeland they face a very harsh life and you have Haggai Zechariah promising a better future you have prophets like Joel and Malachi who brings some eschatological hope into the mix so that can help frame those are the ones we're going to touch on mostly we're not going to hit all of the prophetic books but these are the main ones we'll hit and we'll start in with them Amos next time

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