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PROPHECY IN ISRAEL
AMOS, HOSEA, JEREMIAH, AND ISAIAH
3 PILLARS OF THE ISRAELITE RELIGION
Priesthood, Law, & Prophecy.debate as to whether the 3 pillars were connected or separate.Prophecy made a later appearance when compared to the law and the priesthood.
However, some scholars think that prophecy was as old as the other two pillars.It can be traced to the origin of Israelite religion.some scholars have addedapocalypticismas the fourth pillar of Israelite religion.G. von Rad:apocalypticismis not part of the pillars because it was a phenomenon of the Inter-Testamentalperiod.
ORIGINS OF ISRAELITE PROPHECY
Basically there are two sources available, namely:1. Extra-biblical material2. Biblical Sources
1. EXTRA-BIBLICAL MATERIAL
These are archaeological materials found at various centers of the Ancient Near East.They a threefold problem.1. The materials are not easily accessible.2. The materials are vague in the way they present Israelite prophecy .3. Lack of uniformity in the manner they present prophecy in the ANE.
2. BIBLICAL SOURCES
CHALLENGES1. According to 1Sam 9:9, a prophet was a former seer. “…he who is called a prophet now was former called a prophet”. The implication is that the office of a prophet evolved from that one of a seer. However, according to 2 Sam 24:11, “When David rose in the morning the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer…” It seems that the words, prophet and seer are being used interchangeably.
2. In ancient Israel, a seer was a person who had the gift of foresight and could foretell the future.In Hebrew, the word seer isroheh, meaning an extra-ordinary person who could predict the future.The Hebrew word,nabi, which is translated as prophet meant a person with a special Divine gift of forth-telling.
He or she dealt with issues in the here and now.It seems that theroheh(seer) and thenabi(prophet) had different functions in Israel, therefore different in nature.One person could act as both seer and prophet.
WAS ISRAELILITE PROPHECY UNIQUE OR A BORROWED PHENOMENON?
TWO BASIC VIEWSPROPHECY WAS BORROWED FROM THE ANCPROPHECY ORIGINATED IN ISRAEL
PROPHECY WAS BORROWED FROM THE ANE
1. THE LEGEND OF WEN –AMUNRecorded in the ANE texts. It says thatWen-Amunwas a messenger of the Egyptian godAmon.Was sent to the king ofByblosinPhoeniciato buy timber with which to construct a temple for the godAmon-Re.
The king of Byblos delayed in attending to the young man’s request because he was offering sacrifices to his god.Ayoungmanfell into ecstasy and ordered the king to offer timber toWen-Amun.The young man is said to have spend the whole night in ecstasy speaking on behalf of the gods.
ANALYSIS OF THE LEGEND
1.GODS?DEITIESThe youth spoke on behalf of the gods. He represented the will of the gods.He was a messenger of the gods.The same applies to Israelite prophets.They were messengers of Yahweh and communicated his will to the people.
2. ECSTASY.Ecstasy was also evident in Israelite prophecy.According to 1 Sam 10:5-6, there were prophets in Israel who got into ecstasy.
3. FORTH-TELLINGIsraelite prophets were by and large concerned with forth telling.They dealt with current issues.4. PROPHETIC AUTHORITYThe king obliged.Israelite prophets also had such authority.
2. THE LEGEND OF ZIMRI-LIM
Based on the tablets excavated at Mari.On one of the tablets a seer is said to have delivered a message to kingZimri-Lim. “I amHadad, your god, who will make you king overMessopotamia. If you obey, I will bless you, if you disobey I will punish you”.The seer was in ecstasy when he said this.
ANALYSIS
The oracle resembles Israelite oracles.It starts by self identification of the god, then follows the message.Blessings played a pivotal role in Israel.Ecstasy seems to have been a hallmark of Israelite prophecy.
3. THE STELE OF ZAKKUR
Zakkuris said to have prayed to his god, who assured him of victory, through seers and visionaries.It seems that seers were active in the ANE.
OVERALL EVALUATION
1. It seems that prophecy in Israel was not unique.2. There were many similarities between prophecy in the ANE and prophecy in Israel.
3. There were seers, who would get into ecstasy, and utter the messages of the gods using the messenger formula.4. The ANE writings are older than Israel’s.5. Israelites copied prophecy from the ANE.
CRITIQUE
This theory is based on the assumption that ecstasy was one of the defining characteristic of prophecy in Israel, which might not have been the case.The Jeremiah called those who prophesied in ecstasy, false prophets.The ANE prophets might have borrowed prophecy from Israel.Israelite prophets were often conscious when giving oracles.
2. PROPHECY WAS UNIQUE TO ISRAEL
1. THE TRADITIONAL THEORYProphecy in Israel was covenantal.Prophets were mediators between the covenant and the people.Their main message was the covenant of Yahweh which the people had agreed to keep.So prophets were interpreters of the covenant and communicators of the Divine will.
2. IT ORIGINATED WITH THE EXODUS EXPERIENCE
Prophets rose in order to interpret the Sinai covenant which was given to the people through Moses.They also encouraged people to uphold it.This theory considers Moses as the first prophet.
3. THE EVOLUTIONARY THEORY
This is based on 1 Sam 9:9, which says that prophecy evolved fromseership.The theory says that the position ofseershiphad become inadequate, so it gave way to prophecy.
4. THE CULTIC ORIGIN THEORY
It says that prophecy arose with Israelite institutions of religion.These were the staff of cultic places.They worked as a group.
5. PROPHECY STARTED WITH THE MONARCHY
This theory dismisses all other theories and argues that before the coming of the monarchy there were no prophets in Israel.The institution of prophecy became necessary in order to monitor the kings.
TRUE AND FALSE PROPHETS
1. True prophets were interpreters and observers of the Sinai Covenant.2. True prophets observed and interpreted the Law of Moses.3. Prophetic oracles had to be fulfilled.
4. A true prophet would speak the word of God as it was without wavering or fear.5. True prophets did not receive or accept remuneration. However, they accepted gifts.6. True prophets had to be morally upright.7. Later on true prophets disassociated themselves from ecstasy.
PRE-CANONICAL PROPHETS
1. AHIJAH OF SHILOH (1 Kings 11:26-43)He prophesied the coming into power of Jeroboam.He was one of the people behind the division of the monarchy.
2. NATHAN
Originally he was an official at Hebron, but became a palace prophet of King David.Some scholars think that he was both a priest and a prophet.He is known for preaching the Davidic Royal Ideology, and pointing out fearlessly, King David’s wrong doing.He anointed Solomon king after David.He seems to have benefited politically from the Davidic house.
3. SHEMAIAH (1 Kings 12:21-24)
He appears after the division of the monarchy whenRehoboamwas planning to go to war against Jeroboam.He toldRehoboamnot to do that and he heeded the voice of Yahweh.
4. ELIJAH (1 Kings 17:1-2 Kings 2:25)
He was called to ministry during the reign ofOmriwho had been helped by the soldiers to overthrowZimri.Soon Ahab became king and there was a severe drought in Israel which he helped to end.
He had a contest with the prophets of Baal and he killed all of them.This angered King Ahab and Queen Jezebel.Elijah had to flee to Mt.Horeb.He also performed miracles.
5. ELISHA (2 Kings 2:15ff)
Son ofShaphat(1kgs19:19)He was the successor of Elijah.He also performed miracles (2Kgs 2:19ff).He foretold the future (2kgs 6:32- 7:2)

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