Prophets

 [One of us] has proposed studying the Prophets for awhile. I want to continue with Luke meantime, but I hope we can combine both.


Where, how to begin?

The first really traditional prophet I thought of was Samuel, who is also featured in my favorite Biblical books (though not the most edifying.) & then I thought about Moses, who lives that role on a grand scale. In Deuteronomy he's quoted as saying: ~"When I'm gone, God will send a prophet like me to set you all straight [and you'd better pay attention!]" I'm not clear whether this is supposed to refer to one superlative prophet (Jesus)-- or whether it could be taken as a reference to the whole line of prophets, the Israelite institution of prophets striving to keep their rulers in line.

It is unusual, as far as I can gather, for any nation to have a truly independent religious opposition to royal and oligarchic power. Priests may get uppity, but a priesthood is normally content to have prominent, cushy seats at the royal table. Prophets are different. A kingdom can have a whole stable of approved prophets, assigned to produce optimistic prognoses for the king's favorite new project-- and one crazy geek will be out there yelling the truth at the top of his voice; it's bad luck to kill him; and he wouldn't dare take a bribe even if he wanted to.

Samuel is atypical, a prophet from before the monarchy, which he reluctantly helps to establish. In his day, there are apparently whole bands of prophets, traveling about in a contagious ecstatic frenzy. Saul, on his way home from visiting Samuel, falls in with such a band, takes off all his clothes, rolls about prophecizing with them.

One wonders about chemical aids... mushrooms, perhaps. Fasting, chanting, other practices. Later prophets were said to pray for a long time with "their heads between their knees" to get into the right kind of spiritual state. But we haven't been given the details, on how this should be done. Were they given unique gifts?-- or were they simply led to make the best use of a widespread human talent?

And what relevance do they have to our time? Messages addressed specifically to later readers? Announcements of God's long-term objectives? A way of interpreting their times-- and ours-- in terms of God's use of events for hidden divine purposes? Can we expect similar outcomes for similar conditions, read "the signs of" these times & extrapolate?

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I believe that this approach is healthy, holy and difficult. I am on the bus.

I wonder how Samuel felt? "...for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them." Does he need comfort?

It also helps to ponder "where am I in all this?"

 

We are all capable of being as abusive as Eli's sons. We are all capable of ignoring what is under our nose just as Eli did.

 

And we are capable of listening and, with God's help, being faithful just like Samuel.

 

Begining the Game of King and Prophet

 

The story from here is fun to read, though somewhat forked and muddled. Samuel anoints Saul as 'prince' in a couple of different ways, David comes to be his companion in two different ways, we get different versions of why Samuel concludes that Saul has forfeited God's favor. In any case, Samuel secretly anoints David to be king, while Saul decides that David's popularity makes him a threat to the dynasty Saul would like to found:

"Saul said to [his daughter, David's fiancee] Michal, 'Why have you deceived me thus, and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?'

"And Michal answered Saul, 'He said to me, "Let me go; why should I kill you?" '

David's popularity keeps him safe, but the struggle becomes ruthless. When Saul learns that Ahimelech the priest has (innocently?) helped David and his followers: "The king said to the guard who stood around him, 'Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because their hand also is with David; and they knew that he fled, and did not disclose it to me.'... and [though the guards refused, Doeg the Edomite] killed on that day eighty-five persons who wore the linen ephod. And Nob, the city of the priests, he put to the sword; both men and women, children and sucklings, oxen, asses and sheep, he put to the sword.

"But one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David. And Abithar told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. And David said to Abiathar, 'I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I have occasioned the death of all the persons of your father's house. Stay with me, fear not; for he that seeks my life seeks your life; with me you shall be in safekeeping.'"

With the surviving priest in his company, David acquires the use of his Urim & Thummim to 'enquire of the Lord' about matters like: "Shall I go up and smite the ____ at ____?[Or not?]" David and his followers survive and flourish through priestly divination, a wealth of cunning, a little extortion, deals with the Philistines, a few massacres, etc., while Saul, lacking the Urim and Thummim to consult, with his kingdom divided in loyalty between himself and David, falls in battle with the Philistines. For awhile there is war between Saul's family and David's, but David prevails, becomes the recognized king of Israel, takes the fortified city of Jerusalem and makes it his capitol-- a place (at the time) outside the territories of any Israelite tribe.

Different tribes remain in intense rivalry, and this may be among the reasons for David wanting to build a national Temple in Jerusalem. But (2 Samuel 7->7.16):
-------------
Now when the King dwelt in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies round about, the King said to Nathan the prophet, "See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent."

And Nathan said to the King, "Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you."

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, "Go and tell my servant David, 'Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?" ' Now, therefore thus you shall say to my servant David, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the Earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever..."

But in 1 Chronicles 22.7-8: David says to Solomon, "My son, I had it in my heart to build a house to the name of the Lord my God. But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'You have shed much blood and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me upon the Earth.' "
-------------
Was there an omission from Nathan's speech above? Or does this refer to an incident in 2 Samuel 16, where David and his followers are fleeing Absalom's rebellion:

When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera; and as he came he cursed continually. And he threw stones at David, and at all the servants of King David; and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And Shimei said as he cursed, "Begone, begone, you man of blood, you worthless fellow! The Lord has avenged upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your ruin is on you, for you are a man of blood."

Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the King, "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the King? Let me go over and take off his head."

But the King said, "What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, 'Curse David,' who then shall say, 'Why have you done so?'"

And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, "Behold, my own son seeks my life! How much more now may this Benjaminite! Let him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look upon my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me with good for this cursing of me today."

------

But later, in 1 Kings 2.8->, David is on his deathbed advising Solomon:

"And there is also with you Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse on the day when I went to Mahanaim; but when he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord, saying, 'I will not put you to death with the sword.' Now, therefore, hold him not guiltless, for you are a wise man; you will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his gray head down with blood to Sheol."

2 Samuel 11-12.14

 

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go forth to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking upon the roof of the King's house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman.

And one said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?

So David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him; and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; and she sent and told David, "I am with child."

So David sent word to Joab, "Send me Uriah the Hittite." And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing, and how the people fared, and how the war prospered. Then David said to Uriah, "Go down to your house, and wash your feet." And Uriah went out of the King's house, and there followed him a present from the King.

But Uriah slept at the door of the King's house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house.

When they told David, "Uriah did not go down to his house," David said to Uriah, "Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?"

Uriah said to David, "The Ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing."

Then David said to Uriah, "Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart."

So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day, and the next. And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, "Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down and die."

...

When the wife of Uriah the Hittite heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she made lamentation for her husband. And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house; and she became his wife, and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.

And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, "There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up; and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his morsel, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him.

"Now there came a traveler to the rich man; and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; but he took the poor man's lamb, and prepared it for the man who had come to him."

Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, "As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity."

Nathan said to David, "You are the man. Thus says the Lord,'I anointed you King over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul; and I gave you your master's house, and your master's wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in His sight? You have smitten Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.'

"Thus says the Lord, 'Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house;  and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor; and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.'"

David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord!"

And Nathan said to David, "The Lord has also put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die."

1 Kings 11.26-12.24

 

Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite of Zeredah, a servant of Solomon, whose mother's name was Zeruah, a widow, also lifted up his hand against [Solomon] the King.

And this was the reason: Solomon built the Millo, and closed up the breach of the city of David his father. The man Jeroboam was very able; and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious, he gave him charge over all the forced labor of the tribe of Joseph.

And at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had clad himself in a new garment; and the two of them were alone in the open country.

Then Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. And he said to Jeroboam, "Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon, and will give you ten tribes (but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), because he has forsaken me, and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and has not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my eyes and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, as David his father did. Nevertheless I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of David my servant whom I chose, who kept my commandments and my statutes; but I will take his kingdom out of his son's hand, and will give it to you, ten tribes. Yet to his son I will give one tribe, that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen to put my name. And I will take you; and you shall reign over all that your soul desires; and you shall be King over Israel.

"' And if you will hearken to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you, and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you. And I will for this afflict the descendants of David, but not forever.'"


Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam; but Jeroboam arose, and fled into Egpyt, to Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.

Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom; are they not  written in the book of the acts of Solomon? And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father; and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead.

Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him King.

And when Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was still in Egypt, whither he had fled from King Solomon), then Jeroboam returned from Egypt.

And they sent and called him; and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and said to Rehoboam, "Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke upon us; and we will serve you."

He said to them, "Depart for three days, then come again to me." So the people went away.

Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was still alive-- saying, "How do you advise me to answer this people?"

And they said to him, "If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever."

But he forsook the counsel which the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him. And he said to them, "What do you advise that we answer this people who have said to me, 'Lighten the yoke that your father put on us.'?"

And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, "Thus shall you speak to this people who said to you, 'Your father made our yoke heavy, but do you lighten it for us.' Thus shall you say to them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's loins. And now, whereas my father laid upon you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips; but I will chastise you with scorpions!'"

So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king said, "Come to me the third day."

And the King answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel which the old men had given him, he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, "My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions!"

So the King did not hearken to the people; for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that He might fulfil his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

And when all Israel saw that the King did not hearken to them, the people answered the King:

     What portion have we in David?
     We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.
     To your tents, O Israel!
     Look now to your own house, David!

So Israel departed to their tents.

But Rehoboam reigned over the people of Israel who dwelt in the cities of Judah. Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was taskmaster over the forced labor; and all Israel stoned him to death with stones. And King Rehoboam made haste to mount his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly, and made him King over all Israel. There was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only.

When Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, and the tribe of Benjamin, a hundred and eighty thousand chosen warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam the son of Solomon.

But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God, "Say to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, King of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people,'Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your kinsmen the people of Israel. Return every man to his home, for this thing is from Me.'"

So they hearkened to the word of the Lord, and went home again.

Just want to point out that the person who receives a prophecy doesn't necessarily perceive its full meaning.

Could this be what the prophecy about the Lord building David a house referred to?

Heb 3:6  but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

Could the church or body of believers be the house that the Lord told David he would build for his family that would last forever?

I'd normally agree about "not necessarily perceiving" what a prophecy means at the time.

 

Then again, the utility of a prophecy, and its timing, ought to be for the time it's delivered and received.

 

When one person hears a prophecy-- and another comes along centuries later, to say "This is what that was really about," it seems like an utterly illegitimate way to 1) overwrite the disconfirmation of the prophecy, as it was understood by its hearers, and 2) hijack the prophet as a prop for the more recent doctrine. Which should be able to stand on its own, or not.

 

Prophecies do not seem to be about 'putting an I-told-you-so in stone'... More like God saying: "This is what I will do, iff you go on behaving as you are now." Whether it's promise or warning, there's a strong conditional implication. So a prophecy may or may not be fulfilled; the divine intention behind it will be.

 

David as a king was not as attentive to God as he had been as a fugitive. If he could have continued in the same attitude, he might have behaved better, not lost a son, not ruined his other children. It could have been a kingdom that endured, if it could have continued to serve God's long-term purposes. It served, instead, as an illustration of 'what happens when a nation acts like typical wild humans.'

I think of prophecy more as the voice crying in the wilderness, warning and correcting, rather than predicting.  At the same time, I think double entendre  is well within God's repertoire -- so some echoing, or foreshadowing of what might unfold in the future is nice to consider as a real possibility here too.  The early Christians certainly went back to Isaiah and read into his writings in a predictive sort of way.

I heard once that the ancient Hebrew idea of time is non-linear . ..  rather, time is like a caravan marching along and the vantage point of the subjective viewer determines past, present and future perspectives.  Yet in a sense, it is all happening at the same time -- i.e., the beginning and the end of the caravan are happening simultaneously yet are not seen simultaneously from a given point along the caravan.  I like that!

 

What I find myself pondering in the passages quoted here is the meaning of "house."  (and maybe also "home") .  The ancient Israelites often referred to a concrete structure, the arc or the temple, as God's house.  In the Torah, I think the reference is often to a physical house for God to dwell in.  God "went along" with that to some degree (condoning or even blessing a "primitive" spirituality that needed to worship God in a physical space, couldn't yet imagine worshipping God in any other way).  But at the same time, the word "house" as used in the anciet scriptures is nuanced enough to evolve many meanings, including the human body, the church, the body of Christ, and perhaps the entire created universe, maybe even also a metaphysical "place," or  other/more/different concepts.  We try to box God in with our mental constructs and our time/space limitations of perception.  God is such a mystery, and surely resides in a dimension larger and other than our imaginations can conceive!

In Samuel, Kings, etc., "house" looks to be sometimes "temple"-- but more typically a person's  "family" or "tribe".

 

Yes, no more "predictive" than "If you don't do your homework your Father will.."  "Predictiveness" seems to be a consideration mainly for validating a prophet's credentials. If the prophecy was specifically disconfirmed, the prophet responsible was to be taken out and stoned.

 

But people's understanding of this does seem to have changed between the prophets of Samuel and Kings, and the later written traditions. As in modern fundamentalisms, a "prophecy" became 'a prediction written down in the ancient past, intended to elucidate events God [allegedly] has scheduled for later times.' Which seems a pointless exercise.

 

Why "pointless"? Okay, if a prophecy of that sort leads to a widespread public misinterpretation-- Guess what! God is under no obligation to comply. The existence of the prophecy is utterly worthless to anyone who takes it in that spirit. What is worthwhile, instead, is for people to maintain open communication/communion with God, so as to know/do what serves best at each time.

 

Jesus predicted a disaster to occur decades afterwards... but specifically denied that it was on a precise timetable. The "signs of the times" pointed to this disaster; the meaning of everything in his contemporaries' present lives needed to be seen in the light of that looming catastrophe, which only 'apocalyptic' language could do justice to.

 

And the outcome: the Roman devastation of Judea, the massacre and enslavement of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple-- apocalyptically shattered the conceptional world of the 'mainstream' Jewish traditions of the time, along with a great many lives.

 

But as you say, God can certainly use an old piece of scripture to speak to somebody or to some people in the present... as God can use any event or thing to speak to us. Or can also have said something in the past... to clarify an intention that people didn't quite comprehend at the time.

 

But Jesus also clarified God's long term intentions as much as anyone should need: to love and do good to all kinds of people, so far as we can receive that love and help.

The detail of Uriah the Hittite carrying the letter that seals his own doom is quite dramatic. I am reminded that Shakespeare used a variant literary element in the letters that Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern carried. Why does Nathan say the Lord put away David's sin that he shall not die and predestined the punishment of his son? I am over my head!

 

I am puzzled by the garment rent into 12 pieces. Ten pieces for Jeroboam, one for Rehoboam, what is the 12th piece?  Also another thought: the punishment for worshipping Astoreth  concealed  the female faces of the divine.

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