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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First person I've heard give a talk, who talks worse than I do... but he says some stuff. I wish my library had the guy's book.

 

How do you deal with that last question?

 

God continues to "do terrible things today." Most of them are "our own damned fault." The victims, as Jesus said, being generally no worse than the rest of us!

 

I'm open to the writers of the Bible having misunderstood some of God's intentions-- as again, people continue to do today.

 

It looks like God used an originally narrow and 'nationalistic' religion-- as religions tended to be in those days (unlike that of our modern televangelist types) to lead people, eventually, towards something more humane. (Some of the stories we have of those genocidal times, by the way, are the product of bloodthirsty priestly scribes, long after their purported dates, who would be just as inept at whacking their heathen neighbors with bronze swords as any of our contemporary equivalents.)

 

What I know of psychedelic use back in my own day... is that some people picked up a very pure message, but most of us got it distorted by who we were and what we wanted.

A First Example: 1 Samuel 2.27->

 

This is not an entirely coherent book, more of an example of how different sacred legends were later pasted together, leaving more than a few inconsistencies.

Anyway, we've just been given the story of Samuel's mother Hannah, long barren in the typical Bible birth tradition, who goes to the sanctuary at Shiloh to pray for a son. Eli, the priest in charge, adds his blessing to the prayer and she soon conceives, so that she carries out her promise and dedicates Samuel to service at the sanctuary when he is quite young. Eli's own sons, meanwhile, are misbehaving, scrounging the tasty bits of people's sacrifices & harassing the women participating in the services.
---

And there came a man of God to Eli, and said to him, "Thus the Lord has said, 'I revealed myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt subject to the house of Pharoah.

'And I chose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me; and I gave to the house of your father all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel. Why then look with greedy eyes at my sacrifices and my offerings which I commanded, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves upon the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel.'

Therefore the Lord the God of Israel declares: 'I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,' but now the Lord declares: 'Far be it from me, for those who honor me I shall honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

'Behold, the days are coming, when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father's house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. Then in distress you will look with envious eye on all the prosperity which shall be bestowed upon Israel; and there shall not be an old man in your house forever. The man of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep out his eyes and grieve his heart; and all the increase of your house shall die by the sword of men. And this which shall befall your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: Both of them shall die on the same day.

'And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind; and I will build him a sure house; and he shall go in and out before My anointed forever.

'And everyone who is left in your house shall come to implore him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread, and shall say, "Put me, I pray you, in one of the priest's places, that I may eat a morsel of bread."'"

---
3.1) Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

---------------

Who was that anonymous man? If the references to an 'anointed' and a new 'house' for God are anachronistic, the gist of what he's saying is quite plausible, and typical of what later prophets had to say, ie warnings that someone in power was misusing it, an implied cease-and-desist, a prediction of trouble to come if the abuse continued.

And while the man may well belong to one of the bands of prophets we find mentioned later, we're also told that such messages are not common at the time.

Having had my share of bad trips... all I can say is, they did not incline me to prophecizing, let along make me "an influential prophet."

 

If someone was highly aware, they could sometimes get some enlightenment out of that kind of experience-- largely about, "What am I doing wrong that's making this happen?!" Most of us just suffered horribly until it was at last over.

 

For someone who thinks of 'a prophetic state' as merely a sort of intoxication affecting one, isolated individual, your question would make sense.

 

From my standpoint-- that a true "prophecy" is a message from a transcendent Reality, filtered through the mind of the most appropriate individual available, but still an expression of an underlying truth, your question is simply inapplicable.

 

What mayhem is resulting from the prevailing "normality"? With how much more to come, plus interest?!

I am aware that this is not the main point but I get interested in odd bits. The phrase to "...go in and out before me..." or "...go in and out before My annointed..." caught my attention. Does this describe the typical activityof Priests?

 

I find the explanation that the word of the Lord was rare in those days reassuring. If we experience a lack of prophesy it is not the first time. Are there other places in prophets where comments like this were made about the frequency of prophesy in that time?

That "My anointed" does seem to indicate that the story was written later, after there's a monarchy.

 

Yes, about priests. The temples of the time were typically not places for mass gatherings, but for sacrifices & mediated dealings with God. Even a king would have the priest "go in and out" for him.

 

I forget who said it, that in the 20th Century many people thought that God had become silent, and turned away-- because they had turned away from God.

 

Our need may not be for "prophets", or anyone to "go in or out" for us... I know, the human world looks very lost-- but given a prophet, would we follow? I'm thinking we need to go to the Source together, so that everyone can be our own and each other's prophets, and know what to believe from inside. Starting to do that, maybe?

Jeff, would you mind sharing some of the sources you are using for Jewish commentary?

Samuel 3.2-10

 Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim, so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place; the lamp of God had not yet gone out; and Samuel was lying down within the Temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was.


Then the Lord called, "Samuel, Samuel!" and he said, "Here I am, and ran to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me."

But he said, "I did not call you; lie back down again."

So he went and lay down. And the Lord called again, "Samuel, Samuel!"

And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me."

But he said, "I did not call, my son; lie down again."

Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. And the Lord called Samuel yet again the third time.

And he arose and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me."

Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, "Go, lie down; and if He calls you, you shall say, 'Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears.'"

So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

And the Lord came and stood forth, calling as at other times, "Samuel, Samuel!"

And Samuel said, "Speak, for thy servant hears."

1 Samuel 3.11-4.11

 Then the Lord said to Samuel, "Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel, at which the ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. On that day I will fulfil against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. And I tell him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons were blaspheming and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever."


Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli.

But Eli called Samuel and said, "Samuel, my son."

And he said, "Here I am."

And Eli said, "What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you." So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And [Eli] said, "It is the Lord; let Him do what seems good to Him."

And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord. And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord. And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.

Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines; they encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek. The Philistines drew up in a line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who slew about four thousand men on the field of battle.

And when the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, "Why has the Lord put us to rout today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that He may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies." So the people sent to Shiloh, and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hopni and Phineas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

When the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded.

And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, "What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?" And when they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid; for they said, "A god has come into the camp!" And they said, "Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the wrath of these mighty gods? These are the gods who smote the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. Take courage, and acquit yourselves like men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves of the Hebrews as they have been to you; acquit yourselves like men, and fight!"

So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home; and there was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. And the ark of the Lord was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hopni and Phineas, were slain.
I think this is a big problem today.  People don't expect to hear from God so when he does they don't recognize His voice.  Since God doesn't usually use an audible voice we are called to distinguish which thoughts are coming from God through the soul from the myriad thoughts that come from the world, the flesh and the devil through the soul, newspaper, tv, neighbor's gossip or ipod.
If God didn't want to help, we couldn't do it at all!

What kind of God is this? What kind of people first tell this story? What can it mean to us today beyond: "We are very different now."?

You can't appreciate grace and mercy if there's no alternative.  The old testament is an example, for the most part, of a world without grace and mercy.  it was a world of an eye for an eye.  As a rule it wasn't a world of Love.  For the most part it still isn't a world of love.  At least not as of my reading of the morning news about Syria, Lybia, Afghanistan, Mexico, etc.  We're in charge of the world.  For the most part God is taken out on Sundays and limited to an hour at best.  It takes more than a few living epistles to change the world and many of those living epistles will probably have to die before the world takes notice.  So to sum it up we're not very different now.  Neither is God.  We are just lucky to be living in an age of grace and mercy and even in this age there are cancer cells that must be surgically removed if the patient is going to recover and thrive.  I have to trust that God only removes those cancerous cells that have to be removed just as I trusted my cancer surgeons that they had to remove part of my intestines and destroy my prostate.

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