[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 see your editorial punctuation Forrest! I read a little ahead to 1Kings 15.8 where it says "...David did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life except in the matter o f Uriah the Hittite." Perhaps that caveat needs to be added here as well.

Actually, that incident was only one of many stories of David that have made me seriously wonder about his character-- cunning, manipulative, ruthless, very well equipped mentally to rule a bandit gang or an unstable court of murderous, continually maneuvering, utterly opportunistic people, loyal only to custom, to appearances, and to whichever tribe they'd come from. (Uriah may have been the only honest one among them! And Nathan, though he was sly enough to remain afloat in those currents.)


There is a Hindu story, supposed to be true, of a bandit who attempted to rob a holy man. Since the holy man had nothing to steal, the bandit asked for advice... and was told he could and should start internally talking with God. Everything was fine until the day God told him, "Maybe you shouldn't rob this party and cut all their throats." Since he couldn't be a robber anymore, he became a holy man instead. :>}


But David really doesn't seem like the type. Those psalms... don't seem quite in character, given the stories.


But that holy man story seems to point up another consideration: God evidently does what He can with the people He's got. He didn't tell His bandit to stop cutting people's throats right away, only when he was ready to listen.

1 Kings 15.25-16.34 (getting into a rut here...)


Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa King of Judah; and he reigned over Israel two years.

He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin which he made Israel to sin.

Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired against him; and Baasha struck him down a Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines, for Nadab and all Israel were laying siege to Gibbethon.

So Baasha killed him in the third year of Asa King of Judah, and reigned in his stead. And as soon as he was King, he killed all the house of Jeroboam; he left to the house of Jeroboam not one that breathed, until he had destroyed it, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite. It was for the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned and which he made Israel to sin, and because of the anger to which he provoked the Lord, the God of Israel...

In the third year of Asa King of Judah, Baasha the son of Ahijah began to reign over all Israel at Tirzah, and reigned twenty-four years. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of Jeroboam and in his sin which he made Israel to sin.

And the word of the Lord came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, "Since I exalted you out of the dust and made you leader over my people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam, and have made my people Israel to sin, provoking me to anger with their sins, behold, I will utterly sweep away Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Any one belonging to Baasha who dies in the city the dogs shall eat; and any one of his who dies in the field the birds of the air shall eat"...

In the twenty-sixth year of Asa King of Judah, Elah the son of Baasha began to reign over Israel in Tirzah, and reigned two years.

But his servant Zimri, commander of half his chariots, conspired against him.

When he was at Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza, who was over the household in Tirzah, Zimri came in and struck him down and killed him, in the twenty-seventh year of Asa King of Judah, and reigned in his stead.

When he began to reign, as soon as he had seated himself on his throne, he killed all the house of Baasha; he did not leave him a single male of his kinsmen or his friends....

In the twenty-seventh year of Asa King of Judah, Zimri reigned seven days in Tirzah.

Now the troops were encamped against Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines, and the troops who were encamped heard it said, "Zimri has conspired, and he has killed the King!" Therefore all Israel made Omri, the commander of the army, King over Israel that day in the camp.

So Omri went up from Gibbethon, and all Israel with him, and they besieged Tirzah.

And when Zimri saw that the city was taken, he went into the citadel of the King's House, and burned the King's House over him with fire, and died, because of his sins which he committed, doing evil in the sight of the Lord, walking in the way of Jeroboam, and for his sin which he committed, making Israel to sin...

Then the people of Israel were divided into two parts. Half of the people followed Tibni the son of Ginath, to make him King; and half followed Omri. But the people who followed Omri overcame the people who followed Tibni the son of Ginath, So Tibni died and Omri became King.

In the thirty-first year of Asa King of Judah, Omri began to reign over Israel, and reigned for twelve years; six years he reigned in Tirzah.

He bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver; and he fortified the hill, and called the name of the city which he built 'Samaria', after the name of Shemer, the owner of the hill.

Omri did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did more evil than all who were before him. For he walked in all the ways of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in the sins which he made Israel to sin, provoking the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger by their idols....

In the thirty-eighth year of Asa King of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years.

And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all that were before him. And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal King of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the House of Baal, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the Kings of Israel who were before him.
Jeroboam was worse than David and Omri was worse than Jeroboam and Ahab was even worse. The book is not very specific. Once you build altars to false gods what is bad and what is worse? The Universalist in me is feeling sympathetic to the ordinary people worshippping false gods. As I write my 14 year old daughter is making flash cards of  Greek and Roman gods for a school assignment. Is their something ironic in this juxtaposition? I don't know.

What this looks like is a narrative buildup to Elijah, who is coming in the next episode...


Up until very recent times, there was no line between politics and religion. God used human politics; and people in turn tried to attribute their politics to God, much as today.


Right, most of the ordinary people were worshipping the gods of their neighbors, thinking nothing of it one way or another; we get hints of that all the way through the period when Israel was a loose alliance, and from there, well into David's reign.


David put his capitol at Jerusalem, largely because it had not been part of Judah until he took it. A capitol anywhere else would have looked like one of the tribes was imposing its rule on the others; and even so we've seen what a fragile regime he'd established.


The Temple at Jerusalem was probably intended to pull the whole nation together under the cult of YHWH, but rulers of Israel, the secessionist regime in the north, were not in favor of this. So, a lot of the religious discord of this period looks to be politics in the guise of religion.


Even so, God has plans for this people. The priests at Jerusalem (apparently) get to impose laws giving them a monopoly on sacrifices etc.-- but the northern state does not get to have a god of its own.


There is one God, who is not a political construct, who wouldn't and didn't let them forget that.


There are hints in the Bible about other nations having been assigned to other gods; what the Greeks and Romans did would have been fine for Greeks and Romans. The Jews, as they were coming to understand matters, had a mission of maintaining the worship of the true God. Why? Because their ancestors had cut a deal with this Being.


And why did God let them make this deal? Because, I'd say, we humans would not have been able to settle for false gods forever.


I don't think we can really imagine gods today, the way the  Greeks and Romans did. When William Stringfellow wanted to make such beings understandable to modern Americans... he talked about political institutions, movie stars, churches, sex, money... and death.

I was not familiar with Stringfellow but it is easier to wrap my head around these kinds of false idols then Jupitor or Neptune.

He said he'd given talks to two colleges the same day: one at a divinity school, the other at a business school. The business students seemed to know exactly what he was talking about.


1 Kings 17-17.7


Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word."

And the word of the Lord came to him, "Depart from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, that is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there."

So he went and did according to the word of the Lord; he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook.

And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.

1 Kings 17.8-16


Then the word of the Lord came to him, "Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidonia, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you."

So he arose and went to Zarephath; and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her, "Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink." And as she was going to bring it, he called to her, and said, "Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand."

And she said, "As your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of wheat in a jar, and a little oil in a cruse; and now, I am gathering a couple of sticks, that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die."

And Elijah said to her, "Fear not. Go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me; and afterward make for you and your son.

"For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'The jar of meal shall not be spent, and the cruse of oil shall not fail, until the day the Lord sends rain upon the earth.'"

And she went and did as Elijah said; and she, and he, and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not spent, neither did the the cruse of oil fail-- in accord with the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah.

1 Kings 18.17->


After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; and his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. And she said to Elijah, "What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!"

And he said to her, "Give me your son." And he took him from her bosom, and carried him up into the upper chamber, where he lodged, and laid him upon his own bed. And he cried to the Lord, "O Lord my God, hast Thou brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?" Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried to the Lord, "O Lord my God, let this child's soul come into him again."

And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.

And Elijah took the child, and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and delivered him to his mother; and Elijah said, "See, your child lives!"

And the woman said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth."

1 Kings 18-18.19


After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, "Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth." So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab.

Now the famine was severe in Samaria.

And Ahab called Obadiah, who was over the household. (Now Obadiah revered the Lord greatly; and when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.) And Ahab said to Obadiah, "Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys; perhaps we may find grass and save the horses and mules alive, and not lose some of the animals." So they divided the land between them to pass through it; Ahab went in one direction by himself; and Obadiah went in another direction.

And as Obadiah was on the way, behold, Elijah met him; and Obadiah recognized him, and fell on his face, and said, "Is it you, my lord Elijah?"

And he answered him, "It is I. Go, tell your lord, 'Behold, Elijah is here.'"

And he said, "Wherein have I sinned, that you would give your servant into the hand of Ahab, to kill me? As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom whither my lord has not sent to seek you; and when they would say, 'He is not here,' he would take an oath of that kingdom or nation, that they had not found you. And now you say, 'Go, tell your lord, "Behold, Elijah is here."' And as soon as I have gone from you, the Spirit of the Lord will carry you whither I know not; and so, when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have revered the Lord from my youth. Has it not been told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, how I hid a hundred men of the Lord's prophets by fifties in a cave, and fed them with bread and water? And now you say, 'Go, tell your lord, "Behold, Elijah is here"'; and he will kill me."

And Elijah said, "As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today."

So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah.

When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, "Is it you, you troubler of Israel?"

And he answered, "I have not troubled Israel; but you have, and your father's house, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and followed the Baals. Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the four hundred prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table.

1 Kings 18.20->


So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel, and gathered the prophets together at Mt Carmel.

And Elijah came near to all the people, and said, "How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him."

And the people did not answer him a word.

Then Elijah said to the people, "I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal's prophets are 450 men. Let two bulls be given to us; and let them choose one bull for themselves, and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it; and I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood, and put no fire to it.

"And you call on the name of your god; and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the god who answers by fire, he is God."

And all the people answered, 'It is well spoken."

Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, 'Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many; and call on the name of your god, but put no fire to it."

And they took the bull which was given them; and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning til noon, saying, "O Baal, answer us!" But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped about the altar which they had made.

And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying "Cry aloud, for he is a god! Perhaps he is musing, or gone to take a pee; or he is on a journey, or perhaps has gone asleep and needs to be awakened."

And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation; but there was no voice. No one answered; no one heeded.

Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come near to me;" and all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. Elijah took 12 stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying "'Israel' shall be your name;" and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, "Fill four jars with water, and pour it on the burnt offering, and on the wood." And he said, "Do it a second time;" and they did it a second time. And he said, "Do it a third time;" and they did it a third time. And the water ran down about the altar, and filled the trench also with water.

And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, "O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that Thou are God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that Thou, O Lord, art God; and that Thou hast turned their hearts back."

Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.

And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, 'The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God."

And Elijah said to them, "Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape."

And they seized them, and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and killed them there.

And Elijah said to Ahab, "Go up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of the rushing of rain." So Ahab went up to eat and to drink.

And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he bowed himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees. And he said to his servant, "Go up now, look toward the sea."

And he went up, and looked, and said, "There is nothing."

And he said, "Go again," seven times.

And at the seventh time he said, "Behold, a little cloud like a man's hand is rising out of the sea."

And he said, "Go up, say to Ahab, 'Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.'"

And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel.

And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.

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