THE PROPHETS AND THE
WILLIS JUDSON BEECHER
Digitized by Ted Hildebrandt at Gordon College 2005
1905 by Thomas Y. Crowell, New York.
IN part the Stone lectures as delivered were a selec-
tion from the materials of this volume, and in part the
volume is an expansion of the lectures. It is a product
of studies, accumulating during many years, rather than
a predirected discussion of a subject, but I hope that it
will not be found deficient in logical coherence.
The presentation it makes is essentially a restatement
of the Christian tradition that was supreme fifty years
ago, but a restatement with differences so numerous
and important that it will probably be regarded, by men
who do not think things through, as an attack on that
tradition. If what I have said makes that impression
on any one, and if he regards the matter as of sufficient
importance, I ask him to consider it more carefully. I
have tried to make my search a search for the truth,
without undue solicitude as to whether its results are
orthodox; but it seems to me that my conclusions are
simply the old orthodoxy, to some extent transposed into
the forms of modern thought, and with some new ele-
ments introduced by widening the field of the induction.
It follows, of course, that my position is antagonistic
to that of the men who attack the older tradition. But
I have tried not to be polemic. I have tried to give
due consideration to the views of the men with whom
I differ. Where practicable, I have preferred the
broader statements, in which we are in agreement, to
the narrower ones that would emphasize our differences.
Scope of the work 3
I. Sources. The scriptures as a source. Direct study versus
general reading. Is the testimony credible? Direct examination
versus cross-examination. Dependence on critical questions. The
provisionally historical point of view. Evidence tested by use 4
II. Interpreting the sources. Avoid eisegesis. Eisegesis of
Christian doctrine. Of negative assumptions. Of theories of reli-
gion. Of particular schemes of Comparative Religion. A true
III. Points concerning the treatment. Outline. Certain matters
of detail 15
TERMS USED IN DESCRIBING THE PROPHETS
Prophet. Nabhi and its cognates. Hhozeh and its cognates.
Roeh and its cognates. The uses of raah and hhazah. Man of
God. Word of Yahaweh. Saith Yahaweh. Man of the Spirit.
Massa. Hittiph. Metaphorical terms 21
Terms used at all dates. Interchangeable as to the person de-
noted. Three degrees of extension. Raving 32
THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS
Introductory. The subject attractive. Division into periods 36
I. Prophecy in the times before Samuel. Before Abraham.
The patriarchs as prophets. Prophecy in the times of Moses and
Joshua. In the times of the Judges. The dearth of prophecy in the
time of Eli 38
II. Prophecy in the times of Samuel and later. First period,
that of Samuel, David, and Nathan : the great names, the organ-
izations, the terms that are used. Second period, from the disrup-
tion to Elisha: distinguished prophets, "the sons of the prophets,"
false prophets, the use of terms. Third period, that of Amos and
Isaiah: the great prophets, the numbers of the prophets true and
false, the use of terms. Fourth period, that of Jeremiah and others:
the great names, the many prophets true and false. Fifth period,
the exilian prophets : the great names and the many prophets true
and false. Sixth period, the postexilian prophets: the great names
and the many other prophets. The cessation of prophecy 47
THE PROPHET. A CITIZEN WITH A MESSAGE
The question. How affected by one's critical position 66
I. External appearance of the prophet. Baseless current ideas.
Unearthly phenomena absent. Was there a prophetic costume?
The facts significant even if negative. Did the prophets rave?
The prophets long-lived 67
II. The organizations of the prophets. Samuel's "companies."
The Naioth institution. "The sons of the prophets" 76
III. The so-called prophetic order. Holy orders. The prophets
a succession. They had no priestly character. Was the prophet a
graduate? Ordination. How one became a prophet 80
The prophet especially a manly man. The absence of insignia
THE FUNCTIONS OF A PROPHET—NATURALISTIC
Introductory. Guarding against mistaken assumptions. The
name indicates the function. Passages that outline the prophetic
I. Naturalistic functions. They were public men. Jeremiah as
a statesman. Isaiah and Hosea as statesmen. Prophetic ideal of
a reunited Israel. Elijah and Elisha as statesmen. The prophets
were reformers. Some of their reforms. They were preachers of
good tidings. They were literary men. Certain points need to be
guarded. Different grades and kinds of prophets. The prophet
both local and cosmopolitan. The sense in which devout persons
or great leaders are prophets 93
II. Supernaturalistic functions. The prophets claim them.
Working of miracles, disclosing of secrets, prediction, the giving
of torah, the messianic forecast. Revealers of the monotheism of
THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE
I. How given to him. The source of his inspiration is the Spirit
of Yahaweh. Utterances inspired by the Spirit. Deeds inspired
by the Spirit. Micaiah's lying Spirit. The nature of the Spirit of
Yahaweh. The modes in which the prophet received his message.
Classification of them. Dreams. The interpreting of dreams.
Picture-vision. Visions of insight. Hhazah versus raah. Vision
other than by sense-images. Theophany. Its forms. The Angel.
Theophany versus picture-vision. The notable absence of artificial
II. How uttered by him. Prophetic object lessons. Types.
No double meanings. Manifold fulfilment. Generic prophecy.
The art of persuasive speech 125
THE PROPHET AS A GIVER OF TORAH AND
WRITER OF SCRIPTURE
General statements 133
I. The term "law" in later writings. Current use. Use in
Jewish literature, later and earlier. In the New Testament. Ira
the Apocrypha 134
II. The term "law" in the Old Testament. Derivation of torah
and horah. Torah is from Deity. Is authoritative. Revealed
through prophets. Guarded and administered by. priests. Inter-
preted by both. No separate priestly torah. Its forms. Oral or
written. A particular revelation. An aggregate. The noun used
abstractly. The known and definite aggregate. Some section of
the aggregate 139
The nature of the torah-aggregate. Limitations of the term.
Examination of instances. From earlier records of the Mosaic
times. From Deuteronomy and the writings that presuppose it.
From the earlier prophetic books. The torah not primarily the
pentateuch. Law and Prophets and Writings from the first. A
separate pentateuch? The torah and the Old Testament. Some
sources were torah and others not. Five torah-producing periods.
Not three canons. Later emergence of the threefold division 155
III. The prophets as writers of scripture. As bringers of torah.
Their authority the highest. All scripture equally of prophetic
THE PROMISE–DOCTRINE AS TAUGHT IN THE NEW
Introductory. The Christian messianic idea distinctive. Mes-
sianic prediction, prophecy, doctrine. The proposition 175
I. The New Testament claim. That there is one promise. The
promise to Abraham. Consisting of many promises. The theme of
the whole Old Testament. Pervading all New Testament thought 179
II. The use made of the claim. The promise eternally operative
and irrevocable. Jesus Christ its culminating fulfilment. The gen-
tiles share in the benefit of it. It underlies the great doctrines of
the gospel: the kingdom, immortality, the Holy Ghost, redemption
from sin 185
Concluding statements. Recapitulation. A Christocentric theology 192
THE PROMISE AS GIVEN TO THE PATRIARCHS
Outline of treatment. Pre-Abrahamic passages 195
I. The promise as made. Earliest statement. Its subordinate
items. The principal item emphasized. Climacteric order. Five
times repeated. The name Abraham. Seed. Covenants. Pecul-
iar people. The promise eternally operative. This emphasized.
Therefore of progressive fulfilment. The seed a continuing unit 197
II. Problems concerning the promise. How affected by critical
theories. What is true according to all theories. The contem-
porary understanding of the promise. In what sense they under-
stood it to be predictive. Its value as practical doctrine 207
THE PROMISE AS RENEWED TO ISRAEL AND TO
I. For the times of the exodus. Israel Yahaweh's people
Yahaweh's son. Separative institutions. For eternity. Irrevocable
even for sin. Rest. Has mankind a share in this? That all
may know Yahaweh. "My own, out of all the peoples." A king-
dom of priests. Continuity with the patriarchal revelation. Con-
sistent with the treatment of Amalek and the Canaanite. Critical
point of view. Contemporary interpretation 217
II. For the times of David. 2 Samuel vii. David's house. His
seed. The temple builder. Line of kings. An eternal kingdom.
Irrevocable even for sin. In continuation with the promise to
Abraham and Israel, and therefore for mankind. The rest promise.
"To thee for a people." "One nation in the earth." Yahaweh's
son. The torah of mankind. Critical views. Contemporary in-
THE PROMISE–DOCTRINE OF THE PROPHETS AND
Introductory. Recapitulation. A new phase. The messianic
dogma. Its homiletical presentation 241
I. Modes of expressing it. The predictive passages. A sermon
text or a proof text. Repeating the old phrases. Amplifying them.
Psalm lxxxix. Celebration songs. Technical terms and collateral
lines. Presupposition oftener than open statement 243
II. The matters which they emphasize. The three promises the
same. The promise cosmopolitan. The temple for the nations.
Israel for the nations. The promise for eternity and irrevocable.
Modes of thinking that it created. Israel as the people of the
promise. Mediatorial suffering 252
Critical questions 261
MESSIANIC TERMS. THE SERVANT
Introductory. Recapitulation. Rise of technical terms. "Ser-
vant" the most conspicuous term. Isaiah xl—lxvi 263
I. Two auxiliary matters. First, national personality in the
Hebrew. Second, presuppositions of the promise history 265
II. The Servant. Outline. Instances in which the Servant is
said to be Israel. Interpreting the instances. The promise point
of view. The Israel of the promise. Instances that are less explicit.
Servants. The Servant speaking in the first person. Israel's mis-
sion to himself. Isaiah xlii. 1—4. Isaiah lii. i3-liii. Mediatorial
III. Servant a representative term. Two one-sided interpre-
tations. The true interpretation. Universalness. A glimpse at the
MESSIANIC TERMS. THE KINGDOM AND ITS
I. The kingdom. In the earliest times. The time of Eli. From
David onward. In the psalms and prophecies. Yahaweh's king-
dom. Universal peace. Independent of disputed dates. A king-
dom of influence 289
II. The anointed king. The words "anoint," "anointed."
Correct form of the question. The Messiah as a coming person.
Transition to the New Testament idea 298
III. The eschatological trend. The latter days. The day of
Yahaweh. That day. History of the phrase. Exodus. Joel. Oba-
diah, Amos, and others. Always impending. The New Testament
MESSIANIC TERMS. YAHAWEH'S HHASIDH. OTHER
I. Hhasidh. Its derivation and meaning. Outline of instances.
Yahaweh as hhasidh. The hhasidhim are Israelites as people of
the promise. Not a sect. Israel a hhasidh nation. Hhasidh as
equivalent to Anointed one. The instances where the readings
vary. Summary. The Asideans. In the New Testament 313
II. The Chosen one. Meshullam. The Called one. Jeshurun.
Yahaweh's Son. Sons of promise. The virgin mother. The
Branch. Netser. Nagidh, that is, Regent. "My Lord" in
Psalm cx 329
The common characteristics of the messianic terms 342
COLLATERAL LINES OF PROMISE-DOCTRINE
Introductory. Recapitulation. The Person of the promise. That
in him which is extraordinary. Genesis xlix. to. Psalm cx. To
what extent a reality. A nucleus for doctrine. Both typical and
I. The prophets themselves types of the Person of the promise.
Deuteronomy xviii 350
II. The theophanic Angel in his relations to the promise. In
the earliest times. At the exodus. In later times. In Malachi 352
III. Israel's institutions as typical of the promise. The ark and
the mercy seat. The sacred year. Some worshippers had insight.
Israel's priesthood. Victim and priest 357
IV. Other matters. Persons or objects as types. Particular
passages. In fine, almost all Old Testament details 361
MESSIANIC EXPECTATION AND FULFILMENT
I. The expectation in the time, of Jesus. Sources. A temporal
deliverer? More adequate statement. The promise-doctrine
known. Not a Pauline view merely. The kingdom expected.
And its Anointed king. Heir of David. But many unsettled
points. There were spiritual expectations. Especially of redemp-
tion from sin. False messiahs 365
II. How the promise has been fulfilled. As a promise, and not
mere prediction. An eternal fulfilment necessarily cumulative.
National and cosmopolitan and through a Person. In what sense
may Jesus be the fulfilment? A summary of the fulfilling facts.
Exclusive Jewish interpretation. Exclusive Christian interpretation.
The true Jewish-Christian interpretation. Fulfilment in the ethnical
Israel, in the religions of Yahaweh, in Christ 375
THE APOLOGETIC VALUE OF PROPHECY
Introductory. The old argument. Need of restatement. Our
conclusions thus far provisional; are they true ? Theistic pre-
I. Recapitulation. The prophet as we have found him. Pre-
diction as we have found it. Messianic doctrine as we have found
it. The gospel in the Old Testament as we have found it 391
II. The argument. From the presentment of the prophet. The
biblical ideal a true ideal. Apologetic bearings. Its concept of
divine revelation. From the presentment of the national ideal.
The bearing of critical theories. The significance of the ideal.
How is it to be accounted for? A contrasting ideal. The pro-
phetic mode of presentation. From historical verisimilitude. Self-
consistency. The promise-doctrine as a solution of difficulties.
Credibility. Unmiraculous events. Miraculous events. Intelligible
continuity. Bearings in the argument. From fulfilled prediction.
Has the promise been kept? The thing promised exceptional.
Fulfilled in the secular history of Israel. Eternal fulfilment? Media-
torial suffering. The argument not trivial. Fulfilled in the three
religions of Yahaweh. Their civilizational results. Their spiritual
results. Fulfilled in the person of Jesus. A futile objection. No
need that Apologetics surrender historical fact 394
THE PROPHETS AND THE
THE prophets of Israel: what manner of men they
were, their functions, naturalistic or supernaturalistic,
how their messages were given to them and how uttered
by them, their part in the writing of the scriptures, the
doctrine they taught concerning Israel's peculiar rela-
tions to Deity and to mankind, the messianic kingdom
they heralded and its king, and the value of their mis-
sion for the current illustration and defence of the Chris-
tian religion, —this theme and these topics under it are
certainly not new. They are familiar, trite, common-
place. Yet it seems to me that in this field a pains-
taking student may still hope to gather something. The
older treatments seem to me inadequate, by reason of a
certain lack of insight into the literary character of the
sources and into the nature of historical movements, and
by reason of too great reliance on traditional interpre-
tations. The newer treatments seem to me yet more
inadequate, by reason of the too easy rejection of por-
tions of the testimony, and the too ready substitution
of conjecture for evidence. Both leave something to
be desired in this field of study, and something that is
not beyond the reach of diligence and industry.
4 THE PROPHETS AND THE PROMISE
Without taking time to discuss thoroughly the prin-
ciples that should govern such an investigation as this,
I shall try to present, in this preliminary chapter, a few
considerations touching the sources to be used and the
interpretation of them, followed by a brief outline of the
treatment that will be attempted.
I. The Old Testament is our one direct source of in-
formation concerning the prophets and their teachings.
Indirect sources are, first, the New Testa-
Sources ment and other later writings, including the
evidence of the 'monuments; second, analogies drawn
from other religions, or from later times, or from our
theories or opinions.
Of these sources the Old Testament, supplemented
at some points by the New, is principal, and all others
The scrip- are subsidiary. Simple as this fact is, it is
tures as a imperative that we pay it due attention. Our
source generation is much in the habit of substitut-
ing superficial reading for careful study. If a person
has read a hundred volumes, in six or seven languages,
concerning the prophets, he is in danger of fancying
that he has done more work on the subject than if he
had carefully examined all that the Old and New !Testa-
ments say about them. To avoid being misled, he
should have it in mind that the hundred volumes con-
tain very little real information save that which has
been drawn from these principal sources. Nireteen-
twentieths of all that we really know on this subject
comes from the bible. Only the other twentieth comes
from extrabiblical tradition, or from monuments, or from
the analogy of other religions, or by inference from
the theories we hold, or from our general knowledge
of things and men.
My purpose is, mainly, to reexamine the evidence
found in the Old and New Testaments. To some this
programme will seem exceedingly simple and rudimen-
tary. They would think it a greater thing to The need
read many books, and discuss the bearing of of original
their contents on the subject in hand. But study
no amount of reading can supersede the necessity of
examining for ourselves the direct evidence in the case.
Just this has been more neglected than anything else
in dealing with the subject of the prophets of Israel.
Men of learning as well as others have neglected it.
We must do this first of all, and do it with care, or
all other study of the subject will be of little value
Men have assumed that they were already famil-
iar with what the Old Testament says concerning the
prophets, when they were not really so ; and have
hastened on prematurely to the examination of the col-
lateral branches of the evidence. Many of the current
statements as to what the Old Testament says are based
on analogies, or on later traditions, to a much greater
extent than on the actual testimony of the Old Testa-
ment. Such statements are instances of mistaken
method. The direct evidence in the case is not only
the most important, but it is essential to the correct
understanding of the indirect evidence. The indirect
evidence can genuinely assist in interpreting the direct
only on condition of its being itself interpreted by
the direct. In Old Testament studies, the thing now
more needed than anything else is a more correct
knowledge of what the Old Testament says. Always
the, beginner should begin by attaining to this correct
knwledge; and at present, in Old Testament work,
this is the need of advanced scholars as well as of
6 THE PROPHETS AND THE PROMISE
At once we see the importance of the question of the;
degree of credence to be accorded to the testimony of
In what degree our principal sources, If we hold to a divine
is the testimony inspiration that guarantees the remarkable
credible? truthfulness of all parts of the bible, it
does not therefore follow that we must take this doc
trine as a presupposition in our historical study of
the prophets. And if one holds that the bible is full
of mistaken statements, that does not justify him in an,
undiscriminating rejection of the statements concerning
the prophets. Both as a matter of correct method;
and for the sake of convincing those with whom we
differ, we should waive, at the outset, all questions of
inspiration, and treat our sources merely as literature
that has come down to us from a remote past. In
respect to trustworthiness we will make no stronger
claim than this : that statements of fact found in the
Old and New Testaments are to be provisionally
regarded as true except as reasons appear to the
This is not an extravagant claim to make for the
truthfulness of the scriptures. Our courts would accor l
as much credence as this, not to a reputable witness
only, but even to a witness who is a jailbird or a harlot
or a noted liar. If statements of fact are self-contradic-
tory, or contrary to known truth, we will not accept
them. Even if they are seemingly credible we will at
the outset accept them only provisionally, till we can
test them by their results when we bring them into corr.-
bination with other truths. We will fully admit the prin-
ciple that human historians often make mistakes. Blot
this we must insist upon: that statements of fact are
to be provisionally accepted unless there are substantial
reasons for not accepting them.
It follows that in using the testimony of the Old and
New Testaments on this and other questions, we ought
to begin with a direct examination, and not Direct examination
with a cross-examination. We ought to take versus cross-
the trouble to understand what their statements examination
mean, in the form in which they have come down to us,
as preliminary to testing the truth of them, and either
accepting or rejecting them.
As our investigation depends largely on the question
of the historical correctness of the affirmations of the
bible, so it depends indirectly on questions Dependence
concerning the structure, the date, and the on critical
authorship of the books. For these have questions
their bearing on the question of historicity, and also on
the question of the interpretation of the statements we
find. Yet we need not wait till all these other questions
are settled before we begin our studies concerning the
prophets. Indeed, many of the questions concerning
the prophets are more simple and primary than the
others, and therefore ought to be studied first, that the
results reached may assist us in our inquiries into mat-
ters that are less obvious.
Our first inquiry is : What are the representations of
the Old Testament in regard to the prophets? In other
words : What manner of men were the proph- The provi-
ets, supposing the statements of the Old sional point
Testament concerning them to be historical, of view
so far as they purport to be so, and supposing them also
to be correct? From the point of view of all parties this
is a fair question. It is supposable that, in seeking the
answer, we may find the statements of the Old Testa-
ment unsatisfactory, but at the outset the question is a
fair one. On the supposition that the Old Testament
gives a truthful account of the prophets of Israel, what
8 THE PROPHETS AND THE PROMISE
is that account? We do not affirm that it give a
truthful account; we do not deny it; we simply up-
It is wisest to start from this point of departure, not
trying to settle beforehand all questions in regard to the
character or the trustworthiness of our data, but using
them at first as provisional, and as leading only to pro-
visional results. We shall surely test the data as we ad-
vance. If they are not trustworthy, we shall find it but.
If they are trustworthy, we shall see them to be so, and
shall thus transform our provisional results into final
These last considerations are important. How shall
we determine whether statements of fact found in any
Use as a test source are to be depended upon? There is
of evidence no better test than that of actual use. By
carefully examining what the Old Testament says on
such a subject as the prophets, we may form a judgment
concerning the Old Testament as a source of evidence.
Certain schools of criticism deny that these books are
historically valid, asserting that they are full of anach-
ronisms and inconsistencies and absurdities. In base
this is so, we shall be pretty sure to find traces of the
unhistorical character of the books, if we carefully ex-
amine some section of them, running through different
chronological periods. Such a section for testing them
is afforded in what they say concerning the prophets.
This is found scattered through all the books, including
a vast number of details and allusions, belonging to
periods of time separated by centuries. It is conceivable
beforehand that we may find these details so confused
and inconsistent as to be incredible in many points, and
that we may be compelled to estimate the books accord-
ingly. On the other hand, if we find their account of
the prophets to be throughout consistent and probable,
that will be an argument of no little weight in favor of
the historical trustworthiness of the books themselves.
Thus our attitude toward these writings and their
testimony is at the outset neutral. It will not remain
so. As the investigation proceeds we shall inevitably
either gain or lose confidence in the witnesses.
II. In the interpretation of our sources, and especially
of the Old Testament, there is one point in particular in
which we need to be sedulously on our guard. That is
the point where we are in danger of substituting an
eisegetical treatment for an exegetical.
None of us come to this study as to a new and unfa-
miliar subject. We already have pretty distinct ideas
concerning the prophets and their activities, Eisegesis is
and in particular concerning messianic predic- to be avoided
tion, and the meaning and use of the term Messiah. It
is supposable that our preconceived ideas may be crude
and misleading. We can decide this only by holding
them in suspense until we can test them by the facts
we find by study. We cannot be too jealously careful
against the process of merely first putting our ideas into
the Old Testament passages, and then dipping them out
again. There is especial danger of eisegesis from two
sources, Christian theology and theories of Compara-
We must avoid alike the carrying back of Christian
ideas into the Old Testament and the neglecting of
those ideas that belong to the Old Testament in com-
mon with Christianity.
When we are studying the Old Testament we ought
not to import into it ideas drawn from the New Testa-
ment, or from some scheme of Christian messianic the-
ology. This rule is nowadays often laid down; if we
10 THE PROPHETS AND THE PROMISE
violate it, we shall not do so for lack of being warned; but
it is a correct rule. And we shall not properly observe
Eisegesis of it unless we take pains. We are familiar, for
Christian example, with a certain interpretation of w5at
doctrine the New Testament says concerning Jesus
as the Messiah, and we go to the Old Testament look-
ing for the same teaching expressed in similar terms.
In this way we are likely to find what we are looking
for, whether it is there or not. We sometimes find
thing's where they are not. We put the idea into he
passage, instead of looking to see what is already in he
passage ; and then, by way of interpretation, we take out
just what we have put in, possibly a little miscolored by
This way of studying the Old Testament is all he
more dangerous because it is not altogether valueless.
The method of interpreting the Old Testament by he
light of the New is within its proper limits correct.
Even when the method is incorrectly used, such study
is study. Though faulty, it may, especially in the case
of persons who have spiritual insight, result in he
reaching of truth. Critically bad as this way of learn-
ing is, we cannot afford to forego it save as we an
replace it by something better.
Nevertheless it is logically bad. It is contrary to
accepted laws of investigation. There are grave objec-
tions to it. First, it is needless. All the truth it yields
is equally attainable by methods that will stand the test
of correct criticism. Second, it is perilous. The truth
we thus reach, though genuinely true, has yet been
inferred from premises that can be shown to be false.
There is danger that when we come to see that he
premises are false, our confidence in the truth will be
shaken. Third, it is wasteful. By this particular way
of learning the Old Testament through the New we
obtain from it nothing but a pale reflection of the New.
This is a great loss. In a wide range of truths the
Old Testament is more rudimentary, and therefore
simpler and fuller than the New. It is capable of
illuminating the New, and not merely of being illuminated
by it. When so much light is ready to glow, we cannot
afford to take a point of view which brings the object
perpetually into the shadow.
Equally true, however, and at present far more to
the purpose, is the converse rule that, in studying the
Old Testament, we should not drop out the Eisegesis of
ideas which we actually find there, merely be- negative
cause the same ideas are also found in the assumptons
New Testament. We are just now in far greater danger
of making this mistake than the other. There are men
who are so afraid of reading into the Old Testament
some more recent truth that does not belong there that
they actually expel from it, in their interpretations, some
of its simplest and most evident teachings. They say,
for example, that the fatherhood of God is a New Testa-
ment teaching; ands they affirm that the Old Testament
passages which speak of God as father must be under-
stood as meaning something less than they say. We are
not infrequently told that the heart of the religious teach-
ing of Jesus is his doctrine concerning love — to love God
with the whole heart, to love our neighbors as ourselves,
to love our enemies and in this the religion of Jesus is
contrasted with that of the Old Testament; and pas-
sages in the Old Testament which verbally teach just
these doctrines are subjected to a squeezing process to
expel from them this alleged impossible doctrine of love.
Those who practise this style of interpretation ignore
the fact that the doctrines of supreme love to God,
12 THE PROPHETS AND THE PROMISE
equal love to men, and love to enemies are chiefly
taught in the New Testament by direct citation from
the Old, with distinct affirmation that these are the doc-
trines which are to be regarded as central in the Old
Testament. The same style of interpretation is prac-
tised in many other instances, and in particular n the
interpretation of the Old Testament statements concern-
ing the prophets.
Against this I protest as being critically worst than
even the current habit of reading New Testament ean-
ings into the Psalms and the Prophets. We are to go to
the Old Testament to find what is there, and not to find
what we suppose ought to be there. Anything we find
there is not removed from there by the fact, if such be
the fact, that it is also found in the New Testament, or
in the Vedas or the Sagas or the Chinese or the reek
literature. Not to speak at all of possibilities rising
from the inspiration of the writers of the Old and New
Testaments, nothing is more in accord with probability
than that great truths should be repeated by the great
minds of different ages.
Quite as baneful in its effect as any other form of
eisegesis is the practice of unduly interpreting the
Eisegesis of biblical statements by the theories th t one
theories of may hold as to the evolution of religion. To
religion the evidence from the analogy of other reli-
gions we should allow just its proper value, and no
more. There are scholars who reason on the asump-
tion that certain propositions, inferred from the com-
parison of the various human religions, are to be
regarded as ascertained scientific facts; so that biblical
statements, if they conflict with these alleged facts, are
thereby proved to be untrue. This is unscientific. The
religion described in the bible is the one early religion
in regard to which we have, on the whole, fuller and
more trustworthy information than in regard to any
other. Any generalizations on the rise and develop-
ment of religions, made without using the data given in
the bible, are, by that very circumstance, so far forth
defective and unscientific. Again, no other known re-
ligion is so decidedly marked by its own peculiarities
as the religion described in the bible. If generalizations
were made by the comparison of all other known reli-
gions, still no one would be justified in arguing that these
give us facts concerning the religion of Israel, in oppo-
sition to the specific evidence we have concerning that
Here is the danger in one direction. On the other
hand, the analogies of other religions may indirectly
throw great light on the history of the religion of the
bible. It is foolish to neglect this or any other source
of possible evidence. In fine, these analogies are, in
biblical questions, of the nature of remote evidence, and
should be treated as remote evidence is properly treated
in any investigation. They should neither be discred-
ited, nor pushed into the chief place to the discrediting
of the direct evidence.
This is the general rule. How much credit should
be given to any particular scheme of Comparative
Religion is another question. For instance, how shall
we account a theory which assumes that the religion of
Israel was primitive in the times of the judges, and
advanced thereafter by certain specified steps from
lower to higher? Do we know that the religion of the
time of the judges was primitive? If the chronological
opinions now current are correct, the times of the
judges are modern compared with the earliest times
in which splendid religious cults are known to have
14 THE PROPHETS AND THE PROMISE
existed in Babylonia or Egypt. Who knows that the
order of evolution in a religion is uniformly in an as end-
ing series, according to some particular theory of ascent
and descent?l It is obvious that conclusions derived
from such processes need to be very cautiously used
when they are set forth in contradiction to specific
In opposition to such methods as have just bee dis-
cussed, the true method is to come to an Old Testament
A true passage with the question : What did this
method mean to an intelligent, devout, uninspired
Israelite of the time to which it belongs? The Old
Testament passage, whatever its date may be, is it elf a
monument of the Israelite mind of that time. As a dis-
closure of Israelite religious thought in the time when
it was written or in earlier times, it is more authoritative
than any inferences we may draw from what we happen
to know of the religious thought of the Iroquois o the
Hottentots or the Chinese or the Thibetans. In order
to understand the passage, we must bear in mind t at it
was uttered for thoughtful people, and was suite to
their capacities. The great majority was then as now
unintelligent and superficial in matters of religious
thinking, and we are not to gauge the utterance by the
likelihood that such would take an interest in it
1 "Scholars of this class are in the habit of arranging all know
and cults in linear series, placing those which they consider the lo
the bottom, and those which they consider the highest at the to
others graduating between these two extremes. From this artificial
proceeding on the assumption that the lowest must of necessity
most ancient, they write the history of civilization and thought.
method is a radically pernicious one. The series of facts might
easily read in the descending scale; . . . The history of religions
be based, not upon gratuitous assumptions . . . but upon such real
cal facts as are obtainable." — Merwin-Marie Snell in Biblical
September, 1896, p. 209.
there were miraculously inspired men in those days,
they may supposably have understood the thought
given in the passage in the light of all the future history
of mankind ; but it was not for such men that the utter-
ance was chiefly given. The givers of the message
claim to be inspired, but it was to uninspired though
thoughtful men that the message was immediately
directed. So far forth as we can assume their attitude,
we are in shape to understand the utterances that were
primarily designed for them.
III. The order of treatment adopted in this volume
is based in part on a conception of the relative present-
day importance of the several topics treated. Order of
The greatest interest we feel in the prophets treatment
arises from the doctrine they taught concerning the
Messiah. On the basis of this fact, the subject separates
into two principal parts, dealing respectively with the
prophets as the men who promulgated the messianic
promise and with the promise which they promulgated.
In treating the first of these two parts we must necessarily
begin by some discussion of the terms used. Then we
pass naturally to a biographical and historical account
of the succession of persons known as the prophets.
Nowhere in history can we find a line of men more
picturesque and interesting in themselves, or whose
achievements have been more, significant. They figure
more prominently than any other men in the history of
Israel. A series of the biographies of the prophets
would be a complete history of Israel. This particularly
attractive part of our subject, however, we must dismiss
with a single chapter, instead of allowing it to expand
into a volume. With the questions of the personal pre-
sentment and the functions of the prophet we must deal
somewhat more fully. Further, the authorship of the
16 THE PROPHETS AND THE PROMISE
Old Testament is attributed to the prophets, alike in
the Old Testament itself, in the New Testament, and in
Jewish and Christian tradition. There is no studying
the Old Testament or Old Testament criticism, apart
from the prophets. We must discuss this claim, though
briefly. These topics will occupy the first part of the
volume, leading up to the consideration, in the second
part, of the messianic promise. The second part
naturally closes with the question of the bearing of the
whole upon Christian Apologetics.
It may not be superfluous to mention a fe matters
of detail. Most of the scriptural passages used have
Certain mat- been freshly translated. The translating has
ters of detail been done with the fact in mind that readers
are likely to have the current English version s within
reach. The translations I have given are ordinarily
more literal than those in the versions. In same cases
I have deliberately made them so at the cost of liter-
ary smoothness. Occasionally, however, the variation
from the common translation is made for the purpose
of bringing out the point under discussion.
The use of Hebrew type has been avoided. In
transliterating Hebrew words the attempt as been
to make them look as little un-English as possible, and
to avoid employing unusual type. Proper names and
other words familiar to the eye of English readers have
been retained in their traditional form. In words less
familiar a more accurate transliteration has been used,
though even in these the vocal sh'was are sometimes
represented by a short vowel instead of an apostrophe.
The continental vowel system has been used in trans-
literating, on account of the clumsiness of ou English
way of writing the vowels. Waw is represented by
w, and Yodh by y. The quiescing Waw is omitted,
save in special instances. The quiescing Yodh is
omitted after Hhiriq, but retained after Tsere and
Seghol, to distinguish these words from those that are
spelled with Aleph. I have not thought it necessary
to distinguish between Sin and Samekh, or between
Taw and Teth. Readers who know even a little
Hebrew can make these distinctions for themselves,
and for others the matter is unimportant. Aleph and
Ayin are commonly omitted in transliteration, though
for distinction Aleph is sometimes represented by the
spiritus lenis, and Ayin by the spiritus asper. Tsadhe
is represented by ts, and Hheth by hh.
For the name of the national God of Israel I have
used the form Yahaweh. No one should judge this
name until he has first acquired the habit of The name
pronouncing it correctly, according to the Yahaweh
analogies commonly accepted in pronouncing Hebrew.
Accent the last syllable, make the middle h distinctly
a consonant, and pronounce the middle a so short as to
make it a mere breathing. I do not care to discuss
the question whether "Yahweh" is theoretically a more
correct transliteration. Whoever tries to pronounce the
word with this spelling will inevitably either accent the
first syllable, or fail to sound the middle h, or introduce
a slight vowel sound after it. The third is the correct
alternative. If the word were rare, the best translit-
eration might be Yahweh, but for a frequent word,
Yahaweh pleases the eye better. For the rest, the
purposes of this volume require that this word shall
be distinguished as a proper name, and it seems to me
that the correct form of the word is better for this pur-
pose than the artificial combination "Jehovah.”
As for other designations of the supreme Being.
The name Yah should not be confounded with Yaha-
18 THE PROPHETS AND THE PROMISE
weh, as is done in the English versions. Even if
holds that Yah is an abbreviated form of Yahawe
must also acknowledge that the two are used
tinctively. The Hebrew word El is most exactly!
English word God, while Elohim is a more abs
term, like our English word Deity. Sometimes in
volume Elohim is translated Deity, for distinction;
more commonly it is translated God, following
THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
TERMS USED IN DESCRIBING THE PROPHETS
OUR English word " prophet " is, of course, the Greek
word profh<thj, from pro<, and fhmi<. The word needs
no discussion here, as it is fully considered in “Prophet"
dictionaries and other accessible works.1 It in Greek and
denotes, not one who speaks beforehand, English
though the prophet was believed to be a foreteller of
events ; nor one who speaks in behalf of another, though
the prophet ordinarily speaks in behalf of Deity; but a
person who speaks forth, speaks publicly, speaks out
the word that he has to speak. When he predicts, he
speaks forth the future verity that would otherwise
remain in concealment. When he speaks for another,
he speaks forth the message which the other has com-
mitted to him, and which would otherwise have remained
unknown. The thing uttered is often a divinely given
prediction, but the word "prophesy" does not signify to
In the Hebrew, the prophet and his functions are
described in various terms. The standard term, the one
that is most distinctive, is the noun nabhi and Nabhi and
its cognates of the stem nabha. The words its cognates
of this stem are used in every part of the Old Testa-
ment. In our English versions they are uniformly
translated "prophet," "prophesy," "prophecy," and so
1 See the Greek lexicons of Cremer, Thayer, Liddell and Scott, etc.
Or see the Century Dictionary, or Skeat's Etymological Dictionary, or simi-
lar books of reference.
22 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
forth. Except in five verses, no other word is so trans-
lated.1 The instances number some hundreds in all, and
they can readily be found for study by the aid of a con-
cordance, either English or Hebrew. We shall have
occasion to examine many of them, one by one, in our
present study of the prophets. The lexicons attribute to
the stem an original physical meaning, "to boil up," and
from this derive the idea of fervid utterance as charac-
terizing the prophets ; but this is an etymologist's con-
jecture, and is disputed by other etymologists. It is too
uncertain to build upon. What we know as to the
meaning of the word is inferred solely from the use of
it. Fortunately, the usage is abundant and unequivo-
cal. The whole of our study of prophecy will be really
a study of the meaning of the word. We need not antici-
pate further than to say that the meaning of the Hebrew
term is well expressed in its Greek-English equivalent.
In our English versions two different Hebrew words
are translated " seer," and each of them has a group of
cognates widely used for expressing matters concerning
Of the two, the one most properly so used is hhozeh.
It is the active participle of a verb that is common to the
Hhozeh and Hebrew and the Aramaic. In the Aramaic
its cognates it is the ordinary word for physical seeing,
but in Hebrew it is little used except to express thought-
ful insight, or in connection with prophetic matters.
David's friend Gad is described as a seer (2 Sam. xxiv.
11; 1 Chron. xxi. 9, xxix. 29; 2 Chron. xxix. 25). Asaph
and Heman and Jeduthun are severally called seers
(2 Chron. xxix. 30, xxxv. I 5 ; I Chron. xxv. 5). The
term is applied to Jedo and Iddo and Jehu and Amos
1 The five verses are Prov. xxx. i, xxxi. I; Isa. xxx. 10; Mic. ii. 6, ii.
The five verses contain in all ten instances.
TERMS USED IN DESCRIBING THE PROPHETS 23
(2 Chron. ix. 29, xii. 15, xix. 2; Am. vii. 12), and is also
used in cases where no individual is mentioned (2 Ki.
xvii. 13; Isa. xxix. 10, xxx. 10; Mic. iii. 7; 2 Chron.
xxxiii. 18, 19).
The verb of this stem is commonly translated "see."
It is often used in cases where an object is thought of
as presented to the eye, but it does not necessarily imply
that. It may denote any form of mental perception,
whether through the senses or not. The following are
examples. " The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz,
which he saw " (Isa. i. 1, cf. ii. 1, xiii. 1; Am. i. 1; Mic.
i. 1; Hab. i. 1). "The diviners have seen falsely "
(Zech. x. 2, cf. Lam. ii. 14 ; Ezek. xiii. 6, 7, 8; and the
Aramaic of Dan. vii. 1, 2, 7, 13, etc.). In one passage
the English versions render this noun and verb by
"prophet" and " prophesy," in order to distinguish
them from the other words for "seer" and "see"
(Isa. xxx. 10).
Several different nouns of this stem are also in use,
and each of them is sometimes rendered " vision " in
the English versions.1
1 The following are the nouns that occur most frequently: —
Hhazon, used thirty-five times. It commonly denotes a revelation
given to a prophet, whether through an appearance presented to the eye
or by some other method (t Sam. iii. i; i Chron. xvii. 15; Isa. xxix. 7;
Jer. xiv. 14, xxiii. i6, etc.). Often the word is used as part of the literary
title of a prophecy (Isa. i. i; Nah. i. t; 2 Chron. xxxii. 32).
Hhazoth (2 Chron. ix. 29). Part of a title of a writing.
Hhizzayon (2 Sam. vii. 17; Job iv. 13, vii. 14; Zech. xiii. 4, etc.).
Like Hhazon, except that it is not used in literary titles.
Mahhazeh appears four times: "The word of Yahaweh was unto Abra-
ham in the vision" (Gen. xv. 1 JE). Balaam habitually " saw the vision
of Shaddai, falling, and being uncovered of eyes" (Num. xxiv. 4, 16 JE).
"Have ye not seen a vain vision " (Ezek. xiii. 7).
Hhazuth, translated "vision" (Isa. xxi. 2, xxix. 11), "agreement "
(Isa. xxviii. 18), "notable horn" (Dan. viii. 5, 8).
Add to these the Aramaic noun Hhezev, occurring only in Daniel,
24 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
The other noun translated "seer" is roeh. It is the
active participle of the verb which is in most common
Roth and its use for physical seeing. The persons who
cognates in the use of this word are called seers are
Samuel, Zadok, and Hanani (1 Sam. ix. 9 et al.; 2 Sam.
xv. 27; 2 Chron. xvi. 7, lo). The word is also used in
this sense without particularly mentioning the person
(Isa. xxx. io). As a participle the word is used dozens
of times. The stem is used hundreds of times.
The English versions make no difference in transla-
tion between this word with its cognates and hhozeh with
its cognates. For the sake of distinction, even at the
cost of somewhat ungainly English, I shall translate the
words of this stem by the English words "behold," "be-
holder," "a beholding," "appear," "appearance," "sem-
blance," reserving the words "see," "seer," "vision," for
rendering the Hebrew words of the stem hhazah.
The verb in the simple active voice is used of a per-
son beholding something, and thus receiving a revelation
from Deity. Ezekiel says : " The heavens opened them-
selves, and I beheld divine beholdings " (i. 1). Zecha-
riah says: " I lifted my eyes and beheld, and lo, four
horns " (i. 18). Jeremiah is asked: "What art thou be-
holding? "He replies: "I am beholding a pot that
boils, its face being from the direction of the north"
(i. 13).1 In the reflexive or passive stem the verb is
used of Deity appearing to men for purposes of revela-
tion. "Yahaweh appeared unto Abram;" "and Deity
appeared unto Jacob again;" "Yahaweh appeared to
Solomon the second time;" "the Angel of Yahaweh
eleven times in the sense of prophetic vision, and once (vii. 20) in the
sense of outward appearance.
1 See also Isa. xxx. 10; Dan. viii. 2, x. 8, etc., and the construct infini-
tive in 2 Chron. xxvi. 5.
TERMS USED IN DESCRIBING THE PROPHETS 25
appeared" unto Moses at the burning bush (Gen. xii.
7, xvii. 1, xviii. 1, xxxv. I, 9; I Ki. ix. 2; Ex. iii. 2).
In the causative-active stem the verb is used of Deity,
causing one to behold something that constitutes a divine
revelation. Amos says: "Thus the Lord Yahaweh
caused me to behold, and lo, he formed locusts." Again
he says: "Thus the Lord Yahaweh caused me to be-
hold, and lo, he called to contend by fire." And again :
"Thus he caused me to behold, and lo, the Lord stood
beside a plumb wall, with a plumbline in his hand "
(vii. I, 4, 7). Jeremiah says: "Yahaweh caused me to
behold, and lo, two baskets of figs" (xxiv. I). Finally,
there are two nouns from this causative stem, a mascu-
line, mareh, and a feminine, marah (mar-eh and mar-ah),
which denote either the divine process of causing one to
behold, or the human act of beholding so caused, or the
object which one is thus made to behold.1
1 These nouns start in usage as the hiphil participle, "causing to be-
hold," either in the sense of giving one power to behold or in that of an
object presenting itself to be beheld, and thus causing one to behold it.
Once the feminine noun denotes mirrors (Ex. xxxviii. 8). A mirror
causes one to behold, in the sense of enabling one to see what would other-
wise be invisible. Elsewhere the noun is used only of revelations from
Deity. It can always be translated, though in some instances awkwardly,
by the English noun "beholding," denoting either the divine enabling or
the human act or the object beheld. The object is thought of as either
really or ideally presented to the eye. The following are the instances: —
"And Deity said to Israel in beholdings by night" (Gen. xlvi. 2 E).
"In the beholding I will make myself known unto him ; in the dream I
will speak with him "(Num. xii. 6 E).
"Samuel being afraid to declare the beholding unto Eli" (I Sam. iii.
"The heavens were opened, and I beheld beholdings from Deity"
(Ezek. i. I).
"A spirit . . . brought me in to Jerusalem, with beholdings from De-
ity" (Ezek. viii. 3).
"With beholdings from Deity he brought me in unto the land of
Israel " (Ezek. xl. 2).
26 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
The nature of the functions denoted in these two
groups of words is reserved for a future chapter. For the
The uses of present we note that the words of the two stems
raah and are not properly interchangeable. At first
hhazah sight, especially in the book of Daniel, the words
of one stem seem to be confused with those of the other,
but closer examination shows that this is not the case.
"Beholdings like the appearance which I had beheld" (Ezek. xliii. 3).
See below under mareh.
Mareh, the masculine noun, is more widely used than its feminine. It
appears participially, for example, " all that I am causing thee to behold "
(Ex. xxv. 9; Ezek. xl. 4). Most commonly, however, it is a substantive,
denoting the external aspect of persons or things, their looks, semblance,
appearance. Like marah it implies either a real or an ideal presentation
to the eye, or to the other senses. It is oftener translated by " appearance"
than by any other word. In cases of revelation from Deity it has four
different meanings. First, it has its usual signification, denoting the looks
of anything. Second, it denotes an apparition, a visible semblance, of
some particular person or thing. Third, it denotes more generally a mani-
festation or disclosure coming from Deity to a man. Fourth, it is some-
times used in the sense of marah.
The first and third of these meanings are illustrated in the following
"And the appearance of the appearance which I beheld was as the ap-
pearance which I had beheld at my coming in to destroy the city; and
[there were] beholdings like the appearance which Thad beheld at the
river of Chebar; and I fell upon my face" (Ezek. xliii. 3). The meaning
of this becomes clear if we translate: "And the aspect of the manifesta-
tions which I beheld was like that of the manifestations which I had beheld
at my coming in to destroy the city; and [there were] beholdings like the
manifestations which I had beheld," etc.
The following are additional instances of the third meaning. In each
case notice that the word " appearance" denotes a manifestation, a dis-
closure, from Deity.
"That I may behold this great appearance" (Ex. iii. 3 E). Burning
"And the appearance of the glory of Yahaweh as devouring fire at the
head of the mountain" (Ex. xxiv. iq P).
"There used to be over the mishkan as it were an appearance of fire,
. . and an appearance of fire by night" (Num. ix. 15–16 P).
TERMS USED IN DESCRIBING THE PROPHETS 27
For example, the verb hhazah never has mareh or marah
as its object. When this verb is used of the seeing of
a vision, the word for vision is always of its own stem.
"Mouth unto mouth I speak with him, and an appearance, and not in
riddles" (Num. xii. 8 E). In contrast with nzarah of ver. 6.
"The glory of the God of Israel, according to the appearance which I
beheld " (Ezek. viii. 4).
"And a spirit lifted me up and brought me in at Chaldea unto the ex-
iles, in the appearance, by the Spirit of Deity; and the appearance which
I beheld went up from upon me" (Ezek. xi. 24).
The second of the four meanings is frequent, and may be illustrated by
the following instances. In some cases there may be room for doubt as
between the second, third, and fourth meanings. Using the English word
"appearance " for each, there is room for difference of judgment as to the
meaning of the word.
"According to the appearance which Yahaweh made Moses behold',
(Num. viii. 4 P). Is the "pattern" here a semblance, or a divine mani-
"And his face according to the semblance of lightning" (Dan. x. 6).
"And lo, there stood before me as it were the semblance of a person"
(Dan. viii. 15). See also Ezek. i. 26, 27, viii. 2, 4.
In the book of Daniel the distinction between mareh and nzarah is not
so consistently maintained as elsewhere. In the following instances I trans-
late the masculine noun by "appearance," and the feminine by " behold-
ing"; but the two alike denote a manifestation or disclosure by Deity.
"Gabriel, make this man to understand the appearance " (viii. 16).
"He understood the word, and had understanding as to the appear-
ance " (x. i).
"And the appearance concerning the evenings and the mornings, as
bath been said, is truth ; and as for thee, close thou up the vision, because
it is for many days " (viii. 26). The reference here is to what has been
said concerning the "vision" and the 2300 "evening-mornings" (vv.
"And I was astonished concerning the appearance" (27).
"And to understand the matter, and to give understanding in regard
to the appearance " (ix. 23).
"And I Daniel myself alone beheld the beholding, while the men who
were with me beheld not the beholding" (x. 7).
"And I beheld this great beholding" (x. 8).
" My lord, at the beholding my pangs are turned upon me, and I retain
no strength" (x. 16).
28 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
The verb raah, however, a few times takes as its object
a word of the stem hhazah. "Your young men shall
behold visions " (Joel ii. 28 [iii. 1]). " As I Daniel was
beholding the vision " (Dan. viii. 15). In this context
in Daniel the reflexive voice of raah is also used with
derivatives of hhazah. "A vision appeared unto me
. . . after the one that had appeared unto me at the be-
ginning " (viii. I). But these expressions are explained
by the parallel expression, " I beheld in vision " (viii. 2)
2, ix. 21), and also by the use of the nouns in these chap-
ters of Daniel. Hhazon here denotes the whole transac-
tion (viii. I, 2, 2, 13, 15, 17, iX. 2I, X. 14, xi 14). It is
something that can be put into written form, and sealed
or closed up (ix. 24, viii. 26). Mareh and marah, on the
other hand, designate certain parts of the transaction,
parts that may be thought of as presented to the eye
(viii. 15, 16, 26, 27, X. 1, 6, 18, 7, 7, 8, 16). The use of
the verbs is quite congruous with this. It is everywhere
true that the words of the raah stem imply the possi-
bility of presentation to the eye or to the senses, while
those of the hhazah stem are capable of being used inde-
pendently of that implication, in the sense of insight or
reflection or other mental processes, as distinguished
from physical seeing.1 It further illustrates the differ-
ence to observe that the derivatives of hhazah are fre-
quently employed, as we have seen, in the literary titles
of the prophetic writings, but the words from raah
The phrase "man of God," ish elohim, ish haelohim,
occurs often in the Old Testament as the equivalent of
nabhi, and is probably never employed except in this
1 The cases in which a preposition is used with a noun of either stem,
forming the phrase " in vision," afford no additional instance that is signifi-
TERMS USED IN DESCRIBING THE PROPHETS 29
use. Moses is many times called a man of God (e.g.
Deut. xxxiii. i; Josh. xiv. 6; i Chron. xxiii. 14).1 So are
Samuel and Shemaiah and David and Elijah and Elisha
and many others (1 Sam. ix. 6, 7, etc.; i Ki. Man of God
xii. 22, etc.; 2 Chron. viii. 14, etc.; 2 Ki. i. 9,
io, etc.; 2 Ki. iv. 7, etc., and concordance). The Angel
that appeared to Manoah and his wife is by them
described as a man of God (Jud. xiii. 6, 8, JE). The
person who spoke against Jeroboam's altar (called Jadon
by Josephus, probably "Jedo the seer" of 2 Chron. ix.
29) is several times called "man of God," and once
"prophet" (1 Ki. xiii. 1, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7, etc., and 18, 23),
while the term "prophet" is uniformly used of the
resident prophet who brought him back (11, 18, 20,
Corresponding in form to the phrase "man of God "
is the phrase "word of Yahaweh," d'bhar yahaweh,
the usual designation for a message given Word of
by Deity to or through a man endowed with Yahaweh
the prophetic gift. " The word of Yahaweh came unto
Abraham in a vision " (Gen. xv. 1, 4 E). Moses is rep-
resented as saying: "I stood between Yahaweh and
you at that time, to tell to you the word of Yahaweh"
(Deut. v. 5). Isaiah says: "Out of Zion law shall go
forth, and the word of, Yahaweh from Jerusalem " (ii. 3).
The phrase appears in the titles of prophetic books:
"The word of Yahaweh that came to Micah" (Mic.
i. I). It is habitually used for opening the prophetic
narratives: "The word of Yahaweh came unto Jonah";
"the word of Yahaweh came unto Jonah the second
time" (Jon. i. I, iii. I). The phrase is probably never
employed in any other meaning, and at least this is its
1 The new tradition assigns Deut. xxxiii to a date earlier than J or E,
and Josh. xiv. 6 sq. to JE.
30 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
ordinary use.1 The parallel term "word of God,"
d'bhar elohim, or d'bhar haelohim, sometimes occurs,
though but seldom.
Cognate with this are the phrases of asseveration,
amar yahaweh and n'um yahaweh, each occurring hun-
Saith dreds of times, and in our versions both trans-
Yahaweh lated " saith Jehovah." Both are commonly,
perhaps exclusively, applied to prophetic utterances (e.g.
Jer. ii. 2, 5, iv. 3 and i. 8, 15, 19), though it is in many
cases doubtful whether amar yahaweh is used as an as-
severation or as giving a mere statement of fact. In
asseverations of this kind the word elohim, "God,"
"Deity," is not often used, except in combination with
other words. The different expression yomar yahaweh,
“Yahaweh is saying,” sometimes appears (e.g. Isa. i.
11, 18, xxxiii. 10, xl. I), though it is not distinctively
translated in the English versions. In numberless in-
stances we find the merely descriptive statement that
Yahaweh, or Deity, spake, or said.
As the prophetic gift is constantly represented as
bestowed by the Spirit of Yahaweh (I Ki. xviii. 12;
Man of the Isa. lxiii. 10, 11; Joel ii. 28–29; 2 Chron.
Spirit xv. I; Num. xi. 25-29, etc.), the prophet is
very naturally designated by the descriptive phrase
"the man of the Spirit" (Hos. ix. 7).
The word massa, "burden," is used to denote a
prophecy of a certain kind, from the days of Elisha,
and later. A massa is poetic in form, and
Massa in most cases minatory in character, and
always relatively brief. Jehu is represented as saying
to Bidkar his captain that Yahaweh had "lifted up this
burden" upon Ahab: —
1 For additional instances see Isa. i. 10; i Ki. xvii. 2, 8, 16, 24; i Sam.
iii. I, 21, xv. 23, 26; Ex. ix. 20, 21, and concordance.
TERMS USED IN DESCRIBING THE PROPHETS 31
"Surely the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons
I beheld yesterday, so saith Yahaweh!
And I will make requital to thee
in this plat, so saith Yahaweh!"
Jehu mentions this as a reason for casting the corpse
of Ahab's son, whom he has just slain, into the plat of
Naboth (2 Ki. ix. 25-26). In Isaiah, the "Burden of
Babylon," "Burden of Moab," "Burden of Damascus "
(xiii. 1, xv. 1, xvii. 1), are poems of threatening upon
those countries. The instances of "burdens " are nu-
merous (e.g. Ezek. xii. 10; Nah. i. i; Zech. ix. 1, xii. i;
Mal. i. 1; Isa. xiv. 28; 2 Chron. xxiv. 27 and concord-
ance). In Prov. xxx. 1, xxxi. 1, where the poems are
not minatory, the King James's version translates massa
in the title by "prophecy." The revised version every-
where proposes "oracle " as the alternative translation
of the word. Massa seems to be used in 1 Chron. xv.
22, 27, to denote the singing when David brought the
ark to Jerusalem, and this may possibly indicate the
nature of its use in matters prophetic.
Certain forms of the causative-active stem of nataph
are sometimes applied to prophetic utterance. The
verb means to drip, to fall'' in drops, as in Hittiph,
the case of drippings of honey, or a gentle mattiph
shower. When used of human speech (Prov. v. 3;
Cant. iv. 11; Job xxix. 22) the idea seems to be that of
sweet or smooth or persuasive talk. When the words
of this stem are applied to prophets (Am. vii. 16; Mic.
ii. 6, 11; Ezek. xx. 46 and xxi. 2 [xxi. 2, 7], they can
be forcibly translated by the English words "preach,"
"preacher." In Micah ii these words seem to be used
by enemies, and ironically.
“Preach ye not! They will be preaching! They shall not preach
to these! One never ceaseth uttering reproaches!"
32 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
And a few verses farther on appears this statement:
" If a man going in wind and falsehood has lyingly said, I will
preach for thee of wine and of strong drink, then he will become the
preacher of this people " (Mic. ii. 6, i 1).1
A prophet is also sometimes called an angel of
Yahaweh (e.g. Hag. i. 13), or a shepherd or a servant
Metaphor- Or a watchman, or by other like names ; but
ical terms these terms are properly figures of speech
rather than appellations. Other like forms of expres-
sion might be added.
Three general observations are to be made in regard
to the use of these several terms in the Old Testament
— observations that are equally true whether we apply
them to the history or to the records that contain the
history, and in the main equally true whether we follow
the old tradition concerning the dates of the records, or
follow some form of the newer tradition.
In the first place, there is no definite succession of
dates at which the various terms describing the prophets
The several come successively into use. In a general
terms not sense it is true that all the principal terms
confined to are employed in all parts of the record.
particular One critic may infer from this that the prophetic
dates phenomena were practically all in existence
before the earliest records were written; and another
may account for it by some theory of interpolation into
the records by later writers; but in any case the fact
exists. It is true that particular words have a limited
range of use. For example, roeh in the sense of seer
1 The English words " prophet," " prophesy," " prophecy," are used in
the King James or the revised versions to translate hittiph in this passage,
to translate massa in Prov. xxx. 1, xxxi. 1, and to translate the hhazah
words in Isa. xxx. lo. Elsewhere they are restricted in these versions to
words of the stem nabha.
TERMS USED IN DESCRIBING THE PROPHETS 33
appears only in the literature treating of the times from
Samuel to Isaiah ; while hhozeh first appears in the
history of David, and may possibly be said to supersede
roeh for the later times. In the time of Samuel roeh
was the appellative in common use in place of nabhi
I Sam. ix. 9, I0, II, cf. x. 5, IO, II, I2, I3). Massa
appears only from the time of Elisha and onward. But
it is doubtful how far an absence of these terms from
any part of the Old Testament is really significant.
Their not being used in the writings which we have
for any period does not necessarily prove that they were
at that time unknown. And one may see, by running
over the references given in this chapter, that the
phrase " man of God " is applied to Moses, and to other
men from his time on ; and that the phrase " word of Yaha-
weh," with words of the stems nabha, raah, and hhazah,
are used in describing divine revelations to men from
the times of Abraham. And these several terms are in
frequent use, not only in those parts of the Old Testa-
ment which the critics of the Modern View regard as of
relatively late origin, but in those which they assign to
the times of Amos and Hosea and earlier. For example,
the references include passages from those parts of the
book of Judges that are regarded by the men of the new
tradition as early, and also passages from those parts of
the hexateuch which they assign to J or E or J E or
independent early sources. Follow what critical theory
you please, there is a somewhat extensive vocabulary of
prophetic terms from a time as early as the earliest sur-
viving records of the earliest times in Israelitish history.
Further, it is in general true that the terms we have
been considering are interchangeable, so far as their
application to any given person is concerned. Each
term has of course its own differential meaning. The
34 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
terms differ in meaning when they denote the functions
of the prophet. The seers seem to be distinguished
The personal from the beholders. As we have seen above,
terms all applicable the men who are spoken of by name as seers
to the same are different men from those who are spoken
person of as beholders. Samuel the beholder is spe-
cifically distinguished from Gad the seer, and beholders
in general are distinguished from seers in general
(i Chron. xxix. 29; Isa. xxx. 10). But Samuel was both
a roeh and a nabhi. Gad was both a hhozeh and a
nabhi (i Sam. xxii. 5 ; 2 Sam. xxiv. i r, etc.). So was
Amos (Am. vii. 12-16). So probably was Jehu, the son
of Hanani (r Ki. xvi. 7, 12, etc., cf. 2 Chron. xix. 2), the
alternative being that Hanani was both roeh and hhozeh
(2 Chron. xvi. 7, 10, cf. xix. 2). With perhaps some limi-
tation in the case of roeh and hhozeh, a person who was
regarded as having certain supernatural gifts was called
indifferently man of God, prophet, seer, beholder. One
term may have been at certain times current, rather than
another, the term roeh, for example, just before the pro-
phetic revival under Samuel, but all four of the terms
were current from very early times. The permanent
differences between the terms were differences in the
form of the thought, and not in the person designated.
Finally, it should be noted that these several terms
are used in the Old Testament with different degrees of
What is com- comprehension. First, they are applied to
prehended in persons who are better known as prophets
the terms than in any other capacity, for example, Sam-
uel or Elisha or Jeremiah or Isaiah. Such prophets were
also eminent as judges, priests, statesmen, and the like;
but the mention of any one of these names suggests to
us the services of the man as a prophet, rather than in
any other capacity. Second, the terms are applied to
TERMS USED IN DESCRIBING THE PROPHETS 35
persons who are better known in some other capacity
than as prophets, but who exercised prophetic gifts.
Some of these, as Moses the lawgiver or David the
king, stand very high in the prophetic ranks. By
parity the character of prophet belongs to other men of
like position, for example, such men as Joshua and Solo-
mon and Ezra and Nehemiah. It will sometimes be
convenient, for distinction's sake, to call such men pro-
phetic men, rather than prophets. That is partly a
question of convenience in the use of language. But
when we are discussing the prophets as a subject, we
must take into the account all persons who have the
prophetic character. Third, the terms are applied to
persons who were prophets only in a secondary sense,
to the pupils or disciples or assistants of the men who
were strictly prophets. As we advance in our study we
shall find much said concerning certain prophetic "com-
panies," and certain so-called "sons of the prophets,"
men who were banded together into organizations under
such great prophets as Samuel or Elijah, men who were
recognized as disciples of such a prophet as Isaiah. A
person of this type may naturally be spoken of as a
prophet or a man of God, especially when he is sent by
his superior on some prophetic errand. The secondary
prophets were at times much more numerous than the
primary prophets, and it sometimes becomes important
to distinguish between the two.
In addition to these uses, many assert that the words
that denote the prophet and his functions are also used
to denote mere frenzied utterance, and that primarily
the prophetic gift is conceived of as a kind of insanity.
We shall find that there is no ground for this, and that
herein there is a difference between the prophets of
Israel and the prophets of the nations.
THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS
THIS subject, though we must dismiss it with a single
chapter, is a fascinating one. Some of the older treat-
The attrac- ments of it are dull through the lack of
tiveness of imagination, or through the wrong use of
the subject imagination. They regard the prophets as
unearthly revealers of the divine will, with no human
blood in them. Some of the more recent treatments are
yet more faulty, rejecting half the biblical data, filling
in the gaps thus made from conjecture or by inference
from theory, and thus giving portraits utterly different
from those in the bible, and immeasurably inferior. In
contrast with both these modes of treatment would be
that of one who should simply take the trouble to find
out just what the biblical statements mean, using his
imagination only to render the facts distinct and vivid.
What we need is a treatment at once correct and im-
aginative. Why does not some one write a history of
Israel in the form of a series of biographies of the
prophets, working it up, not from Bible Dictionaries,
not from volumes, not from Josephus, not from com-
mentaries, not from theories of the evolution of religion,
but purely from the data given in the bible ? There are
no heroes in history more picturesque or interesting or
full of vitality than these same prophets, provided we
picture them rightly.
Many of the books of reference affirm that the succes-
THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS 37
sion of the prophets began with Samuel. In proof they
cite passages from the Acts and from I Samuel. But
the context in Samuel, as we shall see below, The division
implies that prophecy was previously in exist- into periods
ence, and that in the Acts affirms that prophecy had
been in existence from the days of Moses, and, indeed,
from the beginning of the world.1 Other parts of
the record give details in abundance. Certainly the
biblical view is that what occurred in Samuel's time
was not an origination but a revival. There was
then a new beginning in the progress of an ancient
The biblical presentation of the history of the prophets
is in very clearly marked chronological periods. The
first great period, that before Samuel, includes as sub-
ordinate periods the pre-Abrahamic times, the patriar-
chal times, the times of the exodus, and the times of the
Judges before Samuel. The prophets of the second
great period, from Samuel to the close of the Old Testa-
ment, fall into six groups, namely, the group in which
Samuel and Nathan and David were eminent, the
Elijah and Elisha group, the Isaiah group, the Jeremiah
group, the exilian prophets, and the postexilian prophets.
Then any survey of these two great periods is incom-
plete unless supplemented by obtaining, in part from
1"Yea and all the prophets from Samuel and them that followed after
.. . told of these days" (Acts iii. 24). It is easy to understand this as
affirming that Samuel was the earliest prophet, but the immediate con-
text shows that the writer intended no such meaning. Only a few sen-
tences previously he has used this language: "The times of restoration of
all things, whereof God spake by the mouth of his holy prophets which
have been since the world began." Moses indeed said: "A prophet shall
the Lord God raise up unto you . . . like unto me " (Acts iii. 21-22, cf. vii.
37; Lc. i. 70). With this agrees the New Testament mention of the pro-
phetic gift in the times of Balaam and of Enoch (2 Pet. ii. 16; Jude 14).
38 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
extrabiblical sources, some account of the closing of the
succession of the prophets.l
I. We take up the first great period. The Old Tes-
tament agrees with the New in representing that the
patriarchs exercised prophetic gifts; that such gifts were
abundant in the time of Moses, and that they continued
during the time between Moses and Samuel.
Books on the subject have been very free in ascribing
prophetic phenomena to the times before Abraham.
Prophecy Jude says that Enoch prophesied (14), and in
before Luke and the Acts it is affirmed that there
Abraham have been holy prophets from the beginning
of the world (Lc. i. 70; Acts iii. 21). Parts of the
first eleven chapters of Genesis have figured largely in
discussions concerning prophecy ; for example, the pro-
tevangelium, the sacrifice of Abel, some of the experi-
ences of Noah (Gen. iii. 15, iv, vi—ix, and New Testament
parallels). Something very like prophetic character
has been attributed to Adam, Seth, Enoch, Abel, Noah,
and others. Any detailed consideration of these mat-
ters belongs to a later stage in our investigation. For
the present it is sufficient to note that the various terms
denoting prophetic function are not used in the accounts
of the times before Abraham; but that there is nothing
to forbid the opinion that the writers of these accounts
1 The biblical account seems to be that with Samuel there began cer-
tain arrangements for cultivating the prophetic gift, which, thenceforward
to the close of the Old Testament times, secured a more abundant succes-
sion of prophets than had previously existed. If we distinguish between
prophets and prophetic men, applying the latter term to men who had
prophetic gifts, but are better known in some other capacity, the great
names before Samuel are of prophetic men only. It further happens to
be true that the Old Testament books called the Prophets, in distinction
from the Law and the Hagiographa, are ascribed in the traditions to the
prophets of Samuel's time and later, while the Law and the Hagiographa
are ascribed, in the main, to prophetic men.
THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS 39
thought of pre-Abrahamic men as possessing prophetic
Old Testament history, however, properly begins with
Abraham. From Abraham onward the Israelite litera-
ture is familiar with the distinctive titles and duties and
powers that belong to a prophet.
It is represented that Abraham and Isaac and Jacob
had prophetic gifts, though this representation is not
very greatly emphasized. Abraham is once The patri-
expressly called a prophet. In the time when archs were
he led a migratory life, going from one coun- prophets
try to another, we are told that Abimelech took posses-
sion of Abraham's wife. To him a revelation was
"And now, restore thou the wife of the man, for he is a prophet,
that he may make his prayer in thy behalf," etc. (Gen. xx. 7 E).
One of the psalmists, centuries later, cites this incident
in the following lines : —
"And they went about from nation unto nation,
from one kingdom unto another people.
He suffered no man to wrong them,
and he rebuked kings for their sakes:
Touch ye not mine anointed ones,
and to my prophets do ye no harm."
(Ps. cv. 14-15, repeated in t Chron. xvi. 20-22.)
In addition to this one instance in which the word
"prophet " is used, it is represented that Abraham had
visions, and that the word of Yahaweh came to him in
1 One who accepts the Graf-Wellhausen analysis should observe that the
passages which have commonly been cited as prophetic occur alike in the
earlier and the later J and in P, though with characteristic differences.
On any critical theory it is probable that all the authors of Genesis, earlier
or later, thought of the prophetic gift as current among these predecessors
40 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
vision (Gen. xv. I, 4 E). A very prominent part of his
experiences consists in those when Yahaweh " appeared "
"And Yahaweh appeared unto him at the oaks of Mamre," fol-
lowed by extended details (xviii..i J).
It is further represented that Isaac and Jacob had simi-
lar experiences. Yahaweh appeared unto Isaac, for-
bidding him to go down into Egypt as Abraham had
done ; and again appeared to him, promising to bless
and multiply him (Gen. xxvi. 2, 24 D. Jacob had a
prophetic dream, wherein the Angel of God commanded
him to return to Palestine (Gen. xxxi. 11, E). God ap-
peared to him at Bethel, after his return from Paddan-
aram (Gen. xxxv. 9 P). When he was about to go
down into Egypt,
"God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night" (Gen. xlvi.
Look up these instances in detail, and it will be evident
that the patriarchs are here represented as having per-
sonal interviews with the supreme Being, essentially the
same as were enjoyed by the prophets of later times.
This is not a matter which depends wholly on the
critical theories one may hold. If the hexateuch was
written by Moses and Joshua and their associates, then
we have the testimony of that generation to the facts in
the case. But how is it on the theory of those who
analyze Genesis into the three documents, J and E and
P, dated respectively 800, 750, and 400 B.C.? On the
basis of their partition some of the passages that have
1 For example, at his first coming to Palestine,
"Yahaweh appeared unto Abram, and said, To thy seed will I give this
land. And he built there an altar to Yahaweh that appeared unto him"
(Gen. xii. 7 J).
"And Yahaweh appeared unto Abram, and said unto him, I am El-
shaddai" (Gen. xvii. 1 P [RP?]).
THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS 41
been cited are taken from J, some from E, and some
from P. That is, all three alike testify to the prophetic
gifts of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. It is not unim-
portant which theory of the hexateuch we hold; but on
any theory the oldest Hebrew literature testifies to the
view we are advocating.
In the records of the times of Moses and Joshua
the mention of prophecy is very abundant. In the
account of the exodus, for example, the stem Prophecy in the
nabha occurs seventeen times, and the other time of Moses and
terms that denote prophetic phenomena are Joshua
much used. Instances will presently be given. Per-
haps we habitually think of Moses as a statesman, a
warrior, a lawgiver but, none the less, the record says
that he was remarkably endowed with the prophetic
gift. He is described as the greatest of prophets.1
He is frequently spoken of, both in the hexateuch and
elsewhere, as "the man of God " (e.g. Deut. xxxiii. i;
Josh. xiv. 6; Ezra iii. 2; I Chron. xxiii. 14; 2 Chron. xxx.
16). He has the various experiences that characterize
a prophet. Habitually he has supernatural communica-
tion with God. Yahaweh appeared unto him (Ex. iii. 2,
16, and many places). Yahaweh caused him to see in
the prophetic sense (Ex. xxvii. 8; Num. viii. 4 et al.).
Using words of the stem raah, the beholding of visions
is attributed to Moses (Num. xii. 8; Ex. iii. 3). In cer-
tain instances presently to be cited, he is the typical
prophet with whom others are compared. The prophet
who is to be raised up he describes as "like unto me."
Yahaweh enables other men to prophesy by taking of
1 "There arose not a prophet since in Israel, like unto Moses" (Deut.
" And by a prophet Yahaweh brought up Israel out of Egypt, and by a
prophet he was guarded" (Hos. xii. 13 ).
42 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
the Spirit that was upon Moses and placing it upon
them. He is so superior to other prophets as to be
fairly in contrast with them.
The records represent that Moses was not the only
prophet of this period. We read that " Miriam the
prophetess took a timbrel in her hand," and celebrated
the overthrow of Pharaoh at the Red Sea (Ex. xv. 20 E).
Miriam appears again in the narrative in which she and
Aaron find fault with Moses on account of the Ethiopian
woman. Yahaweh rebukes them, in language that im-
plies that Miriam is a prophet with whom Yahaweh
communicates in beholdings or in dreams, and that per-
sons of this sort were not unfamiliar to that generation
of Israelites.1 This same fact of the multiplication of
prophecy appears in the story of the prophesying of
Eldad and Medad and the seventy, and in the wish then
expressed by Moses that all Yahaweh's people were
1 "If there be a prophet of you,
I Yahaweh make myself known unto him in beholdings,
in dreams I speak with him.
Not so is my servant Moses,
in all my house he is trustworthy.
Mouth unto mouth I speak with him,
even causing him to behold, and not enigmatically,
and the likeness of Yahaweh he gazeth upon " (Num. xii. 6—8 E).
It is not implied here that Moses has a different gift from the prophetic
gift of Miriam and Aaron, but that he has prophetic seeing power in a
much higher degree than they.
2 "And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and made
them stand around the Tent. And Yahaweh came down in the cloud, and
spake unto him, and took of the Spirit which was upon hire and gave it
upon seventy men, the elders. And it came to pass, as the Spirit rested
upon them, that they prophesied, and did no more. And there remained
two men in the camp, the name of the one being Eldad, and the name
of the second Medad; and the Spirit rested upon them, they being among
those who were written, and they not having gone forth to the Tent; and
they prophesied in the camp. And the young man ran and told Moses,
THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS 43
Besides these passages, in which certain persons are
spoken of as prophets, there are others which make
such mention of prophetic functions as to imply that
prophets were something well known in that generation.
Words of the stem hhazah are less used in the records
for this period than in those of later periods. But it is
said of the elders of Israel: —
"They had vision of Deity, and did eat and drink " (Ex. xxiv.
And it is represented that Balaam twice describes
himself as —
"He that heareth the sayings of El,
That seeth the vision of the Almighty,
Having fallen, and his eyes having become uncovered" (Num.
xxiv. 4, i6 JE).
Whatever the date of the book of Job, its action is
located in the time of the exodus or earlier. It affords
such instances as the following : —
“In thoughts from the visions of the night" (iv. 13).
"Thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me with visions "
"He shall be chased away as a vision of the night" (xx. 8).
Passing to the use of other terms, the relations of
Aaron to Moses are defined in the words: —
"Behold I have given thee for a Deity unto Pharaoh, Aaron
thy brother being thy prophet" (Ex. vii. i P).
Such language presupposes familiarity with the notion
of a prophet, and of the relations he sustains to Deity.
In Deuteronomy laws are given formally defining the
and said, Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp. And answered
Joshua the son of Nun, the minister of Moses, of his choice young men,
and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said to him, Art thou
jealous for me? Would that all Yahaweh's people were prophets! that
Yahaweh would give his Spirit upon them!" (Num. xi. 24—29 JE).
44 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
character of a prophet, prescribing how true prophets
are to be distinguished from false, forecasting a line
of prophets to come (xiii. 1, 3, 5 [2, 4, 6], xviii. 15, 18,
20, 22). There is no need here to consider these pas-
sages at length. They will be discussed when we reach
the subjects of the functions of a prophet and of mes-
In these several passages a prophet is defined, as we
have seen, as a spokesman of Deity, divinely inspired
through visions, dreams, trances, divine appearings.
These affirmations are found not merely in the narrative
portions of the books, but in the statements which the
books say were made by the persons whose history they
narrate. Their validity depends not at all, directly, on
the question who wrote the pentateuchal books. If the
books are historically true, then the statements are true,
no matter when they were written in their present form.
And even from the point of view of those who regard
them as unhistorical, they testify to what their authors
believed to be true of the times of Moses. Further,
our citations have been made indifferently from sections
which the critical hypotheses ascribe to J, E, JE, P, and
D. If there were authors of all these classes, then all
alike agree in affirming that prophecy was abundant in
the days of Moses.
For the times from the settlement of Israel in Canaan
to the birth of Samuel the mention of prophecy in the
Prophecy in narratives is relatively unusual; but the
the times of stream of prophecy through this region of
the Judges the history is perceptible though slender.
Deborah is called a prophetess (Jud. iv. 4). Perhaps
we may be at a loss whether to classify her as a states-
man sometimes acting the part of a prophet, or as a
prophet sometimes doing the duty of a statesman.
THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS 45
Gideon and others are occasionally represented as hold-
ing communication with God, such as a prophet might
hold. We are told of a prophet whom Yahaweh sent
to Israel in the days of Gideon (Jud. vi. 8), and we
have a record in three verses of his prophecy. We
are told of the appearing of the Angel of Yahaweh
to Gideon (Jud. vi. 12) and to Manoah and his wife
(Jud. xiii. 3, 10, 21). Few instances of theophany in
the bible are presented with as much fulness of detail
as these two. "The Angel," in the book of Judges,
is always a supernatural being, and not a prophet.
This is particularly the case with the Angel who ap-
peared to the wife of Manoah, and afterward to her and
Manoah, announcing the birth of Samson. But, four
times in the narrative, they speak of him as a " man of
God " ( Jud. xiii. 6, 8, 10, 11 ). Evidently a man of God,
a prophet, was a well-known fact within the range of
In the time of Eli, just at the close of this period,
the dearth of prophecy was deepest.
"The word of Yahaweh being precious in those days, there being
no widespread vision" (i Sam. iii. I).
These words affirm that prophecy had then nearly dis-
appeared from Israel. The same fact is implied in the
statement concerning the recognition of Samuel.
"And all Israel knew, from Dan and even unto Beer-Sheba, that
Samuel was made sure for a prophet to Yahaweh. And again
Yahaweh appeared in Shiloh ; for Yahaweh disclosed himself unto
Samuel in Shiloh in the word of Yahaweh " (I Sam. iii. 20-21).
From these statements it has been inferred that there
was no prophecy in Israel before Samuel. This infer-
ence differs from the representations of the In the time
bible. If the passage last cited implies that of Eli
the wealth of prophecy which came in with Samuel was
46 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
in contrast with the poverty which directly preceded, it
equally implies that there had been an earlier time
when Yahaweh appeared in Shiloh by his prophetic
word. The other passage says that prophecy was at
that time a rare thing, not that it was nonexistent.
From the context we learn that it was not nonexistent.
We are told of a "man of God " who came to Eli with
just such a message as prophets are accustomed to
bring.1 Further, we are told that Eli was sufficiently
familiar with the idea of prophetic function to recog-
nize the nature of Samuel's call when it came to him.2
In fine, the history of the times of the Judges justifies
the assertion of Jeremiah: —
"Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of
Egypt unto this day, I have sent unto you all my servants the
prophets, daily rising up early and sending them" (vii. 25 RV).
So much for the first great period of the history of proph-
ecy. Besides other statements in other terms, the words
"prophet" and "prophesy" are applied not less than
twenty-four times, in the Old Testament, to the period
before the death of Eli.3 And let us once more remind
ourselves that this is the testimony of the records irre-
spective of the question when or by whom the records
were written. Assuredly, if a person is in the habit
1 "And there came a man of God unto Eli and said unto him, I surely
revealed myself unto the house of thy father when they were in Egypt,"
etc. (I Sam. ii. 27-36).
2 Of Samuel it is said that he, being an inexperienced boy, "did not yet
know," that "the word of Yahaweh was not yet disclosed unto him."But
Eli was older and more experienced. "And Yahaweh again called Sam-
uel the third time, and he arose and went unto Eli, and said, Here am I
for thou calledst me; and Eli understood that Yahaweh was calling the
boy. And Eli said to Samuel, Go, lie down, and it shall be, if he call unto
thee thou shalt say, Speak, Yahaweh, for thy servant is hearkening"
(i Sam. iii. 7-9).
3 As we shall presently see, there is in this nothing contradictory of
I Sam. ix. 9.
THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS 47
of designating certain parts of the hexateuch and of
Judges and Samuel as J and E, and of saying that J and
E are "prophetic" narratives, that person is precluded
from denying that these narratives recognize a prophetic
element in the history. And if he admits that these
writings which he regards as the earliest testify to the
existence of prophets in this part of the history, he must
all the more admit that what he regards as the later
parts of the record testify to the same fact. Any one
who reads the writings without thus dividing them into
earlier and later sections, will find the same testimony
there. In other words, there is a consensus of testi-
mony among the writers of the Old Testament, no mat-
ter how you regard them critically, to the effect that
prophecy in Israel came down from the earliest times.
II. In the second great period of the history of the
prophets, the first subordinate period is that in which
Samuel and Nathan and David are proms- Prophecy in
nent. Its natural limits are from the death of the times of Samuel,
Eli to the disruption of the kingdom after David, and
Solomon. The chronology is in dispute, but Nathan
the biblical numbers make it about one hundred and
The distinguished prophets named in the record for
this period are Samuel and Gad and Nathan, David and
Solomon, Zadok, Asaph and Heman and
Ethan or Jeduthun, Ahijah and Shemaiah and The prophets
Jedo. The easiest and most effective way of obtaining
information concerning these men would be to look
them up, with the aid of a concordance, in the Old
Testament. In this chapter we must dismiss them with
just a few sentences.
Samuel is the earliest and, with the exception of
David, the most distinguished great prophet of this
48 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
time. His career is too well known to need recapitula-
tion here. Gad was associated with David from the time
when David first became an outlaw to near the close of
the reign. It was by his advice that David chose his
hiding places within the borders of Judah, and he was
the prophet consulted when Oman's threshing floor
was purchased, and the temple site fixed (i Sam.
xxii. 5; 2 Sam. xxiv. 11ff.; I Chron. xxi. 9 ff.).
Nathan first appears in the middle years of David's
reign, rebuking him for his sin in the matter of Uriah;
and, later,1 as the prophet through whom the great
promise was given to David, in response to David's dis-
position to build a temple (2 Sam. xii ; Ps. li, title; 2
Sam. vii; I Chron. xvii). Still later Nathan figures as
the strong supporter of the claims of Solomon to the
throne (I Ki. i). The Chronicler groups David and Gad
and Nathan, and refers to "the words" of Samuel and
of Gad and of Nathan as written sources for the history
of David and of the times before him (r Chron. xxix. 29;
2 Chron. xxix. 25).
David is spoken of as a "man of God," upon whom
the Spirit came mightily, to whom Yahaweh appeared
(e.g. 2 Chron. viii. 14; Neh. xii. 24, 36 ; I Sam. xvi. 13,
etc.; 2 Chron. iii. I. Also Acts ii. 30). In these and
other terms he is presented to us as richly endowed
with prophetic gifts. To Solomon also prophetic reve-
lations are attributed.2
1 The affair of Uriah occurred while the Ammonite war was in progress,
before David's conquests had brought him rest. The bringing up of the
ark to Jerusalem and the giving of the great promise occurred after Yaha-
weh had given David rest from all his enemies, and when his dominions
extended from Hamath to Shihor of Egypt (2 Sam. vii. I; I Chron. xiii.
5). That is, the Uriah affair preceded the others, though it is narrated
2 "In that night Deity appeared to Solomon." "In Gibeon Yahaweh
THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS 49
Zadok, afterward highpriest, is in one passage called
a seer (2 Sam. xv. 27). In his detailed description of
the large temple choirs organized by David, the Chron-
icler speaks of Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun as
prophesying, and calls Heman the hhozeh of the king.1
In his account of the last reigns in Judah he makes
similar statements, speaking of Asaph as "the hhozeh,"
and of "Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun the hhozeh
of the king " (2 Chron. xxix. 30, xxxv. 15).
Ahijah the Shilonite, we are told, in the later years
of Solomon, promised the kingdom to Jeroboam, tear-
ing his robe into twelve pieces, and giving Jeroboam
ten. Later he gave a most uncomforting reply to
Jeroboam's queen, who sought him in behalf of her sick
son (1 Ki. xi. 29-39, xiv. 1-18). We are told of an-
other prophet who came from Judah, when Jeroboam
was king, and prophesied against the altar of Bethel,
and of an old prophet who entertained him (I Ki. xiii ;
2 Ki. xxiii. 17-18). Josephus says that the prophet
from Judah was named Jadon. In Chronicles, Jedo or
Jedai is mentioned (2 Chron. ix. 29), along with Ahijah
and Nathan, as a source for the history of Solomon.
The name appears as Iddo in our English versions, but
it is different from the name Iddo as elsewhere occur-
ring, and Jedo is probably the Jadon of Josephus. Be-
appeared unto Solomon in a dream by night." "And the word of Yaha-
weh was to Solomon, saying " (2 Chron. i. 7-12; I Ki. iii. 5-15, vi. 11-13,
cf. ix. 2).
1"And David and the captains of the host separated to the service the
sons of Asaph and hIeman and Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with
harps, and with cymbals . . . the sons of Asaph upon the hand of Asaph
who prophesied upon the hands of the king. To Jeduthun; the sons of
Jeduthun . . . upon the hands of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied
with the lyre, to give thanks and to praise Yahaweh. To Heman; . . .
all these were sons to Heman the hhozeh of the king in the words of God,
to lift up horn" (i Chron. xxv. 1-5).
50 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
longing to the same group of prophets is Shemaiah, who
forbade the attempt of Rehoboam to subdue the ten
tribes, and who encouraged Rehoboam against the inva-
sion of Shishak (I Ki. xii. 22; 2 Chron. xi. 2, xii. 7).
The Chronicler refers to him along with Iddo (probably
a much later writer) for the history of Rehoboam
These distinguished prophets, with other great men,
constituted a brilliant circle around the thrones of David
Organiza- and Solomon. But besides these there were
tions a large number of other prophets. With
Samuel, prophecy had entered upon a brighter era.
There was a great revival of prophetism. When the
writer of 1 Sam. iii. I says that during Samuel's child-
hood there was no widespread vision, he implies that
vision was widespread when he wrote. That prophets
were numerous is suggested by Saul's complaint that
Yahaweh answered him not, either "by dreams or by
Urim, or by prophets" (I Sam. xxviii. 6, 15). Promi-
nent among the evidences of the growing influence of
prophecy, at this time, are the organized bands of
prophets that present themselves to view. We find a
procession of prophets meeting Saul when Samuel had
anointed him, and a body of them engaged in concerted
services at Naioth in Ramah when David fled thither
(I Sam. x. 5 ff., xix. 18-24). The nature of these organi-
zations we are to consider later. For the present we
simply note that they are characteristic of the period.
Through the influence of Samuel, prophecy so impressed
itself upon his generation, that the impression remained
to future generations. There is no room for our being
1 In the long addition after 1 Ki. xii. 24 in the Greek copies, Shemaiah
is said to be the prophet who tore his robe into twelve pieces and gave
THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS 51
surprised that he is commonly regarded as the father of
In the literature concerning this period we find nearly
all the different terms that are used in the bible to
designate prophetic function, — "man of The terms
God," "word of Yahaweh," "Spirit of Yaha- that are used
weh," and the words of the stems nabha and hhazah
and raah.l On the strength of i Sam. ix. 9 many
affirm that the word "prophet " was new in Israel when
this narrative in Samuel was written, and that neither
the word nor the fact had ever before been known.
The true inference from the biblical phenomena is that
both the institution and the word had formerly been
well known, but had temporarily faded from use, and
now reappeared.2 The statement in Samuel is: —
“He that is to-day called a prophet was formerly called a seer."
But the writer of this statement says that the word
"prophet " was in familiar use, and that prophets were
well-known personages, not merely at the time when he
1 Samuel and Zadok are called roeh (1 Sam. ix. 9, II, 18, 19; I
Chron. ix. 22, xxvi. 28, xxix. 29; 2 Sam. xv. 27). Samuel has vision,
mar’ah (I Sam. iii. 15). Theophany is frequent (e.g. 1 Ki. iii. 5, ix. 2,
The term hhozeh is applied to Gad, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, Jedo,
Iddo (2 Sam. xxiv. II; I Chron. xxi. 9, xxix. 29, xxv. 5; 2 Chron. xxxv.
15, xxix. 25, 30, ix. 29, xii. 15). Other nouns of the stem appear in I Sam.
iii. 1; 2 Sam. vii. 17; I Chron. xvii. 15; Ps. lxxxix. 19 ; 2 Chron.
ix. 29. The word hhazon first appears in I Sam. iii. 1, this being the
word that is afterward mostly used in the literary titles of the prophetic
2 The disappearance of words from use, and their subsequent reappear-
ance, is one of the familiar phenomena of language. For example, Mr.
Leon Mead is quoted as saying in his book Word Coinage that such words
as transcend, bland, sphere, blithe, franchise, carve, anthem, in good use
in Chaucer, were regarded in the seventeenth century as obsolete, but have
since been reinstated.
52 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
wrote, but at the time concerning which he makes the
statement.1 On the very next day, this writer says,
prophets were seen, mentioned, discussed, not by
Samuel alone, but popularly. The point which he
makes is this : that though prophets and the name
prophet were now familiar in Israel, Saul was one of a
class who took no particular interest in them. He still
habitually used the term "seer," which had till recently
displaced the term "prophet." The writer contemplates
prophecy, both the word and the fact, as a gift to Israel
which had been interrupted but was now restored, and
not at all as a new gift which had never till now been
bestowed. In this he agrees with the writers of the
earlier history, who speak of prophets as existing at least
from the times of Abraham.
1 "And the young man . . said, Behold there is found in my hand a
quarter shekel of silver, and I will give [it] to the man of God, and he
will tell us our way. (Formerly in Israel thus said the man when he went
to inquire of God, Come ye and let us go unto the seer. For he that is to-
day called the prophet was formerly called the seer.) . . . And they went
unto the city where was the man of God. . . . And when they found young
women coming forth to draw water, they said to them, Is the seer within ?
. . . And Saul approached Samuel, . . . and said, Tell me, pray, where is
the house of the seer. And Samuel answered Saul, and said, I am the
The next day, when the two parted, Samuel gave Saul directions.
"Thou wilt come unto the hill of God, . . . and wilt fall in with a
string of prophets coming down from the highplace, and before them
psaltery and timbrel and pipe and harp, and they prophesying. And the
Spirit of Yahaweh will come mightily upon thee, and thou wilt prophesy
with them, and wilt be turned to another man."
It happens as Samuel has said. "And they came there to the hill, and
behold a string of prophets meeting him, and the Spirit of God came
mightily upon him and he prophesied in the midst of them. And it
happened in the case of any one who knew him formerly, that they looked,
and behold he prophesied with prophets. And the people said, each to his
neighbor, What is it that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also
among the prophets ?" (1 Sam. ix. 8-11, 18-19, x. 5-6, 10-12).
THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS 53
The second subperiod may be designated by the
names of its two great prophets, Elijah and Elisha. It
extends from the disruption of the kingdom Prophecy
to the death of Elisha, about one hundred and from the disruption
thirty-five years by the biblical data. Its last to Elisha
fifty years correspond nearly to the earlier Assyrian
period, when Shalmanezer II and Rimman-nirari III
made most of Palestine tributary. Its distinguished
prophets are Ahijah and Shemaiah and Jedo, who
survive from the former period, Oded and Azariah and
Hanani and Jehu, Elijah and Elisha, Micaiah and Jahaziel
and Eliezer, Jehoiada and Zechariah.
Oded and Azariah his son urged Asa to reforma-
tion work, after his victory over Zerah the Ethiopian
(2 Chron. xv. I, 8). Hanani the reek rebuked Asa for
his intrigues with Ben-hadad, and was imprisoned
(2 Chron. xvi. 7-10). "Jehu the son of Hanani the
hhozeh," elsewhere described as "Jehu the prophet,"
prophesied against Baasha of Israel (I Ki. xvi. I, 7, 12).
He met Jehoshaphat with rebuke and counsel, on his
return from the Ramoth-gilead expedition, and his his-
tory of Jehoshaphat is said to have been "brought up
upon the book of the kings of Israel" (2 Chron. xix. 2,
xx. 34). His career was largely contemporary with
that of Elijah the Tishbite. Elijah and Elisha are so
well known that they may here be passed by. The
picture of Micaiah the son of Imlah prophesying before
Ahab and Jehoshaphat (i Ki. xxii; 2 Chron. xviii) is a
familiar one. A little later, when Jehoshaphat was
preparing to meet the Moabite invasion, the Spirit of
Yahaweh came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, in
the midst of the congregation (2 Chron. xx. 14). Just
after the death of Ahab, when Jehoshaphat had joined
with Ahab's son Ahaziah to build Tarshish-going ships,
54 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
Eliezer the son of Dodavah prophesied against the
alliance (2 Chron. xx. 37). The long life of the pro-
phetically gifted highpriest Jehoiada (2 Ki.;
2 Chron. xxiii–xxiv, especially xxiv. 15) was nearly con-
temporary with this whole period of prophetic history.
His death and that of his spirit-gifted son Zechariah
(2 Chron. xxiv. 19-22) occurred not very long before
that of Elisha.
In several instances prophets are individually men-
tioned, though their names are not given. Such, for
example, is the prophet who announced to Ahab his
victory over Syria (1 Ki. xx. 13). Later in the same
chapter a prophet promises him another victory, and
yet later a prophet, also spoken of as " of the sons of
the prophets," rebukes Ahab for not securing the fruits
of his victory. We have also an account of a person
who is described as "a prophet," and as " one of the
sons of the prophets" (2 Ki. ix), who anointed Jehu as
In the northern kingdom the organizations described
as "the sons of the prophets " are, next to the person-
The sons of ality of Elijah and Elisha, the characteristic
the prophets feature of this period. Their character will
be considered later. For the present we only note that
they were under the supervision of Elijah and Elisha,
and that they probably account for the very large num-
ber of the prophets at that time.
That the number was large the record clearly affirms.
Of those in the northern kingdom, Elijah at Horeb says:
"They have slain thy prophets with the sword" (Ki.
xix. to, 14). "When Jezebel slew the prophets of Yaha-
weh," Obadiah the steward of Ahab hid a hundred of
them by fifties in a cave (I Ki. xviii. 4, 13), and the ac-
count seems to suggest that this was but a fraction of
THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS 55
the whole number. The prophets of Baal and of the
asherahs numbered eight hundred and fifty (i Ki. xviii.
19), and it is possible that Yahaweh's prophets were
as numerous. Perhaps, however, there were not many
prophets who were supernaturally gifted. Most of those
who are called prophets may have been "sons of the
prophets" (see i Ki. xx. 35, 38, and 2 Ki. ix. 1, 4), that
is, either pupils of some particular prophet, or members
of the organizations. Note that the community at Jeri-
cho was able to send out detachments of fifty (2 Ki. ii.
7, 16, 17). For the southern kingdom the accounts are
less explicit, but prophets were also numerous there.
Jehoshaphat gives the exhortation: "Believe his proph-
ets, so shall ye prosper" (2 Chron. xx. 20). In the
account of the defection of Joash of Judah we read:
"He sent prophets to them to bring them again unto
Yahaweh, and they testified with them, but they did not
hear" (2 Chron. xxiv. 19).
A class of men make their appearance within this
period whom the biblical writers regard as false
prophets of Yahaweh, and from this time False
on they abound throughout the history. Of prophets
this class is the old prophet of Bethel (1 Ki. xiii).
Apparently he has had genuine prophetic gifts, and
has perverted them. There were four hundred proph-
ets, Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah being one of
them who prophesied falsely in the name of Yahaweh
to persuade Ahab and Jehoshaphat to go up to Ramoth-
gilead (1 Ki. xxii. 6, 11; 2 Chron. xviii. 5). The proph-
ets had become so influential that there was a field of
operations for counterfeit prophets.
Words of the stems nabha, raah, hhazah, and also the
usual phrases descriptive of the prophet and of prophetic
function, are current in the accounts of all parts of this
56 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
period. In the latter part of the period, Jehu the king
is represented as using the word massa, "burden," in the
technical sense in which, from this time on, it denotes a
prophecy of a certain type (2 Ki. ix. 25-26).
The third subperiod is that of Isaiah and his near
predecessors and successors. It extends from the death
Prophecy from of Elisha to the captivity of Manasseh, per-
the death haps about two hundred years, but fifty years
of Elisha to less by the usual interpretation of the A.ssyr-
Manasseh ian chronology. It covers the middle As-
syrian period, that in which Tiglath-pilezer is prominent,
and the later Assyrian period, that of Sargon and his
dynasty. To it belong the earlier group of the so-called
literary prophets. The distinguished names for the
period are Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, the Zechariah of Uz-
ziah's time, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, the author or authors
of Zech. ix-xiv, Micah, the Oded of the time of Ahaz.
This is the most conspicuous time in the history of the
prophets, and the fullest in the materials it offers, but
we must deal with it only in the barest outline.
We have no information concerning the prophet Joel,
save as the author of the book of that name. It is gen-
erally agreed that the book is either the earliest or the
latest of the fifteen known as the major and minor proph-
ets. I have no doubt that it is the earliest. It pre-
sents a very distinct historical situation, which seems to
me to be that of the invasion when Hazael swept the
region and besieged Jerusalem (2 Ki. xii. 17-xiii. 9 and
2 Chron. xxiv. 23-25), the prophet being contemporary
with the event. Perhaps the death of Elisha occurred
after this event, in the same year, so that Joel was in
early life a contemporary of the illustrious northern
prophet. Joel teaches a doctrine of the Day of Yaha-
weh, on which the succeeding prophets build. He prom-
THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS 57
ises an outpouring of the Spirit, which may be plausibly
regarded as having its first fulfilment in the days of
Isaiah and his contemporaries.
Obadiah takes up the great theme, the Day of Ya-
haweh, illustrating it by a single instance, Yahaweh's
dealings with Edom. The brief prophecy pictures two
historical situations, — that of Edom's offence, and that
of Edom's punishment. The offence-situation, it seems
to me, is the situation that had been outlined in Joel, the
punishment being that inflicted in Amaziah's expedition
(2 Ki. xiv. 7 and 2 Chron. xxv). There is an account
of a man of God who persuaded Amaziah not to take
Israelitish allies with him on this expedition, and an
account of a prophet who rebuked him after his return
for worshipping Edomite gods (2 Chron. xxv. 7-10, 15-
16). Supposably this prophet and this man of God may
be identical, and supposably one or both may be identi-
cal with Obadiah.
The prophet Jonah lived just before the conquests by
Jeroboam II.1 This historical prophet Jonah is the hero
of the story in the book of Jonah, whatever one may
think of the authorship or the character of the book.
The Chronicler tells us of one Zechariah, " who had
discernment in beholding of the Deity " during those
years of Uzziah in which that king was faithful and
prosperous (2 Chron. xxvi. 5).
Concerning Amos we have no information except in
the book of that name. He is represented as a Judean
prophet, not affiliated with the " sons of the prophets "
of the northern kingdom (i. 1, vii. 14, etc.), though his
1 "It was he who restored the coast of Israel, from the entering in of
Hamath unto the sea of the Arabah, according to the word of Yahaweh
the god of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah the son
of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher" (2 Ki. xiv. 25).
58 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
extant prophecies concern mainly the northern kingdom.
The book has a title, dating it "two years before the
earthquake," at a point of time when Jeroboam was
king in Israel and Uzziah in Judah, perhaps making
Amos a boy when Joel was a man. The several proph-
ecies in the book seem to be of one date. The book
opens with a motto cited from Joel (Am. i. 2; Joel
16), and, apparently, it rebukes certain persons who are
taking unwarranted encouragement from what Joel has
prophesied concerning the Day of Yahaweh (v. 8 ff.).
What we know concerning Hosea comes from the
title and contents of his book. He began prophesying
almost contemporaneously with Amos, but his career
extended through the reigns of Jotham and Ahaz, and
into that of Hezekiah, a period of several decades„ He
is a prophet of the northern kingdom, but his sympa-
thies are wholly with the house of David.
Isaiah is perhaps the greatest of all the prophets.
The title to his book mentions the same kings of Judah
with the title to Hosea. Isaiah's career began later in
the reign of Uzziah than those of Amos and Hosea, and
may have extended into the reign of Manasseh. In
more passages than one he perpetuates the preaching
of the Day of Yahaweh, which his predecessors had
inaugurated. We cannot here consider the questions
that have been raised concerning the relations of Isaiah
the son of Amoz to our existing book of Isaiah.
The second part of our book of Zechariah consists of
two "burdens " (ix–xi, xii–xiv). The first presents a
situation in which the separate kingdoms of Judah and
Ephraim are in existence, and in which Assyria is the
great world-power (ix. 1o, 13, x. 6, 7, 10, 11). The
second is addressed to persons who can remember the
earthquake in the time of Uzziah (xiv. 5). Other marks
THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS 59
of like significance abound in both. These marks seem
to date these two Burdens during the time when Isaiah
was contemporary with Hosea.
Micah, according to the title of the book, was the
contemporary of Isaiah from some date in the reign of
Jotham. In later times Jeremiah's friends cite him as
a precedent in favor of prophetic freedom of speech
(Jer. xxvi. 17-19). So far as appears, he was exclusively
a prophet of Judah.
Early in the reign of Ahaz, in the midst of the careers
of Hosea and Isaiah and Micah, we have a brief note
concerning a prophet named Oded, a different man from
the Oded of the time of Asa. He secured the return
of two hundred thousand women and children whom
the Israelites under Pekah had carried captive from
Judah (2 Chron. xxviii. 9).
Many allusions in the literature dealing with these
times indicate that the prophet was a familiar figure,1
and that prophets were numerous.2 This indication is
reenforced by the very frequent mention of false proph-
ets.3 The true prophets were numerous enough to have
numerous counterfeits. Perhaps the statement of Amos
that he is not a son of a prophet implies that the pro-
phetic organizations were still maintained in northern
Israel (vii. 14), but this allusion stands alone.
1 "The mighty man and the man of war, the judge and the prophet"
(Isa. iii. 2). "I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young
men for Nazirites " (Am. ii. 11).
2 "Yahaweh testified unto Israel and unto Judah by the hand of every
prophet, and of every seer." "As he spake by the hand of all his servants
the prophets" (2 Ki. xvii. 13, 23). "I have also spoken unto the prophets,
and I have multiplied visions, and by the hand of the prophets have I used
similitudes" (Hos. xii. 10 ). See also, among other instances, 2 Ki.
xxi. 10 and 2 Chron. xxxiii. 10; Isa. xxx. 10; Hos. vi. 5, iv. 5, ix. 7, 8;
Am. ii. 12, iii. 7, 8, vii. 12, 13, 14, 15, 16; Mic. iii. 6, 7.
3 Isaiah is emphatic concerning these. "The prophet that giveth lies
60 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
Roeh, in the sense of seer, is employed for the last
time in the Old Testament in Isa. xxx. 10. The other
derivatives of raah, with those of nabha and hhazah,
continue to be used in this and the subsequent periods.
So do the phrases " man of God," " word of Yahaweh,"
"Spirit of Yahaweh." In Isa. xxx. to the English
versions render hhazah and its noun by " prophesy "
and " prophets," to distinguish them from raah and its
noun which they render "see" and "seer." Massa,
"burden," is much used in this period (e.g. Isa. xix. t„
xxi. t, xxii. I). Twice (Prov. xxx. t, xxxi. t) the old
version renders it " prophecy " and the revised versions
"oracle." Hittiph and its noun are used of prophesying
only in this period (Am. vii. 16; Mic. ii. 6, 11) and in
two places in Ezekiel.
The fourth subperiod is that of the Palestinian
prophets of the time of Jeremiah, he himself being the
Prophecy from central figure. Counted from the captivity of
Manasseh to Manasseh to the burning of the temple, the
the exile time is perhaps about sixty years; counted
to the death of Jeremiah it is longer, perhaps by some
decades. The distinguished names are Nahum, Habak-
kuk, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, with three others that are
incidentally mentioned in the records. In the great
crisis of the reformation under Josiah, the prophet con-
sulted was not Jeremiah or Zephaniah, but the prophet-
ess Huldah, then living in Jerusalem (2 Ki. xxii. 14 and
2 Chron. xxxiv. 22). The narrative makes the impression
that she was a person of distinction and influence, and
highly gifted with prophetic power. In the book of
for torah, he is the tail" (ix. 15 ). "Priest and prophet have erred
through strong drink " (xxviii. 7). "Yahaweh . . . hath closed your eyes,
ye prophets, and hath covered your heads, ye seers; and to you vision
hath become wholly like the words of the book that is sealed" (xxix. 10).
And Isaiah is not alone in this (e.g. Mic. iii. 5, 11).
THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS 61
Jeremiah, Baruch the scribe appears with prominence
(xxxii. 12-16, xxxvi, xliii, xlv), though it is not expressly
said that he is a prophet. We have also an account of
one Uriah the son of Shemaiah of Kiriath-jearim, who
prophesied in the time of Jehoiakim, and who was
brought by some form of extradition from Egypt and
put to death (Jer. xxvi. 20-23).
Other prophets were numerous. The biblical writings
concerning the time speak of them in more than thirty
places. They speak thus of true prophets (e.g. 2 Ki.
xxiii. 2 and 2 Chron. xxxvi. 16 ; Lam. ii. 9 ; Jer. vii. 25,
xxvi. 5), and of false prophets as well (e.g. Zeph.
iii. 4 ; Lam. iv. 13; Jer. ii. 8, 26, xiv. 18, xxiii. 9, 11).
The false prophets are more to the front than the true.
Not less than four are mentioned by name. In the
fourth year of Zedekiah, the prophet Hananiah the son
of Azzur broke the yoke from off the neck of Jeremiah,
in token of the breaking of the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar.
Jeremiah predicted his death in punishment for thus
making the people trust in a lie ; and the prediction
was fulfilled (Jer. xxviii). Ahab the son of Kolaiah and
Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah prophesied a lie in the
name of Yahaweh, and were roasted in the fire by
the king of Babylon (Jer. xxix. 21-23). Shemaiah the
Nehelamite prophesied, causing the people to trust in a
lie, and sent letters to Jerusalem reviling Jeremiah as a
madman, and was divinely punished ( Jer. xxix. 24, 28, 31,
32). The last named and possibly some of the others
prophesied in Babylonia among the exiles.
The fifth subperiod is that of the prophets in Babylonia
during the seventy years of the exile. It begins with
the earlier deportations by Nebuchadnezzar from Jeru-
salem, nearly twenty years before the burning of the
temple, and thus overlaps the preceding subperiod, the
62 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
distinction between the two being in part geographical.
The two great names are Daniel and Ezekiel. On the
Prophecy in basis of views concerning the book of Isaiah
Babylonia that were held twenty years ago, many scholars
among the exiles exiles would add a yet greater name, that of the sup-
posed second Isaiah. These prophets flourished in the
country of the Euphrates, and are thus placed in a dif-
ferent class from their contemporaries in Palestine,
whom we have assigned to the preceding period.
In the earlier part of this period, at least, we find
mention of numerous false prophets, male and female,
prophesying in the name of Yahaweh ; men who daub
with untempered mortar, and women who sew pillows
upon all elbows (e.g. Ezek. xiii. 2, 3, 4, 9, 15–16, 17-18,
xiv. 4, 7, 9, 10). True prophets are not so much in
evidence, though there may have been numbers of them
also. Certain critical theories now current seem to
require the hypothesis that prophets now began to
multiply in the lands of the exile.
The last subperiod is that of the prophets after the
return from exile in the first year of Cyrus. The great
Prophecy in names are those of Haggai, the Zechariah of
the post- Zech. i–viii, Ezra, Nehemiah,- the author of
exilian times Malachi. Daniel was still alive at the open-
ing of the period. Haggai and Zechariah flourished
in the early years of it (Ezra v. 1, 2, vi. 14; Hag. i. 1;
Zech. i. 1, etc.). It is supposable that in early life they
may have known Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Ezra is chiefly
known as the scribe, and Nehemiah by his political
achievements ; but there is no room to doubt that the
biblical narrators regard them as exercising prophetic
gifts. No one is qualified to say whether the book of
Malachi was written by a prophet of that name, or by
Ezra, or by some one else.
THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS 63
The period was not without its other prophets, true
and false (Zech. vii. 3, viii. 9; Neh. vi. 7). Nehemiah
speaks of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, who had been
hired to pronounce a false prophecy, and of "the
prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets" who
sought to frighten him (vi. 10-14). These notices, with
the analogy of the preceding periods, confirm the tradi-
tions concerning the Great Synagogue, which affirm
that prophets were numerous at this time.
Nevertheless the time is priestly rather than prophetic.
So far as the record shows, the prophetic organizations
have vanished. In their stead we find the place Casiphia,
for training men for the various duties of the temple
service (Ezra viii. 17). A marked feature of the period
is the habit of appeal to the prophets of earlier times
(Zech. i. 4, 5, 6, vii. 7, 12; Mal. iv. 5; Ezra ix. 11;
Neh. ix. 26, 30, 32). Evidently these earlier prophets''
are regarded as authoritative scriptures.
The question of the cessation of prophecy we must
here dismiss with a few sentences. The period of the
so-called men of the Great Synagogue covers The cessa-
the last two prophetic periods and the time tion of
following. With the exception of Ezekiel, prophecy
who is probably included by implication, all the distin-
guished exilian and postexilian prophets are expressly
named in the lists of the men of the Great Synagogue.
Others besides prophets are also named, the number
being one hundred and twenty in all, and the latest
great name being that of the highpriest Simon the
Just. The Talmuds say that Simon was highpriest in
the time of Alexander the Great, and Josephus is clearly
mistaken in assigning him to a later time.
Most statements that are made concerning the men
of the Great Synagogue as an organization are insuffi-
64 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
ciently based—alike those that affirm and those that
deny. But there is no room for doubt that this succes-
sion of men existed historically, or that the traditions
apply this name to them, or that they did many of the
things which the traditions attribute to them. Among
the acts attributed to them are the writing of the latest
Old Testament books and the completion of the Old
While the traditions say that many of the men of
the Great Synagogue were prophets up to the time of
Nehemiah and the writing of Malachi, they also say
that the men of the Great Synagogue as a whole are
later than the succession of the prophets taken as i'a
whole, that is, that the succession of prophets ceased at
some time before Simon the Just, and therefore before
the beginning of the Greek period. This finds confirma-
tion in the phenomena of the latest narrative books of
the Old Testament. The latest events mentioned in
these occurred (many assertions to the contrary notwith-
standing) some time before the death of Nehemiah.
Both in and out of the Old Testament, prophets are
abundantly mentioned as contemporaneous with Nehe-
miah, but none as living later. Josephus testifies (Cont.
Ap. I, 8) that the succession of the prophets ceased
with the reign of the Artaxerxes who reigned after
Xerxes. Of course he means that it ceased with the lives
of the prophets who were contemporary with Artaxer-
xes. Some of these, Nehemiah for example, may have
survived Artaxerxes by several decades.
There has been some dispute over the interpretation
of the Jewish traditions in this matter, and there is some
confusion in the traditions themselves, this last being in
part due to the inexplicable confusion of the rabbinical
chronology for the Persian period. But there are cer-
THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE PROPHETS 65
tain very solid facts which ought to interpret the facts
that are less evident. Judas Maccabus and his asso-
ciates regarded themselves as under the influence of the
divine Spirit, and claimed a certain power of making
predictions and working miracles. It has been inferred
that they counted themselves as prophets, but there is
clear proof to the contrary. We are told that they were
at a loss what to do with the altar of burnt offering
which the heathen had profaned. So they pulled it
down and laid away the stones "until there should
come a prophet to give answer concerning them"
(I Mac. iv. 46). A few years later they decided "that
Simon should be their prince and highpriest forever,
until there arise a faithful prophet" (xiv. 41). We are
told that under Bacchides "there arose a great affliction
in Israel, such as had not occurred since the time that
a prophet appeared not amongst them " (ix. 27). Such
instances show that the Maccabees were consciously not
prophets, however conscious they may have been of the
possession of supernatural powers. In their time proph-
ets in the proper sense were thought of as belonging
to the past. Similar reasoning would apply to Simon
the Just, or to Jesus the son of Sirach, or to others.
In fine, the Jewish tradition holds that the succession
of the prophets ceased with the dying out of Nehemiah
and his associates, about 400 B.C. There was an expec-
tation that it would sometime be renewed, but it be-
came at that time non-existent. From the Christian
point of view it is plausible to affirm that the succession
reappeared in the person of John the Baptist, followed
by Jesus himself, and by the apostles and prophets of
THE PROPHET. A CITIZEN WITH A MESSAGE
WHAT manner of man was the prophet outwardly?
What do we know concerning his personal appearance
and the external insignia of his office and the visible life
he lived among his fellow-citizens? In answer to these
questions we will discuss mainly three topics : first, the
outward presentment of the prophets; second, their
communal organizations; third, the so-called prophetic
There is no reason why one's conclusions on these
topics should be greatly affected by the critical position
One's view as he occupies. In regard to the external his-
affected by his tory of the prophets, as we ran it over in the
his critical position position last chapter, the men of the Modern View
differ widely with the older scholars ; though even here
the difference is less over the question what the scrip-
tures say than over the question how far what they say
is to be believed. But in the matter of the outward
phenomena presented by the prophets there is less
room for difference. The prominent characteristics are
the same at all dates in the history, however the proph-
ets of the different periods may differ in matters of
detail. This fact the scholars of the Modern View
might account for by regarding all the scriptural pic-
tures of the prophet as late ; but however one accounts
for it, it is a fact. Owing to it, our conclusions on these
points depend much less than in some other cases on
THE PROPHET. A CITIZEN WITH A MESSAGE 67
our opinions as to the dates of the writings. Some of
the views presented in this chapter are unlike those that
have been commonly held; but the differences are not
along the lines of the controversy between the Modern
View and the older views.
I. This preliminary being disposed of, we proceed to
inquire as to the external appearance of the prophet of
In centuries past Christian people have been accus-
tomed to think of him as though he were a Christian
priest or monk. Painters have painted his Baseless cur-
picture with this idea in mind. In Christian rent ideas
art a prophet is hardly more or less than an ecclesiastic,
barefoot, with a robe and a tonsure and a general air
of unearthliness. This is a miracle equal to that by
which art has transformed the angels of the bible, who
are always either young men or old men, into stocking-
less winged women. Far be it from me to make criti-
cism upon this as art; I only remark that art isn't
With this idea of an ecclesiastical personage has been
combined that of a revealer of hidden things. Certain
lines of the picture have been modelled upon the medi-
eval astrologer, or the priest of a Greek oracle, as if
the prophet were a weird, mysterious being who sits on
a tripod in a cave, and gives other-world advice to such
frightened souls as come to him.
Or one starts with the assumption that religion is
developing from lower forms to higher, and that the
earlier Hebrew prophets must have started at a pretty
low degree. So he comes to the study of them with a
mind preoccupied with African fetich-men, or voudou
practitioners, or American Indian medicine-men. Look-
ing through glasses of this color, he may see in Samuel's
68 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
companies of prophets little else than medicine dances
and powwow circles.
Or, taking his cue from the notion that the Orient
never changes, that what now exists there is what always
existed there, one may imagine the prophetic companies
as bands of whirling dervishes.
Evidently we are in danger of being misled both by
our preconceived notions and by our love of the pictu-
resque, and we therefore especially need to be on our
guard, attending with care to the evidence in the case.
Let us do this. Let us examine what information we
have, and base our pictures of the prophets upon that,
instead of first forming our ideas concerning the proph-
ets, and then manipulating the information to make it
conform to the ideas.
A particularly significant thing in the biblical ac-
counts is the absence of phenomena of this unearthly
Significant sort among the prophets as a class. On cer-
absence of tain occasions particular prophets practised
unearthly austerities for purposes of symbolical teach-
phenomena ing. But ordinarily Moses or Samuel or Isaiah or
David or Nathan or Daniel appear as men arnong men,
citizens among citizens, and not at all like the frenzied
seers or oracle priests of the heathen religions. To
this even Ezekiel is not wholly an exception, though he
comes near enough to it to be quite in contrast with the
other prophets. An average Old Testament prophet is
not weird or mysterious. He is not a recluse, but an
active citizen. He is not picturesque through eccentric
personal appearance or habits. Elijah, indeed, was a
man of unusual personal appearance (2 Ki. i. 7-8), and
for a time led the life of a recluse, but he is presented
to us as being peculiar in these respects. He is as dif-
ferent from other prophets as he is from citizens of any
THE PROPHET. A CITIZEN WITH A MESSAGE 69
other class. We make a serious mistake if we count
him as typical, instead of counting him the exceptional
instance he purports to be.
The books of reference tell us that the prophets wore
a distinctive costume. In proof they cite what is said
in Zechariah (xiii. 2–6) concerning certain Was there a
prophets associated with idols, who "wear a prophetic
hairy mantle to deceive." It is inferred that costume?
Jehovah's prophets were accustomed to wear a hairy
mantle, and that these frauds adopted the usual pro-,
phetic garb, to give color to their pretences. It would
be exactly as logical to infer that they adopted an un-
usual garb in order to attract attention. Further, the
hairy mantle is here one of two devices by which these
idol prophets made themselves conspicuous. The other
was by cuts on their bodies.
"And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds between
thy hands? And he shall say, Those with which I was wounded
in the house of my friends " (Zech. xiii. 6).
The cuts on the body are here on the same footing with
the hairy mantle. Clearly, the writer had no intention
of saying that either was a part of the regulation uni-
form of the prophets of Yahaweh.
Further, they cite the hairy mantle worn by Elijah
and inherited by Elisha, and in connection with this
they mention the hairy garment worn by John the
Baptist. But you will remember that when King
Ahaziah's messengers reported to him that the man
who had met them wore a hairy garment, he at once
knew that the man was Elijah (2 Ki. i. 8). Elijah's
mantle distinguished him from all other prophets, as
well as from citizens who were not prophets. This
clearly shows that the prophets in general did not;
wear the hairy mantle as a uniform.
70 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
They cite also the statement that Isaiah once upon a
time wore sackcloth, and put it off, going " naked and
barefoot" (xx. 2). But Isaiah's wearing sackcloth
exceptionally is no proof that all the prophets wore a
uniform regularly. No more can the same inference
be drawn from Samuel's being " covered with a robe"
when the witch of Endor called him up. The word
me'il is employed alike in describing the dress of kings
and priests and private citizens and boys and girls.
This is all the testimony that is cited for the exist-
ence of a distinctive prophetic costume. Evidently it
has very little weight. And there are strong considera-
tions on the other side. In the story that tells us how
Saul and his servant sought the asses and found a king-
dom (I Sam. ix), we are informed that they met Samuel
in the gate of the city, and asked him to tell them where
the seer's house was (ver. 18). It is evident that there
was nothing in his garb to indicate that he was himself
the seer. But he was at that moment on his way to a
public solemnity, and in those circumstances, if ever,
he would have been officially attired. We have an
account of a prophet who rebuked Ahab for suffering
Benhadad to escape (i Ki. xx. 38, 41). He disguised
himself by pulling his headband over his face. The
king knew him when he removed the headband. The
king knew him by his face, and not by his costume.
Similar statements would apply to the prophet who
anointed Jehu for king (2 Ki. ix. II). There is no
sacred uniform to tell Jehu and his friends who the
"mad fellow" is.
These are representative instances, and they seem to
be decisive. The cases cited to prove the existence of
a regulation prophetic costume are clearly exceptional,
and, therefore, prove the contrary, so far as they prove
THE PROPHET. A CITIZEN WITH A MESSAGE 71
anything. No article of prophetic apparel is ever spoken
of as distinctive of the class. There is no trace of a
special costume by which prophets were distinguished
from men who were not prophets. Religious art has
given to the prophet a monkish robe and tonsure; so
far as the Old Testament accounts go, sober truth
should give him the usual dress of a citizen of his time
and nation. If we should picture him as wearing a sack
coat and a Derby hat in the forenoon and a dress suit
in the evening, our picture would be no more anachro-
nistic than that of current art, and would be far truer
Some one may rejoin that the Old Testament evidence
in the case is negative rather than positive, and that we
must still infer, from the analogy of other The fact sig-
religions, that the Israelitish prophets had a nificant, even
peculiar dress of their own. Medicine-men if negative
and fetich-men, the prophets of savage religions, trick
themselves out in grotesque dress. In higher civiliza-
tions the prophet makes himself impressive by the garb
that indicates his profession. Is it possible that the
prophets of Israel were an exception?
In reply to this, I should deny that the Old Testament
evidence is a mere argument from silence. It seems to
me positive and distinct. But if any one thinks other-
wise, I should not take the trouble to argue the case
with him. At all events, the biblical writers leave the
question of a prophetic dress in the background. They
describe in detail the costume of their priests, but not
that of their prophets. The writers of other peoples
make much of the garb of the men through whom they
consult the unseen world; not so the writers of Israel.
With them the man is everything, and his dress nothing.
The record is, therefore, unique at this point, whether
72 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
the fact recorded be unique or not. Why should we
not hold that both are unique? Israel as existing to-day
is unique. Jesus Christ, of the stock of Israel, is unique.
These are unique, whether we look at them from the
evangelical point of view or from the agnostic point of
view. Unique results probably had unique antecedents.
We should not be surprised if we find the uniqueness
extending to many matters of detail. The fact that
the biblical account of the prophets makes them in any
particular different from the prophets of other religions
is no argument against the truth of the account; for
we ought to expect to find that they were different.
Some of the books of reference affirm that the
prophets were addicted to habits of religious frenzy. Ian
Did the proof is given an alleged derivation of the
prophets word nabha, from nabha’, "to boil up." But
rave? the derivation is at the strongest merely a
conjecture; and it would not prove the point even if it
were known to be correct.
Worldly men are twice spoken of as calling the
prophets mad—that is, crazy. Shemaiah the Nehela-
mite wrote to the officials at Jerusalem, asking them
why they had not rebuked Jeremiah, under the provision
for putting "in the stocks and in shackles " "any man
that is crazed, and maketh himself a prophet" (Jer.
xxix. 26-27). This epithet, we learn from the context,
was not called forth by crazy conduct on the part of
Jeremiah, but by his writing a particularly sane letter to
the exiles in Babylonia. The prophet who came to
anoint Jehu, a quiet, secret errand, is called by Jehu"s
brother officers a "crazed fellow" (2 Ki. ix. 11). There
is no trace of raving in either case. Worldly men called
the prophets crazy, just as worldly men to-day call ear-
nest preachers crazy.
THE PROPHET. A CITIZEN WITH A MESSAGE 73
In one place a prophet speaks of the prophets as
crazy. Hosea says: —
"The prophet is a fool, the man that hath the spirit is crazed, for
the multitude of thine iniquity, and because the enmity is great "
Here, clearly, he represents himself and other prophets
as distracted under the strain of current evil; but he
does not attribute frenzied utterance to himself or to
In one instance it is said that the evil spirit came upon
King Saul, "and he prophesied" (I Sam. xviii. 10).
David played before him as usual, and he attempted to
kill David. Doubtless this was an attack of mania, but
it does not follow that Saul's raving is called prophesy-
ing. It is quite as easy to think that Saul talked on
religious subjects, and that this was a characteristic
symptom of his fits of insanity ; in other words, that
Saul's utterances are here called prophesying not
because they were crazy, but because they were re-
In the account of Saul's pursuing David to Naioth in
Ramah (I Sam. xix. 18-24) we have a similar connec-
tion between religious utterance on the part of Saul and
the insane attacks to which he was subject. Excited
by his rage against David and the disobedience of his
messengers, and afterward by the prophesying as he
heard it, he himself prophesied, —
"And he went on and prophesied until he came to Naioth in
Ramah. And he also stripped off his clothes, and he also prophe-
sied before Samuel, and fell down naked all that day and all that
Apparently Saul, in his prophesying, conducted himself
in an insane and indecorous manner. But it does not
appear that any one else did so; nor that Saul's conduct
is called prophesying because of the craziness of it.
We have an account (i Sam. x..5–13) of the company of
prophets that Saul met when he was first anointed king.
"A band of prophets coming down from the highplace, with
psaltery and timbrel and pipe and harp before them; and they shall
be prophesying ; and the spirit of Yahaweh will come mightily upon
thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into
We need not necessarily figure this as a company of
dancing dervishes. It may equally well be a band of
serious men, holding an outdoor religious meeting, with
a procession and music and public speeches.
In all the instances of this kind the alleged prophetic
frenzy is a matter of interpretation, and not of direct
statement. If one comes to the passages with the idea
that frenzied utterance lies at the root of the original
notion of prophesying, he may find in the passages the
outcropping of this underlying notion in the word; but
he will hardly find it without such assistance. This
being the case, the passages should certainly be inter-
preted in the light of the habitual sanity that marks the
conduct and the utterances of the prophets. The idea
that Saul's attacks of mania made him very religious in
his utterances is in accord with facts with which we are
familiar. The idea that the prophets preached in the open
air, attracting attention by means of a procession and a
band, has in it no element of absurdity. If one starts
by assuming that the prophet developed from a medi-
cine-man or a voudou-man or a fetich-man, or that the
prophet is of a piece with a Greek oracle priest, drunk
with vapor, one may be able to stretch these texts so
as to make them fit his assumption; but that is not
their natural meaning.
THE PROPHET. A CITIZEN WITH A MESSAGE 75
In short, the inference that the prophets were character-
ized by frenzy is baseless. The statement that Jeremiah
was crazy is recorded as a slander, and not as a fact.
Religious talking was a symptom in Saul's periods of
insanity. The prophets held religious meetings under
the excitement of which Saul conducted himself strangely.
But there is no proof that the prophets acted like crazy
In one personal peculiarity the prophets are repre-
sented to have been remarkable, — their longevity. As
a class, judging from the biographical notices The prophets
we have, they were unusually long-lived men. long-lived
To say nothing of the patriarchs, Moses died at the age
of one hundred and twenty years, being till then vigor-
ous (Deut. xxxi. 2, xxxiv. 7). This is not to be explained
by saying that the term of human life has diminished
since then. According to the priestly laws in Leviticus
(xxvii. 3, 7, etc.) the age of manly vigor was then from
twenty to sixty years. Caleb regarded it as exceptional
that he was still a warrior at eighty-five (Josh. xiv. Io–I 1 ;
cf. Ps. xc. 1o). Moses had his successors in longevity.
Joshua reached the age of one hundred and ten years.
(Josh. xxiv. 29 ; Jud. ii. 8). Jehoiada, the prophetically
gifted highpriest, lived to be one hundred and thirty
years old (2 Chron. xxiv. 15). The public career of Elisha
extended through not less than' sixty years, and that of
Isaiah was yet longer, and that of Daniel about seventy
years. The list might be extended. In a general way
art has good ground for its habit of picturing a prophet
as old and venerable ; though it happens that in many
particular instances art has given gray hairs to a
prophet who should have been pictured as a young
So much for the prophets as they presented themselves
76 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
to the eyes of their contemporaries. Save in special
instances we are to think of their personal appearance
as simply that of respectable citizens.
II. Similar results await us as we turn to a second
topic, the arrangements for the communal organizations
of the prophets.
Of these we know but little, save what lies on the
surface of the biblical texts. It will help to a clear
understanding of what is said concerning these organi-
zations if we begin by fixing firmly in our minds the
fact that they are mentioned in connection with two
periods, — the time of Samuel and the time of Elijah
and Elisha. Nothing is said concerning them in the
history of the other periods, the mention of "a son of a
prophet" in Amos (vii. I4) being properly no exception
to this statement.
In the King James version the phrase "company of
prophets" occurs in two connections, suggesting that
Prophetic the prophets were organized and operated
organizations in companies. The verbal statement of this
under fact vanishes when we examine the Hebrew;
Samuel but the fact itself remains, based on inference. The
account of it is given mainly in two passages.
The first of the two passages is the one cited above,
in which we are told of Saul's meeting the prophets
after Samuel had anointed him (z Sam. x. 5-13). Saul
met what the old version calls a " company," and the
new version a "band" of prophets. "A string of
prophets " would be an exact rendering in vernacular
English, that is, a procession. They had a band of
music "before them," stringed instruments and drum
and fife. They were prophesying. After meeting them
Saul joined them in prophesying, the spirit of God com-
ing "mightily" upon him. The change in him was so
THE PROPHET. A CITIZEN WITH A MESSAGE 77
remarkable that people noticed it, and asked: " Is Saul
also among the prophets?"
I have already indicated the opinion that we have
here an account of outdoor religious services, differing,
of course, from anything that could occur in our time,
as that time differed from ours in everything, and yet
properly analogous to such services as might now be
held by a corps of the Salvation Army, or by the Young
Men's Christian Association. The remarks that are
represented to have been made by the people imply
that they were familiar with such services by the
prophets. They recognized the fact that Saul belonged
to a worldly-minded family, not given to participating
in evangelistic meetings. And whether you admit the
correctness of these analogies or not, at least such
movements as are here described must have had behind
them some form of organization, looser or more com-
The other passage in question has also been cited
above, the one that describes Saul's pursuit of David
to Naioth in Ramah (t Sam. xix. 18-24). It is said of
Saul's messengers that
"They saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and
Samuel standing as head over them."
The word here translated "company " occurs nowhere
else. Evidently, however, the prophets were together
in some sort of assembly, engaged in con- The Naioth
certed action of some sort, Samuel being gathering of
either the president or the conductor. The prophets
atmosphere was charged with religious excitement.
Saul's successive relays of messengers, as they came
under the influence of the scene, joined in the prophe-
sying, and so did even the king himself when he
78 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
at last followed his messengers. Saul and possibly
others divested themselves of part of their clothing.
Saul seems to have had a fit that lasted several
This incident, as well as the previous one, presupposes
organization of some sort. Concerning the forms and
the purposes of the organizing, we have little inEorma-
tion. We cannot escape the conclusion, however, that
an educational element was included. The instruments
of music in the one incident, and the concerted proph-
esying under the conduct of Samuel in the other,
suggest that training in orchestral and choral music
was made prominent. We shall not be far out if we
suppose that instruction was given in patriotic history,
in theology, in literary practice, in whatever would fit
the disciples of Samuel to be preachers of the religion
of Yahaweh to their contemporaries. The remarkable
blossoming out of Israel in the times of David and
Solomon, in matters of literature and culture, was
doubtless largely due to these prophetic organizations
introduced by Samuel. It is probable, however, that
these organizations were not merely schools, but were,
like those of a later time, also centres of political and
The mention of music as a part of the 'prophetic
training under Samuel is in accord with those passages
in the books of Chronicles which speak of Asaph,
Heman and Jeduthun and their associates as prophesy-
ing in song or with instruments of music (e.g. I Chron.
xxv), and with all the statements in the Old and New
Testaments which represent the second half of the
reign of David as resplendent with culture and music
and psalmody. Before one rejects these traditions as
unhistorical he should take into account, among other
THE PROPHET. A CITIZEN WITH A MESSAGE 79
things, their marked continuity with the recorded events
of the time of Samuel. Supposing them to be histori-
cal, it was not by mere accident that the temple choirs
appeared in the generation following the death of
Samuel, or that Heman the grandson of Samuel was
one of their leaders.
So much for the organizations of Samuel's time.
The other type of prophetic organization is that de-
scribed in the term "sons of the prophets." “The sons of
So far as the records show, it belongs exclu- the prophets”
sively to the northern kingdom, and, save for general
mention in Amos (vii. 14), exclusively to the times of
Elijah and Elisha. Groups of the sons of the prophets
existed at Bethel, Jericho, Gilgal (2 Ki. ii. 3, 5, iv. 38),
and presumably at other places. We are accustomed
to call them the "schools of the prophets," but this
term is not biblical. A good many details are given
concerning them. In his lifetime Elijah was at the
head of them, and he left this office to Elisha (2 Ki. ii.
3, 15, etc.). In studying them one should study the
entire biography of these two prophets. We have a
story that one group of them found their home too nar-
row and went to cut timber for enlarging it, on which`
occasion Elisha performed the miracle' of causing an
iron axe to swim (2 Ki. vi. 1-7). From this we learn that'
in some cases the sons of the prophets were a commu-
nity, living in a common house. We also learn that they
were not afraid of manual labor. They were numerous,
for the community at Jericho could send its fifty men to
search for Elijah (2 Ki. ii. 16, 17), and Obadiah hid a
hundred of Jehovah's prophets "by fifty in a cave "
(1 Ki. xviii. 4). They were not mere lads, some of
them being married men, as we learn from Elisha's
miracle of the oil, wrought in behalf of the widow of
80 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
one of them. Kindly disposed people sometimes con-
tributed to their support. Witness Elish's feeding a
hundred men with the twenty loaves of the man from
Baal-shalishah (iv. 42-44). Sometimes they eked out
their subsistence by gathering wild vegetation, as we
see in the incident when there was "death in the pot"
This system of communities was evidently widespread
anti influential. Doubtless they had somewhat of the
character of schools for personal education; but they
were rather houses of reform, centres of religious and
patriotic movement. Their members were especially
obnoxious to the Baalite party in Israelitish politics.
They promoted the overthrow of Joram and the acces-
sion of Jehu (2 Ki. ix. 1-12). Their political attitude is
one of the most significant things about them. We
shall return to this in another chapter. Meanwhile we
may fix in mind the fact that the work of the sons of the
prophets is represented to have been analogous to that
of our Young Men's Christian Associations, or of some
of our organizations for reform or for good citizenship,
rather than to that of our schools or colleges or semi-
The "college" in Jerusalem, where, according to the
King James translation, the prophetess Huldah dwelt
(2 Ki. xxii. 14; 2 Chron. xxxiv. 22), is simply an instance
of the uncertain meaning of a word.
III. We turn to a third topic, the so-called prophetic
Much stress is laid on this by some writers. Most
denominations of Christians hold that the Christian
“Holy ministry is an order of men who have "taken
orders” orders " in the sense of being set apart by
ordination. The Anglican and Roman churches hold
THE PROPHET. A CITIZEN WITH A MESSAGE 81
that the ministry exists in three different orders ; namely,
bishops and priests and deacons. In a sense something
like this many speak of the two orders of the ministry
under the Old Covenant ; namely, the priestly order and
the prophetic order.
Is this a proper use of language? Are we to think
of the prophet as belonging to an order? Was he an
ordained man, like a Jewish priest or a Christian min-
ister? In other words, are we to think of the priests
and the prophets as two orders of Israelitish clergymen?
These questions must be answered by examining the
I. First, it is probably true that there was an un-
broken succession of prophets from Samuel to Malachi
— perhaps from Abraham to Malachi—in The prophets
the sense that Israel was never during that a succession
time wholly without true living prophets or prophetic
men. This is probable, though it cannot at every point
2. But, secondly, the prophets were not a sacerdotal
order, holding definite relations to the priestly order.
They were not a priesthood, or a section of The prophets
the priesthood, or a body analogous to the not a sacer-
priesthood. In this the usage of Israel dif- dotal order
fered from that of other peoples. In Egypt, for ex-
ample, the prophets were a class in the priesthood. Mr.
George Rawlinson tells us that they ranked next to the
highpriests, and that they —
“were generally presidents of the temples, had the management of
the sacred revenues, were bound to commit to memory the contents
of the ten sacerdotal books " (History of Egypt, I, 447).
Similar representations are made in such a novel as
the Uarda of Ebers; and more minute and accurate
statements may be found in later Egyptological works.
82 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
And what was true of the prophets of Egypt has been
true of those of other countries. In Israel, however, the
case was different. We have no account of any priestly
functions regularly exercised by the prophets as proph-
ets ; and none of any official relations between the
priestly body and the prophetic body.
It is true that some prophets were also priests, Zadok
and Jeremiah and Ezra, for example. That is to say,
a priest might become a prophet, as might any one
else. Further, in certain instances, a prophet, without
being a priest, may have been commissioned to perform
priestly acts. We are told that Moses was so commis-
sioned, officiating as priest in the original setting apart
of Aaron to the priesthood (Lev. viii. 15-30). It is
commonly alleged that Samuel performed priestly acts,
but the records do not sustain the allegation.1 There is
no trace of any defined sacerdotal rights or duties regu-
larly devolving upon the prophets. The prophet, as such,
was not a priest. The two offices were entirely different.2
3. It is probable, thirdly, that the prophetic ranks
1 Certainly, it is said that Samuel offered sacrifices (I Sam. vii. 9, xvi.
2, and other places). But this would be said of any person who brought
a sacrifice for offering, even if he employed a priest to-sprinkle the blood
and to perform all the other priestly functions in the case. In particular,
a public man is said to offer sacrifices when he causes them to be offered
by the proper officiating priests. The record is capable of this interpreta-
tion in every case where it speaks of an offering by Samuel. In one in-
stance only we have a specific statement of the part personally taken by
Samuel in a sacrifice (I Sam. ix. 13); and in this instance he was to pro-
nounce a blessing at the sacrificial meal, long after all the priestly rites had
2 The priest must be from the tribe of Levi; the prophet might be from
any tribe. The priest was selected according to descent and ceremonial
condition; the prophet was directly and individually commissioned by
Deity. The priest was accredited by solemn religious services and care-
fully kept genealogical registers, the prophet by the possession of the
extraordinary powers that God gave him. The priests served in a yearly
THE PROPHET. A CITIZEN WITH A MESSAGE 83
were somewhat generally recruited from among men
who were disciples of the acknowledged Was the
prophets, and had thus received special tui- prophet a
tion for the service. In the times of the graduate?
" sons of the prophets," for example, it is likely that
most men who became prophets were those who had
previously been connected with these so-called prophetic
schools (2 Ki. ix. I, 4; Am. vii. 14-15). But there is
no trace of this having been done as a matter of regular
course. There is no evidence that most of these pupils
ever became prophets in the strict sense, much less that
they became so in a routine way, by graduating. Ap-
parently, however, they were regarded as prophets in a
secondary sense, and were called by the name. In the
periods when prophets were very numerous, it is likely
that most of them were prophets only in this secondary
sense—sons of the prophets, followers of the great
prophets, rather than men who were believed to be
themselves highly endowed with prophetic gifts.
4. There is no indication, fourthly, that the prophets
were ordinarily set apart to their office by any ordaining
act. They were sometimes set apart to some Ordination
special work, but there is no instance in which
any one is admitted to be a prophet by any such act.
The anointing of Elisha is the principal case in point
(1 Ki. xix. 16, 19). But the facts of Elisha's life show
that he was a distinguished prophet long before this
anointing. He, was to be anointed, not to the prophetic
round, according to a minutely prescribed ritual; the prophets came and
went as God sent them. The priests administered and taught the divine
laws which the prophets brought and proclaimed. The priests ministered
at the altar; the prophets preached the word. The priests were the offi-
cial clergy of the Israelitish church; the prophets, especially in the matter
of scripture-writing, "spice from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost,"
not to Israel only, but to all the ages.
84 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
office, but to be the successor of Elijah, in Elijah's
special work. It is a question whether there was any
ceremony of anointing save Elijah's casting his cloak
upon him. And in any case the transaction is set forth
as exceptional and peculiar. In the same breath in
which Elijah is directed to anoint Elisha he is also
directed to anoint Hazael and Jehu. But the anointing
of Hazael king over Syria, by an Israelite prophet
(1 Ki. xix. 15), is evidently something exceptional.
Equally so is the anointing of Jehu over Israel, in a
private room at Ramoth-gilead (1 Ki. xix. 16; 2 Ki. ix.
1-13). And not less exceptional is the setting apart of
Elisha that is mentioned along with these. And with
this vanishes the last sign that any one ever entered
upon the prophetic office by taking orders.
5. In fine, every man or woman whom God endowed
with prophetic gifts thereby became a prophet. No
How one other door to the office is mentioned in the
became a scriptures. The law in Deut. xviii says : " A
prophet prophet . . . will Yahaweh thy God raise
up to thee." The prophet becomes a prophet simply
j by being raised up for that purpose. He becomes a
prophet, so far as the records show, solely by becoming
endowed with prophetic gifts. He becomes recognized
as a prophet through the exercise of his gifts among his
fellow-citizens. As people discovered that a person had
the gifts, they accepted him as a prophet, and that
irrespective of outward insignia or previous training
or ceremonies of ordination. If one claimed to be a
prophet of Yahaweh, his claims were to be tested not by
the clothes he wore, or by his ascetic mode of life, or
by appealing to a register of genealogy or of ordinations,
but by ascertaining whether he had the gifts of a prophet
—by observing, first, whether he spoke in Yahaweh's
THE PROPHET. A CITIZEN WITH A MESSAGE 85
name only, and, secondly, whether the signs which he
gave in Yahaweh's name came to pass.
This applies, of course, only to prophets who were
properly such. In the secondary sense of being a dis-
ciple, one of the sons of the prophets, one might become
a prophet merely by becoming connected with prophets
whose gifts were recognized.1
I have not the hardihood to expect that every one will
accept the opinion I am advocating as to the costume,
the freedom from excited conduct, the ordina- The prophet
tion, of the prophets; but every one will cer- especially a
tainly recognize the significant fact that these manly man
things are only slightly touched in the records; and this
fact constitutes nine-tenths of the value of the view I
offer. At least no stress is laid on matters of regulation
costume or of marvellous personal bearing or of ordina-
tion. In Deuteronomy the phrase, "of your brethren,
like unto me," stands in contrast to the characteristics
alike of the priests and of the heathen practitioners of
magic arts. Unlike these, the prophet is a man of the
same sort with other men. A distinguishing thing in
the religion of Israel is its proclamation that a manly
man is the truest channel of communication between man
and God. We cannot too strongly recognize the manli-
ness and the manfulness of the prophets, as set forth in
the Old Testament, or of Jesus and the apostles as set
forth in the New.2
l Either in these organizations or in other forms and at other dates,
there is reason to hold that the prominent prophets had their disciples,
some of whom were permanently attached to them, looking to them for
instruction, and assisting them in their work. See such passages as Isa.
viii. 16, 1. 4; Jer. li. 59-63. It may be assumed that literary and theologi-
cal studies generally formed a part of the training of the disciples of the
2 I suppose that no careful student will hold that the positions which I
86 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
To repeat this once more. According to the records
a prophet might be judge or king or priest or general or
The absence statesman or private person, in fine, might
of insignia occupy any position in the commonwealth;
noteworthy as a prophet, he was simply a citizen with a
special work to do. The prophets as such had no settled
position in church or state. They were sent by God on
individual missions, natural or supernatural, to supple-
ment the routine administration of secular and religious
affairs. The bible refuses to present any other picture
of a prophet than that of a citizen, like other citizens,
holding a commission from God, and endowed with the
gifts requisite for accrediting his commission. This
agrees with everything that we shall hereafter learn
concerning the prophets. The human individuality of
the prophet is emphasized, to the neglect of outward
appearance, or official character, or other like things.
In the scriptures as they stand, leaving out the excep-
tional instances that serve to emphasize the rule, our
attention is withdrawn from external marks, and fixed
upon the personal man or woman whom God has ap-
pointed to be prophet.
In this there is a significant contrast .between the re-
ligion of Israel and other religions. The conception of
religion which thus exalts manhood, when considering
our relations to Deity, is a fine conception. Men some-
times speak of this conception as if it were the new prod-
uct of the thinking of the last decades of the nineteenth
century. When men exploit twentieth-century religious
ideas, they give prominence to this: the recognition of
maintain as to the absence of outward insignia can be positively disproved;
and that no one will dispute that it is better to form our conceptions of the
prophets more by the facts that are positively stated, and less by accessories
that some suppose are alluded to, than many are in the habit of doing.
THE PROPHET. A CITIZEN WITH A MESSAGE 87
the truth that the most human man or woman is the per-
son most suitable to be the prophet of the Lord. It is
not a small thing among the glories of the religion of
Yahaweh that it has recognized this truth from the be-
ginning. This conception characterizes the monotheism
of the worshippers of Yahaweh, as differing from all other
religions. It characterizes this monotheism as expressed
in the earliest records we have concerning the prophets,
as well as in the latest. It is one of the phenomena
which mark that religion as, among the religions, the
one fittest to survive.
THE FUNCTIONS OF A PROPHET—NATURALISTIC AND
IN the preceding chapter we have tried to answer the
question: How did the prophet look when you met him?
and other affiliated questions. In the present chapter
the question becomes : How, in his character as prophet,
did the prophet occupy himself? What did he do?
We need from the outset to guard against two mis-
taken assumptions, — the assumption that the prophets
were merely or mainly predicters of events, and the re-
actionary assumption that they exercised no supernatu-
No scholars hold that the prophets were mere givers
of oracles or predicters of the future; and yet this phase
The assump- of their work has been so emphasized that
tion that wrong impressions are common. One needs
prophecy is to reiterate the statement that a prophet is
prediction not characteristically a person who foretells, but
one who speaks forth a message from Deity. To regard
him as mainly a foreteller involves a narrowing of the
idea of his mission that is all the more mischievous
because of its being popularly very common. The
argument from fulfilled prediction has been made so
prominent among the proofs of the divine origin of the
scriptures, and again in advocating the claim of Jesus
to be the Christ, that many have come to think of pre-
diction as being substantially the whole of prophecy, and
even to interpret the prophetic writings as if they must
THE FUNCTIONS OF A PROPHET 89
needs be regarded as predictive throughout.) This state
of things renders it necessary to repeat the statement
that prophecy and prediction are different terms. It
greatly obscures the prophecies to count them as pre-
dictive only. In bulk, predictions constitute but a small
part of them, and what predictions there are consist
almost entirely of promises and threats.
This is one bad assumption. But we should not for-
get that the opposite assumption is as bad or worse.
Prophecy is not prediction, but it does not The worse
follow that prophecy does not include predic- contrary
tion. The absence of supernatural endow- assumption
ment for the prophets is a thing to be proved, not a thing
to be assumed. Prediction should neither be interpreted
into the prophetic utterances, nor interpreted out of
them. The predictive element in prophecy may be gen-
uine and important, even if it is only a part and not the
Taking the matter up positively, let us repeat once
more that the functions of the prophet are correctly
indicated by the etymology of the English The name
word. A prophet is a person who speaks out indicates the
the special message that God has given him. function
The priesthood, and, in a modified sense, the judge or
king or other secular authorities, were, in their routine
duties, the exponents of the will of Yahaweh in Israel.
The prophets were his spokesmen for the purposes not
covered by the routine administration of affairs.
1 This is not confined to advocates of old-fashioned opinions. Several
scholars have published, for example, arguments for the Maccabaean date
of the book of Daniel, based on the assumption that prophecy and predic-
tion are equivalent. They say that inasmuch as the book of Daniel is
peculiarly predictive, the editors of the Hebrew bible would certainly have
placed it among the prophets if it had been in existence when the writings
of the prophets were collected.
90 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
In a general study of this topic very little depends
on dates. In matters of detail, indeed, there is much
Principal difference between the earlier and the later
functions the prophets. The civilization of Israel was not
same at all stationary, and the training and the tasks of
dates the prophets changed with their environment. But
in its principal outlines their work was essentially the same
at all periods?
We will begin with passages which describe a prophet's
duties in outline, and will afterward consider particulars.
In the narrative concerning Moses a prophet is thus
"And Yahaweh said unto Moses, See, I have given thee as a
Deity to Pharaoh, Aaron thy brother being thy prophet " (Ex.
Aaron was to utter before Pharaoh the messages which
A prophets Moses should commit to him for the purpose.
functions In doing this, he sustained to Moses the re-
outlined lation which a prophet sustains to his God.
Nothing could be more explicit. A prophet is a person
who speaks forth the message that God has committed
Altogether the same is the definition of the func-
tion of a prophet as given in the twelfth chapter of
Numbers : — iv t
"If there be a prophet of you, I Yahaweh make myself known
unto him in the vision, in a dream I speak with him. Not so is my
servant Moses. In all my house he is faithful. Mouth unto mouth
I speak with him" (vv. 6-8).
Here the prophet is described as one who receives mes-
1 That the Old Testament writings declare this to have been the case is
beyond dispute, though some critics may account for it by saying that the
earlier writings have been reworked.
THE FUNCTIONS OF A PROPHET 91
sages from God. That he utters the messages he receives
is not affirmed, that being left to implication.
This idea that the prophets were revealing spokesmen
for Deity is more fully defined in the eighteenth and the
thirteenth chapters of Deuteronomy. First, the prophet
is differentiated from the Levitical priest (Deut. xviii.
1-8), the ordinary spokesman of Yahaweh. The differ-
entiation is none the less real for its being indirect and
by suggestion only. The prophet's functions are unlike
those of the priesthood in that they are special, rather
than matters of routine. He is next distinguished from
all practisers of occult arts (9-14). He is unlike these
men to whom people are apt to go when they fancy
themselves in need of supernatural information. The
distinction in this case is made directly, and consists in
the fact that the prophet has genuine revelations from
Deity. Then (15-19) the prophet is positively described.
He is a man, like other men, "of thy brethren, like unto
me," raised up by Yahaweh for purposes of especial
communication from him, so that men may not need to
seek intercourse with the supernatural world through the
magic arts just forbidden, or through any other channel.
In the rest of the chapter and in the first verses of xiii,
the test of a true prophet is declared.
The messianic bearings of this passage are reserved
for future notice. It is enough for the present that they
do not conflict with the interpretation just given. The
word "prophet" in the passage, though not a collective
noun, is distributively used. Yahaweh would raise up
to Israel a prophet "from among their brethren," at his
own pleasure, whenever he had a special revelation to
make by one; and that would be as often as they really
needed communication with the unseen world. He
promised that a prophet should appear on the arising
92 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
of any such need. The New Testament writers cor-
rectly apply this to Jesus Christ, both because they
regard him as for his own time a prophet in this succes-
sion, and because they regard him as the great antitypal
prophet in whom the succession culminated.1
In our English version the last clause of the four-
teenth verse reads: —
"The Lord thy God hath not suffered thee so to do."
This translation is so inadequate as to be misleading.
Literally the clause is: —
"nd as for thee, not Thus bath Yahaweh thy God given to thee."
That is, he has not given to thee the spurious and fool-
ish modes of consulting with the unseen which are prac-
1 "For these nations which thou art dispossessing hearken unto sorcer-
ers and unto diviners; while as for thee, not thus hath Yahaweh thy Deity
given to thee. A prophet, from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like
me, will Yahaweh thy Deity raise up to thee; unto him shall ye hearken.
According to all which thou didst ask from with Yahaweh thy Deity in
Horeb, in the day of the Assembly, saying, Let me not again hear the
voice of Yahaweh my Deity, and this great fire I shall no longer see, lest I
die. And Yahaweh said unto me, They have spoken well that which they
have spoken. A prophet I will raise up for them from the midst of their
brethren, like thee, and will give my words in his mouth, and he shall
speak unto them all which I shall command him; and it shall be that the
man who will not hearken to my words which he shall speak in my name,
I myself will make inquiry from with him.
"Only, the prophet who shall presume to speak a word in my name
which I have not commanded him to speak, or who shall speak in the
name of other Deities, that prophet shall die. And inasmuch as thou wilt
say in thy heart, How shall we know the word which Yahaweh bath not
spoken? The prophet who shall speak in the name of Yahaweh, and the
word shall not be, and shall not come to pass, that is the word which
Yahaweh bath not spoken" (Deut. xviii. 14-22).
"When there shall arise in the midst of thee a prophet or a dreamer
of dreams, and shall give unto thee a sign or a miracle; and the sign or
the miracle come to pass, which he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go
after other Deities, . . . thou shalt not hearken to the words of that prophet
. . ." (Deut. xiii. i-6).
THE FUNCTIONS OF A PROPHET 93
tised by the augurs and diviners and sorcerers of other
nations, but has given thee something immeasurably
better, namely, his prophets; and he therefore forbids
thy resorting to these other methods. The words "not
thus hath Yahaweh thy God given to thee," in mention-
ing what God has not given, call attention to the dif-
ferent thing which he has given. He disallows the
consulting of the invisible world through necromancers,
because he has provided a glorious opening of com-
munication with himself through the prophets. The
words of the verse distinctly contrast the forbidden
looking into the unknown world, that by the practice of
occult arts, with the revealing of the unknown which is
promised in the following verse, in the office work of
Yahaweh's prophet. In fine, according to this chapter,
the prophet is like the priest in that he is the authorized
representative of Yahaweh, and unlike him in that his
work is special. He is like and unlike the magicians,
in that he is genuinely the channel of especial communi-
cation with Deity, which they falsely pretend to be.
To repeat this in other words, he is differentiated from
the priest by the fact that his message is direct and
special and from those who practise magic arts by the
fact that his communication with Deity is real.
Having taken this general view, we are prepared to
descend to particulars. The functions which the records
ascribe to the prophets may be arranged in two classes,
—those which do not require the exercise of distinctly
supernatural gifts, and those which require such gifts.
For convenience let us designate these as their natural-
istic and their supernaturalistic functions.
I. We begin with certain classes of their activities
which presuppose no powers on their part but such as
may be common to all gifted men.
94 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
I. They were prominent as the public men of their
times; they were statesmen, often political leaders.
When we find such men as Moses or Samuel or David
or Daniel engaged in public affairs, we might perhaps
explain it by saying that they occupy themselves thus,
not in the character of prophet, but rather in that of law-
giver or judge or king or prime minister. But even so,
it seems to have been true that in times of crisis, when
there were great deeds to do, the office of lawgiver or
judge or prime minister was peculiarly apt to fall into
the hands of a prophet.
But this way of accounting for the matter will not
apply in all the instances in which we find the prophets
taking part in public affairs. So far as we are informed,
Elijah or Elisha or Amos or Hosea or Isaiah or Jere-
miah or Ezekiel were never officeholders, but they habit-
ually deal with questions of state. Reflect on what you
know concerning them, and you will see that a book
which should contain their biographies in detail would
also be a detailed history of national affairs. In the
peculiar constitution of Israel, political and religious
questions were so closely identified that the prophet
could hardly be a religious teacher without being also a
Take Jeremiah as an illustration of this. In his time
Judah has become a tributary kingdom, subject to
Jeremiah as Babylonia. The nobles are restive under the
a statesman yoke. They are constantly plotting to throw
it off, are seeking to influence the king and the nation
in that direction, are advocating alliances with Egypt.
Jeremiah steadfastly opposes their policy. He con-
trives to exert an influence over both Jehoiakim and
Zedekiah, holding them back from revolt. He writes
letters to the exiles in Babylonia, advising them to be
THE FUNCTIONS OF A PROPHET 95
docile and. make the best of their situation. Half of
his prophecies, as we have them, are attempts to con-
vince the Jews that successful revolt is impossible, and
that attempted revolt can only bring additional miseries
upon them. He preaches a doctrine of restoration
after seventy years as a reason why they should cease
from their hopeless efforts for present independence.
Nebuchadnezzar recognizes the services of Jeremiah,
and shows him distinguished favors when Jerusalem is
at last destroyed.
But writers are unjust to Jeremiah when they simply
describe his political position as anti-Egyptian and pro<
Babylonian. - He was not in any proper sense pro-Baby-
lonian. So far as appears he refused the Babylonian
king's invitation to go to Babylonia and be there treated
with honor. No prophet denounced Babylonia more se-
verely than he. His position is that of all the prophets,
opposed to all entangling alliances with foreign powers.
He wanted nothing to do with Babylonia any more
than with Egypt. But when his king had sworn alle-
giance to Babylonia, Jeremiah held that the oath should
be kept, that good policy as well as good faith forbade
the breaking of it. He would accept Babylonish
supremacy for the time being as an accomplished
fact, in opposition to those who advocated continued
Similarly the career of Isaiah is throughout marked
by participation in national issues. In particular, he
works against the Assyrian alliance made by Isaiah and
Ahaz, and the opposing Babylonian or Egyp- Hosea as
tian alliances considered by Hezekiah. Hosea statesmen
is equally positive in denouncing intrigues with Assyria
or Egypt, and in advocating a policy of solidarity between
the northern and the southern kingdoms.
96 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
It was characteristic of the politics of the prophets
that they were a bond of unity between the northern
Prophetic and the southern kingdoms. Judaean proph-
ideal of a ets such as Amos and Isaiah prophesied for
united Israel Ephraim as well as for Judah, Isaiah dis-
tinctly recognizing " both the houses of Israel" (viii. 14);
and such northern prophets as Hosea and Elijah and
Elisha prophesied for Judah as well as for Israel (Am. i.
I, iii. I, 12, etc. ; Isa. ix. 9, 2I, xxviii. I, 3, etc.; 2 Chron.
xxi. 12 ; 2 Ki. iii. 14 ; Hos. i. I I, iii. 4-5, xi. 12, etc.).
The northern prophets recognize some sort of alle-
giance as due to Jerusalem and the house of David,
as well as to their own kings. Those of both kingdoms
earnestly seek to keep alive the consciousness of Israel-
itish unity. They take pains to cultivate the fraternal
spirit. Hosea, and Amos less obviously, had a definite
programme for the reunion of the two kingdoms under
a king of the line of David. The marriage of Jehoram
and Athaliah probably indicates an earlier attempt in
the same direction.1
According to the record, Elijah and Elisha were party
leaders, though their public policy is less obvious to a
Elijah and superficial reader than that of some of the
Elisha as other prophets. For two generations before
statesmen the sudden coming of Elijah upon the scene,
the false worship of Yahaweh through the calves of
1 It is obvious that this marriage might supposably have resulted in the
acceptance of a prince of the house of David as heir to both the thrones.
Supposably this was the intention in the negotiations for the marriage.
Presumably the prophets favored it at the time, and built great hopes upon
it. There is much plausibility in the hypothesis that the forty-fifth Psalm
is a marriage song sung by a prophet of Judah on this occasion. On this
hypothesis, the result was a grievous disappointment; but this would not
be the only time in history when statesmen and prophets have been out-
witted by a brilliant, wicked woman.
THE FUNCTIONS OF A PROPHET 97
Bethel and Dan has been the state religion of northern
Israel. But there have been nonconformists all the
while. Lately, under Jezebel, the worship of Baal has
been introduced, and the state church has largely gone
over to the new cult. This has increased the numbers
of the nonconformists, and their activity. Their ideal
would be a participation in the sacrifices at the one
place of national sacrifice in Jerusalem. But this is
impracticable. As a protest against the false worship
of the state church, they make offerings of certain kinds
at many inconspicuous private altars. Unlike the ad-
herents of the state religion, they are inflexible in their
opposition to Baal, and thus draw upon themselves the
horrible persecutions of Jezebel. This drove them to
yet more desperate resistance. They formed the or-
ganizations known to us as the "sons of the prophets."
Possibly the Tishbites, "the settlement men of Gilead "
(I Ki. xvii. I), of whom Elijah was one, were another
organization of the same sort. Elijah and Elisha were at
the head of these organizations. We get glimpses of them
going hither and thither, engaged in strenuous activities.
These people constituted in effect an ecclesiastical
and political party, in opposition to the existing govern-
ment. It is the familiar story of men professing to be
loyal to a king, but in revolt and even in arms against
his policy and his counsellors. John Knox and Mary
queen of Scots have not a better parallel in history
than that presented by Elijah in his relations with
Ahab — Ahab, brilliant, impulsive, well-meaning, but
weak when it came to resisting evil influences.1
1 Sometimes Elijah and Elisha, the leaders of the opposition, are in a
certain degree of favor at court. Their advice in public matters is sought,
and in some instances followed. When Elisha offers to speak in behalf of
the Shunamite to the king or the general of the army (2 Ki. iv. 13), it
98 The PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
In these several political affairs such prophets as
Elijah and Elisha, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, are simply
doing what other prophets of all dates were accustomed
to do. The Israelitish prophet was a statesman. Most
of the distinguished statesmen of Israel were prophets.
2. Apart from their political activities, the prophets
were the reformers of their times.
Every age has need of men who shall lead in warfare
against organized evils, or against evils that are other-
wise rampant. Witness the efforts of John Howard in
the cause of prison reform, of William Wilberforce in
resistance to the slave trade and slavery, of John B.
Gough against intemperance in drink, of Henry Bergh
for the prevention of cruelty to animals, of Clara Barton
for the more humane care of wounded soldiers and
sailors. In matters analogous to these, the prophets
were the leaders of reforms in Israel.
It is possible to mention here only a few of the
many questions of public struggle against evils which,
at different periods, engaged their activities, giving only
a reference or two, out of many that might be given,
seems to be with confidence that his word will be influential. At other
times the situation becomes strained, even to the extent of bloody hostility.
When Elijah first appears in the narrative, he is in the act of presenting an
ultimatum to Ahab. Then he withdraws from relations with him, and. the
rupture lasts three years, in spite of Ahab's strong efforts for resumption
Ki. xviii. i, 1o). When he at last meets the king, the slaughter of
Baal's prophets at Mount Carmel follows. I suppose that this and, later„
the destruction of Ahaziah's soldiers by fire from heaven may properly be
counted as battles between the contending parties. The effect of them
was salutary. The Baalites learned that Yahaweh's followers were not to
be murdered with impunity, and the persecutions were relaxed. And so
affairs moved on from year to year, until the prophets became convinced.
of the futility of their war against Jezebel so long as the existing dynasty
remained in power, and consequently instigated Jehu to the revolution in
which the house of Omri went down in blood.
THE FUNCTIONS OF A PROPHET 99
under each question. In addition to matters of reli-
gious reform, such matters as idolatry, the high places,
the support of the temple worship and the Some of the
like, they advocated reforms in the matter reforms which
of divorce, of licentiousness, of usury, of the prophets led
land monopoly, of drunkenness and dissipation, of sla-
very (Mal. ii. 10-16; Jer. v. 7-9, etc.; Neh. v; Ezek.
xviii. 8, etc.; Isa. v. 7-10, 11-22, etc.; Jer. xxxiv. 8-22).
More prominently than anything else they rebuke un-
equal and unkind practices in the administration of
justice, and inexorably demand reformation. It is
largely for purposes of reform that they engage in
public affairs. In the interests of reform we constantly
find them rebuking kings and priests and people, teach-
ing the populace, making public addresses, reading and
expounding the scriptures, organizing the prophetic
bands and other enginery for forming public opinion.
3. Again, the prophets were evangelistic preachers
Their writings which we have show this. The histori-
cal books of the bible are narrative sermons. They so
present history as to make it preach to us on the sub-
ject of our duties to God and men. Most of the other
prophetic books are volumes either of sermons or of
homiletical poems or tracts. In a good many instances
a passage in the prophets becomes intelligible only when
we recognize it as a syllabus or brief sketch of an ad-
dress that was much longer when delivered orally.
In other ways than by their discourses they exerted
an evangelistic influence. We have already had our
attention called to the organizations of the times of
Samuel and of Elijah and of Elisha. These were not
mere literary institutions for giving instruction to young
lads, but systematic arrangements for exerting an in-
100 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
fluence; as we should now say, arrangements for Chris-
I have called this function evangelistic. It was some-
thing quite apart from the priestly function of main-
taining ordinary services of public worship. It was
aggressive and missionary in its character. But it
would not be altogether amiss to say that it was also
evangelistic in the sense of the proclamation of good
news. Some of the distinctive doctrines taught by the
prophets, particularly the doctrine of a Messiah., will be
considered later. They came very much nearer than we
sometimes imagine to possessing and preaching what: we
now call the gospel. At all events they urged the cardinal
duties of repentance, faith, love, change of heart, the fear
of God, public and private obedience to his requirements.
The work of the prophets as ethical and religious
preachers is on the whole that which is most kept in
the foreground in the descriptions given of them. in
the bible. What they did as public men or reformers
or writers of literature might be said to be branches
of their work as preachers.
4. Yet again, the prophets were the literary men. of
It is fashionable in some quarters to assert that they
did not become writers till the time of Arnos and
Isaiah ; but by using a concordance of proper names
any one can easily convince himself that the scriptures
attribute literary authorship to prophets earlier than
these. Express mention is made of it in the case of
Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Gad, Nathan, David, Asaph,
Heman, Ethan, Jeduthun, Solomon, Ahijah, Jedo, Iddo,
Shemaiah, Jehu, Elijah, and this constitutes an implica-
tion that others also engaged in literary work. Such
work is yet more prominently characteristic of the
THE FUNCTIONS OF A PROPHET 101
prophets of later times, whose names are attached to
the books we now possess.
Whether Israel before Malachi had literary writers
who were not prophets does not appear from the evi-
dence ; though it is natural to think that the men who
are mentioned in connection with public affairs under
the title of scribe or recorder were not in all cases
prophets. That there was an extensive literature in
addition to that now preserved in the bible appears
from the references which the biblical writers make to
books by their titles. We shall have occasion to speak
more in full of the literary work of the prophets when we
come to speak of them as the writers of the scriptures.
5. In connection with these naturalistic functions of
the prophet there are two or three points which we
ought not to neglect.
(a) The distinction between primary and secondary
prophets here becomes important. In our study of the
external history, our attention was called to Different
the fact of the great numbers of the prophets kinds of
at all periods between Samuel and Nehemiah. prophets
This may seem to be a strange fact, when one's atten-
tion is first called to it. Is it not inconsistent with the
idea that the prophets are rare and special messengers
In reply to this question it should be said that the
prophets who were regarded as having supernatural
gifts were probably more numerous than many suppose,
though not so numerous but that they were always rela-
tively rare. But the majority of those who are called
prophets were doubtless secondary prophets, the "sons
of the prophets," members of the prophetic organiza-
tions, or in some other capacity disciples of the prophets
who were highly gifted. These secondary prophets
102 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
were associated with the others in public or evangelistic
or literary work. Most of the prophetic functions thus
far enumerated were shared by them, and the term
"prophet" was naturally extended to them.
Very likely a large proportion of the very numerous
false prophets were secondary prophets who had be-
come misled, though some of them were doubtless mere
counterfeits. It is not necessary to think that the false
prophets generally were men who were acknowledged
as having supernatural gifts from Yahaweh.
(b) We should note, further, that a prophet, in virtue
of his being a statesman or a reformer or a preacher or
The prophet, an author, is likely to have been at once a
both local cosmopolitan man and a man who had local
and cosmo- and temporary interests. While he was emi-
politan nently one concerned with the whole world and
with all future time, he was at the same time eminently
practical, dealing with the concerns of his own locality and
his own generation.
It hinders a correct understanding of the writings of
the prophets to ignore the local and temporary element
in them. In the main they are composed of the same
sorts of material with sermons and reform addresses.
They contain the truths with which the prophets tried
to move the consciences of the men of their times and
of all future time. Predictions, for example, were to
them matters of supernatural revelation. They used
them just as they and we use scripture texts, to en-
force the practical message in hand. Isa. ii-iv, for
example, is a sermon preached from the prediction, ii.
2-4, as a text, the sermon being of the nature of rebuke
and counsel to the men of that generation.
Equally fatal, however, to correct interpretation, and
now more widely prevalent, is the mistake of too much
THE FUNCTIONS OF A PROPHET 103
restricting the prophecies to local and temporary mean-
ings. Doubtless most of the prophetic discourses had
some specific local purpose to accomplish; but the dis-
course would seek its ends through those general appli-
cations of truth in which all men alike are capable of
being influenced, and not through those only which were
peculiar to their own times. The universalness that
differentiates literature is especially marked in these
In reading the prophecies we are to recognize a local
allusion or statement when we find one, just as we are
to recognize a prediction when we find one; but we are
not violently to give to any passage either a local char-
acter or a predictive character, as if the meaning of the
passage depended upon this. The Israelites of Isaiah's
time, for example, needed divine teaching because of
the peculiarities of the age and land in which they
lived. But they needed it yet more because they were
human sinners, like the men of all countries in all ages.
(c) Yet again, so far as the functions we have been
considering go, the Hebrew prophets have their coun-
terparts both in the Christian church and elsewhere.
These counterparts are of' two different kinds.
First, any adherent of the true religion may be said
to prophesy when the Spirit of God gives him a special
message for the edification of others. No A sense in which
miracle is needed for this, but only that illu- all devout persons
mination which devout persons sometimes are prophets
enjoy, and which God offers to all. In Paul's epistle
we have details concerning the gift of prophecy as
possessed by members of the Corinthian church (I Cor.
xiv). The gift as described here and elsewhere in the
New Testament does not necessarily differ from that
set forth in the Old Testament. And, within limits,
104 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
prophesying still abounds among earnestly religious
people. One who speaks for God in some special and
marked message, in a Christian meeting, exercises so
far forth the gift of prophecy.
But again, in a quite different sense, any gifted person,
raised up by God for some marked and especial pur-
A sense in pose of reform or training for the age in
which great which he lives, has some of the marks of a
leaders are prophet. This is true if the man is earnestly
prophets religious, and it remains true even if he is irreligious
or falsely religious. The New Testament goes so far as
to say that Caiaphas prophesied (Jn. xi. 51), and its
writers call Balaam a prophet, and the heathen poet of
Crete a prophet.1 Most believers in a personal God
believe that God raises up the great men of history, the
bad as well as the good, for the accomplishing of special
purposes. To attribute to such men, within properly
defined limits, the character of prophets is to say what
is distinctly true.
There are reasons, perhaps decisive reasons, against
ordinarily using the term "prophet" and the term "inspi-
ration" in such ways as these. Unless carefully, defined,
the terms when so used are likely to be misunderstood
and to be misleading; and if you delay every time for
definition, the terms are liable to lose all their energy.
But it is correct to illustrate the naturalistic functions of
the prophets of Israel by applying the term "prophet "
and the term "inspiration," so far forth, to men of all
times and races; to say, for example, that Shakespeare
1 "Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the hire of wrongdoing; . . . a
dumb ass spake with man's voice and stayed the madness of the prophet"
(2 Pet. ii. 15-16).
"One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, Cretans are always
liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons " (Tit. i. 12).
THE FUNCTIONS OF A PROPHET 105
was a prophet of God, divinely inspired for the pur-
pose of producing certain effects upon the literature and
culture and human character of England and of the
There are disputants who say such things as these by
way of denying that the prophets had any divine mes-
sage different from those of other leaders in human
thought. One who opposes this denial will have a great
advantage if he fully acknowledges the reality and the
prominence of the naturalistic functions of the prophets,
such functions as we have thus far been considering.
Over a wide range their activities were like those of
other religious men at any time in history. Again, over
a wide range their activities were like those of other
leaders of thought, at any date or of any blood.
II. But an account of the prophets which should stop
at this point would be so incomplete as to be thoroughly
erroneous. The scriptures affirm that the prophets, in
addition to these naturalistic activities, exercised dis-
tinctly supernatural powers.
The facts we have been looking at are genuine, and
are essential to an adequate view of the subject. But
they are entirely subordinate as compared with certain
other facts. The bible prophets also claim functions
that imply superhuman gifts—functions that differ in
kind, and not merely in degree, from those thus far
mentioned. They claim an inspiration different from
that which they possess in common with other men.
And this higher inspiration they claim, not merely for
purposes of prediction, but for other activities as well.
Elisha working miracles, Daniel revealing the king's
dream, or any prophet uttering a rebuke that came by
revelation, lays claim to superhuman gifts as really as a
prophet who foretells the future.
106 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
These superhuman activities may be spoken of in
Pave classes: the working of miracles, the disclosing
of secrets, the foretelling of events, the revealing of
Yahaweh's law, the teaching of the doctrine of the
Messiah. The last two of these will be considered at
length in subsequent chapters. The first three we will
now discuss very briefly.
First, the prophets claim to have wrought miracles.
We need not, in order to prove this, claim that every
The prophet wonderful event narrated in the Old Testa-
a worker of ment is a miracle. Men of the past have
miracles mistakenly interpreted marvels into the bible.
Perhaps it is true that even some of the most stupendous
interpositions in which Yahaweh manifested himself to
Israel were events which can be accounted for by known
natural laws. There are those who think that the cross-
ing of the Red Sea can be accounted for by an unusual
combination of wind and tide, occurring at a certain
juncture in the affairs of Israel; and that the rain of
fire that destroyed Sodom can be accounted for by the
sinking of a broken tract of ground into a deposit of
bituminous products; and that Israel's crossing the
Jordan dryshod can be accounted for by the- hypothesis
of a landslide above into the river; and that it was
Arabs rather than ravens that brought bread and flesh
to Elijah. We need not go into the discussion of such
instances. The question in each case is a question as
to the meaning of the testimony ; and the divine inter-
position is equally signal whether we can or cannot ac-
count for the events by the known laws of nature. But
when we have gone as far as possible in accounting natu-
ralistically for the deeds done by the prophets, it will
still remain true that they claimed the ability sometimes
to effect supernatural results. Familiar instances are the
THE FUNCTIONS OF A PROPHET 107
wonders done by Moses in Egypt, Elijah's raising from
death the boy at Sarepta, and his calling down fire from
heaven, Elisha's multiplying the oil, causing the iron to
swim, raising to life the Shunamite's child.
Secondly, the prophets claimed to be able to disclose
secrets by supernatural help. Instances of this, familiar
to all, are those of Joseph before Pharaoh, of The prophet
Daniel before Nebuchadnezzar, of Elisha in a discloser of
the matter of the raids planned by the king secrets
of Syria (2 Ki. vi. 12).
Thirdly, the prophets claimed to predict the future.
In proof that they made this claim, and appealed to
fulfilled prediction as accrediting their com- The prophet
mission from Yahaweh, one need only read a predicter
such a passage as Isa. xli–xlv (especially xli. of events
22-23, 26, xlii. 9, xliii. 9, 12, 18-19, etc.). This claim
stands in the less need of being discussed, on account
of our being so familiar with it. The predictions of the
prophets form the staple of one of the familiar arguments
for the divine origin of the religion of the bible.
Of course the validity of this argument depends in
each instance on the question whether the prediction is
specific enough to distinguish the case to which it re-
fers from all other cases. The threats of the prophets
against Tyre are different from those against Damascus.
Those against each of these are different from those
against Jerusalem ; and similarly with Babylon and
Nineveh and other cities and countries. The strength
of the argument lies in the degree in which the differ-
ences in the fulfilments correspond with those in the
Probably no one denies that the prophets made many
predictions that were remarkably fulfilled. Certain
scholars affirm, however, that many of their predictions
108 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
are also shown by the events to have been false. Whether
one accepts this charge as true will depend on his in-
terpretations of the facts. Many predictions have been
understood in senses in which they failed to conform to
the events; but against the charge that untruthful pre-
dictions abound in the utterances of the prophets of
Israel, it is safe to enter a general denial.
I am not now concerned to prove that the prophets
actually exercised these supernatural abilities — that
At least they they wrought miracles, foretold the future,
claimed disclosed hidden things ; I am only concerned
superhuman to call attention to the fact that they claimed
powers to exercise them. Some proofs that their claim
was well founded will come later. The fact now before us
is that they make the claim, constantly appealing to
these abilities as proving their divine commission. If
one has convinced himself that miracles never occur, he
will of course refuse even to consider this claim ; but
if one's mind is open to conviction on this point, he
must take these claims into the account. Indeed, they
constitute a part of the phenomena of the case, even
from the point of view of one who holds them to be
Without particularizing further, let us note that all
the prophetic functions of every sort are capable of
The mono- being generalized into a single statement.
theism of the The religion of Israel is monotheism of a cer-
religion of tain type, the monotheism of the worship of
Yahaweh Yahaweh. Christianity and Mohammedanism,
the two more bulky successors of the religion of Israel, preserve
this same type of monotheism. We are all worshippers
of Israel's God. This monotheism is the greatest factor
in all Israelitish or Christian or Moslem civilizations.
The great work of the prophets, the one essential work,
THE FUNCTIONS OF A PROPHET 109
was the giving of this type of monotheism to Israel and
According to the claim of its adherents, Yahaweh re-
vealed this monotheism to men by the process of first
causing history to be transacted, and then causing a
record of the transactions to be made. The prophets
were the public men who had the greatest part in trans-
acting the history. They were the literary men who
made the record of the history. They were the preachers
who interpreted to men the ethical and spiritual lessons
of the history. They claim to have been the inspired
seers who perceived and made known Yahaweh's pur-
pose in the history. All their functions, natural and
supernatural, may be summed up in this brief descriptive
clause, the revealing of the monotheism of Yahaweh to
Israel and to mankind.
THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE — HOW GIVEN TO HIM, AND HOW
UTTERED BY HIM
WE have found that the Israelitish sacred literature
presents the prophet to us as a citizen like others, dis-
tinguished only by the fact that he has an especial mes-
sage from Deity to his fellow-citizens. In the delivery
of this message we have found him acting in the char-
acter of statesman, reformer, preacher, author, and
claiming powers and authority from the realm of the
supernatural. The question arises: Were there any
distinctive peculiarities in the mode in which he re-
ceived his message, and in the mode in which he uttered
it? Our sources give us some detailed information on
these points. We take up the two parts of the question
in their order.
I. First, how the prophet's message was revealed to
him. What was the source of his inspiration ? What
were the modes in which it made itself apparent?
I. The source of his inspiration is represented to be
the Spirit of Yahaweh, variantly called also the Spirit
Save in exceptional instances the Hebrew word for
spirit is feminine; but like the word for soul, also femi-
nine, it may denote a masculine person. When per-
sonally used, its suggestions are masculine rather than
feminine.l The prophetic gift is said to be by the Spirit
1 The word denotes either spirit or wind. In both meanings it is regu-
larly feminine. The lexicons give certain instances in which it is mascu-
line when denoting wind (Ex. x. 13; I Ki. xix. 11; Jer. iv. 11; Job viii.
THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE 111
coming upon the prophet, coming mightily upon him,
being put upon him or within him, being given, being
poured out. This could best be studied by looking up
all the numerous passages, with the aid of a concordance.
We will recall a few of them, mostly those that are very
Every one remembers the instance when Moses, at
Yahaweh's command, took the seventy elders to the tent
of meeting outside the camp, and Yahaweh Prophets in-
took of the Spirit which was upon Moses, spired by the
and put it upon them, and they prophesied. spirit to
Eldad and Medad, two of the men whose names were speak
in the list, did not go with the others, and the Spirit
came upon them where they were, and they prophesied
in the camp. That the Spirit here spoken of is the
Spirit of Yahaweh is throughout distinctly implied, and
in one verse is explicitly stated (Num. xi. 16—17, 25—29).
In the passage from Joel, cited by Peter at the pente-
cost, we read: —
"I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and
your daughters shall prophesy . . . And also upon the servants
and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit"
(RV of Joel ii. 28-29; cf. Acts ii. 16-18).
Samuel said to Saul: "The Spirit of Yahaweh will
come mightily upon thee, and thou wilt prophesy."
2), but there is room for doubt. When used personally the word very
naturally passes into a masculine.
"A spirit passed before my face " (Job iv. 15).
"Renew thou within me a spirit that is made ready " (Ps. li. 10).
"The Spirit of Yahaweh spake by me" (2 Sam. xxiii. 2).
"My Spirit shall not strive with man forever" (Gen. vi. 3).
"The Spirit of Yahaweh will take thee up" (I Ki. xxiii. 12).
"Lest the Spirit of Yahaweh hath taken him up" (2 Ki. ii. i6).
"And the Spirit came forth and stood before Yahaweh."
"Which way went the Spirit of Yahaweh from with me to speak with
thee?" (i Ki. xxii. 21, 24).
112 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
Accordingly, the narrator says, "the Spirit of Deity
came mightily upon him, and he prophesied " (I Sam.
x. 6, 10). In a little prophetic song attributed to David
the singer says: —
"The Spirit of Yahaweh spake by me" (2 Sam. xxiii. 2).
In the prayer in Nehemiah the worshippers say to
"And thou testifiedst against them by thy Spirit by the hand of
the prophets " (Neh. ix. 30).
Micah says: —
"I truly am full of power by the Spirit of Yahaweh" (iii. 8, cf. ii.
Hosea uses the parallelism : —
"The prophet is a fool,
The man of the Spirit is made mad" (ix. 7).
Similar instances might be multiplied. In particular
the book of Isaiah is full of them. It became customary
to connect adjectives with the Spirit, describing him as
Yahaweh's " good Spirit " (Neh. ix. 20; Ps. cxliii. 10), or
his "holy Spirit" (Isa. lxiii. 10-11; cf. Ps. li. 11  ).
If one should undertake to make a count of the instances,
he ought not to omit those in which the divine name is
represented by a pronoun (e.g. Gen. vi. 3; Pss. cvi. 33,
cxxxix. 7; Isa. xxx. I).
Our survey of the subject of the Spirit that inspired
the prophets is not complete till we have looked at a
Deeds of very different class of manifestations of the
men inspired Spirit of Yahaweh. In the narrative concern-
by the Spirit ing Elijah we are told of the Spirit's carrying
him away, rendering him invisible (I Ki. xviii. 12; 2 Ki.
ii. 16). Marvellous acts of this nature are not often at-
tributed to the Spirit; but marvellous acts in the form
of great achievements of men are as prominently so
THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE 113
attributed as even the inspiring of the messages of the
prophets. Samson's exhibitions of wonderful strength,
for example, were by "the Spirit of Yahaweh "coming
"mightily" upon him (Jud. xiii. 25, xiv. 6, 19, xv. 14).
It was when "the Spirit of Yahaweh " came upon
Othniel and Gideon and Jephthah (Jud. iii. lo, vi. 34,
xi. 29) and others, that they wrought the exploits by
which they delivered Israel. When "the Spirit of
Yahaweh came mightily unto David," its presence was
probably manifested by David's achievements quite as
much as by his words; and the removal of the Spirit
from Saul was probably indicated by his failure in
achievement (I Sam. xvi. 13, 14). The Isaian singer says
of Israel in the wilderness (Isa. lxiii. 10-11): —
"They rebelled, and grieved his holy Spirit." "Where is he that
put his holy Spirit in the midst of them? that caused his glorious
arm to go at the right hand of Moses? that divided the water before
In saying this he attributes to Moses the great deeds of
the exodus, and not the great words only.
At first thought, the qualifying a man for war or states-
manship, and especially the qualifying a man for such
athletic feats as those of Samson, by an inrush of
spiritual influence, seems to be very different from the
qualifying a prophet to utter a divine message; but
certainly there is no incongruity between the two. Es-
pecially should this idea find a hospitable reception
among us of the present generation, now that we have
introduced athletics so prominently among our appli-
ances for Christian service.
More difficult is the case where the four hundred
prophets are prophesying in the name of Yahaweh
before Ahab and Jehoshaphat, and Micaiah has his
vision of "the Spirit" proposing to be a lying spirit
114 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
in the mouths of the prophets, and finding his offer
acceptable to Yahaweh (I Ki. xxii. 21, 24); but we are
Micaiah's not at liberty to evade the difficulty by omit-
lying spirit ting this passage from our induction. This
seems to me to be a truly oriental instance of extremism
in the use of figure of speech. These prophets, profess-
ing to be moved by the Spirit of Yahaweh, were prophe-
sying falsehood. Micaiah says that it is as if the Spirit
of Yahaweh had become a lying spirit in them in order
to deceive Ahab to his destruction. That is all that they
understood him to mean. They did not understand
that in fact the Spirit became a lying spirit.l
What is the Spirit of Yahaweh as delineated in the
passages we have studied? To this question I give here
no philosophical or theological answer. The answer
The nature that lies verbally in the accounts is clear.
of the Spirit The Spirit is effluent energy from Yahaweh
of Yahaweh the infinite Spirit. But if we stop with this,
the answer is incomplete. This effluent energy is
spoken of in terms of personality. But the language
used concerning the Spirit of Yahaweh is different from
that used concerning the many personal spirits whom
these writers conceive of as doing the errands of the
supreme Spirit.2 The inspiring Spirit is one, and is
spoken of in terms that are definite. If we were con-
fined to the instances in which other divine names
than Yahaweh are used, there might be room for disput-
1 The English versions try to solve the difficulty by translating, "a
spirit," a translation that is within the limits of possibility. Other solutions
have been proposed. In Deity's causing or permitting Ahab to be de-
ceived, we have simply one more unsolved detail in the unsolved problem
of the origin of evil.
2 Of these Saul's evil spirit is a familiar instance (1 Sam. xvi. 14b, xix.
9). Job says: "A spirit passed before my face" (iv. 15). "He maketh
his angels spirits " (Ps. civ. 4).
THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE 115
ing this, but concerning "the Spirit of Yahaweh" there
is no room for doubt. And it is reasonably certain that
"the Spirit of Deity" in such cases as those of Bezalel,
Balaam, Azariah, Zechariah (Ex. xxxi. 3, xxxv. 31;
Num. xxiv. 2; 2 Chron. xv. 1, xxiv. 20), is the same
with "the Spirit of Yahaweh." In fine, this Spirit that
inspires the prophets is presented to us as a unique
being, having personal characteristics, effluent from Ya-
haweh the supreme Spirit of the universe, at once iden-
tical with and different from Yahaweh.
2. We turn to the question of the modes in which
it is represented that the Spirit gave the prophet his
In books of reference these are usually classified, I
believe, as three; namely, by dreams, by visions, by direct
communication. This classification seems to Modes of revelation
me inadequate. It is based in part on the as commonly
assumption that the words from the stem classified
zaah, to see, are interchangeable with those from the
stem hhazah, to see. This assumption, as we have seen
in Chapter II, is not confirmed by a close examination
of the instances.
Partly on the ground of the difference between these
two sets of terms, and partly on other grounds, it seems
to me that a better classification of the modes Abetter
of revelation to the prophets is the following: classification
first, dreams; second, picture-visions ; third, visions of
insight; fourth, theophanies. The understanding of
this classification will be the vindication of it, provided
it is capable of being vindicated. When we understand
it, we shall see that it is really the classification that is
implied in the statements of the bible.
(a) The first of these four modes of revelation is that
by dreams. The number of passages in which this
116 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
mode is recognized is considerable, and the recognition
is distinct; and yet the impression is made that this
mode is regarded as of a lower type than the others.
General statements concerning revelation by dreams
abound. In the thirteenth chapter of Deuteronomy, in
General the directions given for testing a prophet's
mention of claims, the phrase "a prophet or a dreamer
prophetic of dreams " is three times repeated, as if one
dreams might be a prophet in virtue of his being a dreamer
of dreams (Deut. xiii. 1, 3, 5 [2, 4, 6] ). In the account
of the incident when Miriam and Aaron "spake against
Moses," Yahaweh says : —
"If there be a prophet among you; I . . . will make myself
known unto him in a vision, I will speak with him in a dream"
(Num. xii. 6).
We are told that King Saul resorted to the witch of
Endor because Yahaweh did not answer him
"by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets" (i Sam. xxviii. 6, 15).
Very familiar is the promise in Joel: —
"Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men
shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions" (ii. 28).
Job recognizes God's speaking "in a dream, in a vision
of the night," and complains of God's scaring him with
dreams, and terrifying him through visions (xxxiii. 15,
vii. 14). Jeremiah lays down the following rule as ap-
plicable even when sham prophetic dreams abound: —
"The prophet that bath a dream, let him tell a dream, and he
that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the
straw to the wheat? saith Yahaweh" (xxiii. 28).
Observe, however, that it is possible, in each of these
instances, so to interpret as to make the dream an
inferior mode of revelation. I do not say that this is
the true interpretation, but it is a possible one. And
THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE 117
in other passages, considerable stress is laid on the
deceiving dreams of some of the prophets. Speaking
of " teraphim " and "diviners," the second False
Zechariah says, "They have told false dreams" prophetic
(x. 2). Jeremiah has a good deal to say of dreams
the false dreaming of the prophets (xxiii. 25, 27, 32,
xxvii. 9, xxix. 8).
"The prophets . . . that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I
have dreamed, I have dreamed."
"Who think to cause my people to forget my name by their
dreams which they tell."
"That prophesy by lying dreams."
"Hearken ye not to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to
"Neither hearken ye to your dreams which ye cause to be
There are about a dozen instances of significant
dreams in the Old Testament ; Joseph's dreams con-
cerning the sheaves, and concerning the Instances of
sun and moon and stars; Jacob's dreams significant
at Bethel and in Paddan-aram; Solomon's dreams
dream; Daniel's dream, with the vision of the four
beasts; the dreams of the chief butler and the chief
baker and Pharaoh; those of Nebuchadnezzar; of
Abimelech king of Gerar; of Laban; of a Midianite
soldier in Gideon's time (Gen. xxxvii. 5-20, xxviii. 12,
xxxi. 10-11; I Ki. iii. 5, 15; Dan. vii. I; Gen. xl-xli;
Dan. ii, iv; Gen. xx. 3, 6, xxxi. 24; Jud. vii. 12-15). In
a majority of the instances the dreamers are heathen;
and in most of the instances where the dream is pro-
phetic, it does not loom up very large.
Really the interpretation of dreams seems to be more
honorably presented as a prophetic function than the
dreaming of dreams. It is spoken of as especially dis-
tinguishing Daniel that he had "understanding in all
118 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
visions and dreams " (i. 17). His " excellent spirit "
manifested itself in the "interpreting of dreams" (v.
Prophets as 12), as well as in other ways. The inter-
interpreters pretations of the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar
of dreams and of Pharaoh by Daniel and Joseph are
certainly in the records on the ground of their being
notable achievements of men who had prophetic gifts.
(b) The second mode of revelation to the prophets
is that by visions that are conceived of as presented
to the physical eye. Not necessarily visions that are
actually perceived, notice, by the physical sight, but
visions that are thought of as so perceived.l
Instances of this mode of communication with Deity
are numerous in the Old Testament, and are familiar
Instances of to all readers. A few, taken at random, are
picture- Jeremiah's beholding the rod of almond, the
vision seething pot, the baskets of figs (Jer. 11, 13,
xxiv); Zechariah's beholding the lampbowl and olive
trees, the flying roll, the woman in the ephah, the
four chariots (Zech. iv, v. 1-4, 5-11, vi. 1—8); Ezekiel's
beholding the four living creatures, and the hand with
the book-roll (Ezek. i, ii. 9, etc.); Yahaweh's causing
Amos to behold the locusts devouring the latter
growth, the fire devouring the great deep, the plumb-
line, the basket of summer fruit (vii. 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, viii.
1-3); his causing Elisha to behold the approaching
death of Benhadad and the accession of Hazael (2 Ki.
viii. 10-13); the appearing to Ezekiel of the semblance
1 These are the instances in which prophetic vision is described in terms
of the qal, the hiphil, the hophal, or the nouns of the stem raah, as distin-
guished from the stem hhazah. See Chapter II. In the remainder of this
chapter we will translate the words of this stem by such English terms as
"behold," "appearance," "picture-vision," reserving the words "see" and
"vision" to be used in translating from hhazah. The niphal of raah will
be considered later, when we reach the subject of theophany.
THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE 119
of a throne over his cherubim, and of a hand under their
wings (x. 1, 8) ; and very many others.
(c) The third mode of revelation to the prophets may,
in the lack of a better term, be said to be by visions of
insight. It is expressed in the Hebrew by the words of
the stem hhazah, when these are specifically used. It
would include all methods of appeal to the mind except
that by picture-vision.
We have already seen (Chapter II) that the verb
hhazah, though it is in Aramaic the ordinary word for
physical seeing, is in the Hebrew mainly con- Hhazah
fined to the instances in which the seeing is versus
prophetic, and in other instances the restric- raah
tion of it to the idea of mental perception or thoughtful
seeing is persistent. The hhazah words are used as liter-
ary terms in the titles of the prophecies and elsewhere,
while the raah words are never so used. Even in the
Aramaizing Hebrew of the book of Daniel the difference
between the words of these two stems never quite fades
out, and elsewhere it is very distinct.
The hhazah words sometimes denote a genus, under
which the raah words designate a species. Every raah
vision is a hhazah vision, but there may be hhazah visions
which are not raah visions.l Again, the hhazah words
are sometimes applied to the whole of some transaction,
while the raah words are used to denote a picture-vision
1 Speaking of his vision of the ram and the he-goat, Daniel says, "I
Daniel had beheld the vision" (viii. 15). What he had beheld was an
appearance presented to the eye, but it was also vision in the wider sense
of prophetic revelation, and the speaker here prefers the generic word to
the specific. In verse 16 the other term is used: "Make this man to un-
derstand the appearance." The phrase "whom I had beheld in the vision"
is used in ix. 21. Similarly it is said in Joel (ii. 28) that the young men
shall "behold visions." Amos is called a "seer" (vii. 12) in the midst of
the account of the series of objects which Yahaweh "caused him to behold."
120 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
which constituted a part of the transaction.1 These uses
of the words of the two stems explain the phenomena
which have sometimes been mistakenly regarded as cases
of interchange. Samuel and Zadok and Hanani are
doubtless called roim because they somehow came to be
thought of as receiving revelations in forms that appealed
to the senses. Gad and Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun
and Iddo and Jehu the son of Hanani are called hhozini
because they were believed to have insight into the will
of Deity, without emphasizing the form of the revelations
made through them.
As the hhazah words may denote a genus under which
the raah words denote a species, so they may also denote'
Vision other another species of the same genus; namely,
than that by mental vision in distinction from the actual or
sense-images apparent presentation of objects to the senses.
This is apparently the meaning in a large proportion of
the instances in which a prophetic writing is spoken of
as a vision (e.g. Isa. i. 1 ; Na. i. 1 ; Hab. ii. 2), and in
those in which the word of Yahaweh is said to come to
some one in a vision, or in which some other like expres-
sion is used (e.g. Gen. xv. 1-6; 2 Sam. vii. 17; Nu. xxiv.
4, 16; Isa. ii. I).
Obviously it is supposable that the prophet might
receive his message through other avenues than his
picture-making faculty. Even if it were indispensable
that he be in a tranced or ecstatic condition, such a con-
dition might supposably act upon his memory, his pow-
ers of perception or reasoning, his association of ideas,
1 In Dan. viii-x hhazon (viii. I, 2, 2, 13, 15a, 17, :z6b, ix. 21, 24, x. 14)
denotes either the whole of a transaction, or some part of it thought of
generically as divine revelation; while mar'eh and mar'ah denote specifi-
cally objects that are thought of as presented to the eye (viii. 15b, 16, 26a,
27, ix. 23, x. I, 6, 7, 7, 8, 16, 18).
THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE 121
and not exclusively upon his imagination. Through
these other mental powers, without any intervention of
sense-perceived images, he might be made to know things
which he would not know in an ordinary state of mind.
But the records do not say that the prophet was always
in an ecstatic state when he received his message. In
by far the larger number of the instances there is no
mention of either dreams or apparitions or trances. It
is possible to think of most of the communications to the
prophets as reaching them through their aroused spiritual
insight, unaccompanied by the consciousness of mani-
festations appealing to the senses. The revelation may
have been the product of a sharpened intuition or a quick-
ened intelligence, brought to bear upon the problem of
These things are supposable. That they are also
matters of fact appear from the contents of the writ-
ings which have come down to us from the prophets
under the title of visions. In these writings the proph-
ets exhibit themselves as actively and consciously using
all the faculties which a human mind possesses. Evi-
dently they regarded themselves as guided by the Spirit
in making investigations, in remembering, in judging of
facts, in estimating persons, in making inductions and
deductions, in mental processes of all sorts. The records
specify dreams and appearance visions and other like
modes, but they do not represent the prophet as restricted
to these. The terms used have meanings wide enough
to include any supposable influence exerted by the divine
Spirit over the mind of the prophet. In many cases the
language of the scriptures will justify no narrower inter-
pretation than that Deity in some way made the prophet
understand his will.
(d) The fourth mode of revelation to the prophets is
122 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
by theophany. It is superfluous to say that the word
"theophany" is of Greek origin, and denotes an ap-
pearing of Deity in visible form.
The Hebrew expression for this fact is the Niphal of
the verb raah, to see. It denotes the state of being
The Niphal seen, or the act of becoming visible. It is
of raah commonly translated by the English verb
"appear." Not all the instances in which it is used are:
cases of theophany. For example, Yahaweh is said to
have appeared to Solomon (I Ki. iii. 5) in a dream. But
the theophanic instances are easily distinguishable.
The cases of theophany may be described as those in
1which we find Yahaweh appearing in human form and
conversing with the prophet, with or without additional
miraculous manifestations ; or Yahaweh uttering audible
words from the midst of miraculous manifestations.
Instances of theophany are given in passages that are
those most familiar to us. Abraham is sitting at his tent
Yahaweh in door, and suddenly becomes aware of three
human sem- men standing near him. He talks with them,
blance they eat with him; one of them promises to
Sarah a son; he accompanies them on their way; they
part, two of them going toward Sodom. The one who
remains with Abraham turns out to be Yahaweh, and he
and Abraham have a memorable interview. The other
two are the angels who rescue Lot when Sodom is de-
stroyed (Gen. xviii. 1-2, 9-10, 13, 17, 20-2I, 22, xix. I).
This is, perhaps, the instance that is more explicit in
its details than any other on record. In some of the
Varying instances there is a miraculous manifestation
forms of in addition to the appearing in human form of
theophany the person who utters the message. A good
example is that of Manoah and the Angel who talked
with him, and the miraculous burning of the food which
THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE 123
he placed before the Angel (Jud. xiii. 3, 6, 16, 19, 20-
21, 22). In other cases, there is the miraculous mani-
festation and the uttering of audible words, without any
human form being visible; for example, the giving of
the ten words from Sinai, or the revelations from the
pillar of cloud or of fire over the tent of meeting (Ex.
xix–xx; Deut. v; Num. ix. 15-23). In some cases
there may be a doubt as to whether the narrative repre-
sents that a human form appeared ; for example, at the
burning bush, or at the sacrifice of Isaac (Ex. iii. 2–3;
Gen. xxii. 11-12, 14, 15-16).
The personage who is described as " the Angel"
is prominent in most of the detailed instances of the-
ophany. His presence is explicitly mentioned, The Angel
I believe, in all the cases that have just been
cited. Scholars have given much attention to this per-
sonage, and he deserves much. He appears in the Old
Testament narrative, in nearly all its stages, not as some
angel or other, but as the Angel, a distinct, separate
being. In any particular case we are likely to find him
presenting himself as a man, afterward spoken of as
the Angel, and later in the narrative identified with
Yahaweh himself. We must not delay to discuss the
subject, but the Angel seems to be in some sense a
temporary incarnation of Yahaweh.
From one point of view, theophany might be classed
as a species of picture-vision. It is like picture-vision
in that it presents Deity as assuming the Theophany
form of a visible person, or as speaking from versus
the midst of visible manifestations. It is picture-vision
unlike picture-vision in that it is of the nature of a per-
sonal interview of a man with God, and not mainly of
the nature of an object lesson taught by emblems. Gen-
uine theophanies are regarded as something rare and
124 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
precious, the highest form of divine communication with
men. The difference between Moses and the less gifted
prophets was that Yahaweh spoke with him in theophanic
"picture-vision," mouth to mouth, and not merely in
dreams or ordinary picture-vision (Num. xii. 6-8).1
(e) Very noteworthy in the biblical accounts of the
prophets is the absence of the use of artificial parapher-
The absence nalia or processes for exciting the prophetic
of artificial mood. In one instance we are told that Elisha
excitation required the presence of a minstrel as the con-
dition of his giving a message (2 Ki. iii. 15). This case
is the only one of its kind. If we regard it as an in-
stance in which external means were used to induce a
suitable frame of mind in a prophet desiring a revelation,
it is altogether exceptional.
In this the scriptures are in contrast with what we
find elsewhere in all ages, in persons who profess to give
supernatural revelations. The shaman has his snakeskin
rattle, the conjurer has his strange-looking tools, the as-
trologer has his elaborate, scholarly-seeming apparatus;
and they use these in compelling the other world to dis-
close its secrets or to bring help. The prophets of
ancient Egypt had their magic formulas, the persons
in the Arabian Nights pronounce the ineffable Name;,
Prospero compels the spirits by spells and charms. The
Pythia at Delphi inhaled intoxicating vapor, the augurs
consulted the flight of birds or the entrails of sacrificial.
victims, Ezra in the legend drinks a potion to enable:
him to reproduce the inspired scriptures, the witches
1 It is surprising that the identifying of theophany with what is above
described as mental vision has gained a good deal of currency, and along
with it a theory that mental vision is presented in the Old Testament as
the highest form of revelation. Linguistically, the descriptions of the-
ophany are affiliated with the derivatives of raah, and not of hhazah.
THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE 125
in Macbeth dance around the caldron, the modern spir-
itualists have their seances. In Odd Craft, the latest
volume of stories, the fortune-teller burns something in
a bowl, and he and the inquirers sit among the fumes.
Other characters in recent novels consult the unseen by
burning a hair, or by drawing blood, or by stirring the
grounds in a teacup. From the biblical narratives we
learn that processes of these various sorts were in exist-
ence throughout the times covered by Israelitish his-
tory.l In view of all this, it is a thing very remarkable
that the prophets of Yahaweh are not represented as
resorting to means of artificial excitation in order to stir
up the spirit of revelation in them or for them. In this,
as in their being simply citizens with a message (Chapter
IV), they are unique among the prophets of the nations.
II. As our second principal topic we take up certain
peculiarities which characterized the prophets in giv-
ing their messages to men. As we should expect, these
bear a certain correspondence to the modes in which
revelation came from God to them.
I. They are noted, for example, for their very
abundant use of symbols. They delight in simple but
striking object lessons, in which physical Prophetic
objects or personal acts are employed to object
represent truths. Ahijah rends the garment lessons
into twelve pieces and gives Jeroboam ten, in token that
Jeroboam shall reign over ten tribes (1 Ki. xi. 30-31).
Ezekiel inscribes one stick with the name Judah and
another with the name Joseph, and puts the two to-
gether, in token of the union of the exiles from the
1 Instance the witch of Endor, the prophets of Baal cutting themselves
in their frantic efforts to obtain a revelation, and the derivations of the
many different words that are used in speaking of practitioners of magic
126 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
northern and the southern kingdoms (xxxvii. 15-25).
Isaiah went naked and barefoot, to indicate the way
in which the Assyrian would lead Egypt and Ethiopia
into exile (xx). Jeremiah wore a bar of wood as an.
emblem of the subjugation of the nations to Nebuchad-
nezzar and when the false prophet Hananiah broke off
the bar, Jeremiah declared that Yahaweh would replace
it with a yoke of iron (Jer. xxvii, xxviii). Jeremiah
publicly broke the potter's vessel in the valley of the
son of Hinnom, to indicate Yahaweh's breaking of
Judah and Jerusalem (xix). ,
2. The teaching of the prophets by types should be
distinguished from their ordinary teaching by symbols.
The type is a higher form of symbolism, in which actual
persons or facts or events are used in setting forth
greater events or spiritual truths.
The older treatments of prophecy make much of the
doctrine of types. Extensive works have been written
A type on Typology, and many of them. In some
defined the doctrine has been mistakenly treated, but
it is nevertheless important. In actual use the word
"type" is applied to emblems or figures of speech of
all kinds, but it is better so to define it as to make it
distinctive. Perhaps the best definition for the purpose
is that which prevails in the sciences. A type is —
"one of a class or group of objects that embodies the characteristics
of the group or class"; or "the ideal representation combining es-
sential characteristics, as of a species, genus, or family; an organism
exhibiting the essential characteristics of its group " (Standard
Using this definition in connection with the phenomena
of prophecy, the most important form of type is that
in which a historical fact or person or event is used as
an example foreshadowing some other fact or event or
THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE 127
person. It is best to distinguish a type from all objects
that are not thought of as historical, and from historical
events that are used merely for purposes of illustration.
A type is an emblem of a peculiar kind, a fact or a
person embodying a truth, and used as a foreshadowing
example of a greater manifestation of that truth.
The prophetic typology is mainly concerned with the
messianic doctrine taught by the prophets, and will
come before us again when we reach that subject. For
the present it is sufficient to add that it is the characters
and experiences and works of the prophets that are
typical, rather than their utterances. They themselves
claim to be a succession of types. The institutions of
Israel as moulded by the prophets are typical of some-
thing higher to be unfolded in the future. Under their
guidance much of the history has a typical value.
3. In considering the modes of utterance by the
prophets, we cannot wholly ignore the questions that
have been so often raised concerning a double sense
and a manifold fulfilment.
(a) It is not to be admitted that any of the utter-
ances of the true prophets of Yahaweh have Deceitfully
a double sense, meaning thereby a deceitfully equivocal
equivocal sense. The Greek oracle to Pyrrhus meanings
on his way to invade Italy is said to have been: —
"I say that Rome
Pyrrhus shall overcome."
When Pyrrhus failed to overcome Rome, and com-
plained that the oracle had deceived him, he was told
that the oracle was not to blame for his mistaken pars-
ing. In I Ki. xxii. 12 the false prophets say: —
"Go thou up to Ramoth-gilead and prosper, and Yahaweh will
give it into the hand of the king."
128 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
They give the same equivocal message variantly in
verse 6, and Micaiah repeats it ironically in verse 15.
But among the recognized prophets of Yahaweh serious
instances of this kind are conspicuous by their absence.
Instances of alleged double sense of a different kind
may be exemplified by the citation of Jeremiah (xxxi. 15)
in Matthew (ii. 18) concerning Rachel weeping for her
children. We read in Genesis that Rachel was buried
in Ramah on the way from Bethel to Ephrath, known
later as Bethlehem (Gen. xxxv. 19-20, xlviii. 7; cf:
I Sam. x. 2). Jeremiah in a fine burst of figurative
language represents Rachel in her grave as weeping
over her children, who have vanished by slaughter and
captivity from the depopulated region. Matthew quotes
the language, with the formula: "Then was fulfilled
that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet," and
applies it to the slaughter of the infants by Herod.
There are those who insist that Matthew says that the
words of Jeremiah were a prediction of the slaughter
by Herod, and were in that sense fulfilled. It would
seem to follow that Jeremiah had two meanings in mind
when he spoke the words, one meaning for his own
time and another for the time of Jesus. Several of the
places where the New Testament speaks of the words
of a prophet as having been fulfilled are regarded as in-
stances of this kind of alleged double sense. But it is
not necessary to think that Matthew regarded the words
of Jeremiah as a prediction of the cruelty of Herocl.
Probably he meant no more than that the words of the
prophet are capable of being used as a vivid descrip-
tion of the affair under Herod. Nothing is more com-
mon than to apply familiar old diction to new situations.
With this interpretation of instances of this sort every
sign of a double sense vanishes.
THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE 129
(b) The question of manifold fulfilment is entirely
different from that of an equivocal sense, and should be
On this point the one most important consideration is
that the idea of manifold fulfilment is not an afterthought,
devised for the explaining of difficulties, but Manifold ful-
is a recognition of an essential part of the filment not
structure of biblical prophecy. The predic- an afterthought
tions found in the extant works of the prophets are
almost exclusively either promises or threats. And
they are not sporadic, but parts of a connected doctrine
concerning the workings of a Deity whose plans are rep-
resented as extending through the ages. That his plans
extend through the ages is a point much insisted upon.
In the very nature of things the execution of a threat
may be accomplished in parts, and at different times.
In the nature of things a promise, operative without
limit of time, may begin to be fulfilled at once, and may
also continue being fulfilled through future period after
period. In the time of our civil war a soldier's life was
saved by a comrade. He promised that he would
always show himself grateful. After the war he came
to possess wealth and influence. He kept his promise
when his comrade was sick, by seeing that he was taken
to a hospital and cared for. He kept it later by paying
the expenses of his comrade's son through college.
Year by year he insists upon a visit from his comrade
and his comrade's family, and the two give themselves
up to the good fellowship of the occasion. He has just
presented his comrade's granddaughter with a handsome
marriage portion. The prediction that he made when
he promised to be grateful has naturally this manifold
fulfilment. So a prediction that is in the form of a
promise of never ending benefit from Deity has neces-
130 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
sarily a manifold fulfilment. Most of the prophetic
predictions are of this type. It is very clear that such
a prophecy may have manifold application, manifold
fulfilment, without having a double sense.
This matter is principally important in connection
with the messianic forecast found in the prophets, and
it will be abundantly illustrated when we reach that part
of our subject. For the present we will only illustrate
the principle in hand by barely mentioning a few of the
different ways in which scholars have stated it.
Writers have applied the term "generic prophecy" in
more ways than one. According to one idea a generic
Generic prediction is one which regards an event as
prophecy occurring in a series of parts, separated by
intervals, and expresses itself in language that may
apply indifferently to the nearest part, or to the remoter
parts, or to the whole—in other words, a prediction
which, in applying to the whole of a complex event,
also applies to some of the parts. A certain law of
perspective has played a prominent pail: in this way of
presenting the matter. It is as when a person looks
out over a wide view made up of several parallel ranges
of hills. The more distant ranges are much the grander;
though to his eye the nearer look the larger, and the
farther are blended with the nearer. Study, for example,
the words of Jesus concerning the destruction of Jerusa-
lem and his coming and the end of the age (Mat. xxiv-
Others speak of the successive or the progressive
fulfilment of a prediction. An event is foretold which
Successive or is to be brought about through previous
progressive events that in some particulars resemble it.
fulfilment The prediction is to be thought of as fulfilled,
though inadequately, in the first event of the series, and
THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE 131
as more or less adequately fulfilled in each succeeding
event, but as completely fulfilled only in the final event
in the series. Another form of statement is that only
the final event is foretold, but that this incidentally
includes the foretelling of some of the means by which
it is accomplished, that is, of some of the intervening
events that lead up to it.
With some a favorite way of presenting the case is to
say that types and antitypes may exist in a series, one
event being typical of a second, the second Series of
being typical of a third, the third of a types and
fourth, and so on. In such a case it is evi- antitypes
dent that a prediction or other prophecy, applying to the
first event in the series, may through it apply to the sec-
ond, and so to each succeeding event till the antitype
is reached. In foretelling parts of such a series the
remaining parts are foretold.
When the point of a prophecy consists in its enunciat-
ing the principles on which God acts in dealing with
individuals or communities, then the prophecy The
may of course be so far forth applied to every principles
instance that comes wholly or partly under God's administration
these principles. Especially is it true that if the
prophets believed that Deity had some central plan in
view in his management of the world, their teachings
concerning that plan and its details would be thereby
affected. Many of their statements would apply equally
to the whole plan or to certain of its details. Some of
their statements would apply equally to details which
were in themselves very unlike. I have stated this
hypothetically; but nothing is more certain than that
the prophets had a theory of this kind, and that their
utterances were greatly affected thereby.
4. In treating of the modes of utterance of the
132 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
prophets, we have considered mainly the points which
seem most to call for remark. But there is some danger
Masters of that in doing this we may mistake exceptional
the art of things for the things that are essential. Realty
persuasive the greatest quality in the modes of utterance
speech of the prophets is that they were masters of the
art of persuasive speech. They were enabled to utter moral
and religious truth so directly and incisively that the
truth they uttered has lived ever since.
THE PROPHET AS A GIVER OF TORAH AND WRITER OF
AT the close of the fifth chapter our attention was
called to the fact that the one great function of the
prophets was the transmitting of monotheism in its
Israelitish type to Israel, to mankind, and to future
ages. The monotheism they transmitted may be looked
at with respect to its contents or with respect to its form.
As to its contents, the chief thing in it is its messianic
doctrine. In its form it is an alleged revelation or series
of revelations from God, commonly described by the
prophets themselves as "law," torah. Torah, when
written, becomes sacred scripture.
The discussion of the distinctive contents of the
monotheism of this type, namely, its doctrine of the
Messiah, will occupy the second part of this volume;
the discussion of its form will occupy the present chap-
ter. Nothing can be more important in this investiga-
tion than to get a clear idea of the relations of the
prophets to torah, that is, directly or indirectly, to the
Most students of the Bible, even if they do not
understand Hebrew, are familiar with this word torah,
commonly translated "law." From the careless use
of it arise many errors. When one gets so far along
as to know that the Old Testament consists of the Law
and the Prophets and the Hagiographa, he is liable
134 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
to assume that "law" and "pentateuch" are converti-
ble terms. Even scholarly men have made this assump-
tion, and with disastrous results. For this reason we
need carefully to consider the term torah and its equiva-
lents. We will study it, first, as used in writings later
than the Old Testament; second, as used in the Old
Testament; third, as indicating the character of the
I. First, the term is not restricted, in the literature
that has been written since the Old Testament, to the
denoting of the pentateuch. In particular, it is also
employed to denote the entire bible, or to denote the
I. Certainly, we ourselves use the term "law" in
this extended sense. If you heard some one speak of
the written law of God, you might understand him to
mean the pentateuch, but you would be more likely
to understand him to mean the bible.
2. The same usage prevails among the Jewish scholars
of past centuries. For example, one finds such a passage
as the following: —
"This whole work is called Mikra, that is, Scripture or Bible.
It is also often called Law, as R. Bechai teaches in Chadh Hake-
mach: . . . 'The Law is divided into three parts„
Rabbinical into the Law, the Prophets and the Hagiographa'''
usage (Ugolino, Vol. I, Col. 226).
As another instance, Lightfoot (Pitman's ed., 1823,
Vol. XII, p. 546) quotes from Bab. Sanhedr., fol. 91, 2,
a discussion in which three Old Testament passages are
cited on the question: "Whence is the resurrection of
the dead proved out of the law?" The passages are
Josh. viii. 30; Ps. lxxxiv. 4; Isa. lii. 8. It is evident
that the word "law" in this passage denotes the Old
Testament, and not the pentateuch only.
THE PROPHET AND THE LAW 135
These instances are relatively late. It is alleged that
no such usage prevailed in the early Christian centuries,
but this is a mistake. In the celebrated four- Usage in
teenth chapter of 2 Esdras, for example, the 2 Esdras and
things "which were written in thy law" in- Josephus
elude, apparently, "the works that shall begin," and
"all that hath taken place in the world since the begin-
ning" (vv. 20-22), that is, the contents of the predictive
and the historical parts of the Old Testament. Ezra is
represented as saying: "The world therefore lieth in
darkness . . . since thy law is burnt," and as asking
for the gift of the Holy Spirit that he may write the
things that had formerly been written in the law. Re-
ceiving the inspiration he sought, he writes, according
to the most probable text, ninety-four books, the first
twenty-four of which he is to publish openly (vv. 44-
46). It is clear that these twenty-four books were, in
the mind of the author of the story, the "law" of which
he had been speaking, and it is equally clear that by
them he intended the Old Testament.1
Josephus, like the author of 2 Esdras, wrote not far
from the close of the first century A.D., a little later
than the writers of the New Testament. In the third
section of the Preface to his Antiquities he says, speak-
ing of King Ptolemy and the Septuagint translation of
the Old Testament: —
"For he did not obtain all the record, for those who were sent
to Alexandria as interpreters gave him; only the books of the law.
But there is a vast number of other matters in the sacred literature."2
1 If the expression "a law of life" in verse 30 refers especially to the
pentateuch, that simply shows that this author, like others, used the term
"law" in both senses. It should be noticed that the point here made de-
pends solely on the author's use of language, and not at all on the truthful-
ness of his statements of fact.
2 This translation is based on those of Whiston and Shilletto, but is
136 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
Josephus here distinguishes between "the books of the
law "on the one hand and " the record," "the sacred.
literature," on the other. It is commonly assumed that:
by the first of these terms he means the pentateuch,
and by the other two the rest of the Old Testament.
But it is at least as plausible to say that by the first he
means the Old Testament, and that in the other two he
includes the body of secondary sacred literature which
he uses so freely in the work that follows. The con-
text proves that this latter statement is certainly the
correct one. By "the books of the law" Josephus here
means the aggregate of the Hebrew Old Testament
writings. These had been for several generations''
accessible to Greeks, in the Septuagint translation.
Josephus now proposes to render accessible a portion
of the contents of the secondary sacred writings.
3. Not to consider other uses of the term "law" in
the New Testament, its writers sometimes designate the
New Testa- pentateuch as the law, and sometimes include
ment usage under this designation the whole body of the
"scriptures" to which they are in the habit of referring.
It is impossible to be sure which of these two meanings
of the term was the more familiar to their minds.
A marked instance of the second of these two mean-
ings is that in which Jesus asks the question: "Is it
not written in your law, I said, Ye are Gods?"1 Here
the reference is not to a passage in the books of Moses,
changed to avoid their confusing of the literary terms used by Josephus.
The plural ypaµµara, letters, is rendered "literature," to distinguish it alike
from ypa i7, scripture, and OtfX1a, books.
1 " Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are
gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came (and the
scripture cannot be broken), say ye of him whom the Father sanctified
and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son
of God?" (Jn. x. 34).
THE PROPHET AND THE LAW 137
but to one of the psalms (lxxxii. 6). Jesus speaks of
this phrase from the psalm as "written in your law,"
and immediately afterward calls it "scripture." You
can only explain his use of words by saying that he and
those who heard him were alike in the habit of some-
times speaking of the whole body of the scriptures as
"the law." Similarly Jesus speaks of the sentence,
"They hated me without a cause" (Ps. xxxv. 19 or
lxix. 4), as "written in their law" (Jn. xv. 25). A
more general instance is the following (Jn. xii. 34): —
"The multitude therefore answered him, We have heard out
of the law that the Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest
thou, The Son of man must be lifted up?"
Here the reference may be to any one of several specific
passages, or it may be to the general spirit of the mes-
sianic passages; but in either case it is to the Old
Testament outside the Mosaic books.
John is not the only New Testament writer who em-
ploys language in this way. Paul says to the Corin-
thians (I Cor. xiv. 21):
"In the law it is written, By men of strange tongues and by
the lips of strangers will I speak unto this people; and not even
thus will they hear me, saith the Lord."
This citation is from Isaiah (xxviii. 11, 12). Add to these
instances the series of citations in Rom. iii. 10–19 :
"As it is written,
There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none that understandeth,
There is none that seeketh after God;
They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofit-
There is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one :
Their throat is an open sepulchre;
With their tongues they have used deceit:
The poison of asps is under their lips :
138 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the way of peace have they not known:
There is no fear of God before their eyes.
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it speaketh
to them that are under the law."
Here the marginal references are to the Psalms, Jere-
miah, the Proverbs, and Isaiah. None of the sentences
are from the pentateuch. Yet they are quoted as parts
of what the law says to them that are under the law;
and they are introduced by the formula, "It is written."
No one can make the term "law" in this passage other
than synonymous with the term "scripture."
These instances are conclusive to the effect that in
the time of Jesus there was a distinct usage under which
the whole body of the Old Testament scriptures was
familiarly called "the law." And inasmuch as what-
ever is in the pentateuch is also in the Old Testament,
these authors may sometimes have had the whole Old
Testament in mind even when they cite the pentateuch.
It follows that we cannot be certain which of the two
meanings was the more prevalent.
4. Correct interpretation finds the same usage in
the earlier extrabiblical literature. For example, the
Usages of twenty-fourth chapter of the book of Ec-
Ecclesiasti- clesiasticus, written either about 200 B.C. or
cus, Baruch, about 300 B.C., is a part of a continuous
etc. series of citations, mostly from Job, Proverbs, and the
scriptural books of that class, with enlargements taken
in part from the pentateuch. This is followed by the
1 There is a less distinct instance in Mt. xxii. 36, 40, where the question
is asked concerning the law, but answered concerning "the whole law, and
THE PROPHET AND THE LAW 139
"All these are the book of the covenant of the most high God,
The law which Moses commanded us
As an heritage unto the congregations of Jacob" (ver. 23).
Apparently this author thinks of Moses as only the be-
ginner of "the law which Moses commanded us," and
thinks of that law as including the wisdom books of the
Old Testament, as well as the pentateuch.
Precisely similar is the passage in the book of Baruch
(iv. 1), where, alter many lines made up from the books
of Moses and from Proverbs and Job, the writer says : —
"This is the book of the commandments of God,
And the law that endureth forever."
II. This glance at the later usage has prepared us for
studying the term as it appears in the Hebrew of the
1. First, we look at its derivation.
The noun torah and its cognate verb horah are causa-
tives from yarah, which denotes the act of shooting an
arrow or hurling a javelin. The two have the Derived from
same use, and should be studied together, the yarah, "to
mechanical translation of the verb being " to shoot
give torah." The causative stem of yarah sometimes
denotes shooting, like the simple stem. Its derivative
yoreh (Deut. xi. 14 Jer. v. 24) is translated "former
rain." The "arrows of the rain" afford a not unfamil-
iar figure of speech. But the causative verb of the stem
nearly always, and the noun torah always, are used in
the secondary sense in which the noun is translated
"law" and the verb is translated "teach."1
1 The lexicons say that this secondary meaning comes through the no-
tion of shooting out the hand by way of monitory gesture. Possibly a
better conjecture is that the term is of military origin. An officer causes
his men to shoot, when he gives the order for shooting. From such a be-
ginning the noun might naturally come to denote an order given by com-
140 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
The usage of the word is abundant for the purpose of
ascertaining its meaning. The noun occurs more than
two hundred times, and the verb more than sixty times,
in the different parts of the Old Testament.
2. Very important to the ascertaining of the significa-
tion of these words is the fact that the law or teaching
they denote is divine. To this there are only a very
few exceptions in the case of the verb, and probably
none in the case of the noun.
In a few instances, as we have seen, horah retains the
meaning "to shoot." Once it is used of Judah going
Horan in advance of his father to Goshen, "to give
commonly torah," that is, to give orders (Gen. xlvi. 28).
describes In Proverbs (vi. 13) it is said concerning the
divine law "man of iniquity":--
"He winketh with his eyes, he talketh with his feet,
He giveth torah with his fingers."
But in most of the instances, the directions or teachings
denoted by this verb are either given directly by Deity,
or are given by one who speaks in the name of Deity.1
petent authority. This explanation, as we shall find, agrees with the usage
of the word. In military usage, the " orders" given in a camp are some-
times of the nature of information rather than command, though the infor-
mation so given is official and authoritative. If we could keep this in mind,
we might translate horah by the English phrase "give orders," and torah
by "an order" or "orders."
1 In a few instances the subject of the verb is a false god, or simply some
god or other. In Habakkuk the men are scathed who appeal to a molten
image to give lying torah, or who look to a dumb stone to give torah
(I-lab. ii. 18, 19). In Isaiah (xxviii. 26) the husbandman's God is said to
give him torah.
In perhaps one-third of the existing instances Elohim or Yahaweh is
directly the subject. For example, Yahaweh gave Moses and Aaron torah
as to what they should say and do before Pharaoh (Ex. iv. 12, 15). He
gave Moses torah concerning a tree for healing the bitter fountain (Ex.
xv. 25). He promised the tables of stone and the torah and the com-
THE PROPHET AND THE LAW 141
So much for the verb. So generally does it denote
requirement or teaching that is thought of as coming
from Deity, that this is presumptively its Torah means
meaning in all cases except where the context divine law or
clearly shows the contrary. And if this is teaching
true of the verb, it is more decidedly true of the noun.
There are probably no exceptions to the rule that the
Old Testament men think of torah as of divine origin.
If there are any exceptions, they are seven or eight of
the thirteen instances in which the word is used in the
book of Proverbs.1 There are other Hebrew words
mandments, "to give them torah," or, "to give them as torah" (Ex. xxiv.
12). He is asked to give Israel torah concerning "the good way" (i Ki.
viii. 36). He is asked to give the Psalmist torah concerning "his way,"
"the way of his statutes" (Pss. xxvii. lxxxvi. 11, cxix. 33). He gives
different persons torah "in the way," "in that way thou shalt go," "in a
way that he shall choose" (Pss. xxv. 8, 12, xxxii. 8). He gives the nations
torah "out of his ways" (Mic. iv. 2; Isa. ii. 3). He gives Israel torah
"unto the good way" (2 Chron. vi. 27). He gives torah (Ps. cxix. 102).
Deity gives torah (Job xxxiv. 32, xxxvi. 22).
The most prominent use is that in which a prophet or a priest gives
torah as the representative of Deity. Instances are needless, though many
are given in the course of this chapter. In other instances the subject of
the verb is indefinite, or is some person or thing, but the teaching given
concerns divine matters, and has been received from Deity. Bezalel is to
give torah concerning the tabernacle work (Ex. xxxv. 34). One of the
toroth in Leviticus (xiv. 57) is for the purpose of giving torah concern-
ing the clean and the unclean. In the forty-fifth Psalm (4) the king's
right hand gives him torah in " terrible things." In various places in the
Wisdom books, the fathers or the beasts or the earth or " my father" or
Job's friends are said to give torah. In some of these places it is' clear that
the speaker has a divine revelation in mind, and in none of them is it clear
that he has not.
1 And these, although the revised versions annotate them with the alter-
native "or teaching," are not real exceptions. There is nothing to prevent
the phrase "the law of thy mother" (Prov. i. 8, vi. 20) from meaning Ya-
haweh's law as taught thee by thy mother. Similar statements might be
made concerning the phrases " my law" (iii. I, iv. 2, vii. 2), " their law "
(vi. 23, if one accepts the emendation), "a wise man's law" (xiii. 14), "a
142 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
which apply equally to human or divine laws or state-
ments ; but torah, unless in these passages, is always
divine. Elsewhere, at least, the usage is uniform.
3. Another point follows from this ; or it might be
independently made out by reexamining the instances :
torah always denotes authoritative command or informa-
tion. The idea of authority is inseparable alike from
the noun and from the verb.
In the English versions the verb is commonly trans-
lated "teach." In the revised versions the noun is
Always au- sometimes annotated with; the phrase "or
thoritative teaching." Some authors tell us that the
teaching noun denotes instruction, and they draw im-
portant inferences from this weakened meaning of it.
This is commendable so far forth as it is an attempt to
disentangle the Old Testament term from misleading
associations with the English word " law," or its equiva-
lents in other languages. But we must limit the attempt
carefully, or, in rescuing the word from uncongenial
company, we shall lead it into company that is still less
congenial. Torah and horah are never used of teach-
ing or instruction merely in the sense of giving informa-
tion. Always they denote authoritative teaching. With
the few exceptions already noted, they denote teaching
that is regarded as divinely authoritative. Not that
they always express commands; the thing expressed by
them may be information, and not command; but it is
information that is thought of as authoritative, and,
law of loving kindness " (xxxi. 26). It is easy to understand these to mean
simply thy mother's teachings, my teachings, the teachings of thy parents,
teachings of a wise man, teachings concerning loving kindness; but it is
quite as easy to understand them to mean God's revealed will as made known
to thee by thy mother, by me, by thy parents, by a wise man, by the virtu-
ous woman." Either we must thus interpret these phrases, following the
use of the word elsewhere, or we must regard them as a group of exceptions.
THE PROPHET AND THE LAW 143
ordinarily, as of divine authority.1 In fine, the idea
they express is not far different from our current idea
of divine revelation, including God's commands, but
including also his promises and threats, and such
information or such inspiring truths as he may have
communicated to men.
4. Another point in the usage concerns the relation
of torah respectively to the prophets and the priests.
Since these were thought of as in a special sense the
representatives of Deity, we should expect that they
would be particularly concerned with torah. This ex-
pectation is met in the record. It represents the proph-
ets as the medium through whom torah is given from
Deity; the priests as the official custodians and admin-
istrators of torah; and both as the expounders and
interpreters of torah.
(a) The prophet is the person through whom Yahaweh
reveals his torah.
There are general statements to this effect; for
example, the following from Daniel:— General
“His toroth which he gave before us by the hand of
his servants the prophets " (ix. io).
1 The English word "law" has connotations different from those of
torah, but it is relatively easy to set these aside so that they will not mis-
lead us; much easier than in the case of the other English words that have
been suggested. But "law" in English has no cognate by which to
translate the verb horah. Such phrases as "give law," "lay down the
law," have some good points, but are impracticable.
When a government puts an officer in charge of an expedition, it gives
him " instructions," often written instructions, sometimes secret instructions
either oral or written, the instructions including information as well as
commands. If we could confine our English words "instruct" and "in-
struction" to this meaning, they would fairly translate horah and torah.
But this we cannot do. Similar statements might be made concerning the
English terms "orders," "give orders," and "direct," "directions," "give
directions." For the purposes of this chapter we may transfer the words
144 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
Or this, from the record of the downfall of Samaria: —
"And Yahaweh testified with Israel and with Judah by the hand
of every prophet of his, every seer, saying, Turn from your evil ways
and keep my commandments, my statutes, according to all the torah
which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent unto you by the
hand of my servants the prophets" (2 Ki. xvii. 13).
Or this from Jeremiah: —
"Thus saith Yahaweh, If ye will not hearken unto me, to walk in
'my torah which I have given before you, to hearken unto the words
of my servants the prophets whom I send unto you" (xxvi. 4-5).
General statements like these are frequent. They
are supported by particular instances in abundance.
Particular It was through Nathan the prophet that " the
instances torah of mankind "was announced to David
(2 Sam. vii. 19). Sealed written torah was given
through Isaiah the prophet (viii. 16, 20). The various
toroth of the pentateuch are represented to have been
given by Moses the man of God, the greatest of the
Other passages teach the same by suggestion. In
Nehemiah's time confession was made that Israel had
"cast thy torah behind their back, and murdered thy
prophets" (Neb. ix. 26), suggesting that the prophets
were the givers of the torah. The writer of Lamenta-
tions says: —
"Her king and her captains are among the nations; there is no
torah; also her prophets have not found vision from Yahaweh"
And in Isaiah we read of —
"lying sons, sons that are not willing to hear the torah of Yaha-
weh; who say to the seers, Ye shall not see ; and to them that have
visions, Ye shall not for us have visions of things that are correct"
rather than translate them; but perhaps there 's no translation that will be
correct without careful definition.
THE PROPHET AND THE LAW 145
It would be easy to multiply instances in which it is
thus said or implied that the prophet is the man through
whom Deity reveals his torah to men, but The act
we will only add a few in which the verb is denoted by
used, not the noun. Manoah desired that horah is prophetic
the Angel, whom he supposed to be a "man of God,"
might be sent again to give torah in regard to the son
that was to be born (Jud. xiii. 8). That is to say, he
regarded the giving of torah as the function of a man
of God. Isaiah says that the prophet who gives false
torah is the tail in Judah (ix. 15). Samuel the prophet
promised not to cease giving Israel torah, notwithstand-
ing they had made a king (I Sam. xii. 23). The "teach-
ers" — givers of torah mentioned twice in Isa. xxx. 20
are probably prophets).
(b) The priests are the guardians of the torah, but
are not its revealing agents.
They are as prominently mentioned in connection
with torah as are the prophets, but their functions are
different. In conjunction with the elders The priests'
and with the judges or kings, they are the functions
custodians and administrators of the torah, with torah
but they are not law-bringers, like the prophets. The
conception is that as the successive parts of the torah
were brought from Deity by men who had prophetic
gifts, these toroth were placed in the hands of the
priests for use.
What the priests had to do with torah in general is
fairly represented by what they had to do with the so-
called book of the torah. The record is that this was
written by the prophet Moses, and put into the keeping
1 When Job (xxvii. 11) proposes to give his friends torah "at the hand
of God," we probably ought to understand him as claiming prophetic gifts.
Those whom the outcast (Prov. v. 13 RV) calls "my teachers" may have
been prophets. There is nothing to indicate that they were not.
146 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
of the priests and elders. They were to guard it safe,
and once in seven years were to teach it by public read-
ing (Deut. xxxi. 9-13). They were t have charge of
the torah in the place which Yahawe should choose,
and were to administer it in cases of a peal. The king
was to have a copy of the torah made from the one that
was before "the priests the Levites" Deut. xvii. 8-12,
18). We. are told that Jehoshaphat had priests who
went through the land on a mission o instruction and
reform, carrying with them "the boor of the torah of
Yahaweh" (2 Chron. xvii. 9). The prophet Haggai
sends men to the priests to ask questions as to a point
in the ceremonial law (ii. 11, 12, 13).
In these passages the noun is used, some of them
using the verb also ; the following ay indicate the
usage of the verb when priests are in question. The
priests are to "teach" the people, give the people
torah, concerning leprosy (Deut. xxiv. 8). That is, they
are to make known and enforce the la on this subject,
as it has been committed to them. Aaron and his
sons are to teach the sons of Israel, to give the sons of
Israel torah, all the statutes which Go. gave by Moses
(Lev. x. i I). Here their torah is the statutes which
have already been given through the prophet noses.
Ezekiel says of the priests (xliv. 23):
"And they shall give torah to my people between holy and profane,
And between clean and unclean they shall give knowledge to them."
We are told that the king of Assyria sent the Israelite
priest to the foreign populations which he had placed
in Samaria, —
"that he might give them torah, the usages of the god of the land,
. . . how they might fear Yahaweh" (2 Ki. xvi . 27-28).1
1 Study also the following additional passages. In Asa's time Israel is
said to have long been "without a torah-giving priest, and without torah"
THE PROPHET AND THE LAW 147
(c) The prophets and the priests were alike the ex-
pounders and the interpreters of the torah, but with
Some scholars are accustomed to speak of a priestly
torah and a prophetic torah, as if the two differed in
their contents. There is no ground for this. No separate
There may be passages that are capable of priestly torah
being understood in this way, but there are none that
necessarily give this meaning, and none that with any
strong probability imply it. The representation is rather
that the prophets and the priests had a common body of
torah, to which they stood in differing relations. They
were both teachers of torah, but the prophet was, in ad-
dition, the revealing agent through whom the torah was
We have examined a good many passages in which
this is explicitly said, and others in which it is implied.
(2 Chron. xv. 3). Jeremiah calls the priests "the handlers of the torah"
(ii. 8), and censures his opponents for saying that "torah shall not perish
from priest" (xviii. i8). Zephaniah complains that "her priests have
profaned sanctuary, have done violence to torah" (iii. 4). In the "Bless-
ing wherewith Moses the man of God blessed Israel," the function of Levi
is thus stated: —
"They shall give as torah thy judgments to Jacob,
and thy torah to Israel" (Deut. xxxiii. 1o).
Micah makes it a matter of rebuke that "her priests give torah for hire"
(iii. 11). The relations of the priests to the law are magnified in the sec-
ond chapter of Malachi: —
"A true torah was in his mouth" (6).
For a priest's lips keep knowledge,
and torah they seek at his mouth,
because he is the angel of Yahaweh of hosts.
While ye, ye have removed from the way,
ye have caused many to stumble in the torah,
ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi,
saith Yahaweh of hosts" (7-8).
"And ye are lifting up faces in the torah" (9).
148 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
The priest does not, like the prophet, receive torah by
direct revelation from Deity ; but he as charge of torah
which has already been revealed, to administer and in-
terpret it. The only way in which he gives additional
torah is by interpreting that already given, answering
questions concerning it, making decisions upon it, estab-
lishing precedents and usages from it. Functions of this
sort belonged to both prophets and priests, and rendered
them both, in a sense, sources of torah. But in the
prophet's gift of revelation the priest, as such, had no
share. Of course both functions might be combined in
one person, as in Jehoiada the prophet-priest, the torah-
teacher of King Joash (2 Ki. xii. 2).1
5. Having in mind this ''conception of torah as a body
of divine revelation given through the prophets, and
administered and expounded by there and the priests,
we are ready to take up another point,— the different
forms which torah assumed, as indicated by the variant
uses of the word.
(a) Torah was sometimes oral and sometimes written.
To prove that the prophets gave torah orally, or that
they and the priests gave oral interpretations, and oral
decisions on points that arose, would be a work of super-
erogation. It is equally needless to prove the existence
of written torah. But we have to note that at this point
1 Some one may raise the objection that the respective relations of the
priests and the prophets to the law probably differed in different periods
of the history. The reply is that the passages that have been cited cover
all the periods. If they tell the truth, that settles the question, no matter
when or by whom they were written. And even critics who dispute their
truth will nevertheless concede that they present correctly the situation
that existed in the later times when these critics allege that they were
written, and that their writers believed that the same situation existed in
the earlier times. It would not be easy to find sufficient reason for denying
that these writers were correct in their opinion. Reasons for affirming that
they were correct will appear as we proceed with our investigation.
THE PROPHET AND THE LAW 149
the element of time becomes more important than it has
been in the matters thus far discussed.
Written torah began at an early date. In Isaiah we
have an account of torah written and sealed Early written
(viii. 16, 20). Hosea, in a passage that has torah
been much discussed, says of Ephraim:
"I write for him the ten thousand, my torah
As a stranger they are accounted" (viii. 12).
That there was written torah from the time of Moses is
the testimony of all the numerous passages that speak
of Moses writing the law, or of the book of Moses, or of
the book of the law. These affirm that Moses wrote torah
(e.g. Deut. xxxi. 9, 11, 24, 26, xxviii. 58, 61, xxix. 21, 29,
xxx. to), and that Joshua wrote torah (Josh. xxiv. 26).
Of course there are scholars who assign a late date to
these passages,l and count their testimony as either false-
hood or fiction. But these scholars themselves hold that
the writing of torah was a part of the earliest literary
writing in Israel, though they date this earliest writing
many centuries after Moses. The passages cited in this
chapter abundantly indicate that the Old Testament writ-
ers lay especial emphasis on the idea of written torah.
(b) Again, the noun torah is subject to the various
modes of use which we should expect in the case of a
term that was so frequently employed. These throw
light on its meaning.
It is used in the singular number, in the plural, col-
lectively, abstractly. In other words, we find mention
of a law, laws, law as an aggregate, law as an abstract
conception. It is used definitely or indefinitely, with a
subject genitive, with an object genitive. Certain par-
ticulars in its use are especially significant.
1 The Hexateuch regards Josh. xxiv. 26 as a late addition to E.
150 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
First, the term torah is applied to any particular divine
requirement or other message. It is thus used indefi
Torah denot- nitely in the singular, both indefinitely and
ing a particu- definitely in the plural, definitely in the sin-
lar revelation gular with an object genitive, and perhaps
also with a subject genitive.1 This usage is found in
the records concerning the exodus and concerning
Abraham, in the writings which the older tradition attrib-
utes to Moses, and in the sections which the analytical
critics assign to E and to J. That is, you find it, no
matter to what critical school you belong, in the earliest
extant Hebrew literature, and in every subsequent period.
1 As torah comes from Deity, the subject genitive is invariably a noun
or pronoun denoting Deity; for example, "the torah of Yahaweh," or
"my torah," in the passages cited above. The object genitive denotes the
matter with which the torah concerns itself, e.g. "a torah of loving kind-
ness" (Prov. xxxi. 26). Whenever the word is used, the subject genitive
is implied, and there may be in addition a second subject genitive. For
example, in the instance just given one might speak of the worthy woman's
Yahaweh's law of loving kindness, that is, Yahaweh's torah concerning
loving kindness as presented by the worthy woman.
A reader is not likely to master these distinctions sharply except by the
process of actually examining instances. The following will serve for
Torah is used indefinitely in the singular: "Bind thou up a testimony,
seal a torah, among my disciples" (Isa. viii. 16). The context shows that
by torah the prophet here means a particular message in writing. In the
balancing statement (ver. 20) the term torah is perhaps used abstractly.
The term is also used indefinitely in the plural: "They have trans-
gressed laws" (Isa. xxiv. 5).
Oftener the plural is used definitely. In connection with the visit of
Jethro, Moses is spoken of as making the people to know the toroth of
Deity (Ex. xviii. 16, 20 E), apparently in judicial matters. Abraham is com-
mended for keeping Yahaweh's toroth (Gen. xxvi. 5 J or JS). At the giving
of the manna, Yahaweh rebukes Israel for not keeping his toroth (Ex. xv:i.
28 J or Ps). Later instances of the word in the plural are Neh. ix. 13; Ps.
cv. 45; Lev. xxvi. 46; Ezek. xliv. 24 and perhaps xliii. 11. xliv. 5.
For this purpose of denoting a particular message the word is also used
definitely in the singular with an object genitive. This is frequent in lit-
erary titles or subscriptions. "Moses began to declare this torah" (Deut.
THE PROPHET AND THE LAW 151
Second, the word torah in the singular is employed to
denote an aggregate of divine messages or requirements.
A more specific use with the article or with a Torah as an
defining subject genitive will be considered aggregate of
later. For the present, we note that this use toroth
occurs when the word has no article, or when the article
only indicates that the torah spoken of has been defined
by the context. An instance without the article occurs
in the prayer of Nehemiah: —
"And commandedst them commandments and statutes and a
torah, by the hand of Moses thy servant" (Neh. ix. 14).
Here, clearly, torah denotes the aggregate of the Mosaic
requirements or revelation. There are enough similar
instances, some of them referring to Moses and some
not, to make out a clear case.l Instances with the arti-
cle will be found below, especially in connection with
i. 5), the torah referred to being the address that occupies the four follow-
ing chapters. "This is the torah of the burnt-offering" (Lev. vii. 37–38).
"This is the torah of the plague of leprosy in a garment" (Lev. xiii. 59).
Cf. Lev. vii. r, 11, xi. 46–47; Num. v. 29–30, etc.
Possibly the term denotes a particular message in some cases where it
is definite with only a subject genitive.
"Hear ye the word of Yahaweh, ye officials of Sodom!
Give ear to the torah of our God, ye people of Gomorrah!" (Isa. i. io).
Here it is possible to hold that the torah to which the prophet refers is
merely the message which he is in the act of uttering; though the context
shows that the term may equally well have a wider meaning.
1"A true torah was in his mouth" (Mal. ii. 6).
"A law Moses gave in charge to us,
A possession for the assembly of Jacob" (Deut. xxxiii. 4).
"And he established a testimony in Jacob,
And a law he placed in Israel" (Ps. lxxviii. 5).
"A wise man's torah is a fountain of life" (Prov. xiii. 14).
" A torah of loving kindness is on her tongue " (Prov. xxxi. 26).
" A commandment is a lamp, and a torah is a light " (Prov. vi. 23).
The requiring " one law " for the stranger and the homeborn, or for the
sin-offering and the guilt-offering (Ex. xii. 49; Num. xv. i6, 29; Lev. vii.
7), may perhaps be regarded as a variant of this usage.
152 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
what is said concerning the book of the law. Some of
the instances with the article are of early date.
Third, this indefinite general use easily passes over
into an abstract use. This is mainly concealed in the
Torah used English versions, which translate in such
as an abstract cases with the article, but the usage is very
noun abundant. It occurs sometimes in plain prose.
In Asa,'s time Judah was "without law-expounding
priest, and without law"; and Jehoshaphat's judges
were to be faithful "between law and commandment"
(2 Chron. xv. 3, xix. 10). But the usage is more fre-
quent in poetry, and is to some extent a matter of
poetic diction. In the only place where the word torah
occurs in the book of Job, Job's friends are exhorting
him to submit to the divine will: —
"Receive, pray, law from his mouth " (xxii. 22).
In the glowing description common to Isaiah and Micah
we read: —
"For out of Zion law shall go forth,
and the word of Yahaweh out of Jerusalem" (Isa. ii. 3; Mic. iv. 2).
It is not "the law," but "law," which Yahaweh-- or
his Servant —magnifies and makes honorable (Isa. xlii.
21). And so in other instances). Such use as this of
such a term presupposes that the term has long been
1 Additional instances are: —
"Forsakers of law praise a wicked person,
While keepers of law contend with them."
"He that guardeth law is a discerning son."
"He turneth away his ear from hearing law,
Also his prayer is an abomination" (Prov. xxviii. 4, 7, 9).
"Where there is no vision a people is to be shunned,
But one that keepeth law, happy is it" (Prov. xxix. i8).
"Law will go forth . . . for a light of peoples" (Isa. li. 4).
"Law is slackened" (Hab. i. 4).
"Her' priests . . . have done violence to law" (Zeph. iii. 4).
"Law is not" (Lam. ii. 9).
THE PROPHET AND THE LAW 153
familiar, and we are therefore not surprised at finding
this use absent from the earlier writings.
Fourth, among the uses of the word torah one in par-
ticular is significant — that in which the definite phrase
"the torah" designates a certain definite and The definite
recognized aggregate. The phrase may of aggregate known
course appear in variant forms: "the torah as the torah
of Yahaweh," "the torah of our God," "my torah," "thy
torah," "his torah," "the torah," "this torah." We must
presently consider this somewhat in detail, but it is more
convenient to complete first our classification of the uses
of the term.
Fifth, there remains one more use to be noted. It is a
matter of natural variation that any part of the torah-ag-
gregate may sometimes be called by the name "The torah"
that properly belongs to the whole. A con- as some part
spicuous instance is that of "the law," which of the aggregate
Joshua is said to have inscribed on the altar at Mount
Ebal. As this was written not on fine-grained stone but
on plaster, it must have been in coarse script, and there-
fore cannot have been a very long piece of literature.
Yet it is described as " all the words of this law " (Deut.
xxvii. 3, 8).1
"Law shall perish from priest " (Ezek. vii. 26).
"Pray, ask the priests for law" (Hag. ii. u).
"And law they seek from his mouth" (Mal. ii. 7).
1 This appears more specifically in the statements in Joshua: —
"And he wrote there upon the stones the duplicate of the law of Moses
which he had written before the sons of Israel." "And afterward he read
all the words of the law, the blessing and the cursing" (Josh. viii. 32, 34).
This altar inscription must have been a good deal briefer than the whole
book of Deuteronomy, and much more must it have been briefer than "the
book of the law" taken in any wider meaning. Perhaps it was that part
of Deuteronomy that contains the blessings and the curses, say xxvii—xxviii
or xxvii-xxx (Josh. viii. 33-34; Deut. xi. 26-29, xxvii. 2 sqq.). Perhaps it
had the same limits with "the covenant" of "the land of Moab" (Deut.
xxix. I [xxviii. 69]). It may perhaps be identical with "the book of the
154 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
Such are the five uses of the term. It is used of a
single divine requirement or other message; it is used
of an undefined aggregate ; it is used abstractly; it is
used of the recognized definite aggregate; it is used by
synecdoche of the parts of this aggregate.1
covenant" (2 Ki. xxiii. 2) which, in Josiah's time, was read entire at one
public meeting, and which is clearly identical with either the whole or a
part of the book of the law that was found at that time.
We should he careful not to confuse the phraseology in Josh. viii. 30-
35. Verses 30-34 describe the solemnities of the altar, with the accom-
panying blessing and cursing. Verse 35 seems to describe a different solem-
nity as occurring at the same time — that of the public septennial reading
of the law, as required in Deut. xxxi. 10-13. This appears from the men-
tion of "all the assembly of Israel, and the women and the little ones, and
the sojourner that walketh in the midst of them."
In the account of the altar solemnity we are told that they acted "ac-
cording to that which is written in the book of the law of Moses" (31),
and that one read the blessings and cursings "according to all that is
written in the book of the law" (34). In these two places " the book of
the law " is the book which Deuteronomy says that Moses wrote. From
this book they took "the duplicate of the law of Moses" which was in-
scribed on the altar, and "all the words of the law, the blessing and the
cursing" which were read. The passage that was inscribed is probably
also the one that is here said to have been read. It was both read and
copied from the book of the law, but the question whether it was the whole
of that hook is left open.
1 There can be no dispute, I think, that these five categories are distinct,
or that they include all the instances that occur, though there may occa-
sionally be room for difference of opinion as to the category to which a
particular instance should be assigned. Above we have cited, for example,
the Levitical "torah of the burnt-offering" as one of the particular toroth
which have been combined into the torah-aggregate; it would be equally
possible to regard it as merely a section of that aggregate. Or how is it
with the torah introduced in Deut. iv. 44? Did the writer conceive of what
follows as a single prophetic message? or as a relatively brief aggregate of
such messages? or as a section of the well-known torah-aggregate?
When David speaks of the message which Nathan has just brought him as
"the torah of mankind" (2 Sam. vii. 19; I Chron. xvii. 17), he seems to
be thinking of it not as a separate message, but as the significant repetition
of something in the torah-aggregate. Such differences in detail do not
affect the validity of the classification itself.
THE PROPHET AND THE LAW 155
6. What we have learned concerning the five uses of
the term will help us as we now inquire into the nature
of the torah-aggregate.
(a) The word torah might supposably denote `he for-
mally recognized aggregate of the toroth received from
Deity whenever the word has the definite Limitations
article, or is made definite by some designa- of the term
tion of Yahaweh or Elohim used as a subject genitive.
In fact, however, there are important limitations to this,
both those drawn from the several contexts and those
drawn from other sources. It seems best to examine
some of the limitations before we look at instances.
First, as we have already seen, the term "the torah"
may denote some particular torah made definite by the
context, instead of denoting the one recognized torah-
aggregate.1 Or second, the definite phrase may be used
of some lesser aggregate, and, in particular, of some
section of the great aggregate.2 Third, there may be
instances in which the definite phrase is used in a
vague and general way. One cannot with perfect
sharpness draw the line between the use in which
torah is an undefined aggregate and that in which the
aggregate is perfectly defined. Fourth, it will not do
to assume that the phrase is always the equivalent
of written scripture. "The torah" is wide enough to
1 For example, "the law of our God" (Isa. i. 10) is capable of being
understood as denoting the message which the prophet is uttering at the
2 For example, the entity that in Deuteronomy is called "the book of
the law" seems to be also called "the law" (Deut. xvii. 18, iv. 8).
The long discourse in Deuteronomy (iv. 44–xxvi) is in its title called "the
torah." It is possible to regard an instance of this kind as a particular
torah, or as a lesser aggregate of torah, or as a section of the one torah-
aggregate; it is not imperative, and in some cases is impossible, to regard
it as the one torah-aggregate.
156 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
include oral as well as written torah.1 And, fifth, if
the torah-aggregate existed at all, it was as a growing
A growing aggregate. It was a body of literature when
aggregate the term first began to be applied to writings,
and it enlarged its boundaries afterward.2
Remembering these points, as we examine the in-
stances, we shall find them yielding the conception that
all torah, oral or written, is a unit. There are plenty of
1 Nevertheless it is in fact applied mainly to written torah, which offered
especial facilities for being aggregated. The phrase is not tied up to any
particular theory of the collecting of the writings; they might supposably
be thought of as an aggregate without any collection being physically made,
or prior to the making of a collection. But certain passages inform us
that there was a custom of laying up writings "before Yahaweh," and the
existence of this custom is affirmed even by scholars who reject as unhis-
torical the particular accounts we have of it. It seems certain that written
torah was aggregated physically, as well as in thought.
It was in the temple that the men of Josiah's time found "the book of
the law" (2 Ki. xxii. 8). The accounts say that the priests of Jehosha-
phat's time had in their charge " the law of Yahaweh " in writing (z Chron.
xvii. 9). The book of Deuteronomy is very explicit in its account of the
written law placed by Moses in the charge of the priests and the civil au-
thorities (Deut. xxxi. 25-26), and touching their use of the written law for
the guidance of the king, when there should be a king (xvii. i8). In view
of these instances we cannot resist the conclusion that the author of t Sam-
uel regarded "the book " (x. 25, not " a book") in which Samuel wrote
"the manner of the kingdom" and "laid it up before Yahaweh" as a rec-
ognized aggregate of torah. On the same footing is "the book" (Ex.
xvii. 14) in which Moses wrote "for a memorial" concerning Amalek.
"The torah" in writing is said to have been accessible to Joshua "at the
sanctuary of Yahaweh " ( Josh. xxiv. 26).
2 This conception is not necessarily excluded by the views of any school
of criticism, though the different schools would picture the details differ-
ently. The view properly to he inferred from the phenomena is not that
there came to be in Israel a heterogeneous accumulation of writings, from
which ecclesiastical authority at length made a selection, the selection
thereby acquiring the character of torah. On the contrary, all torah,
whether oral or written, was regarded as sacred from the moment when it
came from the tongue or the pen of the prophet. The writings testify to
this, and it is also independently proved by the phenomena they present.
THE PROPHET AND THE LAW 157
instances that are not vague, but clear and distinct.
There are plenty of instances that are not limited to
some particular torah, or to some lesser aggregate. We
shall find that this conception implies a general aggre-
gate of written torah. Not all the toroth given through
the prophets were preserved, but some of them were.
They were regarded as an accumulating sacred litera-
ture, God-given and authoritative ; and this growing
aggregate was, while it was yet growing, called "the
(b) We proceed to examine some of the instances.
Look first at a group of instances from the records of
the early part of the public career of Moses, in writings
which the older tradition ascribes to Moses, Instances
and which the analysis now current ascribes from the earlier
to J and E. Above, we have found these records Mosaic records
writings mentioning toroth in the plural. They also use
the definite singular phrases, "the torah of Yahaweh,"
"my torah," "the torah." The instances prove at least
that in that generation men thought of Yahaweh's re-
quirements not merely as so many toroth, but as a unit,
torah. Of course the unit is here not the pentateuch,
for the passages represent that most of the pentateuchal
events were then still in the future. But the habit of
thinking of Yahaweh's communications as aggregated
in a unit was already a mental habit in Israel. And we
1 The Israelites are to teach their children concerning the passover
"that the torah of Yahaweh may be in thy mouth" (Ex. xiii. 9 D. When
he gives the manna he chides Israel for not keeping his toroth, but he also
tests them "whether they will walk in my torah" (Ex. xvi. 28, 4 J). And
at Sinai he says: "And I will give thee the tables of stone and the torah
and the commandment which I have written" (Ex. xxiv. 12 E or E8).
In the first two of these instances, and probably in the third also, "the
torah" is an aggregate. In the third, and possibly in the other two, " the
torah" is in writing.
158 THE PROPHETS OF ISRAEL
may be sure that people who had this habit did not:
exempt from its operation any written torah which they
might possess. The testimony of the passages is that
this habit dates as far back as the beginning of the forty
years of the exodus; and even one who disbelieves the
testimony of these writers must see that the writers them-
selves have the habit. Whatever be one's critical point
of view, one is compelled to hold that this way of think-
ing was prevalent in Israel from the times of the earliest
Second, the conception of " the torah" as an aggre-
gate is frequent in Deuteronomy, and in the scriptures
which presuppose Deuteronomy.
Conspicuous here are the passages that speak of the
"book of the torah." The account specifies portions of
"The book its contents (Deut. xxxii. 44-46, xxvii, xxviii
of the torah especially 58, 61, xxix especially 21, 29, xxx
especially 1o). It says that Moses wrote this book and
laid it up by the side of the ark, in the custody of the
priests and of the civil authorities (Deut. xxxi. 9-13,
24-26). It says that the book was to be publicly read
every seventh year; was to be kept by the priests at the
capital, and the king furnished with a copy (xvii. 18–19);
and, by inference, that the priests shall use it in decid-