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described in the first book of Samuel in connexion with the early career of Saul1, enthusiasts who have been compared, not perhaps inaccurately, to the dervishes of the East 2, displaying in a kind of ecstatic behaviour the effects of special religious exultation. These prophets appear to have lived together in companies or schools; they wore a coarse garment of skin in token of their religious calling; they probably depended for support upon the charity of the faithful, and were objects of mingled contempt and reverence to the multitude. The prophet who was commissioned to anoint Jehu king was despised as a mad fellow, and the point of the inquiry Is Saul also among the prophets? lies in the popular astonishment that so distinguished a man should be found. in such strange company. There are incidents in the career even of Elijah and Elisha which imply a similar connexion between prophetic inspiration and physical excitement, but apparently these phenomena accompanied only the early stages of a movement to which we owe the noblest figures of Hebrew history, and the most sublime literature ever produced. Nevertheless, we can frankly recognize the rudimentary character of the early stage; and when we attempt to measure the interval that parts the wild and uncouth behaviour of these primitive devotees from the exalted and chastened majesty of men like Isaiah, we shall acknowledge that Hebrew prophetism supplies a conspicuous example of the method of accommoda

11 Sam. x. 5-13; xix. 23, 24.

2 Cornill, Der Israelitische Prophetismus, pp. 13-15. Cp. Renan, Histoire, &c., bk. ii. ch. 13, and Kittel, Hist. of the Hebrews, vol. ii. p. 110.

3 2 Kings ix. II. * See I Kings xviii. 46; 2 Kings iii. 15. Riehm, ATI. Theologie, p. 203: 'Gehören im ATI. Prophetentum die Zustände bewusstloser Ekstase nur der niedrigsten Stufe seiner Entwickelung an, während in seiner Blütezeit die prophetische Begeisterung immer mit volier Klarheit des Bewusstseins verbunden ist.' Ewald, The Prophets of the O. T. [Eng. Tr.] vol. i. pp. 16, 17. It is noticeable that Amos himself, one of the most striking prophets, seems to have been popularly regarded as one of the class of professional Nebiim (Amos vii. 14), but repudiates the suggestion.


tion which marks the entire history of Israel-God condescending to use a defective and rudimentary institution, a rude native outgrowth of the Semitic character, in order to develope therefrom a glorious product of grace. We must not be reluctant,' says Cornill, 'to recognize many strange elements in the religion of Israel. We do not set them aside; on the contrary, we regard them as evidence of the highest vitality, and of a most powerful faculty of assimilation. The people of Israel in its spiritual capacity resembles the fabled king Midas, for whom all that he touches turns to gold. Everything indeed which Israel derived from its past or present environment was transmuted into something new and unique, so that it is difficult to recognize in the final result the lowliness of the elements which contributed to it, but which in due time disappeared.

Samuel then it was who revived or re-organized the prophetic office, and we may pause to consider the full significance of his work. What he apparently aimed at was the regulation of the turbulent and boisterous elements in the behaviour and character of the Nebiim, in order to enlist the movement in the service of a higher and purer type of religion. There is no reason for rejecting the supposition that the earliest outburst of prophetic enthusiasm was connected with a patriotic uprising against Philistine oppression, but Samuel's main object was probably not political. He discerned that

1 Der Isr. Prophetismus, p. 15.

2 Kittel, Hist. of the Hebrews, 11. 110, Observe the contrast which is perhaps suggested in 1 Sam. ix. 9 between Samuel himself, calm and self-contained, and the excitable and undisciplined troops of Nebiim. He is a 'seer' (Roch), they are prophets' (Nebiim). Montefiore, Hibbert Lectures, p. 77, thinks that the two names represent two orders, the one native Hebrew (seers), the other Canaanite (prophets), and that later prophecy is a result of a coalition of the two; a 'grafting of Canaanite prophecy upon the old stock of Hebrew seers.' But he admits that there is little to support his conjecture. The narrative contains a note stating that Nabhi is a more recent and Roeh an older name for the same thing. Cornill points out that the passage implies the recent and foreign (i. e. Canaanite) origin of the Prophetism (Der Isr. Prophetismus, p. 13).

the fierce ardour for Jehovah's cause and for the integrity of His land which fired the Nebiim might be educated into a powerful religious force. Accordingly, he gathered them into organized schools or guilds in which the prophetic gift might be cherished, and the life of religious devotion cultivated. Possibly also the art of sacred song was studied in these societies, and the historical annals of the nation formed or collected1. From this time forward, at any rate, the schools of the prophets occupied a recognized sphere in the religious life of the nation. We hear of the Nebiim again in connexion with the reign of Ahab, and it is probable that their renewed activity was occasioned by alarm at the king's syncretistic propensities. It would seem that by this time the ecstatic and fanatical element had been more or less subdued, and that the Nebiim were on the point of becoming a regular order. But it was not as an order that they became influential. When they became a professional class they seem to have given way to professional failings. First-rate importance cannot be claimed for the Nebiim,' says Wellhausen 3, but occasionally there appeared among them 'individuals who rose above their order and even placed themselves in opposition to it.' The first and most eminent of these striking personalities was Elijah. 'Elijah,' says Kittel, introduced into prophecy that species of categorical imperative which distinguishes him as well as the later prophets; that brazen inflexibility, that diamondlike hardness of character, which bids them hold fast by their moral demand, even should the nation be dashed in pieces against it. For him the demand means to stand by Jehovah as against Baal.' Henceforth, then, the prophets acted on the nation by the

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This is denied by Wellhausen, Sketch of the History of Israel and Judah, p. 64; but there seems nothing improbable in the suggestion. See Kuenen, Religion of Israel, ch. iii [Eng. Tr., vol. i. p. 210].

2 Sanday, Bampton Lectures, p. 134.

3 Sketch of the History of Israel and Judah, p. 64. Hist. of the Hebrews, vol. ii. p. 266.


sheer force of inspired personality. As individual witnesses for God, steeped in the fundamental ideas of the religion of Jehovah, they proclaimed His word, His sovereignty, His righteousness, His election of Israel, His abhorrence of lip-service, His hatred of social wrongdoing. For aught we know, much may have been accomplished in this way by the banding together of the Nebiim in organized companies; but experience shows that the influence of even large and powerful religious communities is unequal to that of a single great religious leader. It was to the influence. of personality that Israel's religion owed its persistent vigour, its perpetual upward tendency, and the growing purity and loftiness of its fundamental conceptions.


In order, however, to gain a comprehensive idea of the significance of Hebrew prophecy for the Christian Church, it is necessary to survey briefly the chief aspects of the prophets' work.

1. First, the prophets were inspired men, men of the word.' The root from which Nabhi is derived can be traced in the ancient language of Assyria and Babylon as well as in Arabic. In Assyrian it has the meaning, 'utter,' 'proclaim.' It appears in such patronymics as Nebu-kadnezar, and Nabo-polassar, and in the title of the Babylonian deity whence they are derived, Nebo or Nabu, which probably signifies the God of wisdom or wise utterance, corresponding to the Greek Hermes. The word Nabhi would thus originally mean 'one who utters.' But in Arabic the root has a more specific connotation: it imports the announcement of a message which the speaker is commissioned to deliver. Nabhi would accordingly seem to bear the sense of a commissioned speaker. Aaron, for example, is called the Nabhi or 'prophet' of Moses as speaking in his name and by his commission '.

1 Exod. vii. 1; cp. iv. 14-16.

A prophet, then, is one who speaks as the accredited messenger of Almighty God. This seems a better account of the word than that which some writers prefer, viz. that Nabhi means one in whom the flood of divine inspiration 'wells' or 'bubbles up''; one who speaks as the passive instrument of the divine Spirit. In fact the term corresponds rather to the Greek πродýτηs than to μávris: it means a forth-teller rather than one who foretells; one who announces what has been supernaturally revealed to him as an organ of divine interposition in the affairs of men. And if we

wish to understand the essential characteristics and true significance of Hebrew prophetism it is important to rid ourselves of the associations which have gathered round the English word 'prophet,' implying that the essential element in the work of the Hebrew prophets was prediction. This, we shall find, was far from being the case. The vital element in prophetism was the prophet's own consciousness that he was not acting or speaking in his own name, but as the instrument-sometimes indeed the reluctant instrument-of a higher Power.

In two respects the prophets may be distinguished from the ordinary soothsayers (pávτeis) of heathendom, Aryan or Semitic 2. First, they were conscious and intelligent when they uttered their oracles. Hebrew prophecy rapidly outgrew the ethnic stage of mere possession, or ecstasy. The prophet was no 'unintelligent medium' of divine communications; he spoke under a sense indeed of overmastering moral constraint, but all his faculties were intensified and illuminated by the power of the divine Spirit 3. So vividly

1 So Kuenen, Religion of Israel, ch. iii, note. Cp. Oehler, Theology of the O. T. § 161; but see Robertson Smith, The Prophets of Israel, lect. ii. note 18; Cornill, Der Isr. Prophetismus, pp. 6-11, and Schultz, O. T. Theology, vol. i. pp. 264-265.

2 The Pythia of Delphi is an instance. On the other hand, Homer's Calchas, the Athenian Musaeus, Socrates, and Plato (in his prophecy of the righteous suffering) are instances of phenomena more nearly akin to those of Hebrew prophetism (Riehm, ATI. Theologie, p. 204).

3 Driver, Sermons on the O. T. p. 135: The psychical conditions

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