29 As for the events of King David's reign, from beginning to end, they are written in the records of Samuel the seer, the records of Nathan the prophet and the records of Gad the seer, 30 together with the details of his reign and power, and the circumstances that surrounded him and Israel and the kingdoms of all the other lands.
9 So Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 Then Moses commanded them: "At the end of every seven years, in the year for canceling debts, during the Feast of Tabernacles, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people -- men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns -- so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. 13 Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess."
You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, 11 and you must teach the Israelites all the decrees the LORD has given them through Moses."
5 So my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles, the officials and the common people for registration by families. I found the genealogical record of those who had been the first to return. (Neh)
10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon's widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!" (Ruth)
The people indicated their ancestry by their clans and families, and the men twenty years old or more were listed by name, one by one, 19 as the LORD commanded Moses. And so he counted them in the Desert of Sinai: 20 From the descendants of Reuben the firstborn son of Israel: All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, one by one, according to the records of their clans and families. (Num)
Their surrounding villages were Etam, Ain, Rimmon, Token and Ashan -- five towns -- 33 and all the villages around these towns as far as Baalath. These were their settlements. And they kept a genealogical record. (I Chrn)
These searched for their family records, but they could not find them and so were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. (Neh--pp. Ezra 2.62)
The following came up from the towns of Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Kerub, Addon and Immer, but they could not show that their families were descended from Israel: (Ezra 2.59)
However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the Tent.
"You who ride on white donkeys, sitting on your saddle blankets, and you who walk along the road, consider 11 the voice of the singers at the watering places. They recite the righteous acts of the LORD, the righteous acts of his warriors in Israel.
That is why the poets say: "Come to Heshbon and let it be rebuilt; let Sihon's city be restored."
Samuel explained to the people the regulations of the kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the LORD.
As noted above, the priests had the main teaching function within Israel. They were in charge of the sacred objects (which included copies of the Law and covenant--cf. Ex 25.16; 34.1, 28, 29; Dt 31.9; 24-26; Josh 24.26). The information they guarded, copied, and taught was static--the Law of Moses. For example, after the exile, an exiled priest was brought BACK to the land to teach those who had been 'imported' into the land (2 Kgs 17.24ff):
24 The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. They took over Samaria and lived in its towns. 25 When they first lived there, they did not worship the LORD; so he sent lions among them and they killed some of the people. 26 It was reported to the king of Assyria: "The people you deported and resettled in the towns of Samaria do not know what the god of that country requires. He has sent lions among them, which are killing them off, because the people do not know what he requires." 27 Then the king of Assyria gave this order: "Have one of the priests you took captive from Samaria go back to live there and teach the people what the god of the land requires." 28 So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria came to live in Bethel and taught them how to worship the LORD.Although the priests occasionally recorded their own experiences (cf. Ezra 7.27-9.15--the 1st person section of the book), their main focus was on ritual, preservation, and teaching--cf Neh 8:1ff:
1 all the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel. 2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
7 The Levites -- Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah -- instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.Toward the Exile, as the temple hierarchy became increasingly corrupt, this responsibility to preserve and interpret clearly was abused. Cf. Jere 8.8:
"`How can you say, "We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD," when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?And, at the close of the OT canon, the LORD summarizes this failure in Mal 2.7:
"For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction -- because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty.Thus the timeless truths of the Law was to be their sacred deposit; and the interpretation and instruction of that Law was to be their outward ministry to the people. [We shall see below how well the preservation of the information content of the Law was done.]
It is important for us to note that the priesthood had ample skills,
motivation, and commission to maintain and promulgate the Torah and other
sacred writings (as they were produced and accepted as scripture by the
It is the office of prophet that assumed the major historical archive function in Israel.
The prophet was initially called a 'seer' or 'man of God' and these three terms overlapped in usage throughout OT history (I Sam 9.9 with Judges 20.26; 21.2//I Sam 2.27). People would come to 'inquire of God' about the future or personal decisions, and the prophet would speak for God (2 kgs 22.14).
Most of the early leading figures of Israel's history were either called prophets or issued prophecies/oracles:
29 As for the other events of Solomon's reign, from beginning to end, are they not written in the records of Nathan the prophet, in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite and in the visions of Iddo the seer concerning Jeroboam son of Nebat?
15 As for the events of Rehoboam's reign, from beginning to end, are they not written in the records of Shemaiah the prophet and of Iddo the seer that deal with genealogies?
34 The other events of Jehoshaphat's reign, from beginning to end, are written in the annals of Jehu son of Hanani, which are recorded in the book of the kings of Israel.
18 The other events of Manasseh's reign, including his prayer to his God and the words the seers spoke to him in the name of the LORD, the God of Israel, are written in the annals of the kings of Israel. 19 His prayer and how God was moved by his entreaty, as well as all his sins and unfaithfulness, and the sites where he built high places and set up Asherah poles and idols before he humbled himself -- all are written in the records of the seers.
25 Jeremiah composed laments for Josiah, and to this day all the men and women singers commemorate Josiah in the laments. These became a tradition in Israel and are written in the Laments.
6 An oracle concerning the animals of the Negev: Through a land of hardship and distress, of lions and lionesses, of adders and darting snakes, the envoys carry their riches on donkeys' backs, their treasures on the humps of camels, to that unprofitable nation, 7 to Egypt, whose help is utterly useless. Therefore I call her Rahab the Do-Nothing. 8 Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness. (Is)
1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: `Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you.
In the ninth year, in the tenth month on the tenth day, the word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Son of man, record this date, this very date, because the king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day.
We first encounter a well-defined and well-known prophetic function in Numbers 11:25ff and 12:5-8--
Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again. However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the Tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. A young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp." Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses' aide since youth, spoke up and said, "Moses, my lord, stop them!" But Moses replied, "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD's people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!"
Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward, he said, "Listen to my words: "When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"
We then encounter an organized 'group' of prophets in I Sam 10:5ff:
As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. 6 The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.Next we find prophets that are associated with specific sites:
Unlike the priesthood, in which succession was ONLY by family; the prophetic office could be passed both thru children (I Kgs 20.35; Zechariah as grandson of Iddo--Zech 1) and appointment (I Kgs 19.16--Elijah appoints Elisha ). Some priests (such as Zadok) were also prophets--cf. 2 Sam 15.27.
These prophets were not isolated individuals--as 'companies' they were of considerable size, with references to 100 being 'hidden' in the Northern Kingdom (I kgs 18.4) and 50 men of the company from Jericho (2 Kgs 2.7).
These prophets meet regularly with Elijah (" The company of the prophets said to Elisha, 'Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us'." 2 kgs 6.1), and many of them had assistants (2 kgs 2.16).
The ANE also had priests (in all cultures) and prophets (in most cultures). There were two types of prophets: ecstatic (normally in the official temples) and lucid (normally outside the official ranks)--cf. the Egyptian prophecy of Nefer-Rohu (ANET:444-446; PANE1:252f). Both types of oracles were meticulously recorded, authenticated by the priest, sealed legally with some personal symbol (e.g. Akkadian lock-of-hair, and fringe-of-garment), and dispatched to the interested party (usually some noble or royal personage.)[See ANET3: 605-607; 623-626; 629-632]
Because prophecy was considered to be a request/demand from the gods, the message was taken very seriously and always written down carefully.
One of the most famous non-Israelite prophets in the ANE is Balaam, highlighted in Numbers 22-25. This internationally famous seer issued prophecies that were written down and in existence some 200-400 years later! The discovery of some Balaam oracles on a wall at Deir Alla (east of Jordan) highlights this fact. (See Ron Allen, "Numbers" in NICOT; and JBL 114:43-64 (1995) "Is Balaam Also Among the Prophets"--Dijkstra).
Let's look at this a bit more closely. It is commonly assumed that there was no priesthood in Abraham's camp--and this is generally assumed on the basis of the fact that the Patriarchs themselves offered the sacrifices that a 'priesthood' would make--Abraham in Gen 22.13, Jacob in 31.54, Noah in 8:20. But it should be remembered that Jacob was still a son at the time (e.g. Isaac was still alive) and that Cain and Abel had both made offerings in early Genesis. This implies that the priestly role was not exclusive to the eldest. As the number of the persons in the camp grew, it might be reasonable to assume that the father would designate some other family member (e.g. a son) to carry on the priestly duties. Indeed, there is some evidence that this was the pattern for Israel in Egypt.
20 The LORD descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up 21 and the LORD said to him, "Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the LORD and many of them perish. 22 Even the priests, who approach the LORD, must consecrate themselves, or the LORD will break out against them."
He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD.
4 So he returned the silver to his mother, and she took two hundred shekels of silver and gave them to a silversmith, who made them into the image and the idol. And they were put in Micah's house. 5 Now this man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and some idols and installed one of his sons as his priest. 6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.
So, there is at least some data to suggest that some sort of 'priesthood' had developed quite early in the patriarchal times (possibly in the basic pattern of ANE religious praxis). Now, what about the 'prophet'?
Well, we have already seen that Abraham was called a prophet, but can we find traces of the prophetic function in those passages, with maybe a hint of a link between that function at some sacred sites?
Apart from the general 'last will and testament' prophecies, I only know of one clear-cut piece of data--Gen 25:22--(Rachel) " The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, "Why is this happening to me?" So she went to inquire of the LORD." She went (a change of location) to 'inquire' (consult with a prophet as to the meaning of some event and/or future events). This would indicate SOME basic prophetic function and/or personage.
The Numbers 11-12 passages indicate a well-defined concept of prophet, immediately AFTER the exodus. The prophetic function must have been highly developed before or during the stay in Egypt. This provides a strong thread of continuity with patriarchal prophetic roles (and associated writings and monuments).
It might also be noted here that in Dt 13, Moses described the prophetic office in some detail, and in 18 relates this to both himself and to the Messianic Prophet of 18.15. This seems to presuppose in-depth familiarity with the prophetic office on the part of the Israelites (although much of this would have been conveyed by the example of Moses and Aaron).
Summary: Both of the main institutions for recording, maintaining,
and transmitting the historical/theological data of the pre-Davidic period
are seen to exist in FULL early in Israel's post-Egyptian history, and
to exist in EMBRYONIC form in earlier times--perhaps reaching all the way
back to Abraham.
Let's look at the details of transmission. How many different statements of 'passing on' the information in the general culture can we find? What might it indicate in terms of 'control' and/or reliability? What about the information flow OUTSIDE of Israel?
"As for you, son of man, your countrymen are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, `Come and hear the message that has come from the LORD.' 31 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. (Ezk)
The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (he was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father's marriage bed, his rights as firstborn were given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel; so he could not be listed in the genealogical record in accordance with his birthright, 2 and though Judah was the strongest of his brothers and a ruler came from him, the rights of the firstborn belonged to Joseph) --
7 In the third year of his reign he sent his officials Ben-Hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel and Micaiah to teach in the towns of Judah. 8 With them were certain Levites -- Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah and Tob-Adonijah -- and the priests Elishama and Jehoram. 9 They taught throughout Judah, taking with them the Book of the Law of the LORD; they went around to all the towns of Judah and taught the people.
At the king's command, couriers went throughout Israel and Judah with letters from the king and from his officials, which read:
"People of Israel, return to the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that he may return to you who are left, who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your fathers and brothers, who were unfaithful to the LORD, the God of their fathers, so that he made them an object of horror, as you see. 8 Do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were; submit to the LORD. Come to the sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever. Serve the LORD your God, so that his fierce anger will turn away from you. 9 If you return to the LORD, then your brothers and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will come back to this land, for the LORD your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him."
10 The couriers went from town to town in Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun, but the people scorned and ridiculed them.
8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, "I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.
------------------------------- INITIAL MENTION; REHEARSAL ------------------------------- Jacob buys land for 100 pieces of silver (Gen 33.19); Joshua refers to it when he buries Joseph's bones (Jos 24.32) The Letter forms to the Kings of Moab, Sihon, Baashan (Numbers) Jephthah knows all that history! (Jud 11.14) Statement of tribal fidelity during Joshua (Jos 24.31) Repeated in Judges 2.1 Amalekite treachery in Exodus; Remembered in I Sam 15.2 The golden calf in Exodus Related back to Egyptian gods in I Kgs 12.28 Dt 24:16 Quoted in 2 Kgs 14.6 The Bronze Serpent of Numbers; Broken into pieces in 2 kgs 18.4 I Kgs 13.31f Fulfilled (and referenced) in 2 Kgs 23.16 Historical records from Adam Organized by the Chronicler in I Chrn Genealogy in Ruth 4; Incorporated by Chronicler in I Chrn 2.5 Mosaic legislation on carrying the ark with poles; Used in I Chrn 15.15 I Kgs 11.29; Fulfilled (and refd) in 2 Chr 10.15 Joshua drives out nations; Rehearsed in 2 Chrn 20.7 The Exodus trip in Transjordan--the resistance Rehearsed by Jehoshaphat in 2 chrn 20.1 And spun into a prophecy in Jer 48. Tax imposed by Moses Cited in 2 Chrn 24.6 David/Gad/Nathan prescribe worship services; Hezy knows about the details in 2 Chrn 29.25 Moses quotes: Lev 26.33 and Dt 30.4; Nehemiah quotes them from exile (Neh 1.8) Most of biblical history Nehemiah summarizes in Neh 9:5-36 Moses Dt 23.3 Nehemiah quotes in Neh 13.1-3 Sodom Isaiah refs in Is 3.9; Jeremiah in Jer 23.13f; Ezk in Ezk 16.48 Eden Isaiah refs in Is 51.3 Moses and Samuel as men of God Refd in Jere 15.1 Micah prophesies (Mich 3.12) Cited by elders in defending Jeremiah in Jere 26.17 Noah, Daniel, Job as righteous folk Refd in Ezk 14.14 Adam's disobedience Refd in Hosea 6.7 Jacob and Esau's pre-natal wrestling match/and bethel (in Gen) Refd in Hosea 12.2-4 Jacob served for Rachel (Gen) Refd in Hosea 12.12 Moses as prophet Refd in Hosea 12.13 40 years in the desert (Wilderness wanderings) Refs in Amos 2.10 Exo/Numbers figures: Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Balaam, Balak Reviewed by Micah in 6.4It should also be pointed out that Mosaic authorship of content of the Law is consistently affirmed. A partial list of passages is: Jos 1.7; 23.6; 2 kgs 23.25; I Chrn 22; 2 Chrn 25.5; 34.14; Ezra 6.18; 7.1ff; Dan 9.13; Mal 4.4.
As such, the 'company of the prophets' constituted THE MAIN CARRIER of the historical information about the Israelite (and even pre-Israelite) community. From their abundant records and documents, the other histories (including royal annals and subsequent chronicles) were abstracted.
What emerges from this, is an overall pattern of close control over the OT information. There are long-standing institutions--as a check and balance to one another--that are both skilled, empowered, and organized well enough to support the community and cultic information needs of the Israelite community. The pictures we get of THAT community life demonstrate a 'thick and rich' information flow tapestry. The net result of this rich flow of usage/transmission and the stability of the protective institutions is the high degree of both 1) dissemination of the information AND 2) the relative accuracy of the usage of that information (irrespective of age of data).