The issue of the Canon...


The OT model of judging revelation: The People fail to perform under the Mosaic system
[draft created 8/6/97]

In the post-Mosaic period, the "system" that was set up began to 'fail' (i.e. the vassals did not keep the treaty conditions)--the institutions failed, the leadership failed, the family failed.

  1. As the leadership (originally the kings, but later the priests and elite) began to betray YHWH with their greed, ambition, exploitation of the people, the 'unspecified' role of prophet (included in the initial statement of the law) became clear--a voice for YHWH from 'within the system'.

    Originally the prophets confronted the civil leadership (Israel's role models?) specifically. So Nathan was used by God to confront and counsel David, and Elijah and Elisha were sent by YHWH to the kings of the Northern Kingdom. But over time, the other major institutions and leaders in Israel were unfaithful to the covenant (priests, scribes, elite men and women), and so the prophets of YHWH were sent against THEM as well.

    And, as the prophetic role developed and became more visible in Israel, even it attracted its 'bad apples'. Prophets appeared who simply told the audiences and kings what they wanted to hear:

    They say to the seers, "See no more visions!" and to the prophets, "Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. 11 Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!" (Is 30.10f)

    "Do not prophesy," their prophets say. "Do not prophesy about these things; disgrace will not overtake us." (Mic 2.6)

    "From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. 14 They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. `Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace. (Jer 6.13)

    They keep saying to those who despise me, `The LORD says: You will have peace.' And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, `No harm will come to you.' 18 But which of them has stood in the council of the LORD to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word? (Jer 23.17f)

    If a liar and deceiver comes and says, `I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,' he would be just the prophet for this people! (Mic 2.11)

    [Now it should be noted that this is somewhat understandable (though not excusable!), due to the way the kings treated prophecies against them!: Asa was angry with the seer because of this; he was so enraged that he put him in prison. (2 Chrn 16.10) and While he was still speaking, the king said to him, "Have we appointed you an adviser to the king? Stop! Why be struck down?" So the prophet stopped but said, "I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel." (2 Chrn 25.16) and When the priest Pashhur son of Immer, the chief officer in the temple of the LORD, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, 2 he had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin at the LORD's temple. (Jer 20.1).]

    Accordingly, the TRUE prophets of YHWH were sent against the false prophets as well. Cf Jer 27.16: Then I said to the priests and all these people, "This is what the LORD says: Do not listen to the prophets who say, `Very soon now the articles from the LORD's house will be brought back from Babylon.' They are prophesying lies to you. 17 Do not listen to them. Serve the king of Babylon, and you will live. Why should this city become a ruin? 18 If they are prophets and have the word of the LORD, let them plead with the LORD Almighty that the furnishings remaining in the house of the LORD and in the palace of the king of Judah and in Jerusalem not be taken to Babylon..

    There are numerous accounts of confrontation between the prophets of YHWH and the false prophets (either claiming to be from YHWH, as in Jer 28, or of false gods, as in I Kings 18).

    The prophets were largely unsuccessful in getting the leadership to 'straighten up' (2 Chrn 18.7), with notable exceptions such as Josiah (2 Chrn 34). The main problem, apparently, was the presuppositions of the leadership--they would not admit that they could be wrong and under YHWH's judgment!:

    Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came from the LORD: 2 "This is what the LORD says: Stand in the courtyard of the LORD's house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the LORD. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. 3 Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done. 4 Say to them, `This is what the LORD says: If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, 5 and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city an object of cursing among all the nations of the earth.'"

    7 The priests, the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speak these words in the house of the LORD. 8 But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the LORD had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, "You must die! 9 Why do you prophesy in the LORD's name that this house will be like Shiloh and this city will be desolate and deserted?" And all the people crowded around Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.

    10 When the officials of Judah heard about these things, they went up from the royal palace to the house of the LORD and took their places at the entrance of the New Gate of the LORD's house. 11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and all the people, "This man should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city. You have heard it with your own ears!"

    12 Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and all the people: "The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you have heard. 13 Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the LORD your God. Then the LORD will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you. 14 As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right. 15 Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the LORD has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing."

    16 Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, "This man should not be sentenced to death! He has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God."

    17 Some of the elders of the land stepped forward and said to the entire assembly of people, 18 "Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah. He told all the people of Judah,
    `This is what the LORD Almighty says: "`Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.'

    19 "Did Hezekiah king of Judah or anyone else in Judah put him to death? Did not Hezekiah fear the LORD and seek his favor? And did not the LORD relent, so that he did not bring the disaster he pronounced against them? We are about to bring a terrible disaster on ourselves!"

    20 (Now Uriah son of Shemaiah from Kiriath Jearim was another man who prophesied in the name of the LORD; he prophesied the same things against this city and this land as Jeremiah did. 21 When King Jehoiakim and all his officers and officials heard his words, the king sought to put him to death. But Uriah heard of it and fled in fear to Egypt. 22 King Jehoiakim, however, sent Elnathan son of Acbor to Egypt, along with some other men. 23 They brought Uriah out of Egypt and took him to King Jehoiakim, who had him struck down with a sword and his body thrown into the burial place of the common people.)

    24 Furthermore, Ahikam son of Shaphan supported Jeremiah, and so he was not handed over to the people to be put to death.

    Obviously, the problem with the false prophets were that they DID perform the feared anti-YHWH tactic--lead the people away from YHWH, the source of their blessing and strength : "I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, `I had a dream! I had a dream!' 26 How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? 27 They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their fathers forgot my name through Baal worship. (Jer 23.25)


  2. The priests not only failed to teach the Law, but they also twisted its meaning and exploited the people:
    • Is 28.7ff: Priests and prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine; they reel from beer, they stagger when seeing visions, they stumble when rendering decisions.

    • Jer 2.8: The priests did not ask, `Where is the LORD?' Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me.

    • Jer 5.31: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?

    • Jer 6.13: "From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.

    • Jer 23.1:"Both prophet and priest are godless; even in my temple I find their wickedness," declares the LORD.

    • Jer 26.7: The priests, the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speak these words in the house of the LORD. 8 But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the LORD had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, "You must die! 9 Why do you prophesy in the LORD's name that this house will be like Shiloh and this city will be desolate and deserted?" And all the people crowded around Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.

    • Jer 32.32: The people of Israel and Judah have provoked me by all the evil they have done -- they, their kings and officials, their priests and prophets, the men of Judah and the people of Jerusalem. 33 They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline.

    • Lam 4.13: But it happened because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed within her the blood of the righteous.

    • Ezek 22.26ff: 26 Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. 27 Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain. 28 Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says' -- when the LORD has not spoken. 29 The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.

    • Hos 4.6f: "Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children. 7 The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful.

    • Micah 3.11: Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money.

    • Zeph 3.4f: Her prophets are arrogant; they are treacherous men. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law. 5 The LORD within her is righteous; he does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail, yet the unrighteous know no shame.

    • 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. 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi," says the LORD Almighty. 9 "So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law."

    The standard was always the same--continuity with the original communication from God. The actions of God in OT history were in perfect congruence with the original treaty between Israel and God.


  3. But the prophets had an additional function; as they announced the coming judgment on the nation, so too did they begin to give more detail about the promised Second Moses of Deut 18...


Back to the Outline
The Christian ThinkTank...[http://www.Christian-thinktank.com] (Reference Abbreviations)