2017-03-03

How God “Spoke” to the Prophets

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by Neil Godfrey

I post here an interesting snippet from my recent reading where I learn at least one way God spoke and revealed messages to the prophets of old, or at least those who wrote in the names of prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah. When they wrote they could declare that their revelation was the word of God as God himself spoke to them, or even as God himself speaking. Yet scratch the surface and we find that what the author has done has in fact studied Scripture, thought about it, and reapplied it to his own or a future day, and then presented it as a new direct revelation from God.

In fact, not all of the prophetic revelation was derived from an oracular source. Not only did the prophets interpret their own encounter with the divine, they also demonstrate a mark of “inspired” reflection on the traditions they had received. C. Buchanan has demonstrated that even some oracles described as “visions” or the “coming of the word” are in fact the result of an “inspired” midrashic examination of earlier traditions. (Meade, David G. 1986. Pseudonymity and Canon: An Investigation into the Relationship of Authorship and Authority in Jewish and Earliest Christian Tradition. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids.)

Sadly I don’t have access to Buchanan’s article but fortunately David Meade tells us what passages Buchanan cites as evidence:

He cites 2 Isaiah’s midrash on Exodus 15:1-16 (cf. Isa 42:10-13; 43:14-17; 51:9-10) and Jeremiah’s midrash on Deut 28:26 (cf. Jer 7:32-33), Deut 28:64 (cf. Jer 9: 16), Deut 27:26; 4:20; 7:12 (cf. Jer 11.3-5), Deut 30:15 (cf. Jer 21:8), and Deut 4:9 (cf. Jer 29:13-14).

I set out those passages below to make it easier to see how this process of revelation works:

Exodus 15:1-16 Isaiah 42:10-13; 43:14-17; 51:9-10
1 Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and spoke, saying:

“I will sing to the Lord,
For He has triumphed gloriously!
The horse and its rider
He has thrown into the sea!

2 The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation;
He is my God, and I will praise Him;
My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.

3 The Lord is a man of war;
The Lord is His name.

4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea;
His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea.

5 The depths have covered them;
They sank to the bottom like a stone.

6 “Your right hand, O Lord, has become glorious in power;
Your right hand, O Lord, has dashed the enemy in pieces.

7 And in the greatness of Your excellence
You have overthrown those who rose against You;
You sent forth Your wrath;
It consumed them like stubble.

8 And with the blast of Your nostrils
The waters were gathered together;
The floods stood upright like a heap;
The depths congealed in the heart of the sea.

9 The enemy said, ‘I will pursue,
I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil;
My desire shall be satisfied on them.
I will draw my sword,
My hand shall destroy them.’

10 You blew with Your wind,
The sea covered them;
They sank like lead in the mighty waters.

11 “Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like You, glorious in holiness,
Fearful in praises, doing wonders?

12 You stretched out Your right hand;
The earth swallowed them.

13 You in Your mercy have led forth
The people whom You have redeemed;
You have guided them in Your strength
To Your holy habitation.

14 “The people will hear and be afraid;
Sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia.

15 Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed;
The mighty men of Moab,
Trembling will take hold of them;
All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away.

16 Fear and dread will fall on them;
By the greatness of Your arm
They will be as still as a stone,
Till Your people pass over, O Lord,
Till the people pass over
Whom You have purchased.

42:10 Sing to the Lord a new song,And His praise from the ends of the earth,You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,

You coastlands and you inhabitants of them!
11 Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice,

The villages that Kedar inhabits.

Let the inhabitants of Sela sing,

Let them shout from the top of the mountains.
12 Let them give glory to the Lord,

And declare His praise in the coastlands.
13 The Lord shall go forth like a mighty man;

He shall stir up His zeal like a man of war.

He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud;

He shall prevail against His enemies.

43:14 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
The Holy One of Israel:
“For your sake I will send to
Babylon,
And bring them all down as fugitives—
The Chaldeans, who rejoice in their ships.

15 I am the Lord, your Holy One,
The Creator of Israel, your King.”

16 Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea
And a path through the mighty waters
,

17 Who brings forth the chariot and horse,
The army and the power

(They shall lie down together, they shall not rise;
They are extinguished, they are quenched like a wick):

51:9 Awake, awake, put on strength,
O arm of the Lord!
Awake as in the ancient days,
In the generations of old.
Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart,
And wounded the serpent?

10 Are You not the One who dried up the sea,
The waters of the great deep;
That made the depths of the sea a road
For the redeemed to cross over
?

 

Deut 28:26 Jer 7:32-33
26 Your carcasses shall be food for all the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and no one shall frighten them away. 32 “Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “when it will no more be called Tophet, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Tophet until there is no room. 33 The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the heaven and for the beasts of the earth. And no one will frighten them away.
Deut 28:64 Jer 9: 16
64 Then the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known—wood and stone. 16 I will scatter them also among the Gentiles, whom neither they nor their fathers have known. And I will send a sword after them until I have consumed them.
Deut 27:26; 4:20; 7:12 Jer 11.3-5
26 Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law by observing them.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be His people, an inheritance, as you are this day. 12 “Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers.
3 and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel: “Cursed is the man who does not obey the words of this covenant 4 which I commanded your fathers in the day I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and do according to all that I command you; so shall you be My people, and I will be your God,’ 5 that I may establish the oath which I have sworn to your fathers, to give them ‘a land flowing with milk and honey,’ as it is this day.”’”

And I answered and said, “So be it, Lord.”

Deut 30:15 Jer 21:8
15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 8 “Now you shall say to this people, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.
Deut 4:29 Jer 29:13-14
29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.

6 Comments

  • Bob Jase
    2017-03-03 22:00:03 UTC - 22:00 | Permalink

    No wonder Christians have stolen everything from other religions – its a Judaic tradition.

  • flumoxed
    2017-03-03 23:09:54 UTC - 23:09 | Permalink

    Good to see further research into what Thomas L Thompson called the Copenhagen Lego hypothesis.
    Like other literary groups/associations/schools right into modern times these ancient authors were writing for each other and commenting on and expanding on each others literary creations.
    “It is a world created by writers in conversation with each other” (The Mythic Past p285 – TLT)

  • Austendw
    2017-03-06 14:28:13 UTC - 14:28 | Permalink

    Biblical prophets have traditionally been viewed either as men inspired by the direct supernatural word of God, and more recently (such is the reaction against the traditional view) as hallucinating nutcases.

    But they are seldom (at least in popular consciousness) viewed soberly, in their historical context, as members of a tradition, or craft, or even guild – poets who wrote composed and crafted literary works – revising earlier material to serve new circumstances… exactly the sort of things that religiously/socially/politically minded poets engaging with their literary traditions do as a matter of course.

    Terms such as “The vision of so-and-so” or “Thus says the Lord” should be viewed as literary conventions (not without meaning) but also not simply literal facts.

    (I find Richard Carrier treating later apocryphal and NT eschatological books as “accounts of hallucinations” or “supposed accounts of hallucinations” (not direct quotes, but you get the drift) rather than examples of, to their contemporaries, a well-known and well-understood literary genre.)

    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-03-06 23:13:22 UTC - 23:13 | Permalink

      There are so many specialist areas within biblical studies and apocalyptic literature is one of them; it is too easy for non specialists to casually skim general comments about these areas by non-specialists and perpetuate out-of-date views.

      • Austendw
        2017-03-07 18:07:58 UTC - 18:07 | Permalink

        Thanks for your reply, but I hope you’ll forgive me for saying that it is a tad Delphic: are you agreeing with me, or do you think that I am perpetuating an “out-of-date” view?

        • Neil Godfrey
          2017-03-07 21:04:17 UTC - 21:04 | Permalink

          I agree with you.

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