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and requested by the allies to communicate with the Deity on the subject of their dire extremity. Elisha forthwith called for a minstrel — And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of Jehovah came upon him, and he said, Thus saith Jehovah, make this valley full of ditches.'
To dig and obtain water is so natural an event that its explanation by the miraculous is obviously due to the superstition of a people, whose ignorance of causation furnished unlimited scope for fanciful conceptions of divine intervention in human affairs.
Let us, however, test the true nature of prophecy among the Hebrews by consulting the prophets themselves. Turning to Ezekiel xiii. we read : “And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, and say unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Thus saith the Lord God, Woe unto the foolish prophets that follow their own spirit and have seen nothing. They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying the Lord saith, and the Lord hath not sent them. And they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word. Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye
not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say the Lord saith it, albeit I have not spoken ? '
Jeremiah xiv. 14–16: Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name. .
I sent them not, neither have I commanded them. They prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of naught and the deceit of their heart. Therefore thus saith the Lord, concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name and I sent them not, yet they say sword and famine shall not be in the land. By sword and famine shall these prophets be consumed; and the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword, and they shall have none to bury them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters, for I will pour their wickedness upon them.'
Two eminent Hebrew bards thus affirm the existence of false prophets, whose successful deception of the nation involves the most appalling calamities ; and yet these inspired representatives of Jehovah suggest no means of determining the divine authenticity of prophetic pretensions. How therefore could the general community discriminate between the deception of fraudulent impostors, the illusions of honest fanaticism, and the revelations of inspired prophets ? For scriptural enlightenment on this vital question we turn to Deuteronomy xviii. 20–22 : The prophet which shall presume to speak a word in my name which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.'
There is, perhaps, no passage in Deuteronomy more clearly proving its post-Mosaic authorship than this reference to prophetic complications, unknown in the days of Moses, when revelation was attainable through Urim and Thummim.
The Deuteronomist or his interpolator, whether Jeremiah or some other prophet, is strangely ignorant of the purport of the language he attributes to divine wisdom. True prophecy is attested by its fulfilment. All false prophets shall surely die. No prediction is, therefore, applicable to events extending beyond the lifetime of an inspired prophet, because if he died pending the fulfilment of his prophecies he would necessarily be pronounced an impostor by his contemporaries. Could Omniscience, therefore, devise no more reliable means of attesting revelation than the unsatisfactory course of waiting an undefined period for the dubious results of prophetic prediction, or the premature death of deceptive prophets ? Was life endurable under conditions of expectancy, involving joy or sorrow, prosperity or ruin, life or death, as prophets might prove true or false exponents of destiny? Was not the very existence of the nation imperilled by the inevitable vacillation of its rulers, perplexed by the divergent predictions of rival prophets, advocating conflicting views of home and foreign policy, in the name of Jehovah ?
A remarkable instance of this form of prophetic strife is furnished by the contest between Hananiah and Jeremiah, in which the former advocated resistance to Babylon through an Egyptian alliance, and the latter counselled submission to Nebuchadnezzar as the will of Jehovah. We regret the absence of Hananiah's version of this great political question, involving the national
1 Jer. xxviii.
existence of the Hebrews; but, as the story reaches us through his rival, we are assured that he died prematurely as a false prophet--a result so analogous to the prophetic test of the Deuteronomist, that the passage obviously belongs to the age of Jeremiah.
If prophecy is inseparable from these embarrassing conditions, could Jehovah have introduced fresh elements of confusion ? In Deuteronomy xiii. we find the following remarkable passage, also assignable to the age of Jeremiah : 'If there arise among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign and the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God proveth you to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your
soul. And that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt.
Again, in Ezekiel xiv. we read : “And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet; and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.
We thus have true prophets dependent for attestation of their divine mission on the, possibly, tardy fulfilment of their predictions ; impostors gifted with the power of working miracles that the Chosen Raee
1 Deut. xviii.
may be lured to apostasy ; and false prophets deceived by Jehovah Himself, and ruthlessly punished for irresponsible complicity in divine deception!
The contents of 1 Kings xxii. removes all doubt as to the practical meaning of these passages of Scripture. We there read of the alliance of Ahab, King of Israel, and Jehosh aphat, King of Judah, with the view of recovering Ramoth-Gilead from the King of Syria. At the suggestion of Jehoshaphat, Ahab consulted four hundred prophets respecting the prospects of the expedition, and received unanimous assurance of the destruction of the Syrians. Jehoshaphat, however, inquired whether there was no other prophet of Jehovah available for consultation. Ahab replied that there yet rernained Micaiah, the son of Imlah, whom he hated for his unsatisfactory predictions. This prophet was, however, summoned to the presence of the kings, and contradicted his inspired brethren by forecasting the death of Ahab and the defeat of his army. This startling divergence of prophetic opinion he explained in the following manner : Hear thou, therefore, the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the Host of heaven standing by him on the right hand and on the left. And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead ? And one said on this manner, and another said on that
And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord and said, I will persuade him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith ? And he said I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him and prevail also ; go forth, and do so. Now, therefore, the