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rout of the Israelites, the death of his two sons, and the capture of the ark, fell down and broke his neck; for, as the sacred annalist tells us, he was an old man, and heavy, and he had judged Israel forty years.' These appalling events are apparently traceable to the refusal of Hophni and Phinehas to conform to Mosaic restrictions on diet, so that individual neglect of ceremonial observances, under a Theocracy, may result in great national calamities.
A Theocracy administered by priests and judges, in the name of Jehovah, having thus resulted in calamitous failure, the occasion had arisen for the intervention of the prophets. And henceforth, professors of the superstition which controls human reason by alleged revelation, assumed the divine right of interference with the functions of government, and, by discrediting the judgment and paralysing the action of the responsible rulers of the nation, inaugurated conditions of social and political anarchy which doomed the Hebrew race to eventual subjugation by nations more amenable to the practical sagacity of their rulers than to the fanciful divination of their prophets.
The records of antiquity depict mankind practising various arts of divination, through which they hoped to read futurity and interpret the purpose of the gods. This popular illusion created a demand for augurs, soothsayers, astrologists, and prophets, who credulously or fraudulently ministered to the superstition of their age by arts of divination, ranging from the humblest efforts of sorcery to the most ambitious flights of astrological forecast.
We might trace in the pages of Herodotus and Plutarch the calamitous results of individual and
national action inspired by soothsayers or controlled by oracles, but may more promptly detect the evils of tampering with futurity by ideally introducing the augurs, diviners, and prophets of antiquity into the practical life of modern times, and depicting the chaos into which our civilisation would be resolved, if our designs were fashioned by omens, and our actions determined by oracles—conditions of perplexity and confusion which we should, however, probably end by emulating the moral courage of the Roman commander who set divination at defiance by throwing the sacred chickens overboard.
The ancient Hebrews followed the example of other nations. Joseph had learned in Egypt to divine with a cup; and Moses established the oracle of Urim and Thummim, the secret or virtues of which seem to have been finally lost about the time of David. But Samuel had previously introduced musical conjuration into Judaism by which the divine afflatus was evoked, as in the mysteries of Isis and the revels of the Corybantes.
We have not far to seek the source from which Samuel borrowed the institution of the prophets. The legend of Balaam depicts a professional vendor of benedictions and anathemas, who, although an alien soothsayer, was in communication with the Hebrew Deity." To him came elders of Moab and Midian with the rewards of divination, to purchase curses against the children of Israel,' impossible to Balaam, divinely instructed to bless. It is almost incredible that modern Piety accepts the prophetic affinity of Balaam with Jehovah, for how could he then have won his reputa
1 Numbers xxii.
tion among heathen clients as a successful dispenser of mercenary blessings and curses? The legend, however, inclusive of the ass which, as an eminent commentator tells us, “had more spiritual penetration than his master,' still holds its place in sacred Scripture, dated more than three centuries before the age of Samuel. And as prophetic divination was therefore familiar to the Canaanites long before the Hebrew school of prophets, its adaptation to Judaism from heathen sources stands confessed.
According to 1 Samuel ix., the prophetic calling was originally held in very poor estimation by the Hebrews. We read of Saul and his servant travelling about the country in search of his father's stray donkeys. The weary Saul proposed to return home, but the servant said : · Behold now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honourable man, all that he saith cometh surely to pass. Now let us go thither, peradventure he can show us our way that we should go. Then said Saul to his servant: But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? for the bread is spent in our vessels, and there is not a present to bring to the man of God. What have we? And the servant answered Saul again, and said : Behold I have here at hand the fourth part of a shekel of silver; that will I give to the man of God to tell us our way. Then said Saul to his servant: Well said ; come, let us go. So they went unto the city where the man of God was.' Now, as the seer in question was no less eminent a prophet than Samuel, it is obvious that Hebrew views of prophetic divination, even among the class from which the king of Israel was chosen, had not then risen above the superstition of a modern
peasant who crosses a gipsy's hand with silver to learn the whereabouts of stolen goods.
All this was, however, changed by the genius of Samuel, who formed much more ambitious views of the prophetic office, and established the political influence of his sacred Caste on a permanent basis by founding schools of prophets at Ramah, Bethel, and other localities for the education of poetic minstrels, trained to evoke the Spirit by artistic harmony, and enrolled among the candidates for active service as impassioned Nâbis, commissioned to thunder at the gates of kings with messages from Jehovah.
An episode in the life of Saul illustrates the imaginary affinity between music and revelation. On the occasion of his sending messengers to arrest David at Naioth, · When they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. And when it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also. Then went he also to Ramah .. and the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say—Is Saul also among the prophets?' In this grotesque parody of divine inspiration, we necessarily detect an epidemic fanaticism, analogous to the illusions of crazy flagellants and dancing inaniacs, prevalent during those centuries
11 Sam, xix, 20–24.