Why False Prophets?
WHAT IS THE REASON FOR FALSE PROPHETS ??
100 sears: false prophets If prophets, then, receive direct communication from a divine source10 and if the study of prophecy is to be largely conned to the Hebrew Bible, what then are false prophets? is, of course, is a matter of theological interpretation. “False prophet” itself is not a term found in the Hebrew Bible. Nabi’, or “prophet,” is used by biblical authors and redactors to refer both to prophets considered legiti- mate spokesmen for Yahweh as well as those that falsely claimed such authority. e veracity or falsehood of any given prophet depended on the ideology of the one giving the label, and biblical writers make it quite clear that they considered some prophets to be authentic and others usurpers. With this background about prophecy in ancient Israel, we can proceed to examine what the Hebrew Bible says about those prophets it condemns as “false.” Part II: What the Hebrew Bible Says about False Prophets Both archeological nds and the biblical text attest to the fact that ancient Israel’s religious life was far more diverse than that with which the Deuterono- mistic laws tolerated. Perhaps simply because of the nature of prophecy, one of the features of popular religion was the reality of multiple prophetic voices. Scholar R. R. Wilson noted: The possibility of false prophecy is inherent in any society that tolerates the existence of prophets. is is so because prophecy is essentially a process by which an intermediary (the prophet) facilitates communication between the human and divine realms. In various ways the prophet receives divine messages and then delivers them to human recipients. However, the pro- phetic experience is basically a private one, even though the prophet may describe it publicly. In the end the prophet’s audience can never be sure that the experience took place as described or that the prophet is accurately reporting the divine message. erefore, the reliability of any prophecy can be questioned, and the threat of false prophecy is always present.11 Whatever the real motives or inspirations of the Hebrew Bible’s “false prophets,” it is clear that the biblical redactors opposed them vehemently. On several occasions the “true” prophets singled out their competitors as a source for Israel’s apostasy from true worship of Yahweh. Jeremiah 23, for example, is largely a condemnation of the false prophets and teachers who led the people astray. Some highlights of the chapter include: 10. For more examples, see Gen 12:1; 28:11–15; Exod 3:4; Josh 1:1; 1 Sam 3:4; Isa 1:1; 6:1; Jer 1:4; Ezek 1:1; Dan 2:19; Hos 1:1; Joel 1:1; Mic 1:1; Zeph 1:1; Hag 1:1; and Zech 1:1. Many prophecies are prefaced with such introductions as “ e word of the Lord which came . . .” or “ us saith the Lord . . .” 11. R. R. Wilson, “Interpreting Israel’s Religion: An Anthropological Perspective on the Problem of False Prophecy,” in e Place Is Too Small For Us: e Israelite Prophets in Recent Scholarship (ed. Robert P. Gordon; Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbraums, 1995), 333–34.
studia antiqua 7.1 – spring 2009 101 • “Folly in the prophets of Samaria . . . caused my people Israel to err” (13). • “ e prophets of Jerusalem . . . commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers” (14). • “From the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land” (15). • “ e prophets . . . make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart” (16). • “ ey are prophets of the deceit of their own heart; which think to cause my people to forget my name” (26–27). • “Behold, I am against the prophets, said the Lord . . . behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams . . . and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies” (31–32). Jeremiah, of course, was particularly sensitive about this subject as his ministry included several confrontations with opposing prophetic voices. Several other prophets also blamed false teachers and prophets for much of Israel’s wickedness.12 What was the motivation and origin of the men that made up this hated group? On a few occasions the Hebrew Bible accuses them of seeking wealth.13 Other times they are called liars.14 Sometimes blame for false prophecy is placed upon the people themselves, who seek out leaders who will condone their in- iquity (a simple case of providing a product that meets the demands of the market).15 Other times still the false prophets are described as evildoers who teach wickedness to help support their own riotous living.16 In other cases the goal of the false prophet is described simply as trying to turn the people away from Yahweh, although we might assume that some of these other motives drove such teachings.17 On many occasions where false prophets appear they are tied to a royal court.18 Such an observation is what we would expect. Since the biblical record 12. For more examples of false prophets contributing to the wickedness of the populace, see Isa 9:14–16; Ezek 22:25, 28; and Mic 3:5, 10. 13. For examples, see Num 22:7, 17, 37 and Mic 3:11. 14. For examples, see 2 Chr 22:22; Jer 14:14; 23:14, 16, 26; Ezek 22:25, 28 and Mic 2:11. 15. For examples, see 1 Kgs 22:7–8; Isa 30:9–11; Jer 23:17–18 and Mic 2:6, 11. 16. For examples, see Isa 28:7 and Jer 23:14. 17. For examples, see Deut 13:5 and Jer 23:27. 18. For examples, see the 450 false prophets of Baal and 400 false prophets of Asherah “which [ate] at Jezebel’s table” (1 Kgs 18:19); Zedekiah and the false prophets of King Ahab (1 Kgs 22); and the false prophet Shemaiah who had open communication with the high priest (Jer 29:24–32). Even Moses in Pharaoh’s courts had to contend with the state magi-
102 sears: false prophets condemns most of the kings of Israel and Judah as apostates it would make sense that these kings would financially support a prophetic class that supported them ideologically. Simple economics also dictates that if one decided to get into the false prophet profession, it would be most lucrative to do so in the service of the monarchy. Not every false prophet is given a direct royal connec- tion in the text, of course, but it appears in several cases that wicked kings and wicked prophets went hand in hand. Given that these deceiving prophets were so terrible, what fate does Yahweh give them? Deut 13:5 is very clear: “that prophet shall be put to death” (see also Deut 18:20). It is with this authority that Elijah slew the 450 priests of Baal. Often in Israel’s history the false prophets had popular support and thus were not executed; however, the “true” prophets prophesied that Yahweh himself would execute judgment.19 Similar fates are pronounced upon those that hearken to false prophets. Jeremiah’s warning that people who listen to false prophets walked a path “as slippery ways in the darkness” (Jer 23:12) was probably the lightest example; most of the time, destruction was the promise.20
BROTHERS & SISTERS DO WE SEE THIS ALSO HAPPENING TODAY? NOW YOU KNOW WHY THERE ARE FALSE PROPHETS AMONGST THE MONARCHY'S AND RULERS GLOBALLY - SPEAKING OUT AGAINST THE NAME OF YAHUSHA AND HIS DELIVERANCE. THESE RULERS BELIEVE THE PEOPLE MUST BE CONTROLLED WITH LIES TO SECURE THEIR WEALTH, BUT IT IS CRUMBLING - MAN IS ENTERING A CRAZED MADNESS AND WITHOUT TRUTH AND DELIVERANCE SICKNESS AND DEMON POSSESSION DOMINATING RENDERING THE WORK FORCE UNABLE TO FUNCTION.
By Chris Hilton . . .