Ecstasy, Empathy, and the Spirit of Prophecy in Ancient Israel

            In the late 10th and early 9th centuries B.C., Jewish culture underwent one of the most significant sociological and religious shifts in its history.  It was not a shift induced by purely sociological or geographical changes, but rather a change brought on by the power and providence of God.  Early Hebrew thought was based solely on the God of Sinai, and their relationship to God had always gravitated around their wandering through the wilderness, following His presence.  During this period, the Israelite concept of a prophet was “one like Moses” (see Num. 18:5) who would lead and direct the nation through communion and communication with Yahweh. This concept was illustrated in passages such as Numbers 11, where Moses imparts the prophetic spirit to 70 elders in order to distribute the burden of leading the nation.  These elders were only endowed with the prophetic spirit temporarily, but still “represented the whole of Israel in certain affairs which concerned all the tribes.”[1] This thought pattern lasted as long as the Israelites wandered aimlessly with no established leadership.

As the religion of Israel developed, the concept of a prophet as “one like Moses” began to evolve.  The Mosaic aspect of community diminished significantly during the transition from Sinai to Canaan.[2]  Whether or not Canaanite religion had a marked effect on the evolution of Hebrew prophetic thought is not the concern of this work[3], however; the clash of Israel’s formative period at Sinai with new custom and thought in Canaan could have aided the transition from the ancient Mosaic system to the new established monarchy in Canaan.

As we move into the 9th and 8th centuries, we see quite a remarkable shift.  A new prophetic breed is raised up by God as a voice to the kings and kingdoms of the world.  Modern scholars have termed this breed the “primitive” prophets or “former prophets”, not out of degradation, but simply to note their place in the timeline of history.  These primitive prophets were the heart, soul, and conscience of Israel.  They were the compasses and they were the only ones who had the necessary words to steer the kingdom into destruction or prosperity.  Just before the outbreak of Israel’s prophetic movement, a company of supernaturally gifted judges, or “charismatic judges” had overseen the country.  It is well received that these judges were the forerunners of the modern Israelite prophetic movement, and even Saul exhibited traits similar to that of the charismatic judges prior to being anointed as king.[4]  So, the Prophets came in direct succession to this line of charismatic leaders.

Samuel: The Father of the Israelite Prophetic Movement

            So, now we come the problem of the exact point of origin for the prophetic movement.  I would have a hard time believing that the tradition extended past Samuel, although there could have easily been prophets before him.  Samuel is, in my mind, the founder and leader of the primitive prophetic movement in Israel.[5]  His leadership over the schools of the prophets is evidenced clearly in 1 Samuel 19:20 where he is regarded as “presiding”[6] (natsab) over the ecstatic prophets at Naioth in Ramah. Obviously these prophets were organized into itinerate teams.  T.H. Robinson sees Samuel as a Seer, holding the opinion that they were, at that time, distinct.

Of the classes of religious persons mentioned at the close of the last chapter, two claim our special attention because of their importance for the development of the religion of Israel.  These are the See and the Ecstatic.  Whilst in later times…the two classes coalesced…they were originally largely independent.  They were possessed of different powers and where characterized by different functions and different behavior.[7]

So Samuel, as a Seer, was kind of like the everyday, working prophet.  We can see clearly that Samuel’s life as a prophet was not one of fame or fortune.  He lived as a humble Seer, often using his gift to help people locate their animals or indicating other things by the Spirit.  How he began to develop the ecstatic prophetic movement he fathered is unknown.  However, the movement of the monarchy seemed to initiate the majority of the charismatic activity in the post-judge period.  Samuel could also be regarded as the last of the judges per 1 Samuel 7, but I think that majority of Samuel’s reputation should be derived from his role in starting the prophetic movement.

Samuel was, in many ways, the first patriotic prophet of Israel.  In previous times, Israel had no established monarchy and their existence was very similar to the nomads and wandering tribes of the Ancient Near East.[8]  As the Israelites began to adapt their culture with the culture and customs of Canaan, a new national pride began to develop.[9]  Finally, in 1 Samuel 8:5, we have the record of Israel presenting their request to Samuel, namely of a “king to judge us like all the nations.”  In this narrative we come to the pinnacle of Samuel’s influence on the kingdom of Israel.  He is the prophet of the people and it is his responsibility to prophetically discern the man who would be the leader of the people.  This brings us to the crucial text I will refer to as the “election narrative” referring to the election of Saul as the king of Israel.

It is important to remember as we come to the election narrative, that the previous leaders of the judge-period were all supernaturally gifted in one way or another.[10]  So, the leader of Israel must be one who has been supernaturally gifted by God to lead the people.  In other words, this is the first expression of what we would call “divine monarchy” in the Old Testament.  So, we can see that Saul, during the fighting against Ammon, “exhibited charismatic gifts as had the judges before him”[11], enabling him to prove his stature as worthy of the kingship of Israel.  Thus, I agree with the succinct statement made by John Bright: “Saul’s election was by prophetic designation and popular acclamation.”[12]

Samuel, being a prophet of Yahweh, did not make the choice to elect Saul based on his own fancy or intuition; he was under the divine constraint of Yahweh’s word.  When Samuel came into proximity to Saul, he audibly heard the voice of the Lord say “Behold, the man of whom I spoke to you!  This one shall rule over my people.” (1 Sam. 9:17)  Samuel was under constraint to follow Yahweh’s leading.  Saul initially approaches Samuel to find his lost donkeys, but Samuel, under the anointing of Yahweh, has discerned that Saul has both of the characteristics needed to be the king of Israel: (1) Physical prowess and respect among the people, and (2) charismatic anointing to lead the people based on cooperation with the will of Yahweh.  These characteristics are expanded in the literature of 1 Samuel 9 and 10, and the adjective statements of the writer of 1 Samuel regarding Saul can give us insight into the nature of Saul’s popularity and charisma with the nation of Israel, as well as the reasons for Saul being Samuel’s choice.

First, Saul is regarded as a being a “mighty man of valor” (gibbowr ‘iysh chayil). (1 Sam. 9:1)  The Authorized Version has rendered “valor”[13] as “power”, which is also a suitable rendering.  However, as is the nature of the Hebrew of 1 Samuel, the Septuagint may be able to give us keys to unravel the text.  Since δυνατός rather than ἰσχυρός or κράτος is used, perhaps the supernatural connotation of δύναμις is accentuated in this narrative.  It may be a stretch to push the development of δύναμις as a distinctly supernatural characteristic to this time, but I think the notion may provoke more thought as to the Septuagint’s usage of the term in this situation.  Either way, the word itself always exists as the extra strength or might of an individual, stretching past normal ability.[14]  I would disagree with the rendering of The Prophets[15] and the NEB of “a man of substance” strictly on the basis of the inference upon the term.[16]  Saul’s influence and wealth is clearly meant in this passage, evidenced through the juxtaposition of Saul in the context of the lowly Benjamite community.  Whatever the textual semantics may be, this first description helps us identify Saul with our second characteristic of charismatic anointing from God.  Saul is then further described as “choice” (bachuwr), “handsome” (bachuwr), and “tall” (gaboahh), which give us the adjective terms for our first criteria of Saul’s influence and popularity among the people.

So, we can see that Samuel’s election of Saul was following the pattern of God’s supernatural leadership because Saul continued in the vein of the judges with charismatic anointing.  What Saul had the judges didn’t was favor with the people.  Saul’s election proved to be the acceleration and fuel for Samuel’s prophetic movement to thrive.  Samuel was already “held in honor” by the people of the city, implying that his skills as a Seer were influential in community life.  As Samuel grew in honor, he was elevated to the head position of the prophetic bands and communities of the times.  These prophets were characterized by two main qualities: ecstasy and community.  These factors need to be examined carefully if one is to justifiably put forth a study on the Hebrew prophets and their relationship to the overall scheme of God’s plan regarding the prophetic.

The Ecstatic Prophets: 1 Samuel 10 and 19

1 Samuel 10 is probably one of our clearest looks into the world of Israel’s prophetic movement and its constituent prophets.  This chapter comes directly after Saul’s election and anointing as king of Israel, and the newly instituted monarchy created room for what Bright calls, “free charismatic movements.”[17]  As we study the prophets of 1 Samuel 10, we need to first realize that they are products of two factors: (1) the brand new monarchy created by the anointing of Saul and (2) the cessation of the central shrine and the institution of local shrines or “high places.”  These reasons were instrumental in creating room for prophets to prophecy freely around the kingdom, so before one can delve into the passage itself, one needs to investigate the sociological and theological backgrounds of their ministry.

The first factor that contributed to the outbreak of this fresh charismatic movement was the institution of the monarchy.  We have already covered the logistics of the charismatic nature of Saul’s anointing, but we need to now realize that Saul’s charismatic anointing typified the prophetic movement as a whole.  The idea that the king was selected by means of charismatic unction must have provided patriotic inspiration for those hidden revelators and secret prophets to finally disclose their revelations to guide the new nation with its newly instated kingship.  Saul, from the beginning of his kingship, is involved with the prophets.  The earliest texts mentioning the primitive prophets link many of them to kings: Samuel to Saul, Nathan to David, and Ahijah to Jereboam.  Gad was called “David’s Seer” in 2 Samuel 24:11 and 1 Chronicles 21:9, obviously indicating that he was attached permanently to the royal court of David.  Ahab called forth many prophets of Baal to aid his royal court, once again indicating that prophets were often connected with the kings.

The second factor, the cessation of the central shrine, is probably the most crucial to understanding the ministry of the prophet.[18]  Samuel is our best example, reportedly moving from shrine to shrine throughout Israel.  In fact, A.R. Johnson pioneered the view that all of the primitive prophets were in association “either permanently or temporarily” with the assortment of shrines and cultic centers across the country.[19]  Lindblom noted that we could easily spot prophets “living on places well known as ancient cult centers”.[20]

This brings us to a critical point of understanding regarding the cultic prophets, that is, that they were first and foremost worshippers.  While the prophet and priest were distinct roles in Israelite society, there were certain roles and functions that were shared between the two.  Samuel is a good example.  1 Samuel 2:18 tells us that Samuel was “ministering before the Lord, as a boy wearing a linen ephod,” obviously noting the fact that Samuel first served Eli at the central shrine, performing priestly duties.  He then moved to discover his prophetic gifts, and subsequently moved into full time ministry as a Seer.

This point is evidenced clearly as we move into 1 Samuel 10.  The beginning of 1 Samuel 10 is the anointing of Saul as king of Israel, and the latter portion of the chapter is the prophetic experience of Saul just thereafter.  First, Samuel prophetically reveals to Saul the nature of the encounters that he is about to have.  He reveals first that Saul will come across two men who will tell him that his donkeys have been found.[21]  He then reveals that Saul will encounter two men “going up to God at Bethel.”  This phraseology is fascinating in the Hebrew.  George Caird lays out the principle of this expression:

Going up to God is a very striking expression to denote going to worship, and it leaves no doubt that the central element in ancient worship was communion, in which the worshippers knew themselves to be in the presence of God.[22]

These men were obviously incorporating Saul into a popular Israelite ritual.

Finally, Samuel describes to him the band of prophets who will further develop his experience.  The first thing we can note here is that the prophets are coming “from the high place”, implying that they were worshipping and performing normal worship at the local shrine. Next we can note that the prophets are accompanied by music, specifically a “harp, tambourine, flute, and a lyre.”[23]  This music was obviously used to stir up the prophetic gift of the prophets, providing us the first link between worship and the prophetic.[24]  According to some scholars, the worship actually “induced” the ecstasy,[25] and Lindblom goes as far as to say that “music seems to have been the most prominent means of evoking ecstasy among the early Old Testament Prophets.[26]

In my mind, there need not be a question of whether or not the prophets in this passage prophesied in ecstasy or not.  The fact has been so confirmed by modern scholarship that many modern translations actually believe the ecstatic element is engrained in the text itself!  For example, The Prophets, translates 1 Samuel 10:6 as “The Spirit of the Lord will grip you, and you will speak in ecstasy along with them; you will become another man.”[27]  I would agree with the premise of this translation, and we will see that the term nabi may very well be ecstatic in nature.  The terminology of the people, “is Saul also among the prophets,” seems to suggest that the ecstatic prophets such as those of 1 Samuel 10 were looked upon with contempt in the community.

1 Samuel 19 reports a similar situation occurring.  Saul, in his desperation to locate and capture David, hears of his location at Naioth in Ramah. (vs. 19)  Saul attempts to send a group of messengers to capture David, but the realm of glory surrounding the prophets causes the messengers to fall into ecstasy and prophesy with the prophets.  Saul tries twice more, but the effect is the same. (vs. 20–21)  This brings us to a crucial psychological conclusion: ecstasy is contagious between individuals.[28] The Spirit of God would move, not only on the prophets, but also on anyone who came into close proximity with the prophetic Spirit operating on the prophets.  Saul sees this reality demonstrated as he himself is overtaken by the prophetic spirit and ecstatically prophesies naked all day and all night. (vs. 22–24)  We can see here that Samuel is “presiding over” the group of prophets.  The Hebrew term עֹמֵד נִצָּב (“presiding over”) really implies that he was set in that place.  The KJV gives “standing [as] appointed over them,” which is definitely a plausible rendering.  Samuel oversaw the spiritual operations of the ecstatic bands that were prophesying in this instance.  Once again we can see that the question, “is Saul also among the prophets?” represents a proverb that was intended to mock Saul for affiliating with the ecstatics and participating in their raving.

What is Ecstasy?

            The word “ecstasy” is defined in English as “an overwhelming feeling of great happiness or joyful excitement.”[29]  The word has been passed down to us through many phases, and our definition of ecstasy is not really the same as the definition of ecstasy familiar to the prophets of old.  The word “ecstasy” itself comes directly from the Greek word ἔκστασις.  ἔκστασις is a combination of the Greek words ἔκ, meaning “outside” and ἵστημι, meaning “to stand”.  So the literal translation would be “to stand outside” or “change of place.”[30]  Baur, Ardnt, and Gingrich define it as “lit. being beside oneself…trance, ecstasy a state of being brought about by God, in which consciousness is wholly or partially suspended.”[31]

The idea of ecstasy, as Campbell has shown, has its parallels with the idea of “religious enthusiasm”, derived from the term e[nqeoV meaning “in God.”[32]  It makes perfect sense that the Ecstatic would be outside (ἔκ) himself, and in (e[n) God, and this is why Plato called prophets in his day ejnqousiavxonteV, meaning, “men possessed by God.”  In this cultural setting the man who was operating in his rational faculties would be referred to as e[nnouVj  instead of e[nqeoV.[33] The idea is that someone is actually possessed by a supernatural force, temporarily displacing them from the natural realm.[34]  So when the Hebrew prophets were swept up into ecstasies, they were temporarily “possessed” by the very Spirit of God, prompting them to operate as His mouthpiece to the world.[35]  These ecstasies could occur with any manner of physical manifestations.  T.H. Robinson’s description of the manifestations of an ecstatic prophet is famous:

It consisted of a fit or attack, which affected the whole body. Sometimes the limbs were stimulated to violent action, and wild leaping contortions resulted. These might be more or less rhythmical, and the phenomenon would present the appearance of a wild and frantic dance. At other times there was more or less complete constriction of the muscles, and the condition became almost cataleptic. The vocal organs were sometimes involved; noises and sounds were poured out which might be unrecognizable as human speech. [tongues?] To all outward appearance the Ecstatic “became another man”[36]

This concept may be foreign to the majority of conservative evangelical Christians, but it was most certainly not foreign to Hebrew culture.  Although there are scholars who do not believe the Israelite prophets were ecstatic[37], to attempt a denial of their exposure to ecstatic prophecy through the Mari and Canaanite sects would be foolish. The Israelites were very conscious of the fact that God’s presence invoked supernatural feelings and manifestations, and that being on the wrong side of those manifestations could actually be dangerous.

This concept of ecstasy fits in perfectly with the Israelite prophets because the Israelite prophet knew his life was not his own.  He belonged completely to the Lord.  Ecstasy involves the breaking in of the divine power of Yahweh on the prophet, causing him to speak completely out of constraint from the Presence of God.  Philo of Alexandria wrote that,

A prophet does not utter anything whatever of his own, but is only an interpreter, another suggesting to him all that he utters; he is enraptured and in an ecstasy; his own reasoning power has departed and has quitted the citadel of his soul, while the divine spirit has entered in and taken up its abode there, playing the instrument of his voice in order to make clear and manifest the prophecies that the prophet is delivering.[38]

The Old Testament concept of divine constraint can actually be realized more fully if we understand the concept of prophetic ecstasy.  Jeremiah poetically describes this constraint when he says: “if I say, ‘I will not remember Him, or speak anymore in His name, Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it.’” (Jer. 20:9)  When Jeremiah says, “I cannot endure it”, he means exactly what he says.  The New English Bible says, “His word was imprisoned in my body, like a fire blazing in my heart.” (Emphasis mine)  Jeremiah knew the consequence of withholding the word that Yahweh had destined to release.  The fire of the word of Yahweh burned with such intensity that the prophet was absolutely defenseless to its influence.  So, it is not such a stretch for us to say that the Spirit of God could come upon a prophet in a way in which their will was submitted to the influence of divine revelation. In fact, it supports the entire methodology of God’s relations with the prophets and the framework of the transmission of revelation.  Stephen Winward says it best: “the personality of the prophet was not set aside; it was raised to a new intensity through encounter with God, and became the medium of divine revelation.”[39]

Nabi and Naba: Hebrew Prophecy

            Now that we have put forth the opinion that the Israelite prophets operated out of ecstasy, it would be beneficial to investigate the particular linguistic terms used for prophecy in the Hebrew language.  We know that the Hebrew language was one of many in the Ancient Near East, and it developed with assistance from Canaanite, Accadian, and Ugaritic tongues.  We also know that prophecy was not foreign to the Ancient Near East prior to our earliest written references to the primitive Israelite prophets.  Some of the most convincing of the early prophetic texts in the Ancient Near East come from the city of Mari along the Euphrates.[40]  In these texts we see the ancient word muhhum as the equivalent to our modern word “prophet.”  It is synonymous also with the Accadian word mahhu.  Lindblom defines the word as “frenzied” and “one out of his senses.”[41]  We have discovered that these writings pre-date the earliest Israelite prophets by almost 1000 years, which means that this framework was already in the mind of any given religious person in the Ancient Near East.

So, if in other Ancient Eastern cultures the term “prophet” corresponded directly to ecstatic experience, are we justified in accepting the same conclusion regarding the Hebrew term nabi?  I would venture to say we are.  It was Genesius who first put forth the conjecture that the term nabi is descended from a root which means “to bubble up and pour forth”, and his discovery has been debated by scholars and linguists for decades due to the unclear origin of the word itself.  Cornill finds the word so ambigious that he thinks it “cannot be specifically Israelitish, but must have been transplanted to Israel before the historical period.”[42]

Modern lexicons have made their thought clear regarding the theory of Genesius in relationship with the origin of the term nabi.  The Brown Driver Briggs Lexicon agrees with Genesius and sees ecstasy as an inherent aspect of the word.[43]  The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament argues that “the tendency has been away from regarding the active idea of speaking ecstatically as the essential meaning of prophesying.”[44]  H.H. Rowley has argued that “the word nabi, though of uncertain etymology, cannot be used as an argument for the ecstatic nature of the prophets.”[45]  The derivative hitnabbe (FIX), translated as “prophesy” in some places, should really be rendered “rave”.[46]  Though the discussion of the origin and etymological development of the term nabi could encompass a much larger study, I have come to the conclusion that the term itself was originally used contextually as a prophet who is ecstatic in nature.  The development of scholarship over the past 50 years has delivered mixed opinions, so the concept obviously deserves further study.

Prophetic Community

            The second factor we are inclined to investigate when studying the Hebrew Prophets is the concept of community.  Community was one of, if not the most emphatically accentuated aspects of Hebrew ideology.  Individualism, in Hebrew thought, was not superior to communalism.  Each man in the community was bound to the community with regards to his physical and spiritual needs.  A.W. Robertson smith writes that in Hebrew culture, “the good things which religion holds forth are promised to the individual only in so far as he lives in and for the community.”[47]  In other words, participating in the culture and lifestyle of the community was equated with participating in the blessings of the Covenant made with Israel.  For the Israelite, covenant and community are two concepts that cannot be separated.

In keeping with this methodology, scholars have linked many of the early prophets to certain towns and prophetic centers around Israel.  It is clear from the books of Chronicles and Kings that temple operations were viewed as having charismatic anointing from God.[48]

Prophecy was tied to the community because the Hebrew prophet is almost always burdened with corporate revelation.  The interpretation of revelation was a role that the prophet was intended to fulfill in the Hebrew culture.  Whether the word was good or bad, the prophet must be faithful to reveal it to the community.  Ezekiel presents a prophetic character he calls a “watchman”.  He warns both the community and the watchman regarding the surrounding circumstances of obedience to divine revelation.  If the watchman tells the people, and they refuse to heed the divine warning, their blood is on their own heads. (Ezek. 33:2–4)  The man who hears the trumpet is instead encouraged to “take warning”.  The Hebrew phrasing almost suggests something towards “recognize the divine teaching or light”.  To me this means that זָהַר, when used in the Niphal, has a sense of “enlightenment”.  A prophet, therefore, is one who enlightens the people to the reality of the impending circumstances he has seen or heard in his revelations.  So, according to Ezekiel the watchman has an equal responsibility in the community: “if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.” (Ezek. 33:6)  Revelation depends on participation.  According to the New Testament writer of Hebrews, the Israelite generation did not enter into the Promised Land because (1) “the word they heard did not profit them” and (2) “it was not united by faith in those who heard.” (Hebrews 4:2)  When Moses, whom we have already said was the archetypical image of the pre-monarchic prophet, delivers and expounds upon the divinely revealed Law, the phrase “if you obey the Lord your God” is frequently used.  This means that Moses interpreted the revelation as depending on the action of the community in response to the word of Yahweh.  How the people acted upon what was revealed determined whether blessings would overtake them, or the curse of the Law would fall upon them. (See Deut. 28)


            One can never be too dogmatic about any theory regarding the nature of prophetic ministry in Ancient Israel.  However, one cannot discuss it enough.  The relevance of one of the largest prophetic movements in history cannot be overstated.  We need to study and observe the ways that the Lord has revealed himself through prophets and seers in Biblical times to refine and promote pure and powerful prophetic ministry today.  As we have seen, prophecy cannot work to its fullest effect without the participation of the community in believing and obeying the statutes of the prophetic promise.  Even as New Covenant believers, prophetic ministry in the Old Testament holds much wisdom and insight into how prophecy functioned then, and how it can function best in the midst of our times.

[1] Johannes Lindblom. Prophecy in Ancient Israel. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1962) 100-101. Cf.

[2] W. Robertson Smith. The Prophets of Israel and Their Place in History. (New York: D. Appleton and Co. 1882) p. 30–35.  Smith gives a good analysis of the relationship between the Mosaic customs that were integrated into Canaanite customs already in existence. Buttenwieser goes as far as to say that Israel “did not create a civilization of its own, but adopted that of the native Canaanites…” (The Prophets of Israel. [New York: The Macmillan Company, 1914] p. 4)

[3] For scholarly discussion, one can see H.H. Rowley. The Faith of Israel: Aspects of Old Testament Thought. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1956.) pp. 161ff; R.B.Y. Scott. The Relevance of the Prophets. (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1967)  pp. 136–138; Lindblom, Prophecy, p. 66; W.F. Albright. From the Stone Age to Christianity. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1957); G.R. Driver. Canaanite Myths and Legends. (Edinburgh: Clark, 1978); J. Gray. The Legacy of Canaan. VTSup 5, 217-229. (Leiden: Brill, 1965); Costen J. Harrell. The Prophets of Israel. (Nashville: Cokesbury Press, 1933) pp. 32-34.

[4] Cf. John Bright. A History of Israel. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981) pp. 182–183.  Bright shows that even the terminology “the Spirit of Yahweh rushed upon him” was characteristic of a charismatic judge.

[5] See Bright, A History of Israel. p. 182. Cf. W.F. Albright. Samuel and the Beginnings of the Prophetic Movement in Israel. (Hebrew Union College Press, 1961) pp. 181-189 and A.S. Peake. “The Roots of Hebrew Prophecy and Jewish Apocalyptic.” BJRL 7. (1954) p. 234.

[6] KJV renders it “standing [as] appointed over them…”

[7] T.H. Robinson. Prophecy and the Prophets in Ancient Israel. (London: Duckworth & Co., 1960) p. 28. I agree with the majority of Robinson’s thesis.  However, there is the problem of chozeh (LXX: ἐκχώρησον) used in place of nabi in the dialogue of Amos 7:12. Cf. M. Dijkstra. “‘I am neither a prophet nor a prophet’s pupil’: Amos 7:9-17 as the Presentation of a Prophet like Moses.” in The Elusive Prophet: The Prophet as a Historical Person, Literary Character and Anonymous Artist (ed De Moor) (Leiden: Brill, 2001) pp. 105-128; J. Lossl. “Poets, Prophets, Critics, and Exegetes in Classical and Biblical Antiquity and Early Christianity.” JLARC 1 (2007): p. 3.

[8] Cf. Scott, The Relevance of the Prophets, pp. 18–19; Harell, The Prophets of Israel, p. 1–13

[9] “Thus patriotism was the emancipating power which set the feet of the prophetic order on that new and higher path which was destined to lift them far above the soothsayers of other nations with whom they started on a common level.” Henry J. Cadbury. National Ideals in the Old Testament. (New York: Scribner’s, 1920) p. 97. Cf. Bright, History, p. 180-190; A.S. Peake. “The Roots of Hebrew Prophecy and Jewish Apocalyptic”, p. 287.

[10] “Judges” In Old Testament Survey, by Willam Sanford LaSor, David Allan Hubbard and Frederic W.M. Bush. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982) pp. 213–223; Klaus Koch. The Prophets Vol. 1: The Assyrian Period. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982) p. 18.

[11] Bright, History, p. 183.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Smith thinks valor “is more than the Hebrew intends to say.” Henry Smith. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Books of Samuel In ICC ed. Charles Briggs, Samuel Driver, and Alfred Plummer. (New York: Scribner’s, 1902) p. 59.  I think valor is precisely what the Hebrew has intended (see note 13).

[14] Cf. “δύναμις” In LSJ.

[15] Jewish Publication Society of America. The Prophets, Nevi’im: A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures according to the Masoretic Test. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1978)

[16] The translation seems to base itself on the “wealth” aspect of both chayil and δυνατός.  I would argue that the “wealth” connotations of these linguistic terms are based more off of influence than integrity.  It would be more sensible to translate it as “a man of influence” than a “man of substance.” Cf. “δύναμις” in TDNT.   The JB gives a much more plausible rendering of “man of rank.”  The New Berkley also agrees with “man of influence” and the Bible in Basic English and the RSV give “man of wealth.”  Cf. Smith’s comments in his Critical and Exegetical Commentary, p. 59.

[17] Bright, History, p. 182. Cf. Cadbury, National Ideals in the Old Testament, p. 96.

[18] A. Jepsen gives excellent observance to this factor in Nabi. Soziologische Studien zur alttestamentlichen Literatur und Religionsegeschichte. (Munchen: Beck, 1934)

[19] A.R. Johnson. The Cultic Prophet in Ancient Israel. (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1962.)

[20] Lindblom, Prophecy, p. 79.

[21] 1 Sam. 10:2

[22] George B. Caird. “1 Samuel.” In The Interpreter’s Bible. Vol. 2. (New York: Abingdon Press, 1953) p. 981

[23] 1 Sam. 10:5-6

[24] See David Fish. Prophetic Worship and Prophetic People.” CJST 1 (2011) pp. 1-20.

[25] Of this opinion are Lindblom, Prophecy, p. 59; Osterly, The Sacred Dance. (Brooklyn: Dance Horizons, 1968); W.F. Albright. From the Stone Age to Christianity: Monotheism and the Historical Process. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1957); Sigmund Mowinckel. He That Cometh. (New York: Abingdon Press, 1954); Bruce Vawter. The Conscience of Israel: Pre-exilic Prophets and Prophecy. (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1961); T.H. Robinson. Prophecy and the Prophets in Ancient Israel.; David Aune. Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Mediterranean World. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1983.) Stacey Campbell also seems to hold this view, though vaguely. (Ecstatic Prophecy. [Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen, 2008] p. 98)

[26] Lindblom, Prophecy, p. 59.

[27] The Prophets: A New Translation, p. 119.  Cf. Klein, 1 Samuel in WBC Vol. 10, pp. 192–193.

[28] Linbdlom, Prophecy, p. 32; Winward, Guide.  Henry Smith says: “This enthusiasm was contagious and infected the bystanders who thereupon joined in the religious exercises of the band (music and dancing), even becoming so frenzied as to fall down in a cataleptic fit.” (Henry P. Smith. The Religion of Israel: an Historical Survey. [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1914] p. 79)

[29] New Oxford Dictionary

[30] See “ἔκστασις” in TDNT.

[31] Walter Baur, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. s.v. “ἔκστασις” (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957) p. 244.

[32] Campbell, Ecstatic Prophecy, p.38

[33] Cf. Brandon Walker. “Decent and in Order: The Pagan Stigmatization of Eusebius’ Polemics Against the New Prophecy.” (M.A. Thesis, University of Miami) p. 11

[34] Lindblom says it best: “In religious ecstasy, consciousness is entirely filled with the presence of God, with ideas and feelings belonging to the divine sphere.  The soul is lifted up into the exalted region of divine revelation, and the lower world with its sensations momentarily disappears. (Prophecy in Ancient Israel, p. 5)

[35] See Campbell, Ecstatic Prophecy, p. 30–40 ;Aune, Prophecy in Early Christianity, p. 33.  Aune used the terms “possession trance” and “vision trance” to describe the phenomena, and all students of prophecy are indebted to his excellent study on the subject.

[36] Robinson, Prophecy and the Prophets, p. 31. Cf. H.W. Robinson. Record and Revelation; Essays on the Old Testament. (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1938) p. 228.

[37] Such as Leon Wood. The Prophets of Israel. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979.)

[38] Philo, De Specialibus Legibus, 1.65.

[39] Stephen F. Winward. A Guide to the Prophets. (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1977) p. 21.

[40] For analysis see Lindblom, Prophecy, p. 30­–34; Cf. Ad. Lods. “Une tablette inédite de Mari, intéressante pour l’histoire ancienne du prophétisme sémitique.” In Studies in Old Testament Prophecy. Edited by H.H. Rowley. (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1957) pp. 103ff.

[41] Prophecy, p. 31. Cf. Albright’s brilliant discussion in From the Stone Age to Christianity, pp. 304–305.

[42] Cornill, The Prophets of Israel, p. 8.  Cf. Lindblom, Prophecy, p. 99.

[43] Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs. Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. (Peabody, MA: Hendrikson, 1979) p. 611–612

[44] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke. Theological Workbook of the Old Testament. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980) 2:544

[45] H.H. Rowley. “The Nature of Prophecy in the Light of Recent Study” HTR 38.1 (1945): 1-38.

[46] This form, used in 1 Sam. 18:10 as: “he raved (hitnabbe) in the midst of the house…”, is also used in 1 Samuel 19 for the prophesying of the ecstatics. Cf. Robinson, Prophecy and the Prophets, p. 31; Grabbe, Lester L. and Alice Ogden Bellis. The Priests in the Prophets. (London: T&T Clark, 2004.) p. 117.

[47] Smith, W. Robertson. Lectures on the Religion of the Semites: The Fundamental Institutions. New York: Appleton, 1889; Albert C. Knudson. The Prophetic Movement in Israel. (New York: The Methodist Book Concern, 1921) pp. 22f.

[48] See especially 1 Chronicles 25.  The idea that temple liturgy and prophetic ministry were connected through “cultic prophets” has been most notably promoted by Mowinckel in The Psalms and Israel’s Worship. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s, 2004) and Johnson in The Cultic Prophet in Ancient Israel (op. cit.)  See also Kraus, Hans-Joachim. Psalms 60-150: A Continental Commentary. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993); Kaiser, Otto. Isaiah 1-12: a Commentary. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972.) p. 26.

6 thoughts on “Ecstasy, Empathy, and the Spirit of Prophecy in Ancient Israel

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  5. pastormario says:

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