Classical Prophet or Popular Prophet? [Part 1]
Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.
Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam, and in partnership with Brad TV, I’m starting a new series. Last year, we did all the series connected to the Torah portions that are read in the synagogues around the world. Together with the reading of the Torah in the synagogues, there always is also a reading of the prophets, but today I want to do what is called an introduction to prophecy in general.
Why? Because in my years of ministry and teaching, and studying constantly and traveling around the world several times a year before the coronavirus, I paid attention that there is a major problem in the way Christians understand prophecy, use prophecy, merchandise prophecy, and, contrary to the prophets of the Bible, became multimillionaires from claiming to be prophets.
So, the first thing I want to say is that, prophecy, is a mantic search of understanding and knowing what is around the corner: what does tomorrow bring? What is in the future of the tribe, of the nation, of the individual, of the family? That is as ancient as humanity, as ancient as family. And that’s why I want to start with this introduction to prophecy.
There is a book by Pritchard called “Ancient Near Eastern Texts.” ANET, has documents that date up to 3000 BC, from Egypt, from Babylon, from Assyria, from the Hittites, and from the whole Near East. There we find a lot of the literature. The technical word is mantic; future telling, or looking into the future documents.
We have famous library of Mari, in northern Syria, in the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates, in Iraq. Ebla is from northern Syria. There, too, were found prophetic texts and prophetic instruments.
Among the instruments of prophecy, at that time, was looking into the entrails of an animal, the liver. And if you visit Jerusalem, you will see displayed, when you’re talking about the attack of Nebuchadnezzar on the land of Israel and the conquest of Lachish, you will see models in stone, of a liver. Inscribed on every part of the liver, what is the significance of that part, for future telling? For looking into what is going to happen.
We see this in the book of Ezekiel, that when Nebuchadnezzar is approaching Jerusalem, he uses several mantic instruments. He says he looked at the arrows, and at the liver, to find out what will the results of the battle against Jerusalem bring.
Yes, we have other incidents in the Bible of prophets, pagan prophets, that did all kinds of ceremonies and used mantic techniques to be able to discern what is going to happen, what the future holds.
The Bible itself has several different kinds of prophets that we are going to talk about. Two of the ones today have different names in the Bible.
One of the earliest names is roeh; the seer, the one who sees what is around the corner and what the future brings. Another one is navi’; that’s the good term. The one who brings information from God. So we have roeh, navi’, and the third name is hozeh, from the word chazon, which means vision. A person who sees visions, doesn’t hear voices. He sees visions, and he’s called the hozeh. The roeh is very similar, but has a different period, and also, a different system of looking into the future.
In the modern world, you have witches, soothsayers, future tellers and tarot card readers. And of course, you’ve got, in the Christian evangelical world, people who claim to be prophets. Some of them are for-profit. Maybe some of them do have the gift of prophecy that the Holy Spirit gives, together with the other gifts of philanthropy and speaking in tongues, and healing, and the other gifts. One of them is prophecy; the ability to prophecy. Discernment is another one of the gifts that has some overlapping with prophecy.
So the first point is that as old as humanity is, as old as civilization is, people had anxiety about the future, and they wanted to know what the future holds. For this, they had different systems and different ways of discerning the future, whether it is like in some cultures, of having bones of an animal that they juggle and throw like dice to be able to tell. Or looking at the liver, or looking at the stars, which was very popular, or many different other kinds of methods to satisfy this hunger that human beings have; to know what’s coming, to know what the future holds.
Now, the two major groups of kosher, biblical, inspired, future tellers, or prophets, are the popular prophets and the classical prophets. We are going to enter into this a little bit more in detail, and look at the difference between the two groups of prophets, and the different ways they looked at the future and how they got their information. We are going to examine this in the future.
When I ask about prophets in the Bible, I always get Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Hosea, Joel, the prophets that we have books from, that we have writings from, publications from. But there’s a whole group of prophets that most pastors, most Bible scholars, also don’t remember so well, even if they studied it in college or in a Bible school, or in a seminary.
We have a whole group of prophets that are almost unknown, and they’re very important, and they’re called the popular prophets. Why popular? Because they prophesied for a living. They prophesied as a profession. They were professional prophets.
The most famous of those professional prophets was Samuel, the son of Hannah. His mother cried and prayed and was ecstatic, in Shiloh in front of the priest, Eli. For several years she wanted to have a child. When the other wife of Elkanah was full of children, Hannah was barren. She wanted a child very badly, and had Samuel, which means God heard me.
At the age of three, she brings Samuel to Shiloh, to the tabernacle to serve together with the priest Eli, and Eli’s sons in the worship and in the procedures that went around the tabernacle that Moses and the children of Israel built in the wilderness.
Samuel was the most famous popular prophet, even though we have a book called 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, but those are not books that he wrote, they’re books that somebody else wrote about him, and about King Saul, and about King David, and probably were written in the days of the son of David, Solomon.
We have even more, unknown to most, popular prophets. Now, how did the popular prophets work? A person came to them, with a question. And if a person has a question that he wants God to answer, he had only two options. He goes to Shiloh or to Jerusalem to the temple, and he asks a priest. The priest has only two options, two answers, yes or no.
You can ask a question like, “will I win the lottery of $10 million?” The priest puts his hand in the special pocket that he had in front of him. Inside that pocket there were two stones, one white, one black. They had the same weight, the same texture, the same size and the same shape, and he couldn’t see. Puts his hand in the pocket, pulls out one of those balls, or, the Hebrew name is Urim and Thummim. Urim means light and Thummim means dark, opaque, literally, clear and opaque. He puts his hand in and he gets an answer, yes or no. That’s all, that’s all the priests could do.
The prophets, set up a shop. I’m using the word shop loosely. They had an address. Some of them were circuit riders; they went on this day here, then they were in that city, and next day, they were in another city, and then by Friday, they returned back to their home. They were circuit riders. And Samuel was one of those circuit rider prophets. He prophesied at Mizpah and Ramah. He prophesied in the towns north of Jerusalem. But he didn’t volunteer his prophecies. When people had a question, they came to him and they had to pay.
And one of the most interesting and revealing stories is the story of how Saul, the son of Kish, from the tribe of Benjamin, and how he became a king.
There was never a king in Israel. There was Gideon. He tried to be a king, but didn’t make it. His sons tried to be king, they didn’t make it. They crowned themselves, but that didn’t last very long, not very successful, not very blessed.
The first real king approved by God was King Saul. Saul, the son of Kish. And we read how he became a king in 1 Samuel 8: he lost his father’s donkeys. They got loose; they ran off. Donkeys can run, much more than you can.
So he and his servant go searching for the donkeys and it starts getting dark. Evening is falling, late afternoon, and where’s the logical place that if donkeys ran, they would go late afternoon? They would go to the spring of water, to drink water before the night falls. So Saul, the son of Kish, and his servant, that we don’t have his name, come to the spring just west of Jerusalem, near the ancient highway that was not even built yet in the days of Saul. Solomon built that highway, to look where donkeys came to the spring to drink water.
It was getting dark, and they realized that their father will worry more about them than about the donkeys. And they’re anxious to find the donkeys and not to return home without the donkeys. The donkeys are not at the spring of Moza.
The idea arises between Saul, the son of Kish, and his servant. Up there, not very far from here, in Ramah, there is a man of God. Let’s go ask him. Now the problem is, we don’t have anything to pay him with. The servant says, “I have a coin, let’s go. “We’ll give him the coin that I have.” They go up the hill, not very far, probably a half an hour walk from the spring in Moza, straight up the hill to Ramah.
Who comes from Ramah in the New Testament? Joseph of Armataim, Joseph that comes from the two hills. One was the tomb of Samuel, the other one was the village of Ramah, and the hill across the little valley.
So they walk up to Ramah. They come to the man of God, to Samuel, and he’s waiting for them. They come to him to ask him, where are the donkeys? But instead of finding only the donkeys, King Saul also found the crown.
God said, “This is the man, anoint him.” And in order to make the first guy that’s going to be a king in Israel, he had to be anointed three times. The first time was in Ramah, private ceremony, between Samuel, the servant of Saul, and Saul. The second one was in front of the leadership of all the 12 tribes of Israel in Mizpah, not very far from Ramah, between Ramah and Bireh, or Ramallah of today, a little bit south of Bethel. And so, the second anointing was in front of the leadership of the tribes, at Mizpah. And then the third anointing was in Gilgal, north of Jericho in the Jordan Valley, where everybody was invited. Public anointing of King Saul.
Samuel is considered a popular prophet, not a classical prophet, why? First of all, he didn’t write a book. We don’t have in writing that professional log of Samuel’s ministry as a prophet.
But he was not only a prophet, he was also a judge. And when he traveled around the cities north of Jerusalem in Benjamin and Ephraim, he judged between disputes of people that came to him as he was in a circuit, he sat at the gate of the city, and they came to him to be judged by him. That’s what Samuel’s main ministry was.
But he was also a man of God, and a prophet. And he’s called a seer, a roeh, with -eh, in Hebrew. A seer, let’s go up to the seer. The one who sees what’s happening in the future, who sees what’s happening.
So, we understand from this story, from the book of, 1 Samuel, that a popular prophet is somebody who charges money or gifts for his ministry. A popular prophet is somebody who doesn’t write books of his ministry, of his prophecy. A popular prophet is somebody who uses mantic techniques like dancing, like singing, like different tools that he may use in order to conjure up the prophecy.
Among the popular prophets, there is a subcategory of the royal prophets. They’re popular prophets. We don’t have books from them. King David’s famous prophet was Nathan. In chapter 12 of 1 Samuel, we read that Nathan comes to David and tells him there was a rich man, there was a poor man. The poor man had a few lambs and goats, one actually, and the rich man had many. And the rich man coveted the one goat of the poor man, or lamb of the poor man. He slaughtered it and served it to his guests, and left the poor man with nothing.
King David said, “Ah, this rich man is a terrible person. “He should die.” And then Nathan tells him, “You are the man. “You did it, when you took Uriah the Hittite’s wife, “Bathsheba, and sent him to the battlefield “in the most dangerous location of the battle. “You did it.” David, of course, repents, and we have Psalm 51, which is a record of his repentance. The story of his repentance, begging God for forgiveness.
Nathan and Samuel are popular prophets. Also, Gad, from the period of King David, was a popular prophet.
So, if I can summarize the issue of the popular prophets; popular prophets didn’t write books. They charged for their services, and people came to them, asking them to prophesy for them. That’s the main characteristics of popular prophets.
Classical prophets are those no one wanted to hear them. Why did no one want to hear them? They brought the will of God, the desire of God, the word of God, and gave it to people that didn’t like it. Kings, government officials, and the public, didn’t like it, because they were very negative toward the establishment of their day. But they were not only negative, they always sandwiched their prophecy. They gave the harsh prophecies, and, then they put the salami inside the bread and then they ended with another harsh prophecy, and made a sandwich out the prophecy. Always the sweet and bitter; the sweet to mitigate the bitter. That’s their meaning, but that is also why they wrote their prophecies. They wrote their prophecies because sometimes, their prophecies were very, very long term
We in the land of Israel today, dear brothers and sisters, are living prophecies that were prophesied in the eighth century BC, 2,800 years ago, folks. That’s why they wrote their things. They wrote books of records of what they said, when they said it, and to whom they said it.
We’re going to end here, and continue the second part of the introduction in the next session. May God bless you. I hope you see the interest and the desire to learn in depth from the writings and the stories of the prophets of the Bible, both Old and New Testament.
God bless you. Thank God for Brad TV for initiating these series. Shalom from Jerusalem.
There's Always Someone In Control [Part 2]
Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.
Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam. We started last week, a new series of the study of the prophets and I gave an introduction and the introduction dealt with two of the main types of prophets that are in the Bible. The popular prophets that were professionals, that charge money or gifts for their services, and the classical prophets; those that people didn’t want to hear.
So they wrote their texts and that’s why we have the books like Isaiah Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos, Ezekiel, all the minor prophets. The major prophets were prophets that were not asked to prophesy. They prophesied in spite of the fact that most of the people, especially the rulers didn’t want to hear them.
There are other aspects of prophecy that we didn’t cover, and I don’t think that it’s worthwhile for me to go on and do a second introduction. We will deal with some things that we didn’t mention, but are very important. The importance of these things comes because today there are way too many apostles and way too many prophets and most of them have no clue of what it is to be a prophet.
I will start with something that I learned when I was 18 years old and in boot camp in the Israeli army and learning about military intelligence. When the teacher came in, one of the first lectures, he said, “I want you to think of this story. It’s an important story…” The officer came into his boot camp class and he said to his students, to the young soldiers, what if I told you that I’m going to give you green hats?
All of you are going to get a green hat, a green military hat. And if you wear that hat when you go outside no bird is going to poop on you. But if you don’t wear that hat, the birds are going to come and bombard you. That’s not likely to happen. Here are the hats put the hats on. When you go out, you’ll experience what I said.
So they all put their hats on, they went outside and nothing happened. They went, they played a little bit of soccer in the field during the intermission, they came back, nothing happened. But they said to each other how could it be that this hat is controlling the birds? There must be some connection, some relationship between the birds and this hat.
And the next intermission, they decided to go out and leave the hat in the classroom. Just as soon as they stepped out of the building a big group of birds passed over them and bombarded them. They all got poop on their heads. That’s not possible, just not possible. Not possible that this hat is controlling the birds; and when we don’t have this hat the birds come and poop on us.
So they talk to the teacher and they asked him how could that be? Well, you have to think there is something in the hat or in you that when you wear the hat, you are protected and when you don’t wear the hat, you are not protected and therefore the birds come and bombard you. Everybody said, Well doesn’t seem logical, doesn’t seem reasonable. What could be controlling these birds? You know maybe it’s just a hat; not this particular green hat, but just a hat.
So the next day they came with their own hats; they put their green hats in their military backpacks and wore their regular hats. When they went out for the intermission, boom another big group of birds came and pooped on them. So they decided, well it’s not A hat that is causing this effect but it is this particular hat. But a hat is inanimate of object. How could a hat communicate with the birds, and prevent them from pooping on us? Something either in the hat or in the one who gave the hat is controlling the birds. It cannot happen accidentally.
The teacher said this is one of the most important lessons when you are dealing with intelligence of any kind and especially with military intelligence. Nothing happens without somebody being behind it and controlling it. It’s either the hat or the one who gave you the hat or the one who had the control over the birds and directs them and instructs them and informs them that now is the time to go and bomb this recruits that are just starting their military service.
In essence, this is the whole power and the whole meaning and the importance of prophecy. Because, the first thing that we are, are disciples of Yeshua. Believers in God need to realize that somebody is in control, control of the powers of nature and control of the human beings both those that serve him and those that don’t. The father of all mankind. And he is in control because he has interests, investments in people, in us, in all of humanity.
He’s got a group of people who are in boot camp preparing to fight the enemy and they have to realize that nothing comes from nothing. That every phenomenon, every bit of information, every program has to have a source.
Nothing is accidental. Even if the birds come over your head and poop on your head, it’s not accidental, somebody is controlling it. And that lesson is very very important for us who are interested in studying prophecy.
We have, in the Bible, rules of how to know who is a real prophet and who is not a real prophet. And I’m repeating a point that I brought in the first introduction and that is that Israel was not the only group of people in the Middle East or in the world who had prophets.
Even in the Bible we find different kinds of prophets. We have the popular prophets of God and the classical prophets of God and they’re very different from one another. We have prophets like Elisha, Elijah who are kind of bridging prophets. They are not classical prophets because they didn’t write books and we don’t have the book of Elijah or the book of Elisha, but they are bridging prophets; they are like the classical prophets who are not exactly liked but God used them.
They were not liked by the kings and the rulers and by most of the people. They prophesied in spite of the fact that the kings and the rulers didn’t want to hear them. And most of the people didn’t want to hear them because they said and did things that were harsh and sometimes not acceptable by the majority.
We have rules of how to distinguish a true prophet from a false prophet and that will be the second half of the second introduction.
These rules are concentrated in the book of Deuteronomy chapter 13 from verse one. “If there arises among you, a prophet or a dreamer of dreams who gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you saying let us go after other gods which you have not known and let us serve them, you shall not listen to the words of the prophets or the dreamer of dreams for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul”
I’m going to stop here at the end of verse three of chapter 13 of Deuteronomy. What do we have here? We have Moses giving instruction to the children of Israel even before they entered the land of Canaan; how to distinguish a true prophet, a true dreamer, from one that is false.
The first thing that we learn from this text is that if somebody comes and says I’m going to do this sign and this is going to happen, and even if it happens, that does not mean that he is a true prophet. Yes, a person comes and says tomorrow there will be rain and there is rain, or this afternoon there will be an earthquake and there is an earthquake, it doesn’t mean that he is a true prophet.
We know that Balaam, the internationally famous false prophet, was a prophet for profit. To become rich is what he wanted, and that’s why on the one hand he didn’t want to curse Israel cause God told him not to. On the other hand, he still wanted the gold that was promised to him. He was a prophet for profit but he was very famous, internationally famous.
Among all the people of the Middle East he had a reputation and apparently could do things. He blessed people and cursed people. But in this text, the first point that we learn is it’s not enough if a person comes says this is going to happen or I can read your mind or I can tell you what’s going to happen to you. And even if it happens, it doesn’t make him a true prophet of God. That is important lesson.
Where is the test? The test is that if he comes and tells you what’s going to happen, and that is from God, and it does happen and it teaches you to become closer to God, holier to God, and more devoted and repenting from your sins and doing the right things according to God’s word and to the Torah and to the prophets, then maybe is a true prophet.
But it that’s still not enough. It’s still not enough, because the man that says that he is a prophet, claims that title, has more obligations. Not just that his words and his promises will be fulfilled. Not only that; he’s going to teach you about God, the true God, the one God the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And he’s going to encourage you to be holier and more sanctified, and more honest, and more godly and more charitable. All these good things.
But you still, in verse four of chapter 13 of the Deuteronomy, you shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice. You shall serve Him and hold fast to him.
But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage. He came to entice you from the way which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. You should put the evil out from among your midst.
Here are the rules in summary of this part of the text. It’s not enough for somebody to do and claim miracles. What you see from sitting in the auditorium of the church and what happens behind the scenes can be a very different thing. All you have to do is go to YouTube; write WV Grant or Robert Tilton, in the search engine and find out what they did.
And there are other very famous Bible teachers, internationally famous who claimed to be apostles, claimed to be prophets, healers. And it looked, if you’re sitting in the crowd, it looked like they were healing people.
But if you were behind the scenes, you could easily discover that most of it was a theater. I studied it and most of it was the theater, from some of the most famous so-called faith healers.
Yes, we are to be prudent and prophecy needs to be examined. Not only the deeds of the prophets and his predictions need to be examined, but where he stands in front of God, the one God creator of the universe the father of all mankind, the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob and the father of Yeshua. Yes, there are tests for these prophets. It’s important lesson to learn.
But remember the issue of the green hat. If somebody tells you something’s going to happen and it happens, it doesn’t prove the source of what happens. But if it is from God, you will know by the results, the fruit of this man’s life, these proclamations and the results for you personally. Is it going to get you closer to God or farther from God? Will it make you a disciple of that man or strengthen your relationship with the Almighty?
Any person who claims to be a prophet or an apostle and seeks you to become His disciple, rather than closer to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the creator of the universe, is a false prophet and you need to be aware and careful with it. There are no bounds to the tricks and to the intentions of the dark side that tries to defile, drag away, discourage the children of God, by claiming to be apostles, and by claiming to be prophets, and not carrying through.
I want to bring you just a couple of stories, but before that I want to tell you that there are not only male prophets in the Bible. We have female prophets, women who are prophetesses.
One of the interesting ones whose name is Huldah. She’s not so well known among Christians but she appears both in the second book of Kings, chapter 22 and in 2 Chronicles, chapter 34. She’s a very interesting woman and she’s mentioned twice. Huldah is spelled in English H-U-L-D-A-H. Huldah, which means a rat, but one that digs under the earth and from the same family of the rat. Huldah the prophetess.
We read in 2 Kings, and here is the text from 2 Kings 22 2 Kings, verse four, I’m going to start reading from verse three of 2 Kings 22:
“Now it came to pass in the 18th year of King Josiah that the king sent Shaphan, the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to the house of the Lord saying, go up to Hilkiah the high priest that he may count the money which has been brought into the house of the Lord which the door keepers have gathered from the people, and let them deliver it into the hand of those doing the work who are overseers in the house of the Lord. Let them give it to those who are in the house of the Lord doing the work to repair the damage of the house, to the carpenters and builders and masons and buy timber, hewn stone and to repair the house. However, there needs to be no accounting made with them of the money delivered into their hand because they deal faithfully. And Hilkiah, the high priest, said to Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan and he read it and Shaphan went, and Shaphan the scribe went to the king bringing the king the word, saying your servants have gathered the money that was found in the house and have delivered it to the hands of those who are do the work who oversee the house of the Lord/”
And we come now to verse 14:
“So Hilkiah, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan and Asahiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum, the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She dwelt in Jerusalem and they spoke with her. Then she said to them, thus said the Lord God of Israel, tell the man who sent to you to me, thus said the Lord behold I will bring calamity on this place and all its inhabitants, all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read because they have forsaken me and burned incest to other gods and they provoked me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore, my wrath shall be aroused against this place and shall not be quenched.”
So there is this Huldah the prophetess. A female prophet and she is a popular prophet. How do we know? People went to her, asked her for the word of the Lord and she gave them the word of the Lord, even though they may not have liked it. There were also women prophets and prophetesses, in the New Testament.
In 1 Corinthians, chapter 11, we find out that there are women in the church who are prophets. We need to remember that it’s not only men who are prophets, although the majority of the prophets in the Bible and the New Testament are men, there are women who are prophets as well.
Sad to say, we don’t have a classical prophet that is a woman. All the books of prophecy that we have, Isaiah on down to Malachi, are all men. But there were women who prophesied and sometimes they were very close to the classical prophets.
I wanted to share these things with you, and especially that first story for you to put this deep in your heart; nothing happens by accident or by natural phenomena when we are talking about prophecy, it’s all directed from above. The one who directs the birds and controls the birds, also controls us as human beings with the words of prophecy, whether it is to encourage us or to get us to repent and confess our sins or receive the results of our infidelity in the way of exile and punishment and plagues.
Yes sir, God is in control. And if he was not in control, prophecy would mean nothing more than being some kind of a magician artist, a mentalist that knows what you want and gives it to you in his proclamations of the so-called prophecies.
Somebody is in control of every aspect of this universe and especially ought to be, and we ought to invite him and give him the control over our lives so that we know that we are in good standing with the creator and the father of all mankind. Amen.