Cat here has proposed studying the Prophets for awhile. I want to continue with Luke meantime, but I hope we can combine both.
Where, how to begin?
The first really traditional prophet I thought of was Samuel, who is also featured in my favorite Biblical books (though not the most edifying.) & then I thought about Moses, who lives that role on a grand scale. In Deuteronomy he’s quoted as saying: ~”When I’m gone, God will send a prophet like me to set you all straight [and you’d better pay attention!]” I’m not clear whether this is supposed to refer to one superlative prophet (Jesus)– or whether it could be taken as a reference to the whole line of prophets, the Israelite institution of prophets striving to keep their rulers in line.
It is unusual, as far as I can gather, for any nation to have a truly independent religious opposition to royal and oligarchic power. Priests may get uppity, but a priesthood is normally content to have prominent, cushy seats at the royal table. Prophets are different. A kingdom can have a whole stable of approved prophets, assigned to produce optimistic prognoses for the king’s favorite new project– and one crazy geek will be out there yelling the truth at the top of his voice; it’s bad luck to kill him; and he wouldn’t dare take a bribe even if he wanted to.
Samuel is atypical, a prophet from before the monarchy, which he reluctantly helps to establish. In his day, there are apparently whole bands of prophets, traveling about in a contagious ecstatic frenzy. Saul, on his way home from visiting Samuel, falls in with such a band, takes off all his clothes, rolls about prophecizing with them.
One wonders about chemical aids… mushrooms, perhaps. Fasting, chanting, other practices. Later prophets were said to pray for a long time with “their heads between their knees” to get into the right kind of spiritual state. But we haven’t been given the details, on how this should be done. Were they given unique gifts?– or were they simply led to make the best use of a widespread human talent?
And what relevance do they have to our time? Messages addressed specifically to later readers? Announcements of God’s long-term objectives? A way of interpreting their times– and ours– in terms of God’s use of events for hidden divine purposes? Can we expect similar outcomes for similar conditions, read “the signs of” these times & extrapolate?