Prophets and Prediction

My friend, Tim Bulkeley, has written a brief but punchy and accurate blog post about prophets and prediction. In my opinion, he hits the nail on the head. Read it! Consider it!

If you don’t, well… you’ve been warned!

You’ll find the blog post here:

Prophets and prediction: when conservatism and Bible clash | Sansblogue.

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13 thoughts on “Prophets and Prediction

  1. That is fair enough, God does warn through the prophets – but I don’t think that necessarily means that God can’t also pass on predictions through the prophets. What about the end times prophesy in Isaiah 11 for example?

    • 1 Kings 13:2 is probably a better example of unambiguous prophetic prediction 😉 It’s not a warning at all. It’s only a prediction.

        • I’m not sure I agree. What would be the warning? That if Jeroboam turned and got rid of the calves then God would let him be king anyway? That doesn’t seem to be the logic of Kings to me. He already had a warning in 1 Kgs 11:37-38. Everything subsequent to that is consequence, including 1 Kgs 13:2 (predicting the end of Jeroboam’s new religion), and 1 Kgs 14:10-16, which predicts three things concerning his kingdom that all eventually occur: (1) the immediate death of Jeroboam’s son, (2) the fall of Jeroboam’s dynasty, and (3) the fall of the entire northern Kingdom. None of these appear to me to be avertable by any human action. Sometimes postponed (though not in Jeroboam’s case), but not averted.

          Still, I don’t know that “predictive” is the best category for prophetic speech in the book of Kings either. I would suggest probably more “determinative” than “predictive.” Prophetic predictions don’t foretell history, they drive it.

            • Cute 🙂 But, if you’re going to do that then you can just say that they all function as warnings to us, which of course would be entirely correct. (1 Cor 10:11 after all!)

              I could push back and say that there’s no indication that Israel was supposed to “come south” in the book of Kings. 1 Kgs 11:30-39 envisages a positive, non-Davidic, non-Jerusalem kind of Yahwistic kingdom. It was Jeroboam’s apostasy to Moses that was the problem, not (initially at least) his separation from David. And Elijah laments that Israel have left the covenant, not that they have left the Southern Kingdom. It must have been possible for the Northern Kingdom to function faithfully without the South. (In fact, that would be part of the point to an exilic readership which, after all, finds itself without David and without a temple as well!) I don’t think these prophecies against Jeroboam encourage Israel to return to Judah.

              • Of course they’re warning for us! Authoritative scripture, etc. 🙂
                I agree on the apostasy of the north. However, since the Davidic dynasty is, in a sense, founded on the national covenant, and since Deuteronomistic theology sees but a singular Israel (one God, one people, one land, one place, one king), I’m not sure we can fully separate ‘apostasy from David’ from ‘apostasy from Moses’. In Kings, I think the two go hand in hand. There is a legitimacy to the rise of the northern kings, but not to taking people away from Jerusalem. And since the temple in Jerusalem is the visible symbol of Yahweh’s covenant with David, a connection with the Davidic dynasty is thereby implied. Jeroboam I realised this, which is why the text has him setting up rival shrines at Dan and Bethel. These shrines break both the Mosaic and the Davidic covenants. So the warning aspect is, in my estimation, still very much there.

                • I’m struggling to reply using words small enough to fit into the shrinking amount of horizontal space that embedded comments get on your blog George 🙂

                  Kings does see separation from David as a problem, but only because God’s prediction (**cough cough**) concerning David’s dynasty is the only thing that guarantees the future of any kingdom in the face of human apostasy. God “keeps a lamb burning” for David because of his promise. The North, which doesn’t have an equivalent promise is dynastically unstable because of that.

                  Whatever Deuteronomy envisages concerning centralisation of worship had to accommodate a division of the kingdoms which separated the North from David, because this was, after all, “from the Lord” (1 Kgs 12:16, 19, 21-24). Elijah and Elisha were faithful Israelites, presumably without ever once setting foot in the Southern Kingdom. And Naaman becomes a Yahweh follower from the context of a Syrian kingdom.

                  • God obviously likes lamb on the spit if he keeps one burning for David. 😛
                    Yes, I know what you mean about the legitimacy of the north. But the royal priesthood of the Davidic dynasty is still an important part of the theology. Because the entire land is the arena of Yahwistic worship, then anyone anywhere in Israel is, in a sense, ‘in’ and ‘OK’. But the election of David adds a particular Jerusalem-centric focus that, in my estimation, makes the predictions about the north function as warnings. I don’t think these are predictions for predictions’ sake. That’s the primary idea that I have a problem with. There is a currency in the prediction that means something for its first hearers, and in this case, I think the Jerusalem focus is significant.

                    • I was happy to leave it at that, but I’m going to reply now just to see if I can break the HTML of your web page comments section. 🙂

                      I agree, anyway. They aren’t predictions for prediction’s sake. They are the word of God that determines future history. As Kings reminds us persistently, everything that happens in history, happens “according to the word that was spoken.”

  2. Wow. Your comment disappeared entirely. I was secretly hoping for a negative column width that would end up reversing the spelling of all the words.

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