Ecstasy And Israel’s Early Prophets -- By: Leon J. Wood

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 009:3 (Summer 1966)
Article: Ecstasy And Israel’s Early Prophets
Author: Leon J. Wood

Ecstasy And Israel’s Early Prophets

Leon J. Wood, Ph.D.

Men have sought communication from their god by various means. One is by ecstatic frenzy. In ecstatic frenzy the subject seeks to withdraw his mind from conscious participation in the world so that it may be open to the reception of the divine word. To achieve this ecstatic state, poisonous gas may be employed, 1 a rhythmic dance, or even narcotics. The desire is to lose all rational contact with the world and so make possible a rapport with the spirit realm.

This manner of seeking divine communication was prevalent in Asia Minor in the second millennium, B.C., and, during the last half of that time, moved from there into Greece on the west and Syria On the east and South. 2 It is believed that the Canaanites thus came to know and adopt the practice and make it a part to their religious service. Many scholars believe further that Israel in turn learned it from the Canaanites and made it a part to their service also. Those who do, believe accordingly that Israel’s early prophets (nebhiʾim) were typical ecstatics of the day, seeking revelational contact with their God quite as those of Canaan and Asia Minor. 3 These persons are pictured as moving through the land in rather wild bands, chanting in loud voices, and making ecstatic inquiry for people upon request. The people are thought to have accepted them as holy because they did conduct themselves in this manner, considering their ability to achieve the ecstatic state a badge of their authority. 4

Conservative scholars have trouble with this presentation, however. Already before Israel’s conquest of Palestine, Moses calls himself a prophet (nabhiʾ) and states that a prophet like himself would arise after him (Deut. 18:15–22). He uses the singular, nabhiʾ, in reference to this one, and so is correctly taken to mean Christ as the supreme Prophet thus to arise, but the context shows that he has reference in a secondary sense also to prophets generally who should appear in later history. Moses himself clearly was not an ecstatic. Hence, if prophets to follow him were to be like him, neither would they be ecstatics. Further, in this same passage, Moses warns the people specifically against following revelational practices of surrounding nations (vss. 9–14), stating that in contrast, God’s Word through these prophets would be the approved way for revelati...

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