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    Opting to be a prophet – Shof’tim

    Elijah the Prophet - painting by Louis Hersent (1777-1862)

    Elijah the Prophet – painting by Louis Hersent (1777-1862)

    The 18th chapter of D’varim discusses prophecy and how to tell whether a person really is a prophet.

    If someone says he is speaking in the name of the Lord but his words do not come to pass, we know he is a charlatan.

    Does this indicate that there is only one type of prophecy, i.e. predicting the future? Some people, even today, claim to be prophets on this basis.

    I have heard of a man in Queensland who claims to be a prophet. I guess he thought that calling oneself a prophet sounded better than reading tea leaves, looking at your palm or using a crystal ball.

    I have no idea whether he really could foretell the future, nor whether there was money to be made from that industry, but the Biblical prophet is not a simple foreteller of events (“Fish will walk! Frenchmen will speak Norwegian! Grass will grow purple!”).

    Prophecy does involve foretelling, but of a more sophisticated kind. With God in their hearts, minds, eyes and sheer being, Biblical prophets show insight into people and events, castigating, warning, urging faith and courage. If the spirit of God comes upon a prophet, he can do no other than speak out.

    He says that man can control events. If man makes the right decisions, the future can be good: if he makes the wrong decisions, he places civilisation in jeopardy.

    The prophet is bound to threaten vested interests and to suffer criticism, misunderstanding and persecution. Ask Jeremiah what happened to him.

    According to the Talmud, since the destruction of the Temple prophecy has ceased in Israel and the only people who purport to prophesy are infants and idiots.

    If people really believe the man from Queensland and prophecy becomes a marketable occupation, woe to the prophet and woe to the public.

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