posted on Sep, 25 2015 @ 05:08 PM
The common image of the relation between prophets and kings is the loner in conflict with authority.
We think of Elijah challenging one king, and John the Baptist challenging another.
But it doesn’t have to be like that, and it wasn’t always like that.
In the early days of the kingship, there was a working relationship which gradually mutated from “prophet’s king” to “king’s prophet”.
In the “prophet’s king” relation, the king was guided by, and sometimes chosen by, a trusted prophet.
In the “king’s prophet” relation, the prophet announced exactly what the king wanted him to announce.
The classic examples are Samuel-and-Saul at one end of the time-scale, and Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah at the other.
Samuel marks the transition between the time of judges and the time of kings.
He spent most of his life “judging Israel”.
As he got older, the people began wanting a more permanent war leader to defend them against their enemies.
One version of the appointment of Saul is that he sought out Samuel’s help in finding some lost animals. Samuel was expecting him and anointed him
as prince over Israel.
“You shall go down before me to Gilgal; and behold, I am coming to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. Seven days you
shall wait , until I come to you and show you what you shall do” (1 Samuel ch10 v8).
This looks like the instruction which Saul was supposed to be following in ch13. The current arrangement of the source material has obscured the
Samuel did not arrive at the appointed time. Saul did not think he could afford to wait any longer, so he began making the offerings himself.
Samuel arrived in the middle of this exercise and rebuked him for his disobedience.
“For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel for ever.
But now your kingdom shall not continue” (ch13 vv13-14).
The next task which Samuel gave to Saul was the full destruction of the kingdom of the Amalekites, including all their animals.
The campaign was successful, and Saul reported that he had performed the commandment of the Lord. Samuel disagreed.
“What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”
The best of the sheep and the oxen had been preserved to sacrifice to the Lord, which was not what he had asked for.
There were obvious ulterior motives, because most of a sacrificed animal would be eaten by the people making the offering.
Saul had also kept alive Agag, the king of the Amalekites.
Samuel’s response established an important principle;
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king” (ch15 vv22-23).
Samuel’s last known act after this incident was to seek out David and anoint him to take the king’s place (ch16).
So the working relationship, as modelled by Samuel, has the prophet anointing the king, directing him in war, giving rebukes when required, and
arranging the succession.
This would, in principle, be the Biblical ideal of government.
That is, rulers chosen by God and acting under his guidance.
In David’s time, the court prophet was Nathan.
David’s thought about building a house for the Lord was shared with Nathan, who gave an enthusiastic response from his own heart, and was obliged to
modify it a little once he had heard from the Lord (2 Samuel ch7).
It was Nathan who passed on the Lord’s rebuke for the affair with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah the Hittite (ch12).
And Nathan was deeply involved in the succession crisis at the end of the reign.
As Adonijah was making his preparations, Nathan urged Bathsheba to go to the king’s chamber and remind him her own son’s claim. He then followed
her in and confirmed that Adonijah was close to seizing the throne.
So David agreed to have Solomon proclaimed as king.
Nathan did not anoint the new king himself, but was present at the anointing (1 Kings ch1).
His role, then, was giving advice, giving rebukes, and helping to arrange the succession.
There seems to have been no room for a prophet at the court of Solomon, who dealt with God directly, and otherwise worked through the priests.
So the next time we see a prophet is when Ahijah the Shilonite reveals God’s plans for the succession.
Meeting Jeroboam on the road, he tore his garment into twelve pieces and handed over ten of them. He explained that God would give Jeroboam ten of the
tribes, because of Solomon’s idolatry, but would hold back one tribe for the house of David. The twelfth piece probably represents Simeon, which had
dwindled to the point of hardly counting as a tribe (ch11).
When the ten tribes rebelled, at the death of Solomon, Rehoboam was gathering his warriors to overcome them. However, Shemaiah the man of God warned
his people, on the Lord’s behalf, that they should not fight against their kinsmen, so everybody went home again (ch12 vv21-24).
After the division of the kingdom, the prophets almost disappear from Judah’s history, for many generations.
The priests had taken over the anointing of kings, and the hereditary principle gave the prophets no place in managing the succession.
Nor do we see any prophets involved in the crisis of Athaliah’s time, which was resolved by the intervention of the priests.
Even in the northern kingdom, the function of the Lord’s prophets was rapidly being reduced to forcing changes in the succession.
We do hear of a man of God from Judah who travelled to Bethel to pronounce against Jeroboam’s altar there, arousing the new king’s wrath (ch13
When Jeroboam and his wife consulted Ahijah the Shilonite, the prophet’s response was to rebuke Jeroboam for his idolatries.
But this criticism would have no effect, so the prophet could only threaten the destruction of the house of Jeroboam (ch14 vv1-16).
This was understood to have been fulfilled by the rebellion of Baasha in the reign of the next king (ch15 vv27-30).
Then Baasha himself received a similar warning from Jehu the son of Hanani, which was fulfilled in turn in the following reign (ch16 vv1-13).
The career of Elisha shows that a working relationship is still achievable, if the king is willing to listen to the Lord.
The career of Zedekiah son of Chenaanah shows what happens if a prophet is willing to lose his integrity.
But if the first option is not possible, and the second option is not acceptable, the only other alternative is defiant independence.
It is human resistance that forces prophets into that role, from Elijah and Amos onwards.
Those in power lose touch with God’s guidance, and we see the results.