Copyright
Rose E Selfe.

The Work of the prophets online

. (page 1 of 10)
Online LibraryRose E SelfeThe Work of the prophets → online text (page 1 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


7



Sk-



SIMPLE GUIDES TO CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE

Edited by

FLORENCE ROBINSON,
Formerly of St Hilda's Hall, Oxford



THE STORY OF OUR LORD'S LIFE. By Mrs. H. H.
MONTGOMERY. With 8 Coloured Illustrations after Gaudenzio
Ferrari. i6mo. zs. 6d. net.

THE EARLY STORY OF ISRAEL. By Mrs. J. S. THOMAS.
With 7 Full Page Plates, 1 3 Illustrations in the Text, and 4
Maps (2 Coloured). i6mo. zs. 6d. net.

THE TEACHING OF THE CATECHISM. By BEATRICE
A. WARD, B.Sc. Lond. With 8 Illustrations. 1 6mo. zs. 6d. net.

THE WORK OF THE PROPHETS. By ROSE E. SELFE.
With 8 Illustrations and 2 Maps. 1 6mo. zs. 6d. net.

HOW TO USE THE PRAYER-BOOK. By Mrs. G. J.
ROMANES. i6mo. 2J.net. [In preparation.

HOW THE CHURCH BEGAN. By the Rev. R. B. RACKHAM,
M. A. 1 6mo. zs. net. [/ preparation.

WHAT WE LEARN TO BELIEVE. By the Rev. A. W.
ROBINSON, B.D. i6mo. zs. net. [/ preparation.



LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.

LONDON, NEW YORK, AND BOMBAY



Simple Guides to Christian Knowledge



EDITED BY FLORENCE ROBINSON

FORMERLY OF ST HILDA'S HALL, OXFORD



THE WORK OF THE PROPHETS




ISAIAH




BY

ROSE E. SELFE

AUTHOR OF "HOW DANTE CLIMBED THE MOUNTAIN," " WITH DANTE IN
PARADISE," ETC.



WITH EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS AND TWO MAPS.



LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.

39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON
NEW YORK AND BOMBAY

1904

All rights reservtd



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I. THE PROPHETS BEFORE AMOS i

II. AMOS THE HERDSMAN 16

III. HOSEA THE SORROWFUL 35

IV. ISAIAH THE STATESMAN 44

V. MICAH THE COURAGEOUS 64

VI. NAHUM THE TRIUMPHANT, ZEPHANIAH THE

STERN, AND HABAKKUK THE WATCHMAN ... 72
VII. JEREMIAH THE STEADFAST, AND THE VISION OF

OBADIAH 87

VIII. EZEKIEL THE EXILE 107

IX. THE PROPHET OF THE RETURN FROM EXILE . . 120
X. HAGGAI AND ZECHARIAH, THE TEMPLE BUILDERS,

AND MALACHI, THE MESSENGER 130

XI. PROPHECIES OF THE MESSIAH AND OF THE DAY

OF PENTECOST 146

XII. JONAH THE MISSIONARY i 55

XIII. DANIEL THE RIGHTEOUS 16



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

FULL PAGE PLATES

TO FACE PAGE

ISAIAH 1 Frontispiece

From the Painting by Frederick Shields in the Chapel of
the Ascension, London, W.

"THE PEOPLE WHICH SAT IN DARKNESS" 59

From the Painting by G. F. Watts, R.A. (by permission of
Mr. F. Hollyer},

JEREMIAH 87

From the Fresco by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel,
Rome (Photograph by Alinarf).

THE VISION OF EZEKIEL no

From the Painting by Raphael in the Pitti Palace,
Florence (Photograph by Alinari).

MALACHI 1 145

From the Painting by Frederick Shields in the Chapel of
the Ascension, London, W.



xii List of Illustrations

TO FACE PAGE

ZECHARIAH l 149

From the Painting by Frederick Shields in the Chapel of
the Ascension, London, W.

JOEL 153

From the Fresco by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel,
Rome {Photograph by Alinari).

DANIEL 1 166

From the Painting by Frederick Shields in the Chapel of
the Ascension, London, W .

MAPS.

PAGE

MAP OF PALESTINE 17

MAP OF SYRIA, MESOPOTAMIA, ETC 45



1 The Series from which these pictures are reproduced is published by the
Autotype Company, 74, New Oxford Street, London, W. The original paintings
may be seen in the Chapel of the Ascension, Bays-water Road, London, JV,



CHAPTER I

THE PROPHETS BEFORE AMOS

IN this little book we are going to read about the
work of the Prophets, and the first questions we
must ask are, Who and what were the prophets ?
When did they live ? Above all, why did they
live ?

As we open the book, and look at the pictures
of the sad and earnest-looking men, our curiosity
is awakened by their unusual dress and attitudes.
It is to answer our questions, and to point out
where fuller answers can be found, that this book
has been written. The writings of the prophets
form a large part of the Old Testament Scriptures,
which were well known and loved by our Lord
and His disciples, as they have been loved by the
whole Christian Church to this day. We read in

I B



2 The Work of the Prophets

the New Testament of " the law and the pro-
phets," and of " Moses and the prophets." We
confess in the Creed our belief " in the Holy
Ghost who spake by the prophets." How much
do we know about them really ?

Some of the names of these prophets are
familiar to us all. Chapters from the books
which bear their names are read in our churches,
among the Old Testament lessons. Isaiah, for
instance, recalls to most of us the lesson for
Good Friday, or for Christmas Day, and the
Epiphany. The stories of Daniel and of Jonah
have been familiar to us since we were little
children. But these are only three of the pro-
phets. There are sixteen who give their names
to books in the Bible, and perhaps there are not
many of us who could name them all without
difficulty, still less be able to say something about
each one. Who was Habakkuk, for instance, or
Nahum, or Zephaniah ? What was the message
of each to the people of Israel ? Yet the words of
these men, of whom we know so little, who lived
and suffered and spoke for God long centuries



The Prophets before Amos 3

ago, may speak to our hearts now, as truly as
they did to the hearts of those who first heard
them. Sixteen prophets, to whom the Word of
the Lord came ! It will be worth while taking a
little trouble to learn something about each one.
If we study their teaching carefully, we shall find
that it will inspire us to think wisely and act
nobly.

There were many prophets in Israel before
the sixteen who wrote down their teaching in the
books which we possess in the Bible, and these
earlier prophets were also sent by God with a
direct message to the people of Israel. What,
then, is the meaning of the name prophet ?
What distinguishes him from all other men ?

Our English word prophet is taken from a
Greek word, and means one who speaks for God,
who tells God's people what His will for them
is. The Hebrew prophets lived in closer com-
munion with God than other men did. They
were inspired directly by Him, and thus they
came to look at the events of life as He would
have us look at them. This special insight into



4 The Work of the Prophets

the truth and meaning of things prepared them to
be the channels through which God revealed to
men His will and purposes. It is a common
mistake to think that a prophet is merely a fore-
teller one who tells beforehand what is going to
happen in the future. God's prophets very often
did foretell future events ; but this is only natural,
because being taught by God to understand the
meaning of the present, they were also more
likely to know what the future would bring
forth.

It was because they knew that God was
speaking through them, that they were courageous
enough to deliver their message, even when that
message displeased the kings and others who
heard it, and brought the speakers into danger.

It is not until we come down to the time of
Samuel, that we begin the real succession of pro-
phets, who prepared the way for the writing
prophets. You have read about Samuel, and
will remember that he was the chief person in
Israel when the people asked for a king. He
was not called a prophet by the people of his own



The Prophets before Amos 5

time, but was called the Seer, or the Man of
God. The name seer was given to him because
he could see far into the true meaning of things.
He lived closer to God than other men did, so
that he knew things which were hidden from
them. When Saul's father lost his asses, Saul
went to the seer to ask him where they could
be found. We know that from a child Samuel
had learnt to listen to God's voice, and to give
His messages to others. There is one incident
in the lives of Saul and Samuel which shews how
truly Samuel was of the same spirit as the writing
prophets (i Sam. xv. 1-22). On one occasion Saul
was bidden to go out against the Amalekites, and
fight against them, and destroy them and all their
flocks and herds. Saul obeyed part of this com-
mand, but spared the king of the Amalekites, and
all the best of the sheep and oxen. When Samuel
reproved Saul for his disobedience, he answered
that he had kept the best of the animals to sacri-
fice to God. Then Samuel uttered these impres-
sive words : " Hath the Lord as great delight in
burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the



6 The Work of the Prophets

voice of the Lord ? Behold, to obey is better
than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of
rams." When we come to study the books of
the prophets, we shall find the lesson contained
in Samuel's words repeated again and again. The
prophets taught men to know God's will, and to
act in accordance with it. They tried to make
them understand that religious observances are of
no value in themselves, apart from a willing and
obedient life.

Samuel the Seer left no writings behind him,
but the record of his life and of all his dealings
with Saul and David is full of interest. From
his time onwards we hear a great deal about
prophets generally, and the stories of some of
them run side by side with those of the Kings of
Israel. It is in Samuel's lifetime that we first
read of " the schools of the prophets." It has
been thought possible that Samuel himself founded
these schools, of which we read a good deal during
the reign of Saul, and of some of his successors.
But although this is not certain, we find that
Samuel had a great deal to do with these schools,



The Prophets before Amos 7

and helped and encouraged them very much.
They were not schools in our ordinary use of the
word, but were perhaps what we now call guilds.
The members were young men who wished to
devote their lives to God's service in a special
way. They lived under the same roof, were
interested in the same objects, and worked for the
same end. They all helped forward, according as
they were able, the knowledge and remembrance
of God, and did what they could to keep alive in
the hearts of the people the great truths of their
religion. God had brought the nation out of the
bondage of Egypt to live in the land of Canaan,
under His special guidance and control, and all
through their history He sent them messengers to
remind them of His love and purpose for them.
Many of these prophets are not known to us by
name. But others we have read of in connection
with David and the other kings. Nathan^ you
will remember, came to David with a message
from God to reprove him for his great sin ; and
Gad was also sent to him after the numbering of
the people, to tell him that his act had been



8 The Work of the Prophets

displeasing to God. These two did not belong
to the schools of the prophets, but had special
messages to give to the king. From the begin-
ning of the history of the kings, from Saul
onwards, we find that the prophets were sent to
them to rebuke them for their sins, and to remind
them of the righteous God whose laws they were
bound to obey.

There is one story about the prophets which
is not quite easy to understand. It shews us that
not all prophets were equally taught by God, and
that some gave wrong advice to the kings. In
the time of King Ahab, of whom we shall hear
more when we come to the story of Elijah, there
were four hundred prophets of the Lord. Before
going out on an expedition against the Syrians,'
Ahab asked these prophets whether he would be
successful in the battle. They all said that he
would, and encouraged him to go out. But there
was another prophet, called Micaiah, and Ahab
asked his advice also. Now Micaiah must have
been one of those who listened for God's voice
with diligence and devotion, and was not afraid to



The Prophets before Amos 9

speak the truth, even though it might make the
king angry. And he told Ahab bravely that his
army would be defeated, and he himself slain.
This was a true message, and what Micaiah said
came to pass.

We cannot be quite sure whether God allowed
the prophets to be deceived, in order that His
purpose concerning Ahab might be fulfilled. But,
in any case, we are sure that not all who belonged
to the order of prophets lived equally near to
God, and knew as much of His will and ways,
as the few great prophets whose names and lives
are known to us. Some may have joined them-
selves to the prophets in order to get a living, and
not because they felt they had a true commission
from God.

We must say a few words in this introductory
chapter about two more prophets whose stories we
all know well Elijah and Elisha. Elijah suddenly
appears in the Bible history, standing brave and
strong before King Ahab, and predicting that
there would be no rain for years to come. This
does not seem to be like a prophet's usual message,



io The Work of the Prophets

but probably God sent Elijah with this prediction
beforehand, in order that when the drought came
Ahab might believe that Elijah had really been
taught by God what was going to happen.

Elijah's special work was to remind Ahab and
his people of the true and righteous God, who
was watching over Israel. Ahab had married a
heathen princess called Jezebel, whose people
worshipped a false god, Baal, and there was real
danger lest the Israelites should be led away from
their true faith to this idolatrous worship. There
were many prophets of Baal in the land, and
Elijah invited them to meet him on Mount
Carmel, and to offer a sacrifice to Baal, while he
would offer one to the true God. This was done,
and with the result which Elijah expected. Though
they slew their sacrifice, and prayed and cried to
their god for hours, " there was no voice, nor any
that answered." Whereas, when Elijah slew his
bullock, and prayed to the God of Abraham, of
Isaac, and of Israel, God sent down fire, which
consumed the sacrifice, and all the people had to
acknowledge Him as the true God. Besides this



The Prophets before Amos 1 1

great triumph, Elijah was sent to carry God's
message of anger against Ahab for the cruel
murder of Naboth a neighbour of his in humble
life, whose vineyard the king had coveted. The
later prophets repeat again and again God's indig-
nation against such acts of cruelty and treachery
towards the poor and defenceless. Eastern kings
were apt to think nothing of robbing their sub-
jects of property or life ; but God's prophets shew
us how much He cares for the rights of all men,
and that those in high position and authority
ought to be not only just but generous to those
in a more lowly station. Elijah tells Ahab that
because of this unrighteous act God will take the
throne from him ; and though, in consequence of
Ahab's humbling himself in penitence, he is
allowed to be king till the end of his life, his
idolatrous wife comes to a cruel death, and his
sons do not long possess the kingdom.

We have not time to dwell on the many
beautiful stories told us of Elijah, but there is one
incident which we must not pass over quite un-
noticed. After his triumph on Mount Carmel,



12 The Work of the Prophets

Elijah had a time of great sadness and depres-
sion. He thought that his life and his eager
devotion to the Lord of Hosts were all in vain ;
that the people would not own and serve their
true God. And then the Lord gave him an
experience which was like a parable in action.
He was alone with God in a cave in Mount
Horeb : " And, behold, the Lord passed by, and
a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and
brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord ; but
the Lord was not in the wind : and after the wind
an earthquake ; but the Lord was not in the
earthquake : and after the earthquake a fire ; but
the Lord was not in the fire : and after the fire
a still small voice" (i Kings xix. n, 12). After
this, God spoke with Elijah and encouraged him.
The lesson He wanted to impress upon His
servant seems to be the same which came to the
prophet Zechariah centuries later : " Not by
might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the
Lord of Hosts " (Zech. iv. 6). Elijah was to
learn that it is not only, or even chiefly, by
manifestations of power, such as the fire on



The Prophets before Amos 1 3

Mount Carmel, that God works. The still, small
voice of His Spirit speaks home to men's hearts,
and wins their allegiance.

Elijah's life was not lived much in towns, or
in the company of other people. He appeared
suddenly when he was wanted, and disappeared
again as suddenly into the wilderness, or among
the rocks and caves of the mountains. He was
known to " the sons of the prophets," but we do
not read that he had very much to do with them.
His end was as mysterious and unusual as his
life had been. He was taken up to heaven by a
whirlwind in sight of one faithful disciple only.
That disciple was Elisha, whom God had bidden
Elijah to anoint to be prophet in his place.
Elisha had responded to the call, and had fol-
lowed Elijah, and " ministered unto him." And
now, when the greater prophet was gone, Elisha
was to take up his work in Israel, and bear
witness to God's governance of the people.

Elijah had left his mantle to Elisha, as an out-
ward and visible sign that he was to inherit his
spirit, and carry on his work. Many miracles



14 The Work of the Prophets

are recorded as being wrought by Elisha. He
was a great deal with " the sons of the prophets,"
as their head and teacher, and he had much to do
with the kings of Israel, and with the active life
of the nation. Two of the most beautiful of the
stories about Elisha are the raising of the Shunam-
mite's son and the healing of Naaman, the Syrian
captain, from his leprosy. When Elisha lay
dying, after a long life spent in the service of God
and His people, Joash the King of Israel came to
his bedside, and mourned over him, calling him
" my father, my father, the chariot of Israel and
the horsemen thereof." It was as if the protector
of the kingdom, who represented the unseen
Ruler of that as of all kingdoms, was to be taken
away.

Among the later prophets, whose writings we
are going to consider, we do not find many who
lived so near to the life of the kings and nation
as Elisha did. It often seems as if their
message came from outside the ordinary life of
the people a solemn word of warning or en-
couragement, uttered by a prophet of whose



The Prophets before Amos 15

personal life we know little or nothing. But we
must never forget how much the later prophets
owed to those who had been before them, and
had kept alive in the hearts of the people the
knowledge of their unseen God. God was teach-
ing the people gradually to understand that He
was not one among many gods, but the one
supreme Head and Ruler of the world. All that
Samuel and Nathan, and the sons of the prophets,
and Elijah and Elisha had taught, was God's pre-
paration for Amos and his successors, who had
deeper and wider truths to impart.



CHAPTER II

AMOS THE HERDSMAN

BETWEEN forty and fifty years had passed since
the death of Elisha, the last of the older order of
prophets, when Amos, the first of the new order,
appears in Israel. A great deal had happened
during that time. Joash, the king, had died, and
his son, Jeroboam II., had been the most successful
and prosperous king who had ruled over Israel since
the division of the nation into the two kingdoms
of Israel and Judah, after the death of Solomon.

When we study the history of the northern
kingdom, from Rehoboam to Joash, we read of
constant wars against the nations around, and
especially against Syria. But by the time of
Amos these wars were almost at an end. A
great power had come from the east, the

16



1 8 The Work of the Prophets

Assyrian army, and had defeated Syria so com-
pletely that Jeroboam had no more trouble from
that quarter. And he had been successful in his
wars, and had recovered the lands that had been
taken from him, and his kingdom was now larger
in extent than it had been since the days of
Solomon. With the settled peace had come
greater riches to the upper classes of society,
and greater comfort and luxury in their homes.
And alas ! as some of the people grew richer,
others grew poorer, as seems always the case,
unless those who have the wealth and enjoyment
are unselfish and considerate for their poorer neigh-
bours. There was more leisure for reading and
writing now, and it is probable that at this time
many of the old records were collected together to
form hereafter the earlier books of our Bible.

The people thought a great deal about their
God, and were very grateful to Him for having
given them victory over their enemies. They felt
proud to read and recall the history of the past,
when God had shewn such special favour to the
children of Israel, in bringing them out of captivity,



Amos the Herdsman 19

and establishing them in the Promised Land. They
were very constant in worship, and in offering
sacrifices, and no doubt felt they were most
religious, and that God was much pleased with
them, so that their kingdom would go on prosper-
ing. But a great surprise was in store for them.
They were to learn that much of their life and
conduct was very displeasing to God, that their
religious worship gave Him no satisfaction, and
that there were severe punishments in store for
them. Who was to bring this unexpected message
of warning and judgment ? From what we have
already read you will not be surprised to learn
that it was a prophet, and from what we are now
going to read it seems as if his voice was uplifted
almost as suddenly and unexpectedly as that of
Elijah before Ahab.

We hear nothing of Amos in the Books of
the Kings. All we know of him is from his own
book, and this prophetic writing tells us much more
about the state of things in Israel at this time,
than we can find anywhere else.

The date is about 760 B.C., and takes us a



2O The Work of the Prophets

long way back in the history of the world. Rome
was not yet founded, and the principal Greek
states, Athens and Sparta, were only gradually
forming their laws, and preparing the way for the
great part they were to play during the next few
centuries.

What was Amos, and how had his previous
life prepared him to be the prophet of righteous-
ness and of judgment to the people of Israel ? He
was not trained in any school of the prophets, and
probably he had no idea during his earlier years
that his life was to be different from that of any of
his fellows. He was a countryman, who followed
the flock and gathered sycomore fruit in the open
air, among all the sights and sounds and occu-
pations of the country. His book is full of
references to farming and other country pursuits.
He speaks of threshing and ploughing, of a cart
full of sheaves, of gardens and vineyards, of fig
trees and olive trees, of locusts devouring the
grass of the latter growth, of corn being sifted in
a sieve. He has watched the stars by night, and
seen the "deep darkness" give waybefore the dawn.



Amos the Herdsman 21

He has lived at the edge of the desert, and
knows the dangers that lions may be to the flocks
and herds. He is familiar with the roar which
proclaims that some creature has fallen a victim to
the king of beasts. And as he followed the flock,
" the Lord took him," and filled his mind with
great thoughts, and shewed him that it was to be
his mission to go and prophesy to the people of
Israel.

Amos did not live in the northern kingdom,
but at Tekoa, in the kingdom of Judah. But the
greater part of his message was to Israel, to the
people who were living in ease and luxury under
their victorious monarch. Though Amos had lived
and worked in the country as we have seen, he
must have known about the life of towns too ;
probably his business may have taken him to
different places in the land. He certainly tells
us about winter houses and summer houses, houses
of ivory and of hewn stone ; of people reclining
upon beds of ivory, of idle feasting and drinking,
of music and song. These passages give us a
picture of how those rich people passed their days,



22 The Work of the Prophets

who had plenty of money for their own enjoy-
ments, and no thought or care for the poor and
suffering.

He knows, too, how punctually and carefully
the people attend to their religious duties, burnt
offerings and meal offerings, solemn assemblies,
and feasts with songs and viols. The great
sanctuary at Bethel was the religious centre of
the kingdom. Bethel, where Jacob had seen his
vision of angels ascending and descending, had
been a place for worship ever since the times of
the Judges, when the Ark was kept there. Now,
under Jeroboam II., it was the scene of many feasts
and sacrifices, and the Israelites seem to have
assembled there in the same way as the Judaeans
went up to the Temple at Jerusalem. But the


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Online LibraryRose E SelfeThe Work of the prophets → online text (page 1 of 10)