Last week, we commenced this explosive topic. In the name of predictions, many Nigerian prophets and imams have become merchantilistic, trading prophesies for money and material wealth. The deeper the pocket of the “mugu” victim who seeks to know his future, the more glowing and flattering the prophesies are.
This was, however, not the biblical and quranic context in which prophets were viewed. In the Bible, true prophets revealed God’s messages to the people. A prophet like Moses heard directly from God. He then relayed the messages, either in writing, or through speech, to the people. For some other prophets like David and Joseph, their specialty was to interpret the visions and/or dreams of others. The coded messages could deal with direct messages to the recipient. It could be warnings to others about certain actions and situations. It could be about the bowels of unknown future, of impending catastrophe, of repentance, of abandonment of sins, etc. However, the life of these prophets was never an easy one.
So many were the travails of the prophets of yore that in Acts 7:52, the people were asked: “which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which shewed before the coming of the just one; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers”.
In Luke 13:34, there was the lamentation, “Jerusalem! Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing”. Jesus Christ, our redeemer, actually said in Mark 6:4, “a prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home”. Indeed, the Bible recorded in 1Thessalonians 2:15, “those who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone”. Many prophets were martyred in the course of their work.
How some prophets were martyred or killed
Isaiah was a prophet of God who also married a prophetess. He is said to have suffered and died for our sins (Isaiah 52:13; 53:12). The manner of his death is not too clear, but the Talmud (Jevamot 49b) records that he suffered martyrdom by being sawn into two with a wooden saw, under orders of Manasseh, the son of Ezekiel.
Jeremiah, having escaped death many times was later stoned to death by “his people” at Taphnai in Egypt and buried “in honour” in pharaoh’s palace, because his prayers had delivered the Egyptians from poisonous snakes and plagues. He is said to have prophesied the birth of Jesus Christ by a virgin, in a manger.
Elijah, the fiery prophet from the family of Aaron, was said to have been taken into Heaven in a chariot. Elijah’s pupil, Elisha, of the tribe of Reuben, had his birth heralded with “a mighty prophet is born today in Israel at this time, and he will break the images and idols into pieces”. He was said to have died in peace and was buried in Samaria.
Prophet Ezekiel is recorded to have died in Babylonia where “the leader of the Israelite exiles” killed him after being reproved for worshipping idols. Another version says Ezekiel was killed by an unidentified member of the tribe of Dan or Gad, who had blamed him for cursing their tribe and flocks.
Jonah had prophesied to the Ninevites. He feared the reproach of the Jews because his prophesies did not come to pass. This prophet who prophesied that the cities of the Jews would be overturned when the Messiah should come, died in Serida two years later and was buried in the cave of Kainan.
Daniel was a prophet regarded as a “chaste man” because he was apparently unmarried. The Jews of his time believed he was a eunuch. He is said to have died of natural causes and got buried in the royal tombs of Babylon with full honours.
Micah, the Morashithite, of the tribe of Ephraim, was said to have been slain by Joram, the son of King Ahab. He was said to have prophesied the destruction of the temple of the Jews and the abrogation of the Passover on the death of the Messiah.
Habakkuk, who had prophesied about the Messiah coming to abrogate the Jewish laws, and who brought food to Daniel through divine agency, was stoned to death in Jerusalem by the Jews.
Prophet Zachariah, from Jerusalem, was slain by King Josh, who sprinkled his blood upon the horns of the altar, and was buried by the priests.
Prophet Amos was tortured severally by Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, against whom he had prophesied. He was mortally wounded with a club by Amaziah’s son. He still made his way back to his own district of Tekoa, where he eventually died.
Joad (1Kings 13) was attacked and killed by a lion after he rebuked Jeroboam concerning an unauthorised altar at Bethel.
The three greatest Judean prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, were all massacred by their rulers or people, because of their prophetic activities. It was thus not an easy time or task for the old prophets who risked even their lives to do the work of God.
Compare this with modern-day “prophets” who use religion as an “opium of the masses” (apologies, Karl Marx) and blackmail their hypnotised followers to pay tithes, tithes and more tithes. “The more you sow your seeds, the more you reap”, they dance and wriggle at the raised podium of God, usually made of expensive marble or granite. They, thereafter, smile to the bank with tons of “offerings”. It does not matter that many of the offerors trek to their homes, or hike “Keke Marwa”, or “okada”. The result of this exploitation in the house of God soon manifests in the ugly and vulgal acquisition of material wealth, private jets, personal universities, housing empires, etc.
True and genuine prophets of God
Just as there are bad and fake prophets, there are also recorded, true and genuine prophets of God who worked day and night to bring about fulfillment of God’s immortal and eternal word.
1. Obadiah was a character in 1 Kings: he was in charge of King Ahab’s palace. In 1 Kings 18:4, we are told how Obadiah hid 100 prophets in two caves (50 in each), to protect them from Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, perhaps the most wicked and vindictive woman in the Bible.
2. Noah: Noah could be regarded as a prophet because God spoke to him directly about the future and he possibly preached judgement against others. Genesis 7:1-4; 8:16-17, 21-22; and 9:1. There is a record of 16 times that God spoke to Noah directly. Noah built the Ark that served as the vessel in the Genesis flood narrative that helped to spare the lives of Noah, his family and species of all animals, from the great flood.
3. Abraham: The Bible records how God spoke to Abraham several times. Although most of their conversations were laden with clear instructions, God also gave Abraham glimpses of the future. As a matter of fact, in His first encounter with Abraham, God told Abram to leave his country and travel to a new place (Genesis 12:1). He then went straight into a blessing that doubled as a great prophecy of the future. This is recorded in Genesis 12:2–39.
4. Jacob: Genesis 28:10–22, recorded that Jacob had his dream of the stairway to heaven and a reiteration of God’s promise to his father Abraham. In Genesis 49, we saw Jacob giving an accurate prophecy of the future of his sons’ descendants.
5. Joseph: Genesis 37:3-11, related two dreams Joseph had. These were prophecies that he would one day rule over his brothers and parents. His dreams so greatly enraged his brothers that they conspired together and sold him into slavery. This punitive step eventually led Joseph to such a high political position of prime minster that they had to beg him for food, thus fulfilling his dream. Before Joseph reached that position, however, he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker (Genesis 40) and then Pharaoh’s own dream (Genesis 41:1-40). Sure, Joseph was destined by God for greatness.
6. Moses: Moses is discussed throughout in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, where God’s messages are relayed to and through Moses. These messages started from Exodus 3 when God called Moses from the burning bush to return to Egypt, to deliver, judgment against wicked Pharaoh and rescue suffering Israelites. Moses’ prophecies include both rebuke against the Israelites and predictions of the future. It is recorded that God spoke more to Moses than any other prophet in the Bible.
7. Aaron: Moses complained that he was not a great public speaker. God in answer, made his brother, Aaron, Moses’ mouthpiece. In Exodus 7:1-7, Aaron we saw begin his prophetic career as God’s own true prophet. He rebuked, admonished and gave serious warnings to many people about certain occurrences.
8. Samuel: As a very little boy, Samuel, who spent his entire life as God’s messenger, received his first message from God in 1 Samuel 3:4. His two most significant acts were the anointing of Saul (1 Samuel 9) and David (1 Samuel 1:13), to be king of Israel. Samuel’s words of God’s wisdom to Saul, however, went mostly unheeded. Samuel was forced to return even from the grave to announce God’s punishment for Saul because of his disobedience (1 Samuel 28:15-19).
9. Joshua: After the death of Moses, the mantle of leadership fell upon Joshua, who took command of the Israelites’ tortuous journey into the Promised Land. In Joshua 1:1-9, God specifically gave him encouragement for the hard task that lay ahead of him. God promised Joshua success, but with a strong warning to ensure he obeyed the laws God had given Moses. (To be continued).
Thought for the week
“Some people think that the truth can be hidden with a little cover-up and decoration. But as time goes by, what is true is revealed, and what is fake fades away.” (Ismail Haniyeh).