The Prophets Samuel and Elijah as Preachers

Continuing on in Old’s book, we come to an interesting distinction he notes from Roland de Vaux. This distinction is that “priests were concerned with the interpretation and application of the Word of God as it was revealed in the law of Moses, while the prophets were concerned with proclaiming the Word of God as God revealed that Word directly to the prophet” (p. 41). Undoubtedly, this is a bit simplistic, as there were preachers who also proclaimed a new word from the Lord. Ezra was one of these. However, the distinction is still helpful, as long as it is remembered that the preaching of the Word of God IS the Word of God (while it is faithful to the Word of God, of course).

What motivated prophets to say “Thus saith the Lord?” Old says that “It was not that they were so convinced of the truth of their interpretation of current events and so impassioned by the moral imperatives of what they thought ought to be done that they were willing to call their view the word of God in order to get people to listen. As they understood it, God had given them His Word” (p. 42).

Old asks the question what Samuel was doing in Shiloh with old Eli (p. 44). The answer was almost certainly that he (probably along with other boys) were “being taught the sacred traditions, both the written and the oral ones” (p. 44). In terms of the distinction noted above, Samuel also constitutes something of a crossover, since he combined both priestly and prophetic duties in one person. Given the fact that he was a judge, he also had a somewhat kingly function as well. Von Rad points comes to the conclusion that Samuel can best be regard as a preacher of the Law (Old Testament Theology, 2:7, referenced on p. 44 of Old).

When it comes to Elijah, he must be vigorously contrasted with the ecstatic Canaanite prophets (pp. 45-46). Elijah was something “much more profound.” Elijah mediated the Law to the people, especially in terms of the first and second commandments, as the incident on Mt. Carmel indicates. Both of these two prophets understood the necessity of preaching the Law of God to the people of God.


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