To get a good idea of being a Prophet or what a Prophet is we must look at many sources. This means we must look at the events that happened in the Bible and make conclusions about each event or section. Were Samuel and Moses Prophets? Did they receive messages from God, or was it their imagination? We will hope to discover this in looking closer at all of their lives.
What is a Prophet? Among the Hebrews a Prophet is called a navi. This means orator and interpreter. Therefore, a Prophet is someone whom interprets God. How does a Prophet know he/she is a Prophet? God gives us a very good story in Moses’ life of a definition of a Prophet. God found out that Aaron and Miriam were speaking badly of Moses, so the Bible tells us that God commanded that they come out of the tent in which they were meeting. God then proceeds to explain what a Prophet is. Miriam and Aaron had actually doubted that Moses was a Prophet. This did not seem to please God. Numbers 12:2 reads, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” and the Lord heard this.”(NIV) Miriam and Aaron were complaining in this passage. God was angry when He learned this. This is why He told them the definition of a Prophet.
Miriam and Aaron stood outside the tent along side of Moses. God summoned for Miriam and Aaron. It then says that He tells them what a Prophet is. This is the first time in the Bible that God actually tells us the guidelines of prophecy. The definition of this is found in Numbers 12:6-8. It reads:
“He said listen to my words: When the Prophet of the Lord is among you. I reveal
Myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why when you were not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (NIV)
The definition of a Prophet is given here. A man by the name of Benedict Spinoza, would argue that when Prophets see God in visions, they are only imaging these visions. He claims that Prophets such as Samuel heard an imaginary voice. He says,
” …The Prophets perceived what has been revealed of God only by the work of imagination.”(p.23) He is very harsh in his perceptions of Samuel and is soft on Moses. He feels Moses was a Prophet because he talked to God face to face, however he is still baffled by why Moses only saw God’s back side? He writes this, ” Moses did not happen to see anything except God’s backside. Therefore, I do not doubt there is some mystery hidden here…”(p.14) This shows that Spinoza is curious and doubts Moses and his talks with God. He says that Moses is a Prophet and is one of the only Prophets in the whole Old Testament. He seems to be a bit weary though in his firm standings with Moses. Abraham Heschel points out to us that Moses did not feel the same way the Prophets did when they had Prophetic dreams he tells us this, “The Prophets when they had the Prophetic experience, their limbs trembled, their physical strength weakened, thoughts became confused, and there minds were left free.”(Heschel 27)
This tells us what the Prophets would experience when God visited them. Of course, Heschel then tells us that Moses was different. He tells us this “Moses heard the voice and would stand on his feet…the rest of the Prophets would fall on their faces and would tremble.”(Heschel 28) I judge that it teaches us a few things. The first thing that it teaches us is that Moses is a man whom is very important. The second thing I feel it teaches is that there is no doubt that Moses is a Prophet.
Samuel is a boy when God first appears to him. In fact, it is almost embarrassing that Samuel does not realize it is God speaking to him, however, he is lying down and God does appear to him. Spinoza claims that the voice Samuel hears is that of Eli’s. Samuel is not a Prophet the first time he hears the Lord, however, he does become a Prophet. Everything he told his brother Eli, was a true vision. I cannot see that Samuel was imagining any vision he had with the Lord. It is even said in the Bible in 1 Samuel 3:19,”The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up and he let none of his words fall to the ground”.(NIV) This shows that the Lord talked to Samuel in other dreams and visions all through his life. This is just as God told us in Numbers 12. This one instance cannot be called imaginary for two reasons.
Number one is that Samuel is told that God will carry out against Eli. He is told that Eli will pay for the retribution that his sons had carried out, and his failure to restrain them. This does not sound like something Eli would wish upon himself. It also becomes true. Eli’s neck becomes broken, when the ark of God was captured by the Philistines. All of Samuels’s vision’s become true this is a reason to believe.
Number two is that the Bible specifically tells us that Samuel is a Prophet. The Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 3:20, “…Samuel was attested as a Prophet”(NIV) Much of our theories and our judgments must come from the textual finds and the interpretations throughout texts. A lot of the evidence must come from our own belief and when we feel these beliefs happened. Prophecy is a very hard matter to pinpoint, however, I judge that I will stick with the Bible on this matter.
Were they Prophets? This is a very big piece to our puzzle we can prove that they are above Imaginary claims, it easy to see the true teachings of Moses. Were Moses and Samuel Prophets? We have taken a deeper look into their lives to tell. Moses was different and a more interactive person with God. God visited Samuel all his life. Moses is one of the only people who sees God in the Old Testament. Samuel hears the Lord and is told of future things to happen. God tells us in Numbers that Moses sees him in his form and that Moses is talked to by God face to face. This passage teaches us that Moses is in a category of Prophetic definition. This proves Spinoza and his theory wrong. Moses was actually a Prophet and God even tells us this. This means that Samuel and Moses were Prophets according to God’s definition. I feel this is a good enough definition to go on because they were visited in dreams, and the things they preached and talked about came true.
Heschel, Abraham J. Prophetic Inspiration After the Prophets. Hoboken, NJ:
Ktav Publishing House Inc, 1996
Spinoza, Baruch. Theological-Political Treatise. Translated by Martin D. Yaffe. Pre-publication draft. 1998