In looking at today’s readings, I thought I would begin by researching the two people that are mentioned by name in the first reading NM11:25-29.They are the two prophets not officially sanctified as prophets by Moses, but who stayed at the camp and prophesized anyway. I wondered what the significance of these two was since their account mirrors those that prophesize in Christs name (properly, they cast out demons) but who are not members of that community. Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48The link between the two groups is obvious. To understand Old Testament Eldad and Medad I thought I would step outside my own camp and consult the Rabbi’s. Certainly they can offer some insight.
The Rabbi Rashi describes the naming of the prophets as being drawn by lots, the names were first written down and then the required number drawn. Seventy names were drawn for twelve tribes and this gives six per tribe for ten tribes, and five for two tribes. There then is a problem, no tribe is going to willingly be shortchanged. Note, the reading is from the Book of Numbers. Rashi provides the solution that could have taken place. In that solution 72 entries were created; seventy of which read elder (aka prophet) and two which read “G-d does not want you.” Eldad and Medad’s non participation is then deduced from that scenario. Rabbi’s always offer several solutions. The first is they simply feared rejection and failure. The second is they felt they were not worthy of the honor or “greatness.” In other words, they were humble. Note also that the seventy chosen held a formal position.
While the two reasons are simple enough, fear and humility; the Rabbi’s explanation relates the event to Moshe and the burning bush. “Moshe hid his face because he was afraid to look at G-d. ” There then is the fear of the prophets. Rabbi’s though argue a lot. I do mean a lot! One Rabbi argues that Moshe was wrong in shielding his face, and when Moses later asks G-d to show His face, G-d refuses. That is the argument of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korsha.
Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani presents a counter argument. He argues Moses acted properly and was rewarded with a radiant face as he descends mount Saini. Fear and humility then are both important, as is the response of Moses. “Would that all the people are prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all. Perhaps all should listen to the Word of G-d, and put their egos aside? As a side note, Jesus often argued with the Pharisees and the Pharisee’s are the precursors to modern Judaism . The Pharisees argued with Jesus, and the Pharisee’s argued amongst themselves much the way these two Rabbi’s presented their arguments. Its cultural. They are arguments to reach a truth.
The argument then can change to who reveals the Word of G-d to us? Eldad and Medad emphasize a contrast, official prophets versus the unofficial.Do we get to pick who they are, or is that Word revealed to us through them? Might it be a little of both, life is never simple! So many climb to the top so that they can tell us G-ds message. Is Prophet a position that is campaigned for? They declare themselves G-d’s prophets, truthful or not. G-d reveals that message to us through the people He chooses. That is different from us choosing people to deliver a message we want to hear. Prophets reveal G-d’s message to us, they do not place our demands on G-D. A kingdom is not a democracy. It’s the message that gains importance, not the messenger. I sincerely hope I did not mangle the Rabbi’s arguments too much.
Back to the prophets, who was the last Christian prophet? The last prophet mentioned in the Christian bible is John the Baptist. When Jesus asks His disciples who do you think I am, they respond others think him the prophet. When pressed for their own opinion, He is the messiah, the anointed, the Son of God. (This is my camp.) In Christianity one does not turn to a prophet for the Word of God, they turn to the Word made man. They turn to the Body of Christ. The mystical body of Christ is His Church.
This week there has been a lot of air time devoted to that message of G-d. The pope has visited the USA! There is the message of the pope, and then there is the message of the press. Democrats, Republicans, Liberal, Conservative, Traditional. There have been a lot of messages delivered this week. The pope declared his message of Christ, and the news media offered their opinion, analysis, and their spin. Somehow thinking about the prophets was especially important this week. The populist prophets have been talking twenty four seven, and it is a good time to abandon camp for a little peace and quiet.