JEREMIAH 44


4 Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.

The spirit of divine compassion was the moving spring of the ministry of the prophets, as we learn from the statement at the close of their history:

" The Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers . . . because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place " (2 Chron. xxxvi. 15).

The practical effect of the Elijah-Elisha work is visible in the almost over-weening regard

in which Elijah is held among the Jews to the present day ; and in another form, may be traced in the racial faithfulness to the law of Moses among those masses of Jewish population who are the undoubted descendants of the ten tribes in Russia, Poland, Roumania, Austria, and Germany.

Such a thing as an idolatrous Jew is rarely to be found in the land of their captivity, though they were so prone to idolatry when they lived in their own land.

After the death of Elisha, it would seem as if the prophetic institution had gradually faded away. We read no more of the sons of the prophets" during the hundred years or so that elapsed from the death of Elisha to the captivity of the ten tribes (B.C. 724). We read only of one or two individual prophets who stand forth for a moment in the gathering darkness like solitary twinkling stars in the advancing night: such as the mention of JONAH, son of Amittai, as a prophet whose word was fulfilled in a temporary restoration of Israel's coasts under Jeroboam II. ; and in the indication that the written prophecies of HOSEA and AMOS covered the reigns of one or two of the last of the ten-tribe kings (Hosea i. 1 ; Amos i. 1).

There is a greater activity of the prophetic function, and less of the miraculous element, in the reigns of the kingdom of Judah. May we suppose that this was because of the greater faithfulness of Judah. Miracles are

" a sign to unbelievers,"

to use Paul's expression ; they are intended to create faith. Where faith already exists, they are superfluous. So with regard to the activity of prophecy. Paul in the same connection observes that prophecy is for the edification and comfort of them that believe. Judah,

nationally speaking, was of this class, though with periods of lapse, consequently, prophesying was more common among them than among the ten tribes, while the sons of the prophets as a wonder working institution was more common among the latter.

Most of the books of the prophets were produced in connection with the

kingdom of Judah-a fact which may have its explanation in the suggestion just made-which is greatly strengthened by the fact that the Lord Jesus sprang out of that kingdom.

The prophets that appeared in Judah, after the revolt of the ten tribes, were twenty-two in number, and twenty-five if Hosea, Amos, and Jonah be included. The reason for doubting the propriety of their inclusion is that though, their prophecies related to affairs of

Judah, they themselves may have appeared in Israel or the ten tribes, as they treat of the affairs of the ten tribes.

Of the whole number, sixteen wrote books which have been preserved, namely, those whose names appear in the compilation of Scripture. Some whose names are not on the list of the twenty-five, wrote books which have not been preserved, viz.: NATHAN the prophet, GAD the seer (1 Chron. xxix. 29), AHIJAH the Shilonite and IDDO the seer (1 Chron. ix. 29),

Shemaiah (2 Chron. xii. 15).

Some have felt concerned at the absence of these books so referred to in Scripture. There is no need for concern. The books that have been preserved, viz., the "all Scripture" of Paul's declaration to Timothy (2 Tim. iii. 15) are affirmed, on the authority of the Spirit

of God, to be sufficient for the making of men "wise unto salvation.'

If the others had been necessary for their sufficiency in this respect, they would have been preserved. Curiosity might wish to know their contents, but as products of inspiration, the deepest study must have failed to discover in them anything inconsistent with the same

inspiration in the other books. It is barely possible they may have contained the casual quotation or two that occur in the New Testament from the Old Testament Scriptures for which nothing corresponding can be found in our present compilation.

At all events, the loss is inconsiderable in a spiritual sense. Godly men find the

Scriptures as they are, all-sufficient for conviction, enlightenment, holiness, comfort, and salvation.

Ministry of the prophets Ch 3