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PART I

CHAPTER I

WHAT IS A PROPHET?

נביא ,NABI

I. ETYMOLOGY AND MEANING OF THE WORD PROPHET,

, The etymology of the Hebrew word Nabi (8'23) presents many difficulties to scholars. According to Land, nabi (**) comes from the word bô (XI) "to enter,' “to walk in ”; nabi is the participle passive and is “ thus the object of an entrance; one into whom some one or something enters; here, of course, the life-giving breath of the Deity. He is thus an ένθεος, an « ενθουσιάζων ώσπερ οι θεομάντεις.»

Such a derivation seems to me very forced and unnatural. Kuenen? well points out among other reasons for not accepting this derivation that some subject as Rûah (7117) Spirit,” Breath,” should in that case have been expressed, for that is, after all, the important part of the idea, and it is, therefore, inconceivable that the Hebrews should have called a person possessed by the divine spirit simply “one who had been entered, " without stating what entered.

While it must be granted that the nun (3) in Hebrew words may sometimes be prosthenic as in nazîd from zûd (773 from 7), nabab perhaps from bûb (22) from 312), etc., it seems exceedingly improbable that nabi be

Kuenen: “The Religion of Israel to the Fall of the Jewish State," London, 1882, Vol. I, p. 214.

2 Ib.

(הראה) was aforetime called a Seer (נביא) nabi

derived from the biliteral root bô (X2) because, aside from morphological difficulties, the underlying thought of the nabi, both in the earliest and latest activity, is quite different from any idea contained in the root bô. This is furthermore borne out by the fact that nebûâ (?), the abstract noun, is regularly formed from a triliteral stem naba, (x2)), as are also the Niphal and Hithpael, and not from a biliteral bô (x2).

Most scholars agree that the word nabi is not of Hebrew origin, but has been borrowed from older Semitic tongues. This is evident, too, from what we know of the history of the word. In a very important parenthetic note in I. Sam. 9: 9 we read: “Before time in Israel when a man went to inquire of God, thus he said: “ Come, let us go to the Seer (1987), for he that is now called a

() a () Roch was, as we see, the older Hebrew word, while nabi, the later, the foreign word.

Nabi (492) comes from the root naba (833) which means originally to cause to bubble forth," hence to pour forth (words) abundantly as is done by those inspired, especially is the word inspired here used in the primitive sense of madness, frenzy, raving, ecstasy, and utterances in a state of unconsciousness as in trance. The root naba (vas) still occurs frequently in this sense of bubbling up, or gushing forth, and is evidently the same word as naba' (x2)) with a softening of the ayin

, . Examples: Prov. 18: 4, a gushing or bubbling

Prov. 1: 24, “I will pour out upon you my spirit.” Ps. 59: 8, “They belch forth with their mouth.” Prov. 15: 2, "The mouth of fools poureth forth foolishness." Prov. 15: 28, “ The mouth of the wicked poureth forth evil things."

It is this primitive form of prophecy, in which mad

.נבא into נבע ,into aliph

stream.”

ness, frenzy, raving, and other forms of excited emotional activity played an important part, that Israel met in the Canaanitish civilization and imported into his own national life. In fact all primitive peoples considered these abnormal, pathological phenomena of the soul-life as signs of prophetic and divine activity, and as most of these phenomena are accompanied by the gushing or bubbling forth of words, often even while the agent is unconscious, the utterances were taken as inspired by some deity. With the introduction of the prophetic phenomena Israel also introduced the words by which the person and his utterances were designated, nabi and nebûa (x2, 18133). ? There is no question in my mind but that this gushing forth of words as of one mad and raving is one of the principal ideas underlying the profession of Nabi in its primitive form.

It is the same idea as that expressed by the Greek μάντις from μαίνομαι to rage,” “be furious," " rave with anger,'

be mad with wine," especially in Bacchic frenzy. The Latins expressed this idea by “ furor” a word more akin to our English fury and madness, and yet one used in the identical sense of gushing forth or bubbling up with inspired utterances through madness, rage, or any high mental excitement: "negat sine furore Democritus poetam magnum esse

”_ Cic. The Hebrew literature, too, is not wanting in material to show that this idea of the prophet's func

Spencer: “Principles of Sociology,” Vol. I, p. 226 ff.

Some believe, indeed, that the other Semitic languages took the word nabi from the Hebrew, but that is very implausible as we saw from the historic evidence in I Sam. 9: 9. Thus W. R. Smith in the “Prophets of Israel,” p. 390, “It is hardly likely that the word is older than the settlement of the Hebrews in Canaan.”

So also Smend: “Lehrbuch der Alttest. Religionsgeschichte," p. 81. “Das Wort nabi ( X'23 ) hat keine Hebraeische Etymologie. Nebiim hatte auch der phonicische Baal (I Reg. 18: 19, 20, 25, 40. II Reg. 3: 13; 10: 19) und ebenso die Goetter der uebrigen Nachbarn Israels.”

Cf. also Kuenen (Vol. I, p. 212) who believes the Arabic language borrowed the word from the Hebrew.

or

posse ”—Cic.

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