The Prophet

Prophet inherits misfortunes, says Paul Ricoeur. What misfortunes? Perhaps, the weight of God’s demands. Ezekiel inherited God’s delusions, Jeremiah inherited His monotonous murmurings, Jonah suffered God’s belatedness. For Ricoeur prophet is a figure of exception and transformation. Exception prevents him from becoming like others, he must stand aloof. But only exceptional people are capable of transforming himself and others. Ricoeur observes again, “prophecy consists in deciphering future history by giving it in advance a meaning relative to the ethical life of the people.”
Maurice Blanchot develops some ideas of the prophet which have far reaching resonances. According to Blanchot prophecy is not just a future language, more than discovering certain events to come, prophecy digs deep into the relation of language to the time. What language understands is that it can announce only an impossible future, “because it announces it, something impossible, a future one would not know how to live and that must upset all the sure of given existence.” Prophet doesn’t install a future, rather it takes away the present, “and with it any possibility of firm, stable. lasting presence.” Even the eternity is removed from the present. The Eternal says,”I am not your God.” Then the prophet presents us with the desert. His speech also becomes desert-like, “this voice that needs the desert to cry out and that endlessly awakens in us the terror, and memory of the desert.”
Prophetic speech seeks desert because it is the wandering speech opposing all stillness, all settling, any taking root that would be rest. In rest people become possessors, dwellers, and masters of empty space, so there would always among them, “a remnant that possessed nothing, that was the desert itself, that place without the peace where alone the Covenant can be concluded and to which one must always turn as to that moment of nakedness and separation that is at the origin of true existence.”
The ultimate catastrophe of prophetic speech is that God himself become impossible, God himself is negative, “for you are not my people and I am not God for you.” But the prophetic speech which tells the impossible future also introduces the ‘nonetheless’ that breaks the impossible and restores time. “Indeed I will hand over this city and this country to the hands of the Chaldeans, they will enter it, they will set it on fire. and reduce it to ashes, and nevertheless, I will bring back the inhabitants of this city and this country from all the countries where I have exiled them. They will be my people the and I will be their God.” So, the impossible would become possible for the people who are stripped of their power and separated from the possible (the widow and the orphan)
Andre Neher speaks about the most persistent traits of prophetic existence: scandal and argument. “No Peace,” says, God. This ‘No Peace’ is in contrast to the priesthood which offers consolations and solaces. Priesthood can function only within available time and space. Prophetic speech which gets over time and space becomes scandalous. Prophet himself is scandalous. He becomes the other. ‘’Jeremiah, gentle and sentimental must become a pillar of fire, a rampart of bronze, for he will have to condemn and destroy all that he loves. Isaiah, decent​ and respectable must strip off his clothes; for three years he walked naked. Ezekiel, the scrupulous priest who was never lacking in purity, feeds himself on food cooked in excrement and soils his body. To Hosea God says “marry a woman from whoredom, let her give you prostitute’s children, for the country is prostituting itself.” Prophetic speech is dangerous. it is not his heart that speaks but his fiery tongue. While false prophets amuse the real Prophets threaten, “prophetic speech imposes itself from Outside, it is the Outside itself, the weight and suffering of the Outside.”
Andre Neher points out the refusal that accompanies the calling. Moses: “Send whomever you want. Why have you sent me? Erase me from the book you have written.” Elijah: ” Enough.” And Jeremiah’s cry: ”Ah, ah, Eternal Lord, l do not know how to speak, l am just a child. Do not tell me ‘1 am just a child.’ But go where l sent you and speak as l command.” Jonah’s refusal is pushed even further. It is not only the calling that he flees, it is God, dialogue with God. If God tells him: rise and go toward the East, he rises and goes toward the West. In order better to flee, he takes to the sea, and to hide himself better, he goes down into the ship’s hold, then he sinks into sleep, then into death. In vain.
Blanchot condemns the symbolic reading as the worst way to read the text. We say a text is symbolic when we are troubled by its too strong language. Prophetic speeches reachability confirms the fact that they are neither allegory nor symbol, “but that, by the concrete force of the word, they lay things bare, in a nudity that is like that of an immense face that one sees and does not see and that, like a face, is light, the absolute quality of light, terrifying and ravishing, familiar and elusive, immediately present and infinitely foreign, always to come, always to be discovered and even provoked, although as readable as the nudity of the human face can be: in this sense alone, figure.” Blanchot makes the another bold observation that “prophecy is a living mimicry. Jeremiah does not content himself with saying: you will be bent under the yoke; he gets hold of some cords and goes under a wooden yoke, a fire yoke. Isaiah does not just say: do not count on Egypt, its soldiers are conquered, taken, led “barefoot, bare-bottomed,” rather he himself takes off his sack and sandals and goes naked for three years. The prophet brother of Ahab demands that a man strike and mutilate him in order better to portray the verdict he wants the king to understand. It tells us that the things are all literal. We are unable to escape from the overwhelming meaning that chases us always, “as a present in absence, speaking in silence.” Prophet speaks such a way as to shackle everyone in an impossibly of escaping, “If they burrow down into Sheol, my hand will seize them; if they rise up to the heavens, I will make them come down; hidden under Carmel, already I find them there; if they think to take refuge in the deepest depths of the seas, there 1 make them bitten by the Serpent.”
The prophetic speech comes down with such a force to interrupt our life and to hear what is laid before. It seizes every movement and rest and makes ‘death vain and nothingness sterile.” This force makes us hear the impossible, and in this hearing, to “awaken us to ourselves.”
Still, prophet falls short​ in becoming a messiah. He can only prepare the way for the Messiah. Prophet’s vision sees Messiah but not see like a Messiah. TheProphet is unable to heal the wounds. As Harold Bloom says, “The Prophet does not heal the wounds he only exacerbates.” Another problem with the prophet is that his concern is to build an ethical mansion. He acts like a mason. Mason looks where he can place a brick while a carpenter looks where he can place a door and a window. So the Messiah must be a carpenter. It is where the Messiah departs from the Prophet. It is where Jesus departs from John the Baptist.


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