n Journal for Semitics - Prophetic encounters : Jeremiah 29 and the dynamics of prophetic authority

Volume 22, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1013-8471


All societies have people in positions of authority and power. Societies and communities have people exercising their authority in the various spheres of life, be it political, religious or civil. Some people inherit such positions, whilst others strive to attain it. Still others are elected to such positions whilst some claim a calling or an urge to serve in such capacities. In the ancient societies of Israel and Judah, kings, bureaucrats, family heads, judges, prophets and priests were the main figures exercising and occupying positions of authority. In this article the research focuses on the prophets in the book of Jeremiah and their claims to authority and power. What concerns this article further is how some prophets struggled to maintain their positions of influence and power in order to win the hearts and the minds of the people. The prophets' social standing and resultant authority rested on certain claims they had made and relied on. Some individuals claimed to be prophets on grounds of being called and sent. In Jeremiah the metaphor of a "heavenly council" is very significant. Their claims to positions of authority are also strengthened by certain strategic associations. It seems that their associations with certain groups (prophetic guilds), with powerful people (kings and bureaucrats) and with significant places (the temple) granted them the support to their claims of authority. Furthermore, some prophets' association with and promotion of dominant ideas such as the royal-Zion ideology strengthened their positions of authority and influence over ordinary people. As final point of interest it is shown how subversive language is used by some prophets to counter threats to their authority, power and influence over people.

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