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WHAT IS PROPHECY? Biblical Predictions


Biblical Predictions

By Rav B. Horovitz

Some assume that prophecy was purely a matter of Divine Grace, while others hold that it was the highest stage of spiritual self-perfection. It is a combination of both: ‘Prophecy rests only upon a very wise man, strong in moral qualities, whose mind always rules his inclinations. When he enters metaphysical contemplation, sanctifies himself, and trains his mind not to think about temporal matters, but to be bound always to the Throne of Glory, the Holy Spirit rests upon him and he becomes a different man greater than all the sages. Then, as a gift of Grace, while his bodily functions are weakened, he may be shown symbolic prophetic visions in dreams. The highest state of prophetic Revelation was granted to Moses, who was the chief of the prophets, both of those that preceded him and of those that followed him. Moses saw Divinity through a transparent glass while other prophets only had a vision of Him through a mirrored glass — the revelation passed through the personality of the prophets. Hence their variety of style. But G-d spoke to Moses directly, without the above limitations’ (Maimonides).

‘Moses and the succeeding leaders of Israel were outstanding personalities whose moral integrity and love of truth is shown by every word they left behind. They levelled the most acrimonious accusations against the false prophets who dared to present their own words as Divine Revelation. They would never have presented their words or the Torah as coming from G-d if this were not the full truth’ (Biberfeld). The prophets were conscious of the over-mastering pressure of G-d who forced them to speak even against their inclination’ (Gore). ‘The prophet’s message bears the stamp of originality, of opposition to contemporary thought, of a word of G-d forcing itself to find expression through the human instrument. Here we may reasonably claim to have a Revelation from G-d to man, independent of human reflection and discovery; a downrush from the super- conscious rather than an uprush from the subconscious’ (James).


Many Biblical predictions have been fulfilled. (This is regarded as a test of the truth of prophecy in Deuteronomy 18:2:1).

The cultural development of mankind was predicted by Noah: “G-d grants beauty to Japheth, but He shall dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan will be their servant.

“(Genesis 9:27) Greece, descended from Japheth, has given the arts to civilization, while the world’s religious ideas have gone forth from the tents of Shem, the Hebrews. The descendants of Ham and Canaan were, for many generations, the slaves of other nations.

The 70 years exile predicted in Leviticus, Ch. 26, was literally fulfilled in the Babylonian Exile (Jeremiah, Ch. 11). The destruction of Judea by the Romans is foretold in all detail in Deuteronomy, Ch. 28. A Jewish king would be led into captivity before the ultimate destruction (verse 36), which happened to Aristobulus. “The stranger that is in your midst shall mount above you higher and higher, and you shall come down lower and lower,” (v. 43) was fulfilled when Herod, the Idumean, became king and maltreated the Jews. “He shall put a yoke of iron upon your neck... The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar... as the eagle swoops down... a nation of fierce countenance, that shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favour to the young. “(v. 50) This is a vivid description of the iron rule of the Romans, the only nation of antiquity that fought under the symbol of the eagle. The war of the Romans, the siege of Jerusalem with its resulting famine, the sale of Jewish captives to Egypt, mentioned in that chapter, were all literally fulfilled. The horror-full exile of the Jewish people was predicted thousands of years ago: “The L-rd shall scatter you among all peoples from one end of the earth unto the other end of the earth.... Among these nations you will have no repose, and there shall be no rest for the sole of your foot. But the L-rd shall give you there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes and languishing of soul.” (Deuteronomy, 28: 64-65)

The extraordinary devastation of the Holy Land throughout the centuries up to recent times, was predicted... “when they see the sickness which the L-rd has laid upon that land, which is brimstone and salt and burning, that is not sown, nor anything grows therein. “(Deuteronomy, 29: 2 1-22)

The predicted survival of the Jewish people. against all odds and despite all efforts to destroy it, with the Torah in its arms, is evidence of the truth of the words of the prophets. “The survival of the Jews, their resistance to destruction, their endurance under absolutely perilous conditions, and the fateful role played by them in history, all point to the mysterious foundation of their destiny” (Berdyaev). We are witnessing today the return of Jews and the revival of Jewish national life in the land of Israel, materially and spiritually:

“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, you will return to your heart among all the nations, whither the L-rd your

G-d has driven you. And you will return to the L-rd your G-d, and listen to his voice, according to all that I command you today.. ..And the L-rd G-d will bring you back from your captivity and have compassion upon you, and will return and gather you from all the peoples whither the L-rd your G-d has scattered you. He will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and He will do more good and multiply you more than your fathers. He will give you increase in the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your land, for good.” (Deuteronomy 30:1-9).

The United Nations and the ideals of universal justice and peace which have become the hope of mankind (Isaiah, 2:4, 11:8; Micha 4:1-5; Zechariah 8) are clearly foretold in the Bible. The Bible has become the religious Book, per se, of hundreds of millions. It has inspired nearly every great man, and has helped to build up the culture of most nations and is the greatest moralizing power of civilization — a fulfilment of “I will bless those that bless you, and through you will be blessed all the families of the earth.” (Genesis 12:3).



Before commencing upon the tale of the Deliverance from Egypt, the Haggadah declares : “Scripture speaks of four varieties of children : the wise child, the wicked child the simple child and the child that is unable to ask questions.”
The Seder affords us a first-class example of the methods by which we should educate our children. It is in fact an ultra-modern pedagogical text-book. The purpose of the Seder is to teach the younger generation the story of the Exodus from Egypt.
Formerly most school subjects were taught only according to text- hooks—history was either just verbally presented by the teacher, or the pupils read history-books, and that was that. In modern schools, however, visual and other aids are used, and pupils often re-enact historical episodes.

Concrete Method
The most modern and perhaps the best. although not always an easy, method of education. is to make the subject matter as concrete as possible. In Montessori and kindred schools, the children are taught everything through their five senses—-beginning with the differentiation of colours, tastes. touch, smell and so on: and through these concrete means they are led to an understanding of the abstract.
In learning the history of the Exodus from Egypt, the Jewish family re-enacts the scene. Not only do we hear from the mouth of others and
rend the story ourselves. but we eat the same bread of affliction, we taste the bitterness of bondage in the bitter herbs; we are made to feel concretely the transformation from slavery to freedom, reclining like free men. This is especially important for the child. who grasps abstract and historical matters far better by concrete means.
But this is only one of many points in which the Seder appears to us as a most up-to-date pedagogical manual. Another matter upon which stress is laid throughout this grand night is the asking of questions by children.

Most children are naturally curious and they soon reach an age when they are always asking “Daddy. why this?” and “Mummy, why that?”
I Jnfortunately. this healthy curiosity is often a bother to teachers and parents, who just have not the time or patience to answer the inquisitive youngsters. But if children do not ask wherefore’s and why’s they will never become wise.
Modern educationalists all agree that on the whole, a child’s questions should never be ignored. On the contrary, children should be encouraged
to ask questions. Teaching by lecture is replaced by teaching by discussion, the more modern method, because it arouses active thought. The four questions at the beginning of the Seder and the elements introduced for the purpose of arousing the child’s curiosity, illustrate this.

Many Types
A further principle of education may be gleaned from the statement concerning the four sons. We must accept the fact that there are all sorts of fish swimming in the sea, and in the same way, there are many kinds of human beings. There are all types in the younger generation, and there should, therefore, also be different approaches to these different types. Solomon in his wisdom said : “Educate the boy according to his way.” Since the attitude of the wise son differs from that of the wicked, the approach towards them should also differ.
As any teacher will tell you, the main trouble about present-day education in large classes is that one has to deal with so many types: at the same time. From a truly educational point of view, these types require different methods. A more individual education is therefore much to be preferred. The latter is possible in the home and the wise parent is well advised not to adopt the same approach to different types of children.
‘The wise son—what does he say ? “What mean the testimonies, the statutes and the judgments, which the L-rd has commanded you?”
This is the real pupil who wishes to know everything. ‘Then shalt thou explain to him all the laws of Pesach, down to the minutest detail, such as the custom to eat nothing after the Paschal meal.’
‘The wicked son—what does he say ? “What do you mean by this service? He says “you,” not “we,” and as he excludes himself from the general body, he offends against a principle of faith. You should turn on him and say, “It is because of that which the L-rd did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.” For me, not for him, for if he had been there, he would not have been worthy to be redeemed.’
More than lies in the words of the wicked son lies in the tone of his voice. He comes with a prejudiced attitude—what is the use of religious services—and feels that it has nothing to do with him. The best thing to do with children who have such an approach to study is to make them feel that they will themselves be isolated and suffer for it if they adopt that sort of attitude.
‘The simple son—what does he say ? “What is this?” “And you shall say unto him. By strength of hand the L-rd brought us out of Egypt.” The simple person requires an equally simple answer, bare of details.
‘And to him who does not know how to ask questions—You should open the narrative to him, as it is said, “And you shall tell thy son in that day saying, it is because of that which the L-rd did for me when
I came forth out of Egypt.” The child that does not yet ask questions, should be told the matter simply, but in such a way as to encourage questioning.

Child and Man
To some extent we are all children. The child is the father of the man, and the man retains the tendencies of childhood throughout his life. In the Jewish community, one also meets with all types—and maybe to some extent we all have a mixture of the characteristics of these four sons. We must learn to form an approach to them all, helping the wise to solve their problems; pointing out to the wicked that their anti-human or anti- Jewish attitude will only bring them isolation and that they will fall into the pit they have dug for themselves; explaining matters in a simple manner to those who are simple, and arousing the spirit of enquiry where it yet slumbers.

As far as Jewish religious questions go, the same attitude should be adopted. Notice that the one who does not know how to ask is given the same reply as the wicked one for he who could really learn how to ask questions, but never bothers to learn, will also never be able to enter the religious community. The attitude towards him should be quite different, but the fact remains the same, that he who does not bother even to ask questions concerning Judaism will in the end also be isolated from the religious community of Israel.

Let us thus make the Seder of Pesach the educational text-book upon which to found the generation of the future. 

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