Prophet or Hobo?

by on February 13, 2015

I’m reading through some ANE prophetic texts as part of course-prep for Isaiah. Many of the texts are letters wherein some official will report back on an oracle to their lord or commanding officer. One in particular leaves me wondering whether the guy was a prophet or an opportunist otherwise down on his luck.

On first glance the prophet performs a sign-act, asking for a sacrificial animal and then devouring it raw in front of a group of elders, threatening a coming “devouring” if certain items are not returned, and calling for social justice. But then the last line: “And for the well-being of your lord Zi[mri-Lim], clothe me in a garment.”

Hmm. Give me a meal. Now give me a cloak and it will go well for your master… The letter-writer is either oblivious, or bravely sarcastic in his cynicism: “This is what he spoke to me. For the sake of the well-being of [my] lord, I clothed [him] in a garment.”

ARM 26 206 = A. 3893, for those who are curious. Cf. Martti Nissinen, et al., Prophets and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East (Writings from the Ancient World 12; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003), 38 (the book I’m working through at the moment).