A masterful book by UCSD sociologist Andrew Scull whose cover, in many ways, reminds me of a thumbprint. Chapter Two, Madness in the Ancient World, begins with Madness and the Israelites. I’m not sure how accurate this is, but Scull quotes medical historian George Rosen who notes that the Hebrew for “to behave like a prophet” can be rendered as “to rave”. Many of the prophets were considered in their own day to be raving mad, and Scull cites examples of prophets who had a tough go of it:
“When the priest Pashhur son of Immer, the chief officer in the temple of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, he had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin at the Lord’s temple. The next day, when Pashhur released him from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, “The Lord’s name for you is not Pashhur, but Magor-Missabib. For this is what the Lord says: ‘I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; with your own eyes you will see them fall by the sword of their enemies. I will hand all Judah over to the king of Babylon, who will carry them away to Babylon or put them to the sword.” (Jeremiah Chap. 20:1-4)
“I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends.” Such is madness, and not much to rave about. It’s challenging enough to forecast the weather; I can only imagine what it’s like to channel the words of the Lord. I’m content to have given up predicting the future. It was driving me mad.