One of the most overlooked role in history may be that of the local seer.
In the Hebrew Bible many seers/prophets are shown (Besides the 'literary prophets')
Historically these seers were no different from any other middle eastern nation.
The book of Jeremiah tells us alot about disagreements within seers even prophesing for the same diety!
One referance however prior to this shows up:
'Sons of the prophets'.
Who were thse guys? 2 Kings tell us they lived in Bethel. This makes sense as worship to El was carried out in Dan, Bethel and as shown in the following paragraphs Shiloh.
If we ignore everything prior to the Omrides we are left with two very odd preachers. Elijah and Elisha. However the text tells us these guys preached among an already existing group:
'Sons of the prophet's. Who are these guys?
What is even more interesting is that almost every preacher from this group has a name ending or starting with El. These were not even originally Yahweh prophets. (Elijah might be an exception but if his name is a title all it means his he felt Yahweh was El)
Moving back in the text and sorting through what is likely unhistorical... Nathan.. Gad etc we arrive at Samuel. And where does he grow up? Shiloh. An priest of Eli. (My El- see footnote on Eli)*
Indeed Samuel was likely a founder of a group of seers. But they were likely El seers. Yahweh was thought of as a war god.
So why did Elijah-Elisha preach to the Omrides? First we need to realize the text makes a fine line between the two!
Elijah preaches to the Omrides.
Elisha to the House of Jehu. (The first time you see him actually preaching to a king (besides Hazael) is to Jehu.) Even more disturbing for Elisha is that if he truly supported Hazael and Jehu then he would have been highly favored by the later editors. And he was! He preformed double Elijah's miricles in the texts!
Thus for my case Elijah was likely one of the seers from Bethel that Ahab consulted. Not a runaway as portrayed in later texts.
Elisha was NOT!. He might have even been Syrian.** (see footnote)
This being said a seer was simply an advisor to the deities will. A brief account in 1 Samuel 9 is in order here:
9:5When they had come to the land of Zuph,
Saul said to his servant who was with him,
“Come, and let us return, lest my father stop
caring about the donkeys, and be anxious for
9:6He said to him, “ See now, there is in this
city a man of God, and he is a man who is held
in honor. All that he says comes surely to pass.
Now let us go there. Perhaps he can tell us
concerning our journey whereon we go.”
9:7Then Saul said to his servant, “But, behold,
if we go, what shall we bring the man?
For the bread is spent in our vessels, and there
is not a present to bring to the man of God.
What do we have?”
9:8The servant answered Saul again, and
said, “Behold, I have inmy hand the fourth part
of a shekel of silver. I will give that to the man
of God, to tell us our way.” 9:9(In earlier times
in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God,
thus he said, “Come, and let us go to the seer”;
for he who is now called a prophet was before
called a Seer.)
9:10Then Saul said to his servant, “Well said.
Come, let us go.” So they went to the citywhere
the man of God was. 9:11As they went up the
ascent to the city, they found young maidens
going out to draw water, and said to them, “Is
the seer here?”
9:12They answered them, and said, “He is.
Behold, he is before you. Hurry now, for he
has come today into the city; for the people
have a sacrifice today in the high place.
The tradition preserved in these late texts is known to be somewhat authentic. If so it is likely, in fact probable, that seers were more or less prophecy-whores.
What I mean by that is you would find a seer for a certian deity in many cities. But to get a prophecy in your favor took money. If so then the 'sons of the prophets' in Bethel were a group of seers likely favored by Ahab.
Thus when reading the Elijah-Elisha stories, although we have no proof these men existed, if they did their roles were much different then the text would have us believe.
Note I am NOT dealing with Judean prophets***. Isaiah and other prophets in Jerusalem preached in the royal house. Such was not the case in Israel.
Sadly Israel was about to be overthrown by a Syrian officer. However before dealing with this lets see what happened to Ahab and his 2 sons.
* I doubt Eli was a historical person. The sons of Eli Hopni and Phinehus have Egyptian names. And their names are similar to some of Aaron's sons. Thus I think a story about Aaron's sons dying might be authentic however it is repeated twice in the texts.
As for the Shiloh preisthood it is likely Jeremiah came from their decendents later.
** Elisha's first prophecy concern Syrian issues and a Syrian overthrow which the text apoligizes for! (Smothering Ben-Hadad to sleep is likely not historical but it is humerous)
If he was a servant of Hazael then his following actions in commisioning Jehu is not suprising as Jehu whiped out from the house of Ahab all who pissesth againt a wall! Futher if the Tel Dan Steele is authentic the Hazael commisioned Jehu to wipe out Isreal's dynesty.
Indeed Jehu joins himself in the text to Hazael.
By all account Elisha if he existed was Syrian.
***Amos was NOT Judean contrary to the opening.