• Light of Torah

Spirit-filled prophets? Or just a couple of trouble-makers?

In order to assist Moses in the heavy task of leadership, the Lord instructs him (in Numbers 11:16-30) to gather seventy elders around the Tent of Meeting. There the Lord comes down in a cloud, speaks to Moses, draws upon the spirit resting on Moses and imparts it to the seventy elders. The seventy then prophesy.

"When the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied” (v.25).

But something unexpected happens. Two men who are not part of the select group also have the spirit rest on them, and they begin prophesying! Note the reaction of Joshua, and then ponder the response of Moses.

And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” But Moses said to him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!" (Numbers 11:27-29)

Note how Moses reacts to the unexpected prophesying of Eldad and Medad, neither of whom have been officially commissioned. What do you make of this scene? What is going on here, and what is God's word trying to teach us?

As we ponder this Scripture story, let's hear from some of the voices of Jewish tradition: [1]