Prophets and Politics in the Ancient World

Throughout the Old Testament we find many Prophets of God. We also find literally hundreds of others who are called “prophets” who represent the pantheon of pagan gods. Time and again, we see the battles that take place between these Prophets of God and the pagan prophets for the ear of political leaders.

Why were prophets so important to leaders?

In the Biblical World gods were believed to influence or control everything. An important way to gain the ear of a king or pharaoh was to be speaking for a god. Of course, these gods had different goals, so the guidance these leaders got was often full of conflict.

The leaders listened most closely to those prophets who told them what they wanted to hear or who supported what the leader wanted to do anyway. In some cases the leader followed the guidance of the prophet whose guidance turned out to be correct.

Some examples of the power of God’s prophets:

Joseph was able to interpret dreams for Pharoah. His interpretations turned out to be accurate, so Joseph, a slave, rose to a position of prominence and power. He also made Pharoah very wealthy!

Moses faced off with the prophets of the Egyptian gods. Pharoah didn’t want to hear or accept what Moses was saying leading to the plagues and eventual deaths of the Egyptian firstborn.

Mordecai was able to save the Jews by carrying God’s message to King Xerxes.

One of the most well-known is the faceoff between Elijah and the 400 prophets of Baal and other pagan gods. Elijah’s fire burned after he had taunted the other prophets for the ineffectiveness of their gods. (See picture)

Jeremiah had the ear of a succession of kings of Judah. Some were open to his words, most weren’t. Jeremiah was competing with prophets of many others gods and even some who claimed to be speaking for God.

Daniel was able to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams where others couldn’t. He rose to a position of great influence, even as a slave.

This situation occurs over and over in the Old Testament.

Why did the rulers listen?

They listened because they needed the advice of others. Since prophets said they were speaking for the gods who controlled everything they gained credibility even when it wasn’t warranted.

Why listen to the Prophets of God?

There were literally hundreds of gods worshipped in the ancient world. What was it to a ruler to just put God into the pantheon of gods? They generally viewed God as just one among many, even when God proved His majesty.


Well, today our leaders and rulers have “advisors.” We don’t call them prophets today, but they serve much of the same function. Rather than representing gods, these advisors gain influence based on education, experience, education and knowledge. It’s just not PC to think that world events are really influenced by gods or God.

Are we back to taking man’s word over God’s?

Realizing this part of history may help us all to understand why the various rulers in the ancient world didn’t just accept what in retrospect seemed so obvious… that God is God.

And we seem to be repeating history!

Alive in The Word

About aliveintheword

Missouri, USA Married to Marty, 45 years 2 sons (with 2 daughers-in-law) and 2 granddaughters Life dedicated to serving Jesus Christ and delivering the Good News
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1 Response to Prophets and Politics in the Ancient World

  1. ptl2010 says:

    If only we recognize the Voice of God everytime… we would not land in hot soup… how stubborn we are. Yes, living yet not learning. This is the folly of man and the patience of God.

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