In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Biblical Prophetic Speech Formulas and Samuel the Lamanite

Samuel the Lamanite
Through the ages the Lord has used different ways to instruct his prophets and because of this his prophets have used different speech forms to relate his messages.  In his article entitled "Thus Saith the Lord":Prophetic Language in Samuel's Speech"  John Welch outlines six different formulas used by prophets of old and new, that have all been applied and can be found in the works of Samuel the Lamanite in the Book of Mormon. 

1. Messenger Formula. "Thus saith the Lord" Either God or a prophet is the speaker of the messenger formula.   This is used 39 times in the Book of Mormon and twice by Samuel (Helaman 13:8, 11).

2. Proclamation Formula.  "Listen to the words of Christ" or "Hearken to the word of the Lord" Samuel used the phrase "hearken unto the words which the Lord saith" (Helaman 13:21).  This phrase is often used at the beginning of a revelation or prophecy.

3. Oath Formula. "As the Lord liveth" This terminology is usually added to a testimony to add emphasis.  Samuel stated: "As surely as the Lord liveth shall these things be, saith the Lord" (Helaman 15:17 and Helaman 13:26).

4. Woe Oracle.  Usually found as part of a judgment speech. Professor Welch breaks down the Woe Oracle into 4 characteristics 1. the accusation 2. the addressee 3. the intent of the accusation 4. and the promise of judgment.  Samuel the Lamanite used many woe oracles here is one from Helaman 13:16-17:

Accusation: Yea, and wo
Addressee: be unto all the cities which are in the land round about
Intent: because of the wickedness and abominations which are in them
Promise of Judgment: And behold, a curse shall come upon the land, saith the Lord of Hosts

5. Announcement Formula. "I say unto you" In this formula the Lord usually speaks to an individual or group in first person. This formula is found at the beginning of a clause usually starting with the words yea, behold or therefore. Samuel uses this formula three times.  (Helaman 15:6, 12, 14)

6. Revelation Formula. "The word [of the Lord] came unto me, saying".  At the beginning of Samuel's ministry to the Nephites, he said, "behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him" (Helaman 13:3) Samuel told the Nephites that they would cry unto the Lord, "O that we had repented in the day that the word of the Lord came unto us" (Helaman 13:36).

As  you can see all six of these formula's are present in the teachings of Samuel the Lamanite to the people of Nephi in Zarahemla.  These formulas are used all throughout the Book of Mormon by other prophets as well.  As John Welch suggested the presence of these formulas does add authenticity to the Book of Mormon as something that Joseph Smith Jr. wouldn't have been aware of.  With that said further research into the teaching styles of prophets throughout history could add greatly to our understanding of prophetic language in all scriptures.

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