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The school of the prophets was established by Samuel to protect the nation against corruption. It was designed to promote the mental and spiritual welfare of the youth. It aimed at furnishing the nation with godly men equipped to lead spiritually. The School of the Prophets is referred to in 1 Samuel 19:18–24 as a “group of prophets” and in 2 Kings 2:5; 4:38–44 as the “sons of the prophets.”
The time of Samuel
The first record to the “sons of the prophets” (1 Samuel 10) is when Saul was anointed king. In 1 Samuel 19, we read that King Saul sent his servants to capture David. When they met a “group of the prophets” that were prophesying, they joined them and prophesied. This occurred three consecutive times. Finally, Saul himself went, and he, too, prophesied, so that it was said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Samuel 19:24).
At that time, there were two schools of the prophets, one in Ramah, where the prophet Samuel lived, and one in Kiryat Yearim, where the ark of the covenant was kept. However, the school of the prophets instituted by Samuel, deteriorated during the years of Israel’s apostasy. In time, the Lord raised Elijah to reestablish these schools and provide for the young men an education that would help them glorify God.
The time of Elijah
Some more schools were erected in Bethel (2 Kings 2:3), Jericho (2 Regi 2:15), and Gilgal (2 Kings 4:38). In 2 Kings 2, we read that Elijah went with Elisha, and the “sons of the prophets” from Bethel informed Elisha that Elijah would be taken from him that day (v. 3). Then, the sons of the prophets at Jericho confirmed the prediction (v. 5). Finally, a third group of the sons of the prophets consisting of 50 individuals near the Jordan River confirmed the same prophecy (v. 7). After Elijah was taken up into heaven, Elisha sent the young prophets to look for Elijah for three days (v. 15–18).
Only a few years before this incident, Elijah had thought he was the only person left in Israel who worshiped the true God. But Elijah had been given the divine confirmation that the Lord had no less than 7,000 in Israel who had not bowed to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). Many of these faithful ones were connected to the schools of the prophets. They worked to bring the reform that Elijah and Elisha had been called for.
The chief subjects of study in these schools were the law of God, with the instruction given to Moses (Leviticus 10:11), sacred history (Joel 1:3), and sacred music (1 Samuel 10:5). In addition, the students were taught a trade to help them be self-supportive. A rabbinical proverb taught the Jewish families, “He who does not teach his son a trade teaches him to be a thief.” Every youth, whether his parents were rich or poor, was taught some kind of a trade.
Thus, even the pupils in the schools of the prophets had to be educated both for holy office and for practical life work. Following this example is Paul, who studied at the school of Rabbis. He learned the trade of tent making. Because of his trade, Paul was prepared to earn his livelihood in Corinth as he had done in Thessalonica. In this way, he protected himself against any accusation of self-interest in teaching God’s truth among the Greeks (1 Cor. 9:15–19; 2 Cor. 11:7–13; 1 Thess. 2:9).
Miracles related to the sons of the prophets
In 2 Kings 4:1-7, it tells of a widow of one of the sons of the prophets. She came to Elisha on the basis that her husband was his servant prior to his death and feared God. She entreated Elisha because she could not pay a debt and faced losing her sons. Elisha asked her what she had in her house and she said just a pot of oil. Elisha then told her to borrow as many vessels as possible and close the door of her home and fill all of the vessels with the oil she had. The woman obeyed. Miraculously, the oil filled every vessel she had borrowed and filled by faith. She was then told to sell the oil and live in peace with her children.
2 Kings 6:1-7 tells of another miracle more directly related to a son of the prophets. It stated that the students of Elisha were staying in a place that was too small to sustain the group. They asked Elisha if they could build a bigger place for them to live in and Elisha agreed. As the sons of the prophets were cutting wood, an ax head fell into water. One of the sons of the prophets came to Elisha for help because the ax head was borrowed and it needed to be returned. Elisha then threw a stick on the water where it fell in. By God’s intervention, the ax head swam. Elisha instructed his student to get the ax head as it could then be located.
Each story shows how God provided for the needs of His people, both great and small. Those who sought to learn of God saw His care and providence as they sought and obeyed God for divine help. In these stories, we see that those in the school of the prophets were of age to be married as well as have practical skills, such as construction. As seen in the story of the ax head, those who studied to be servants of God were also productive members of society.
In like manner, all are called to be students of God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15) as well as in business with others (Romans 12:11).
“And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;” (1 Thessalonians 4:11).
In His service,
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