Navi - Prophet - Shaman

Navi - Prophet - Shaman

(Stein Atle Vere ©2012. Navi - Prophet - Shaman. brakha.blogspot.com)

The leadership style of Moshé מֹשֶׁה (Moses) Ha'Naví (the Prophet) resembles that of a shaman. We can understand the concept of a Naví נָבִיא , usually translating as “prophet”, in some similar sense to “shaman”.

The Navi communicates the desire of God during oracles, thus physicalizes the divine authority as a political authority. Among the nomadic Tribes of Yisraél (Israel) יִשְׂרָאֵל , the shaman evolves into the only political institution whose authority can extend beyond one tribe, to lead all twelve tribes. Usually each tribe is its own nation. In the case of Yisrael, it is only the Navi that unites the twelve separate tribes into a single nation.

Navi (Prophet) (Seer) (Shaman)

(Stein Atle Vere 2012. Image: Moshe Ha'Navi (Moses the Prophet). brakha.blogspot.com.
Derivation: Charlton Heston as Moshe. Movie: Ten Commandments. Paramount Pictures 1956).

Moshe Ha'Navi

Moshe demonstrates divine authority by his shamanic manifestations.

In addition, Moshe enjoys political prestige among the nomadic tribes because of his status as a Son of the House of Pharaoh, being a member of the aristocracy in Mitsráyim (Egypt). Similar to the mastery of Mitsrí divination by Yoséf יוֹסֵף (Joseph) before him, the Mitsri education of Moshe likely provokes awe and dread.

Moshe has difficulty in speaking. Probably this refers to his nonfluency with the Ivrít עִבְרִית language. In this case, Ivrit refers to “Proto-Hebrew”, namely the Canaanite language that the “Hebrews” - Ivrím עִבְרִים - speak. The first language of Moshe is Mitsrít (Egyptian). A daughter of Pharaoh adopts him when he is near birth. Apparently Moshe speaks Ivrit with a heavy Mitsrit accent.

Possibly, the Tribe of Leví לֵוִי already serves as a sacred caste among these nomadic tribes. Moshe happens to be a member of this caste, and enjoys its prestige. If so, he confirms the sacred status of his caste, and, in the role of a shaman, goes further to appoint his biological brother, Aharon, as a Kohén כֹּהֵן (a hereditary priest) and as the founder of a new clan of Kohaním כֹּהְַנִים (priests) within this sacred Tribe of Levi.

These three factors for Moshe - his shamanic manifestations of prophecy, his education as an aristocrat, and possibly his sacred caste - can elevate his leadership status beyond his own tribe, to influence the other nomadic tribes.

Evolution of the shaman

Later, a special kind of Shoftím שֹׁפְטִים (Judges) who also happen to be Nviím נְבִיאִים (Shamans) emerge. Their new political clout shows a shift in the tribal structure of Yisrael, as they start to intermingle to some degree. These nomadic tribes intermarry, journey together, and periodically camp together at certain vicinities to grow crops. Also, pragmatically, they band together to increase the size of their armies, to cope with aggressive neighbors, especially the brutal township kings with their bureaucrats inside townwalls.

Initially, each nomadic tribe has its own tribal council with its own clan “elders”, Zkenim זְקֵנִים . Plus, its own tribal court system with its own “judges”, Shoftim. (Yhoshua 24'1). These Shoftim seem to derive from the “seventy Shoftim”, who Moshe appoints, selecting them from among the Zkenim. (B'Midbar 11'24-25). Probably each Shofet שֹׁפֵט adjudicates only the legal disputes between the clans of ones own tribe, respectively. These founding Shoftim appeal to Moshe as a Navi for divine guidance in cases without precedent, or possibly consult him as a shaman in cases of disputes between different tribes.

This institution of a legal system with interclan authority is social revolution. The Tora (five books of the Tora scroll) attributes the innovation to Moshe. The earliest known law code, in this case a royal one, develops in Shinar (Babylonia). There the Code of Hammurabi the King promulgates it roughly two centuries before Moshe, depending on the chronologies for Hammurabi and for Moshe. (Akkermans, Schwartz 2003). Probably, some of the Amu or Shasu from the Land of Yisrael brought knowledge of the Code into Mitsrayim (Egypt) from across the traderoutes. The Tribes of Yisrael themselves may know of it, since some of their ancestors via Avraham come from that region. Whence indirect influence inspiring Moshe.

Yhoshua Ha'Navi

Moshe the Navi transmits his own central intertribal authority to his successor Yhoshúa יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Joshua). Yhoshua himself is also a Navi. (B'Midbar 27'18). Only the role of a shaman can enjoy the respect of all twelve tribes because each respects the authority of God.

After Yhoshua there seems an intermediary generation, during the Days of the Zkenim. These clan elders appear to revert back to the affairs of their respective tribes, but they preserve the union of the twelve tribes out of their pious reverence for Yhoshua the shaman. (Yhoshua 24'31, Shoftim 2'7). Probably, these Zkenim also consolidate the legal systems of each tribe that earlier Moshe innovates. So those Zkenim who are also Shoftim emerge as an authoritative decision-making institution among the clans of each tribe.

Shoftim Ha'Nviim

The first leader to explicitly “judge” וַיִּשְׁפֹט more than one tribe is Atniél Ben Knaz, who apparently judges all of the tribes of Yisrael, following an era of intertribal crisis. Atniel innovates this intertribal authority of the Shofet. Thus he causes a new period in the lives of Yisrael, albeit the years of the crisis that he responds to mark the beginning of this Early Shoftim Period.

“And, the spirit of God was on him. And, he judged Yisrael. And, he went out to war.” (Shoftim 3'10).

Thus, it is his role as a shaman who manifest the oracles by “the spirit of God”, that allows Atniel to extend his legal authority beyond his own tribe to the other tribes. Probably these members from other tribes come voluntarily, to him to hear Atniel transmit the verdict of God to settle their legal disputes. The authority of Atniel to send the armies of multiple tribes of Yisrael to war, derives from his status as a shaman. However, his decision to go to war seems to emerge within the context of a remedy concerning a legal dispute.

Later near the start of the Middle Shoftim Period, Dvorá Ha'Shoftá דְּבוֹרָה הַשֹּׁפְטָה (Deborah the Judge) is necessarily Ha'Nviá (the Prophet), a shaman, as well. The report about her gives a fuller picture about this leadership position of an intertribal “Shofet”. As a nomad, she would sit outdoors in a wellknown locale, “under the palm tree between Rama and Bet El”. Presumably she and her husband keep their tent permanently nearby. Members from all of the nomadic tribes of “Bne Yisrael” “would go up to her for judgment”, probably voluntarily because of her reputation as an authentic shaman. It appears she is a Zkená זְקֵנָה, a clan elder, whence becoming a Shofta with judicial authority among her own tribe. Yet it is her status as a Nvia, giving oracles from God, even moreso than her sageness as a Shofta, that extends her reputation to other tribes.

Her role as a military commander extends from her shamanic authority, but again, like Atniel, it seems to emerge within the context of a legal decision. She literally summons the warrior to her outdoor court.

“And, she sent (a messenger). And, she called for Barak Ben Avinoam from Kedesh Naftali. And, she said unto him: Did God the Divineships of Yisrael not command you? Go. And, you will take with you ten (military units of) subtribes, man (of military age) from Bne Naftali and from Bne Zvulun.” (Shoftim 4'6).

If Barak already hears this command from God, then Dvora is probably the oracle that he hears the divine command from. Possibly, Barak himself has volunteered to take his legal question to Dvora. Her oracle is the final judgment on his case. Possibly Barak is afraid to carry out her divine and legal verdict. Therefore Dvora follows up on this case, to ensure her legal decree carries effect. Moreover, her followup demonstrates how her shamanic and judicial authority take on the responsibilities of a military commander, who can lead the armies of multiple tribes. By prophecy, she spells out the war strategy that these warriors must put into effect.

The report about Dvora demonstrates how the institution of the clan elder - Zaken - can extend to serve judicial duties for other clans of the tribe - Shofet. But then this institution of Shofet evolves to serve as a leader of all the tribes, if a Shofet also exhibits the status of a shaman - Navi.

During eras of oppression by foreign groups, the nomadic Tribes of Yisrael seem as if they lack Shoftim to “save” them from their enemies. Surely, each tribe has Shoftim, per se, meaning the Zkenim of certain clans who also serve as a Shofet to adjucate among the clans of their tribe. However, these intermediary eras lack a Shofet who also has a reputation as an authentic shaman, who can communicate oracles directly from God. Therefore none of these Shoftim have any authority over all of the other tribes of Yisrael.

Centralizing political authority of the shaman

The institution of the clan elder, by itself, enjoys no authority over other clans - and has zero authority over other tribes.

It is the shaman - the Navi - alone who has the divine authority to unite all the tribes under one leader. This leader is God Godself.

This sole intertribal authority of the shaman explains the centrality of the sacred memory about Moshe. As a shaman, he unites the disparate tribes by the authority of God directly. During the Days of the Shoftim, this sole intertribal authority also explains why, politically, the tribes have no choice but turn to God via a shaman to unite the armies of their various tribes against the common enemy. It also explains how the authority of the shaman remains above even the authority of a king, albeit tensions emerge between the two.

This sole intertribal authority of the shaman also explains why the desire of the tribes for a king seems to hurt the feelings of God sotospeak. Pragmatically, via oracles, God alone functions as the central government for the twelve independent tribes. To Shmuel the shaman, God says, “They rejected me from being king over them.” (Shmuel-1 8'7). The desire among the tribal elders for a human king who can centralize the intertribal political system, in some sense, overthrows God who upto now is the only one to wield this authority.

Later, well into the Iron Age, the tribes recognize their kings, David and his son Shlomo, as authentic because they are also shamans. Apparently it is only their reputation as shamans that can succeed in uniting all twelve tribes within a central monarchy. The ancient proverb, “Is also Shaul among the Nviim (Prophets)?”, communicates doubt about his authenticity as a shaman, thus necessarily doubt about his legitimacy as an intertribal king. (Shumel-1 10'12).

Finally, the political institution of the shaman persists even among the scribes and Kohanim (priests) among the royal courts of the Kingdoms of Yrushalayim and Shomronim. It is these courtiers who are also Nviim, who produce the Tanakh (Jewish Bible) as we know it today.

Navi - Prophet - Shaman

The rise of this title “Shofet”, in a special sense to mean an intertribal shamanic authority, signals a shift in the tribal social structure. These Shoftim are unlike clan “elders”, who are only patriarchs (and anomalous matriarchs) of specific clans. Their jurisdiction extends beyond their own tribe because of the authority of God Godself. Instead, these Shoftim emerge military leaders, who can draft warriors from several tribes and command them in times of war, because of their shamanic status as a Navi.

The nomadic Tribes of Yisrael evolve in a peculiar way. Via the prophetic oracles of their Nviim, God Godself is literally the central political system that unites these separate tribes into a single kinship system, Am Yisrael (the Kinship of Israel). God becomes the common origin that imbues the pluralistic societies with a sense of national unity.