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The Study of Nevi'im Rishonim (The early prophets)

Rav Yigal Ariel (Chief Rabbi of Moshav Nov) in his Sefer Mikdash Melech considers why we study Nach and the lessons we derive from this discipline.The stories recorded in Nach are not written for the purpose of an accurate account of history. If the goal of Nevi'im is an accurate recording of historical event then the absence of crucial historical information that is often missing from the text of the Neviim and soemtimes left to appear in Divrei Hayamim raises many problems. The goal of recording [and studying] the Sifrei Nevi'im (books of the prophets) must therefore be of a profound nature beyond the study of stories. Rav Ariel explains:

‘The study of Nach is to teach us the ways of Divine leadership in this world, as it says:

דברים פרק לב פסוק ז

 זכר ימות עולם בינו שנות דור ודור שאל אביך ויגדך זקניך ויאמרו לך:

‘Remember the days of old, understand the years of each generation; ask your father and he will tell you, your elders and they will say it to you’ (Devarim 32:7).

The study of historical events can create challenges in appreciating God’s  continued involvement in our earthly world. The prophets who describe historical fact, reveal to us God and His place as the heavenly author of history. These lessons teach us to examine the past through a Godly lense and to study the patterns and consistency in history. The study of Tanach illustrates to us Divine providence; God's continued active involvement in world affairs ensuring the world reaches its final destiny, recognition of one God and the coming of Moshiach [for further study see Nachmanides Exodus 13:16 and Maimonedies Mishneh Torah, Teshuva 9:1].

The reason why we record these prophecies in the Torah is to teach us the religious content of our history and the moral lessons to be learned from them. The characters are not judged by their material successes but by their ethical conduct and their faith in God and connection to Kedusha (holiness).

The prophecy and events of the book of Kings are recorded to give us a clear, Godly vision of these events. Through this, the prophet conveys lessons of faith to all ages (as is done directly by the later prophets, Isaiah Jeremiah etc). The books of the early prophets, such as the Book of Kings or Shmuel, use indirect means of teaching these lessons and express deep ideas in a hidden and covered way.

A prophetic encounter has great advantage over direct prophecy as the audience assimilates it into their lives in an easier way. The recorded scenarios closely relate to real life situations that can be transplanted to the experiences of the individual and the nation. These historical descriptions reveal the hand of God, which is present in our lives and leaves nothing to chance and happenstance. The Torah becomes part of our everyday lives and we can understand the past, put meaning into the present and build for the future. Or as Nachmanides would say "from the great and well-known miracles a man comes to admit to hidden miracles which are the foundation of the whole Torah. A person has no portion in the Torah of Moses unless he believes that all our matters and circumstances are miracles and they do not follow nature or the general custom of the world" (Nachmanides Exodus 13:16).

תלמוד בבלי מסכת בבא בתרא דף טו עמוד

 ירמיה כתב ספרו וספר מלכים וקינות

The Talmud attributes the authorship of the book of Kings to the prophet Jeremiah. This is why the historical books such as Kings, Judges etc. are referred to as ‘Sifrei Nevi’im’ (prophetic books). They were written on the testimony of the prophets. The prophets wisdom and divine connectivity gives us an insight into the functions of God in this world. It is our mission to find the lessons in every topic we study and a humbling mission to work to apply these values to our every day lives.

As we embark on our analysis of the book of Shmuel I we are humbly grateful to God for everything and offer these essays with great trepidation and fear. As we search for the Emes (the truth) in the foundational books of our prophets, the Nevi'im, we pray that the zechus avos (merits of our forefathers) serve to inspire us to come closer to Torah observance and Avinu Shebashamayim, God in heaven.