Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!

Moses Elects the 70 Elders, Jacob de Wit, 1737, Royal Palace of Amsterdam

Moses Elects the 70 Elders, Jacob de Wit, 1737,
Royal Palace of Amsterdam

The LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses.

Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses,
the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders;
and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.

Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad,
were not in the gathering but had been left in the camp.
They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent;
yet the spirit came to rest on them also,
and they prophesied in the camp.
So, when a young man quickly told Moses,
“Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp, “
Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses’aide, said,
“Moses, my lord, stop them.”
But Moses answered him,
“Are you jealous for my sake?
Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!
Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!”

Numbers 11:25-29

From the Google Cultural Institute:

“This vast painting by Jacob de Wit fills the entire wall. Moses stands in the centre, surrounded by the 70 elders he has selected. Behind Moses and off to one side, screened by a tent flap, is the Ark of the Covenant containing the Ten Commandments engraved on tablets of stone. In the top left-hand corner, a group of clouds indicates the presence of God.
Moses was told by God to select 70 elders to receive some of the Holy Spirit conferred on him and to share with him the burden of ruling the people of Israel. The story illustrates the task of the 36 members of the council who met in the Council Chamber (Vroedschapskamer). Like the elders in the Bible story, they helped run the city by advising the four burgomasters.
De Wit made this painting between November 1735 and October 1737 in response to a commission from the city fathers. There is a preparatory study for the work in the Amsterdam Municipal Archives.”


Drawing by Jacob de Wit of his painting.

Drawing by Jacob de Wit of his painting.


We are long beyond the Golden Age of Dutch Painting (16th-17th centuries–think Rembrandt, Rubens) with this work, and Jacob de Wit would be unlikely to make any list of great Dutch painters. Nevertheless, this painting fits our reading today and has its own charms.

If you click on the first image to enlarge it and look at the small grouping between two palm trees near the top right, you see the face of a dark-haired man staring out at you. This is almost certainly a self-portrait of the artist himself. Interestingly, and perhaps further confirmation that it’s a self-portrait, this image is not included in his preparatory drawing of the painting.


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