(Heb. nabi, from a root meaning "to bubble forth, as from a
fountain," hence "to utter", comp. Ps. 45:1). This Hebrew word
is the first and the most generally used for a prophet. In the
time of Samuel another word, _ro'eh_, "seer", began to be used
(1 Sam. 9:9). It occurs seven times in reference to Samuel.
Afterwards another word, _hozeh_, "seer" (2 Sam. 24:11), was
employed. In 1 Ch. 29:29 all these three words are used: "Samuel
the seer (ro'eh), Nathan the prophet (nabi'), Gad the seer"
(hozeh). In Josh. 13:22 Balaam is called (Heb.) a _kosem_
"diviner," a word used only of a false prophet.
The "prophet" proclaimed the message given to him, as the
"seer" beheld the vision of God. (See Num. 12:6, 8.) Thus a
prophet was a spokesman for God; he spake in God's name and by
his authority (Ex. 7:1). He is the mouth by which God speaks to
men (Jer. 1:9; Isa. 51:16), and hence what the prophet says is
not of man but of God (2 Pet. 1:20, 21; comp. Heb. 3:7; Acts
4:25; 28:25). Prophets were the immediate organs of God for the
communication of his mind and will to men (Deut. 18:18, 19). The
whole Word of God may in this general sense be spoken of as
prophetic, inasmuch as it was written by men who received the
revelation they communicated from God, no matter what its nature
might be. The foretelling of future events was not a necessary
but only an incidental part of the prophetic office. The great
task assigned to the prophets whom God raised up among the
people was "to correct moral and religious abuses, to proclaim
the great moral and religious truths which are connected with
the character of God, and which lie at the foundation of his
Any one being a spokesman for God to man might thus be called
a prophet. Thus Enoch, Abraham, and the patriarchs, as bearers
of God's message (Gen. 20:7; Ex. 7:1; Ps. 105:15), as also Moses
(Deut. 18:15; 34:10; Hos. 12:13), are ranked among the prophets.
The seventy elders of Israel (Num. 11:16-29), "when the spirit
rested upon them, prophesied;" Asaph and Jeduthun "prophesied
with a harp" (1 Chr. 25:3). Miriam and Deborah were prophetesses
(Ex. 15:20; Judg. 4:4). The title thus has a general application
to all who have messages from God to men.
But while the prophetic gift was thus exercised from the
beginning, the prophetical order as such began with Samuel.
Colleges, "schools of the prophets", were instituted for the
training of prophets, who were constituted, a distinct order (1
Sam. 19:18-24; 2 Kings 2:3, 15; 4:38), which continued to the
close of the Old Testament. Such "schools" were established at
Ramah, Bethel, Gilgal, Gibeah, and Jericho. The "sons" or
"disciples" of the prophets were young men (2 Kings 5:22; 9:1,
4) who lived together at these different "schools" (4:38-41).
These young men were taught not only the rudiments of secular
knowledge, but they were brought up to exercise the office of
prophet, "to preach pure morality and the heart-felt worship of
Jehovah, and to act along and co-ordinately with the priesthood
and monarchy in guiding the state aright and checking all
attempts at illegality and tyranny."
In New Testament times the prophetical office was continued.
Our Lord is frequently spoken of as a prophet (Luke 13:33;
24:19). He was and is the great Prophet of the Church. There was
also in the Church a distinct order of prophets (1 Cor. 12:28;
Eph. 2:20; 3:5), who made new revelations from God. They
differed from the "teacher," whose office it was to impart
truths already revealed.
Of the Old Testament prophets there are sixteen, whose
prophecies form part of the inspired canon. These are divided
into four groups:
(1.) The prophets of the northern kingdom (Israel), viz.,
Hosea, Amos, Joel, Jonah.
(2.) The prophets of Judah, viz., Isaiah, Jeremiah, Obadiah,
Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah.
(3.) The prophets of Captivity, viz., Ezekiel and Daniel.
(4.) The prophets of the Restoration, viz., Haggai, Zechariah,