What is a Prophet?
The Hebrew word most often translated as "prophet" is nabi. The most common definition of this word is spokesman or one who speaks for or on behalf of someone. In Exodus 7:1-2, Aaron is described as Moses's nabi, or his spokesman to Pharoah.
We can therefore define a prophet of God as a divinely appointed spokes person for Yahweh (the Hebrew name for God). While the literal definition of prophet may include a number of people throughout history, the Bible names several people specifically as prophets.
Sometimes people imagine that the prophets were inclined to predict events many centuries in the future, as though the prophet Isaiah was interested in our time, even though he lived, for example, in the year 750 B.C.
The image at right captures the idea of the prophet as a soothsayer, or wizard who foretold the future by means of magic knowledge.
This is not the Hebrew idea of a prophet. There was no wizardry or magic, but rather people who were convinced that God had spoken to them at a particular place and time.
1. What is the usual understanding of prophecy? How does it contrast with the Hebrew idea?
2. More challenging: Were there any New Testament prophets (remember the definition)? Look at Matthew 3 (p. 1258), for a hint.
What what the Prophet Supposed to Do?
1. The major task of the prophet was not to predict the future but be a spokesman for God to the generation to which he belonged. In other words, the Old Testament prophet was more of a preacher regarding current events than a predictor of future events.
2. A prophet was accountable to God, not a king or even a priest. In fact, often the priests and the prophets had a very different view of things since the priests of the day were often in the employ of the kings and the person most often criticized by the prophets was th king!
3. In Israel's early history, the prophetical function was performed by the Levitical priests. As time went on and the priesthood became more professionalized, there arose the office of the prophet. The Function of Hebrew
The Point of Prophecy
1. The prophet encouraged the people to trust in God and not in their own power and strength.
2. The prophet was responsible to remind Israel that God's blessing to them was conditioned upon their obedience to the Covenant.
3. The prophet encouraged Israel regarding the future, that in spite of the current circumstances or situation, God would ultimately make things right.
1. The prophet most of all spoke to what period of time?
2. What was a prophet least of all accountable to the king?
3. What is the covenant (or Gen. 15, p. 18 of your Teen Bible) between God and Israel of which the prophets spoke? What did the covenant commit the Israelites to doing?
Prophets: go to next part