A class of men of God, especially in the Old Testament dispensation, inspired to foretell future and secret events; and who also revealed he will of God as to current events and duties, and were his ambassadors to men. But the word is sometimes used in a wider sense; thus Aaron was Moses; prophet, Ex 7:1, appointed to deliver to the people the messages that Moses received from God; the sacred musicians are said to prophecy, 1Ch 25:1; and Paul gives the name, according to the custom of the Greeks, to the poet Aratus, "a prophet of their own," Tit 1:12. Scripture does not withhold the name of prophet from impostors, although they falsely boasted of inspiration. As true prophets, when filled y the energy of God's Spirit, were sometimes fervidly and vehemently agitated, similar motions were called prophesying when exhibited by persons who were filled with an evil spirit, "prophesied in his house," 1Sa 18:10. In the New Testament, the "prophets" were a class of men supernaturally endowed, and standing next to the apostles. They seem to have spoken from immediate inspiration, whether in reference to future events of to the mind of the Spirit generally, as in expounding the oracles of God. See 1Co 11:4; 14:1,30, etc. Thus it is said in Ac 13:1, that Judas and Silas were prophets; that there were in the church at Antioch certain prophets and teachers, that is, official instructors. God has set in the church, first apostles, then prophets, 1Co 12:28. See also Eph 2:20; Re 18:20; Ac 21:9.
The Old Testament prophets were special agents of Jehovah, raised up and sent as occasion required, to incite to duty, to convict of sin, to call to repentance and reformation, to instruct kings, and denounce against nations the judgments of God, 2Ki 17:13; Jer 25:4. They aided the priest and Levites in teaching religion to the people, especially in the kingdom of Israel, from which the true priests of the Lord withdrew, 2Ki 4:23; and cooperated with the kings in public measure to promote piety and virtue. They were humble, faithful, self-denying, fearless men, 2Ki 1:8; Zec 13:4; Mt 3:4; aloof from the pleasure and luxuries of life, 2Ki 5:15; often persecuted, and slain, Mt 23:34-37; Heb 11:32-38; Jas 2:10; but exerting a powerful influence as witnesses for God. Some of them were called from the plough and the herd, 1Ki 19:20; Am 7:14; Zec 13:5. There were also "schools of the prophets," first mentioned in the time of Samuel, established at Gibeah, Naiotyh, Bethel, Gilgal, and Jericho, where young men were instructed in religion and prepared to guide in religious worship, 1Sa 10:5; 19:20; 2Ki 2:3,5; 4:38. Many of the "sons of the prophets" here taught became not only religious teachers, but inspired prophets. Amos speaks of his own case as an exception, Am 7:14-15. There are several prophetesses mentioned in Scripture; as Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah; and in the New Testament, Anna, Elisabeth, and Mary, and the four daughters of Philip seem to have partaken for a time of prophetic inspiration.
The prophets received their messages from God, sometimes in visions, trances, and dreams. Compare Nu 24:2-16; Joe 2:28; Ac 10:11-12; Re 1:10-20. These revelations were at times attended with overpowering manifestations of the Godhead; and at other times were simply breathed into the mind by the Spirit of God. Their messages were delivered to the kings, princes, and priests whom they most concerned, or to the people at large, in writing, or by word of mouth and in public places; often with miracles, or with symbolic actions designed to explain and enforce them, Isa 20; Jer 7:2; 19; Eze 3:10.
The Old Testament contains the inspired writings of sixteen of the Hebrew prophets; four of whom, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel are called the greater prophets and the other twelve the minor prophets. Respecting the true chronological order of the prophets, there is in some cases great diversity of opinion. Below is given the arrangement preferred by some; while others, so far as the minor prophets ace concerned, adhere to that given in the Hebrew Bible and our common version. See each name in its place, for further particulars.
1. Jonah, during the reign of Jeroboam III, king of Israel, which commenced 825 B. C.; or perhaps as early as Joash, the predecessor of Jeroboam.
2. Joel, under Uzziah king of Judah, nearly 800 B. C., before Amos and Hosea came upon the stage.
3. Amos, under Uzziah king of Judah, and during the latter years of Jeroboam II, king of Israel. About 787 B. C.
4. Hosea, under Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and under Jeroboam II And his successors, kings of Israel. From about 785 to 725 B. C.
5. Isaiah, near the death of Uzziah king of Judah, and the beginning of the reign of Jotham, B. C. 758, to the reign of Manasseh, B. C. 697.
6. Micah, under Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Jotham began to reign B. C. 758, and Hezekiah died B. C. 697. Thus Micah was contemporary with Isaiah.
7. Nahum, in the latter part of the reign of Hezekiah, and after the expedition of Sennacherib. Between 710 and 700 B. C.
8. Zephaniah, soon after the beginning of the reign of Josiah, and before the destruction of Nineveh. About B. C. 630.
9. Jeremiah, in the thirteenth year of Josiah king of Judah, B. C. 628. Jeremiah continued to prophesy under Shallum, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah, to the taking of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, B. C. 588. It is supposed he died two years afterwards in Egypt.
10. Habakkuk, in Judah, near the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim, about 610 B. C., and before the coming of Nebuchadnezzar.
11. Obadiah, near the fall and captivity of Jerusalem, B. C. 588, and before the desolation of Idumaea.
12. Ezekiel, carried captive to Babylon with Jeconiah king of Judah, 598 B. C. He began to prophesy about B. C. 590; and continued, under Nebuchadnezzar, till fourteen years, after the final capture of Jerusalem B. C. 588.
13. Daniel, taken into Chaldea while young, B. C. 606, the fourth year of Jehoiadim king of Judah. He prophesied in Babylon to the end of the captivity and probably finished about 534 B. C.
14. Haggai, returned from the captivity B. C. 536, and prophesied in the second year of Darius son of Hystaspes, B. C. 520.
15. Zechariah, prophesied in Judea at the same time as Haggai, B. C. 520, and seems to have continued after him.
16. Malachi supposed to have prophesied about 416 B. C., in the latter part of the administration of Nehemiah at Jerusalem.
Christ, of whom all the prophets bore witness, Lu 24:27,44; Ac 10:43; 1Pe 1:10-11, is eminently THE PROPHET of his church in all ages, De 18:15-19; Ac 3:22-24; revealing to them, by his inspired servants, by himself, and by his Spirit, all we know of God and immortality.
PROPHETS. A prophet, in the strict and proper sense, was one to whom the knowledge of secret things was revealed, that he might declare them to others, whether they were things past, or present, or to come. The woman of Samaria perceived our Saviour was a prophet, by his telling her the secrets of her past life, Joh 4:19. The prophet Elisha had the present conduct of his servant Gehazi revealed to him, 2Ki 5:26. And most of the prophets had revelations concerning future events; above all, concerning the coming and kingdom of the Messiah: "He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began," Lu 1:69-70. Nevertheless, in a more lax or analogical sense, the title prophet is sometimes given to persons who had no such revelation, nor were properly inspired. Thus Aaron is said to be Moses's prophet: "The Lord said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a God to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet," Ex 7:1; because Aaron received the divine messages, which he carried immediately from Moses; whereas other prophets receive their messages immediately from God himself. In this respect, as Moses stood in the place of God to Pharaoh, so Aaron acted in the character of his prophet. The title of prophets is given also to the sacred musicians, who sung the praises of God, or who accompanied the song with musical instruments. Thus "the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun," are said to "prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals," 1Ch 25:1; and they prophesied, it is said, "according to the order of the king." Perhaps Miriam, the sister of Aaron, may be called a prophetess only on this account, that she led the concert of the women, who sung the song of Moses with timbrels and with dances, Ex 15:20-21. Thus the Heathen poets, who sung or composed verses in praise of their gods, were called by the Romans vates, or prophets; which is of the same import with the Greek ????????, a title which St. Paul gives to Epimenides, a Cretan poet, Tit 1:12.
Godwin observes, that, for the propagation of learning, colleges and schools were in divers places erected for the prophets. The first intimation we have in Scripture of these schools is in 1Sa 10:5, where we read of "a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, a tabret, a pipe, and a harp before them, and they did prophesy." They are supposed to be the students in a college of prophets at ????, or "the hill," as we render it, "of God." Our translators elsewhere retain the same Hebrew word, as supposing it to be the proper name of a place, "Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba," 1Sa 13:3. Some persons have imagined that the ark, or at least a synagogue, or some place of public worship, was at this time at Geba, and that this is the reason of its being styled in the former passage ???? ??????, the hill of God. We read afterward of such another company of prophets at Naioth in Ramah, "prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them," 1Sa 19:19-20. The students in these colleges were called sons of the prophets, who are frequently mentioned in after ages, even in the most degenerate times. Thus we read of the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel; and of another school at Jericho; and of the sons of the prophets at Gilgal, 2Ki 2:3,5; 4:38. It should seem, that these sons of the prophets were very numerous; for of this sort were probably the prophets of the Lord, whom Jezebel cut off; "but Obadiah took a hundred of them, and hid them by fifty in a cave," 1Ki 18:4. In these schools young men were educated under a proper master, who was commonly, if not always, an inspired prophet, in the knowledge of religion, and in sacred music, 1Sa 10:5; 19:20, and were thereby qualified to be public preachers, which seems to have been part of the business of the prophets on the Sabbath days and festivals, 2Ki 4:23. It should seem, that God generally chose the prophets, whom he inspired, out of these schools. Amos, therefore, speaks of it as an extraordinary case, that though he was not one of the sons of the prophets, but a herdsman, "yet the Lord took him as he followed the flock, and said unto him, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel," Am 7:14-15. That it was usual for some of these schools, or at least for their tutors, to be endued with a prophetic spirit, appears from the relation of the prophecies concerning the ascent of Elijah, delivered to Elisha by the sons of the prophets both at Jericho and at Bethel, 2Ki 2:3,5.
The Hebrew prophets present a succession of men at once the most singular and the most venerable that ever appeared, in so long a line of time, in the world. They had special communion with God; they laid open the scenes of the future; they were ministers of the promised Christ. They upheld religion and piety in the worst times, and at the greatest risks; and their disinterestedness was only equalled by their patriotism. The houses in which they lived were generally mean, and of their own building, 2Ki 6:2-4. Their food was chiefly pottage of herbs, unless when the people sent them some better provision, as bread, parched corn, honey, dried fruits, and the like, 1Ki 14:3; 2Ki 4:38-39,42. Their dress was plain and coarse, tied about with a leathern girdle, Zec 13:4; 2Ki 1:8. Riches were no temptation to them; therefore Elisha not only refused Naaman's presents, but punished his servant Gehazi very severely for clandestinely obtaining a small share of them, 2Ki 5:15, &c. To succeeding ages they have left a character consecrated by holiness, and "visions of the Holy One," which still unveil to the church his most glorious attributes, and his deepest designs. "Prophecy," says the Apostle Peter, "came not of old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," 2Pe 1:21. They flourished in a continued succession during a period of more than a thousand years, reckoning from Moses to Malachi, all cooperating in the same designs., uniting in one spirit to deliver the same doctrines, and to predict the same blessings to mankind. Their claims to a divine commission were demonstrated by the intrinsic excellency of their doctrine; by the disinterested zeal and undaunted courage with which they prosecuted their ministry, and persevered in their great design, and by the unimpeachable integrity of their conduct. But even those credentials of a divine mission were still farther confirmed by the exercise of miraculous powers, and by the completion of many less important predictions which they uttered, De 13:1-3; 18:22; Jos 10:13; 1Sa 12:8; 2Ki 1:10; Isa 38:8; 42:9; 1Sa 9:6; 1Ki 13:3; Jer 28:9; Eze 33:33. When not immediately employed in the discharge of their sacred office, they lived sequestered from the world, in religious communities, or wandered "in deserts, in mountains, and in caves of the earth;" distinguished by their apparel, and by the general simplicity of their style of life, 2Ki 1:8; 4:10,38; 6:1; Isa 20:2; Mt 3:4; Heb 11:38; Re 11:3. They were the established oracles of their country, and consulted upon all occasions when it was necessary to collect the divine will on any civil or religious question. These illustrious personages were likewise as well the types as the harbingers of that greater Prophet whom they foretold; and in the general outline of their character, as well as in particular events of their lives, they prefigured to the Jews the future Teacher of mankind. Like him, also, they laboured by every exertion to instruct and reclaim; reproving and threatening the sinful, however exalted in rank, or encircled by power, with such fearless confidence and sincerity as often excited respect. The most intemperate princes were sometimes compelled unwillingly to hear and to obey their directions, 1Ki 12:21-24; 13:2-6; 20:42-43; 21:27; 2Ch 28:9-14; though often so incensed by their rebuke, as to resent it by the severest persecutions. Then it was that the prophets exhibited the integrity of their characters, by zealously encountering oppression, hatred, and death, in the cause of religion. Then i