Different Kinds of Prophets?

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Douglas | Forum Activity | Posted: Sun, Apr 25 2010 7:06 PM




I was wondering if anyone knew from personal study as to whether there were any differences in kinds or styles of the prophetic office in the scriptures apart from the general qualification of foretelling the future. To clarify if needed,; a particular set of rules that governed each prophets office (old testament & new) that stood out as unique, given by the Holy Ghost as instruction or insight into the specific kinds of prophets He equips. If so would you help me categorize them individually. I am still fairly new at the software as far as experience (so much to learn! :) ) and would greatly appreciate the help of your expertiese.  Thank you very much!

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Ben | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Apr 25 2010 7:43 PM

"the prophetic office in the scriptures apart from the general qualification of foretelling the future."

Being a prophet is not primarily about foretelling the future. See, for example, Albert Soggin, Israel in the Biblical Period

7- "It is evident that a prophet, contrary to the common meaning of the term today, was very little preoccupied with the future, concentrating his message on the present and on the interpretation of the past."


"The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected."- G.K. Chesterton

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Michael G. Halpern | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Apr 25 2010 7:51 PM

Hope this helps...

The Titles and History of the Prophets.

The main words used to describe such individuals in the OT are “prophet” (e.g., Jgs 6:8), “man of God” (e.g., 2 Kgs 4:9) and “seer”—the latter word doing duty for two distinct but synonymous words in the Hebrew lying behind our English translations (e.g., 1 Sm 9:9; 2 Sm 24:11).

The word translated “prophet” seems to have the idea “called” as its first emphasis: God takes the initiative, selects, summons, and sends the prophet (e.g., Jer 1:4, 5; 7:25; Am 7:14). “Man of God” speaks of the relationship into which the prophet is brought by his call: he is now “God’s man” and is recognized as belonging to him (2 Kgs 4:9). “Seer” indicates the new and remarkable powers of perception granted to the prophet. In Hebrew as in English the ordinary verb “to see” is used also of understanding (“I see what you mean”) and of the power of perception into the nature and meaning of things (“He sees things very clearly”); in the case of the prophets, their powers of “perception” were raised far above normal as the Lord inspired them to become vehicles of his message.

The line of great prophets upon whose shoulders the story of the OT moves forward began with Moses, who is recognized as the prophet par excellence (Dt 34:10). This was a correct perception, for all the distinctive marks of a prophet began in the experience of Moses: the call (Ex 3:1–4:17; cf. Is 6; Jer 1:4–19; Ez 1–3; Hos 1:2; Am 7:14, 15; etc.), the awareness of the importance of historical events as the acts of God in which he confirms his word (Ex 3:12; 4:21–23), ethical and social concern (Ex 2:11–13), and championship of the helpless (Ex 2:17).

But the comment in Deuteronomy 34:10 not only looks back to the greatness of Moses, but on to the coming of a prophet like Moses. This accords with his own prediction (Dt 18:15–19), which undoubtedly anticipates a single, great individual prophet. Moses makes a striking comparison with himself: the coming prophet will fill just such a role as Moses filled at Mt Sinai (Dt 18:16). On that occasion Moses acted as the prophetic mediator of the voice of God in a unique sense, for at Sinai God fashioned the old covenant into its completed form. In expecting a prophet cast in this mold, Moses was therefore looking forward to another covenant-mediator, to Jesus Christ himself.

But the forward, expectant look which Moses thus inculcated into his people was fulfilled in a fuller way, which Deuteronomy 18:20–22 does little more than hint at: as well as the coming great prophet there would also be other prophets (see vv 21, 22). The expectation of the great prophet was kept alive as God kept sending prophets to his people: in each case, such a prophet was known to be true by his likeness to Moses; in each case he would be viewed with excitement by genuine believers to see whether he was the great one come at last. Seen in this light we can understand the excitement of the people who saw Jesus raise the dead (Lk 7:16).

The prophetic line stemming from Moses had its share of such unknowns as the prophet of Judges 6:8, but from the earliest post-Mosaic times the real leadership of the people frequently lay in prophetic hands: Deborah (Jgs 4:4), Samuel (1 Sm 3:20), Elijah (1 Kgs 17:1). Even in the case of those whose leadership was less dramatically obvious, the decisive word which shaped events was the word of the prophet (e.g., 2 Kgs 22:12–20), a word which even the most influential kings ignored at their peril (e.g., Is 7:9).

The OT mentions the existence of prophetic groups, sometimes called “schools.” Elisha clearly had such a group under his instruction (2 Kgs 6:1), and “sons of the prophets” (e.g., 2 Kgs 2:3, 5; Am 7:14) probably refers to “prophet in training” under the care of a master prophet. “Guilds” would be a better description of the groups in 1 Samuel 10:5, 6, 10, 11. Such groups enjoyed an enthusiastic ecstatic worship of the Lord, touched with a marked activity of the Spirit of God, but at the heart of their devotion was “prophecy,” that is, a declaration of the truth about God himself. The extravagant behavior of Saul in this connection (1 Sm 19:24) happened to a man far gone in some form of dementia, and must not be taken as typical of the ecstatic groups. After this early period the prophetic groups seem to have diminished in significance (at least judging by the disappearance of plain references similar to those in 1 Sm), and the gradual change of things from ecstasy to a more direct ministry of the Word could well lie behind the comment in 1 Samuel 9:9.


The spirit of the Lord whose inspiration lay behind the activities of the ecstatic groups (1 Sm 10:6, 10; 19:20, 23) was active in all the prophets, and the claim to divine inspiration is plainly registered from time to time (e.g., 1 Kgs 22:24; Neh 9:30; Hos 9:7; Jl 2:28, 29; Mi 3:8; cf. 1 Chr 12:18; 2 Chr 15:1; 20:14; 24:20). The upshot of this inspiring activity of the Spirit was what can justly be called a miracle: chosen men, without in any way ceasing to be men, spoke with the very words of God (cf. 2 Pt 1:21). The OT never involves itself in the question how this could have been brought about; it contents itself with illustrating the reality.

Jeremiah claims that the hand of God was laid on his mouth, putting the words of God into his lips (Jer 1:9); Ezekiel records how he was made to eat a scroll, by which means he received the words the Lord had written, and was thus enabled to speak what the Lord called “my words” (Ez 2:7–4:4). The miracle is stated in a nutshell at the beginning of Amos (1:1, 3): “The words of Amos … Thus saith the Lord”—Amos remains Amos and the words are truly his; Amos has been divinely called to be a prophet (7:14) and the words are the Lord’s.

The first time the word “prophet” appears in the OT it is used of Abraham as a man of prayer (Gn 20:7; cf. Jer 7:10; 11:14; 14:11), that is, a person brought into communion with God. Amos claimed such an experience of fellowship for prophets (Am 3:7, literally “He opens his fellowship to his servants the prophets”); Jeremiah uses the same word when he claims that true prophets stand in the “council” (or “counsel” or “fellowship”) of the Lord (Jer 23:18, 22). It is a biblical truth that the nearer a man comes to God, and the more he reflects the likeness of God, and the more he hears and obeys the divine Word, the more he becomes truly human (i.e., man “in the image of God,” man as God made and intended him to be). God brought his servants the prophets into a unique reality of fellowship and closeness with himself, with the blessed result that their characteristic cry “Thus says the Lord” meant exactly what it claimed.

True and False Prophets.

The Lord is given to testing his people with adversity in order to establish their hearts (e.g., Dt 8:2, 3). In connection with their supreme privilege of hearing the Word of God through the prophets no exception was made: the area of privilege was the arena of testing (Dt 13:3, 4) to see if they truly loved his truth. But when he tests, the Lord in mercy opens doors of escape (cf. 1 Cor 10:13), and it was so in relation to false prophecy: He allowed his people to know how to test what they heard so as to hold fast to what is good (1 Thes 5:19–21).

The first test was doctrinal. In Deuteronomy 13 the motive of the false prophet was to draw the people away from the God who had revealed himself in the exodus (Dt 13:2, 5–7, 10). Notwithstanding that the word of the false prophet might be supported by apparent signs and wonders (Dt 13:1, 2) it was to be refused—not simply because it introduced novelty (Dt 13:2, 6) but because that novelty contradicted the revelation of the Lord at the exodus (Dt 13:5, 10). The first test was thus doctrinal and required in the people of God knowledge—knowledge of the truth whereby they could, by comparison, recognize error.

The second test was practical and required patience. It is stated in Deuteronomy 18:21, 22: the Word of the Lord always comes to pass. This requires patience because as Deuteronomy 13:1, 2 indicates, a false word may be supported by an apparent spiritual proof. The call of Deuteronomy 18:21, 22 is a call for patience: should there be any real doubt whether a prophetic word is true or false, wait for the confirmatory turn of events.

The third test is moral and calls for watchful discernment. Jeremiah, of all the prophets, was most afflicted in his spirit by the presence of false prophets and gave the longest and most sustained consideration to the problem (Jer 23:9–40). His answer is striking and challenging: the false prophet will be found out as a man of unholy life (Jer 23:11, 13, 14) whose message has no note of moral rebuke, but rather encourages men in their sin (Jer 23:16, 17, 21, 22; cf. the contrasting message of the true, vv 18–20).

The Function of the Prophet.

It is sometimes said that prophets are not foretellers but forthtellers. As far as the OT is concerned, however, the prophets are forthtellers (declaring the truth about God) by being foretellers (predicting what God will do). Prediction is neither an occasional nor a marginal activity in the OT; it is the way the prophet went about his work, under the inspiration of God. Not only the actual evidence of the books of the prophets, wherein the gaze is uniformly forward, supports this contention but also a key passage like Deuteronomy 18:9–15, which explains the function of the prophet in Israel: the surrounding nations are revealed as probing into the future by means of a variety of fortune-telling techniques (vv 10, 11); these things are forbidden to Israel on the ground of being abominable to the Lord (v 12); Israel’s distinctiveness is maintained in that the nations probe the future by diviners, whereas the Lord gives Israel a prophet (vv 13–15). Elisha (2 Kgs 4:27) is surprised when foreknowledge is denied him; Amos teaches that foreknowledge is the privilege of the prophets in their fellowship with God (Am 3:7). But prediction in Israel was totally unlike prognostication among the nations, for in no way was it motivated by a mere curiosity about the future.

First, biblical prediction arose out of the needs of the present. In Isaiah 39 it is the faithless commitment of Hezekiah to rely for security on a military understanding with Babylon that prompts Isaiah to announce the future Babylonian captivity. Isaiah does not snatch the name “Babylon” out of thin air; it is given to him within the situation in which he was called to minister. Second, prediction aimed at giving that sort of knowledge of the future was to result in moral reformation in the present. How often the moral exhortations of the prophets find their explanation in what the Lord is about to do (e.g., Is 31:6, 7; Am 5:6). Third, the predicted course of events was aimed at stabilizing the faith of the true believer in dark times (see e.g., how Is 9:1–7; 11:1–16; 40:1–3 have the effect of lifting the eyes out of the immediately preceding grim tragedy to the coming glory, thus giving faith the strength of sure hope).

Methods of Communication.

In foretelling the prophets were forthtelling, proclaiming the wonderful works of God (cf. the definition of prophecy in Acts 2:11, 17). For the most part, this proclamation was by direct word of mouth, by verbal preaching. The prophets were men of the word. They believed their words (which were God’s words) were far more than a sound addressed from one person to another; the word was really like a messenger sent by God (Is 55:11) endowed with all the divine efficacy of the creative word of Genesis 1:3 (cf. Ps 33:6). Sometimes the efficacy of the word was enhanced by being embodied in a sign or symbolic action (e.g., Jer 13:1–11; 19:1–15; Ez 4:1–17; 24:15–24), or identified intimately with a person (Is 7:3; cf. 10:21; 8:1–4). Such things had, of course, the effect of visual aids whereby the word would be made clearer to those present, being seen as well as heard. But it would seem that the intention of the symbolic action (sometimes called an “acted oracle”) was not so much to make understanding easier but to give more power and effect to the word as it was sent like a messenger into that situation. This is the conclusion to be drawn from 2 Kings 13:14–19 where the extent to which the king “embodied” the word in action determined the extent to which the word would prove effective in bringing events to pass. The final embodiment of the words of the prophets was in the books which have, by the rich providence of God, been preserved. Jeremiah 36 may be taken as an object lesson in the fact that the prophets took the time and trouble to record their spoken messages in writing: there was stress on careful word by word dictation (vv 6, 17, 18). But the actual literary form of the messages themselves tells the same tale. What we find in the books of the prophets cannot be the preached form of their words, but rather the studied wording in which they preserved (and filed away) their sermons. It stands to reason that men who were conscious of communicating the very words of God would see to it that those words were not lost. We may take it for granted that every prophet preserved a written record of his ministry. Whether each of the named prophets was himself directly responsible for the final form of his book we are not told and have no way of knowing: the careful way in which the books of Isaiah or Amos, for example, are arranged is best suited by assuming that the author was also his own editor; the freedom with which the oracles of Jeremiah are arranged in defiance of chronological order, makes one wonder if anyone but Jeremiah would have taken such liberties. It is usually assumed that the final arrangement of the books of the prophets was a fairly long process, attended to by the continuing circles of disciples of the prophet in question, but there is no evidence for the continuing existence of such circles of disciples, or of their engaging in the editorial and expansionist work often attributed to them. The books are best considered as the last and greatest acted oracles of the prophets, embodying their message in visible, enduring form and blessing the succeeding ages of the church with the imperishable Word of God. ALEC MOTYER See PROPHECY; PROPHET, FALSE; ISRAEL, RELIGION OF. Bibliography. W.J. Beecher, The Prophets and the Promise; H.E. Freeman, An Introduction to the Old Prophets; A. Herschel, The Prophets; A.R. Johnson, The Cultic Prophet in Ancient Israel; D.L. Peterson, The Roles of Israel’s Prophets; L.J. Wood, The Prophets of Israel; E.J. Young, My Servants the Prophets. Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1988). 1783–1784. Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1988). 1781–1783.

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Floyd Johnson | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Apr 25 2010 8:27 PM

I am not sure that these forums are not the place to discuss these kinds of topics.  A far better approach, in that it would be helpful to the OP and to others, would be to provide suggested ways to use LOGOS to answer these kinds of questions.

Sort of like "give a man a fish, he eats a meal; teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime."



Posts 687
Douglas | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Apr 25 2010 8:41 PM


Thank you very much Michael!!!! This was exactly what I was looking for!  :)

Posts 687
Douglas | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Apr 25 2010 8:44 PM


Hello Floyd,


How are you? I received your post concerning my question. I kind of thought the same thing. I thought there should be a section or title head option in the forum section to answer questions... (kind of like give a man a fish so that  he knows what he likes and wants to fish for :) )

Posts 2874
David Ames | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Apr 27 2010 7:38 PM


Michael G. Halpern found

""The main words used to describe such individuals in the OT are “prophet” (e.g., Jgs 6:8), “man of God” (e.g., 2 Kgs 4:9) and “seer”—the latter word doing duty for two distinct but synonymous words in the Hebrew lying behind our English translations (e.g., 1 Sm 9:9; 2 Sm 24:11).     Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). ""


In: Baker encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House

ON: Page 1781


Found under: Prophet, Prophetess.


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