What is a…
prophet in the Bible? and who is one?
Biblical prophets are persons who convey a message from God, or teach the Word of God. In addition, sometimes God gave them a prophecy of the future to convey to the people of their time. In some cases, God used them in a miracle (e.g., Moses, Elijah the prophet, etc.).
Thus a prophet was a spokesman for God; he spoke in God’s name and by his authority (Exodus 7:1). He is the mouth by which God speaks to men (Jeremiah 1:9; Isaiah 51:16), and hence what the prophet says is not of man but of God (2 Peter 1:20-21; compare Hebrews 3:7; Acts 4:25; 28:25).
Prophets were the immediate organs of God for the communication of his mind and will to men (Deuteronomy 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 government.”
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 (Genesis 20:7; Exodus 7:1; Psalm 105:15), as also Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15; 34:10; Hos. 12:13), are ranked among the prophets.
The title of prophet was thus a general application to all who have messages from God to men.
Schools for Biblical education
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 Samuel 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.”
- What are the schools of the prophets?
Prophets of Old Testament Scripture
These are divided into 4 groups:
Hebrew words translated as “prophet”
Hebrew: נָבִיא —transliteration: nabi, from a root meaning “to bubble forth, as from a fountain,” hence “to utter,” a spokesman, speaker, or prophet (compare Psalm 45:1)
The Hebrew word Nabi is is the first and the most generally used word for a prophet.
Afterwards another word, חֹזֶה (transliteration: hozeh), “a seer” (2 Samuel 24:11), was employed.
Prophets in the New Testament
Greek: προφήτης —transliteration: prophétés —a prophet (an interpreter or forth-teller of God’s will)
There was also in the Early Church a distinct order of prophets (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 2:20; 3:5), who made new revelations from God. They differed from the “teacher,” whose office it was to impart truths already revealed.
The prophet Elijah is frequently mentioned in the New Testament.
Named Biblical prophets
- Amos / Book of Amos
- Daniel / Book of Daniel
- Enoch (Jude 1:14-15)
- Ezekiel / Book of Ezekiel
- Ezra / Book of Ezra
- Habakkuk / Prophecies of Habakkuk
- Haggai / Book of Haggai
- Hosea (Hoshea) / Prophecies of Hosea
- Isaiah / Book of Isaiah
- Jeremiah / Book of Jeremiah
- Jesus the Christ
- Joel / Book of Joel
- Apostle John / Book of Revelation
- John the Baptist
- Jonah / Book of Jonah
- Malachi / Prophecies of Malachi
- Micah / Book of Micah
- Nahum / Book of Nahum
- Nehemiah / Book of Nehemiah
- Obadiah / Book of Obadiah
- Samuel / Books of Samuel / Books of Kings
- Simeon (Luke 2:29-35)
- Zechariah / Book of Zechariah
- Zephaniah / Book of Zephaniah
The greatest prophet
The greatest prophet, above all others, is Jesus the Christ—who is the exact representation of God (Hebrews 1:1-3) and speaks for God because He is God. Of course, Jesus is much more than the greatest prophet—being the greatest High Priest, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the second person of the Triune God, the Alpha and Omega, etc. God had long promised that this Prophet would one day come (Deuteronomy 18:18; John 6:14; John 7:40; Acts 3:20-23; Acts 7:37).
According to Jesus (Matthew 11:11), the second greatest prophet is John the Baptist, who was born “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” Jesus Christ (Luke 1:17) by calling the people to repentance of their sins (Luke 3:3).
A false prophet claims to speak for God but does not.
Jesus Christ solemnly warned,
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will [a]know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. —Matthew 7:15–20 NASB
Woe to you when all the people speak well of you; for their fathers used to treat the false prophets the same way. —Luke 6:26 NASB
But false prophets also appeared among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their indecent behavior, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. —2 Peter 2:1–3 NASB
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and now it is already in the world. —1 John 4:1–3 NASB
And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire, which burns with brimstone. —Revelation 19:20 NASB
And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. —Revelation 20:10 NASB
Dr. John MacArthur explains this about false teachers and prophets,
They have a ready hearing among most people, because they say only what people like to hear. Just as did ancient Israel in Jeremiah’s time, people today like it that way (Jer. 5:31). They want to hear illusions, not truth. They are enamored with pleasure and fantasy and resent being confronted with anything disquieting and condemnatory. They want encouragement but not correction, positive words but not negative truth. They will accept grace as long as it is cheap grace and does not reflect against their own sinfulness, inadequacies, and lostness.
The creed of the false prophet, if he has any at all, will be vague, indefinite, and ethereal. No demanding truth will be absolute or clear-cut, and every principle will be easy and attractive.
False prophets can also be identified by their converts and followers. They will attract to themselves people who have the same superficial, self-centered, and unscriptural orientation as they do. “Many will follow their sensuality:” Peter tells us, “and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned” (2 Pet. 2:2). They have many followers because they teach and promote what the majority of people want to hear and believe (cf. 2 Tim. 4:3).
Their followers will be like them-egotistical, proud, self-centered, self-indulgent, self-willed, and self-satisfied, while being religious. They will be both self-oriented and group-oriented, but never God-oriented or Scripture-oriented. —Dr. John F. MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Moody Publishers: 2006)
More about false prophets
- Who is Balaam?
- Who is Elymas Bar-Jesus?
- False prophet of Satan, described in the book of Revelation
- IDOLATRY is filled with false prophets claiming to speak for the true god.
- About idols in the Bible
- What is heresy?
- Nostradamus—Did he predict the bombing of the Twin Towers in New York? Answer
- What does God say about LYING and liars?
- What does the Bible say about pride and HUMILITY?
- What is a SEER? Answer
- What is DIVINATION? Answer?
- What are the schools of the prophets?
- Messianic prophecies
- 70 weeks