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Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Prophet

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nabiy' , from naaba' "to bubble forth as a fountain," as Psalms 45:1, "my heart is bubbling up a good matter," namely, inspired by the Holy Spirit; 2 Peter 1:19-21; Job 32:8; Job 32:18-19; Job 32:20. Roeh , "seer," from raah "to see," was the term in Samuel's days (1 Samuel 9:9) which the sacred writer of 1 Samuel calls "beforetime"; but nabi was the term as far back as the Pentateuch, and roeh does not appear until Samuel's time, and of the ten times of its use in seven it is applied to Samuel. Chozeh , "seer," from the poetical chazeh "see," is first found in 2 Samuel 24:11, and is frequent in Chronicles; it came into use when roeh was becoming less used, nabi being resumed. Νabi existed long before, and after, and alongside of roeh and chozeh . Chazon is used in the Pentateuch, Samuel, Chronicles, Job, and the prophets for a prophetic revelation. Lee (Inspir. 543) suggests that chozeh designates the king's "seer" (1 Chronicles 21:9; 2 Chronicles 29:25), not only David's seer Gad (as Smith's Bible Dictionary says) but Iddo in Solomon's reign (2 Chronicles 9:29; 2 Chronicles 12:15).

Jehu, Hanani's son, under Jehoshaphat (1 Chronicles 19:2). Asaph and Jeduthun are called so (1 Chronicles 29:30; 1 Chronicles 35:15); also Amos 7:12; also 2 Chronicles 33:18. Chozeh "the gazer" upon the spiritual world (1 Chronicles 29:9), "Samuel the seer (roeh ), Nathan the prophet (nabi ), Gad the gazer" (chozeh ). As the seer beheld the visions of God, so the prophet proclaimed the divine truth revealed to him as one of an official order in a more direct way. God Himself states the different modes of His revealing Himself and His truth (Numbers 12:6; Numbers 12:8). Prophet (Greek) means the interpreter (from pro , feemi , "speak forth" truths for another, as Aaron was Moses' prophet, i.e. spokesman: Exodus 7:1) of God's will (the mantis was the inspired unconscious utterer of oracles which the prophet interpreted); so in Scripture the divinely inspired revealer of truths be fore unknown. Prediction was a leading function of the prophet (Deuteronomy 18:22; Jeremiah 28:9; 1 Samuel 2:27; Acts 2:30; Acts 3:18; Acts 3:21; 1 Peter 1:10; 2 Peter 3:2).

But it is not always attached to the prophet. For instance, the 70 elders, (Numbers 11:16-29); Asaph and Jeduthun, etc., "prophesied with a harp" (1 Chronicles 25:3); Miriam and Deborah were "prophetesses" (Exodus 15:20; Judges 4:4, also Judges 6:8); John the Baptist, the greatest of prophets of the Old Testament order. The New Testament prophet (1 Corinthians 12:28) made new revelations and preached under the extraordinary power of the Holy Spirit "the word of wisdom" (1 Corinthians 12:8), i.e. imparted with ready utterance new revelations of the divine wisdom in redemption. The "teacher" on the other hand, with the ordinary and calmer operation of the Spirit, had "the word of knowledge," i.e. supernaturally imparted ready utterance of truths already revealed (1 Corinthians 14:3-4). The nabi was spokesman for God, mediating for God to man. Christ is the Antitype. As God's deputed representative, under the theocracy the prophet spoke in God's name.

Moses was the highest concentration of the type; bringing in with mighty signs the legal dispensation, as Christ did the gospel (Deuteronomy 18:15; Deuteronomy 34:10-11; John 1:18; John 1:45; John 3:34; John 15:24), and announcing the program of God's redemption scheme, which the rest of the Bible fills up. Prophecy is based on God's unchanging righteousness in governing His world. It is not, as in the Greek drama, a blind fate threatening irrevocable doom from which there is no escape. Prophecy has a moral purpose, and mercifully gives God's loving fatherly warning to the impenitent, that by turning from sin they may avert righteous punishment. So Jonah 3; Daniel 4:9-27. The prophets were Jehovah's remembrancers, pleading for or against the people: so Elijah (1 Kings 17; 1 Kings 18:36-37; Romans 11:2-3; James 5:16; James 5:18; Revelation 11:6). God as King of the theocracy did not give up His sovereignty when kings were appointed; but as occasion required, through the prophets His legates, superseded, reproved, encouraged, set up, or put down kings (as Elisha in Jehu's case); and in times of apostasy strengthened in the faith the scattered remnant of believers.

The earlier prophets took a greater share in national politics. The later looked on to the new covenant which should comprehend all nations. Herein they rose above Jewish exclusiveness, drew forth the living spirit from beneath the letter of the law, and prepared for a perfect, final, and universal church. There are two periods: the Assyrian, wherein Isaiah is the prominent prophet; and the Chaldaean, wherein Jeremiah takes the lead. The prophets were a marked advance on the ceremonial of Leviticus and its priests: this was dumb show, prophecy was a spoken revelation of Christ more explicitly, therefore it fittingly stands in the canon between the law and the New Testament The same principles whereon God governed Israel in its relation to the world, in the nation's history narrated in the books of Samuel and Kings, are those whereon the prophecies rest. This accounts for those historical books being in the canon reckoned among "the prophets." The history of David and his seed is part of the preparation for the antitypical Son of David of whom the prophets speak.

Daniel on the other hand is excluded from them, though abounding in the predictive element, because he did not belong to the order of prophets officially, but ministered in the pagan court of the world power, Babylon. Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings were "the former prophets"; Isaiah to Malachi "the latter prophets." The priests were Israel's regular teachers; the prophets extraordinary, to rouse and excite. In northern Israel however, where there was no true priesthood, the prophets were God's regular and only ministers, more striking prophetic deeds are recorded than in Judah. Moses' song (Deuteronomy 32) is "the magna charta of prophecy" (Eichhorn). The law was its basis (Isaiah 8:16; Isaiah 8:20; Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 13:1-3); they altered not a tittle of it, though looking forward to the Messianic age when its spirit would be written on the heart, and the letter be less needed (Jeremiah 3:16; Jeremiah 31:31). Their speaking in the name of the true God only and conforming to His word, and their predictions being fulfilled, was the test of their' divine mission (Deuteronomy 13; Deuteronomy 18:10-11; Deuteronomy 18:20; Deuteronomy 18:22).

Also the prophet's not promising prosperity without repentance, and his own assurance of his divine mission (sometimes against his inclination: Jeremiah 20:8-9; Jeremiah 26:12) producing inward assurance in others. Miracles without these criteria are not infallible proof (Deuteronomy 13). Predictions fulfilled established a prophet's authority (1 Samuel 3:19; Jeremiah 22:11-12; Ezekiel 12:12-13; Ezekiel 12:24). As to symbolic actions, ninny are only parts of visions, not external facts, being impossible or indecent (Jeremiah 13:1-10; Jeremiah 25:12-38; Hosea 1:2-11). The internal actions, when possible and proper, were expressed externally (1 Kings 22:11). The object was vivid impressiveness. Christ gave predictions, for this among other purposes, that when the event came to pass men should believe (John 13:19). So Jehovah in the Old Testament (Isaiah 41:21-23; Isaiah 43:9; Isaiah 43:11-12; Isaiah 44:7-8.)

The theory of a long succession of impostors combining to serve the interests of truth, righteousness, and goodness from age to ago by false pretensions, is impossible, especially when they gained nothing by their course but obloquy and persecution. Nor can they be said to be self deceivers, for this could not have been the case with a succession of prophets, if it were possible in the case of one or two. However, various in other respects, they all agree to testify of Messiah (Acts 10:43). Definiteness and curcumstantiality distinguish their prophecies from vague conjectures. Thus Isaiah announces the name of Cyrus ages before his appearance; so as to Josiah, 1 Kings 13:2. Prophets as an order. The priests at first were Israel's teachers in God's statutes by types, acts, and words (Lee, 10:11). But when under the judges the nation repeatedly apostatized, and no longer regarded the acted lessons of the ceremonial law, God sent a new order to witness for Him in plainer warnings, namely, the prophets. Samuel, of the Levite family of Kohath (1 Chronicles 6:28; 1 Chronicles 9:22), not only reformed the priests but gave the prophets a new standing.

Hence he is classed with Moses (Jeremiah 15:1; Psalms 99:6; Acts 3:24). Prophets existed before: Abraham, and the patriarchs as recipients of God's revelations, are so designated (Psalms 105:15; Genesis 15:12; Genesis 20:7); but Samuel constituted them into a permanent order. He instituted theological colleges of prophets; one at Ramah where he lived (1 Samuel 19:12; 1 Samuel 19:20), another was at Bethel (2 Kings 2:3), another at Jericho (2 Kings 2:5), another at Gilgal (2 Kings 4:38, also 2 Kings 6:1). Official prophets seem to have continued to the close of the Old Testament, though the direct mention of "the sons of the prophets" occurs only in Samuel's, Elijah's, and Elisha's time. A "father" or "master" presided (2 Kings 2:3; 1 Samuel 10:12), who was "anointed" to the office (1 Kings 19:16; Isaiah 61:1; Psalms 105:15).

They were "sons." The law was their chief study, it being what they were to teach, Not that they were in antagonism to the priests whose duty it had been to teach the law; they reprove bad priests, not to set aside but to reform and restore the priesthood as it ought to be (Isaiah 24:2; Isaiah 28:7; Malachi 2:1; Malachi 1:14); they supplemented the work of the priests. Music and poetry were cultivated as subordinate helps (compare Exodus 15:20; Judges 4:4; Judges 5:1). Elijah stirred up the prophetic gift within him by a minstrel (2 Kings 3:15); so Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun (1 Chronicles 25:5-6). Sacred songs occur in the prophets (Isaiah 12:1; Isaiah 26:1; Jonah 2:2; Habakkuk 3:2). Possibly the students composed verses for liturgical use in the temple. The prophets held meetings for worship on new moons and Sabbaths (2 Kings 4:23). Elisha and the elders were sitting in his house, officially engaged, when the king of Israel sent to slay him (2 Kings 6:32).

So Ezekiel and the elders, and the people assembled (Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 20:1; Ezekiel 33:31). The dress, like that of the modern dervish, was a hairy garment with leather girdle (Isaiah 20:2; Zechariah 13:4; Matthew 3:4). Their diet was the simplest (2 Kings 4:10; 2 Kings 4:38; 1 Kings 19:6); a virtual protest against abounding luxury. Prophecy. Some of the prophetic order had not the prophetic gift; others having the gift of inspiration did not belong to the order; e.g., Amos, though called to the office and receiving the gift to qualify him for it, yet did not belong to the order (Amos 7:14). Of the hundreds trained in the colleges of prophets only sixteen have a place in the canon, for these alone had the special call to the office and God's inspiration qualifying them for it. The college training was but a preparation, then in the case of the few followed God's exclusive work: Exodus 3:2, Moses; 1 Samuel 3:10, Samuel; Isaiah, Isaiah 6:8; Jeremiah, Jeremiah 1:5; Ezekiel. Ezekiel 2:4.

Each fresh utterance was by "vision" (Isaiah 6:1) or by "the word of Jehovah" (Jeremiah 2:1). The prophets so commissioned were the national poets (so David the psalmist was also a prophet, Acts 2:30), annalists (2 Chronicles 32:32), theocratic patriots (Psalm 48; 2 Chronicles 20:14-17), promoters of spiritual religion (Isaiah 1), extraordinarily authorized expounders of the spirit of the law (Isaiah 58:3-7; Ezekiel 18; Micah 6:6-8; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21) which so many sacrificed to the letter, official pastors, and a religious counterpoise to kingly despotism and idolatry, as Elijah was to Ahab. Their utterances being continued at intervals throughout their lives (as Isaiah in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah) show that they did not earn their reputation as prophets by some one happy guess or oracle, but maintained their prophetical character continuously; which excludes the probability of imposture, time often detecting fraud. Above all, the prophets by God's inspiration foretold concerning Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 1:22-23 with Isaiah 7:4; Isaiah 8:8).

The formula "that it might be fulfilled" implies that the divine word spoken through the prophets ages before produced the result, which followed in the appointed time as necessarily as creation followed from the creative word. Christ appeals to the prophets as fulfilled in Himself: Matthew 13:14 (Isaiah 6:9), Matthew 15:7 (Isaiah 29:13), John 5:46; Luke 24:44. Matthew (Matthew 3:3) quotes Isaiah 40:3 as fulfilled in John the Baptist; so Matthew 4:13-15 with Isaiah 9:1-2; Matthew 8:17 with Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 12:17 with Isaiah 42:1. So also Jeremiah, Matthew 2:18; Hebrews 8:8; Daniel, Matthew 24:15; Hosea, Matthew 2:15; Romans 9:25; Joel, Acts 2:17; Amos, Acts 7:42; Acts 15:16; Jonah, Matthew 12:40; Micah, Matthew 12:7; Habakkuk, Acts 13:41; Haggai, Hebrews 12:26; Zechariah, Matthew 21:5; Mark 14:27; John 19:37; Malachi, Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27.

The Psalms are 70 times quoted, and often as predictive. The prophecies concerning Ishmael, Nineveh, Tyre, Egypt, the four empires Babylon, Medo-Persia, Graeco-Macedonia, and Rome, were notoriously promulgated before the event; the fulfillment is dear; it could not have been foreseen by mere human sagacity. The details as to Messiah scattered through so many prophets, yet all converging in Him, the race, nation, tribe, family, birthplace, miracles, humiliation, death, crucifixion with the wicked yet association with the rich at death, resurrection, extension of His seed the church, are so numerous that their minute conformity with the subsequent fact can only be explained by believing that the prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit to foretell the event. What is overwhelmingly convincing is, the Jews are our sacred librarians, who attest the prophets as written ages before, and who certainly would not have corrupted them to confirm Jesus' Messianic claims which they reject. Moreover, the details are so complicated, and seemingly inconsistent, that before the event it would seem impossible to make them coincide in one person.

A "son," yet "the everlasting Father"; a "child," yet "the mighty God"; "Prince of peace," sitting "upon the throne of David," yet coming as Shiloh (the peace-giver) when "the sceptre shall depart from Judah"; Son of David, yet Lord of David; a Prophet and Priest, yet also a King; "God's Servant," upon whom He "lays the iniquity of us all," Messiah cut off, yet given by the Ancient of days "an everlasting dominion." The only key that opens this immensely complicated lock is the gospel narrative of Jesus, written ages after the prophets. The absence of greater clearness in the prophets is due to God's purpose to give light enough to guide the willing, to leave darkness enough to confound the willfully blind. Hence the prophecy is not dependent for its interpretation on the prophet; nay, he was often ignorant of the full meaning of his own word (2 Peter 1:20-21). Moreover, if the form of the prophecies had been direct declaration the fulfillment would have been liable to frustration. If also the time had been more distinctly marked believers would have been less in a state of continued expectancy.

The prophecies were designedly made up of many parts (polumeros ; Hebrews 12:1); fragmentary and figurative, the temporary and local fulfillment often foreshadowing the Messianic fulfillment. The obscurity, in some parts, of prophecies of which other parts have been plainly fulfilled is designed to exercise our faith, the obscure parts yet awaiting their exhaustive fulfillment; e.g. prophecies combining the first coming and the second coming of Christ, the parts concerning the latter of course yet require patient and prayerful investigation. Moreover, many prophecies, besides their references to events of the times of the sacred writer, look forward to ulterior fulfillments in Messiah and His kingdom; for "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:10). Thus the foretold deliverance from Babylon by Cyrus foreshadows the greater deliverance from the antitypical Babylon by Cyrus' Antitype, Messiah (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1-5; Isaiah 45:13; Isaiah 45:22-25; Jeremiah 51:6-10; Jeremiah 51:25; compare Revelation 18:4; Revelation 17:4; Revelation 14:8; Revelation 8:8).

So the prophet Isaiah's son is the sign of the immediate deliverance of Judah from Rezin and Pekah; but language is used which could not have applied to him, and can only find its full and exhaustive accomplishment in the antitypical Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14-16; Isaiah 8:3-12; Isaiah 8:18; Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 1:18-23). So too our Lord's prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem is couched in language receiving its exhaustive fulfillment only in the judgments to be inflicted at His second coming (Matthew 24); as in the sky the nearer and the further off heavenly bodies are, to the spectator, projected into the same vault. The primary sense does not exclude the secondary, not even though the sacred writer himself had nothing in his thought; beyond the primary, for the Holy Spirit is the true Author, who often made the writers unconsciously utter words reaching far beyond the primary and literal sense; so Hosea 11:1, compare Matthew 2:15; so Caiaphas, John 11:50-52. They diligently inquired as to the deep significancy of their own words, and were told that the full meaning would only be known in subsequent gospel times (Daniel 12:8-9; Zechariah 4:5; 1 Peter 1:10-12).

The prophet, like his Antitype, spoke not of himself (John 7:17-18; Numbers 11:17; Numbers 11:25; Numbers 11:29; 1 Samuel 10:6; 1 Samuel 19:20; Numbers 12:6-8). The dream and vision were lower forms of inspiration than Moses enjoyed, namely, "mouth to mouth, not in dark speeches"; directly, without the intervention of dream, vision, or person (compare Exodus 33:11 with Joel 2:28; Daniel 1:17). The prophets did net generally speak in ecstatic unconsciousness, but with self possession, for "the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" (1 Corinthians 14:32); but sometimes they did (Genesis 15; Daniel 7; Daniel 8; Daniel 10; Daniel 11; Daniel 12, "the visions of Daniel"); "the vision of Isaiah" (Isaiah 6); "the vision of Ezekiel" (Ezekiel 1); "the visions of Zechariah" (Zechariah 1; Zechariah 4; Zechariah 5; Zechariah 6); the vision of Peter (Acts 10); of Paul (Acts 22:17; Acts 22:2 Corinthians 12); Job (Job 4:13-16; Job 33:15-16); John (Revelation 1:10) "in the Spirit," i.e. in a state of ecstasy, the outer world shut out, the inner spirit being taken possession of by God's Spirit, so that an immediate connection was established with the invisible world.

Whereas the prophet speaks in the Spirit the apocalyptic seer is wholly in the Spirit, he intuitively and directly sees and hears (Isaiah 6:1; Zechariah 2:1; Micah 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1; Acts 10:11; Acts 22:18; Revelation 1:12); the subjects of the vision are in juxtaposition (as in a painting), independent of relations of time. But however various might be the modes of inspiration, the world spoken or written by the inspired prophets equally is God's inspired infallible testimony. Their words, in their public function, were not their own so much as God's (Haggai 1:13); as private individuals they searched diligently into their far-reaching meaning. Their words prove in the fulfillment to be not of their own origination, therefore not of their own individual (compare 1 Peter 1:10-12) interpretation (idias epiluseos ou ginetai ), but of the Holy Spirit's by whom they were "moved"; therefore we must look for the Holy Spirit's illumination while we "take heed to the word of prophecy (now become) more sure" (through the fulfillment of part of it already, namely, that concerning Christ's sufferings; and through the pledge given in His transfiguration witnessed by Peter, that the rest will come to pass, namely, His foretold glory: 2 Peter 1:19-21 Greek, compare 2 Samuel 23:2; Hosea 9:7).

Messianic prophecy. Prophecy and miracles are the direct evidences of the truth of revelation; the morals, propagation, and suitableness of Christianity to man's needs, combined together with the two former, are its irrefragable proofs. All subsequent prophecy of Messiah develops the primary one (Genesis 3:15). This only defined the Saviour as about to be the woman's seed. Noah's prophecy that He should be of the Semitic branch of the human race, (Genesis 9:26; Genesis 12:3; Genesis 22:18; Genesis 28:14) of the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, (Genesis 49:10) of the tribe of Judah, a Shiloh or tranquilizer, yet one who will smite with a sceptre and come as a star (Numbers 24:17); a prophet, like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15); a king, of David's seed, reigning forever (2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 18; 61; 89); the Son of God, as well as Son of David (Psalms 2:2; Psalms 2:6-7; Psalms 2:8; Psalms 110:1-4, etc.).

Anointed by Jehovah as David's Lord, King of Zion, Inheritor of the whole earth, dashing in pieces His enemies like a potter's vessel with a rod of iron, "it Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek"; severely afflicted, "hands and feet pierced," betrayed by "His own familiar friend," "His garments parted and lots cast for His vesture," "His ears opened" to "come" and "do God's will" at all costs, when God would not have animal "sacrifice" (Psalm 22; Psalm 40; Psalm 55; Psalm 69; Psalm 102; Psalm 109). Raised from the grave without His flesh seeing corruption (Psalm 16; Psalm 17); triumphant King, espousing the church His bride (Psalm 45); reigning in peace and righteousness from the river to the ends of the earth (Psalm 72). There are four groups of the 16 prophets.

Of the northern Israel, Hosea, Amos, Joel, Jonah; of Judah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah; prophets of the captivity, Ezekiel and Daniel; prophets of the restoration, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Each adds some fresh trait to complete the delineation of Messiah. Isaiah 52:13-15; Isaiah 53, is the most perfect portrait of His vicarious sufferings, the way of salvation to us and of consequent glory to Him, and eternal satisfaction in seeing His spiritual seed. (See ISAIAH.) The arrangement in the canon is chronological mainly. But as the twelve lesser prophets are regarded as one work, Jeremiah and Ezekiel are placed at the close of the greater prophets, and before the lesser, whose three last prophets are subsequent to Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Hosea being longest of the lesser is placed first of them, though not so chronologically.


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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Prophet'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/fbd/p/prophet.html. 1949.


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