Introduction to understanding the prophets and their role.
What is a prophet?
- Prophets were successors to Moses (Deuteronomy 18:9-22). They mediate the Lord’s will to the people and they function as his spokesmen.
- Prophets were guardians of the theocracy. They were sent by God to remind the kings of their covenant obligations (Deuteronomy 17:14-20).
- Prophets were covenant prosecutors. They brought the covenant to bear on the people (e.g. Hosea 4:1).
- Prophets were witnesses to God’s sovereign rule over history. They give a word of warning. They say when this comes to pass, you will know that God is sovereign over history. For example, Ezekiel says “Then you will know that I am the Lord” over 65 times.
- Prophets were intercessors. They pray to God for their people (e.g. Genesis 20:7; 1 Samuel 12:23).
- Prophets were “forth-tellers.” They were preachers to their contemporaries. Prophet were not primarily “fore-tellers” (predicting the future).
Function of Prophets
- “Covenant enforcement mediators” between God and the people
- Primary function: speak for God to their contemporaries about covenant status. They explain and clarify the blessings of obedience and the consequences of disobedience (See Lev 26; Dt 4; Dt. 28-32). Blessings: life, health, prosperity, agricultural abundance, respect and safety. Curses: death, disease, drought, dearth, danger, destruction, defeat, deportation, destitution, disgrace
- Convey God’s message (“Thus says the Lord”)
- Speak an unoriginal message; They are not inspired to announce any new doctrines. They uphold everything Moses taught and apply it to the people in their culture.
Speaking vs Writing Prophets
- Speaking prophets (e.g. Elijah and Elisha); Most prophets were only speaking.
- 16 Writing prophets (4 major; 12 minor)
- Nature of ministry is the same for writing and speaking prophets.
- Samuel became a leader of a group of prophets. He established the role and office of prophet.
Modes of prophetic inspiration
- Direct, personal awareness (e.g. “The Word of the Lord came to me…”)
- Dreams and visions
- Both of these are through the Spirit of God
- Mode of Communication: Oracles
Genre: Interpreting Prophecy
Who are the prophets?
Many people in Scripture prophesy occasionally but not all who do so hold the office of prophet. Therefore, scholars count the prophets differently.
- Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel
- Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
- Jews count 48 male and 7 female prophets but the list is debated.
The classification between “major” and “minor” refers to the size of the book, NOT the significance of the message.
|Kings of Judah||Kings of Israel||Foreign Kings|
|Jonah||782 BC||Jeroboam II||Shalmaneser (Assyria)|
|Hosea||760-720 BC||Uzziah; Jotham;|
|Amos||760 BC||Uzziah||Jeroboam II|
|Isaiah||739-685 BC||Uzziah; Jotham;|
|Fall of Israel 722 BC|
|Haggai||520 BC||Governor: Zerubbabel||Medo-Persia:|
|Zechariah||520 BC||Governor: Nehemiah||Medo-Persia:|
|Malachi||433 BC||Governor: Nehemiah||Medo-Persia:|
Note: The dates of Obadiah and Joel are unknown.
Chart: Israels King’s & Prophets
BibleGateway: Chart of Kings & Prophets
The Minor Prophets and their Message
- Hosea – The Lord loves Israel despite her sin.
- Joel – Judgment precedes Israel’s future spiritual revival.
- Amos – God is just and must judge sin.
- Obadiah – Sure retribution must overtake merciless pride.
- Jonah – Divine grace is universal in its sweep.
- Micah – Bethlehem-born Messiah will be mankind’s Deliverer.
- Nahum – Doom is to descend on wicked Nineveh.
- Habakkuk – Justification by faith is God’s way of salvation.
- Zephaniah – The Day of the Lord must precede kingdom blessing.
- Haggai – The Lord’s Temple and interests deserve top priority.
- Zechariah – The Lord will remember His people Israel.
- Malachi – Let the wicked be warned by the certainty of judgment.
-adapted from The New Unger’s Bible Handbook
Series: Bible Study 101
Where to next?
Background & History
Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash
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