Prophesy in English implies, prediction. It’s the telling of events concerning the future. The derivation or etymological force of the Hebrew word (Nabi) describes “a person who breaks forth with spiritual utterances under divine influence, or simply one who pours forth words” of divine communications, and more distinctively who delivers the burden of the divine thought bestowed to him and makes known God’s declarations.

So the prophet of God is “the interpreter of the divine will of God.” He is expressly called “the interpreter and the messenger of Jehovah.” The sons of Asaph, in,

1 Chronicles 25:3, “prophesied with a harp, to give thanks and to praise the Lord,” in the sense of simply singing or uttering God’s praise under the dictate of the divine Spirit. Also Philip the Evangelist in,

Acts 21:9, had “four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy,” in the sense mainly of declaring the gospel.

Prophecy is not merely that which flows out of the divine Spirit enriching and exalting all the natural facilities, but it is the direct communication of God Himself to the prophet unveiling the future, for the guidance of His church, and for the glory of His name.

The prophets of the O.T. were an order instituted, or at least reformed and more thoroughly organized by Samuel. But as we know, there were prophets before; Abraham is called a prophet, Gen.20:7, and Moses in,

Deuteronomy 18:15 and 34:10; Aaron is the “prophet of Moses” Exodus 7:1, and Miriam is “a prophetess” Exodus 15:20; but it was Samuel who first established the office as a systematic part of the Jewish religion.

For this purpose, he gathered together companies of young men of promising spiritual attainments, who were trained under his superintendence for various religious duties the exposition of the theocratic law, and the conduct of the theocratic worship, especially of its elaborate musical departments, 1 Samuel 10:5;         1 Chronicles 25:6.

The use of the psaltery (stringed instrument) and tabret, pipe, harp, and cymbal, was the peculiar undertaking of the prophets. The young men were set apart to master these instruments; placed under an elderly head or president who received the name of father, and these were called his sons. They were “all under the hands of their father for song in the house of the Lord, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, for the service of the house of God” 1 Chronicle 25:6.

There were the higher prophets and the inferior prophets. The higher prophets had inferior prophets or servants attendant upon them, whose duty it was to pour water upon their hands, and secure provisions,   2 Kings 3:11, 5:22. Moses had Joshua and others; Elijah had Elisha: Elisha had Gahazi.

Many of them were married, and had families; for example, Moses, Samuel, Deborah, David, Hosea, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. The wife was sometimes, as in the case of Isaiah, called “the prophetess.”

The prophets, according to this description, were a peculiar order of teachers among the Jews; prophecy, a distinctive part of the divine economy by which God trained and educated the “chosen people.” Beginning in a definite, though still unorganized form, with Moses (only incidentally is Abraham called “a prophet”), it assumes a regular organization in the hands of Samuel, just when the earlier form of the theocratic government was passing away, and the monarchy was established.

It grew up alongside the older institution of the Levitical priesthood without any professed or formal opposition to the latter, but playing a part distinct, and often practically opposed to it.

The priests ministered at the altars of sacrifice, and discharged all the official rites of purification enjoined by the Jewish law. They were only secondarily teachers of the people. The prophets, again, while joining in the rites of the tabernacle and temple, were primarily and mainly teachers.

Their function was moral, and not ritual; they upheld the ethical, spiritual, and eternal side of religion, apt to be obscured under the hardening tendencies and ambitious official-ism of an influential priesthood. They were great preachers of a righteous government of the world, and of future retribution midst the confusions and evils of their day; and prophecy was the ever-renewing and reforming element in the constantly corrupting and decaying policy of Judaism.

More particularly, the prophets were both, national historians and poets of the Jewish people; the narrators of its past deliverance, the heralds of its coming glories. The books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, are included among the prophetical books of the O.T., found in the Jewish canon; while the acts of David by Gad and Nathan, of Solomon and Jeroboam by Nathan and Iddo, along with other historical and biographical pieces have perished.

It is needless to point to the collection of the later prophetic books, beginning with Joel, as containing, along with much direct historical matter also, the most exalted specimens of poetry to be found in any language.

According to the general view of theologians, prophecy is peculiarly predictive, and the essential characteristic of the prophet is supposed to be the power of foretelling future events. This view is not warranted, we have seen either by the history (etymology) of the word, or a comprehensive survey of the facts; but it is nevertheless, undeniable that the Hebrew prophets directed their attention especially to the future, and made predictions concerning the fortunes of their own and other countries, which were unquestionably fulfilled.

There can be no reasonable doubt that Amos foretold the captivity and return of Israel; Micah the fall of Samaria; Ezekiel the fall of Jerusalem; Isaiah the fall of Tyre, and Jeremiah the limits of the captivity. It was the distinguishing mark of the Jewish people” that their golden age was not in the past, but in the future; that their greatest hero (as they deemed him to be) was not their founder, but their founder’s latest descendant.

Their traditions, their fancies, their glories, gathered round the head, not of a chief, or warrior, or sage that had been, but of a king, a deliverer, a prophet, who is to come; of course we know they missed their Messiah, their prophet and King, Jesus Christ.

Of this singular expectation, the prophets were, if not the chief authors, at least the chief expounders and interpreters. The reality of the succession of Messianic predictions is admitted and agreed to by most theologians; as are the predictions from Moses to Malachi; their clearness, fullness; the announcement of a deliver and exceptionally clear description of his functions.

“That salvation should come through the family of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David, that at the time of the final absorption of Jewish power, Shiloh (the tranquillizer or rest) should gather the nations under his rule; that there should be a great prophet typified by Moses, a king descended from David, a priest for ever typified by Melchizedek, that there should be born into the world a child, to be called Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace; that there should be a righteous servant of God on whom the He should lay the iniquity of us all; that Messiah, the Prince, should be cut off, but not for Himself; that an everlasting kingdom should be given by the Ancient of Days to one like the Son of Man (Jesus.)

It seems almost impossible to harmonize so many apparent contradictions. Nevertheless, it is an undoubted fact, that at the time seemingly pointed out by one or more of their predictions, there was born into the world a child of the house of David, and therefore of the family of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah, who claimed to be the object of these and other predictions; which is acknowledged as Prophet, Priest, and King, as the Mighty God, and yet as God’s righteous servant; who bears the iniquity of all; who was cut off, and whose death is acknowledged not to have been for His own, but for other’s good; who has instituted a spiritual kingdom on earth, which kingdom is of a nature of continue for ever, an in whose doings and sufferings on earth a number of specific predictions were fulfilled.

Then we may say that we have here a series of prophesies which are so applicable to the person and earthly life of Jesus Christ, as to be thereby shown to have been designed to apply to Him; and if they were designed to apply to Him, prophetical prediction is proved.  

Both Jewish and Christians, recognize the reality of the predictive element, however differently we may interpret and apply these predictions. They contend not only for a special spiritual elevation in the prophet a more intense degree of the same divine intuition which God give to all who worship Him in Love and reverence but for a gift of light vouchsafed to him, the prophet of God, different from any ordinary gift or power.

Phillip LaSpino