PROPHETS. Three Hebrew words are used in the OT to designate the prophets, namely nāvî’, rō’eh and hōzeh. The last two words are participles and may be rendered “seer.” They are practically synonymous in meaning. The first term, nāvî’, is difficult to explain etymologically, although various attempts have been made. The significance of these words, however, may be learned from their usage.
Each of the words designates one who is spokesman for God. The usage of nāvi’ is illustrated by
The two words rō’eh and hōzeh perhaps have primary reference to the fact that the person so designated sees the message God gives him. This seeing may mean that the message first came through a vision and in some instances it did, but overall the use of these two words is as broad as the English words perceive and perception. They may refer to sight, but they usually refer to insight. Thus the words designate one who, whether by vision or otherwise, is given insight into the mind of God, and who declares what he has “seen” as a message to the people. The biblical emphasis throughout is practical. It is not the mysterious mode of reception of the prophetic revelation that is emphasized, but rather the deliverance of the message itself for God.
The biblical prophet must be distinguished from the prophētēs of the Greeks. The latter really acted as an interpreter for the muses and the oracles of the gods. The prophets, however, were not interpreters. They uttered the actual words that God had given to them, without any modification or interpretation on their part. The Bible itself gives an accurate description of the function of the true prophet: “I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him” (
I. The Position of the Prophet in theAdministration. The establishment of the prophetic institution was necessitated by the settlement of the nation Israel in the Land of Promise. Israel entered Canaan with the precious possession of the law. This law, revealed by God at , laid the broad basis on which the life of the people of God was to be built. The basic principles of divinely revealed ethics and morality are found in the , and sundry rules for particular situations are expressed in the other laws. On this basis the life of the people of God was to be conducted.
At the same time this law was not adequate to meet all the situations that would arise when the period of Israel’s nomadic wanderings came to an end. This inadequacy was not due to any inherent weakness in the law itself, but simply to the fact that the law did not speak in detail on every possible situation that could arise in Israel’s life. There would be occasions when a specific revelation of God would be needed in order to show the nation the course it should pursue. This needed revelation God would give to the people by means of his servants, the prophets.
When Israel entered Canaan, it would find a people that sought to learn the future and the will of the gods by the practice of various superstitions, which the Bible calls “abominations” or “detestable ways” (
The prophet whom the Lord would raise was to be like Moses; just as Moses was a mediator between God and the nation, so that prophet would serve as a mediator. At Horeb, when God appeared to the nation, the people trembled and asked that Moses alone should speak to them. God commended Israel for their request and announced that there would be a mediator, even the prophets. The prophets, then, served as mediators between God and the nation. Just as the priests represented the people before God, so the prophets represented God to the people.
In ancient Greece we have the god, the oracle, the prophet, and the people. The same seems to have been the case in the Mesopotamian countries. In Israel, however, there was only one intermediary between God and the people, namely, the prophet. This arrangement was truly unique. One who heard the words of the prophet heard the very words of God himself, and these words required implicit obedience.
In many nations of antiquity there were soothsayers or people who had visions. They represented a part of that web of superstition that covered the ancient world. The prophetic institution of Israel, however, according to the testimony of the Bible, was of divine origination. God himself raised up this institution (
II. The Relation of the Prophets to Moses. Unique as was the prophetical body, it can properly be understood only as having served under Moses. Moses occupied a position of preeminence in the OT economy. He was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, and so pointed forward to Christ who as a Son is faithful over God’s house (
The entire Mosaic administration must be understood as a witness of the later-to-be-revealed NT administration. Moses and the prophets therefore were types of Christ and of his blessings. They witnessed, not to themselves, but to the “things to be spoken of” (
It is sometimes said that the prophets were forth-tellers and not foretellers. Such a disjunction, however, is not warranted. It is true that the prophets were forth-tellers, speaking forth the message of the Lord. That message, however, sometimes had to do with past occurrences, as when the prophets often reminded the people of how God had brought them out of the land of Egypt and given them Canaan for a possession. They also spoke of contemporary events, as witness the words of Isaiah with respect to the situation that confronted Ahaz (
III. Classification of the Prophets. In the arrangement of the books of the Hebrew OT there are three parts—the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. The division known as the Prophets is further subdivided into the former and the latter prophets. Under the first heading are included Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, and 1-2 Kings. These books are anonymous, their authors are not known. These books are rightly classified as “former prophets” because the history they contain conforms to the biblical definition of prophecy as a declaration of the wonderful works of God (
The latter prophets are also called writing prophets. They are the prophets who exercised so great a ministry in Israel—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve. The designation “latter” does not necessarily have reference to historical chronology, but is simply a designation of those prophetical books that follow the “former” prophets in the Hebrew arrangement of the OT.
The “later” or “writing” prophets were not anonymous. The reason for this is that they were entrusted by God with the task and responsibility of addressing prophetical messages not only to the people of their own day but also to posterity. They must be accredited to their audience as genuine prophets, and for that reason their name is known to us. There were some prophets whose names we do not know, as, for example, the man who approached Eli and announced to him the downfall of his house. It is not necessary that we know the name of this man; it is enough that it was known to Eli. Those who received the messages of the prophets had sufficient evidence of their accreditation; they knew who spoke to them. The writing prophets, however, have uttered messages that are more relevant to us; they have spoken, for example, of the coming of the Messiah, and it is essential that we be assured that those who uttered such messages were truly accredited spokesmen of the Lord.
Note, however, that the former and the latter prophets complemented one another. The “former” prophets set forth the history of a particular period in Israel’s life; the “latter” or “writing” prophets interpreted particular phases of that history. The one is necessary for the proper understanding of the other.
The Scripture does not say much as to the methods used by the great “writing” prophets in preparing their messages. The theory has been advanced by Herman Gunkel that the prophets were first of all oral preachers, and that they did not write their messages. The written books that we now possess, Gunkel argued, were the work of disciples of the prophets. From the example of Jeremiah, however, it appears that the prophets did write down their messages. It may be impossible for us fully to know what is the precise relationship between their spoken word and their written messages. It could very well be that the prophets often spoke far more than they have written down. It could be that in many instances they enlarged on their messages when they were delivering them orally and that they made digests of these messages for writing.
With respect to the last twenty-seven chapters of the Book of Isaiah, for example, it may well be that these messages were never delivered orally. It is quite likely that the prophet, after retirement from active preaching and prophesying, went into solitude during the latter days of Hezekiah and wrote down the wondrous messages that concern the future destinies of the people of God and their deliverance from sin by the. It is quite possible also that some of the prophecies of Jeremiah are the results of intense polishing and reworking. These written messages need not in every instance have been identical with what had been delivered orally. What we have in the Scriptures is what the Spirit of God intended us to have.
It is difficult to say what is intended by the word band. Whether the groups of prophets so designated had a formal organization or not, one cannot tell. It may be that such groups were more or less loosely knit together, and that they served under Samuel. For that matter it cannot be positively asserted that Samuel was the founder of such groups, although such a supposition seems to have much in its favor.
Following Samuel’s death these prophetical bodies seem to have disbanded. We hear no more of them until the times of Elijah and Elisha. During the days of these men groups of prophets again appear, though most likely they are not to be thought of as hereditary descendants of the bodies that existed under Samuel. The reason for this is that in Elijah’s day they appear only in the northern kingdom. The theocracy had become divided because of the schism introduced by Jeroboam the son of Nebat. There was now need for support against the worship of the Tyrian Baal as well as the calf worship at Dan and Bethel. Both Elijah and Elisha exercised a vigorous ministry in the north, but the government was opposed to them. They needed particular assistance, and this was found in the companies that now bear the designation “sons of the prophets.” The phrase reveals the close and intimate association in which these men stood to the great prophets Elijah and Elisha. After this period, however, they seem to die out, and we hear no more of them.
V. The Prophets and the Temple. The regular worship by ancient Israel after the establishment of the monarchy was conducted in the temple located in Jerusalem. This worship was in the hands of priests, men who represented the nation before God. What was the relation in which the prophets stood to the temple worship? It used to be held, particularly by the school of Wellhausen, that the prophets and the priests were working in opposition to one another, that the priests represented a sacrificial type of worship, whereas the prophets were more concerned about ethics and behavior. It was even held that the prophets denied that God had ever required sacrifices. This supposition was used to support the position of Wellhausen that the books of the Pentateuch in which sacrifices were commanded were not composed until late in Israel’s history, when the priestly religion had triumphed over the prophetical.
This reconstruction of Israel’s history, once so dominant, is more and more losing ground. It is now being recognized, even by those who are very sympathetic to Wellhausen, that there was not, after all, such an antagonism between prophet and priest. In fact, some of the prophets, such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel, were themselves priests. Indeed, what the prophets were condemning, as a more careful and sober exegesis has shown, was not the sacrifices themselves, but the manner in which the sacrifices were offered (cf.
If, then, the prophets were not condemning sacrifice in itself, what was the relation in which they actually stood to the worship of the temple? In recent years the opinion has become more and more widespread that the prophets were servants of the temple, and that they may even have received a salary and been in the employ of the temple. It is perhaps safest to say that this question cannot be answered positively one way or the other. The prophets at times may have been officially connected with the temple; at times they may have been more or less “on their own” in being special spokesmen of the Lord. It is difficult to say how they did earn their livelihood. The servant of Saul had suggested the giving of a small gift to Samuel in return for information as to the whereabouts of the lost donkeys of Saul’s father (
VI. True and. True religion has always been plagued by imitators. Alongside the faithful and true prophets of the Lord there were others, men who had not received a revelation from God. Jeremiah refused to have anything to do with these men. They were not true prophets, but men who deceived. There were those who claimed to have received messages from God, who as a matter of fact had not received such messages.
In the OT there were three tests the people could apply in order to discern between the true and the false prophet. First, the theological test (
VII. Messianic Prophecy. Any proper estimation of the prophetic movement must take into account the following three factors. Prophecy was a continuous movement, extending over several centuries in Israel’s history. There was nothing essentially similar to it anywhere in the ancient world. The prophets, during so many centuries, all claimed to be recipients of messages from Yahweh, the God of Israel, and to speak the messages that he had given to them. Lastly, in all these messages there ran a teleological element: the prophets spoke of future deliverance to be wrought by the Messiah. It is this element of prophecy that we call “messianic prophecy.”
The word Messiah is itself not frequently used in the OT. It means “one who is anointed,” and this anointing possesses an abiding character. The Messiah is a human individual who came to earth to perform a work of deliverance for God. He is also himself a divine person, as appears from passages such as
Messianic prophecy must be understood against the dark background of human sin. Man’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden had involved man in corruption of the heart and also in guilt before God. Man could not of his own efforts make himself right with God, and hence it was necessary that God take the initiative. This God did in announcing that he would place enmity between the woman Eve and the serpent. God also announced the outcome of that enmity, in that the seed (niv “offspring”) of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head (
All subsequent messianic prophecy is based on this Edenic prediction. To Noah it was announced that the blessing of God would be with Shem, and hence among the descendants of Shem one must look for the Messiah. The promise is then narrowed down to Abraham and after him to Isaac. For a time it seemed that Abraham would have no son, and then Ishmael was born to Abraham’s concubine. Yet the promise was not to be fulfilled through Ishmael, but through Isaac. After Isaac had been born, however, Abraham was commanded to sacrifice him. Finally, when Abraham’s faith was sufficiently tested, it was made clear that Isaac was after all the one through whom the Messiah was to come.
Of Isaac’s two sons, Jacob was chosen and Esau rejected. Finally, Jacob called his twelve sons about him and announced to them what would take place in the “days to come” (
In the books of Samuel it is revealed that the throne of David was to be established permanently, and that a ruler on that throne would rule over an eternal kingdom (
Daniel also spoke of this kingdom as eternal. He contrasted it with the kingdoms of this world, which are both temporal and local. These kingdoms, great and powerful as they are, would nevertheless pass away; and there would be erected a kingdom that would belong to a heavenly figure, the one like a. His kingdom alone would be universal and eternal, for he is the true Messiah. Stressing, as they do, the kingly work of the Messiah, many of these prophecies do not lay their emphasis on the actual saving work the Messiah was to perform.
There was a danger that the eyes of the people would be so attracted to the Messiah as a king that they might tend to think of him only as a political figure. This danger became very real, and the Jews more and more conceived of him as merely one who was political, who would deliver them from the yoke of foreign oppressors.
To offset this danger it was necessary that the people know full well that the Messiah’s work was truly to be spiritual in nature. Hence, in the latter portion of his book, Isaiah with remarkable lucidity speaks of what the Messiah would do to save his people. It is in these great “Servant” passages that we learn that the Messiah was to be a Savior. He is set forth as one laden with griefs and sorrows, but they were not his own. They belonged to his people, and he bore them in order that people might be free and have the peace of God. The Messiah suffers and dies vicariously; that is the nature of his saving work, and Isaiah presents it with great vividness.
All the prophets were under Moses, and just as Moses was a type of Christ, so it may be said that the prophetical body as such, being under Moses, was also typical of the great prophet to come. Although they did not understand the full depth of their messages, yet they were speaking of the coming salvation and so of. Through them God spoke in “divers manners” to the children of Israel. What is so remarkable is that, when their messages are taken as a whole and in their entirety, they form such a unified picture of the work of the Messiah.
We must guard against the view that there is merely a correspondence between what the prophets said and what occurred in the life of Jesus Christ. There was of course a correspondence, but to say no more than this is not to do justice to the situation. Jesus Christ did not merely find a correspondence between the utterances of prophets and the events of his own life. Rather, the events of his life constituted the fulfillment of what the prophets had declared. It is this point on which we must insist if we are to understand them properly. As was said of Isaiah, so we may say of the entire prophetic body: they saw Christ’s day and spoke of him.
Bibliography: E. J. Young, My Servants the Prophets, 1952; W. McKane, Prophets and Wise Men, 1965; H. E. Freeman, An Introduction to the Old Prophets, 1960; S. J. Schultz, The Prophets Speak, 1968; R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, 1970, pp. 741-63; J. A. Motyer, “Prophecy” (IBD), 1980, vol. 3, pp. 1276-84.——EJY
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
prof’-e-si, prof’-e-si, prof’-ets:
I. THE IDEA OF BIBLICAL PROPHECY
1. The Seer and Speaker of God
2. Prophetical Inspiration
3. Relation to Dreams
4. Freedom of Inspiration
5. Supernatural Visions of the Future
6. The Fulfillment
II. HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE PROPHETIC OFFICE
3. Period of the Judges
5. Period of the Kings
6. Literary Prophets, Amos, Hosea
7. Poetical Form of Prophecy
8. Prophets of Judah, Isaiah, and Others Down to Jeremiah
9. During the Exile, Ezekiel, Deutero-Isaiah, Daniel
10. After the Exile, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
11. Cessation of Prophecy
12. Prophecy in the
III. HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF PROPHECY
1. Contents of Prophecy
2. Conception of the Messiah
3. Before the Exile (through Judgment to Deliverance)
4. Analogous Ideas among Heathen Peoples
5. During the Exile (Ezekiel, Deutero-Isaiah)
6. After the Exile (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi)
7. Contemporaneous Character of Prophecy
8. Partial Character of Prophecy
9. Perspective Character of Prophecy
IV. ANALOGOUS PHENOMENA AMONG THE GENTILES
1. Necromancy and Technical Witchcraft
2. The Mantle Art
3. Contents of Extra-Biblical Oracles
I. The Idea of Biblical Prophecy.
1. The Seer and Speaker of God:
According to the uniform teaching of the Bible the prophet is a speaker of or for God. His words are not the production of his own spirit, but come from a higher source. For he is at the same time, also, a seer, who sees things that do not lie in the domain of natural sight, or who hears things which human ears do not ordinarily receive; compare
2. Prophetical Inspiration:
3. Relation to Dreams:
In a certain respect the dream can be cited as an analogous phenomenon, in which also the ideas that are slumbering in the soul uninvited put in their appearance without being controlled by consciousness and reason. On the other hand, prophecy differs pecifically from dreams, first, because the genuine prophetical utterance is received when the prophet is clearly conscious, and, secondly, because such an utterance brings with it a much greater degree of certainty and a greater guaranty of its higher origin than is done even by a dream that seems to be prophetical. In
4. Freedom of Inspiration:
5. Supernatural Visions of the Future:
The attempt has often been made to explain prophecy as a natural product of purely human factors. Rationalistic theologians regarded the prophets as enthusiastic teachers of religion and morals, as warm patriots and politicians, to whom they ascribed nothing but a certain ability of guessing the future. But this was no explanation of the facts in the case. The prophets were themselves conscious of this, that they were not the intellectual authors of their higher knowledge. This consciousness is justified by the fact that they were in a condition to make known things which lay beyond their natural horizon and which were contrary to all probability. Those cases are particularly instructive in this respect which beyond a doubt were recorded by the prophets themselves. Ezekiel could indeed, on the basis of moral and religious reflections, reach the conviction that Zedekiah of Jerusalem would not escape his punishment for his political treachery and for his disobedience to the word of Yahweh; but he could never from this source have reached the certainty that this king, as the prophet describes the case in 12:8 ff, was to be taken captive while trying to escape from the besieged city and was then to be blinded and taken to Babylon. Just as little could he in Babylon know the exact day when the siege of Jerusalem began (24:2). If this prophet had learned of these things in a natural way and had afterward clothed them in the form of prophecy, he would have been guilty of a deception, something unthinkable in the case of so conscientious a preacher of morality. But such cases are frequently met with. Jeremiah predicts to Hananiah that he would die during the year (28:16), but it is not only such matters of detail that presuppose an extraordinary vision of the prophet. The whole way also in which Jeremiah predicts the destruction of Jerusalem as inevitable, in direct contrast to the hopes of the Jerusalemites and to the desires of his own heart, shows that he was speaking under divine compulsion, which was more powerful than his own reflections and sympathies. On any other presupposition his conduct would have been reprehensible cowardice. The case of Isaiah is exactly the same. When he gives to Ahaz the word of God as a guaranty that the Syrians and the Ephraimites would not capture Jerusalem (7:4 ff), and when he promises Hezekiah that the Assyrians would not shoot an arrow into the city, but would return without having accomplished their purpose (37:22,33), these things were so much in contradiction to all the probabilities of the course events would take that he would have been a frivolous adventurer had he not received his information from higher sources. Doubtless it was just these predictions which established and upheld the influence of the prophets. Thus in the case of Amos it was his prediction of a great earthquake, which did occur two years later (1:1); in the case of Elijah, the prediction of the long dearth (
6. The Fulfillment:
II. Historical Development of the Prophetic Office.
It is a characteristic peculiarity of the religion of the Old Testament that its very elementary beginnings are of a prophetical nature. The fathers, above all Abraham, but also Isaac and Jacob, are the recipients of visions and of divine revelations. Especially is this true of Abraham, who appeared to the foreigners, to whom he was neither kith or kin, to be indeed a prophet (nabhi’) (
Above all, the creative founder of the Israelite national religion, Moses, is a prophet in the eminent sense of the word. His influence among the people is owing neither to his official position, nor to any military prowess, but solely and alone to the one circumstance, that since his call at the burning bush God has spoken to him. This intercourse between God and Moses was ever of a particularly intimate character. While other men of God received certain individual messages only from time to time and through the mediation of dreams and visions, Yahweh spoke directly and "face to face" with Moses (
3. Period of the Judges:
Since that time revelation through prophecy was probably never entirely wanting in Israel (
4. Schools of Prophets:
Since the days of Samuel we hear of schools of prophets, or "sons of prophets." These associations probably originated in this way, that an experienced prophet attracted to himself bands of youths, who sought to receive a measure of his spirit. These disciples of the prophets, together with their families, lived in colonies around the master. Possibly Samuel was the first who founded such a school of prophets. For in or near the city of Ramah we first find nayoth, or colonies of such disciples (
5. Period of the Kings:
6. Literary Prophets, Amos, Hosea:
However, the flourishing condition of the kingdom under
7. Poetical Form of Prophecy:
It is to this custom that we owe our knowledge of the very words of the utterances of many of the prophets of a later period. In addition to the larger books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, we have a number of smaller prophetical books, which have been united into the Book of the Twelve Prophets. These utterances as a rule exhibited an elevated form of language and are more or less poetical. However, in modern times some scholars are inclined to go too far in claiming that these addresses are given in a carefully systematized metrical form. Hebrew meter as such is a freer form of expression than is Arabic or Sanskrit meter, and this is all the more the case with the discourses of the prophets, which were not intended for musical rendering, and which are expressed in a rhythmically-constructed rhetoric, which appears now in one and then in another form of melody, and often changes into prose.
8. Prophets in Judah Isaiah, and Others Down to Jeremiah:
9. During the Exile, Ezekiel, Deutero-Isaiah, Daniel:
In the time of the exile itself we find the period of the activity of Ezekiel. It was significant that this prophet became the recipient of divine revelations while on Babylonian territory. His work was, in accordance with the condition of affairs, more that of a pastor and literary man. He seems also to have been a bodily sufferer. His abnormal conditions became symbolical signs of that which he had to proclaim. Deutero-Isaiah, too (
10. After the Exile, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi:
After the return from Babylon the Jews were exhorted by Haggai and Zechariah to rebuild their temple (about 520 BC). At that time there were still to be found prophets who took a hostile attitude to the men of God. Thus Nehemiah (
11. Cessation of Prophecy:
Malachi is regarded by the Jews as the last really canonical prophet. While doubtless there was not a total lack of prophetically endowed seers and speakers of God also in the closing centuries of the pre-Christian era, nevertheless the general conviction prevailed that the Spirit of God was no longer present, e.g. in the times of the Maccabees (compare 1 Macc 4:46; 9:27; 14:41). It is true that certain modern critics ascribe some large sections of the Book of Isa, as well as of other prophets, even to a period as late as the Greek. But this is refuted by the fact mentioned in Ecclesiasticus (beginning of the 2nd century BC) that in the writer’s time the prophetical Canon appeared already as a closed collection. Daniel is not found in this collection, but the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets is. It was during this period that apocalyptic literature began to flourish, many specimens of which are foundamong the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha. These books consist of eschatological speculations, not the product of original inspiration, but emanating from the study of the prophetic word. The very name Pseudepigrapha shows that the author issued his work, not under his own name, but under the pseudonym of some man of God from older times, such as Enoch, Ezra, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, and others. This fact alone proves the secondary character of this class of literature.
12. Prophecy in the New Testament:
III. Historical Development of Prophecy.
1. Contents of Prophecy:
The contents of prophecy are by no means merely predictions concerning the future. That which is given by the Spirit to the prophet can refer to the past and to the present as well as to the future. However, that which is revealed to the prophet finds its inner unity in this, that it all aims to establish the supremacy of Yahweh. Prophecy views also the detailed events in their relation to the divine plan, and this latter has for its purpose the absolute establishment of the supremacy of Yahweh in Israel and eventually on the entire earth. We are accustomed to call those utterances that predict this final purpose the Messianic prophecies. However, not only those that speak of the person of the Messiah belong to this class, but all that treat of the coming of the kingdom of God.
2. Conception of the Messiah:
The beginnings of the religion of Israel, as also the chief epoch in its development, emanated from prophetical revelations. The prophet Moses elevated the tribal religion into a national religion, and at the same time taught the people to regard the religion of the fathers more ethically, spiritually and vitally. Samuel crowned the earthly form of the concrete theocracy by introducing an "Anointed of Yahweh" in whom the covenant relation between Yahweh and Israel was concentrated personally. The Anointed of the Lord entered into a much more intimate relationship to Yahweh as His Son or Servant than it was possible for the whole people of Israel to do, although as a people they were also called the servant or the son of God (compare
3. Before the Exile (through Judgment to Deliverance):
4. Analogous Ideas among Heathen Peoples:
In recent times scholars have pointed to the fact that in the old Orient, among the Egyptians, the Babylonians and elsewhere, the expectation of a miraculously-born King of the future, who was to bring to His own people and to all nations salvation and peace, was entertained at an early period. Yet so much is certain, that Isaiah and Micah did not base their hopes on the vague dreams of the Gentileworld, but upon the prophetic establishment of a divine sanctuary and kingdom of Zion. The personal figure of this Son of David is not so much in the foreground in the other prophets down to the period of the exile. These prophets mention only casually the Good Shepherd, as e.g.
5. During the Exile (Ezekiel, Deutero-Isaiah):
6. After the Exile (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi):
After the exile prophecy continues its work. The Messianic expectations, too, are developed further by Haggai, and still more by Zechariah. Malachi announces the advent of the
7. Contemporaneous Character of Prophecy:
If we survey this prophecy of the kingdom of God and its divinely-blessed Ruler, the Messiah, from a Christian standpoint, we find that a grand divine unity connects its different elements. The form of this prophecy is indeed conditioned by the views and ideas of the time of utterance. The prophets were compelled to speak so that their hearers could understand them. Only gradually these limitations and forms become spiritualized, e.g. the kingdom of God is still pictured by the prophets as established around the local center of Zion. Mt. Zion is in a concrete manner exalted, in order to give expression to its importance, etc. It is the New Testament fulfillment that for the first time gives adequate form to divine revelation. At least in the person of Jesus Christ this perfection is given, although the full unfolding of this kingdom is yet a matter of the future.
8. Partial Character of Prophecy:
A second characteristic feature of prophecy is the partial nature of the individual prophetical utterances and prophetical pictures. One picture must be supplemented by the others, in order not to be misunderstood. Thus, e.g. according to
9. Perspective Character of Prophecy:
A third feature that deserves attention is the perspective character of prophecy. The prophet sees together and at once upon the surface of the pictures things which are to be fulfilled only successively and gradually. Thus, e.g. Deutero-Isaiah sees in the near future the return from captivity, and directly connected with this a miraculous glorification of the city of God. The return did as a matter of fact take place soon afterward, but the glorification of the city in which Yahweh Himself had promised to dwell was yet in the distant future. The succeeding prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, predict that this consummation shall take place in the future.
Also in the predictions concerning the future made by Jesus and in the Apocalypse of John these characteristics of prophecy, its contemporaneous and perspective and at times symbolical features, are not disregarded. The firm prophetic word is intended to give the congregation certain directive lines and distinctive work. But an adequate idea of what is to come the Christian church will become compelled to form for itself, when the fulfillment and completion shall have taken place.
IV. Analogous Phenomena among the Gentiles. 1. Necromancy and Technical Witchcraft:
The uniqueness of Biblical prophecy is grasped fully only when we try to find analogies among the Gentile peoples. Here we find everywhere indeed the art of sooth-saying, the headquarters for which was Babylon. But with this art the prophecy of the Old Testament stands out in bold contrast (compare the prohibitions in
2. The Mantic Art:
More spiritual and popular was the interpretation of dreams. It also was the case that mediums intentionally would convert themselves into a semi-waking trance. In this way the suitable mediums attained to a certain kind of clairvoyance, found among various peoples. This approaches the condition of an ecstatically aroused pseudo-prophet, of whom mention is made above. In Greece, too, oracles were pronounced by the Pythian prophetess, who by vapors and the like was aroused to a practice of the mantic article In Dodona it was the voice of the divinity in Nature, which they sought to read in the rustling of the trees and the murmuring of the water. How uncertain these sources were was well known to heathen antiquity. The ancients complain of the enigmatical character of the Sibylline utterances and the doubtful nature of what was said. See Religion in Ancient Greece. In contrast to this, Israel knows that it possesses in prophecy a clear word (
3. Contents of Extra-Biblical Oracles:
But the contents also of the Biblical prophecies are unique through their spiritual uniformity and greatness. The oracle at Delphi, too, at times showed a certain moral elevation and could be regarded as the conscience of the nation. But how insignificant and meager was that which it offered to those who questioned it, in comparison with the spontaneous utterances of the prophets of Israel! Also what has in recent times been said concerning the "prophetical texts" from ancient Egypt (Gressmann, Texte und Bilder, I, 20 ff) may indeed show some external similarity to the prophecies of Israel; but they lack the spiritual and religious depth and the strictly ethical dignity of the prophets of the Scriptures, as also the consistency with which these from century to century reveal the thoughts of God and make known with constantly increasing clearness their purposes and goal.
Witsius, De prophetis et prophetia, 1731; Chr. A. Crusius, Hypomnemata ad theologiam propheticam, Part I, 1764; A. Knobel, Der Prophetismus der Hebraer, 1837; F. B. Koester, Die Propheten des Altes Testament und New Testament, 1838; B. Duhm, Die Theologie der Propheten; Kuenen, Thein Israel; F. E. Koenig, Der Offenbarungsbegriff des Altes Testament, 1882; C. von Orelli, Die alttestamentliche Weissagung von der Vollendung des Gottesreiches, 1882; W. Robertson Smith, The Prophets of Israel and Their Place in History, 1882; E. Riehm, Die messianische Weissagung, English translation, 1885; Delitzsch, Messianic Prophecy, 1891; A. T. Kirkpatrick, The Doctrine of the Prophets, 1892; G. French Oehler, Theologie des A T, 1891; Ed. Koenig, Dos Berufungsbewusstsein der alttestamentlichen Propheten, 1900; F. H. Woods, The Hope of Israel, 1896; R. Kraetzschmar, Prophet und Seher im alten Israel, 1902; A. B. Davidson, Old Testament Prophecy, 1903; Eb. Schrader, Die Keilinschriften und dos A T, 1902; C. von Orelli, Allgemeine Religionsgeschichte; M. Jastrow, Die Religion Babyloniens und Assyriens, 1903; Gressmann, Ursprung der israelitisch-judischen Eschatologie, 1905; W. J. Beecher, The Prophets and the Promise, 1905; C. S. Macfarland, Jesus and the Prophets, 1905; G. G. Findlay, The Books of the Prophets in Their Historical Succession, 1906-7; Gressmann, Alt-orientalische Texte und Bilder zum A T, 1909; Selwyn, Christian Prophets.
C. von Orelli