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date: 28 March 2017

Prophets in the Hebrew Bible

Summary and Keywords

“Prophets” in the ancient world were individuals said to possess an intimate association with God or the gods, and conducted the business of transmitting messages between the divine and earthly realms. They spoke on behalf of God or the gods, and on occasion solicited requests from the deity or brought to the deity requests of others.

The discovery of texts from the ancient Near East in the 19th and early 20th centuries has given us a fuller picture of prophets and prophetic activity in the ancient world, adding considerably to reports of prophets serving other gods in the Bible and corroborating details about prophets in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Two collections are important: (1) letters from the 18th-century Mari written during the reigns of Yasmaḫ-Addu (c. 1792–1775) and Zimri-Lim (c. 1774–1760); and (2) the 7th-century annals of Assyrian kings Esarhaddon (680–669) and Assurbanipal (668–627).

Prophecies at Mari are favorable for the most part, and censures of the king, when they occur, are not harsh. Many simply remind the king of some neglect or give him some warning. One tells the king to practice righteousness and justice for anyone who has been wronged. None censures the people of Mari as biblical prophecies do the people of Israel. Assyrian oracles are largely oracles of peace and wellbeing, typically giving assurance to the king about matters of succession and success in defeating enemies. If prophets admonish the king, it is a mild rebuke about the king ignoring a prior oracle or not having provided food at the temple.

According to the Bible, Israel’s prophetic movement began with Samuel, and it arose at the time when people asked for a king. Prophets appear all throughout the monarchy and into the postexilic period, when Jewish tradition believed prophecy had ceased. Yet, prophets reappear in the New Testament and early church: Anna the prophetess, John the Baptist, Jesus, and others. Paul allows prophets to speak in the churches, ranking them second only to apostles.

Hebrew prophets give messages much like those of other ancient Near Eastern prophets, but what makes them different is that they announce considerably more judgment—sometimes very harsh judgment—on Israel’s monarchs, leading citizens, and the nation itself. Israel’s religion had its distinctives. Yahweh was bound to the nation by a covenant containing law that had to be obeyed. Prophets in Israel were therefore much preoccupied with indicting and judging kings, priests, other prophets, and an entire people for covenant disobedience. Also, in Israel the lawgiver was Yahweh, not the king. In Mari, as elsewhere in the ancient Near East, the king was lawgiver. Deuteronomy contains tests for true and false prophets, to which prophets themselves add other disingenuine marks regarding their contemporaneous prophetic colleagues.

Hebrew prophets from the time of Amos onward speak in poetry and are skilled in rhetoric, using an array of tropes and knowing how to argue. Their discourse also contains an abundance of humor and drama. Speaking is supplemented with symbolic action, and in some cases the prophets themselves became the symbol.

Keywords: prophets, prophets in the ancient Near East, prophets at Mari, prophets in Assyria, Hebrew prophets, marks of the Hebrew prophet, true and false prophets, prophetic symbolism, prophetic discourse

“Prophets” in the ancient world were individuals claiming an intimate association with God or the gods, and conducted the business of transmitting messages between the divine and earthly realms. They could speak on behalf of God or the gods, and on occasion would solicit requests from the deity or bring to the deity requests of others. In addition, they possessed extraordinary gifts other individuals did not possess. Prophets became well established in the Judeo-Christian tradition, where, in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, a canonized collection came to be called the “Prophets” (nĕbî’îm). Islam, too, became a religion based on prophetic revelation, in which Muhammad was taken to be “the Prophet,” the last and greatest of all prophets. From these traditions—particularly Jewish and Christian—prophets and prophecy have greatly impacted subsequent history. America in the 19th century saw the rise of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), founded by Joseph Smith, who received visions and claimed to be a prophet. In the 1960s it was Martin Luther King Jr., American civil rights leader, who was taken by his own father and others to be a prophet.

Prophets in the Ancient Near East

The discovery of texts from the ancient Near East in the 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly at Mari and Nineveh, but also at other sites, has given us an enlarged picture of prophets and prophetic activity in the ancient world, filling in the gaps in reports of prophets serving other gods given in the Bible, as well as corroborating details about prophets considered bona fide in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Before these texts were discovered, our knowledge of prophets, prophecy, and alternatives to prophecy came largely from the Bible—both in the Old Testament and New Testament—supplemented by references here and there in Jewish and early Christian writings, that is, the Mishnah, Talmud, Didache, and Church Fathers.

In the broader context, prophets are men and women who reveal the divine will to humans, both individuals and communities, and are thus practitioners of a particular form of divination. Unlike those making observations in the heavens and on earth, and then interpreting them to predict future events or future courses of action, prophets are “mouthpieces” of the gods, communicating divine messages to human audiences. Written sources taken to be specimens of prophecy typically possess four components: (1) a divine sender of the message, (2) the message itself, (3) a human transmitter of the message, and (4) an audience receiving the message. The audience is usually, but not always, the king.

From excavated texts we learn that the ancient world was filled with individuals who predicted future events or future courses of action by dreams, use of a divining rod, shaking marked arrows (in a quiver), consulting teraphim (figurine idols), or examining animal livers (hepatoscopy). The British Museum is filled with ancient Near Eastern texts about astrologers who observed signs in the heavens (eclipses, configurations of planets, sun and moon, stars with coronas and tails, stars forming the sign of the zodiac), or saw omens—both good and bad—in the heavens and on the earth (storms, earthquakes, the flight of birds, screaming hens, odd births, when a house begins to look old, etc.). Such persons are not prophets. Prophets are figures who receive messages from the gods and relay them to humans.

In Deuteronomy, as elsewhere in the Old Testament, Israel is warned to pay no heed to astrologers who observe signs in the heavens (Jer. 10:2); however, Deuteronomy makes a remarkable concession, when it implies that Yahweh has allotted astral worship to other nations (Deut. 4:19; cf. 29:26). The Church Fathers Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho 55) and Clement of Alexandria (Stromateis vi 14, 110–111) offered a justification, saying that this was only a means of enabling them to rise ultimately to something better.

In Deuteronomy the prophet is set apart from diviners and soothsayers, workers of magic and sorcery, necromancers and wizards, and persons consulting the dead or calling up ghosts known and unknown. People must not follow these religious and quasi-religious figures abounding in Canaan and the neighboring nations (Deut. 18:9–14). Although outlawed in both Israel and Judah, they flourished anyway, with some kings, for example, Manasseh in the south, going so far as to legalize them and what the biblical authors deemed their loathsome practices (2 Kgs. 21:1–6).

Two collections of texts are particularly important in identifying prophets in the ancient Near East: (1) letters from Mari in the 18th century written during the reigns of Yasmaḫ-Addu (c. 1792–1775) and Zimri-Lim (c. 1774–1760), especially the latter; and (2) the 7th-century annals of Assyrian kings Esarhaddon (680–669) and Assurbanipal (668–627). Other texts mentioning prophets include the Egyptian Wenamon report (c. 1080–1070 bce); the Aramaic inscription of Zakkur, king of Hamath and Luash in Syria (c. 800 bce); the plaster inscription of 700 bce found at Tell Deir ‘Alla, which refers to Balaam, son of Beor, known from the Bible (Num. 22–24); and the 6th-century Lachish Letters dating from Judah’s last days. There are still other extra-biblical texts mentioning prophets, for example, the 18th-century Kititum oracles from Eshnunna, the 9th-century Amman Citadel Inscription, and a variety of miscellaneous Assyrian, Babylonian, and Ugaritic texts from different times.

Text from Reign of Naram-Suen

The earliest reference to a prophetic oracle emanating from the goddess Inanna (Ištar) is said to appear in an Old Akkadian text dating to the reign of Naram-Suen in the 23rd century bce. Naram-Suen is threatened by Amar-girid in the legendary “Great Revolt,” but he goes on to triumph and establish his rule.

Letter from the Ur III Period

Another one of the earliest references to a prophet in the ancient Near East appears in a letter from the Ur III period (21st century bce), in which a king of Ur places an order for a huge quantity of barley (18,000 liters) to be delivered to a prophet in the service of a deity who is a local manifestation of Ištar.

Uruk Text

A text from Uruk in southern Babylonia (c. 1850) reports the visit to an unnamed individual by a deity who speaks directly to him about the future of Uruk and a ruler the deity will appoint. The person responds and reports the words of Ištar to the king.

Mari Texts

The Mari texts were discovered in a royal archive at Tell Ḥarīri beginning in 1933. Among the several thousand texts were letters reporting oracles delivered by prophets that were being conveyed to the king by some high official or royal lady. Some oracles were spoken to the king directly (for biblical parallels, cf. Jer 27:12–15), to an assembly of elders (cf. Jer. 18:1–13), or to the people of Terqa (cf. Jer. 11:1–8; 36:1–8). Oracles were given in public, mostly in the temple (cf. Jer. 7:1–2; 26:1–2; Amos 7:12–13), but some were spoken at the palace gate (cf. Jer. 22:1) or at another location. Prophets introduced their oracles by formulas similar to those found in the Bible: “the god so and so sent me” or “thus said god so and so” (cf. “the word of Yahweh came to me” and “thus said Yahweh” in, e.g., Jer. 1:4, 11, 13; 2:1, 5; and so forth).

Other Mari texts, administrative documents for the most part, list outlays to prophets and other select individuals who brought good news or weighty messages to the king. For their services the prophets and prophetesses received garments, woven turbans, silver rings, bronze lances, and in one case a donkey. Often the gifts were requested, as they were from diviners and seers mentioned in the Old Testament (Num. 22:7; 1 Sam. 9:7–8). Micah is critical of prophets who proclaim peace only when given something to eat, but war when nothing is put into their mouths (Mic. 3:5). We learn also from the Mari texts that prophets performed together with musicians in rituals for the god Ištar. If the prophet was unable to get into a frenzy, the canonical lamentation sung by the musicians could not be performed.

Prophets who were cultic functionaries or associated with a particular deity had titles. Some were called āpilu(m) (fem. āpiltu(m)), “answerer,” from the root apālu “to answer” (CAD 1:2, apālu, 164, āpilu A 170); others were called muḫḫû(m) (fem. muḫḫūtu(m)), “ecstatic,” from the root maḫû “to become frenzied, go into a trance” (CAD 10/1, 115–116), or assinnu, “cult functionary,” which was used only of men, and later associated with the cult of Ištar. The āpilum/āpiltum might operate in groups, and travel from one place to another, whereas the muḫḫûm/muḫḫūtum was more restricted to the temple to which he or she was affiliated. One Mari letter reports a nabû (CAD 11/1, 35–37) who delivers an oracle on behalf of the king. This term parallels nābî’ in the Hebrew Bible. Mari texts also mention a qam(m)ātum, a term of uncertain meaning, possibly denoting a prophetess of Dagan of Terqa with a characteristic hairstyle. Some prophets at Mari were apparently laypersons without title, the majority being women, to whom revelations came in the temple, mainly in dreams. A servant of Zimri-Lim said to the king: “I inquired of male and female [prophets] about Išme-Dagan. The oracle is unfavorable to him.” Or to Zimri-Lim the servant Kibri-Dagan said: “a woman, spouse of a free man, came to me and, concerning Babylon, spoke as follows.”

Because the Mari prophetic texts were preserved in a royal archive, oracles deal almost exclusively with affairs of the king, being concerned largely with the king’s wellbeing. The king will achieve victory over his adversaries, although sometimes he is told not to embark on a campaign, but to remain in the city for his personal safety. In dangerous situations, for example, when a revolt is underway, the king should make sure his servants are protecting him. The king is warned also about deceit in peacemaking and other ventures of state, where the proverb is quoted: “Beneath straw water runs.” One oracle reports a hostile army having entered Mari, taking plunder and occupying the fortifications. Another censures Zimri-Lim because he delivered treasures of Babylon to the ruler of Elam. Oracles also deal with the death or name giving of a royal child (cf. 2 Sam. 12:14; Hos. 1:4, 6, 9; Isa. 7:14; 8:3).

Oracles may instruct the king (or others) to build, rebuild, or not rebuild (cf. 2 Sam. 7:4–17; Jer. 23:13–15). When a house is sagging because the god has cursed its bricks, the king is told to bring earth into its inner room and upon its foundation. In another oracle, citizens of Terqa are told not to rebuild a ruined house (a temple?); if they do, the god will make it fall into the river. Oracles also instruct the king to build a city gate, erect a commemorative monument, or get working on the temple up to the roof (cf. Hag. 1:7–11).

Some oracles contain warnings or admonitions, for example, the king is reminded to practice righteousness and ensure justice for one who has been wronged, to decide the case, and do it fairly. In one oracle the king is told he must get involved in returning a servant girl who has been kidnapped, else she will not be given up. A few oracles censure the king for his neglect of the gods, not offering a sacrifice, or not properly maintaining the temple, which is his responsibility. In one oracle, the god complains because the king has not been supplying him with pure drinking water.

Mari prophets dramatize oracles with symbolic action, just as biblical prophets do. One prophet asked Zimri-Lim for a lamb, and when it was given to him, he devoured it raw before an assembly of elders at the city gate. This was to announce a devouring that was about to take place. On another occasion, doorjamb dirt from the gate of Mari was brought and dissolved in water, and the gods and goddesses were made to drink it. They responded by promising that no harm would come to the brickwork or protective guardian of Mari.

Prophecies at Mari are favorable for the most part, and censures of the king, when they occur, are not particularly harsh. Many simply remind the king of some neglect or give him warning. None censures the people of Mari as biblical prophecies do the people of Israel.

Eshnunna Texts

Two tablets from the Old Babylonian city of Eshnunna, one badly damaged, contain oracles of the goddess Kititum to King Ibalpiel II of Eshnunna, a contemporary of Zimri-Lim (c. 1779–1765). The better-preserved tablet contains a “salvation oracle” for the king, similar to salvation oracles in the Mari and Assyrian texts, and to salvation oracles known from the Bible. Because the king constantly speaks the name of the goddess, she will reveal to him “secrets of the gods” determined in divine council, which are that the country is given to him to rule; it will continue to enjoy wellbeing; and Kititum will strengthen the foundations of his throne (cf. 2 Sam. 7:1–17; Isa. 9:2–7; Jer. 23:5–6=33:14–16).

Text of King Mursilis

In 14th-century Hittite texts, King Mursilis II and his uncle (?) Kantuzilis, seek relief from plagues and personal sufferings. An inventory of inspired divine communications includes a “man of god” who might be summoned to declare the cause of the suffering.

Wenamon Report

In the Egyptian report of Wenamon, a tale from the last years of Ramses XI (c. 1080–1070), the priest Wenamon is dispatched to get timber in Phoenicia. On the journey he is robbed, and lands in Byblos on a stolen ship, where he is then stranded. He has with him only a portable image of the god Amon. After much delay, Wenamon succeeds in gaining access to a “great seer” at the court of Byblos, who becomes ecstatic and gives an oracle from Amon telling the prince of Byblos that Wenamon has indeed been sent on the mission he has undertaken. Other Egyptian prophetic texts are “The Adventures of Ipu-wer” (c. 2000) and “The Prophecy of Neferti” (c. 1990–1960). The latter contains social admonitions concerning a variety of wrongdoings (murder; family rivalry; inversions of normal social hierarchy).

Amman Citadel Inscription

A 9th-century inscription from Jebel ed-Dala‘ah (ancient Rabbath-Ammon) contains a “salvation oracle” from Milcom, patron deity of the Ammonites, promising the king peace and security. It was communicated through a human intermediary, presumably a prophet. The king is told to “build entrances round about,” for enemies currently besieging him will surely die. The inscription is part of a commemorative monument erected by the king.

Zakkur Inscription

In an early 8th-century Aramaic inscription found on the base of a stela at Tell Afis (ancient Apish), which lies 25 miles southwest of Aleppo, Zakkur, king of Hamath and Luash, says that while he was besieged in one of his cities he lifted up his hands to Baal Shamayn, the patron deity of Hamath, and the god answered him through “seers” (ḥzyn) and “visionaries” (‘ddn). They delivered a salvation oracle, saying that Baal Shamayn had made Zakkur king and would stand by him and deliver him from kings fighting against him. The oracle begins with “Fear not,” which is common in Assyrian oracles and is also well known from the Bible.

Deir ‘Alla Inscription

In an 8th-century bce plaster inscription from Tell Deir ‘Alla in the eastern Jordan Valley, near the River Zerqa (biblical Jabbok), Balaam son of Beor, a “seer of the gods” (ḥzh ’lhn), reports a nocturnal vision in which the gods made him privy to deliberations in divine council, where a decision had been reached to bring about a catastrophe of eschatological proportions. Unrelenting rains and a great flood would undo creation, causing darkness and terror on the earth. The vision left Balaam limp and unable to sleep. He fasted and wept. People asked him why he fasted and wept, and he relayed to them the contents of his vision. Balaam is known from the Bible, where it is reported that Balak, king of Moab, hired him to come and curse Israel (Num. 22–24). The Bible calls him a “diviner” (Josh. 13:22; cf. Num. 23:23).

Annals of Assyria

The second largest collection of prophetic texts outside the Bible comes from a royal archive at Nineveh excavated by the British in 1848–1850. Capital of Assyria and the ancient Assyrian empire, Nineveh was destroyed by the Babylonians and Medes in 612 bce. The 30,000 excavated texts, 24,000 of which belonged to the Library of Assurbanipal, are now in the British Museum. Eleven tablets in the collection report twenty-nine divine messages to the Assyrian kings Esarhaddon (680–669 bce) and Assurbanipal (668–627 bce), all taken to be oracles from prophets. The thirteen named prophets—four male, nine female, and two bi- or asexual—would be roughly contemporary with Micah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah in the Bible. Reports of prophets and prophecy occur in other Neo-Assyrian texts, some of them simply lexical lists. Assyrian prophets seem to be attached to the royal court, but their oracles are delivered at the temple.

In Neo-Assyrian texts the standard word for “prophet” is raggimu (fem. raggintu), “shouter, proclaimer,” which had replaced the word maḫḫû in colloquial use as well as in formal writing (CAD 14, 67). The verb ragāmu, “to call, shout” (CAD 14, 63), suggests that prophets spoke their oracles in a loud voice. The terms maḫḫû (fem. maḫḫūtu), “ecstatic,” also appear, indicating that Neo-Assyrian prophecy continued to be ecstatic in character. Other terms for prophets are apillû, “answerer”; šabrû, “seer, prophet-dreamer”; and šēlūtu “(female) votary.” The report of a šabrû was a visual and acoustical experience, not direct speech of a god. Prophets with the title assinnu were cult functionaries of undefinable gender. And, as at Mari and in the Bible, some prophets—both men and women—are not given an explicit or formal title. An oracle may be said to have been spoken by “the woman Dunnaša-amur (from Arbela),” or “La-dagil-ili, a man from Arbella.”

Assyrian prophets were devotees of Ištar of Arbela, whose words they transmitted. Their activity was not restricted to the city of Arbela, however, as they could act as mouthpieces of other deities. Many oracles, like the one received by Zakkur, contain a reassuring “Fear not,” familiar from prophetic oracles in the Old Testament (2 Chr. 20:15 2; Isa. 7:4; 35:4; 40:9; 41:10, 13, 14; 43:1, 5; 44:2, 8; Zeph. 3:16; Hag. 2:5), and communications by angels in the New Testament (Matt. 1:20; Luke 1:13, 30).

Assyrian oracles are largely oracles of peace and wellbeing, typically giving assurance to the king about matters of succession and success in defeating enemies, which include other claimants to the throne. They warmly profess the goddess’s love for the king, and solicit praise from him. Prophets rarely admonish the king, and if they do, it is a mild rebuke about the king having ignored a previous oracle or not having provided Ištar with (sacrificial) food at the temple. One oracle upbraids Assurbanipal for not having properly rewarded him for his loyalty, as his father had done. Scholars of a lower station than he were granted mules, and should he not have received one donkey? Other gifts are requested to relieve his suffering.

A few oracles address Esarhaddon and the queen mother (cf. Jer. 13:18–20). One oracle is delivered to the people of Assyria as a whole, and another invites the gods to witness a covenant Ištar is making on behalf of Esarhaddon with citizens and vassals of Assyria, after which a “covenant meal” will be served on the temple terrace. Ištar reminds people to remember her and to keep this covenant (cf. Jer. 34:8–22). Some Assyrian prophecies were delivered to temple officials and private persons.

Lachish Ostraca

Two—originally three—potsherds found at Tell ed-Duweir (ancient Lachish) contain the only extra-biblical references to prophets in pre-exilic Israel. Ostraca 3 and 16 contain the word “prophet,” but in Ostracon 6 “prophet” is missing, although most likely it was originally present in the text. These sherds date from the last days of Judah in the 6th century bce and were sent from Hoshaiah, officer at an unknown outpost, to his commander Yaush at Lachish.

Ostracon 3 is concerned about the transfer of a detachment under Hoshaiah’s command to Egypt (cf. Jer. 37:7; Ezek. 17:15), and mentions a prophet giving oracles seemingly unsupportive of the war effort. We know nothing beyond the first word of the oracle, “Beware” (hšmr), a familiar word beginning oracles in the Bible (Judg. 13:4; Jer. 17:21). We also do not know to whom the oracles were directed. The term nābî’ is used for “prophet,” the same word as in the Bible. Ostracon 6 is perhaps the most important, expressing alarm at words of a prophet, said to be “weakening your hands [and slackening] the hands of the m[en] who [are in]for[med about] them.” This has a striking parallel to what Zedekiah’s princes were saying to the king about oracles spoken by Jeremiah (Jer. 38:4). Ostracon 16 is very fragmentary, although it clearly mentions a prophet of Yahweh active in these days just before Judah fell to Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians (586 bce).

Prophets in Ancient Israel

From the Bible comes the impression that Israel’s prophetic movement began with Samuel, who actually had three titles: judge, seer, and prophet (1 Sam. 7:15–17; 9:9). Prior to Samuel the Bible names a few individuals as prophets or prophetesses: Abraham (Gen. 20:7); Miriam (Exod. 15:20); and Deborah (Judg. 4:4); and most importantly Moses, whom Deuteronomy calls prophet par excellence (Deut 34:10–12). These references are now taken by many to be anachronistic, as in their time none were called “prophet.” From the Bible we learn also that prophets in this early period were ecstatic in behavior (1 Sam. 10:5–12), similar to but not precisely the same as the prophets of Baal in the 9th century (1 Kgs. 18:28).

Deuteronomy betrays a clear influence of Israel’s prophets, with some earlier scholars having called it a “prophetic law book.” The reasons are clear. Much legislation and ethical teaching in the book find parallels in the preaching of Amos and Hosea, particularly the latter, and at the end of the book is the “Song of Moses” (Deut. 32:1–43), which is a prophetic poem through and through. Deuteronomy attributes this work to Moses, but it is likely of unknown provenance, written by some author after Israel’s settlement in Canaan.

The Hebrew term for “prophet” in the Old Testament is nābî’ (fem. nĕbî’â) which means “one called (by God),” or possibly “one who calls,” where the term comes close to meaning “speaker” (Exod. 7:1). Greek prophētēs (fem. prophētis), from which our word “prophet” comes, in the LXX, New Testament, and Graeco-Roman sources means “one who speaks for God or a deity.” Prophets possess what today in the insurance business is called the “power of agency,” that is, their words are binding but there continues to exist a “power behind the power.” Words spoken by the prophets are never ultimately their own; they are the words of Yahweh, God of Israel.

In the time of Samuel, “prophet” had come to replace “seer” (1 Sam. 9:9). Samuel was a seer, as was David’s prophet Gad (2 Sam. 24:11). Amaziah, the resident priest at Bethel, dismissed Amos as a “seer,” but Amos rejected both this title and “prophet,” stating that he was a shepherd whom Yahweh had called to prophesy (Amos 7:12–15; cf. 1:1; 3:8).

Prophets without Title

In the Bible, as in extra-biblical texts, individuals without title are called to do the work of prophesying. In the Deuteronomic History the prophet is often called simply a “man of God” (Judg. 13:6, 8; 1 Sam. 2:27; 1 Kgs. 12:22; etc.), a term used also for Moses and David (Josh. 14:6; 1 Chr. 23:14; 2 Chr. 8:14; 30:16; Ezra 3:2; Neh. 12:24, 36; Ps. 90:1; 1 Esd. 5:49). Biblical writers (or editors) recognized an obvious overlap between the terms “prophet,” “seer,” and “man of God” (1 Sam. 9:6–10).

The Bible—particularly the early books—refers to a number of individuals engaged in prophesying as “(divine) messengers.” The terms used are “messenger,” mal’ak, “messenger of Yahweh,” mal’ak YHWH (Gen. 16:7–12; 22:11, 15; Judg. 2:1–4); or less commonly “messenger of God,” mal’ak ’elōhîm (Gen. 21:17). Modern English Bibles often render mal’ak in such contexts as “angel” (from Gk. angelos). That the “messenger of Yahweh / God” is in fact a “prophet” can be seen in the overlap of terms in Judges 6:7–24. In Judges 13:3–23, the “messenger of Yahweh” appearing to the wife of Manoah is called “man of God,” “messenger of God,” or simply “a man.” The “three men” stopping to visit Abraham at the oaks of Mamre in Genesis 18:2, two of whom are called “messengers” in 19:1, bring messages from Yahweh about Sarah bearing a son and the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah being slated for destruction. Also, the “messenger of Yahweh” giving Elijah information and advice in 2 Kings 1:3–4, 15 could well be the prophet Elisha, who emerges into the open in 2 Kings 2. At a later time he could also be the divine messenger supplying his hungry master with food (1 Kgs. 19:4–8).

In the late monarchy the prophet is again portrayed as Yahweh’s “messenger” (Isa. 6:8; Jer. 1:7; Ezek. 2:1–5), although then the prophetic office is closely associated with the priesthood (Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah), and a prophet may even be in the royal line (Zephaniah). In the postexilic period, Haggai is called a “messenger” (Hag. 1:13), and the name Malachi is literally “my messenger” (Mal. 1:1; 3:1).

These early divine messengers, like prophets coming later, are both “forthtellers” (those who speak forth on things happening currently) and “foretellers.” They bring timely messages about urgent matters at hand, and messages anticipating momentous events in the near or distant future. Such messages may be characterized broadly as messages of salvation and judgment, or life and death. They might be about the birth of a child, or a child about to die being saved. They may be about Israel being saved from its enemies, or about whole cities being destroyed. These early messengers almost always address individuals, not entire nations, but the messages they give are much the same as messages delivered by the classical “writing” prophets to Israel and the other nations of the world.

Marks of the Hebrew Prophet

There are at least six distinguishing marks that set off the prophet from ordinary people on the one hand, and from other professional types on the other. Not every prophet possessed all six, nor were the gifts possessed to the same degree, much less manifested in precisely the same way. No two prophets were alike; each was an individual in his or her own right. Also, these marks show up in prophets and would-be prophets whom the Old Testament ultimately discredits. A connection between distinctive marks and authenticity does exist, but one does not translate into the other.

The Hebrew prophet possessed a clear sense of having been called into divine service by Yahweh, God of Israel. This was the warrant for everything the prophet said and did. Samuel received his call while still a boy at the Shiloh sanctuary. It came in a night vision, and he needed help from Eli the priest in recognizing it (1 Sam. 3:2–14). Amos heard the Lion of Heaven roaring from Zion, and said he had no choice but to prophesy against Israel (Amos 1:2; 3:8; 7:15). Isaiah received his call in the Jerusalem temple, at which time the entire interior came alive in a vision. Yahweh was seen enthroned as King, and was calling for a royal messenger to run with a message. Isaiah was a ready volunteer; he said: “Here am I! Send me” (Isa. 6:8). Jeremiah learned of his call while walking about in an almond orchard near his home. He was young and afraid, but Yahweh wanted him anyway. God’s initial choice of him was made before Jeremiah was formed in the womb, at a time known only to Yahweh (Jer. 1:5). Ezekiel received his call while sitting among fellow exiles at the River Chebar (Ezek. 2:1–5). It so overwhelmed him that he left in bitterness and was unable to speak for seven days. Moses, later numbered among Israel’s prophets, received his call at a burning bush in the desert (Exod. 3:4–6, 10). He, too resisted, but in the end Yahweh got his man.

With less specificity other prophets witness to having been called into service by Yahweh, and some prophets report no call at all. But even the latter individuals are not voicing concerns solely their own; they are mouthpieces of Yahweh, and their warrant to speak is a result of Yahweh having spoken and sent them with a message to deliver.

Because the Hebrew prophets, like other prophets in the ancient world, are called to deliver messages from their God, tradition marked them as preeminent bearers of the divine word. Hebrew prophets rarely, if ever, merely warn or give polite advice; they speak the divine word with authority. The spoken word in antiquity was thought to possess great power; this was especially true of the word of Yahweh (Jer. 5:14; 23:29). And once Yahweh’s word goes forth, it does not return void (Isa. 31:2; 55:11). By the prophet’s word people become ill or are healed, they live or they die; whole nations rise or fall. Behind this powerful word stands Yahweh. The Hebrew prophet is simply Yahweh’s messenger.

Hebrew prophets are also possessed with vision—both vision in the general sense, and visions in which the divine word was received. In ancient Hebrew thought, the ear is said to be more important than the eye in discerning truth, where also speaking and hearing predominate over seeing and transmitting what one has seen. Yet, the Hebrew prophets had vision in the broad sense, that is, they could see the times were out of joint and needed a remedy, and they could see also what lay ahead in the future. Disobedience of the Sinai covenant would bring forth Yahweh’s judgment, and prophets had the unwelcome task of delivering this message. But, after judgment, salvation was in store, and here again the prophets were first to see this and convey it to a dispirited people. From the Song of Moses prophets learned that in Yahweh’s economy history begins and ends in salvation.

Prophets also received the divine word in visions and dreams (Num. 12:6). Amos is said to have “seen” the divine word he delivered (Amos 1:1), and Jeremiah scores prophets who should have “seen and heard” Yahweh’s word, but did not (Jer. 23:18, 22). Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other prophets reported visions; it is only Jeremiah who disparaged dreams because those reporting them had the wrong message (Jer. 23:32).

Only three Hebrew prophets—four, if we include Aaron (Exod. 7:1)—were able to perform mighty works, another mark of the Hebrew prophet. Elijah and Elisha, also Moses in retrospect (Deut. 34:10–12), were the mighty miracle workers in Israel. Aaron, too, performed miracles before Pharaoh (Exod. 7–11). Elijah and Elisha healed the sick, raised the dead, multiplied food and oil, and made a city’s drinking water clean. Today in parts of Africa, miracle working is the only sure gift marking an individual as a prophet.

Hebrew prophets were possessed with “spirit” (rûaḥ), the spirit of Yahweh, which rushed in upon them causing them to speak and act in extraordinary ways (Num. 11:29; Neh. 9:30). It is unclear how many Hebrew prophets were ecstatics after the time of Samuel and Saul. Israel’s prophets may have inherited the gift of Yahweh’s spirit from the Judges who preceded them (Judg 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25).

The Hebrew conception of Yahweh’s spirit and Yahweh’s sending of other spirits is complex. After Yahweh rejected Saul, he sent evil spirits to replace his own spirit (1 Sam. 16:14). Yahweh was also said to have sent a “lying spirit” into the mouths of 400 Yahweh prophets performing before Ahab and Jehoshaphat (1 Kgs. 22:23–24). Nevertheless, genuine Hebrew prophets were filled with Yahweh’s Spirit. Ezekiel had it (Ezek. 2:2; 11:5); the lesser-known Azariah ben Obed had it (2 Chr. 15:1, 8) and so did the great prophet of the exile (Isa. 61:1). Micah, too, claimed to have had it (Mic. 3:8).

When Yahweh’s spirit descends, emotions are displayed openly. From the ecstatic band in the time of Samuel and Saul we envision a party atmosphere: music, dancing, loud voices, and the rest. These prophets were playing harps, tambourines, flutes, and lyres. This party atmosphere later characterized Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the church, and people were thought to be drunk on wine (Acts 2). Nevertheless, we learn from Ezekiel that Yahweh’s spirit can act in precisely the opposite way. Instead of causing great excitement, it can have a deeply quieting effect. When Yahweh’s spirit came upon this prophet he sat quietly among fellow exiles for seven days (Ezek. 3:14–15). In both Jeremiah and Ezekiel we perceive a deep indwelling of Yahweh’s spirit—more contemplation, more inner reflection, more confession, and more prayer.

Possessing Yahweh’s spirit also made the prophet mobile, unlike the priest who remained at the sanctuary or temple and was “the man of God” in residence. Like the earlier divine messengers, prophets were itinerants, constantly on the go. Elijah, in fact, was so mobile that one day he suddenly appeared to Obadiah and told him to announce the prophet’s presence to the king. But Obadiah feared Yahweh’s spirit would carry Elijah to some unknown place, and when the king could not find Elijah, he would kill Obadiah (1 Kgs. 18:12). Even at the end of Elijah’s life it was believed that Yahweh’s spirit had taken him to an unknown destination (2 Kgs. 2:16).

The final distinguishing mark of the Hebrew prophets was that they were people of prayer. As Yahweh’s messenger, the prophet brought divine messages back to the king. Most were requests, which we call prayers. The prophet prayed for himself and interceded for others. Abraham was called a prophet because he was known for his intercessory prayer (Gen. 20:7). Elijah was a man of prayer (1 Kgs. 18–19; Jas. 5:16–18); Samuel and Jeremiah were men of prayer (Jer. 15:1), and greater still was Moses, who in the Old Testament pseudepigrapha was designated “mediator of the covenant” because of his successful pleading with Yahweh (Test. Mos. 1:14).

Prophets of the Early Monarchy

The prophetic movement for which Israel has become justly well known coincides with the crisis of people wanting a king. Samuel became the (reluctant) kingmaker in Israel (1 Sam. 12), then later the (reluctant) bearer of a message that Saul’s kingship would not continue (1 Sam. 13:8–15). Saul had been disobedient, a sin in Yahweh’s eyes that loomed large. Obedience was more important to Yahweh than burnt offerings and sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22–23).

Prophets of the United Monarchy

The prophet Nathan delivered three important messages to King David. The first was good news: Instead of David being given the go-ahead to build a house (temple) for Yahweh, Yahweh would instead build him a house, which would be a perpetual line of descendants (2 Sam. 7). But after David’s adultery with the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and the murder of Uriah, Nathan returned to give David a message of riveting judgment (2 Sam. 11). While David would not lose the kingship as Saul did, the sword would nevertheless not depart from his house, and the child born to him and Bathsheba would die (2 Sam. 12:1–15). Finally, when Solomon was born, Nathan came to David with the message that this son was beloved by Yahweh (2 Sam. 12:24–25).

David’s other prophet (and seer) was a fellow named Gad, who delivered the king a word of judgment after David had taken a census (2 Sam. 24:10–14). David’s wrongdoing is unclear, but there seems to have been disapproval of his military motives. David was given a choice of punishments: famine, pursuit by enemies, or pestilence. He chose pestilence.

No prophets arose during the forty-year rule of Solomon, except at the end of his reign, when Ahijah announced to Jeroboam son of Nebat that Solomon’s kingdom would be rent asunder. The king’s many wives had led him into idolatry. Ten of Israel’s tribes would be given to Jeroboam (1 Kgs. 11:29–39). The one surviving tribe, Judah (into which Simeon had been absorbed), would be given to Solomon’s son, Rehoboam.

Prophets in Northern Israel

The prophet Jehu delivered a judgment oracle against Baasha, king of Israel (900–877), for doing evil in Yahweh’s sight. He and his royal house would be swept away (1 Kgs. 16:1–4). But the prophet bigger than life in 9th-century Israel was Elijah, who emerged on the scene by speaking Yahweh’s word to King Ahab about an upcoming drought (1 Kgs. 17:1). He later returned to deliver another word that the drought would be ended (1 Kgs. 18:1). Ahab’s Tyrian wife Jezebel had 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah eating at the royal table (1 Kgs. 18:19). Yahweh prophets had all been killed or were hiding in caves (1 Kgs. 18:13).

A dramatic confrontation with prophets of Baal took place on Mt. Carmel, at which time Elijah bested his rivals, and the rain came. Elijah’s message was that Israel had been living in violation of the first commandment, which was that Yahweh alone was God. After Elijah’s stunning victory, the 450 Baal prophets were put to death (1 Kgs. 18:40), but nothing is said about the fate of the 400 prophets of Asherah, Baal’s consort. They may have survived after undergoing a name change, since at the end of Ahab’s reign 400 Yahweh prophets were predicting victory for the Israelite king and his Judahite ally in an upcoming battle (1 Kgs. 22:6). But they failed to get the message right, being discredited by a contrary prophecy of Micaiah ben Imlah, another Yahweh prophet who predicted that Ahab would die in battle. Micaiah’s prophecy turned out to be correct.

Elijah judged Ahab and Jezebel for seizing a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite (1 Kgs. 21), and at the end of his life he delivered judgment on King Ahaziah for seeking out Baal of Ekron regarding his illness, again, a violation of the First Commandment (2 Kgs. 1). Elijah died, as did all the other prophets (John 8:52–53; T. Abr. 8:9), but was remembered in tradition as having taken an honorific chariot ride into heaven (2 Kgs. 2:11).

Elisha, successor to Elijah, gave Kings Jehoshaphat and Jehoram a prophecy of victory over Moab, but needed a minstrel to bring on Yahweh’s power (2 Kgs. 3:11–20). Elisha gave to a Shunammite woman the gladsome message that she would bear a son (2 Kgs. 4:16), and later told her to leave the country because Yahweh had decreed a famine (2 Kgs. 8:1–2). Elisha judged his servant Gehazi for deceitfully taking money from Naaman, the Syrian, and Gehazi was stricken with leprosy (2 Kgs. 5:19–27). The prophet then journeyed to Damascus to tell Hazael that Ben-hadad would not recover from his sickness, and that Hazael would become the king of Syria. But the bad news for people back home was that Hazael would bring grievous evil upon Israel (2 Kgs. 8:7–15). Elisha’s last prophetic word, before he died, was to King Joash that he would defeat the Syrians (2 Kgs. 13:14–19).

Jonah was a nationalistic prophet supporting the expansionistic Jeroboam II (2 Kgs. 14:25), but achieved canonical status among Israel’s prophets only in a later tale of the postexilic period. In that tale is the same fellow, but one who achieves dubious yet undisputed fame because: (1) his nationalism is held up to ridicule; (2) his judgment on a foreign (gentile) nation brings about wide-scale repentance; and (3) the repentance causes Yahweh to rescind his judgment and show the nation mercy, which is precisely what Jonah did not want to see happen (Jon. 4:2). This is the only fictional work on a prophet in the Hebrew Bible.

The two great prophets during the reign of Jeroboam II (786–746) were Amos and Hosea. Amos came from Judah to prophesy against Israel and its king at the Bethel sanctuary (Amos 7:10). Messages came in three visions, the third of which brought judgment on Jeroboam (Amos 7:1–9). Amos was a prophet of social justice and righteousness. Oracles judged foreign nations for gross inhumanity, and Judah and Israel for covenant violation (Amos 1:3–2:16). Yahweh’s own nation would be punished because of its special status as a chosen people (Amos 3:2). Israel’s sanctuaries and their worship were vigorously attacked. The coming day of Yahweh would be darkness and not light. The book bearing Amos’s name ends by promising future salvation, which appears to be directed toward Judah rather than Israel (Amos 9:11–15).

Hosea, a native of Northern Israel, delivered oracles against Baal worship and covenant violation, where the Sinai covenant was viewed as a marital relationship between Yahweh and Israel. Israel had been unfaithful, so Hosea emphasizes sexual misconduct more than his contemporary Amos. But his prophecies have a more compassionate tone than those of Amos, with Yahweh anguishing over the judgment to be meted out against his unfaithful wife (Hos. 6:4–6; 11:8–9). But Hosea delivers a clear word of hope for Israel’s future: Yahweh, who sent his beloved away will, in the end, take her back after she repents of her unfaithfulness (Hos. 1:10–11; 2:14–23; 14:1–7). Hosea gives no oracles against foreign nations.

Prophets in Judah

The two prominent prophets in late 8th-century Judah were Micah and Isaiah. Micah was from the country, prophesying against idolatrous worship and urban oppression in Samaria and Jerusalem. Justice, steadfast love, and walking humbly with God were more important than worship, and were what Yahweh requires (Mic. 6:6–8). Yahweh will lay waste both capital cities, with Micah being best remembered for his prophecy that “Zion shall be plowed as a field” (Mic. 3:12). It did not happen, however, because, as we learn later, King Hezekiah sought the favor of Yahweh so Yahweh repented of the evil to come (Jer. 26:18–19). Hopeful preaching appears at the center of Micah’s book (Mic. 4–5), which may result from the reform carried out by Hezekiah. The prophet knows he must wait for Yahweh; Judah’s enemy will not have the final word, for in the end Yahweh will vindicate his people. Yahweh pardons iniquity, remaining faithful to his covenant made with Abraham and the fathers (Mic. 7:7–20).

Isaiah was from Jerusalem, and prophecies about murder, drunkenness, lies, corrupt princes and judges, rich exploiting the poor, and other urban evils (Isa. 1:21–23; 5:1–30), along with statements about a wrong-headed foreign policy, were not well received by King Ahaz (735–715), with whom the prophet had little influence. According to Isaiah, Yahweh did not want burnt offerings, sacrifices, and solemn festivals (Isa. 1:10–17). The nation would therefore be destroyed, and people would be exiled; nevertheless, “a remnant would return,” which became a signature word of the prophet (Isa. 1:24–27; 6:11–13; 7:3; 10:21). Some prophecies of peace and a future righteous king became Israel’s later messianic hope (Isa. 2:2–4; 9:2–7; 11:1–9).

After an eighteen-year absence from public life, Isaiah returned to prophesy in the reign of Hezekiah (715–687/6), with whom he enjoyed better relations (Isa. 8:16–17). He also had a more positive impact on national policy. Hezekiah undertook a major reform. Pursuing peace and waiting patiently for Yahweh were Isaiah’s recurrent themes, especially during the Assyrian crisis (700), when Sennacherib had Jerusalem under siege, but did not take the city. Assyria was the “rod of Yahweh’s anger” for punishing Samaria and Jerusalem (Isa. 10:5–11), yet only a tool in the divine hand, which in the end would be punished for its haughty pride (Isa. 10:12–19). Other nations would be punished (Isa. 13–23), and salvation would come to Israel (Isa. 24–27).

Prophetic oracles were again heard in Judah beginning in the reign of Josiah (640–609), and they continued unabated until the nation fell to Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in 586. When a law book was found in the temple in 622, it was taken to the prophetess Huldah for verification. She responded with judgment on the nation for provoking Yahweh by going after other gods. Josiah, because he tore his robe in contrition, received a milder word (2 Kgs. 22:15–20). The Judean king then undertook a major reform, which included a covenant renewal, celebration of Passover, and a purge of syncretistic worship sites (2 Kgs. 23).

Jeremiah supported this reform by giving oracles on Judah forsaking Yahweh, which included calls for repentance (Jer. 2:1–4:4). Oracles were also given on a coming “foe from the north,” which was Babylon (Jer. 4:5–10:25). Destruction would be so vast it would be like a return to primeval chaos (Jer. 4:23–26). But during his early years Jeremiah gave hopeful oracles to Northern Israelites taken away to Assyria, that they would return to Zion (Jer. 31:2–14).

Jeremiah gave strong rebukes to Judah’s kings, particularly Jehoiakim, who did not practice justice and righteousness (Jer. 22:13–17). Zedekiah, too, did not live up to his name, “Righteous is Yahweh,” so a king the likes of David was looked for in the future, whose name would be “Yahweh is our righteousness” (Jer. 23:5–6).

Jeremiah gave numerous oracles against foreign nations (Jer. 46–51), and before Jerusalem fell he spoke oracles of salvation for his own nation (Jer. 30–33), the most important of which was Yahweh’s prophecy of a new covenant (Jer. 31:31–34), which was later claimed by the Christian church.

Zephaniah and Habakkuk prophesied the demise of their nation, however Habakkuk said, “the righteous shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:4). Uriah of Kiriath-jearim also spoke against Judah, but Jehoiakim had him killed (Jer. 26:20–23). Obadiah prophesied Yahweh’s judgment on Edom, and Nahum prophesied Yahweh’s judgment on Assyria, which came when Nineveh fell to the Babylonians and Medes in 612.

Joel, whose prophecy about the pouring out of Yahweh’s spirit on all flesh was remembered as fulfilled at Pentecost (Joel 2:28–29; Acts 2:17–18), is of uncertain date. Scholars date the book anywhere from the early 6th century to the late 4th century bce. Jerusalem’s walls are standing (Joel 2:7, 9). Joel remembers a devouring enemy entering Israel in his famous “locust parade” (Joel 1:4). But a future day will see a reversal of the locust parade, when “threshing floors shall be full of grain, and the vats will overflow with wine and oil” (Joel 2:21–27).

Prophets in the Exile

Ezekiel was a priest taken to Babylon in the exile of 597. After his call to be a prophet, he had a vision of Yahweh’s glory being spirited away from Jerusalem to Babylon (Ezek. 1:15–20; 10–11). From this distant land he spoke against the abominations in Jerusalem, and predicted the nation’s demise. Numerous oracles were spoken against foreign nations (Ezek. 25–32, 35). But in his vision of the Valley of Dry Bones he sees the whole house of Israel coming alive, and in another vision sees a restored temple in a restored Jerusalem (Ezek. 40–48).

Another unnamed prophet in the tradition of Isaiah arose in the exile, who spoke some of the most moving oracles preserved in the Old Testament (Isa. 40–55). They anticipate a return to the homeland (Isa. 40:1–5; 42:14–17; 43:14–21) and with this hope is acclaim for the incomparable Yahweh, creator of heaven and earth, and Israel’s Redeemer (Isa. 40:12–31). Yahweh alone is God, the living God, unlike the gods of the nations and their inert idols, who can do nothing and are nothing (Isa. 41:23–24, 28–29). Yahweh has called forth a “servant”—either an individual or all Israel—who is to be “a light to the nations” (Isa. 42:1–9; 49:5–6). A conversion of the nations will follow (Isa. 45:14–25).

Later oracles in the Isaiah book (Isa. 56–66) lack this earlier buoyancy, giving a more realistic picture of life in Jerusalem after the first wave of returnees in 538; they may emanate from another prophet. A mood of pessimism pervades, dealing with problems of rank wickedness, bloodshed, miscarriages of justice, syncretistic worship, fasting, Sabbath observance, and leaders who are blind, greedy, and drunk on wine. But interspersed with the indictments are words of penitence, confession, and pleas for divine mercy. In these latter prophecies is also a moving prophecy of Yahweh creating a new heaven and a new earth (Isa. 65:17–25).

Prophets in the Postexilic Period

Haggai and Zechariah the priest were returnees from Babylon who became prophets in Jerusalem. Their main message was that Yahweh intended to rebuild the temple, which in 515 was dedicated. Haggai delivered subsequent oracles that Yahweh would beautify the temple with returned fortunes from Babylon (Hag. 2:6–9), and people were admonished to cleanse themselves and temple worship, after which Yahweh would bless them (Hag. 2:10–19). Haggai also marked the governor Zerubbabel as Yahweh’s chosen one (Hag. 2:20–23).

Zechariah’s oracles (Zech. 1–8) focus on Yahweh’s return to Zion, a rebuilding of the temple, and Yahweh’s judgment on the nations, which for the Jewish people will mean deliverance and prosperity. But people must return to Yahweh (Zech. 1:3). Yahweh does not speak directly to Zechariah, but rather gives elaborate revelations through mediating angels. Zechariah says true judgments, kindness, mercy, and benevolent acts count for more with Yahweh than outward observances of mourning and fasting (Zech. 7). Zechariah predicts that many foreigners will come to Jerusalem to seek Yahweh’s favor (Zech. 8:20–23).

Oracles of another prophet (Zech. 9–14), whose name we do not know, build on the tradition of Zechariah. These focus on the punishment of Israel’s enemies, although a Philistine remnant will come to worship Israel’s God and be incorporated into Judah (Zech. 9:7). To Zion this prophet announces Yahweh’s coming king (Zech. 9:9–17), a prophecy later taken up in the New Testament in connection with Jesus’s ride into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:5; John 12:15). This king will bring peace to the nations.

Sometime around 460–450, a prophet Malachi, having this name or else unnamed (“Malachi” being merely a title, “my messenger”), arises in the postexilic community. The temple is rebuilt, worship is being carried on, but the priesthood is lax and corrupt. Divorce and marriage to foreign women are widespread, and abuses in sacrificial worship are rife. Malachi no longer uses the “Thus said Yahweh” formula. Each topic opens with a statement followed by a question or two, from which Malachi then develops an argument to make his point.

Malachi’s message is that priests and laity are withholding honor from Yahweh (Mal. 1:6–2:9). Blind, sick, and lame animals are being sacrificed, and there is a neglect of tithes and offerings (Mal. 3:6–12). Yahweh will bring a righteous judgment to such a people (Mal. 3:13–4:3). Yet people are to look forward to a Day of Yahweh before which the returning Elijah will bring about reconciliation (Mal. 4:5–6). The New Testament takes this prophecy as having been fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist (Matt. 11:9–14). Sometime after 445, Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem to rebuild its walls, but reports his work being frustrated by prophets and a prophetess named Noadiah (Neh. 6:14).

The Hebrew prophets give messages much like those of other prophets in the ancient world: announcing salvation for their own nation and predicting judgment on other nations; supporting kings or those destined to be king; and giving messages on the birth and death of royal offspring. But what makes Hebrew prophets different from these other prophets is that they announce considerably more judgment—sometimes very harsh judgment—on Israel’s monarchs, leading citizens, and the nation itself.

When comparing messages of the Hebrew prophets with messages of prophets in Mari, Assyria, and other nations we must recognize a profound difference in religions. Yahweh and Israel were bound together by a covenant with stipulations (i.e., law) that had to be obeyed. This covenant was fortified by blessings and curses (Deut. 28), for which reason prophets in Israel were much preoccupied with indicting and judging kings, priests, other prophets, and an entire people for covenant disobedience. Also, in Israel the lawgiver was Yahweh, not the king. In Mari, as elsewhere in the ancient Near East, the king was lawgiver. Zimri-Lim’s neighboring king to the south, Hammurabi of Babylon, wrote up the law code himself. But in Deuteronomy the king was required to have his own copy of Yahweh’s law; he must read it all his days, and must obey it just like everyone else (Deut. 17:18–20).

Authenticity and Inauthenticity

Prophets achieved authenticity via specific words and acts. Their legitimacy did not reside in their being, even though prophets could be genuine or disingenuous. In the unusual story of 1 Kings 13, in the span of just one day, a true prophet became false and a false prophet became true.

Deuteronomy contained two tests for (in)authenticity, its aim being to expose prophets who were false. (1) The first is in Deut 13:1–5. If a prophet or dreamer gave a sign or wonder that came to pass, people were not to pay heed if that person led them in the way of other gods. Such a one must be put to death. The true prophet, by implication, was the Yahweh prophet leading people in the way of Yahweh. (2) The second test is found in Deut 18:20–22. Here two individuals are Yahweh prophets, and are speaking contrary words. The false prophet was shown to be the one whose word (of doom) did not come to pass. One need not be afraid of such a one. By implication, the true prophet was the one whose word (of doom) did come to pass. Jeremiah was vindicated by both tests. He was accepted as a prophet of Yahweh when put on trial for his life (Jer. 26:1–19), and in a confrontation with the prophet Hananiah (Jer. 28), his word of doom—on his opponent and on the nation—came true.

Prophets themselves recognized other discrediting signs in prophets they knew—that is, marks of the bona fide prophet that were missing or judged inauthentic. Jeremiah knew prophets whom Yahweh had neither called nor sent, but were running anyway (Jer. 23:18, 21–22). He knew prophets in whom Yahweh’s word did not reside (Jer. 5:13), and prophets who reported dreams that were lies (Jer. 23:32). Elijah on Mount Carmel mocked prophets of Baal unable to do a mighty work (1 Kgs. 18:25–29).

Hosea said, “the man of the spirit is mad” (Hos. 9:7), and with Hebrew rûaḥ meaning both “wind” and “spirit,” Micah complained of people who would rather listen to “windy” preachers than hear his cry of social injustice (Mic. 2:22). Jeremiah said prophets not delivering Yahweh’s word would become what they already were: “bags of wind” (Jer. 5:13). He also asked Zedekiah why the king’s optimistic prophets were not interceding with Yahweh when they should have been (Jer. 27:18).

There were still other marks of inauthenticity among prophets. Isaiah knew prophets no better than the drunkards of Ephraim (Isa. 28:7–8); Zephaniah and Jeremiah censured reckless and undisciplined prophetic behavior (Zeph. 3:4; Jer. 23:32); Jeremiah had harsh words for prophets greedy for unjust gain (Jer. 6:13; 8:10), and others committing adultery and speaking lies (Jer. 29:21–23); and Ezekiel criticized female prophets who hunted people down and kept others alive just for profit (Ezek. 13:17–23).

The Hebrew Bible never uses the term “false prophet.” Only in the LXX do we find the term pseudoprophētēs, which occurs nine times. A Dead Sea scroll fragment (4Q339) listing eight false prophets in Israel is the earliest Semitic source to use the expression “false prophets” (nby’y [š]qr’). The reconstructed list reads:

  1. 1 [Fa]lse prophets who arose in [Israel]

  2. 2 Balaam [son of] Beor

  3. 3 [And the] Old Man [who] was in Bethel

  4. 4 [And Zede]kiah son of Che[na]anah

  5. 5 [And Aha]b son of K[ola]iah

  6. 6 [And Zed]ekiah son of Ma[a]seiah

  7. 7 [And Shemaiah the Ne]helamite

  8. 8 [And Hananiah son of Azz]ur

  9. 9 [And Johanan son of Sim]eon

Four of these prophets are found in Jeremiah 28–29: Ahab, Zedekiah ben Maaseiah, Shemaiah, and Hananiah. On Balaam, see Numbers 22–24; on the old man from Bethel, see 1 Kings 13:11–32; and on Zedekiah son of Chenaanah, see 1 Kings 22:11–28. The final name, most of which is missing, is in considerable doubt. In the early church, the false prophet was one who stayed with his host more than two days (Didache 11:5).

Prophetic Discourse

Hebrew prophets produced exceedingly rich discourse. Nathan used a parable to great effect in convicting David of his sin against Uriah. In Amos we see prophets beginning to deliver oracles and prophetic messages in poetry, and this continues with all the preexilic prophets. Ezekiel contains very little poetry, but some of the greatest Old Testament poetry emanates from Second Isaiah (Isa. 40–66). In the postexilic period poetry appears only in Second Zechariah 9–11; 13:7–9.

Prophets speaking poetry were skilled in repetition (anaphora, epiphora, alliteration) and an array of rhythmic and rhetorical devices (crescendo, diminution, inclusion, and chiasmus). In prose they used accumulatio (the heaping up nouns in twos, threes, and fours), and balanced longer phrases in parallelism, just as preachers in Deuteronomy did.

Prophets used an abundance of tropes (metaphor, simile, abusio, parable, allegory, epithet, metonymy, synecdoche, merismus), and were particularly skilled in argumentative figures (enthymeme, protasis-apodosis, a minori ad maius) rhetorical questions, hypophora (answering one’s own rhetorical question), exaggerated contrast, distributio, permissio, and descriptio. Prophetic poetry and prose also contained an abundance of humor: paronomasia, hyperbole, litotes, and both verbal and dramatic irony. Finally, prophetic discourse contained drama: apostrophe and onomatopoeia (words imitating sounds), and simulated dialog.

Symbolic Acts

Hebrew prophets dramatized the spoken word with symbolic action. Ahijah tore his new garment into twelve pieces to dramatize the division of Solomon’s kingdom (1 Kgs. 11:29–30). Elijah ascended a mountain and would not come down to dramatize his message that King Ahaziah would not come down from the sick bed to which he had gone up (2 Kgs. 1). Isaiah walked naked or half naked in Jerusalem to dramatize the fate of Egyptian captives and Ethiopian exiles (Isa. 20:2). Jeremiah broke an empty decanter at the Potsherd Gate to symbolize Yahweh’s determination to “make empty” the counsel of those planning the future of Judah and Jerusalem (Jer. 19:1–13), and he wore a yoke bar and straps on his neck to dramatize the service Judah and other nations must now render to Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 27–28). Ezekiel performed a number of symbolic acts, some so bizarre (e.g., lying on his left side for many days to symbolize Yahweh’s punishment in years for Judah) that Hermann Gunkel (1862–1932) said they would today be regarded as signs of mental illness, or at least nervous derangement.

The fullest expression of divine prophecy was when the life of the prophet itself became the symbol. Hosea became such a symbol when he married a prostitute, had children by her, and then took her back to symbolize Israel’s broken covenant and then Yahweh’s decision to redeem her (Hos. 1–3). Jeremiah became such a symbol by not marrying, and by absenting himself from mourning and joyful feasts (Jer. 16:1–9). In personal suffering just prior to Jerusalem’s fall, the focus moves from prophetic word and symbolic act, and is put almost entirely on the prophet himself—his entire life had now become the message: a dual message about a suffering nation and a suffering God in whose service the prophet steadfastly remained (Jer. 37–38). Yahweh told Ezekiel that when his wife, “the delight of his eyes,” died, he should not mourn her; this was to convey to people that they should not mourn the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (Ezek. 24:15–27).

Prophets in the New Testament and Early Church

Prophecy in Jewish tradition was believed to have ceased in the second century bce (b. Sanh. 11a; b. Sot. 48b; b. Yom. 9b; cf. 1 Macc. 9:27); nevertheless, it appears in the New Testament and early church (Acts 11:27–28; Didache 11:5). The aged prophetess Anna was with Simeon when the infant Jesus was brought to the temple, speaking of him to those looking for the redemption of Israel (Luke 2:36–38). John the Baptist was widely regarded by people as a prophet, and in Jesus’s view, he was the greatest of the prophets, Elijah redivivus (Matt. 11:9–14; 14:5; 21:26, etc.). Jesus, in fact, was acclaimed by many to be a prophet (Matt. 21:11, 46; John 4:19, etc.). Paul allows prophets to speak in the churches (1 Cor. 14:29–32, 37), ranking them second only to apostles (1 Cor. 12:28). But in his view prophecy, because it passes away, is not as great as love, which never ends (1 Cor. 13:8).

Review of the Literature

The study of prophets and prophecy up until the early 20th century was entirely a biblical one, the prophets of Israel being the exclusive focus of scholarly attention. Modern study in the Enlightenment began at Oxford with the publication of Robert Lowth’s De Sacra Poesi Hebraeorum Praelectiones (1753), in which Lowth demonstrated that large portions of prophetic discourse were in poetry (Lecture XVIII), and that this and other biblical poetry was characterized by parallelism, where successive colons restated, embellished, or contrasted an idea by repetition (Lecture XIX).1

In early 19th century literary criticism German scholars were sorting out genuine from ingenuine passages in the biblical text, making judgments on authorship, date, and the provenance of sources.2 Composition of prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible was a primary concern, and by 1850 a consensus was reached that the book of Isaiah was of multiple authorship, there being two or perhaps three books combined into one.3 Prophecies beginning with Isaiah 40 were dated during the Babylonian exile and later. Julius Wellhausen, the preeminent figure in this early criticism, viewed the Hebrew prophets as moral giants who gave to Israel its high ethical and spiritual teaching.4

Hermann Gunkel (1862–1932) in his program of form criticism (Gattungskritik) began comparative studies between the biblical material and newly unearthed texts from the library of Assurbanipal at Nineveh (1850), but his focus was on Genesis in the Old Testament and Revelation in the New Testament, not on the prophetic material.5 In the book of Jeremiah, Gunkel and Walter Baumgartner showed that the Jeremianic “confessions” were of the same literary genre as psalms of lament in the Hebrew Psalter, which constituted an important advance, but still remained an inner-biblical discovery.6 Here and in other prophetic material Gunkel’s work was largely psychological in nature. Subsequent form critical work in the prophets became too atomistic, carving up the biblical text to conform to extra-biblical or imagined genres, with the result that the legacy of this important critical discipline was diminished as it did too much violence to the biblical text.7

A corrective to form criticism in the prophets was made by James Muilenburg in his program of rhetorical criticism (1969), which built on earlier biblical stylistics, but expanded rhetoric to include structure in the tradition of Robert Lowth and Richard G. Moulton.8 Muilenburg’s rhetorical criticism was more wholistic than form criticism, focusing not so much on typical features of a prophetic genre as those features making the genre unique.

Another tradition of rhetorical criticism was born earlier at Cornell in the 1925 work of Herbert A. Wichelns, where rhetoric was studied not for the purpose of being prescriptive, as in earlier times, but developed rather as a modern analytic discipline built on the broad classical tradition: (1) it employed all the elements of suasive discourse; (2) it looked to see how figures functioned in discourse; and (3) it focused on the audience to which a given discourse was directed.9 Both traditions of rhetorical criticism have been combined in the works of Jack R. Lundbom, where the focus has been largely on Jeremiah and other biblical prophets.10

The other discipline to impact a study of prophets and prophecy is sociology, which emerged as a modern academic discipline in the early 20th century (Émile Durkheim, 1858–1917; Max Weber, 1864–1920). The aim here was to determine the “social location” of biblical prophets and prophets in other societies, and then to compare the two.11

In-depth comparisons between the biblical prophets and figures of like description outside the biblical corpus began slowly. With prophets being viewed in the early 20th century as ecstatic individuals, studies by Gustav Hölscher and Scandinavian scholars (Johannes Lindblom, Alfred Halder, Geo Widengren) compared biblical prophets with other (pre)modern ecstatic figures—North Asian shamans, Muslim dervishes, Finish sleeping preachers, Norse berserks, etc.12 But interest subsided when the model for the prophet was taken to be the royal messenger, not the ecstatic, changing the focus of scholarly attention. However, more recent studies of prophets in the ancient Near East have shown that ecstasy was definitely a component in the reception of prophetic revelations, something documented in the Bible where early Israelite prophecy and Canaanite prophecy is reported and described (1 Sam. 10:10; 1 Kgs. 18:28–29).

Excavations of 18th-century Mari brought to light a corpus of texts containing prophetic words, which by the late 1940s were being published. But not until the 1970s, for the most part, were studies comparing biblical prophecy with divine messages to 7th-century Assyrian kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal being published, even though the Neo-Assyrian texts had been excavated and published over a century ago.13

Subsequent works by Simo Parpola in 1997 and Martti Nissinen in 2003 have brought together in a systematic way the Mari, Neo-Assyrian, and other extra-biblical texts referring to prophets and prophecy, putting comparative studies between biblical and extra-biblical prophets on a firmer basis.14 It is now recognized more than previously that prophecy in ancient Israel was part of a larger cultural background, and that Israelite prophets were but one type of diviner existing throughout the ancient Near East from earliest times (23rd century bce), qualifying—but not rendering inappropriate—the perceived uniqueness of ancient Israelite prophecy as a phenomenon.

Further Reading

Alonso-Schökel, Luis. “Die stilistische Analyse bei den Propheten.” In Vetus Testamentum Supplement 7 (1960): 154–164.Find this resource:

Baumgartner, Walter. Die Klagegedichte des Jeremia. Giessen: Alfred Töpelmann, 1917.Find this resource:

Gillespie, Thomas W. The First Theologians: A Study in Early Christian Prophecy. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1994.Find this resource:

Gunkel, Hermann. Ausgewählte Psalmen übersetz und erklärt. 3d ed. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1904.Find this resource:

Gunkel, Hermann. “Propheten IIB. Propheten Israels seit Amos.” In Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart2 4 (1930): 1538–1554.Find this resource:

Gunkel, Hermann. Einleitung in die Psalmen: Die Gattungen der religiösen Lyrik Israels. Completed by Joachim Begrich. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1933.Find this resource:

Haldar, Alfred. Associations of Cult Prophets among the Ancient Semites. Uppsala: Almqvist and Wiksells, 1945.Find this resource:

Holladay, W. L. “Style, Irony, and Authenticity in Jeremiah.” Journal of Biblical Literature 81 (1962): 44–54.Find this resource:

Hölscher, Gustav. Die Propheten. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1914.Find this resource:

Huffmon, Herbert B. “The Origins of Prophecy.” In Magnalia Dei: The Mighty Acts of God (Essays in Memory of G. Ernest Wright). Edited by Frank Moore Cross et al., 171–186. Garden City: Doubleday, 1976.Find this resource:

König, E. Stilistik, Rhetorik, Poetik in Bezug auf Die Biblische Literatur. Leipzig: Dieterich’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1900.Find this resource:

Lindblom, Johannes. Prophecy in Ancient Israel. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1965.Find this resource:

Lundbom, Jack R. Jeremiah: A Study in Ancient Hebrew Rhetoric. SBLDS 18; Missoula, MT: Society of Biblical Literature and Scholars Press, 1975; 2d ed., Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1997.Find this resource:

Lundbom, Jack R. “Elijah’s Chariot Ride.” Journal of Jewish Studies 24 (1973): 39–50. Reprinted in Jack R. Lundbom, Biblical Rhetoric and Rhetorical Criticism, 150–161. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Lundbom, Jack R. “Rhetorical Criticism: History, Method and Use in the Book of Jeremiah.” In Jeremiah: A Study in Ancient Hebrew Rhetoric, xix–xliii. 2d ed. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1997. Reprinted in Jack R. Lundbom, Biblical Rhetoric and Rhetorical Criticism, 16–36. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Moulton, Richard G.. The Literary Study of the Bible. New York: D. C. Heath, 1895.Find this resource:

Nissinen, Martti. State Archives of Assyria Studies VIII: References to Prophecy in Neo-Assyrian Sources. Helsinki: University of Helsinki, Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 1998.Find this resource:

Nissinen, Martti (ed.). Prophecy in Its Ancient Near Eastern Context. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2000.Find this resource:

Nissinen, Martti. Prophets and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East. SBL Writings from the Ancient World 12. Edited by Peter Machinist. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003.Find this resource:

Nissinen, Martti. “Comparing Prophetic Sources: Principles and a Test Case.” In Prophecy and Prophets in Ancient Israel. Edited by John Day, 3–24. London: T & T Clark, 2010.Find this resource:

Parpola, Simo. Assyrian Prophesies. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press, 1997.Find this resource:

Stökl, Jonathan and Carvalho, Corrine L. (eds.). Prophets Male and Female: Genter and Prophecy in the Hebrew Bible, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Ancient Near East. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2013.Find this resource:

Weippert, Helga, Seybold, Klaus, and Weippert, Manfred. Beiträge zur Prophetischen Bildsprache in Israel und Assyrien. OBO 64; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1985.Find this resource:

Weippert, Manfred. “Assyrische Prophetien der Zeit Asarhaddons und Assurbanipals.” In F. M. Fales (ed.), Assyrian Royal Inscriptions: New Horizons, 71–115. Rome: Istituto per L’Oriente, 1981.Find this resource:

Wellhausen, Julius. Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels. 2d ed. Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1878.Find this resource:

Westermann, Claus. Basic Forms of Prophetic Speech. Translated by Hugh Clayton White. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1967.Find this resource:

Wichelns, Herbert A. “The Literary Criticism of Oratory.” In Studies in Rhetoric and Public Speaking in Honor of James Albert Winans. Edited by A. M. Drummond, 181–216. New York: The Century Company, 1925.Find this resource:

Widengren, Geo. Literary and Psychological Aspects of the Hebrew Prophets. Uppsala Universitets Årsskrift. Uppsala: A-B Lundequistska Bokhandeln, 1948.Find this resource:

Wilson, Robert. Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980.Find this resource:

Witherington, Ben, III. Jesus the Seer: The Progress of Prophecy. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014.Find this resource:


(1.) Robert Lowth, De Sacra Poesi Hebraeorum Praelectiones (Oxford: Clarendon, 1753 [English: Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews (translated by G. Gregory; Boston: Joseph T. Buckingham, 1815)).

(2.) Wilhelm Martin Leberecht deWette, Dissertatio critico-exegetica qua deuteronomium a prioribus pentateuchi libris diversum alius cuiusdam recentioris autoris opus esse monstratur (Jena: Literis Etzdorfii, 1805); reprinted in de Wette, Opuscula theologicae (Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1830), 149–168; idem, Beiträge zur Einleitung in das Alte Testament I–II (Halle: Schimmelpfennig und Compagnie, 1806–07 [English: A Critical and Historical Introduction to the Canonical Scriptures of the Old Testament I–II (translated and enlarged by Theodore Parker; Berlin: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1843; 1st ed. 1817]); and Julius Wellhausen, Die Composition des Hexateuchs und der historischen Bücher des Alten Testaments (3d ed.; Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1889).

(3.) Originally argued by Bernhard Duhm, Das Buch Jesaia (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1902).

(4.) Wellhausen, Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels (2d ed., Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1883; originally 1878 [English: Prolegomenon to the History of Ancient Israel (New York: Meridian Books, 1957)].

(5.) Hermann Gunkel, Schöpfung und Chaos in Urzeit und Endzeit (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1895 [English: Creation and Chaos in the Primeval Era and the Eschaton: A Religio-Historical Study of Genesis 1 and Revelation 12 (translated by K. William Whitney Jr.; Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2006]); idem, Genesis übersetz und erklärt (7th ed.; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1966; originally 1901 [English: Genesis (translated by Mark E. Biddle; Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1997)].

(6.) Gunkel, Ausgewählte Psalmen übersetz und erklärt (3d ed.; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1911); originally 1904; idem, “Propheten IIB. Propheten Israels seit Amos,” in RGG2 4 (1930): 1538–1554. [English: The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction (translated by Thomas M. Horner; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967]; Jaroslav Pelikan, ed., Twentieth Century Theology in the Måking I: Themes of Biblical Theology (translated by R. A. Wilson; London: William Collins/New York: Harper and Row, 1969), 48–75; Gunkel, Einleitung in die Psalmen: Die Gattungen der religiösen Lyrik Israels. Completed by Joachim Begrich (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1933) [English: Introduction to the Psalms: The Genres of the Religious Lyric of Israel (translated by James D. Nogalski; Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1998)]; and Walter Baumgartner, Die Klagegedichte des Jeremia (Giessen: Alfred Töpelmann, 1917) [English: Jeremiah’s Poems of Lament (translated by David E. Orton; Sheffield: Sheffield Press, 1987)].

(7.) Claus Westermann, Basic Forms of Prophetic Speech (translated by Hugh Clayton White; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1967).

(8.) James Muilenburg, “Form Criticism and Beyond,” Journal of Biblical Literature 88 (1969): 1–18; Ed König, Stilistik, Rhetorik, Poetik in Bezug auf Die Biblische Literatur (Leipzig: Dieterich’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1900); Luis Alonso-Schökel “Die stilistische Analyse bei den Propheten,” in Vetus Testamentum Supplement 7 (1960): 154–164; W. L. Holladay, “Style, Irony, and Authenticity in Jeremiah,” Journal of Biblical Literature 81 (1962): 44–54; and Richard G. Moulton, The Literary Study of the Bible (New York: D. C. Heath and Co, 1895).

(9.) Herbert A. Wichelns, “The Literary Criticism of Oratory,” in Studies in Rhetoric and Public Speaking in Honor of James Albert Winans (ed. A. M. Drummond; New York: The Century Company, 1925), 181–216.

(10.) Jack R. Lundbom, Jeremiah: A Study in Ancient Hebrew Rhetoric (SBLDS 18; Missoula, MT: Society of Biblical Literature and Scholars Press, 1975); 2d ed., Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1997; and Jack R. Lundbom Biblical Rhetoric and Rhetorical Criticism (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2013).

(11.) David L. Petersen, The Roles of Israel’s Prophets (JSOT Supp 17; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1981; idem ed., Prophecy in Israel: Search for an Identity (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987).

(12.) Gustav Hölscher, Die Propheten (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1914); Johannes Lindblom, “Ecstasy in Scandinavian Christianity,” Expository Times 57 (1945–46): 236–241; idem., Prophecy in Ancient Israel (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1965); Alfred Haldar, Associations of Cult Prophets among the Ancient Semites (Uppsala: Almqvist and Wiksells, 1945); and Geo Widengren, Literary and Psychological Aspects of the Hebrew Prophets, Uppsala Universitets Årsskrift 1948:10 (Uppsala: A–B Lundequistska Bokhandeln, 1948).

(13.) Herbert B. Huffmon, “The Origins of Prophecy,” in Magnalia Dei: The Mighty Acts of God (Essays in Memory of G. Ernest Wright), ed. Frank Moore Cross et al. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976), 171–186; and Manfred Weippert, “Assyrische Prophetien der Zeit Asarhaddons und Assurbanipals,” in Assyrian Royal Inscriptions: New Horizons (ed. F. M. Fales; Rome: Istituto per l’Oriente, 1981), 71–115.

(14.) Simo Parpola, State Archives of Assyria IX: Assyrian Prophecies (Helsinki: Helsinki University Press, 1997); and Martti Nissinen, Prophets and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East (SBL Writings from the Ancient World 12; ed. Peter Machinist) (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003).