The Calling and Job of a Prophet in the Old Testament

The Calling and Job of a Prophet in the Old Testament

The Call of the Prophet

God’s prophets are always just that, God’s prophets, while false prophets are referred to as belonging to someone else –Ahab (1Kings 22:22).

God does not pay attention to sex when calling his prophets, for there are female prophetess’in the Word.  Deborah is the most notable example (Judges 4:4), though Miriam is also called a prophetess (Exodus 15:20) and so is Huldah (2Chronicles 34:22, 2Kings 22:14).

Jeremiah was called from birth (Jer 1:5), Amos in adulthood (Amos 7:14). Some saw visions (Isaiah 6:1, Ezekiel 1:4) , others heard the voice of God (Isaiah 6:8, Jeremiah 1, Jonah 1:1), Daniel had dreams.

The Job of a Prophet

  • Speak only what God says to speak –(1Kin 22:14, 2Chr 18:13).This is hard one for some of the prophets speak messages that aren’t from God and then God corrects them, as in Nathan telling David to build the temple, but these true prophets quickly report the actual word of God when they have spoken too soon (2Sam 7:1-4ff).  Another difficult case is where the prophet declares that Hezekiah will die, then because Hezekiah prayerfully repents, God changes his mind and sends the prophet back with a new message (2Kin 20:1-11).  A similar thing happens to Jonah as Nineveh (Jon 3-4).
  • Declare God’s message to someone or some group –At its best there is repentance and at its worst it is final judgment (Jer. 25:30, 26:12). If they don’t they are rebellions (Ezek 2:7-8).
  • Intercession and Healing – The first man called a prophet in the Scriptures is Abraham where the job assigned to him by God is to intercede for Abimelech that his fertility be restored after he had taken Sarah into his harem. Abraham intercedes and God heals (Gen 20:7, 17).
  • Proclaim past faithfulness and call people to repentance – In the Judges one of the prophets simply repeated the history of God’s deliverance of the nation in earlier days and called the people to return to faithfulness (Judg 6:7-10, 2Kin 17:23). As Nehemiah prays he declares that the prophets recounted the history and called people away from blasphemy (Neh 9:26). Jeremiah calls people out of false religion (Jer 7, 35:15, 44:4-6). All the early prophets are declared as those who called for repentance (Zech 1:4).
  • Admonish people –Neh 9:30. Micah is ‘filled with the spirit to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin’(Mic 3:8).
  • “Confront [Israel] with the Holy One of Israel”–(Isa 30:11)
  • Ability to give people direction –Saul goes to Samuel when the donkey is lost and the assumption is that because of the prophet’s ability to commune with God he can also get answers and tell people “what way to take”(1Sam 9:8-9). Gad gives David specific instructions about when to move his camp and to where (1Sam 22:5).  Nathan gives David a specific name from God for the next son –Jedidiah –after God took the child born to he and Bathsheba (2Sam 12:25).  Ahab receives military advice by the prophets of God twice (1Kin 20:19ff).
  • Bring messages of Judgment to rulers and nations –Gad declares the judgment upon David for numbering his troops (2Sam 24:11-12). Manasseh is judged by a prophet’s message (2Kin 21:10ff) as is Josiah’s house by Huldah (2Kin 22:14-20). Enoch declared the coming judgment of God (Jude 14). Isaiah declares judgment upon the nation (Isa 6:9ff).
  • Anoint the Kings/Rulers of People –Samuel anoints Saul (1Sam 10:1) and then David (1Sam 16:13). Ahijah declares Jeroboam king of Israel (1Kin 11:29-32).
  • May foretell the future (point to Christ and/or his ministry) –outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost was declared through Joel (Joel 2:28). Malachi speaks of the return of Elijah and Jesus equates this with John the Baptist. Thus John the Baptist is a prophet who calls people to repentance and teaches right living (Mal 4:5, Matt 11:14). See also Acts 3:24.  Isaiah say the last days and the establishment of the temple (Isa 2:2).
  • Not disobey what they know is from God –There is one story that is troubling in the OT where a prophet declares God’s message and on his way home another prophets tricks him into disobeying God and eating in the land. The consequence is judgment upon the one tricked, not the one who did the tricking. (1Kin 13:1-32).
  • Stand against false prophets –Jeremiah (Jer 1:17-19).


Not all prophets do all of these things, but these are the kinds of things God uses his prophets for.


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