Sometimes the prophets received divine communications and uttered predictions under great bodily and mental excitement (Jeremiah 23:9; Ezekiel 3:14-15; Daniel 7:28; 10:8; Habakkuk 3:2; 3:16). Sometimes they uttered their predictions in verse (Deuteronomy 32:44; Isaiah 5:1). Often the prophecy was accompanied by music (1 Samuel 10:5; 2 Kings 3:15) or committed to writing (2 Chronicles 21:12; Jeremiah 36:2), which later were read in the synagogues every Sabbath (Luke 4:17; Acts 13:15).
Interestingly, Enoch, Abraham, and the patriarchs, as bearers of God’s message (Jude 1:14; Genesis 20:7; Exodus 7:1; Psalm 105:15, as also Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15; 34:10; Hosea 12:13), are ranked among the prophets.
Among the Israelites, there was a school or college in which young men were educated and qualified for public teachers. These students were called sons of the prophets (1 Kings 20:35). However, the originality of biblical prophecy derives from the phenomenon of divine inspiration, not education. As distinct from the sacral figures of pagan antiquity, the biblical prophet is not a magician. He does not force God. On the contrary, he is under divine constraint. God invites, summons, and impels him (e.g., Jeremiah 20:7).
God communicated to the prophets His secret things (Amos 3:7) at various times and in different ways (Hebrews 1:1) by:
- An audible voice (Numbers 12:8; 1 Samuel 3:41-14)
- Angels (Daniel 8:15-26; Revelation 22:8-9)
- Dreams and visions (Numbers 12:6; Joel 2:28)
- Under the influence of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:67; 2 Peter 1:21)
The prophets spoke:
- In the name of Yahweh (2 Chronicles 33:18; Ezekiel 3:11; James 5:10
- Frequently spoke in parables and riddles, 2 Samuel 12:1-6; Isaiah 5:1-7; Ezekiel 17:2-10
- Frequently in their actions, &c were made signs to the people, Isaiah 20:2-4; Jeremiah 19:1, 1011; 27:2-3; 43:9; 51:63; Ezekiel 4:1-13; 5:1-4; 7:23; 12:3-7; 21:6-7; 24:1-24; Hosea 1:2-9
- Frequently left without divine communication on account of sins of the people, 1 Samuel 28:6; Lamentations 2:9; Ezekiel 7:26
The prophets of Israel claimed to be recipients of divine revelation, and they preached under the
conviction that Yahweh had spoken or revealed His word to them and had commanded them to speak
this word in turn to the nation. This is called the “Prophetic Consciousness”—the unqualified
conviction on the part of the prophets of a divine call and commission to proclaim the words of God.
History was intimate with the prophets, an intimacy that partially stemmed from their deep relationship
with the God of history. Yahweh had entered into the historical process to protect His vital interests in
the world He created. Israel was at once the end and means of His actions, and the prophets were the
witness of His concerns. The symbolic actions of the prophets were a sign of their involvement in the
historical process. Isaiah’s naked promenade, Hosea’s marriage to a prostitute, Jeremiah’s wearing of
an ox’s yoke, and Ezekiel’s extended lying on his sides, all fall in that category.
The writing prophets of the OT are well known. They are usually divided into the four major (Isaiah,
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel) and the twelve minor (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah,
Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) according to the length of their
writings. In addition, there were many other prophets.
The prophet’s task is to convey a divine view, yet as a person, he is a point of view. He speaks from the
perspective of God as perceived from the perspective of his own situation. The prophetic pattern is to
begin with a message of doom and conclude with a message of hope and redemption. Often, these men
were compelled to proclaim the very opposite of what their heart expected. Their fundamental objective
was to reconcile man and society to God. However, if rejected their messages of confrontation were
rejected, the people would forfeit the comfort offered by them.
Woven through the messages of the OT prophets are many predictions about future events.
Approximately one-third of the material found in the OT is predictive. Predictive prophecy falls into
one of two categories: near-term and far-term. Near term predictions tell what is about to be
experienced by those in the prophet’s own generation. Much of the OT predictions is long-term and
would be fulfilled long after the death of the prophet’s contemporaries and await fulfillment to this day.
The nature of prophecy concerning the future can be classified five ways:
- Conditional and Unconditional Prophecies God would Destroy Nineveh in Forty Days Christ’s Advents
- Prophecies Fulfilled (Near-term)Deportation of Israel in 722 B.C.Exile of Judah in 586 B.C.
- Prophecies in Process of Fulfillment –
Restoration of Israel as a Sovereign Nation on May 15, 1948
Current Gathering of Israelites from the Nations; cf. Ezekiel 37
- Prophecies Yet Future (Far-term)
Rapture of the Church
Return of Christ
5. Double Reference Prophecies (Near-term and Far-term); cf. Daniel 11:31
Antiochus IV Epiphanies’ Desolation of the Temple in 168 B.C.
Antichrist’s Desolation of the Temple in the Tribulation Period
Through a literary device called “prophetic foreshortening,” Isaiah predicted future events without
delineating exact sequences of the events or time intervals separating them. For example, nothing in
Isaiah reveals the extended periods separating the two comings of the Messiah. In addition, he does not
provide a clear distinction between the future temporal kingdom and the eternal kingdom as John does in
Revelation. In God’s program of progressive revelation, details of these relationships awaited a
prophetic spokesperson of a later time.