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Prophecy [EBD]

or prediction, was one of the functions of the prophet. It has been defined as a "miracle of knowledge, a declaration or description or representation of something future, beyond the power of human sagacity to foresee, discern, or conjecture." (See PROPHET.)

The great prediction which runs like a golden thread through the whole contents of the Old Testament is that regarding the coming and work of the Messiah; and the great use of prophecy was to perpetuate faith in his coming, and to prepare the world for that event. But there are many subordinate and intermediate prophecies also which hold an important place in the great chain of events which illustrate the sovereignty and all-wise overruling providence of God.

Then there are many prophecies regarding the Jewish nation, its founder Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3; 13:16; 15:5; 17:2, 4-6, etc.), and his posterity, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants (12:7; 13:14, 15, 17; 15:18-21; Ex. 3:8, 17), which have all been fulfilled. The twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy contains a series of predictions which are even now in the present day being fulfilled. In the writings of the prophets Isaiah (2:18-21), Jeremiah (27:3-7; 29:11-14), Ezekiel (5:12; 8), Daniel (8; 9:26, 27), Hosea (9:17), there are also many prophecies regarding the events which were to befall that people.

There is in like manner a large number of prophecies relating to those nations with which the Jews came into contact, as Tyre (Ezek. 26:3-5, 14-21), Egypt (Ezek. 29:10, 15; 30:6, 12, 13), Ethiopia (Nahum 3:8-10), Nineveh (Nahum 1:10; 2:8-13; 3:17-19), Babylon (Isa. 13:4; Jer. 51:7; Isa. 44:27; Jer. 50:38; 51:36, 39, 57), the land of the Philistines (Jer. 47:4-7; Ezek. 25:15-17; Amos 1:6-8; Zeph. 2:4-7; Zech. 9:5-8), and of the four great monarchies (Dan. 2:39, 40; 7:17-24; 8:9).

But the great body of Old Testament prophecy relates directly to the advent of the Messiah, beginning with Gen. 3:15, the first great promise, and extending in ever-increasing fulness and clearness all through to the very close of the canon. The Messianic prophecies are too numerous to be quoted. "To him gave all the prophets witness." (Comp. Micah 5:2; Hag. 2:6-9; Isa. 7:14; 9:6, 7; 11:1, 2; 53; 60:10, 13; Ps. 16:11; 68:18.)

Many predictions also were delivered by Jesus and his apostles. Those of Christ were very numerous. (Comp. Matt. 10:23:24; 11:23; 19:28; 21:43, 44; 24; 25:31-46; 26:17-35, 46, 64; Mark 9:1; 10:30; 13; 11:1-6, 14; 14:12-31, 42, 62; 16:17, etc.)

Prophecy [NAVE]

Concerning Jesus, See: Jesus.
Concerning church, See: Church, Prophecies Concerning Prosperity of.
Relating to various countries, nations, and cities, see under their respective titles. Respecting individuals, see under their names. Inspired, Isa. 28:22; Luke 1:70; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21.
"The word of the Lord came to,'' etc.: To Elijah, 1 Kin. 17:8; 21:17, 28; Isaiah, Isa. 2:1; 8:5; 13:1; 14:28; 38:4; Jeremiah, Jer. 1:4; 7:1; 11:1; 13:8; 16:1; 18:1; 25:1, 2; 26:1; 27:1; 29:30; 30:1, 4; 32:1, 6, 26; 33:1, 19, 23; 34:12; 35:12; 36:1; 37:6; 40:1; 43:8; 44:1; 46:1; 49:34; 50:1; Ezekiel, Ezek. 3:16; 6:1; 7:1; 11:14; 12:1, 8, 17, 21; 13:1; 14:12; 15:1; 16:1; 17:1, 11; 18:1; 20:45; 21:1, 8, 18; 22:1, 17, 23; 23:1; 24:1, 15, 20; 25:1; 26:1; 27:1; 28:1, 11, 20; 29:1, 17; 30:1, 20; 31:1; 32:1, 17; 33:1, 23; 34:1; 35:1; 36:16; 37:15; 38:1; Amos, Amos 7:14, 15; Jonah, Jonah 3:1; Haggai, Hag. 2:1, 10, 20; Zechariah, Zech. 1:7; 4:8; 6:9; 7:1, 4, 8; 8:1, 18.
Publicly proclaimed, Jer. 11:6.
Exemplified in pantomime, Ezek. 4; 5:1-4; Acts 21:11.
Written by an amanuensis, Jer. 45:1; in books, Jer. 45:1; 51:60.
Proof of God's foreknowledge, Isa. 43:9.
Sure fulfillment of, Ezek. 12:22-25, 28; Hab. 2:3; Matt. 5:18; 24:35; Acts 13:27, 29.
Cessation of, Lam. 2:9.
Of apostasy, 1 John 2:18; Jude 17, 18; false teachers, 2 Pet. 2:3.
Tribulations of the righteous, Rev. 2:10.
Concerning the Messiah, and the Fulfillment
Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18: quoted in Acts 3:25; Gal. 3:8.
Gen. 17:7, 19; 22:16, 17: quoted in Luke 1:55, 72-74.
Deut. 18:15, 18: quoted in Acts 3:22, 23.
Psa. 2:1, 2: quoted in Acts 4:25, 26.
Psa. 2:7: quoted in Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5.
Psa. 8:2: quoted in Matt. 21:16.
Psa. 8:4-6: quoted in Heb. 2:6-8.
Psa. 16:8-11: quoted in Acts 2:25-28, 31.
Psa. 16:10: quoted in Acts 13:35.
Psa. 22:1: quoted in Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34.
Psa. 22:18: quoted in Matt. 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:24.
Psa. 22:22: quoted in Heb. 2:12.
Psa. 31:5: quoted in Luke 23:46.
Psa. 41:9: quoted in John 13:18; Acts 1:16.
Psa. 45:6, 7: quoted in Heb. 1:8, 9.
Psa. 68:18: quoted in Eph. 4:8-10.
Psa. 69:21: quoted in Matt. 27:48; Mark 15:36; Luke 23:36; John 19:28, 29.
Psa. 69:25; 109:8: quoted in Acts 1:20.
Psa. 95:7-11: quoted in Heb. 3:7-11; 4:3, 5-7.
Psa. 102:25-27: quoted in Heb. 1:10-12.
Psa. 110:1: quoted in Matt. 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42; Acts 2:34, 35; Heb. 1:13.
Psa. 110:4: quoted in Heb. 5:6.
Psa. 118:22, 23: quoted in Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10, 11; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11.
Psa. 118:25, 26: quoted in Matt. 21:9; Mark 11:9; John 12:13.
Psa. 132:11, 17: quoted in Luke 1:69; Acts 2:30.
Isa. 7:14: quoted in Matt. 1:23.
Isa. 9:1, 2: quoted in Matt. 4:15, 16.
Isa. 9:7, with Dan. 7:14, 27: quoted in Luke 1:32, 33.
Isa. 11:10: quoted in Rom. 15:12.
Isa. 25:8: quoted in 1 Cor. 15:54.
Isa. 59:20, 21: quoted in Rom. 11:26, 27.
Isa. 28:16: quoted in Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:6.
Isa. 40:3-5: quoted in Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6.
Isa. 42:1-4: quoted in Matt. 12:17-21.
Isa. 49:6: quoted in Luke 2:32; Acts 13:47, 48; 26:23.
Isa. 53:1: quoted in John 12:38; Rom. 10:16.
Isa. 53:3-6: quoted in Acts 26:22, 23.
Isa. 53:4-6, 11: quoted in 1 Pet. 2:24, 25.
Isa. 53:4: quoted in Matt. 8:17.
Isa. 53:9: quoted in 1 Pet. 2:22.
Isa. 53:12: quoted in Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37.
Isa. 54:13: quoted in John 6:45.
Isa. 55:3: quoted in Acts 13:34.
Jer. 31:31-34: quoted in Heb. 8:8-12; 10:16, 17.
Hos. 1:10: quoted in Rom. 9:26.
Hos. 2:23: quoted in Rom. 9:25; 1 Pet. 2:10.
Joel 2:28-32: quoted in Acts 2:16-21.
Amos 9:11, 12: quoted in Acts 15:16, 17.
Mic. 5:2: quoted in Matt. 2:5, 6; John 7:42.
Hab. 1:5: quoted in Acts 13:40, 41.
Hag. 2:6: quoted in Heb. 12:26.
Zech. 9:9: quoted in Matt. 21:4, 5; John 12:14, 15.
Zech. 11:13: quoted in Matt. 27:9, 10.
Zech. 12:10: quoted in John 19:37.
Zech. 13:7: quoted in Matt. 26:31, 56; Mark 14:27, 50.
Mal. 3:1: quoted in Matt. 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27.
Mal. 4:5, 6: quoted in Matt. 11:13, 14; 17:10-13; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:16, 17.
See: Jesus, Prophecies Concerning; Prophetess; Prophets.
Miscellaneous, Fulfilled
The birth and zeal of Josiah, 1 Kin. 13:2; 2 Kin. 23:1-20.
Death of the prophet of Judah, 1 Kin. 13:21, 22, 24-30.
Extinction of Jeroboam's house, 1 Kin. 14:5-17; of Baasha's house, 1 Kin. 16:2, 3, 9-13.
Concerning the rebuilding of Jericho, Josh. 6:26; 1 Kin. 16:34.
The drought, foretold by Elijah, 1 Kin. 17:14.
Destruction of Ben-hadad's army, 1 Kin. 20:13-30.
The death of a man who refused to kill a prophet, 1 Kin. 20:35, 36.
The death of Ahab, 1 Kin. 20:42; 21:18-24; 22:31-38.
The death of Ahaziah, 2 Kin. 1:3-17.
Elijah's translation, 2 Kin. 2:3-11.
Caibalism among the children of Israel, Lev. 26:29; Deut. 28:53; 2 Kin. 6:28, 29; Jer. 19:9; Lam. 4:10.
The death of the Samaritan lord, 2 Kin. 7:2, 19, 20.
The end of the famine in Samaria, 2 Kin. 7:1-18.
Jezebel's tragic death, 1 Kin. 21:23; 2 Kin. 9:10, 33-37.
The striking of Syria by Joash, 2 Kin. 13:16-25.
Conquests of Jeroboam, 2 Kin. 14:25-28.
Four generations of Jehu to sit upon the throne of Israel, 2 Kin. 10:30, with 2 Kin. 15:12.
Destruction of Seacherib's army, and his death, 2 Kin. 19:6, 7, 20-37.
The captivity of Judah, 2 Kin. 20:17, 18; 24:10-16; 25:11-21.
Concerning Christ, See: Jesus, Prophecies Concerning.
Also see above. Concerning John, Matt. 3:3.
Rachel weeping for her children, Jer. 31:15; Matt. 2:17, 18.
Deliverance of Jeremiah, Jer. 39:15-18.
Invasion of Judah by the Chaldeans, Hab. 1:6-11; fulfilled, 2 Kin. 25; 2 Chr. 36:17-21.
Betrayal of Jesus by Judas, prophecy, Psa. 41:9; fulfillment, John 13:18; 18:1-9.
Judas' self-destruction, Psa. 69:25; Acts 1:16, 20; fulfilled, Matt. 27:5; Acts 1:16-20.
Outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Joel 2:28, 29; fulfilled, Acts 2:16-21.
Spiritual blindness of the Jews, Isa. 6:9; 29:13; fulfilled, Mark 7:6, 7; Acts 28:25-27.
Mission of Jesus, Psa. 68:18; fulfilled, Eph. 4:8, 10; See: Jesus, Mission of.
Captivity of the Jews, Jer. 25:11, 12; 29:10, 14; 32:3-5; Dan. 9:2, with 2 Kin. 25:1-8; Ezra 1.
Of the destruction of the ship in which Paul sailed, Acts 27:10, 18-44.


PROPHECY; PROPHETS, 1 - prof'-e-si, prof'-e-si, prof'-ets:


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


1. Abraham

2. Moses

3. Period of the Judges

4. Schools of Prophets

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 New Testament


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


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 1 Sam 9:9, where nabhi', "speaker," and ro'eh, "seer," are used as synonymous terms. Jer 23:16 and Ezek 13:2 f are particularly instructive in this regard. In these passages a sharp distinction is made between those persons who only claim to be prophets but who prophesy "out of their own heart," and the true prophets who declare the word which the Lord has spoken to them. In the latter case the contents of the prophecy have not originated in their own reflection or calculation; and just as little is this prophecy the product of their own feelings, fears or hopes, but, as something extraneous to man and independent of him, it has with a divine certainty entered the soul of the prophet. The prophet has seen that which he prophesies, although he need not have seen it in the form of a real vision. He can also "see" words with his inner eyes (Isa 2:1, and often). It is only another expression for this when it is frequently said that God has spoken to the prophet. In this case too it is not necessary that there must have been a voice which he could hear phonetically through his natural ear. The main thing is that he must have been able sharply to distinguish the contents of this voice from his own heart, i.e. from his personal consciousness. Only in this way is he capable of speaking to the people in the name of God and able to publish his word as that of Yahweh. In this case he is the speaker of Yahweh (nabhi'), or the mouth of the Lord (compare Ezek 7:1 with 4:16). Under these conditions he then regards it as absolute compulsion to speak, just as a person must be filled with fear when he hears a lion roar nearby (Am 3:8). The words burn in his soul until he utters them (Jer 20:7,9).

2. Prophetical Inspiration:

The divine power, which comes over a human being and compels him to see or to hear things which otherwise would be hidden from him, is called by various terms expressive of inspiration. It is said that the Spirit of God has come over someone (Nu 24:2); or has fallen upon him (Ezek 11:5); or that the hand of Yahweh has come over him and laid hold of him (2 Ki 3:15; Ezek 1:3; 3:14,22, and often); or that the Holy Spirit has been put on him as a garment, i.e. has been incorporated in him (1 Ch 12:18; 2 Ch 24:20); or that the Spirit of revelation has permanently descended upon him (Nu 11:25 f; 2 Ki 2:15; Isa 11:2; 61:1); or that God has given this Spirit of His (Nu 11:29; Isa 42:1); or pours Him out upon man (Joel 2:28 f (Hebrew 3:1 f)). But this inspiration is not such that it suppresses the human consciousness of the recipient, so that he would receive the word of God in the state of sleep or trance. But rather the recipient is in possession of his full consciousness, and is able afterward to give a clear account of what happened. Nor is the individuality of the prophet eliminated by this divine inspiration; unconsciously this individuality cooperates in the formal shaping of that which has been seen and heard. In accordance with the natural peculiarity of the prophet and with the contents of the message, the psychological condition of the recipient may be that of intense excitement or of calmness. As a rule the inspiration that takes possession of the prophets is evidenced also by an exalted and poetical language, which assumes a certain rhythmical character, but is not bound to a narrow and mechanical meter. It is, however, also possible that prophetical utterances find their expression in plain prose. The individual peculiarity of the prophet is a prime factor also in the form in which the revelation comes to him. In the one prophet we find a preponderance of visions; another prophet has no visions. But the visions of the future which he sees are given in the forms and the color which have been furnished by his own consciousness. All the more the form in which the prophet gives expression to his word of God is determined by his personal talents and gifts as also by his experiences.

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 Jer 23:25 ff it is declared that these two are entirely dissimilar, and the relation between the two is compared to straw and wheat. The Moslem Arabs also put a much lower estimate on the visionary dream than on the prophetic vision in a waking condition.

4. Freedom of Inspiration:

Because this Spirit of God acts with full freedom, He can select His organs at will from among every station, age, or sex. The Spirit is not confined to any priestly class or organization. It indeed was the case at times that a prophet gathered disciples around himself, who could themselves in turn also be seized by his spirit, although the transmission of this spirit was a difficult matter (2 Ki 2:10). Yet genuine prophecies continued to be at all times a free gift of the sovereign God. Amos (7:14 f) appeals expressly to this fact, that he did not himself choose the prophet's calling nor was the pupil of a prophetic school, but that he had been directly called by Yahweh from his daily occupation as a shepherd and workman. In the same way we indeed find prophets who belonged to the priestly order (Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others), but equally great is the number of those who certainly did not so belong. Further, age made no difference in the call to the prophetic office. Even in his earliest youth Samuel was called to be a prophet (1 Sam 3:1 ff), and it did not avail Jeremiah anything when he excused himself because of his youth (Jer 1:6). Then, too, a woman could be seized by this Spirit. From time to time prophetesses appeared, although the female sex is by no means so prominent here as it is in the sorcery of the heathen. See PROPHETESS. As an exceptional case the Spirit of God could lay hold even of a person who inwardly was entirely estranged from Him and could make an utterance through him (compare Saul, 1 Sam 10:11; 19:24; Balaam, Nu 23 f; Caiaphas, Jn 11:51). As a rule, however, God has selected such prophetic organs for a longer service. These persons are called and dedicated for this purpose by Him through a special act (compare Moses Ex 3:1 ff; 1 Ki 19:16,19 ff; Isa 6; Jer 1; Ezek 1). This moment was decisive for their whole lives and constituted their authorization as far as they themselves and others were concerned. Yet for each prophetic appearance these men receive a special enlightenment. The prophet does not at all times speak in an inspired state; compare Nathan (2 Sam 7:3 ff), who afterward was compelled to take back a word which he had spoken on his own authority. Characteristic data on the mental state of the prophets in the reception and in the declaration of the divine word are found in Jer 15:16 f; 20:7 ff. Originally Jeremiah felt it as a joy that Yahweh spoke to him (compare Ezek 3:3), but then he lost all pleasure in life and would have preferred not to have uttered this word, but he could not do as he desired.

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 (1 Ki 17:1); in the case of Elisha the undertakings of the enemies (2 Ki 6:12), and in other cases. It is indeed true that the contents of the prophetic discourses are not at all confined to the future. Everything that God has to announce to mankind, revelations concerning His will, admonitions, warnings, He is able to announce through the mouth of the prophet. But His determinations with reference to the future as a rule are connected with prophetical utterances of the latter kind. The prophets are watchmen, guardians of the people, who are to warn the nation, because they see the dangers and the judgments approaching, which must put in their appearance if the divine will is disregarded. The prophets interpret also for the people that which is happening and that which has occurred, e.g. the defeats which they have suffered at the hands of their enemies, or the grasshopper plague (Joel), or a famine. They lay bare the inner reason for external occurrences and explain such events in their connection with the providential government of God. This gives to prophecy a powerful inner unity, notwithstanding the great differences of times and surrounding circumstances. It is prophecy which the Hebrew people must thank for their higher conception of history. This people know of a Highest Author of all things and of a positive end, which all things that transpire must serve. God's plan has for its purpose to bring about the complete supremacy of His will among the children of men.

6. The Fulfillment:

In genuine prophecy, according to Biblical conceptions, the fulfillment constitutes an integral part. This is set up by Dt 18:21 f as a proof of the genuineness of a prophetic utterance. The prophetic word "falls to the ground" (1 Sam 3:19) if it is not "raised up" (heqim, "fulfil," for which we more rarely find mille', but regularly in the New Testament plerousthai "being fulfilled") by the course of events. It would remain an empty word if it did not attain to its full content through its realization. In fact, in the word spoken by the prophet itself there dwells a divine power, so that at the moment when he speaks the event takes place, even if it is not yet visible to man. This realization is also not infrequently represented symbolically by the prophet in confirmation of his prediction. Thus in a certain sense it is the prophet himself who through his word builds up and pulls down, plants and roots out (Jer 1:10; 25:15 ff). But the fulfillment can be judged by the contemporaries in the sense of Dt 18:22 only when this fulfillment refers to the near future and when special emphasis is laid on external events. In these cases the prediction of certain events assumes the significance of a "sign" (compare Jer 28:16; Isa 8:1 ff; 37:30, and elsewhere). In other cases it is only later generations who can judge of the correctness of a prediction or of a threat. In this way in Zec 1:6 the fulfillment of a threat is declared, and in the New Testament often the fulfillment of a promise is after a long time pointed out. But it is not the case that a genuine prophecy must be fulfilled like an edict of fate. Such prophecy is not an inevitable decree of fate, but is a word of the living God to mankind, and therefore conditioned ethically, and God can, if repentance has followed, withdraw a threat (Jer 18:2 ff; case of Jonah), or the punishment can be mitigated (1 Ki 21:29). A prediction, too, Yahweh can recall if the people prove unworthy (Jer 18:9 f) . A favorable or an unfavorable prediction can also be postponed, as far as its realization is concerned, to later times, if it belongs to the ultimate counsels of God, as e.g. the final judgment and deliverance on the last day. This counsel also may be realized successively. In this case the prophet already collects into one picture what is realized gradually in a longer historical development. The prophet in general spoke to his hearers in such a way as could be understood by them and could be impressed on them. It is therefore not correct to demand a fulfillment pedantically exact in the form of the historical garb of the prophecy. The main thing is that the divine thought contained in the prophecy be entirely and completely realized. But not infrequently the finger of God can be seen in the entirely literal fulfillment of certain prophecies. This is especially the case in the New Testament in the appearance of the Son of Man, in whom all the rays of Old Testament prophecy have found their common center.


PROPHECY; PROPHETS, 2 - II. Historical Development of the Prophetic Office.

1. Abraham:

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') (Gen 20:7; compare Ps 105:15), although in his case the command to preach the word was yet absent.

2. Moses:

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 (Nu 12:6 ff; Dt 34:10; compare Ex 33:11). Moses was the permanent organ through whom Yahweh brought about the Egyptian plagues and through whom He explained what these meant to His people, as also through whom He led and ruled them. The voice of Moses too had to explain to them the divine signs in the desert and communicate to them the commandments of God. The legislation of Moses shows that he was not only filled with the Spirit of God occasionally, but that he abode with God for longer periods of time and produced something that is a well-ordered whole. A production such as the Law is the result of a continuous association with God.

3. Period of the Judges:

Since that time revelation through prophecy was probably never entirely wanting in Israel (Dt 18:15). But this fountain did not always flow with the same fullness or clearness. During the period of the Judges the Spirit of God urged the heroes who served Yahweh rather to deeds than to words. Yet Deborah enjoyed a high rank as a prophetess, and for a long time pronounced decisions of justice in the name of the Lord before she, through her prophetical utterances, aroused the people to rise up against their oppressors. What is said in 1 Sam 3:1 concerning the times of Eli can be applied to this whole period, namely that the word and vision of the prophet had become rare in the land. All the more epoch-making was the activity of Samuel, who while yet a boy received divine revelations (1 Sam 3:1 ff). He was by the whole people regarded as a "seer" whose prophecies were always fulfilled (3:19 f). The passage 1 Sam 9:6 ff shows that the people expected of such a man of God that he should also as a clairvoyant come to the assistance of the people in the troubles of life. Such a professional clairvoyant, indeed, Samuel was not, as he was devoted entirely to the service of his God and of his people and obeyed the Divine Spirit, even in those cases when he was compelled to act contrary to his personal inclinations, as was the case when the kingdom was established in Israel (8:6 ff).

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 (1 Sam 19:18 f; 20:1). Among these pupils is found to a much greater extent than among the teachers a certain ecstatic feature. They arouse their feelings through music and induce a frantic condition which also affects others in the same way, in which state they "prophesy" and, throwing off their garments, fall to the ground. In later times too we find traces of such ecstatic phenomena. Thus e.g. in Zec 13:6; 1 Ki 20:37,38, the "wounds" on the breast or on the forehead recall the self-mutilation of the priests of Baal (1 Ki 18:28). The deeds, suggestive of what the dervishes of our own day do, probably were phenomena quite similar to the action of the prophets of the surrounding tribes. But that prophecy in Israel was not, as is now not infrequently claimed, merely a less crude form of the heathen prophetic institution, is proved by such men as Moses and Samuel, who even in their times represent something much higher. Also in the colonies of prophets there was assuredly not to be found merely an enthusiasm without the Spirit of God. Proof for this is Samuel, the spiritual father of this colony, as Elijah was for the later colonies of this kind. These places were rather the centers of a religious life, where communion with God was sought by prayer and meditation, and where the recollection of the great deeds of God in the past seemed to prepare for the reception of new revelations. From such centers of theocratic ideas and ideals without a doubt there came forth also corresponding influences that affected the people. Perhaps not only was sacred music cultivated at these places but also sacred traditions, which were handed down orally and in writing. Certain it is that at these colonies the religion of Yahweh prevailed.

5. Period of the Kings:

During the period of the kings prophetically inspired men frequently appeared, who demanded even of the kings that they should submit to their divinely-inspired word. Saul, who refused such submission, perished as the result of this conflict. David owed much to the support of the prophets Samuel, Nathan, Gad (1 Sam 16:1 ff; 2 Sam 7; 2 Ch 29:25, and elsewhere). But David also bowed in submission when these prophets rebuked him because of his transgression of the divine commands (2 Sam 12; 24). His son Solomon was educated by the prophet Nathan. But the destruction of his kingdom was predicted by the prophet Abijah, the Shilonite (1 Ki 11:29 ff). Since Yahweh, as the supreme Sovereign, has the right to enthrone or to dethrone kings, this is often done through the mouths of the prophets (compare 1 Ki 14:7 ff; 16:1 ff). After the division of the kingdom we find Shemaiah forbidding Rehoboam to begin a war with his brethren of Israel (1 Ki 12:21; compare 2 Ch 11:2 ff; compare another mission of the same prophet, 2 Ch 12:5 ff). On the other hand in the Northern Kingdom the prophetic word is soon turned against the untheocratic rule of Jeroboam (1 Ki 13; 14). It is in this very same Northern Kingdom that the prophets unfolded their full activity and generally in opposition to the secular rulers, although there was no lack of accommodating "prophets," who were willing to sanction everything that the king wanted. The opposition of the true prophets to these false representatives of prophecy is illustrated in the story of Micaiah, the son of Imlah (1 Ki 22). But a still higher type of prophecy above the ordinary is found in Elijah, whose historic mission it was to fight to the finish the battle between the followers of Yahweh and the worship of the Tyrian Baal. He was entirely a man of action; every one of his words is a deed on a grand scale (compare concerning Elijah and Elisha the article ISRAEL, RELIGION OF). His successor Elisha inherited from him not only his mantle, but also a double measure of his spiritual gifts. He exhibits the prophetic office more from its loving side. He is accustomed to visit the schools of prophets found scattered throughout the land, calls the faithful together around himself on the Sabbaths and the new moons (2 Ki 4:23), and in this way establishes centers of a more spiritual culture than was common elsewhere among the people. We read that first-fruits were brought to him as to the priests (2 Ki 4:42). But while the activity of Elijah was entirely in antagonism to the ruling house in the kingdom, this feature is not entirely lacking in the work of Elisha also. He has even been charged with wicked conspiracies against the dynasty of Omri and the king of Syria (2 Ki 8; 9). His conduct in connection with these events can be excused only on the ground that he was really acting in the name of a higher Master. But in general it was possible for Elisha, after the radical change in public sentiment that had followed upon the work of Elijah, in later time to assume a more friendly attitude toward the government and the people. He often assisted the kings in their arduous contests with the Syrians (compare 2 Ki 6:8 ff; 13:14 ff). His deeds are generally of a benevolent character. In connection with these he exhibits to a remarkable degree the gift of prophetic foresight (2 Ki 4:16; 5:26; 6:8 ff; 7:1 ff; 8:10,12; 9:6 ff; 13:19). Jonah, too, the son of Amittai, had at that time a favorable message for the Northern Kingdom (2 Ki 14:25).

6. Literary Prophets, Amos, Hosea:

However, the flourishing condition of the kingdom under Jeroboam II had an unfavorable influence on its spiritual development. Soon Amos and Hosea were compelled to announce to this kingdom its impending destruction through a great world-power. These two prophets have left us books. To put prophetic utterances into written form had already been introduced before this. At any rate, many scholars are of the conviction that the prophecies of Obadiah and Joel belong to an earlier period, although others place them in the post-exilic period. In any case, the expectation of a day of settlement by Yahweh with His people was already in the days of Amos common and current (5:18 ff). As the writing of individual prophecies (Isa 8:1 f; 30:8; Hab 2:2 f) had for its purpose the preserving of these words in permanent authentic form and later to convince the reader of their wonderful fulfillment, thus too the writing down of larger collections of prophecies had for its purpose to intensify the power of the prophetic word and to secure this as a permanent possession of the people (Jer 30:2; 36:1 ff). Pupils of the prophets assisted them in this writing and in preserving their books (compare Jer 36:4; Isa 8:16).

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:

In the kingdom of Judah the status of the prophets was somewhat more favorable than it was in Ephraim. They were indeed forced in Jerusalem also to contend against the injustice on the part of the ruling classes and against immorality of all kinds. But in this kingdom there were at any rate from time to time found kings who walked more in the footsteps of David. Thus Asa followed the directions of the prophet Azariah (2 Ch 15:1 ff). It is true that the prophet Hanani censured this king, but it was done for a different reason. Jehoshaphat also regularly consulted the prophets. Among those who had dealings with him Elisha is also mentioned (2 Ki 3:14), as also some other prophets (compare 2 Ch 19:2; 20:14-37). The greatest among the prophets during the period of the Assyrian invasions was Isaiah, who performed the duties of his office for more than 40 years, and under the kings Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and possibly too under Manasseh, through his word exercised a powerful influence upon the king and the nation. Although a preacher of judgments, he at critical times appeared also as a prophet of consolation. Nor did he despise external evidences of his prophetic office (compare Isa 7:11; 38:22,8). His contemporary Micah is in full agreement with him, although he was not called to deal with the great of the land, with kings, or statesmen, as was the mission of Isaiah. Nahum, Zephaniah and Habakkuk belong rather to the period of transition from the Assyrian to the Chaldean periods. In the days of Josiah the prophetess Huldah had great influence in Jerusalem (2 Ki 22:14). Much more important under this same king was the prophet Jeremiah, who was called by God for a great mission. This prophet during the siege and destruction of Jerusalem and after that time spoke as an unyielding yet deeply feeling exponent of God, and was compelled again and again to dash to the ground the false hopes of the patriots, whenever these arose. Not so firm was his contemporary and fellow-sufferer Uriah (Jer 26:20).

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 (Isa 40 ff), spoke during the Babylonian period, namely at its close, and prepared for the return. The peculiar prophecies of Daniel are also accorded to a prophet living during the exile, who occupied a distinguished position at the court of the heathen rulers, and whose apocalyptic utterances are of a kind different from the discourses of the other prophets, as they deal more with the political condition of the world and the drama of history, in so far as this tends toward the establishment of the supremacy of Yahweh. These prophecies were collected in later times and did not receive their final and present form until the Greek period at the beginning of the 2nd century BC.

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 (Neh 6:6-14) was opposed by hostile prophets as also by a prophetess, Noadiah. In contrast with these, Malachi is at all times in accord with the canonical prophets, as he was an ardent advocate for the temple cult of Yahweh, not in the sense of a spiritless and senseless external worship, but as against the current indifference to Yahweh. His style and his language, too, evidence a late age. The lyrical form has given way to the didactic. This is also probably the time when the present Book of Jonah was written, a didactic work treating of an older tradition.

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:

Malachi finds a successor in John the Baptist, whose coming the former had predicted. John is the greatest of the prophets, because he could directly point to Him who completed the old covenant and fulfilled its promises. All that we know in addition concerning the times of Jesus shows that the prophetical gift was yet thought of as possibly dwelling in many, but that prophecy was no longer the chief spiritual guide of the people (compare e.g. Josephus, Ant, XIII, xi, 2; XV, x, 5, among the Essenes, or in the case of Hyrcanus, op. cit., XIII, x, 7). Josephus himself claims to have had prophetic gifts at times (compare BJ, III, viii, 9). He is thinking in this connection chiefly of the prediction of some details. Such "prophets" and "prophetesses" are reported also in the New Testament. In Jesus Christ Himself the prophetic office reached its highest stage of development, as He stood in a more intimate relation than any other being to His Heavenly Father and spoke His word entirely and at all times. In the Christian congregation the office of prophecy is again found, differing from the proclamation of the gospel by the apostles, evangelists, and teachers. In the New Testament the terms prophetes, propheteia, propheteuo, signify speaking under the extraordinary influence of the Holy Ghost. Thus in Acts 11:27 f (prophecy of a famine by Agabus); 21:10 f (prediction of the sufferings of Paul); 13:1 f (exhortation to mission work); 21:9 ff (prophetical gift of the daughters of Philip). Paul himself also had this gift (Acts 16:6 ff; 18:9; 22:17 ff; 27:23 f). In the public services of the church, prophecy occupied a prominent position (see especially 1 Cor 14). A prophetical book in a special sense is the Apocalypse of John. The gift of prophecy was claimed by many also in later times. But this gift ceased more and more, as the Christian church more and more developed on the historical basis of revelation as completed in Christ. Especially in spiritually aroused eras in the history of the church, prophecy again puts in its appearance. It has never ceased altogether, but on account of its frequent misuse the gift has become discredited. Jesus Himself warned against false prophets, and during the apostolic times it was often found necessary to urge the importance of trying spirits (1 Jn 4:1; 1 Cor 12:10; 14:29).


PROPHECY; PROPHETS, 3 - 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 Ps 2:7 f; 110). The Psalms of David are a proof of this, that this high destiny of the kingdom was recognized. David himself became a prophet in those hymns in which he describes his own unique relation to Yahweh. But the actual kings of history as a rule corresponded too imperfectly to this idea. For this reason the word "prophetic" already in David's time directs to the future, when this relationship shall be more perfectly realized (2 Sam 7:12 ff; compare David's own words, 2 Sam 23:4 ff).


3. Before the Exile (through Judgment to Deliverance):

Solomon completed the external equipment of theocracy by the erection of the temple. But it was just his reign that constituted the turning-point, from which time on the prophets begin to emphasize the judgment to come, i.e. the dissolution of the external existence of the kingdom of Yahweh. Yet prophecy at all times does this in such a manner, that a kernel of the divine establishment on Zion remains intact. The divine establishment of the sanctuary and the kingdom cannot be destroyed; all that is necessary is that they be restored in greater purity and dignity. This can be seen also in Amos, who predicts that the fallen tabernacle of David shall be raised up again (Am 9:11 ff), which shall then be followed by a condition of undisturbed blessing. The same is found in Hosea, who sees how all Israel is again united under "David" the king of the last times, when between God and the people, between heaven and earth, an unbroken covenant of love shall be made (Hos 2:1 f,18 ff); and also in Isaiah, who predicts that during the time of the conquest and subjection of the country by the Gentiles a Son of David shall be born in a miraculous manner and attain supremacy (Isa 7:14; 9:2 ff; 11:1 ff), and who speaks constantly of that divine establishment on Zion (compare the quiet waters of Shiloah, 8:6), the foundation stone that has been laid by Yahweh (Isa 28:16, etc.). Micah, his contemporary, does the same, and in an entirely similar manner predicts that the radical judgment of destruction which shall come over the temple and the royal palace shall be followed by the wondrous King of Peace from Bethlehem (Mic 5:1 ff). Possibly even at a somewhat earlier date Zec 9:9 described this future ruler in similar terms. In general it is not probable that Isaiah and Micah were the first to speak so personally of this King. They seem to presuppose that their contemporaries were acquainted with this idea.

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. Jer 23:1 ff; 33:12 ff; Ezek 34:23 f. But after that time this Messianic expectation became a permanent element in the hopes of Israel.

In the meanwhile, prophecy had thrown much light on the ways of God, which prepare for His kingdom on earth. Even long before Amos (5:18 ff) the idea of a "day of Yahweh," which was to be a day of revelation, on which God makes a settlement with the nations, must have been generally known, since Amos is already compelled to protest against the abuse of this expectation. But hand in hand with this settlement we find also and at all times the expectation of the exaltation and of the salvation of Israel. Yet the prophets have all emphasized that Israel and Judah must first be thoroughly purified by a judgment, before the land could, through God's grace, be glorified and richly blessed. The judgment which the preexilic prophets are continually predicting is, however, only a means to an end. This judgment is not the final word of the Lord, as Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah and Habakkuk constantly teach. They announce that return to Yahweh and obedience to His commandments is the way to salvation (Hos 6:1; Isa 1:18; Jer 4:1, and often). However, the prophets know that the people will not turn again to God, but that first the Jewish state must be entirely overthrown (Isa 6). It is particularly deserving of notice, that believing trust in Yahweh is regarded as the positive means for deliverance (Isa 7:9; 30:15; Hab 2:4). It is through this that the "remnant" of the faithful, "the kernel" of the people, is saved. Also in the case of Jeremiah, whose work it was to predict the immediate destruction of Judah, there is not absent a kind of an esoteric book of consolation. His battle cry for the future is "Yahweh our righteousness" (Jer 23:6; 33:16). In his case we find a rich spiritualization of religion. The external customs, circumcision and the like, he declares, do no good, if the true state of the heart is lacking. Even the ark of the covenant is unnecessary and is discarded in the enlargement of the sanctuary. Ezekiel, who lays more stress on the external ordinances, nevertheless agrees with Jeremiah in this, that Jerusalem together with the temple must fall. Only after this destruction the prophet in his spirit builds the sanctuary again; notwithstanding the external character of his restoration, there is yet found in his picture a further development of its spiritual character. The ethical rights and the responsibility of the individual are strongly emphasized (Ezekiel 18; 33). The land becomes transformed; the Gentiles are received into the covenant of God.

5. During the Exile (Ezekiel, Deutero-Isaiah):

Deutero-Isaiah (Isa 40 through 66), during the time of the Babylonian captivity, enriches prophecy in an extraordinary manner, through the figure of the true "Servant of Yahweh," who in a peaceful way, through his words of instruction and especially through his innocent sufferings and his vicarious deeds, converts Israel, the undeserving servant, and also wins over the Gentileworld to Yahweh. It was not possible that the picture of a suffering man of God, who through his death as a martyr attains to exaltation, should be suggested to the Jews by the altogether different figure of a death and resurrection of a Babylonian god (Thammuz-Adonis!). Since the unjust persecutions of Joseph and David they were acquainted with the sufferings of the just, and Jeremiah's life as a prophet was a continuous martyrdom. But the writer of the second part of Isaiah had before his eyes a vision that far excelled all of these types in purity and in greatness to such a degree as did David's Son in Isaiah and Micah surpass His great ancestor. He brings to a completion the kingdom of God through teaching, suffering and death, and attains to the glory of rulership. In this way He unites the offices of prophet, priest and king.

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 Day of Yahweh, but expects before this a complete purification of the people of God. God Himself will come, and His angel will prepare the way for Him. The visions of Daniel picture the transformation of the world into a kingdom of God. The latter will mark the end of the history of the world. It comes from above; the earthly kingdoms are from below, and are pictured as beasts; the Ruler of the kingdom of God is a Son of man. The latter comes with the clouds of the heaven to take possession of His kingdom (Dan 7:13 ff). Then the judgment of the world will take place and include also each human being, who before this will bodily arise from the dead, in order to enter upon blessedness or condemnation. Here we find indicated a universal expansion of the kingdom of God extending over the whole world and all mankind.

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 Isa 11:14; Zec 9:13 ff, we might expect that the kingdom of God was to be established by force of arms. But the same prophets show in other utterances (Isa 9:6 f; Zec 9:9 f) that these warlike expressions are to be understood figuratively, since the Messianic King is more than all others a Prince of Peace.

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.


PROPHECY; PROPHETS, 4 - 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 Lev 19:26,31; 20:6,27; Dt 18:10 ff, prohibitions that refer to necromancy for the purpose of discovering the future). This art was practiced through a medium, a person who had an 'obh (Babylonian, ubi), i.e. a spirit that brought forth the dead in order to question them. The spirits were thought to speak in murmurings or piping sounds (Isa 8:19), which could be imitated by the medium (ventriloquist). According to the Law, which forbade this under penalty of death, Saul had tried to destroy those who practiced incantations, who generally were women (1 Sam 28:9). This practice, however, continued to flourish. In addition, the Babylonians and other peoples had also a developed art of interpretation in order to find omens for the future. Especially was the examination of intestines practiced by them. The liver of sacrificial animals particularly was carefully examined, and, from this, predictions, good or bad, were inferred (compare Ezek 21:21). See DIVINATION. This art passed over from the Babylonions to the seafaring Etruscans, and through these came to the Romans. But other phenomena also were by the different nations interpreted as prophetically significant and were by those skilled in this art interpreted accordingly. Among these were miscarriages by human beings and animals, the actions of hens, horses, the flight of birds, earthquakes, forms of the clouds, lightning, and the like. Further, mechanical contrivances were used, such as casting of lots, stones, sticks, etc.

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 GREECE, RELIGION IN ANCIENT. In contrast to this, Israel knows that it possesses in prophecy a clear word (Nu 23:23).

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, The Prophets and Prophecy in 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

Also see definition of "Prophecy" in Word Study

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