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Prophets, Prophetesses, False Prophets


The Bible has description and teachings of many prophets, especially in the Old Testament. The literal meaning of the Greek word “prophetes” is to “speak for another.” The prophets are the humans God selected to speak on behalf of Him through the human language. Peter notes, “there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God” (2 Pet 1:20-21).

The prophets got the message from God through vision, dream, or inspiration. The content of their message is asking people to renew their covenantal relationship with God by turning away from sins and obeying God. They criticized injustice, idolatry, and meaningless rituals. Since such instructions were usually unpleasant for the people, they persecuted prophets. So, prophetic role was not a pleasant service.

Prophets also gave hope to people when they were in slavery of foreigners and foretold the coming of the Messiah. They even described his birth, mission, passion, death, and resurrection. Matthew’s gospel illustrates how Jesus fulfilled such prophesies in his ministry.


The classification of prophets as major and minor is based on the length of their written documents in the Bible and not their status or significance in their ministry. The major prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The Minor Prophets are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Their common name is “The Twelve” because they are twelve. Some other prominent leaders in the Bible are also prophets:

1. Abraham: God considered Abraham as a prophet (Gen 20:7).
2. Moses: “No prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face” (Deut 20:7).
3. Samuel: “Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD” (1 Sam 3:20).
4. David: In Peter’s speech after Pentecost, he presented David as a prophet (Acts 2:30).
5. Elijah (1 Kgs 18:36).
6. Elisha (1 Kgs 19:16).
7. John the Baptist: Jesus presented him as more than a prophet (Mt 11:9-14).
8. Jesus: The people considered Jesus as a prophet. “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Mt 16:14).


Though few, there were also prophetesses during the Biblical times.

1. Miriam, the sister of Moses who led the women of Israel in praising God for drowning Pharaoh and his army (Ex 15:20).

2. Deborah (Judg 4:4) who was also a judge of Israel before the rule of kings.

3. Huldah was another prophetess (2 Kgs 22:14).

4. Noadiah (Neh 6:14)

5. Isaiah’s wife (Isa 8:3).

6. Anna, the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher was a prophetess (Lk 2:36). She came at the presentation of Jesus in the Temple.

They served only short-term compared to the male prophets of the Old Testament.


Since prophets were holding privileged status as the representative and spokesperson of God, there were people who pretended as prophets in the Old and New Testament times. When the Israelites were in the desert, God warned them through Moses: “If there arises in your midst a prophet or a dreamer who promises you a sign or wonder, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ whom you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ and the sign or wonder foretold to you comes to pass, do not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer; for the LORD, your God, is testing you to know whether you really love the LORD, your God, with all your heart and soul” (Deut 13: 2-4). So, God allows false prophets to test our fidelity to Him.

While God has his own prophets, there were prophets who speak on behalf of false gods. A typical example is the confrontation between Elijah and 450 prophets of god Baal (1 Kgs 18:19–40). Elijah proved himself and the true prophet of the God of Israel and he killed the false prophets.

Jesus warned his disciples to be cautious of false prophets who misguided people and led them to eternal destruction. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves” (Mt 7:15). Jesus warned: “False messiahs and false prophets will arise, and they will perform signs and wonders so great as to deceive, if that were possible, even the elect” (Mt 24:24).


In the modern times also, there are people with no apostolic succession who start churches of their own and try to convert people, including Catholics, to their sheep promising eternal reward through the effortless way. Many of these evangelists do this for their own selfish motives. God is the truth. We study that truth and help others to reach that truth through Jesus. That is our prophetic role God has assigned to us when we became members of the church.

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