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of the Bible.

The term prophetes in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) and in the New Testament conveys the Hebrew nabhi, which in ancient Palestine referred to a preacher who while in a state of ecstasy predicted the future in the name of god. In the eighth century B.C. the term also came to be applied to religiopolitical orators and preachers. The most eminent prophets of the ninth century B.C. were Elijah and his disciple Elisha, who by their denunciations came into conflict with royal authority. Grouped around them were young prophets—called sons of the prophets—who lived in various cities, such as Bethel and Jericho. The figure of Elijah subsequently played a major role in Jewish and Christian eschatology.

The complication of social relations and the profound exacerbation of sociopolitical conflicts in Israel and Judah led to the rise in the eighth century B.C. of what was called the prophets’ movement, of which the major spokesmen were Amos, Ho-sea, Isaiah (so-called Proto-Isaiah), and Micah in the eighth century B.C.; Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, and Habbakuk in the seventh century B.C., and Ezekiel, so-called Deutero-Isaiah, Haggai, and Zechariah in the sixth century B.C. Sharply exposing the crimes of the rich and the power of the propertied classes, the prophets inveighed against the dispossession of the peasants from the land and the oppression and arbitrary treatment of the lower social strata. The prophets called for the renunciation of war and predicted the victory of social justice in the future, when men would “beat their swords into plowshares” (Isaiah). The prophets’ demands for the centralization of worship in accord with the universalism of Yahweh and ethical monotheism objectively promoted centralization and royal authority. The prophets affirmed the superiority of a moral-ethical foundation over worship as such, with its bare ritualism and the sacrifice of animals.

The religiopolitical speeches, sermons, and oracles (predictions) of the prophets were first given orally. Afterward, they were written down and collected into anthologies, which gradually were supplemented and combined (not always in the chronological order of their composition) into separate books, which were edited for the final time evidently in the period of the rule of the Achaemenids in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. By their size the books of the prophets are conventionally divided into major and minor ones. The three major books of the prophets that are extant are Isaiah (consisting of the works of two and possibly three authors who lived at different times), Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. There are 12 minor prophets.

The prophets’ works are distinguished by the richness and vividness of poetic language. They were an important contribution to the development of classical Hebrew language and literature. Prophetic literature greatly influenced later Jewish sectarian (Essene-Qumranite) and Christian ideology and literature. The prophets were referred to by Christian heretical movements in the Middle Ages, ideologists of peasant wars and other popular movements, and the Utopian socialists.


Heaton, E. W. The Old Testament Prophets. Harmondsworth, 1958.
Eissfeldt, O. “The Prophetic Literature.” In The Old Testament and Modern Study. Edited by H. H. Rowbey. Oxford [1961].
Fohrer, G. Geschichte der israelitischen Religion. Berlin [1968].


References in classic literature ?
I wouldn't be used to such grand people as the patriarchs and prophets, and I would be sheepish and tongue-tied in their company, and mighty glad to get out of it.
All the nobility, and all the patriarchs and prophets - every last one of them - and all the archangels, and all the princes and governors and viceroys, were there, - and NO small fry - not a single one.
We found afterwards that we had come near seeing another patriarch, and likewise a genuine prophet besides, but at the last moment they sent regrets.
Here, tradition says, the prophet Samuel was born, and here the Shunamite woman built a little house upon the city wall for the accommodation of the prophet Elisha.
The prophet Elisha declared that within four and twenty hours the prices of food should go down to nothing, almost, and it was so.
The prophet of the sun leaned easily against the mantelpiece and resumed:
Kalon the prophet stood away from the paper with that loyal unconsciousness that had carried him through.
Come, come, prophet," interrupted Flambeau, with a kind of sneer; "remember that all this world is a cloudland.
The tall prophet retreated before the tiny priest in an almost mad disorder.
It came with this precious prophet, or whatever he calls himself, who taught her to stare at the hot sun with the naked eye.
And the prophet lost five hundred thousand pounds and committed one of the most brutal and brilliant murders in human history for nothing.
And although for us of to-day the light of Carlyle as a prophet may be somewhat dimmed, we may still find, as a great man of his own day found, that the good his writings do us, is "not as philosophy to instruct, but as poetry to animate.