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The Prophets in Review

An overview of our time spent in the Prophets & Exile.

Written by Mike Biolsi on .


Congratulations! You made it through our series, “The Prophets & Exile”. I believe we started the study in May of 2020, so you have been learning about the prophets for about 14 months. If you have been with us through all of it you probably deserve a t-shirt. 

Today we are going to officially wrap up the prophets by stepping back and taking a macro look at them. 

The Role of the Prophets

When you think of the word “prophet”, what comes to mind?​

Smith’s Bible Dictionary: Prophet
The ordinary Hebrew word for prophet is nâbi, derived from a verb signifying “to bubble forth” like a fountain; hence the word means one who announces or pours forth the declarations of God.

The prophets were the mouthpieces of God. But they were really more than that. Sometimes their very lives told a story and each one seemed to have a unique relationship with Yahweh. 

AS AN OFFICE - prophets were elevated above any other earthly office or position. They did not answer to kings, but called kings to repentance and anointed men as kings at God’s bidding.

They were the agents of God, and as such, they acted in whatever capacity God needed them to in order do accomplish his will on this earth.

Sometimes they were spokesmen of God - taking his message of judgement or repentance to a group of people - some to the Jews (like Malachi), others to the nations (like Jonah). 

Sometimes they were miraculously empowered - to do miracles (like Elijah) to interpret dreams (like Daniel) or to reveal future events (like Isaiah).

Sometimes they were intermediaries between God and the people (like Moses)

They are SO significant, that they appear on almost every book of the Old Testament and are the word “prophet” appears at least 160 times in the New Testament. 

One of the PRIMARY purposes of the prophets was to partner with God to create a “people of God” - a group that has a special, personal relationship with Yahweh. 

This group of people is one of the most influential in defining our image of God, of the Messiah and of the last days.

Prophets of the Bible

Organizing by Prophetic Books

We often associate certain books with “prophets”.  When I was in college we took a class on the MAJOR prophets and another on the MINOR prophets. ⚡ I still have commentaries on my shelf that has them broken down that way. 

MAJOR: Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel 

MINOR: the rest 😁 Joel, Jonah, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Obadiah, Daniel, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

While this an OK way to organize the prophetic books of the OT, it is certainly not the only way. These books can be arranged a few different ways:


Smith’s Bible Dictionary Prophet
They may be arranged in the following chronological order, namely, Joel, Jonah, Hosea, Amos, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Obadiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

Audience ⚡

Smith’s Bible Dictionary Prophet
They may be divided into four groups: the prophets of the northern kingdom—Hosea, Amos, Joel, Jonah; the prophets of the southern kingdom—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah; the prophets of the captivity—Ezekiel and Daniel; the prophets of the return—Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

The major PROBLEM with arranging the prophets simply by the books of the OT, is that there are a lot of other prophets in the OT that do not have books that carry their names! 

Organizing by the TaNaKh

In the Hebrew bible, the prophets, or the Nevi’im ( the “N” in TaNaKh), span a much bigger section of literature and time than just the major and minor prophets. In the Hebrew tradition, there were the early prophets and the later prophets, each of which were made up of 4 books: 

Complete Jewish Bible IV. Contents of the Bible
The Prophets are generally divided into the Early Prophets (Nevi’im Rishonim) and the Later Prophets (Nevi’im Acharonim). The first group consists of the four books of Y’hoshua (Joshua), Shof’tim (Judges), Sh’mu’el Alef and Bet (1–2 Samuel) and M’lakhim Alef and Bet (1–2 Kings).

Complete Jewish Bible IV. Contents of the Bible
The Later Prophets also consists of four books—a book by each of the three “major prophets,” Yesha‘yahu (Isaiah), Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) and Yechezk’el (Ezekiel), and a book containing the writings of the Shneim-‘Asar (the Twelve), known also as the “minor prophets.”

EARLY: Joshua, Judges, Samuel (1-2), Kings (1-2) ** prophets are mentioned in these books

LATER: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel (major) and The Twelve (minor prophets) ** these all have their own books

This is the way SOME choose to categorize, and it is certainly more representative of the larger work of the prophets. However, it still leaves out a few very significant prophets. For instance, Daniel is NOT one of the 12, so in our English Bibles we would have 13, not 12 books for the minor prophets in that LATER Prophets category (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the 12 & Daniel)

What I like about this system is that it keeps in the front of our minds the importance of the prophets and that there were many prophets who did NOT have their own books. The prophets are people, not books. 

What I do NOT like about this system is that it still does not include ALL of the prophets!

POP QUIZ: Who was called the greatest prophet in the Old Testament?

Moses was considered the greatest prophet. Yet the life of Moses is NOT recorded in the Early or Late Prophets. It is recorded in Exodus - Deuteronomy. 

POP QUIZ: Who was the first prophet mentioned in the Bible?

Abraham was the first prophet! Honest, we will read about him in just a few minutes. But Abraham’s life was recorded in the book of Genesis. 

SO, basically, we have prophets that span from Genesis to Malachi! IF we are to categorize the prophets, I would propose we offer something like this:⚡

  • Covenant Prophet [Genesis]
  • Wilderness Prophets [Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy]
  • Early Prophets [Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings]
  • Later Prophets [Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, The Twelve (13!)]

I like this concept because it lines up with the work of the prophets all throughout the OT. From the establishment of the people of God to their return to the land and awaiting the Messiah. God’s prophets were involved in the whole process. 

The Prophetic History of Israel

Establishing Israel ⚡

Abraham was the first prophet!

Genesis 20:1–7 CSB
1 From there Abraham traveled to the region of the Negev and settled between Kadesh and Shur. While he was staying in Gerar, 2 Abraham said about his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” So King Abimelech of Gerar had Sarah brought to him. 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “You are about to die because of the woman you have taken, for she is a married woman.” 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her, so he said, “Lord, would you destroy a nation even though it is innocent? 5 Didn’t he himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ I did this with a clear conscience and clean hands.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you did this with a clear conscience. I have also kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I have not let you touch her. 7 Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, know that you will certainly die, you and all who are yours.”

In the Wilderness ⚡

The last verses of Deuteronomy, which lead into the first book of the early prophets (Joshua) says this:

Deuteronomy 34:10–12 CSB
10 No prophet has arisen again in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. 11 He was unparalleled for all the signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do against the land of Egypt—to Pharaoh, to all his officials, and to all his land— 12 and for all the mighty acts of power and terrifying deeds that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

During the time in the wilderness there was also a prophetess: Miriam

Exodus 15:20 CSB
20 Then the prophetess Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women came out following her with tambourines and dancing.

During the Judges Rule ⚡

There were prophets during the time of the judges, like Deborah and Samuel:

Judges 4:4 CSB
4 Deborah, a prophetess and the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.

1 Samuel 3:19–21 CSB
19 Samuel grew. The Lord was with him, and he fulfilled everything Samuel prophesied. 20 All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a confirmed prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear in Shiloh, because there he revealed himself to Samuel by his word.

During the Reign of Kings ⚡

There were prophets throughout the time of the kings if Israel. 

During David’s life, Samuel, Nathan and Gad

1 Chronicles 29:29 CSB
29 As for the events of King David’s reign, from beginning to end, note that they are written in the Events of the Seer Samuel, the Events of the Prophet Nathan, and the Events of the Seer Gad,

Iddo [During Solomon’s reign]

2 Chronicles 9:29 CSB
29 The remaining events of Solomon’s reign, from beginning to end, are written in the Events of the Prophet Nathan, the Prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and the Visions of the Seer Iddo concerning Jeroboam son of Nebat.

Ahijah [during Jeroboam of Judah]

1 Kings 11:29 CSB
29 During that time, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite met Jeroboam on the road as Jeroboam came out of Jerusalem. Now Ahijah had wrapped himself with a new cloak, and the two of them were alone in the open field.

Shemaiah [during the reign of Rehoboam of Israel]

2 Chronicles 12:5 CSB
5 Then the prophet Shemaiah went to Rehoboam and the leaders of Judah who were gathered at Jerusalem because of Shishak. He said to them, “This is what the Lord says: You have abandoned me; therefore, I have abandoned you to Shishak.”

Azariah [during the reign of Asa of Judah]

2 Chronicles 15:1 CSB
1 The Spirit of God came on Azariah son of Oded.​

2 Chronicles 15:8 CSB
8 When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded the prophet, he took courage and removed the abhorrent idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities he had captured in the hill country of Ephraim. He renovated the altar of the Lord that was in front of the portico of the Lord’s temple.

Jehu [reigns of Baasha & Elah of Israel and Asa of Judah]

1 Kings 16:7 CSB
7 But through the prophet Jehu son of Hanani the word of the Lord also had come against Baasha and against his house because of all the evil he had done in the Lord’s sight. His actions angered the Lord, and Baasha’s house became like the house of Jeroboam, because he had struck it down.

Elijah [during the reign of Ahab of Israel]

1 Kings 17:1 CSB
1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from the Gilead settlers, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, in whose presence I stand, there will be no dew or rain during these years except by my command!”

Elisha [during Joram of Israel & Jehoshaphat of Judah]​

2 Kings 2:15 CSB
15 When the sons of the prophets from Jericho who were observing saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” They came to meet him and bowed down to the ground in front of him.

Jonah [during the reign of Jereboam, king of Judah]

2 Kings 14:25 CSB
25 He restored Israel’s border from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word the Lord, the God of Israel, had spoken through his servant, the prophet Jonah son of Amittai from Gath-hepher.

Isaiah [during the time of Hezekiah, king of Israel]

2 Kings 19:2 CSB
2 He sent Eliakim, who was in charge of the palace, Shebna the court secretary, and the leading priests, who were covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz.

Jeremiah [re: Zedekiah king of Judah]

2 Chronicles 36:12 CSB
12 He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God and did not humble himself before the prophet Jeremiah at the Lord’s command.

Huldah [during the time that Josiah reigned in Judah]

2 Kings 22:14 CSB
14 So the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to the prophetess Huldah, wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem in the Second District. They spoke with her.

The Old Testament also mentions generic prophets whose names are never given.

Judges 6:8 CSB
8 the Lord sent a prophet to them. He said to them, “This is what the Lord God of Israel says: ‘I brought you out of Egypt and out of the place of slavery.

1 Kings 13:1 CSB
1 A man of God came, however, from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord while Jeroboam was standing beside the altar to burn incense.

1 Kings 13:11 CSB
11 Now a certain old prophet was living in Bethel. His son came and told him all the deeds that the man of God had done that day in Bethel. His sons also told their father the words that he had spoken to the king.

2 Kings 9:4 CSB
4 So the young prophet went to Ramoth-gilead.

Of course, there were also groups, or schools of prophets that are mentioned like the sons of the prophets. 

The Bible also talks about FALSE prophets and prophetesses! We will not get into that, but we should realize that there were some who used the title “prophet” for personal gain or advancement. 

Why are they important to the Church?

Without getting into next weeks message on the meta-narrative of the OT, the prophets were God’s select servants used to try to restore creation back to it’s relationship with God. They taught, corrected, rebuked, warned and even told the future in attempts to keep a people wholly devoted to God. However, they also foretold the promise of the Messiah, and described him as a prophet.

Moses, one of the greatest prophets, spoke of another prophet that one come from the line of Abraham.⚡

Deuteronomy 18:15–19 CSB
15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. 16 This is what you requested from the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not continue to hear the voice of the Lord our God or see this great fire any longer, so that we will not die!’ 17 Then the Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. 19 I will hold accountable whoever does not listen to my words that he speaks in my name.

The role of the prophets was to point people to the Messiah. And some, like Philip, saw Jesus as that fulfilment. ⚡

John 1:45 CSB
45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law (and so did the prophets): Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”

Well, who did Moses write about? The prophet and the Messiah!

Not only did the disciples recognize Jesus as a prophet, so did the crowds, especially when he performed a miracle that only the prophet Elisha had ever done: ⚡

John 6:5–15 (CSB)
5 So when Jesus looked up and noticed a huge crowd coming toward him, he asked Philip, “Where will we buy bread so that these people can eat?” 6 He asked this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread wouldn’t be enough for each of them to have a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There’s a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish—but what are they for so many?” 10 ⚡Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place; so they sat down. The men numbered about five thousand. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and after giving thanks he distributed them to those who were seated—so also with the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were full, he told his disciples, “Collect the leftovers so that nothing is wasted.” 13 So they collected them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces from the five barley loaves that were left over by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This truly is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Therefore, when Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Jesus also referred to himself as a prophet!

Luke 4:24 CSB
24 He also said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.

Just before Jesus was to be arrested, he met with his disciples. Look at how Luke describes this encounter: ⚡

Luke 18:31 CSB
31 Then he took the Twelve aside and told them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. Everything that is written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished.

The “son of man” is a phrase referring to the Messiah that is only used by the prophet Daniel. And Jesus was reminding the disciples that the key to understanding what was taking place was to understand the prophets (especially Isaiah!).

After he was crucified, buried and rose from the grave, Jesus appeared to some of his followers on their way to Emmaus. 

Luke 24:13–27 (CSB)
13 Now that same day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 Together they were discussing everything that had taken place. 15 And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus himself came near and began to walk along with them. 16 But they were prevented from recognizing him. 17 Then he asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged. 18 The one named Cleopas answered him, “Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he asked them. So they said to him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet powerful in action and speech before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. 21 But we were hoping that he was the one who was about to redeem Israel. Besides all this, it’s the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb, 23 and when they didn’t find his body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see him.” ⚡ 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Wasn’t it necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures.

Notice, he started with Moses and ALL the prophets. They all point to HIM. 

The early church figured this out, and the leaders of the early church spent a lot of time connecting the dots between the words of the prophets and the life, ministry and words of Jesus. The Apostle Paul actually went to prison for believing that Jesus was the prophet Moses spoke about, and when he arrived at Rome he called for a meeting with the leaders of the Jews:

Acts 28:23–28 CSB
23 After arranging a day with him, many came to him at his lodging. From dawn to dusk he expounded and testified about the kingdom of God. He tried to persuade them about Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets. 24 Some were persuaded by what he said, but others did not believe. 25 Disagreeing among themselves, they began to leave after Paul made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah 26 when he said, Go to these people and say: You will always be listening, but never understanding; and you will always be looking, but never perceiving. 27 For the hearts of these people have grown callous, their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them. 28 Therefore, let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

The message of the prophets teaches us about the character of God (he is SO compassionate and patient!) and the work of God in providing a Chosen One to restore people back to God. 

One of the PRIMARY purposes of the prophets was to partner with God to create a “people of God” - a group that has a special, personal relationship with Yahweh. 

Jesus, the greatest prophet of all time, was God and was a prophet - he not only pointed us to God, he provided a way for us to be reconciled to God, to become a special people of God, at least for all those who believe. 

The Prophets in Review