The word prophet is an English word that was translated from a Hebrew term nabi. According to the scholars, a Prophet is an individual who speaks out the mind and the words of God under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This implies that a prophet is a God’s spokesperson and his prophetic message comes from a Supernatural source but they are not a product of his thoughts. Moses is the most famous Prophet in Israel because he delivered the children of Israel from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. In Egypt and on the way from to the Promised Land, he portrayed Gods power in him by performing many miracles and interceding for the Israelites. In Deuteronomy chapter 18, it is illustrated that “God would raise a prophet and put His words into his mouth, the prophet would then speak them in the name of God” (Biblical Prophecy, P. 90). In Israel, prophets undertook huge variety of roles like warning, encouraging, teaching and interceding for the Israelites as explained below.
Praying and mediating for the Israelites
A prophet knows the mind of God and therefore he is capable of praying effectively. For example, Moses could talk to God directly and therefore he always prayed for the children of Israel whenever they were in need and God would hear him and answer his prayers. Prophets acted as mediators between the Israelites and God. For instance, Moses stood on behalf of Israelites and an angry God. He conveyed God’s message to the nation of Israel and he felt so bitter when the Israelites disobeyed Gods message. Any time the Israelites disobeyed God, Moses prayed for their forgiveness and through Moses, God would forgive them. Prophet Jeremiah wanted to pray and intercede on behalf of Israelites to ask God to forgive them their sins. God commands Jeremiah "As for you, do not pray for this people; do not offer petitions or prayers on their behalf. Make no intercessions, for I will not listen to you." This is an indication that prophets had a role of praying and interceding for the Israelites to ask for God’s forgiveness (David, P.464). Directing, Guiding and initiating God’s plan on the Israelites In Israel, prophets played an imperative role in guiding and directing the Israelites in accordance with the will of God. God did not do anything to the Israelites without first sending them a message. This is particularly true especially when the Israelites were moving from Egypt to the Promised Land. God guided Moses on what to do when the Israelites reached the red sea. Pharaoh soldiers were following them to take them back to captivity and there was no escape but God directed Moses to create a way on the sea (David, P.464). Prophets guided Israelites according to God’s command even during the time of war. For example, when Israel was at war with the king of Aram, Prophet Elisha guided the king of Israel by telling him on what to do; “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there." Elisha always guided the king of Israel in such scenario and through his prophetic guidance, Israelites managed to defeat their enemies. In second Kings Chapter 6 “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom”. This message is an indication that God guided and informed the Elisha everything the king of Aram was preparing to do. Elisha conveyed this message to the king of Israel and advised him on what to do (Biblical Prophecy, P. 90). Correcting and condemning the Israelites because of their evil ways Prophets like Amos and Jeremiah played a big role of condemning the evil ways that Israelites were living. They both informed the Israelites that God was unhappy with their deeds and He was about to condemn them to death if they failed to change their evil ways. Jeremiah is known as a confrontation prophet because he condemned the Israelites because of their sins (Biblical Prophecy, P. 90). He urged them to repent because the wrath of the Lord was upon them. Jeremiah further rebuked the people of Israel because they had lost confidence in God. In Jeremiah chapter seven, the prophet tells the Israelites, “Look, you are putting your trust in a worthless lie. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn sacrifices to Baal, and follow other gods to your own detriment, and then come and stand before me?” Jeremiah informs the Israelites that just as God did to Shiloh, He will also do the same thing to the Israelites if they repent and turn away from their crooked ways (David, P.464). Amos condemned the inhumanity outrage and the social injustice that was taking place in Israel whereby the rich sold the poor for a pair of shoes. The prophets word to the people of Israel was simply to correct their ways because God was about to pass judgment on them (Biblical Prophecy, P. 90). Appointing and Removing Kings and False prophets in Israel
In a scenario where the Kings of Israel disobeyed God, the prophets would declare Gods judgment upon them. Prophets carried out oracular functions and inquired from God what the king was supposed to do. Samuel as prophet anointed the kings of Israel who would uphold the law of God and pass judgment on people. God gave the prophets power to remove the kings of Israel from leadership. For example, Samuel removed Saul from leadership after the King (Saul) killed David’s firstborns hence bringing trouble and plague to the to the Israelites consequently tearing the ten tribes of Rehoboam and bringing the line of Jeroboam to the end. Prophet Elijah condemned King Ahab and killed all the Baal prophets because of idolatry, social injustice and corruption in Israel (Daniells, P. 40). Performing miracles for the Israelites
God had given prophets the power to perform miracles in Israel. Moses, Elijah and Elisha were the major chief performers of miracles in Israel. The main aim for these miracles was to show Israelites that they were a chosen race by God. For instance, when the Israelites were released from bondage of slavery in Egypt, Moses performed a miracle by creating a way on the Red Sea for Israelites to cross the sea and escape from Pharaoh. In the wilderness, Moses performed many miracles with the aim of bringing the Israelites closer to God. Elisha on the other hand brought a woman’s child back to life, healed Naaman of leprosy and multiplied a widow’s oil. Elisha helped to rescue the Israelites army in various occasions through his miracles. His final miracle happened after he died. “A group of Israelites, frightened by approaching raiders, threw the body of one of their dead comrades into Elisha's tomb. When the corpse touched Elisha's bones, the dead soldier came to life and stood on his feet”. This miracle was an indication that God was with the Israelites and He would lead them to win the war (Biblical Prophecy, P. 90). Offering sacrifices on behalf of the Israelites
It was the role of the prophets to offer sacrifices to God on behalf of the Israelites. The sacrifices were offered because of different things. Some were offered for peace, reconciliation, thanksgiving, forgiveness, consecration and before the Israelites could go for war. Prior to the Israelites departure from Egypt, they all sacrificed to God and had the last supper. The sacrifice was supposed to bring them together and identify each other (Petersen, P.464). The Passover feast is explained in the Book of Exodus chapter 12. Elijah offered sacrifices on behalf of the Israelites and asked God to end the prophets of Baal and Idolatry in Israel. Most of the prophets in Israel offered sacrifices to God frequently to ask for God’s blessings upon the Israelites (Daniells, P. 40). Conclusion
Prophets played a big role in Israel because they had supernatural power bestowed to them by Yahweh. It is clear that the prophets had a big role to play in Israel. Both the prophets of doom and the prophets of hope and prosperity played an imperative role in ensuring that the Israelites lived according to the will of God. By guiding the Kings and leaders of Israel on what to do, the Israelites remained faithful to their God. On the other hand, when the Israelites disobeyed God and went against His will the prophets took the initiative to warn them about God’s wrath that would befall them if they did not turn away from their evil ways. The prophets were a representative of God in Israel, whatever they prophesied was the mind of God, and therefore their role was to accomplish God’s mission over the Israelites.
Arthur Asuncion Articles. Israel's Role in Bible Prophecy. Retrieved on March 21, 2013 http://www.ics.uci.edu/~asuncion/bible_prophecy.htm Biblical Prophecy et al. In Prophecy and Prophets. Yehoshua Gitay. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997. Daniells Arthur. The abiding gift of prophecy. Mountain View, Calif: Pacific Press, 1936. David Petersen. The Roles of Israel's Prophets, Journal of Biblical Literature, 102, 3, (1981)