Seer is the almost invariable rendering in the A.V. of חֹזֵה, chozeh (which is otherwise translated only in Isa 28:15, "agreement;" 30:10, "prophet;" 47:13, "gazer;" Eze 13:9,16; Eze 22:28, "that see," etc.), and occasionally (1Sa 9:9-19; 2Sa 15:27; 1Ch 9:22; 1Ch 26:28; 1Ch 29:29; 2Ch 16:7,10) of רֹאֶה, röeh; while the tantamount and technically used prophet is usually denoted by נָבַי, nabi (on the meaning and etymology of which see Hartmann, 3d Excurs. to his Uebers. d. Michna, p. 219 sq.; Paulus, Exeget. Conservat. 2, 122 sq.; and the different views of Redslob, Der Begr. d. Nabi [Leips. 1839], Ewald, Proph. 1, 6 sq., Hävernick, Einleit. ins A.T. 2, 2, 6 sq.). All three names are used, though applied to different persons (1Ch 29:29); and the Chronicles hold this distinction throughout — calling, e.g., Samuel röeh. Gad chozeh, and Nathan nabi — a distinction, to a great extent, lost in the A.V., where the first two are confounded. According to 1Sa 9:9, röeh was the older name for prophet, and it is especially applied to Samuel; nabi is the most usual word; chozeh perhaps passed from the ritual language into that of history. It is found almost solely in Chronicles.
These words were applied, in Hebrew antiquity, from Samuel's time until after the return from captivity, to men inspired by God (comp. Am 3:7; 2Pe 1:21, by the spirit of Jehovah; Eze 11:5; Eze 37:1, expressed in different forms; 3:14; 2Ch 24:20; comp. Gesen. Comment zu Is. 1, 338; Thesaur. 2, 742) who comprehended the principles of the theocracy, and were devoted to them, denouncing in energetic terms all that tended to undermine them; though in earlier days the name of prophet had been given to those who stood in relations of confidence with God (Ge 20:7; Ex 7:1; Ex 15:20, etc.). Of the activity of these prophets among foreigners but one example is given (Jon 1:2 sq.). At first they appear but occasionally, where the welfare of the people is in danger, or as counselors of the theocratic kings (1Sa 22:5; 2Sa 7:2 sq.); but when the kingdom was divided, a wider field was open to them (2Ki 17:13 sq.). As the fate of the people drew near, they raised their voices the more earnestly — rebuking now idolatry, religious affectation, immorality; now the wicked and selfish government, and the false policy of the king and the grandees of the realm; now warning or threatening the thankless people with the judgments of Jehovah; now casting a glance to the ennobled form of the theocracy again arising from this ruin of the national welfare and honor. Public places, markets (Am 5:10; Isa 29:21), streets, the courts of the Temple (Jer 7:1; Jer 19:14; Jer 26:2; comp. 29:26) — were usually the localities of their action (Jer 25:2). But they also went, though not welcome then, to the palaces of kings and their noblemen (Isa 22:15), shunning no danger or repulse (Eze 13:5). Thus their order formed a beneficial balance against the misuse of the royal power, the narrow sympathies and dullness of the priests, the untheocratic tendencies of the people themselves, and accomplished a portion of that which is expected in modern times from representatives of the people and the free press. It would be proper to call the prophets demagogues, in the original and best sense, as popular leaders (De Wette, Christl. Sittenl. 2, 1, 32). Since in the theocracy religious and political elements were mingled, the subject and the aim of the efforts of the prophets belonged sometimes to the one class, sometimes to the other; but was never merely political, since a religious reference is found in all. Their views could not be limited to the present, but extended to the future which should succeed it (comp. Von Raumer, Vorles. über allgemeine Gesch. 1, 153; Ewald, Proph. 1, 24); but usually not to a distant future, severed by centuries from the present. This we learn by an unprejudiced examination of the prophecies yet remaining, and a comparison of their contents with the historical standpoint of the authors. Indeed, the minute prediction ,of very distant events, overleaping the immediate future, would have had no purpose for the generation then living, nor would it have furthered the interests of the theocracy as a holy community. Yet Eichhorn has pressed this view too far (De Prophet. Poes. Hebr. Paralip., in the Comment. Soc. Götting. Rec. 5). The image of the future suggested by the prophets is naturally connected with the present of the author; hence we can often, as in the Chaldee period, trace a chronological progress from the indefinite and general to the definite and special. Only in one group of prophecies did they leave the relations and circumstances of their own times and direct the people to a distant ideal future, when, not satisfied with the immediate future, they speak of the Messiah arid his blessed kingdom to come; and it was this hope of the Messiah and the renewal of their kingdom under him, set forth and cherished by the prophets, which gave the religious life of the nation that new, peculiar impulse which secured them so important a place in the history of religion and of man (comp. Crusius, Bibl. Theol. p. 39 sq., 67; De Wette, Christl. Sittenl. 2, 1, 34). The form of the prophetic representations was simple and artless; sometimes in dialogue (Jeremiah 28), yet never without the rhythm which is so natural to the rapid speech of the Orientals; never without imaginative elevation (comp. Ewald, Aüsfuhr. Lehrb. d. Hebr. Spr. p. 138 sq.; Umbreit, De V.T. Prophetis Claris. Antiq. Temp. Orat. [Heidelb. 1832]; Ewald, Propheten, 1, 49 sq.), and often was poetical (Am 5:1 sq.; Isa 5:1). The early prophecies seem to have been accompanied by music, which was used as an aid to religious feeling (2Ki 3:15), and all of them by energetic gestures and often symbolic actions were connected with them (1Ki 11:29 sq.; Jer 19:1 sq.; 28; 35; 43:9 sq.; Eze 4; Eze 12:3 sq.; 24:3 sq.; 37:15 sq.), or symbolic costume (Isa 20:2 sq.; comp. Stäudlin, Neue Beitr. zur Erläut. d. bibl. Proph. p. 123 sq.; see Jahn, Einleit. 2, 395; Gesen. Com. zu Is. 1, 645). It should be borne in mind that the inhabitants of warmer climates are more prone to such off hand oratory by their active imagination. Yet the comparisons sometimes instituted between, the Hebrew prophets and the Italian improvisatores or the Greek seers (μάντεις; Ritter, in Scherer's Schriftforsch. 1, 372 sq.) are worthless (so De Wette, Pr. de Prophetar. in V.T. [Berl. 1816]; also in his Opusc. Theol. p. 16 sq.; Stiekel, De Prophet. Heb., in Illgen's Zeitschr. 5, 2, 55 sq.). The impulse to speak in the Hebrew prophets must be sought deeper than in the natural activity of imagination.
At a later day (after the 9th century B.C.; comp. Eichhorn, in his Biblioth. f. bibl. Lit. 10, 1077 sq.) prophetic writing became connected with prophetic utterance (Ewald, Isr. Gesch. 3, 351 sq.), at first to preserve with certainty the contents of important predictions (Isa 8:1,16; comp. 30:8), or in obedience to a divine command (Jer 30:2; Jer 36:2,28; comp. Re 1:11,19; Re 21:5); hence, perhaps, first simply records of their utterances to the people, and then often addresses penned as soon as conceived and given in writing to the people through amanuenses (comp. Pries, De Prophetis et Apost. Amanuens. Opera in Scribend. Usis [Rostock, 1757]), or even borne by messengers, to a distance (Jeremiah 29; comp. 2Ch 21:12). The people attached great value to the intercession of the prophets with God (Jer 42:2). This accorded with their relation to Jehovah and was part of their calling (Jer 7:16; Jer 11:14; Jer 14:11; comp. Job 42:8,10). Besides their labors for the protection and advancement of the theocracy, the prophets were often useful to their countrymen and even to foreigners (2 Kings 5) by their medical and scientific knowledge and skill (2Ki 2:19 sq.; 4:38 sq.; 20:7 sq.; comp. 1Ki 14:2 sq.), and, filled with the spirit of God, even wrought miracles, SEE ELIJAH; SEE ELISHA (comp. Lu 7:16). So there seem to have been theocratic historians, perhaps before the prophets became writers, who, sharing the views and sympathies of the prophets, wrote the history of a reign or of a period, mingling with it more or fewer prophetic utterances (2Ch 9:29; 2Ch 12:15; 2Ch 13:22; 2Ch 26:22; 2Ch 32:32; comp. Gesen. Comment. zu Is. 1, 24 sq.).
The dress of the prophets was usually a long folding mantle (1Ki 19:13; 2Ki 2:8,13) of coarse, hairy stuff (Zec 13:4; 2Ki 1:8), without care as to the cut (hence sak, שִׂק, Isa 20:2), and held together by a leather girdle (2Ki 1:8); a dress which corresponded best with the serious nature of the prophet's calling (comp. Mt 3:4; see Henke, Mag. 4, 191 sq.; Nicolai, De Proph. Jud. Vestitu [Magdeb. 1744]; comp. the cloak or pallium of the Greek philosophers; Ferrar, De Re Vest. 2, 4, 14. On the clothing of the Eastern dervishes, see Harmer, Observ. 3, 374 sq.). It is not strange that the prophets, on the one hand, were the objects of superstitious veneration (comp. 1Ki 17:18), and, on the other, by their bold reproof of all impiety and wickedness, became, as the fate of the state grew certain, more and more subject to the opposition and open persecution of the priesthood and of despotic or idolatrous kings. In the kingdom of Israel they were first oppressed, and almost exterminated (18; 19:14, 19), sharing under Ahab the fate of all pious worshippers of Jehovah. Only under the pressure of necessity did the kings there apply to them (22:7 sq.; 2Ki 3:11 sq.; 6:12 sq.); and they were forbidden to address the people (Am 7:10 sq.). This was a censorship wielded by the priests. From 2Ki 4:23, we see that on Sabbaths and new moons the pious Israelites met for worship with one of the prophets. But this was not so general as to justify us in saying that the prophets took the place of the Levitical priesthood (comp. ver. 42), although it is certain that the worship and knowledge of Jehovah in the kingdom of Israel were supported mainly through the prophets. In the kingdom of Judah the prophets were early met by infidel mockery (Isa 5:19; Isa 28:10,22), or by a sense of security that heeded no alarm (Mic 2:6 sq.). We are told that Manasseh slew some prophets every day (Josephus, Ant. 10, 3, 1; comp. 2Ki 21:16); it is more certain that Asa imprisoned the seer Hanani (2Ch 16:10); that under Jehoash and Joiachim two prophets atoned for their boldness with their lives (2Ch 24:20 sq.; Jer 26:20 sq.); and that Jeremiah, above all, was the object of the bitter hate and active persecution of the united court and priesthood, who supported themselves by false prophets. SEE JEREMIAH. But the educated laity and the officers of state thought they had long outgrown the prophetic utterances, and that their views of state policy were deeper; and thus the state became ever more worldly. Afterwards, the remembrance of the abuse offered the prophets was a sad one for the people (Ne 9:26; Mt 5:12; Mt 23:31; Ac 7:52; 1Th 2:15), which was little weakened by the zeal of the later Jews to seek out and adorn the tombs of the prophets. False prophets, or orators, who flattered the prevailing political principles, and even did homage to the abandoned wickedness of the times (Jer 23:14-15; Jer 28:15), yet gave themselves out as inspired by the Divine Spirit, appear, especially in the last terrible period of the kingdom, in league with the priests (Jer 5:13,31; Jer 6:13; Jer 8:10; Jer 14:14); and the true prophets of Jehovah not only came, at times, into open conflict with them (Jer 26:7 sq.; 28; comp. 5:15), but spoke by inspiration against them (Jer 14:13 sq.; 23:16 sq.; 27:9 sq.; 29:31 sq.; Eze 13:2 sq.; 22:25; Ho 9:7 sq.; Mic 3:11). In the law (De 13:1 sq.; 18:20) false prophecy was punished with death (Schröder, De Pseudoprophetis [Marburg, 1720], 2, 4).
The origin of the prophets, in the meaning we have unfolded, is to be referred to the end of the period of the Judges, or to the time of Samuel (comp. Ac 3:24), who was himself a prophet (1Sa 3:20), and may be considered as having founded the order by establishing schools of prophets (comp. esp. 19:24), and to have pointed out its relations to the theocracy. Tholuck (Literar. Anzeiger, 1831, 1, 38), indeed, makes these schools of the prophets to be merely a union of helpers of the prophets in their arduous office, such as Baruch was, who, besides the study of the law, busied themselves with sacred music; but this lacks support. Prophecy, indeed, could not be taught; and, no doubt, many of the scholars never received the inner prophetic call. But this is true now in our theological schools, yet we do not, on this account, consider them mere institutions for educating clerks, etc. Moses, in the wilderness, had given instances, in his own person, of every kind of prophetic duty; but afterwards, when the great labor to be done was the establishment of the theocratic nation in Palestine, and the spirit of Jehovah raised up warriors (the Shophtim, or Judges), there was little need of sacred oratory (Jg 4:4 sq.; 6:8 sq.; 1Sa 2:27 sq.), and the people saw in their prophets simply wise men, soothsayers (hence the older name röeh of prophets, which is applied even to Samuel [1Ch 9:22; 1Ch 29:29, etc.], though he is called also nabi [1Sa 3:20]), a view which prevailed up to Samuel's time (9:8 sq.), while even later the prophets were chiefly sought by the people as wonderful physicians and miracle workers. It is clear that Samuel by no means first founded prophecy among the Hebrews, as, indeed, such a spiritual movement cannot be voluntarily inaugurated among a people; but that he was led on by the establishment of royalty to impart to the prophets his judicial relation (Jg 6; Jg 1 Samuel). On the schools of the prophets, see Vitringa, Synag. Vet. 1, 2, 7; Buddei Hist. Eccl. V. Test. 2, 276 sq.; Maii Exercit. 1, 645 sq.; Werenfels, Diss. de Scholis Proph. (Basle, 1701); Kahl, De Proph. Scholl. (Gött. 1737); Hering, Abh. von den Schul. der Proph. (Bresl. 1777); Stäudlin, Gesch. der Sittenl. 1, 203 sq. They existed in various cities, those often which had an ancient character for sanctity, especially Ramah (1Sa 19:19-20), Jericho (2Ki 2:5), at Bethel (ver. 3), at Gilgal (4:38), all in the central part of the Holy Land. The pupils, who were not all young or unmarried men (ver. 1), lived together (6:1), sometimes in great numbers (2:16; comp. 1Ki 18:4,13), had common fare (2Ki 4:38 sq,), and provided together for their wants. As to the nature of the instruction, we have no particulars. Music and singing were certainly among the subjects taught (1Sa 10:5; comp. Forkel, Gesch. d. Mus. 1, 238, 245, 248, 438 sq.); but, perhaps, more for the cultivation of noble sentiments, and for awakening inner feeling, than as an accompaniment to their exhortations. The cultivation of lyric poetry by them cannot be altogether denied, yet the extent of it has been exaggerated, and the history derives the flourishing of this kind of poetry from a royal minstrel (Nachtigal, in Henke's Mag. 6, 38 sq.; see contra Bengel, Supplem. ad Introd. in Lib. Psaln. [Tüb. 1816] p. 5 sq.; De Wette, Comm. ub. d. Psalm. p. 9 sq., 3d ed.). The chief subject of instruction was probably the law, not in its details in writing, but as a great whole, a theocratic conception; and the awakening and cultivation of the true theocratic spirit were the aim of all their labors. The pupils, when the impulse of the spirit came upon them, sometimes made excursions, during which others, who came near them, were momentarily influenced in the same way (1Sa 10:5 sq.; 19:20 sq.); and some were employed, it would seem as a trial of them, as messengers of the prophets (2Ki 9:1). The comparison of the schools of the prophets with monkish cloisters (Jerome, Ep. 105, ad Rustic. Monach. and 58 ad Paulin.) is wide of the mark (see Hering, loc. cit. 71 sq.); and if any parallel is to be sought for anything so peculiar, that with Pythagorean union (Tennemann, Gesch. der
Phil. 1, 94 sq.) will be found more appropriate. Moreover, it is not to be supposed that all the prophets, or that the most influential of those known to us, were educated in these schools. It was open to every man or woman who felt an inward call to this office to assume the duties of a prophet (Am 7:14); and the prophetic inspiration often broke forth suddenly (2Ch 20:14 sq.). There were also instances in which the calling of prophet seemed to be hereditary in one family (1Ki 16:1; comp. Am 7:14; on Zec 1:1, see Rosenmüller, ad loc.). Those who had been educated by older prophets seem usually to have been consecrated to their calling by anointing or the delivery of the prophet's mantle (1Ki 19:16 sq.; comp. 2Ki 2:13 sq.); but it was the inner voice, or a vision, which directly impelled the prophets to step forward as such (Isa 6; Jer 1:2; Eze 1). The cycle of prophetic activity was found, after the division, chiefly in the kingdom of Judah, which, at least outwardly, had remained true to the theocratic constitution, the temple, the priesthood of Jehovah, the dynasty of David; and even after the overthrow of this kingdom, and in exile, there were influential prophets among the Jews. But in the kingdom of Israel (Eichhorn, in his Biblioth. d. Bibl. Lit. 4, 193 sq.), whose establishment the prophets had aided, or, at least, not hindered (1Ki 11:29 sq.), their influence was interrupted and more of a negative character. In the changes of dynasties they not rarely took some part (1Ki 14:14 sq.; 16:1 sq.; 21:17 sq.; 2Ki 9:1 sq.), in which they were actuated by religious views. It cannot be doubted that the activity of the prophets, in that long period, was one of the utmost value to the people; the spirit of the theocratic life was continually refreshed by them, and no other people of that age, or of modern times, has had anything comparable to them (comp. Eichhorn, preface to his 4th vol. Einleit. ins A.T.). In this point of view, such laments as Ps 74:9; La 2:9, find their full justification.
The prophets mentioned in the Old Test. besides Moses (De 18:15; De 34:10), and those whose books remain in the canon, are the following, nearly in chronological order: Samuel, Gad, Nathan [see these names], the two latter under David and Solomon; Ahijah, Shemaiah, Iddo (1Ki 11:29; 1Ki 12:22; 1Ki 14:4 sq.; 2Ch 12:15; 2Ch 13:22), under Rehoboam and Jeroboam; Azariah, Hananiah, Jehu, Micah, Jehaziel, Eliezer, Oded (2Ch 15:1,8; 2Ch 16:7; 2Ch 20:37; 1Ki 16:1; 1Ki 22:8), under Asa, Baasha, and Jehoshaphat; Elijah; Elisha, Micah, under Ahab and successors; Zechariah (2; Chronicles 24:20), under Jehoash; Jonah, under Jeroboam II (2Ki 14:25); Oded, under Ahaz (2Ch 28:9); Uriah, under Joiachim (Jer 26:20); besides three prophetesses — Deborah (Jg 4:4), Huldah, a married woman (2Ki 22:14), and Noadiah (Ne 6:14), a false prophetess. A far greater number are named, of both sexes, by Clement Alexandrinus (Strom. 1, 145; he gives thirty-five), Epiphanius (in Coteler's Not. in Can. Apost. 4, 6, seventy-two), and the Jews (Seder Olam, p. 21, forty-eight prophets, seven prophetesses). But they act in this without any settled principle, including almost every man of note in the Old Test. among the prophets. Prophecy disappeared on the new establishment of the Jews in Palestine; and, indeed, the last prophets are thought to show less of the living inspiration than the earlier ones; and, after the erection of the second Temple, no seer's voice was heard, although the return of the prophets was hoped for continually (1 Macc. 4:46; 14:41). According to the Talmudists the Bath kol sometimes took the place of prophecy. (Comp. Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. s.v. בת, and Otho, Lex. Rab. p. 82 sq.; see also Schottgen, Hor. Hebr. 1, 379, on the unconscious soothsaying of the rabbins. It has been applied to Joh 11:51. That in 1Pe 1:10 is different.) So entirely was the old inspiration lost that even the patriotism of the Maccabees called forth nothing beyond military heroism. The birth and consecration of the Prince of the Prophets evoked inspired utterances from but two (Lu 1:67; Lu 2:36). The appearance of Jesus even awakened false prophets, and, during the war of extermination between the Greeks and Romans, "prophet" was synonymous with deceiver and seducer of the people. Only a few scattered utterances of soothsayers occur in the centuries following the captivity (Josephus, Ant. 13, 10, 7; 13, 11, 2; comp. War, 6, 5, 3). See Gürtler, Systema Thebl. Proph. (Amst. 1702); Witsii Miscel. Sacr. bk. 1, in 24 chapters, on prophets and prophecy; Carpzov, Introd. in V.T. p. 1 sq., and his Appar. p. 113 sq.; Eichhorn, Einleit. ins A.T. 4, § 512 sq.; Jahn, Einleit. 2, 2, 324 sq.; Niemeyer, Charakt. 5, 245 sq.; Herder, Geist der hebr. P. 2, 41 sq.; Horst, Ueber die Proph. der alten Welt, etc. (Gotha, 1798); Stutzmann, Geist u. Charakt. d. hebr. Proph. (Carlsr. 1805); Gramberg, Religionsid. 2, 246 sq.; Von Cölln, in Euphron. (1833) pt. 1, ch. 5; Knobel, Der Prophetism. d. Heb. (Bresl. 1837) 2, 8; Köster, Die Propheten d. A. u. N. Test. nach ihren Wesen u. Wirken (Leips. 1838); Ewald, Propheten d. alt. Bund. (Stuttg. 1840) 1, 1 sq.; Hävernick, Einleit. ins A.T. 2, 2, 1 sq.; Baur, Amos (Giess. 1847), p. 1 sq.; Hofmann, Weissag. 1, 253 sq. The writings of Dorotheus (ed. Fabric.
[Hamb. 1714]) contain traditions of the oldest prophets. So those of an unknown writer (De Vitis Prophet.), sometimes ascribed to Epiphanius. Comp. Hamaker, Comment. in Libr. de Vita et Morte Prophet. (Amst. 1833).
On the meaning of the word "prophet" in the New Test., see the dictionaries. The name was given to certain Christians of both sexes (1Co 11:5; comp, Ac 21:9) who spoke in the public assembly (1Co 11:4; 1Co 14:29), who were distinguished from apostles and teachers (12:28; 14:6; Eph 2:20; Eph 4:11; comp. Ac 13:1; Neander, Pflanz. 1, 205). Prophecy was, among the charismata, a spiritual gift of the Holy Spirit (Ro 12:6; 1Co 12:10), and stood next to that of speaking with tongues (12:10; 13:8; 14:22; comp. Ac 19:6), but is pointed out by Paul as more efficacious for the edifying of the Church (1Co 14:3 sq., 22). See, in general, Van Dale, De Idolol. p. 201 sq.; Mosheim, De Illis qui Proph. Vocantur in N.T. (Helmst. 1732); also in his Dissert. ad Hist. Eccl. 2, 125 sq.; Knapp [G.], De Dono Proph. in Eccl. N.T. (Halle, 1755); Zacharias, De Donor. Proph. Variis Grad. in Eccl. Christ. (Gott. 1767); Koppe, 3. Exc. zum Brief an die Eph. p. 148 sq. Thus prophets are those Christians who, seized by a momentary inspiration (Ac 19:6), discoursed to the assembly in their own tongue (comp. 1Co 14:5,24) on divine things, perhaps not unlike preachers among the Quakers. (On the distinction between these and those who spoke with tongues, see 14:32;. Neander Pflanz. d. Christ. 1, 52, 183 sq., 205.) The prediction of events to come was not the office of these prophets, yet they had some insight into the future of the Church. Comp. the Revelation of John; Crusius [B.], Opusc. p. 101 sq.; Lücke, Vollst. Einl. indie Offenb. Joh. (Bonn, 1832). SEE PROPHET,