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This is a short bible study explaining, 'What is prophecy?' The best place to start in this study on prophets is the meaning of the words. There are three words in the Hebrew that we can look at:

(1) Prophet, Hb. נָבִיא , Htr. nābî’ (Strongs 5030 occurs 316x) from the root word nābā. Which means "prophecy", or "to speak under inspiration", in prediction or simple discourse.
The meaning of the word can be seen in the scripture:

(Exodus 7:1) "And the Lord said to Moses, See, I have made you a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet."
The background to this statement is in Exodus 4:10-16 where Moses argued his inability to speak, and God gave Aaron his brother to speak for him. The word prophet then means, "one who speaks for another".
(Exodus 4:16) "And he shall be your spokesman to the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to you instead of a mouth, and you shall be to him instead of God."

The expression, "he shall be to you instead of a mouth"shows that Aaron would speak exactly what Moses wanted him to say. Therefore a prophet of God is one who speaks exactly what God wants him to say.

(2) Seer, Hb. רָאָה , Htr. rā’âh (Strongs 7200 occurs 1313x) a verb which primarily means "to see". It is rendered "see" (879x), "look"(104x), "beholds" (83x), "show"(68x), "appear" (66x), "consider" (24x), "seer" (12x) etc. When this verb is translated "seer", it is always in the form of a participle, and means the same as a prophet, as the scripture shows:
(1 Samuel 9:9) "(Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to enquire of God, thus he spoke, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he who is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.)"
Its noun Htr. rō’ēh occurs only once and is translated "vision"(Isaiah 28:7).

(3) Seer, Hb. חֹזֶה , Htr. chōzeh (Strong's 2374 occurs 22x) which means "one who sees or beholds" as in a vision. It is translated "seer" (16x), "see that" (3x), "prophet"(1x), etc.
This is the same as a prophet as the scriptures shows:

(2 Samuel 24:11) "For when David was up in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying, ..."

In the New Testament the word for "prophet", Gr. προφήτης, Gtr. prophētēs, (Strong's 4396 occurs 149x) is always translated "prophet". It is made up of two words, the preposition "pro", which means "before, in front of, or prior to", and the verb "phemi" which means "to say". It therefore refers to one who speaks something before it happens. The New Testament prophets spoke in the same manner as the Old Testament prophets, as if God was speaking through them (See also #1.2).


22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet1, saying,

15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet1, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

ACTS 3:21
21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God has spoken by2 the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

1 God, who in many parts and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets3,
2 Has in these last days spoken to us by4 his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

Note: The words translated of the Lord by the prophet1 (Gr. ὑπὸ τοῦ κυρίου διὰ τοῦ προφήτου, Gtr. hupo tou kuriou dia tou prophetou) are all genitive case in the Greek, and really mean "by the Lord through the prophet". The word translated by2 (Gr. διὰ, Gtr. dia) (Acts 3:21) is also used with the genitive case and means "through". The words translated by the prophets3 (Gr. ἐν τοῖς προφήταις, Gtr. en tois prophetais) are dative case in the Greek, and means "by means of the prophets", or "in the prophets". The word translated by4 (Gr. ἐν, Gtr. en) (Hebrews 1:2) is also with the dative case and means either "in" or "by means of". God is therefore speaking through the prophet, who usually precedes the message with "Thus says the LORD", which occurs 413 times in the Old Testament (Exodus 4:22; 2 Samuel 12:7; Isaiah 38:1 etc.). This was an expression sometimes used by false prophets also (1 Kings 22:11; Jeremiah 28:11; Ezekiel 22:28). In the New Testament they say, "Thus says the Holy Spirit" (Acts 21:10).
Often (in Jeremiah (7x), Ezekiel (37x), and Zechariah (2x)) a recorded prophesy is preceded by the words, "The word of the LORD came to me, saying". Sometimes a prophecy may be preceded by an expression similar to, "The spirit of the Lord came upon" (1 Samuel 16:13; 2 Chronicles 20 14; Isaiah 61:1; Ezekiel 11:5).

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