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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [1]

the prediction of future events; it is especially understood of those predictions which are contained in the Holy Scriptures; all of which claim divine inspiration, and by their wonderful fulfilment are proved to have proceeded from God, who only with certainty can know the future. Prophecy is one great branch of the external evidence of the truth of the Scriptures; and the nature and force of this kind of evidence may here be properly pointed out. No argument a priori against the possibility of prophecy can be attempted by any one who believes in the existence and infinitely perfect nature of God. The infidel author of "The Moral Philosopher," indeed, rather insinuates than attempts fully to establish a dilemma with which to perplex those who regard prophecy as one of the proofs of a divine revelation. He thinks that either prophecy must respect events necessary, as depending upon necessary causes, which might be certainly foreknown and predicted; or that, if human actions are free, and effects contingent, the possibility of prophecy must be given up, as it implies foreknowledge, which, if granted, would render them necessary. The first part of this objection might be allowed, were there no predictions to be adduced in favour of a professed revelation, except such as related to events which human experience has taught to be dependent upon some cause, the existence and necessary operation of which are within the compass of human knowledge. But to foretel such events would not be to prophesy, any more than to say that it will be light to-morrow at noon, or that on a certain day and hour next year there will occur an eclipse of the sun or moon, when that event had been previously ascertained by astronomical calculation. If, however, it were allowed that all events depended upon a chain of necessary causes, yet, in a variety of instances, the argument from prophecy would not be at all affected; for the foretelling of necessary results in certain circumstances is beyond human intelligence, because they can only be known to him by whose power those necessary causes on which they depend have been arranged, and who has prescribed the times of their operation. To borrow a case, for the sake of illustration, from the Scriptures, though the claims of their predictions are not now in question; let us allow that such a prophecy as that of Isaiah respecting the taking of Babylon by Cyrus was uttered, as it purports to be, more than a century before Cyrus was born, and that all the actions of Cyrus and his army, and those of the Babylonian monarch and his people, were necessitated; is it to be maintained that the chain of necessitating causes running through more than a century could be traced by a human mind, so as to describe the precise manner in which that fatality would unfold itself, even to the turning of the river, the drunken carousal of the inhabitants, and the neglect of shutting the gates of the city? This being by uniform and universal experience known to be above all human apprehension, would therefore prove that the prediction was made in consequence of a communication from a superior and divine Intelligence. Were events, therefore, subjected to invincible fate and necessity, there might nevertheless be prophecy.

The other branch of the dilemma is founded on the notion that if we allow the moral freedom of human actions, prophecy is impossible, because certain foreknowledge is contrary to that freedom, and fixes and renders the event necessary. To this the reply is, that the objection is founded on a false assumption, the divine foreknowledge having no more influence in effectuating or making certain any event than human foreknowledge in the degree in which it may exist, there being no moral causality at all in knowledge. This lies in the will, which is the determining acting principle in every agent; or, as Dr. Samuel Clarke has expressed it, in answer to another kind of objector, "God's infallible judgment concerning contingent truths does no more alter the nature of the things, and cause them to be necessary, than our judging right at any time concerning a contingent truth makes it cease to be contingent; or than our science of a present truth is any cause of its being either true or present. Here, therefore, lies the fallacy of our author's argument. Because, from God's foreknowing the existence of things depending upon a chain of necessary causes, it follows that the existence of the things must needs be necessary; therefore, from God's judging infallibly concerning things which depend not on necessary but free causes, he concludes that these things also depend not upon free but necessary causes. Contrary, I say, to the supposition in the argument; for it must not be first supposed that things are in their own nature necessary; but from the power of judging infallibly concerning free events, it must be proved that things, otherwise supposed free, will thereby unavoidably become necessary." The whole question lies in this, Is the simple knowledge of an action a necessitating cause of the action? And the answer must be in the negative, as every man's consciousness will assure him. If the causality of influence, either immediate, or by the arrangement of compelling events, be mixed up with this, the ground is shifted; and it is no longer a question which respects simple prescience. ( See Prescience . ) This metaphysical objection having no foundation in truth, the force of the evidence arising from predictions of events, distant, and beyond the power of human sagacity to anticipate, and uttered as authentications of a divine commission, is apparent. "Such predictions, whether in the form of declaration, description, or representation of things future," as Mr. Boyle justly observes, "are supernatural things, and may properly be ranked among miracles." For when, for instance, the events are distant many years or ages from the uttering of the prediction itself, depending on causes not so much as existing when the prophecy was spoken and recorded, and likewise upon various circumstances and a long arbitrary series of things, and the fluctuating uncertainties of human volitions, and especially when they depend not at all upon any external circumstances nor upon any created being, but arise merely from the counsels and appointment of God himself,—such events can be foreknown only by that Being, one of whose attributes is omniscience, and can be foretold by him only to whom the "Father of lights" shall reveal them; so that whoever is manifestly endued with that predictive power must, in that instance, speak and act by divine inspiration, and what he pronounces of that kind must be received as the word of God; nothing more being necessary to assure us of this than credible testimony that such predictions were uttered before the event, or conclusive evidence that the records which contain them are of the antiquity to which they pretend.

The distinction between the prophecies of Scripture and the oracles of Heathenism is marked and essential. In the Heathen oracles we cannot discern any clear and unequivocal tokens of genuine prophecy. They were destitute of dignity and importance, had no connection with each other, tended to no object of general concern, and never looked into times remote from their own. We read only of some few predictions and prognostications, scattered among the writings of poets and philosophers, most of which, besides being very weakly authenticated, appear to have been answers to questions of merely local, personal, and temporary concern, relating to the issue of affairs then actually in hand, and to events speedily to be determined. Far from attempting to form any chain of prophecies, respecting things far distant as to time or place, or matters contrary to human probability, and requiring supernatural, agency to effect them, the Heathen, priests and soothsayers did not even pretend to a systematic and connected plan. They hardly dared, indeed, to assume the prophetic character in its full force, but stood trembling, as it were, on the brink of futurity, conscious of their inability to venture beyond the depths of human conjecture. Hence their predictions became so fleeting, so futile, so uninteresting, that, though they were collected together as worthy of preservation, they soon fell into disrepute and almost total oblivion. ( See Oracles . ) The Scripture prophecies, on the other hand, constitute a series of divine predictions, relating principally to one grand object, of universal importance, the work of man's redemption, and carried on in regular progression through the patriarchal, Jewish, and Christian dispensations, with a harmony and uniformity of design, clearly indicating one and the same divine Author. They speak of the agents to be employed in it, and especially of the great agent, the Redeemer himself; and of those mighty and awful proceedings of Providence as to the nations of the earth, by which judgment and mercy are exercised with reference both to the ordinary principles of moral government, and especially to this restoring economy, to its struggles, its oppositions, and its triumphs. They all meet in Christ, as in their proper centre, and in him only; however many of the single lines, when considered apart, may be imagined to have another direction, and though they may pass through intermediate events. If we look, says Bishop Hurd, into the prophetic writings, we find that prophecy is of a prodigious extent; that it commenced from the fall of man, and reaches to the consummation of all things; that for many ages it was delivered darkly to a few persons, and with large intervals from the date of one prophecy to that of another; but, at length, became more clear, more frequent, and was uniformly carried on in the line of one people, separated from the rest of the world,—among other reasons assigned, for this principally, to be the repository of the divine oracles; that, with some intermission, the spirit of prophecy subsisted among that people to the coming of Christ; that he himself and his Apostles exercised this power in the most conspicuous manner, and left behind them many predictions, recorded in the books of the New Testament, which profess to respect very distant events, and even run out to the end of time, or, in St. John's expression, to that period "when the mystery of God shall be perfected." Farther, beside the extent of this prophetic scheme, the dignity of the Person whom it concerns, deserves our consideration. He is described in terms which excite the most August and magnificent ideas. He is spoken of, indeed, sometimes as being "the seed of the woman," and as "the Son of man;" yet so as being at the same time of more than mortal extraction. He is even represented to us as being superior to men and angels; as far above all principality and power; above all that is accounted great, whether in heaven or in earth; as the word and wisdom of God; as the eternal Son of the Father; as the Heir of all things, by whom he made the worlds; as the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person. We have no words to denote greater ideas than these; the mind of man cannot elevate itself to nobler conceptions. Of such transcendent worth and excellence is that Jesus said to be, to whom all the prophets bear witness! Lastly, the declared purpose for which the Messiah, prefigured by so long a train of prophecy, came into the world, corresponds to all the rest of the representation. It was not to deliver an oppressed nation from civil tyranny, or to erect a great civil empire, that is, to achieve one of those acts which history accounts most heroic. No: it was not a mighty state, a victor people,

Non res Romanae perituraque regna,

[Not the empire of Rome and kingdoms about to perish,] that was worthy to enter into the contemplation of this divine Person. It was another and far sublimer purpose, which he came to accomplish; a purpose, in comparison of which all our policies are poor and little, and all the performances of man as nothing. It was to deliver a world from ruin; to abolish sin and death; to purify and immortalize human nature; and thus, in the most exalted sense of the words, to be the Saviour of men and the blessing of all nations. There is no exaggeration in this account: a spirit of prophecy pervading all time, characterizing one Person of the highest dignity, and proclaiming the accomplishment of one purpose, the most beneficent, the most divine, the imagination itself can project. Such is the Scriptural delineation of that economy which we call prophetic.

The advantage of this species of evidence belongs then exclusively to our revelation. Heathenism never made any clear and well founded pretensions to it. Mohammedanism, though it stands itself as a proof of the truth of Scripture prophecy, is unsupported by a single prediction of its own.

The objection which has been raised to Scripture prophecy, from its supposed obscurity, has no solid foundation. There is, it is true, a prophetic language of symbol and emblem; but it is a language which is definite and not equivocal in its meaning, and as easily mastered as the language of poetry, by attentive persons. This, however, is not always used. The style of the prophecies of Scripture very often differs in nothing from the ordinary style of the Hebrew poets; and, in not a few cases, and those too on which the Christian builds most in the argument, it sinks into the plainness of historical narrative. Some degree of obscurity is essential to prophecy; for the end of it was not to gratify human curiosity, by a detail of future events and circumstances; and too great clearness and speciality might have led to many artful attempts to fulfil the predictions, and so far the evidence of their accomplishment would have been weakened. The two great ends of prophecy are, to excite expectation before the event, and then to confirm the truth by a striking and unequivocal fulfilment; and it is a sufficient answer to the allegation of the obscurity of the prophecies of Scripture, that they have abundantly accomplished those objects, among the most intelligent and investigating, as well as among the simple and unlearned, in all ages. It cannot be denied, for instance, leaving out particular cases which might be given, that by means of these predictions the expectation of the incarnation and appearance of a divine Restorer was kept up among the people to whom they were given, and spread even to the neighbouring nations; that as these prophecies multiplied, the hope became more intense; and that at the time of our Lord's coming, the expectation of the birth of a very extraordinary person prevailed, not only among the Jews, but among other nations. This purpose was then sufficiently answered, and an answer is given to the objection. In like manner prophecy serves as the basis of our hope in things yet to come; in the final triumph of truth and righteousness on earth, the universal establishment of the kingdom of our Lord, and the rewards of eternal life to be bestowed at his second appearing. In these all true Christians agree; and their hope could not have been so uniformly supported in all ages and under all circumstances, had not the prophecies and predictive promises conveyed with sufficient clearness the general knowledge of the good for which they looked, though many of its particulars be unrevealed. The second end of prophecy is, to confirm the truth by the subsequent event. Here the question of the actual fulfilment of Scripture prophecy is involved; and it is no argument against the unequivocal fulfilment of several prophecies, that many have doubted or denied what the believers in revelation have on this subject so strenuously contended for. How few of mankind have read the Scriptures with serious attention, or been at the pains to compare their prophecies with the statements in history. How few, especially of the objectors to the Bible, have read it in this manner! How many of them have confessed unblushingly their un-acquaintance with its contents, or have proved what they have not confessed by the mistakes and misrepresentations into which they have fallen! As for the Jews, the evident dominion of their prejudices, their general averseness to discussion, and the extravagant principles of interpretation they have adopted for many ages, which set all sober criticism at defiance, render nugatory any authority which might be ascribed to their denial of the fulfilment of certain prophecies in the sense adopted by Christians. We may add to this, that among Christian critics themselves there may be much disagreement. Eccentricities and absurdities are found among the learned in every department of knowledge, and much of this waywardness and affectation of singularity has infected interpreters of Scripture. But, after all, there is a truth and reason in every subject which the understandings of the generality of men will apprehend and acknowledge whenever it is fully understood and impartially considered; to this in all such eases the appeal can only be made, and here it may be made with confidence. Instances of the signal fulfilment of numerous prophecies are scattered through various articles in this volume; so that it is not necessary to repeat then here. A few words on the double sense of prophecy may, however, be added.

For want of a right apprehension of the true meaning of this somewhat unfortunate term which has obtained in theology, an objection of another kind has been raised, as though no definite meaning could be assigned to the prophecies of Scripture. Nothing can be more unfounded. The double sense of many prophecies in the Old Testament, says an able writer, has been made a pretext by ill disposed men for representing them as of uncertain meaning, and resembling the ambiguity of the Pagan oracles. But whoever considers the subject with due attention, will perceive how little ground there is for such an accusation. The equivocations of the Heathen oracles manifestly arose from their ignorance of future events, and from their endeavours to conceal that ignorance by such indefinite expressions, as might be equally applicable to two or more events of a contrary description. But the double sense of the Scripture prophecies, far from originating in any doubt or uncertainty, as to the fulfilment of them in either sense, springs from a foreknowledge of their accomplishment in both; whence the prediction is purposely so framed as to include both events, which, so far from being contrary to each other, are typical the one of the other, and are thus connected together by a mutual dependency or relation. This has often been satisfactorily proved, with respect to those prophecies which referred, in their primary sense, to the events of the Old Testament, and, in their farther and more complex signification, to those of the New: and on this double accomplishment of some prophecies is grounded our firm expectation of the completion of others, which remain yet unfulfilled in their secondary sense, but which we justly consider as equally uncertain in there issue as those which are already past. So far, then, from any valid objection lying against the credibility of the Scripture prophecies, from these seeming ambiguities of meaning, we may urge them as additional proofs of their coming from God. For, who but the Being that is infinite in knowledge and in counsel could so construct predictions as to give them a two-fold application, to events distant from, and, to human foresight, unconnected with, each other? What power less than divine could so frame them as to make the accomplishment of them in one instance a solemn pledge and assurance of their completion in another instance, of still higher and more universal importance? Where will the scoffer find any thing like this in the artifices of Heathen oracles, to conceal their ignorance, and to impose on the credulity of mankind? See Oracles .

On this subject it may be observed, by way of general illustration, that the remarkable personages under the old dispensation were sometimes in the description of their characters, and in the events of their lives, the representatives of the future dispensers of evangelical blessings, as Moses and David were unquestionably types of Christ,  Ezekiel 34:23;  Matthew 11:14;  Hebrews 6:20;  Hebrews 7:1-3 . Persons likewise were sometimes descriptive of things, as Sarah and Hagar were allegorical figures of the two covenants,  Galatians 4:22-31;  Romans 9:8-13 . And, on the other hand, things were used to symbolize persons, as the brazen serpent and the paschal lamb were signs of our healing and spotless Redeemer,  Exodus 12:46;  John 3:14;  John 19:36 . And so, lastly, ceremonial appointments and legal circumstances were preordained as significant of Gospel institutions,  1 Corinthians 10:1-11;  Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9, 11;  1 Peter 3:20;  1 Peter 3:22 . Hence it was that many of the descriptions of the prophets had a twofold character; bearing often an immediate reference to present circumstances, and yet being in their nature predictive of future occurrences. What they reported of the type was often in a more signal manner applicable to the thing typified,  Psalms 21:4-6;  Psalms 40:1;  Psalms 40:7-10;  Psalms 41:4; Lamentations 13:1-30;  John 13:18;  Daniel 11:36-37; what they spoke literally of present, was figuratively descriptive of future particulars; and what was applied in a figurative sense to existing persons, was often actually characteristic of their distant archetypes,  Psalms 22:16-18 , &c. Many passages then in the Old Testament, which in their first aspect appear to be historical, are in fact prophetic, and they are so cited in the New Testament, not by way of ordinary accommodation, or casual coincidence, but as intentionally predictive, as having a double sense, a literal and a mystical interpretation,  Hosea 11:1;  Matthew 2:15 .

Beside these historical passages, of which the covert allusions were explained by the interpretation of the Gospel writers, who were enlightened by the Spirit to unfold the mysteries of Scripture, the prophets often uttered positive predictions which in consequence of the correspondence established between the two dispensations, were descriptive of a double event, however they might be themselves ignorant of the full extent of those prophecies which they delivered. For instance, their promises of present success and deliverances were often significant of distant benefits, and secular consolations conveyed assurances of evangelical blessings,  2 Samuel 7:13-14;  Hebrews 1:5 . This their prophecies received completion in a first and secondary view. As being in part signs to excite confidence, they had an immediate accomplishment, but were afterward fulfilled in a more illustrious sense,  1 Kings 13:2-3;  Isaiah 7:14;  Matthew 1:22;  Daniel 9:27;  Daniel 12:7; 1Ma_1:54;  Matthew 24:15; the prophets being inspired, by the suggestions of the Spirit, to use expressions magnificent enough to include the substance in the description of the figure. That many of the prophecies in the Old Testament were direct, and singly and exclusively applicable to, and accomplished in, our Saviour, is certain,  Genesis 49:10; Psalms 42, 45; Isaiah 52, 53;  Daniel 7:13-14;  Micah 5:2;  Zechariah 9:9;  Malachi 3:1 .

It requires much attention to comprehend the full import and extent of this typical dispensation, and the chief obscurities which prevail in the sacred writings are to be attributed to the double character of prophecy. To unravel this is, however, an interesting and instructive study; though an admiration of the spiritual meaning should never lead us to disregard or undervalue the first and evident signification; for many great men have been so dazzled by their discoveries in this mode of explication, as to be hurried into wild and extravagant excess; as is evident from the writings of Origen and Jerom; as also from the Commentaries of Austin, who acknowledges that he had too far indulged in the fancies of an exuberant imagination, declaring that the other parts of Scripture are the best commentaries. The Apostles and the evangelists are, indeed, the best expositors; and where those infallible guides have led the way, we need not hesitate to follow their steps by the light of clear reason and just analogy.

It is this double character of prophecy which occasions those unexpected transitions and sudden interchanges of circumstance so observable in the prophetic books. Hence different predictions are sometimes blended and mixed together; temporal and spiritual deliverances are foretold in one prophecy; and greater and smaller events are combined in one point of view. Hence, likewise, one chain of connected design runs through the whole scheme of prophecy, and a continuation of events successively fulfilling, and successively branching out into new predictions, continued to confirm the faith, and to keep alive the expectations, of the Jews. Hence was it the character of the prophetic spirit to be rapid in its description, and regardless of the order of history; to pass with quick and unexpected celerity from subject to subject, and from period to period. "And we must allow," says Lord Bacon, "for that latitude that is agreeable and familiar to prophecy, which is of the nature of its Author, with whom a thousand years are but as one day." The whole of the great scheme must have been at once present to the divine Mind; but God described its parts in detail to mankind, in such measures and in such proportions, that the connection of every link was obvious, and its relations apparent in every point of view, till the harmony and entire consistency of the plan were displayed to those who witnessed its perfection in the advent of Christ.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [2]

A word in its original import signifies the prediction of future events. It is thus defined by Witsins: "A knowledge and manifestation of secret things, which a man knows not from his own sagacity, nor from the relation of others, but by an extraordinary revelation of God from heaven." In the Old and New Testaments the word is not always confined to the foretelling of future events. In several instances it is of the same import with preaching, and denotes the faculty of illustrating and applying to present practical purposes the doctrines of prior revelation. Thus, in Nehemiah it is said, "Thou hast appointed prophets to preach, " ch. 6: ver 7; and whoever speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort, is by St. Paul called a prophet,  1 Corinthians 14:3 . Hence it was that there were schools of prophets in Israel, where young men were instructed in the truths of religion, and fitted to exhort and comfort the people. It is prophecy, however, according to the first definition given above, we shall here consider. Prophecy (with the power of working miracles) may be considered as the highest evidence that can be given of a supernatural communion with the Deity. Hence, among the professors of almost every religious system, there have been numberless pretenders to the gift of prophecy.

Pagans had their oracles, augurs, and soothsayers; modern idolaters their necronancers and diviners; and the Jews, Christians, and Mahometans, their prophets. The pretensions of Pagans and impostors, have, however, been justly exposed; while the Jewish and Christian prophecies carry with them evident marks of their validity. Hence St. Peter observes, "We have a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto we do well to take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place; for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."  2 Peter 2:19;  2 Peter 2:21 . Scripture prophecy, therefore, hath God for its origin. It did not arise from the genius of the mind, the temperament of the body, the influence of the stars, &c. but from the sovereign will of God. The ways by which the Deity made known his mind were various; such as by dreams, visions, angels, symbolic representations, impulses on the mind, Numb. 12: 6.  Jeremiah 31:26 .  Daniel 8:16-17 . As to the language of prophecy: "It is, " says Mr. Gray, "remarkable for its magnificence. Each prophetic writer is distinguished for peculiar beauties; but their style in general may be characterised as strong, animated, and impressive. Its ornaments are derived not from accumulation of epithet, or laboured harmony; but from the real grandeur of its images, and the majestic force of its expressions.

It is varied with striking propriety, and enlivened with quick but easy transitions. Its sudden bursts of eloquence, its earnest warmth, its affecting exhortations and appeals, affords very interesting proofs of that lively impression, and of that inspired conviction, under which the prophets wrote; and which enable them, among a people not distinguished for genius, to surpass, in every variety of composition, the most admired productions of Pagan antiquity. If the imagery employed by the sacred writers appears sometimes to partake of a coarse and indelicate cast, it must be recollected, that the Eastern manners and languages required the most forcible representations; and that the masculine and indignant spirit of the prophets led them to adopt the most energetic and descriptive expressions. No style is, perhaps, so highly figurative as that of the prophets. Every object of nature and of art which could furnish allusions is explored with industry; every scene of creation, and every page of science, seems to have unfolded its rich varieties to the sacred writers, who, in the spirit of Eastern poetry, delight in every kind of metaphorical embellishment. Thus, by way of illustration, it is obvious to remark, that earthly dignities and powers are symbolized by the celestial bodies; the effects of moral evil are shown under the storms and convulsions of nature; the pollutions of sin are represented by external impurities; and the beneficial influence of righteousness is depicted by the serenity and confidence of peaceful life.

This allegorical language, being founded in ideas universally prevalent, and adhered to with invariable relation and regular analogy, has furnished great ornament and elegance to the sacred writings. Sometimes, however, the inspired penmen drew their allusions from local and temporary sources of metaphor; from the peculiar scenery of their country; from the idolatries of heathen nations; from their own history and circumstances; from the service of their temple, and the ceremonies of their religion; from manners that have faded, and customs that have elapsed. Hence many appropriate beauties have vanished. Many descriptions and many representations, that must have had a solemn importance among the Jews, are now considered, from a change of circumstances, in a degraded point of view. Hence, likewise, here and there a shade of obscurity. In general, however, the language of Scripture, though highly sublime and beautiful, is easy and intelligible to all capacities." 2. Of the use and intent of prophecy. As prophecy is so striking a proof of Deity, and is of so early a date, we may rest assured it was given for wise and important ends. "It cannot be supposed, " says bishop Sherlock, "that God delivered prophecies only to satisfy or employ the curiosity of the inquisitive, or that he gave his Spirit to men merely to enable them to give forth predictions for the amusement and entertainment of the world: there must be some end worthy of the author."

Now, what end could this be, but to keep alive in the minds of those to whom it was given, a sense of religion, and a hope of future deliverance from the curse of the fall through Jesus Christ? "The uses of prophecy, " says Dr. Jortin, "besides gradually opening and unfolding the things relating to the Messiah, and the blessings which by him should be conferred upon mankind, are many, great, and manifest. "

1. It served to secure the belief of a God, and of a providence. "As God is invisible and spiritual, there was cause to fear, that, in the first and ruder ages of the world, when men were busier in cultivating the earth than in cultivating arts and sciences, and in seeking the necessaries of life than in the study of morality, they might forget their Creator and Governor; and, therefore, God maintained amongst them the great article of faith in him, by manifestations of himself; by sending angels to declare his will; by miracles, and by prophecies. "

2. It was intended to give men the profoundest veneration for that amazing knowledge from which nothing was concealed, not even the future actions of creatures, and the things which as yet were not. How could a man hope to hide any counsel, any design or thought, from such a Being? "

3. It contributed to keep up devotion and true religion, the religion of the heart, which consists partly in entertaining just and honourable notions of God, and of his perfections, and which is a more rational and a more acceptable service than rites and ceremonies. "

4. It excited men to rely upon God, and to love him who condescended to hold this mutual intercourse with his creatures, and to permit them to consult him, as one friend asks advice of another. "

5. It was intended to keep the people, to whom God revealed himself, from idolatry; a sin to which the Jews would be inclined, both from the disposition to it which they had acquired in Egypt, and from the contagion of bad example. The people of Israel were strictly forbidden to consult the diviners and the gods of other nations, and to use any enchantments and wicked arts; and that they might have no temptation to it. God permitted them to apply to him and to his prophets, even upon small occasions; and, he raised up amongst them a succession of prophets, to whom they might have recourse for advice and direction. These prophets were reverenced abroad as well as at home, and consulted by foreign princes; and, in times of the captivity, they were honoured by great kings, and advanced to high stations." As it respects us, prophecy connected with miracles affords a considerable evidence of the truth of revelation, as well as of a superintending Providence.

This evidence too, is a growing evidence. "The divine design, uniformly pursued through a series of successive generations, opens with a greater degree of clearness, in proportion to the lapse of time and the number of events. An increase of age is an addition to its strength; and the nearer we approach the point towards which the dispensations of God unvaryingly tend, the more clearly shall we discern the wonderful regularity, consistency, and beauty of this stupendous plan for universal good. Of the great use of prophecies which have been fulfilled, as a direct and strong argument to convert unbelievers to Christianity, and to establish Christians in the faith, we have the most ample proofs. Our Lord himself made very frequent appeals to prophecy as evidence of his divine mission: he referred the Jews to their own Scriptures, as most fully and clearly bearing witness of himself. Upon them he grounded the necessity of his sufferings; upon them he settled the faith of the disciples at Emmaus, and of the apostles at Jerusalem. The same source supplied the eloquence of St. Peter and St. Paul, and the means with which Apollos 'mightily convinced the Jews.'

This was a powerful instrument of persuasion in the succeeding ages of the church, when used by the primitive apologists. Upon this topic were employed the zeal and diligence not only of Justin Martyr, but Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustin. It would never have been so frequently employed, if it had not been well adapted to the desired end; and that it did most completely answer this end, by the conversion of unbelievers, is evident from the accounts of Scripture, and the records of the primitive church. "Prophecy keeps the attention of Christians alive to the truth and importance of their holy religion: to its truth, because prophecy and Christianity had one and the same origin, both being derived from the same fountain of perfection; it keeps them alive to its importance, because prophecy shows that the Supreme Being has vouchsafed, through a long succession of ages, to prepare mankind, by gradual revelations of his will, for future blessings; and has proved, by sending chosen messengers to usher in this final dispensation, that 'the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.' It confirms the general belief of a God, and points out to a careless world the plain traces of his watchful providence. It displays the counsels of inspiration, incessantly directing the course of events, without violating the order of reason and of human action. Such knowledge is too wonderful for us! such power is above our comprehension! But the fact is placed before our eyes.

We see, or may see, a regular train of prophecies tending towards one declared end, accurately fulfilled and fulfilling amidst all the confusion and opposition of this tumultuous world; and we see that these prophecies are clear, both in prediction and accomplishment, in proportion to their importance in fixing our belief in the providence of God, and in the great truths of divine revelation. Thus it appears that the chief design of prophecy is to bear constant witness to religious truth; but though to convince gainsayers of this truth is justly considered as its principal use, it has another very important object, to which it well becomes us to pay attention, from motives of gratitude, as well as from fear of incurring the blame which Scripture invariably imputes to those who neglect to take advantage of the light afforded them. It is designed to protect believers in the word of God from the dangers arising from the prevalent corruptions, errors, and vices of the age in which they live. The due consideration of prophecy will administer consolation amidst present distress, and enliven faith and elevate hope, whilst passing through those dark depressing scenes, which, without this gracious aid, might lead through the intricacies of doubt to the gloom of despair." Objections, however, have been raised against the prophecies from their obscurity.

But to this it is answered, that they have often a first, or partial, and an ultimate completion, of which the former may be generally considered as an earnest of the latter. It is principally this double sense of prophecy which renders it obscure; for though the predictions of the prophets were sometimes positive and exactly descriptive, and delivered with an accurate and definite designation of names and times, prophecy was not generally designed to be clear before its accomplishment. It is, however, always sufficiently exact in its descriptions to authenticate its pretensions to a divine authority; to produce, when it comes to pass, an acknowledgment of its unerring certainty; and to demonstrate the wisdom and power of God. As Bishop Newton observes, prophecies are the only species of writing which are designed more for the instruction of future ages than of the times wherein they are written. In this respect, as the world groweth older, it groweth wiser. Time, that detracts something from the evidence of other writers, is still adding something to the credit and authority of the prophets. Future ages will comprehend more than the present, as the present understands more than the past; and the perfect accomplishment will produce a perfect knowledge of all the prophecies. 3. Of the fulfilment of prophecy.

Our limits will not permit us to give a copious account of the various prophecies which have been remarkably fulfilled; but whoever has examined profane history with any degree of attention, and compared it with the predictions of Scripture, must, if he be not blinded by prejudice, and hardened by infidelity, be convinced of the truth of prophecy by its exact accomplishment. It is in vain to say that these prophecies were delivered since the events have taken place; for we see the prophecies, the latest whereof were delivered about 1700 years ago, and some of them above 3000 years ago, fulfilling at this very time; and cities, and countries, and kingdoms, in the very same condition, and all brought about in the very same manner, and with the very same circumstances, as the prophets had foretold. "We see, " says Bishop Newton, "the descendants of Shem and Japheth, ruling and enlarged in Asia and Europe, and perhaps in America, and 'the curse of servitude, ' still attending the wretched descendants of Ham in Africa. We see the posterity of Ishmael, 'multiplied exceedingly, ' and become 'a great nation, ' in the Arabians; yet living like 'wild men, ' and shifting from place to place in the wilderness; 'their hand against every man, and every man's hand against them;' and still dwelling an independent and free people, 'in the presence of all their brethren, ' and in the presence of all their enemies. We see the family of Esau totally extinct, and that of Jacob subsisting at this day; 'the septre departed from Judah, ' and the people living no where in authority, every where in subjection; the Jews still dwelling alone among the nations, while 'the remembrance of Amalek is utterly put out from under heaven.'

We see the Jews severely punished for their infidelity and disobedience to their great prophet like unto Moses: 'plucked from off their own land, and removed into all the kingdoms of the earth; oppressed and spoiled evermore;' and made 'a proverb and a by-word among all nations.' We see 'Ephraim so broken as to be no more a people, ' while the whole nation is comprehended under the name of Judah; the Jews wonderfully preserved as a distinct people, while their great conquerors are everywhere destroyed; their land lying desolate, and themselves cut off from being the people of God, while the Gentiles are advanced in their room. We see Nineveh so completely destroyed, that the place thereof is not and cannot be known; Babylon made 'a desolation for ever, a possession for the bittern, and pools of water;' Tyre become 'like the top of a rock, a place for fishers to spread their nets upon;' and Egypt, 'a base kingdom, the basest of the kingdoms, ' and still tributary and subject to strangers. We see, of the four great empires of the world, the fourth and last, which was greater and more powerful than any of the former, divided in the western part thereof into ten lesser kingdoms; and among them a power 'with a triple crown differs from the first, ' with 'a mouth speaking very great things, ' and with 'a look more stout than his fellows, speaking great words against the Most High, wearing out the saints of the Most High, wearing out the saints of the Most High, and changing times and laws.'

We see a power 'cast down the truth to the ground, and prosper, and practise, and destroy the holy people, not regarding the God of his fathers, nor the desire of wives, but honouring Mahuzzim, ' gods-protectors, or saints-protectors, 'and causing' the priests of Mahuzzim 'to rule over many, and to divide the land for gain.' We see the Turks 'stretching forth their hand over the countries, ' and particularly 'over the land of Egypt, the Lybians at their steps, ' and the Arabians still 'escaping out of their hand.' We see the Jews 'led away captive into all nations, and Jerusalem trodden down of the Gentiles, ' and likely to continue so 'until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled, ' as the Jews are by a constant miracle preserved a distinct people for the completion of other prophecies relating to them. We see one 'who opposeth and exalteth himself' above all laws, divine and human, 'sitting as God in the church of God, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness.' We see a great apostacy in the Christian church, which consists chiefly in the worship of demons, angels, or departed saints, and is promoted 'through the hypocrisy of liars, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats. We see the seven churches of Asia lying in the same forlorn and desolate condition that the angel had signified to St. John, their 'candlestick returned into mosques, their worship into superstition.

In short, we see the characters of 'the beast and the false prophet, ' and 'the whore of Babylon, ' now exemplified in every particular, and in a city that is seated 'upon sever mountains;' so that, if the bishop of Rome had set for his picture, a greater resemblance and likeness could not have been drawn. "for these things we have the attestation of past, and the experience of present times; and we cannot well be deceived, if we will only believe our own eyes and observation. We actually see the completion of many of the prophecies in the state of men and things around us; and we have the prophecies themselves recorded in books, which books have been read in public assemblies these 1700 or 2000 years, have been dispersed into several countries, have been translated into several languages, and quoted and commented upon by different nations, so that there is no room to suspect so much as a possibility of forgery or illusion." 4. Rules for understanding the prophecies. In order to understand the prophecies, and to form a right judgment of the argument for the truth of Christianity, we must not consider them singly and apart, but as a grand whole, or a chain reaching through several thousand years, yet manifestly subservient to one and the same end. This end is no other than the establishment of the universal empire of truth and righteousness under the dominion of Jesus Christ. We are not, indeed, to suppose that each of the prophecies recorded in the Old Testament expres

sly points out, and clearly characterized Jesus Christ; yet, taken as a whole this grand system refers to him; for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. "

All the revolutions of divine providence have him for their scope and end. Is an empire, or kingdom erected? that empire, or kingdom is erected with a view, directly or indirectly, to the kingdom of the Messiah. Is an empire, or kingdom, subverted or overthrown? that empire, or kingdom, is overthrown in subserviency to the glory of his kingdom and empire, which shall know neither bounds nor end, but whose limits shall be no other than the days of eternity. Jesus Christ, then, is the only person that ever existed in whom all the prophecies meet as in a centre." In order, therefore, to oppose error and confront the infidel, we must study the prophecies not as independent of each other, but as connected; for " the argument from prophecy, " says Bishop Hurd, "is not to be formed from the consideration of single prophecies, but from all the prophecies taken together, and considered as making one system; in which, from the mutual dependence and connection of its parts, preceding prophecies prepare and illustrate those which follow; and these, again, reflect light on the foregoing: just as in any philosophical system, that which shows the solidity of it is the harmony and correspondence of the whole, not the application of it in particular instances. "

Hence, though the evidence be but small from the completion of any one prophecy taken separately, yet that evidence, being always something, the amount of the whole evidence resulting from a great number of prophecies, all relative to the same design, may be considerable; like many scattered rays, which, though each be weak in itself, yet, concentrated into one point, shall form a strong light, and strike the sense very powerfully. Still more; this evidence is not merely a growing evidence, but is indeed multiplied upon us, from the number of reflected lights which the several component parts of such a system reciprocally throw upon each; till, at length, the conviction rises unto a high degree of moral certainty." Farther, in order to understand the prophecies, we must endeavour to find out the true subject of prophecy; that is, precisely what the prophets speak of, and the characters that are applied to that subject. The literal sense should be always kept in view, and a knowledge of oriental customs attended. The beginning and end of the prophetic sermons must be carefully observed.

The time, as near as possible, of the prediction, should be ascertained. An acquaintance with the method of salvation by Christ will greatly assist us in this work. The mind must be unprejudiced, and we should be well acquainted with the Scriptures at large. These rules, with dependence on the divine teaching, will assist us in understanding the prophecies.

See Bishop Newton's Dissertations on the Prophecies; Bishop Sherlock's Use and Intent of Prophecy; Bishop Hurd's Sermons on the Prophecies; Sir Isaac Newton's Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse; Gray's Key to the Old Testament; Simpson's Key to the Prophecies; Illustrations of Prophecy; Vitringa's Typhus Doctrine Propheticae; Gill on the Prophets; Etrick's second Exodus, or Remarks on the Prophecies of the Last Times; Kett's History the Interpreter of Prophecy.

See also the works of Mede, Smith, Halifax, Apthorp, and Faber, on the subject.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [3]

Prophecy. Prophecy is not only the predicting of future events: it included the larger office of receiving and communicating the will and purposes of God. So that we find in Scripture prophecy instructions, warnings, rebukes, as largely as predictions of things to come. And men are termed prophets, Abraham for example,  Genesis 20:7, of whom it is nowhere recorded that they uttered a single prophecy in the sense of foretelling future events. Christ, moreover, in whom the promise of  Deuteronomy 18:15-19 was to have its ultimate and complete fulfilment, and who was to be the great prophet of the church, performed that office, not so much by many predictions as by teaching all that it was needful the world should know. The way, too, in which prophecy is spoken of in the apostolic writings goes to establish the same view. It is described as touching the heart and conscience, convicting, instructing, edifying, comforting.  1 Corinthians 14:1;  1 Corinthians 14:3;  1 Corinthians 14:24-25. The heathen had little conception of prophecy in this its largest and most excellent sense: they deemed it but an inexplicable knowledge of futurity. What, then, are the characteristics of the 16 prophets thus called and commissioned and intrusted with the messages of God to his people? 1. They were the national poets of Judea. 2. They were annalists and historians. A great portion of the prophecies of Isaiah, of Jeremiah, of Daniel, of Jonah, of Haggai, is direct or indirect history. 3. They were preachers of morals and of spiritual religion. The system of morals put forward by the prophets, though not higher or purer than that of the law, is more plainly declared, and with greater, because now more needed, vehemence of diction. 4. But the prophets were something more than national poets and annalists, preachers of patriotism, moral teachers, exponents of the law, pastors, and politicians. Their most essential characteristic is that they were instruments of revealing God's will to man, as in other ways, so specially by predicting future events, and, in particular, by foretelling the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ and the redemption effected by Mm. We have a series of prophecies which are so applicable to the person and earthly life of Jesus Christ as to be thereby shown to have been designed to apply to him. And if they were designed to apply to him, prophetical prediction is proved. The weight of prophecy as an evidence of the truth of the religion of the Bible can hardly be overestimated. It stands alone. No other claim to supernatural foreknowledge can be put in comparison with it. And no petty objection to this or that detail, no fancied discovery that here or there fulfilment has not answered to prediction, can be admitted to shake such evidence of such a comprehensive character. The supposed chronological arrangement of the prophecies is as follows:


































Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [4]

Prophet, Prophecy

Christ is the great prophet of his church. John calls him, and very properly so, the Lord God of the prophets, ( Revelation 22:6) And the apostle Paul draws a line of everlasting distinction between him and all his servants when, in the opening of his Epistle to the Hebrews, he saith, "God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, and by whom he made the world?" ( Hebrews 1:1-2)

Concerning the Spirit of prophecy, the Holy Ghost hath taught the church that prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." ( 2 Peter 1:21) A plain proof of the agency of the Holy Ghost in the old church, as hath been manifested in a more open display, since the ascension of Christ, under the new. But between Jesus and his servants an everlasting difference marks their different characters as prophets. The servants of the Lord who ministered to the church in his name as prophets, had the gifts and anointings of the Holy Ghost; but this, it should seem, not always, but as occasion required. Hence we read that the Spirit of the Lord came upon them; to every one was given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. But to Christ himself the anointings were always. "He, saith John, whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God, for God giveth not to the Spirit by measure unto him: in him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." The influences of the Holy Ghost were never in any mere man, yea, even the highest prophet, but as water in a vessel; but in Christ, he himself was the fountain, in whom was all fulness. So that between the highest servant and the master there was this everlasting and essential difference. Moses, the man of God, of whom we are told, "there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom Jehovah knew face to face," ( Deuteronomy 34:10) yet of this great man the Holy Ghost tells the church by Paul, though "he was faithful in all the Lord's house as a servant"—yet of Christ he bears witness that he was "as a Son over his own house." ( Hebrews 3:1-6) And so again of John the Baptist, who came in the Spirit and power of Elias, and by the lip of truth itself was declared to be "the greatest prophet born among women;" yet when compared to Christ, his Lord, he was but a voice, which witnessed to Jesus and then died away, the "very latchet of whose shoes he was not worthy to stoop down and unloose." ( Matthew 11:11;  John 1:23-27)

Concerning the prophets of the Old Testament, they were sometimes called seers; but before the drays of Samuel we do not meet with the name. (See  1 Samuel 9:9) Hence afterwards we read of Gad, David's seer,  1 Chronicles 21:9. So again Heman, the king's seer,  1 Chronicles 25:5. The difference, it should seem, between the prophet and the seer lay in this, the prophets were inspired persons, to predict to the church the will of JEHOVAH either by word of mouth, or writing; the seer committed to writing the records of the church. Hence we read concerning the acts of Manasseh, that they were written among the sayings of the Seers, ( 2 Chronicles 33:19)

It were unnecessary to remark, what every reader of the Bible is supposed to know, that we have recorded, from the grace of God the Holy Spirit, the writings of four of what, by way of distinction, are called the greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; and the Writings of the twelve of lesser prophets, as they are named, Hoses, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. I do not apprehend that these distinctions of greater and lesser prophets is given to them from the most distant idea that the writings of the lesser prophets are less important than those of the greater, but wholly on account of their bulk. All are alike given by inspiration of God, and all alike give witness to Jesus; for "the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy." ( Revelation 19:10)

I have elsewhere, in my Poor Man's Commentary on the Bible, when giving a statement of the order of the books of Scripture, marked down (and I hope with tolerable accuracy.) the particular date in which each of those holy men of old ministered in the church. I rather, therefore, refer to that statement, which the reader will find immediately after the title-page and preface, than swell the balk of these sheets with reciting it again. It will be sufficient in this place to observe, that all these servants of God ministered in their day and generation to one and the same cause, namely, to bring forward the church's attention to the coming of Christ; and when the Holy Ghost was pleased to suspend their ministry, it was only done by way of causing the minds of the faithful to pause over their sacred records, and to wait by faith and hope to behold the fulfilment of their prophecies in the advent of Jesus. From the close of Malachi's prophecy to the opening of the mouth of Zacharias, ( Luke 1:67) there passed an intervening period of near three hundred and fifty years; but this dark season only indicated a brighter day that was coming on. The evening of the prophets only testified the approach of the morning of the evangelists. The day-dawn and the day-star were hastening to arise, when Jesus the Son of Righteousness, should appear, to go down no more, but to be the everlasting light of his people, their God, and their glory!

Easton's Bible Dictionary [5]

The great prediction which runs like a golden thread through the whole contents of the Old Testament is that regarding the coming and work of the Messiah; and the great use of prophecy was to perpetuate faith in his coming, and to prepare the world for that event. But there are many subordinate and intermediate prophecies also which hold an important place in the great chain of events which illustrate the sovereignty and all-wise overruling providence of God.

Then there are many prophecies regarding the Jewish nation, its founder Abraham ( Genesis 12:1-3;  13:16;  15:5;  17:2,4-6 , etc.), and his posterity, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants (12:7; 13:14,15,17; 15:18-21;  Exodus 3:8,17 ), which have all been fulfilled. The twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy contains a series of predictions which are even now in the present day being fulfilled. In the writings of the prophets ( Isaiah 2:18-21 ), ( Jeremiah 27:3-7;  29:11-14 ), ( Ezekiel 5:12;  8 ), Daniel  Daniel 9:26,27 ), ( Hosea 9:17 ), there are also many prophecies regarding the events which were to befall that people.

There is in like manner a large number of prophecies relating to those nations with which the Jews came into contact, as Tyre ( Ezekiel 26:3-5,14-21 ), Egypt ( Ezekiel 29:10,15;  30:6,12,13 ), Ethiopia ( Nahum 3:8-10 ), Nineveh ( Nahum 1:10;  2:8-13;  3:17-19 ), Babylon ( Isaiah 13:4;  Jeremiah 51:7;  Isaiah 44:27;  Jeremiah 50:38;  51:36,39,57 ), the land of the Philistines ( Jeremiah 47:4-7;  Ezekiel 25:15-17;  Amos 1:6-8;  Zephaniah 2:4-7;  Zechariah 9:5-8 ), and of the four great monarchies ( Daniel 2:39,40;  7:17-24;  8:9 ).

But the great body of Old Testament prophecy relates directly to the advent of the Messiah, beginning with  Genesis 3:15 , the first great promise, and extending in ever-increasing fulness and clearness all through to the very close of the canon. The Messianic prophecies are too numerous to be quoted. "To him gave all the prophets witness." (Compare  Micah 5:2;  Haggai 2:6-9;  Isaiah 7:14;  9:6,7;  11:1,2;  53;  60:10,13;  Psalm 16:11;  68:18 .)

Many predictions also were delivered by Jesus and his apostles. Those of Christ were very numerous. (Compare  Matthew 10:23:24;;  11:23;  19:28;  21:43,44;  24;  25:31-46;  26:17-35,46,64;  Mark 9:1;  10:30;  13;  11:1-6,14;  14:12-31,42,62;  16:17 , etc.)

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [6]

The foretelling of future events, by inspiration from God. It is very different from a sagacious and happy conjecture as to futurity, and from a vague and equivocal oracle, without any certain meaning. A true prophecy can come only from God; and is the highest proof of the divine origin of the message of which it is a part. A true prophecy may be known by these marks; being announced at a suitable time before the event it foretells; having a particular and exact agreement with that event; being such as no human sagacity or foresight could produce; and being delivered by one claiming to be under the inspiration of the Almighty. Many of the prophecies of Scripture foretold events ages before they occurredevents of which there was then no apparent probability, and the occurrence of which depended on innumerable contingencies, involving the history of things and the volitions of persons not then in existence; and yet these predictions were fulfilled at the time and place and in the manner prophesied. Such were the predictions respecting the coming and crucifixion of the Messiah, the dispersion and preservation of the Jews, etc.

The Scripture prophecies are a scheme of vast extent, the very earliest predictions reaching down to the end of the world's history a scheme gradually and harmoniously developed from age to age, and by many different persons, some of them not fully apprehending, and "searching diligently what the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify,"  1 Peter 1:11 , the whole manifestly the work of Jehovah, and marvelous in our eyes. A degree of obscurity rests on the prophetic writings, which patient and prayerful study alone can dispel; while those that are yet unfulfilled must await the coming of the events, which will make all at length clear. Many predictions relating primarily to events and deliverance's near at hand, were also designed of God as sure prophecies of yet more illustrious events in the future. For example, the general subject of the predictions in  Matthew 24:1-51 is the coming of Christ, to judge his foes and deliver his friends. In penning a sketch of this subject, Matthew imitates a painter depicting from an eminence the landscape before him: the tower of the village church in the near foreground, and the mountain peak in the dim and remote horizon, rise side by side on his canvas. So in painting the coming of Christ, Matthew sketches first some features of his coming in the destruction of Jerusalem to occur within forty years, and in the next verse some distinctive features of his second coming at the end of the world; yet both belong to the same general view. Respecting the New Testament phrase, "This was done that it might be fulfilled," etc., see Fulfilled For other meanings of "prophecy," see Prophets

King James Dictionary [7]

PROPH'ECY, n. Gr. to foretell, before and to tell. This ought to be written prophesy.

1. A foretelling prediction a declaration of something to come. As God only knows future events with certainty, no being but God or some person informed by him, can utter a real prophecy. The prophecies recorded in Scripture, when fulfilled, afford most convincing evidence of the divine original of the Scriptures, as those who uttered the prophecies could not have foreknown the events predicted without supernatural instruction.  2 Peter 1 2. In Scripture, a book of prophecies a history as the prophecy of Ahijah.  2 Chronicles 9 . 3. Preaching public interpretation of Scripture exhortation or instruction.  Proverbs 31

Webster's Dictionary [8]

(1): ( n.) A declaration of something to come; a foretelling; a prediction; esp., an inspired foretelling.

(2): ( n.) A book of prophecies; a history; as, the prophecy of Ahijah.

(3): ( n.) Public interpretation of Scripture; preaching; exhortation or instruction.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [9]

Under this head we propose to treat of certain general aspects of the subject of permanent interest, reserving for the head of PROPHET what relates more personally to the organs or media of true prophecy, as found in the Bible. In doing so we combine the Biblical elements with the best results of modern criticism and discussion.

I. Design Of Prophecy. In this respect we would define prophecy as "God's communication to the Church, to be her light and comfort in time of trouble and perplexity." Vitringa defines it as "a prediction of some contingent circumstance or event in the future received by immediate or direct revelation." Dr. Pye Smith speaks of it "as a declaration made by a creature under the inspiration and commission of the omniscient God relating to an event or series of events, which have not taken place at the time the prophecy is uttered, and which could not have been certainly foreknown by any science or wisdom of man." Other writers say, "Prophecy is nothing but the history of events before they come to pass." Dean Magee dissents from this popular but erroneous view. In a lecture on the uses of prophecy he defines a prophet as "the religious teacher of his age, whose aim is the religious education of those whom he addresses." To have received a call and message direct from God, and to deliver it, is the essence of prophetism. The Jewish lawgiver in delivering moral and ceremonial precepts received from God, and our blessed Lord in the Sermon on the Mount, were prophets just as much as when they predicted the future of Israel (M'Caul, Aids to Faith). As a reaction from the general body of writers on prophecy, who exalt the predictive and neglect the moral element of God's communication to man, there have arisen in Germany, and to some extent in our own land, writers who speak exclusively of the moral stream of light flowing through prophecy, and deny altogether its predictive character. Both errors will be avoided by bearing in mind that the word of prophecy was profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction, to the first recipients of the message, as well as for succeeding ages.

The usual view of prophecy as anticipated history virtually excludes from the roll the great Prophet who was its theme and author, Moses his distinguished prototype, John the Baptist his eminent forerunner, Elijah, Samuel, under the old covenant, as well as the apostles and prophets under the new. According to this view, prophecy is virtually limited to what the Spirit saith unto the churches in the four hundred years between Hosea and Malachi. and by the beloved John, the writer of the Apocalypse. But if we agree to regard the prophet as the forthteller, possessing the munus praedicandi rather than the foreteller, possessing only the munus praedicendi we see at once how the very highest place is assigned to our Lord and to Moses; how John the Baptist was more than a prophet, as he stood within the actual dawn of the day of Christ, and as a religious teacher did really more for the religious training of those whom he addressed than any of the prophets of the old covenant. We see, too, how naturally and clearly the earlier prophets were subordinate to Moses, so that the test of their commission was conformity to the lawgiver; and how appropriately the term is applied to the apostles of our Lord and Saviour, as charged by Christ with the whole ordering and establishing of the Church in its institutions, government, and progress. In fact, students of prophecy perpetually use the word in a non-natural sense. Hence the variety and discordancy of their interpretations. Our attention must be rigidly fixed on the natural and proper sense of the terms, if we would gain any satisfactory results.

In all communications from God to man two elements may be traced, the moral and the predictive. Neither element must be pressed or insisted on, so as to depress and exclude the other. Yet the moral element is the fundamental, to which the predictive is always subsidiary. The moral element occupies the highest place in the communications made by our Lord, by Moses, by the apostles; the predictive element prevails in those who had the more ordinary gifts, as all their announcements appealed to the revelations made by Moses and by Christ. The testimony of Jesus as the author, and the testimony borne to Jesus as the theme, is the spirit of prophecy. According to this view prophecy is always didactic; the moral element is fundamental, the predictive is entirely subsidiary. All who bore testimony to Jesus before his incarnation were preachers of righteousness, and all who testify that Jesus is come in the flesh exercise the prophetical function.

II. Value Of Prophecy As Evidence Of The Truth Of Revelation. Davison , in his Discourses On Prophecy, fixes a "Criterion of Prophecy," and in accordance with it he describes "the condition is which would confer cogency of evidence on single examples of prophecy" in the following manner: first, "the known promulgation of the prophecy prior to the event; secondly, the clear and palpable fulfilment of it; lastly, the nature of the event itself if, when the prediction of it was given, it lay remote from human view, and was such as could not be foreseen by any supposable effort of reason, or be deduced upon principles of calculation derived from probability and experience" ( Disc. 8:378). Applying his test, the learned writer finds that the establishment of the Christian religion and the person of its Founder were predicted when neither reason nor experience could have anticipated them; and that the predictions respecting them have been clearly fulfilled in history. Here, then, is an adequate proof of an inspired prescience in the prophets who predicted these things. He applies his test to the prophecies recorded of the Jewish people, and their actual state, to the prediction of the great apostasy and to the actual state of corrupted Christianity, and finally to the prophecies relating to Nineveh, Babylon, Tyre, Egypt, the Ishmaelites, and the Four Empires, and to the events which have befallen them; and in each of these cases he finds proof of the existence of the predictive element in the prophets.

In the book of Kings we find Micaiah, the son of Imlah, uttering a challenge, by which his predictive powers were to be judged. He had pronounced, by the word of the Lord, that Ahab should fall at RamothGilead. Ahab, in return, commanded him to be shut up in prison until he came back in peace. "And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace" (that is, if the event do not verify my words), "the Lord hath not spoken by me" (that is, I am no prophet capable of predicting the future) ( 1 Kings 22:28). The test is sound as a negative test, and so it is laid down in the law ( Deuteronomy 18:22); but as a positive test it would not be sufficient. Ahab's death at Ramoth-Gilead did not prove Micaiah's predictive powers, though his escape would have disproved them. But here we must notice a very important difference between single prophecies and a series of prophecy. The fulfilment of a single prophecy does not prove the prophetical power of the prophet, but the fulfillment of a long series of prophecies by a series or number of events does in itself constitute a proof that the prophecies were intended to predict the events, and, consequently, that predictive power resided in the prophet or prophets. We may see this in the so far parallel cases of satirical writings.

We know for certain that Aristophanes refers to Cleon, Pericles, Nicias (and we should be equally sure of it were his satire more concealed than it is), simply from the fact of a number of satirical hits converging together on the object of his satire. One, two, or three strokes might be intended for more persons than one, but the addition of each stroke makes the aim more apparent; and when we have a sufficient number before us, we can no longer possibly doubt his design. The same may be said of fables, and still more of allegories. The fact of a complicated lock being opened by a key shows that the lock and key were meant for each other. Now the Messianic picture drawn by the prophets as a body contains at least as many traits as these: That salvation should come through the family of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David; that at the time of the final absorption of the Jewish power, Shiloh (the tranquilizer) should gather the nations under his rule; that there should be a great Prophet, typified by Moses; a King descended from David; a Priest forever, typified by Melchizedek; that there should be born into the world a child to be called Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace; that there should be a Righteous Servant of God on whom the Lord would lay the iniquity of all; that Messiah the Prince should be cut off, but not for himself; that an everlasting kingdom should be given by the Ancient of Days to one like the Son of man. It seems impossible to harmonize so many apparent contradictions. Nevertheless, it is an undoubted fact that at the time seemingly pointed out by one or more of these predictions there was born into the world a child of the house of David, and therefore of the family of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah, who claimed to be the object of these and other predictions; who is acknowledged as Prophet, Priest, and King, as Mighty God and yet as God's Righteous Servant who bears the iniquity of all; who was cut off, and whose death is acknowledged not to have been for his own, but for others' good: who has instituted a spiritual kingdom on earth, which kingdom is of a nature to continue forever, if there is any continuance beyond this world and this life; and in whose doings and sufferings on earth a number of specific predictions were minutely fulfilled. Then we may say that we have here a series of prophecies which are so applicable to the person and earthly life of Jesus Christ as to be thereby shown to have been designed to apply to him. If they were designed to apply to him, prophetical prediction is proved.

Objections have been urged:

(a.) Vagueness. It has been said that the prophecies are too darkly and vaguely worded to be proved predictive by the events which they are alleged to foretell. This objection is stated with clearness and force by Ammon. He says, "Such simple sentences as the following: Israel has not to expect a king, but a teacher; this teacher will be born at Bethlehem during the reign of Herod; he will lay down his life under Tiberius, in attestation of the truth of his religion; through the destruction of Jerusalem, and the complete extinction of the Jewish state, he will spread his doctrine in every quarter of the world-a few sentences like these, expressed in plain historical prose, would not only bear the character of true predictions, but, when once their genuineness was proved, they would be of incomparably greater worth to us than all the oracles of the Old Test. taken together" (Christology, p. 12). But to this it might be answered, and has been in effect answered by Hengstenberg:

1. That God never forces men to believe, but that there is such a union of definiteness and vagueness in the prophecies as to enable those who are willing to discover the truth, while the willfully blind are not forcibly constrained to see it.

2. That, had the prophecies been couched in the form of direct declarations, their fulfilment would have thereby been rendered impossible, or, at least, capable of frustration.

3. That the effect of prophecy (e.g. with reference to the time of the Messiah's coming) would have been far less beneficial to believers, as being less adapted to keep them in a state of constant expectation.

4. That the Messiah of Revelation could not be so clearly portrayed in his varied character as God and Man, as Prophet, Priest, and King, if he had been the mere "teacher" which is all that Ammon acknowledges him to be.

5. That the state of the prophets, at the time of receiving the divine revelation, was (as we shall presently show) such as necessarily to make their predictions fragmentary, figurative, and abstracted from the relations of time.

6. That some portions of the prophecies were intended to be of double application, and some portions to be understood only on their fulfilment (comp.  John 14:29;  Ezekiel 36:33).

(b.) Obscurity Of A Part Or Parts Of A Prophecy Otherwise Clear. The objection drawn from "the unintelligibleness of one part of a prophecy, as invalidating the proof of foresight arising from the evident completion of those parts which are understood" is akin to that drawn from the vagueness of the whole of it. It may be answered with the same arguments, to which we may add the consideration urged by Butler that it is, for the argument in hand, the same as if the parts not understood were written in cipher, or not written at all: "Suppose a writing, partly in cipher and partly in plain words at length; and that in the part one understood there appeared mention of several known facts it would never come into any man's thought to imagine that, if he understood the whole, perhaps he might find that these facts were not in reality known by the writer" (Analogy, pt. 2, ch. 7). Furthermore, if it be true that prophecies relating to the first coming of the Messiah refer also to his second coming, some part of those prophecies must necessarily be as yet not fully understood.

It would appear from these considerations that Davison's second "condition," above quoted, "the clear and palpable fulfilment of the prophecy," should be so far modified as to take into account the necessary difficulty. more or less great, in recognizing the fulfilment of a prophecy which results from the necessary vagueness and obscurity of the prophecy itself.

(c.) Application Of' The Several Prophecies To A Mor e Immediate Subject. It has been the task of many Biblical critics to examine the different passages which are alleged to be predictions of Christ, and to show that they were delivered in reference to some person or thing contemporary with, or shortly subsequent to, the time of the writer. The conclusion is then drawn, sometimes scornfully, sometimes as an inference not to be resisted, that the passages in question have nothing to do with the Messiah. We have here to distinguish carefully between the conclusion proved and the corollary drawn from it. Let it be granted that it may be proved of all the predictions of the Messiah (it certainly may be proved of many) that they primarily apply to some historical and present fact: in that case a certain law, under which God vouchsafes his prophetical revelations, is discovered; but there is no semblance of disproof of the further Messianic interpretation of the passages under consideration. That some such law does exist has been argued at length by Mr. Davison. He believes, however, that "it obtains only in some of the more distinguished monuments of prophecy," such as the prophecies founded on, and having primary reference to, the kingdom of David, the restoration of the Jews, the destruction of Jerusalem (On Prophecy, disc. 5). Dr. Lee thinks that Davison "exhibits too great reserve in the application of this important principle" (On Inspiration, lect. 4). He considers it to be of universal application; and upon it he founds the doctrine of the "double sense of prophecy," according to which a prediction is fulfilled in two or even more distinct but analogous subjects: first in type, then in antitype; and after that perhaps awaits a still further and more complete fulfilment. This view of the fulfilment of prophecy seems necessary for the explanation of our Lord's prediction on the Mount, relating at once to the fall of Jerusalem and to the end of the Christian dispensation. It is on this principle that Pearson writes: "Many are the prophecies which concern him, many the promises which are made of him; but yet some of them very obscure... Wheresoever he is spoken of as the anointed, it may well be first understood of some other person; except one place in Daniel, where Messiah is foretold to be cut off'" (On the Creed, art. 2).

Whether it can be proved by an investigation of Holy Scripture that this relation between divine announcements for the future and certain present events does so exist as to constitute a law, and whether, if the law is proved to exist, it is of universal or only of partial application, we do not pause to determine. But it is manifest that the existence of a primary sense cannot exclude the possibility of a secondary sense. The question, therefore, really is, whether the prophecies are applicable to Christ: if they are so applicable, the previous application of each of them to some historical event would not invalidate the proof that they were designed as a whole to find their full completion in him. Nay, even if it could be shown that the prophets had in their thoughts nothing beyond the primary completion of their words (a thing which we at present leave undetermined), no inference could thence be drawn against their secondary application; for such an inference would assume what no believer in inspiration will grant viz. that the prophets are the sole authors of their prophecies. The rule Nihil in scripto quod non pius in scriptore is sound; but the question is, who is to be regarded as the true author of the prophecies-the human instrument or the divine author? See Hengstenberg, Christology, appendix 6:p. 433. (See Double Sense).

(d.) Miraculous Character. It is probable that this lies at the root of the many and various efforts made to disprove the predictive power of the prophets. There is no question that if miracles are, either physically or morally, impossible, then prediction is impossible; and those passages which have ever been accounted predictive must be explained away as being vague, as being obscure, as applying only to something in the writer's lifetime, or on some other hypothesis. This is only saying that belief in prediction is not compatible with the theory of atheism, or with the philosophy which rejects the overruling providence of a Personal God. See Maitland, Argument from Prophecy (Lond. 1877); Row, Bampton Lecture for 1877, p. 219. (See Miracle).

For a copious list of treatises on Scripture prophecy in general, see Darling, Cyclopoedia Bibliographica, col. 1785 sq.; and Malcolm, Theological Index, s.v. Comp. Kurtz, Gesch. d. Alten Bundes, ii, 513 sq.; Hardwick, Christ and other Masters, vol. i, ch. 3, esp. p. 135 sq.; Smith, (Bampton Lecture) On Prophecy (Bost. 1870, 12mo); Brit. and For. Ev. Rev. 1863. art. 8; Bibl. Repos. p. 11, 138, 217; Westm. Rev. Jan. 1868, p. 106; Kitto, Journ. of Sac. Lit. 30:1 sq., April, 1853, p. 35; Aids to Faith, essay 3; E Rsgl. Rev. 8:181; Fisher, The Beginninigs of Christianity, p. 8, et al.; Stanley, Lectures on the Jewish Church, 1st series, lect. 17-20; Fairbairn, Prophecy Viewed in respect to its Distinctive Nature, its Special Function, and Proper Interpretation (Edinb. 1856); and for the vast field of German literature on the subject, see Keil, Introd. to the Old Test. (ibid. 1869), i, 265 sq.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [10]

Prophecy. The principal considerations involved in this important subject may be arranged under the following heads:—

I. The nature of Prophecy, and its position in the economy of the Old Testament.—Divine inspiration is only the general basis of the prophetic office, to which two more elements must be added—

1. Inspiration was imparted to the prophets in a peculiar form. This appears decisively from , etc. which states it as characteristic of the prophet, that he obtained divine inspiration in visions and dreams, consequently in a state different from that in which inspirations were conveyed to Moses and the apostles.

2. Generally speaking, everyone was a prophet to whom God communicated His mind in this peculiar manner. When the Mosaic economy had been established, a new element was added; the prophetic gift was after that time regularly connected with the prophetic office, so that the latter came to form part of the idea of a prophet. Speaking of office, we do not of course mean one conferred by men, but by God; the mission to Israel, with which the certainty of a continued, not temporary, grant of the donum propheticum was connected.

That the Lord would send such prophets was promised to the people by Moses, who by a special law secured them authority and safety. As His ordinary servants and teachers, God appointed the Priests: the characteristic mark which distinguished the prophets from them was inspiration; and this explains the circumstance that, in times of great moral and religious corruption, when the ordinary means no longer sufficed to reclaim the people, the number of prophets increased. The regular religious instruction of the people was no part of the business of the prophets; their proper duty was only to rouse and excite. In this point, however, there was a difference between the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah. In the latter the agency of the prophets was only subsidiary to that of the regular servants of God, the priests and the Levites. But in the former the prophets were the regular servants of God, for the priesthood there had no divine sanction, and was corrupt in its very source. With the office of the prophets therefore all stood or fell, and hence they were required to do many things besides what the original conception of the office of a prophet implied.

In their labors, as respected their own times, the prophets were strictly bound to the Mosaic law, and not allowed to add to it or to diminish ought from it; what was said in this respect to the whole people applied also to them. We find, therefore, prophecy always takes its ground on the Mosaic law, to which it refers, from which it derives its sanction, and with which it is fully impressed and saturated. They were indeed commissioned to foretell days when a new covenant will be made with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah . But for their own times they never once dreamed of altering any, even the minutest and least essential precept, even as to its form; how much less as to its spirit, which even the Lord himself declares to be immutable and eternal.

As to prophecy in its circumscribed sense, or the foretelling of future events by the prophets, some expositors would explain all predictions of special events; while others assert that no prediction contains anything but general promises or threatening, and that the prophets knew nothing of the particular manner in which their predictions might be realized. Both these classes deviate from the correct view of prophecy; the former resort often to the most arbitrary interpretations, and the latter are opposed by a mass of facts against which they are unable successfully to contend.

Some interpreters, misunderstanding passages like; , have asserted that all prophecies were conditional; and have even maintained that their revocability distinguished the true predictions from soothsaying. But beyond all doubt, when the prophet denounces the divine judgments, he proceeds on the assumption that the people will not repent, an assumption which he knows from God to be true. Were the people to repent, the prediction would fail; but because they will not, it is uttered absolutely. It does not follow however, that the prophet's warnings and exhortations are useless. These serve 'for a witness against them;' and besides, amid the ruin of the mass, individuals might be saved. Viewing prophecies as conditional predictions nullifies them.

The sphere of action of the prophets was limited to Israel. Many predictions of the Old Testament concern, indeed, the events of foreign nations, but they are always uttered and written with reference to Israel, and the prophets thought not of publishing them among the heathens themselves.

II. Duration of the Prophetic office.—Although we meet with cases of prophesying as early as the age of the patriarchs, still the roots of prophetism among Israel are properly fixed in the Mosaic economy. The main business of Moses was not that of a prophet, but he was occasionally commissioned to foretell what was to befall Israel in the latter days, and he instilled into the congregation of Israel those truths which form the foundation of prophecy, and thus prepared the ground from which it could spring up. In the age of the Judges, prophecy, though existing only in scattered instances, exerted a powerful influence. From this time to the Babylonian exile, there happened hardly any important event in which the prophets did not appear as performing the leading part. About a hundred years after the return from the Babylonian exile, the prophetic profession ceased. The Jewish tradition uniformly states that Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi were the last prophets.

III. Manner of Life of the Prophets.—The prophets went about poorly and coarsely dressed , not as a mere piece of asceticism, but that their very apparel might teach what the people ought to do. Generally the prophets were not anxious of attracting notice by ostentatious display; nor did they seek worldly wealth, most of them living in poverty and even want . Insult, persecution, imprisonment, and death, were often the reward of their godly life. Repudiated by the world in which they were aliens, they typified the life of Him whose appearance they announced, and whose spirit dwelt in them. The prophets addressed the people of both kingdoms: they were not confined to particular places, but prophesied where it was required. For this reason they were most numerous in capital towns, especially in Jerusalem, where they generally spoke in the temple. Sometimes their advice was asked, and then their prophecies take the form of answers to questions submitted to them (Isaiah 37, Ezekiel 20, Zechariah 7). But much more frequently they felt themselves inwardly moved to address the people without their advice having been asked, and they were not afraid to stand forward in places where their appearance, perhaps, produced indignation and terror. Whatever lay within or around the sphere of religion and morals, formed the object of their care. Priests, princes, kings, all must hear them—must, however reluctantly, allow them to perform their calling as long as they spoke in the name of the true God, and as long as the result did not disprove their pretensions to be the servants of the invisible King of Israel . There were institutions for training prophets; the senior members instructed a number of pupils and directed them. These schools had been first established by Samuel ; and at a later time there were such institutions in different places, as Bethel and Gilgal (;; ). The pupils of the prophets lived in fellowship united, and were called 'sons of the prophets;' while the senior or experienced prophets were considered as their spiritual parents, and were styled fathers (comp.; ). Samuel, Elijah, and Elisha, are mentioned as principals of such institutions. From them the Lord generally chose his instruments. Amos relates of himself , as a thing uncommon, that he had been trained in no school of prophets, but was a herdsman, when the Lord took him to prophesy unto the people of Israel. At the same time, this example shows that the bestowal of prophetic gifts was not limited to the schools of the prophets. Women also might come forward as prophetesses, as instanced in Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah, though such cases are of comparatively rare occurrence. We should also observe, that only as regards the kingdom of Israel we have express accounts of the continuance of the schools of prophets. What is recorded of them is not directly applicable to the kingdom of Judah, especially since, as stated above, prophecy had in it an essentially different position. We cannot assume that the organization and regulations of the schools of the prophets in the kingdom of Judah should have been as settled and established as in the kingdom of Israel. The prophets of the kingdom of Israel stood in a hostile position to the priests. These points of difference in the situation of the prophets of the two kingdoms must not be lost sight of; and we further add, that prophecy in the kingdom of Israel was much more connected with extraordinary events than in the kingdom of Judah: the history of the latter offers no prophetical deeds equaling those of Elijah and Elisha.

IV. Symbolic Actions of the Prophets.—In the midst of the prophetic declarations symbolic actions are often mentioned, which the prophets had to perform. The opinions of interpreters on these are divided. Some assert that they always, at least generally, were really done; others assert that they had existence only in the mind of the prophets, and formed part of their visions. The latter view, which was espoused by Calvin, is probably the correct one. Some of the symbolic actions prescribed to the prophets could not have been performed by them (;; ); others are inconsistent with decorum . These are therefore to be regarded as internal, not external facts.

V. Criteria by which True and False Prophets were distinguished.—As Moses had foretold, a host of false prophets arose in later times among the people, who promised prosperity without repentance, and preached the Gospel without the law. But how were the people to distinguish true and false prophets? In the law concerning prophets (; comp. 13:7-9), the following enactments are contained.

The prophet who speaks in the name of other Gods is to be considered as false, and to be punished capitally.

The same punishment is to be inflicted on him who speaks in the name of the true God, but whose predictions are not accomplished.

From the above two criteria of a true prophet, flows the third, that his addresses must be in strict accordance with the law.

In the above is also founded the fourth criterion, that a true prophet must not promise prosperity without repentance; and that he is a false prophet, 'of the deceit of his own heart,' who does not reprove the sins of the people, and who does not inculcate on them the doctrines of divine justice and retribution.

In addition to these negative criteria, there were positive ones to procure authority to true prophets. First of all, it must be assumed that the prophets themselves received, along with the divine revelations, assurance that these were really divine. Now, when the prophets themselves were convinced of their divine mission, they could in various ways prove it to others, whom they were called on to enlighten.

To those who had any sense of truth, the Spirit of God gave evidence that the prophecies were divinely inspired.

The prophets themselves utter their firm conviction that they act and speak by divine authority, not of their own accord. Their pious life bore testimony to their being worthy of a nearer communion with God, and defended them from the suspicion of intentional deception; their sobriety of mind distinguished them from all fanatics, and defended them from the suspicion of self-delusion; their fortitude in suffering for truth proved that they had their commission from no human authority.

Part of the predictions of the prophets referred to proximate events, and their accomplishment was divine evidence of their divine origin (See; , sq.;;; Ezekiel 24). Whoever had been once favored with such a testimonial, his authority was established for his whole life.

Sometimes the divine mission of the prophets was also proved by miracles, but this occurred only at important crises, when the existence of the kingdom of Israel was in jeopardy, as in the age of Elijah and Elisha.

VI. Promulgation of the Prophetic Declarations.—Usually the prophets promulgated their visions in public places before the congregated people. Still some portions of the prophetic books, as the entire second part of Isaiah and the description of the new temple (Ezekiel 40-48), probably were never communicated orally. In other cases the prophetic addresses, first delivered orally, were next, when committed to writing, revised and improved. Especially the books of the lesser prophets consist, for the greater part, not of separate predictions, independent of each other, but form, as they now are, a whole, that is, give the quintessence of the prophetic labors of their authors. There is evidence to prove that the later prophets sedulously read the writings of the earlier, and that a prophetic canon existed before the present was formed. Zechariah explicitly alludes to writings of former prophets; 'to the words which the Lord has spoken to earlier prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity' (;; ). In consequence of the prophets being considered as organs of God, much care was bestowed on the preservation of their publications. Ewald himself, though he thinks that a great, number of prophetic compositions has been lost, cannot refrain from observing (p. 56), 'We have in a clear proof of the exact knowledge which the better classes of the people had of all that had, a hundred years before, happened to a prophet, of his words, misfortunes, and accidents.'

The collectors of the Canon arranged the prophets chronologically, but considered the whole of the twelve lesser prophets as one work, which they placed after Jeremiah and Ezekiel, inasmuch as the three last lesser prophets lived later than they. The collection of the lesser prophets themselves was again chronologically disposed; still Hosea is, on account of the extent of his work, allowed precedence before those lesser prophets, who, generally, were his contemporaries, and also before those who flourished at a somewhat earlier period.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [11]

Properly not a forecasting of particular events and the succession of them, but so far as it refers to the future at all is an insight into the course of things in the time to come from insight into the course of them in days gone by or now, and that is believed to be the character of Hebrew prophecy, founded on faith in the immutability of the divine order of things.