SPECIAL TOPIC: THE DIFFERENT HEBREW TERMS FOR PROPHET

Biblical Terms

1. ro'eh = "seer" (BDB 906), 1 Sam. 9:9. This reference shows the transition to the term nabi, which means "prophet" and comes from the root, "to call."  Ro'eh is from the general Hebrew term "to see."  This person understood God's ways and plans and was consulted to ascertain God's will in a matter.

2. hozeh = "seer" (BDB 302), 2 Sam. 24:11; Amos 7:12.  It is basically a synonym of ro'eh.  It is from a rarer Hebrew term "to see in a vision."  The participle form is used most often to refer to prophets.

3. nabi' = "prophet" (BDB 611), cognate of Akkadian verb nabu = "to call" and Arabic naba'a = "to announce."  This is the most common OT term to designate a prophet.  It is used over 300 times. The exact etymology is uncertain, but "to call" at present seems the best option.  Possibly the best understanding comes form YHWH's description of Moses' relationship to Pharaoh through Aaron (cf. Exod. 4:10-16; 7:1; Deut. 5:5).  A prophet is someone who speaks for God to His people (cf. Amos 3:8; Jer. 1:7,17; Ezek. 3:4).

4. All three terms are used of the prophet's office in 1 Chr. 29:29; Samuel - Ro'eh; Nathan - Nabi'; and Gad - Hozeh.

5. The phrase 'ish ha - 'elohim, "man of God," is also a broader designation for a speaker for God.  It is used some 76 times in the OT in the sense of "prophet."

6. The NT word "prophet" is Greek in origin.  It comes from

a. pro, which means "before" or "for"

b. phemi, which means "to speak."

 

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