The first mention of a prophet is in Genesis 20:7 when God spoke to Abimelech, king of Gerar, in a dream, warning him by saying the woman he had taken as his wife Sarai was actually married to a “prophet” named Abram. Why does Yahweh call Abraham a prophet?
· Genesis 20:6-7 Then God said to him in the dream, "Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. Now therefore, restore the man's wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours." NASU
The Hebrew word used in Genesis 20:7 is nabi' or nabiy' (OT: 5030) and is defined by Strong’s as, "a prophet or (generally) inspired man." Nabiy is a cognate of naba' (OT: 5012), which means, “To prophesy, i.e. speak (or sing) by inspiration (in prediction or simple discourse).” The word has a possible cognate in Akkadian. It occurs about 309 times in biblical Hebrew and in all periods.
Notice it was GOD who called Abraham by the title, “a prophet.” Nowhere prior to this annunciation of his prophetic mantle do we see God telling Abraham he is a prophet, yet the divine criteria for being a prophet already existed. Amos was a prophet much later in history, yet his humble origin as a herdsman prompted him to actually deny that he was a seer or prophet when asked. True prophets then emerge from the ranks of ordinary folks.
· Amos 7:14-15 Then Amos said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet by profession! Neither was I a prophet's son; but I had my occupation I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees and a gatherer of sycamore figs. 15 And the Lord took me as I followed the flock and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.’” AMP
“Oh that those in churches claiming the illustrious title of “prophet” would be as humble!”
Let us not deny divine inspiration and despise prophetic utterance, but neither should we elevate prophets, apostles, pastors, evangelists or overseers to special status. Instead, the church needs to backtrack and reestablish equality in all of our personal relationships, calling no man “leader” or “rabbi,” because we are all brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ (See Matthew 23:8-11).
People do not generally associate Abraham with the prophets of the OT, primarily because he wasn’t delivering messages time and time again, speaking, “Thus says the LORD…” Since we know a prophet is an inspired man, and one TO WHOM and one THROUGH WHOM God speaks, Abraham forces us to redefine the function of a prophet.
In other words, no longer can a prophet be seen as a man walking around Israel delivering divine messages in the first-person for or on behalf of God. Another example of a man that was a judge in Israel, but is typically thought of as a prophet, is Samuel. Yes, Samuel was both, but his role as judge was supported by divine revelation. This again shows that a prophet does much more than deliver rebukes; he is also one who LEADS the flock of God.
Rethinking what a prophet is and what a prophet does helps us set a precedent for what happens in the New Testament churches. The petty “ranking” of charismatic groups, giving preference and weight to “certain prophets” above others is a distant cry from the real deal. Men and women run around giving, “a word from the Lord,” to each other, without hesitation and without divine revelation because they have taken a seminar on prophecy, or been taught in classes in what some have called, “the school of the prophets.”
God doesn’t need soft-spoken men and women teaching others how to be or not be a “prophet.” This brand of fanaticism serves only to detract from the proper operation of prophecy in the church and quite frankly, it turns people off.
In Genesis 20:7 the LORD assigned a death sentence to Abimelech for harming His prophet, even though he had taken Sarah to be his wife in innocence, believing her to be Abraham’s sister. This shows us how protective God is concerning the first man ever to be called His prophet.
Abimelech is king of a nation (Gerar), which Abraham assumes is pagan. Nevertheless, Abimelech understood what a prophet was, or else why would God have even mentioned it to him? This shows that divine authority is recognized in all corners of the earth. The centurion recognized that Jesus was a man with God-given authority; it’s all about relationship with God, not who is or is not calling himself or herself a “prophet” (Matthew 8:9; Luke 7:8)
Abraham, God’s prophet, had the authority to revoke a divine death sentence on Abimelech. God told him, “Now therefore, restore the man's wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live.” Abimelech’s sin was done in ignorance, therefore God gave him an opportunity to confess his sin, ask Abraham for intercessory prayer, and be spared death.
In this scenario we see that Abraham is a type of the NT elders mentioned in James 5:14-20. When a believer in the church is spiritually or even physically sick, if he or she confesses the nature of their wrongdoing in humility and transparency, the elders who are overseers intercede of their behalf. The prayer offered up by them restores the person, and if they have committed any sins, God forgives those sins because of the willingness to bring all the dark areas into the light.
The Hebrew word nabiy' generally refers to an, “inspired man.” The question is; what is he inspired to speak? Part of his function would be that of prayer intercessor.
1. The first mention of a prophet is in Genesis 20:7 when God spoke to Abimelech, & told him Sarah was actually married to Abraham who is a “prophet.”
2. The Hebrew word used in Genesis 20:7 is nabi' or nabiy' (OT: 5030) and is defined by Strong’s as, "a prophet or generally an inspired man." Abraham was inspired to lead God’s people by hearing and obeying His commands and seeking the fulfillment of His promises.
3. Abraham, God’s prophet, had the authority to revoke a Divine death sentence on Abimelech. A prophet then is one who intercedes in prayer for others, and the context of James 5:14-20 shows him as a type of elders in the NT church that pray for believers.
Abraham was first named Abram, and Abram means “high father” or “father of a height” (both definitions refer to his status within the tribe or clan). Later (Genesis 17:5) God changed his name to Abraham, which means, “father of a multitude.”
In PART ONE of this series we learned that a seer or prophet is an inspired man, to whom, and through whom God speaks. We also learned that a prophet does not “predict” or “forecast” the future actions or behavior of people. Rather, God uses the voice of a prophet to lead, guide and even warn His people, or other nations what HE will do in the future.
God does not know, nor does He predict what we, His covenant people will do, or how we will respond to the commandments that He gives to us. He loves us and He EXPECTS us to obediently follow His will. We are made in His likeness and therefore we have a free will to choose. We can eat from the tree of life, or we can usurp God’s wisdom and partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Abraham lived among a pastoral clan, in a time and place where herds and livestock were an entire way of life. The number of sheep, or goats or oxen that he owned measured a man’s wealth. Abraham lived in a land known as the Ur of Chaldeans, which most scholars believe is the modern Mugheir (or Mughayyar, meaning, "the pitchy") in Southern Babylonia, called Urumma, or Urima, and later Uru or Uruk in the inscriptions. Ur of the Chaldeans is about 150 miles from the head of the Persian Gulf.
The exact location is uncertain but is likely due the fact that during the wars of the kings of Sodom, the armies were greatly inhibited by the tar pits throughout the region (Genesis 14:10). For herdsmen like Abraham and his nephew Lot it was necessary to move their livestock from time to time to insure proper feeding and not to strip the grazing land bare, particularly if they had goats and sheep.
The Hebrew Scriptures are quite clear; Abraham's home was originally in Lower Mesopotamia in the city of Ur and he emigrated to Haran and Upper Mesopotamia on his way to Canaan (Genesis 11:28-31; 12:1-4; 15:7; Nehemiah 9:7). To obey God meant Abraham would be making a patriarchal decision for his entire clan. Taking his livelihood (livestock) and family into unfamiliar turf without truly hearing God’s voice could end in a disaster.
The beginnings of the first prophet mentioned as such in the OT was when Yahweh came to Abraham, and told him WHERE to go, and WHAT He would do to bless him for his obedience:
· Genesis 12:1-9 Now in Haran the Lord said to Abram, “Go for yourself for your own advantage away from your country, from your relatives and your father's house, to the land that I will show you. [Hebrews 11:8-10.] 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you with abundant increase of favors and make your name famous and distinguished, and you will be a blessing dispensing good to others. 3 And I will bless those who bless you who confer prosperity or happiness upon you and curse him who curses or uses insolent language toward you; in you will all the families and kindred of the earth be blessed and by you they will bless themselves.” [Galatians 3:8.] AMP
God’s inspired word is prophetic because it establishes direction for Abraham and those of the faith of Abraham. The word to him included the following issues:
1. COMMAND = Leave your relatives & father's house
2. COMMAND = Go to the land that I will show you
3. PROMISE = I will make of you a great nation
4. PROMISE = I will bless you with abundant increase
5. PROMISE = I will make your name famous and distinguished
6. PROMISE =You will be a blessing dispensing good to others
7. PROMISE =I will bless those who bless you & curse him who curses you
8. PROMISE = In you will all the families & kindred of the earth be blessed
9. PROMISE = By you the families & kindred will bless themselves
Abraham was acting as a spokesman for God, which appears to be the function he has as God’s prophet. As a prophet Abram had a great weight of responsibility because compliance with God’s command decided not only his own future, but also the future of those family members he knew and loved.
In the list above Abram is required to first leave his relatives and his father’s house, no small task in a culture than venerates its elders. He needs to convince them under no uncertain terms he has heard from God on this matter, since the second requirement is to journey into no-man’s land (so to speak).
Unless the family clan is persuaded that Abraham has been vested with divine authority, do you really believe they would pull up tent stakes, and wander after a guy that is leading them without a compass or map?
Furthermore, his words must be in demonstration and power of the Spirit of God Almighty to infuse others with the divine revelation he received concerning such amazing promises. If only we could be the proverbial fly-on-the-wall listening to these hot-blooded Hebrews listening to Abram unveil his newfound faith!
There are no documented miracles done by Abram to convince his wife and family members to go with him, therefore we must conclude he was given special favor with the clan by virtue of the weight of authority delegated by God to Abram. In this regard, his message might even be likened to John the Baptist, who, although he did no miracles, spoke with power and authority.
It is vital to establish that God’s authority, given to a righteous man, inspires him to deliver whatever message is given. This holds true no matter how difficult it is to speak, or to whom it must be spoken. John the Baptist was a prophet, according to Jesus, and his words held so much of God’s authority, that even the pagan Roman king Herod had a healthy respect for him.
· Mark 6:20 For Herod had a reverential fear of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and continually kept him safe under guard. When he heard John speak, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly. AMP
The correlation between Abraham’s inspired message and that of John the Baptist is not by accident; in fact, there is evidence that John derived much of his own authority from reading the scriptures about the life of Abraham. Were it not so, how could John so easily have rebuked the leaders of the Jews publicly?
· Matthew 3:7-9 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ' We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.” NASU
In John the Baptist’s words above, we see the continued fulfillment of the promises made by God to Abram, “… from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.” Consider for a moment a few of the promises, “I will make your name famous and distinguished,” and again, “In you will all the families & kindred of the earth be blessed.”
Thousands of years later John holds Abraham’s name as distinguished, and speaking of the common people as “stones,” affirms that they are children of Abraham! In Matthew 11:7-30 Jesus ties the message and authority of John to all the prophets who prophesied until then.
Another important point is WHY Yahweh told Abram to leave his relatives and his father’s house. He lived in the land of the “Chaldeans” before they conquered and ruled Babylon. However, this land was known for its warlike inhabitants, and their occult use of astrology to serve pagan deities. The Chaldean astrologers’ intellectual activity was used especially in the study of the stars, both scientific and as a means of divination.
Astronomy and astrology were both sought after in the land. Hence Babylon became famous as the home of all sorts of magicians, sorcerers, diviners, and other occultists. As scientists, the Chaldeans founded the exact science of astronomy. For more than 360 years they kept meticulous astronomical records.
One of their astounding contributions was to reckon a year of 365 days, six hours, fifteen minutes and forty-one seconds, a calculation that measures within thirty minutes of what modern instruments have worked out.
It is almost certain the Chaldeans were also involved in human sacrifice and other sickening forms of ritual occult worship. God brought Abram up out of that paganism, setting him apart, until He could eventually settle him and his descendents in a land where they could serve Him in righteousness. Thus we see from the very beginning a prophet of God is one that sanctifies his life for others and consecrates God’s people, by leading them away from evil and toward the LORD.
1. Abram, father of a height, was given two commands and seven promises by God. Once he accepted the divine command, and in obedience complied with God’s requirements, he began his calling as the father of a multitude. His patriarchal role became much more than the executor of a mundane life tending herds; now Abram became Abraham, leading God’s people inspired by immutable promises given to him, convinced that God would honor His own word.
2. He was inspired and given the same kind of authority witnessed in John the Baptist, and the promises given to Abram were still being fulfilled at that time. His first inspired message from Yahweh to leave Ur of the Chaldeans was in order for God to consecrate a people from among the occult astrology and other paganism.
3. Abram’s identity eventually changed from that of “father of heights” (i.e. – where astrology prevailed) to “father of a multitude” (i.e. – of godly lineage).
In PART ONE the definitions for a “seer” originate from two primary Hebrew verbs, chozeh and ro’eh. Chozeh (OT: 2372) is the noun predominantly used for a “seer” and it originates from the Hebrew verb chazah, which means, “to gaze at; mentally, to perceive, contemplate (with pleasure); specifically, to have a vision of.”
Ro’eh is the less used word in the Hebrew OT for “seer” (only Samuel & Hanani are called ro’eh seers); ro’eh originates from a Hebrew verb ra’ah, which means, “to see” (literally or figuratively, depending on the context).
The first mention of a “vision” occurs in Genesis 15:1; God gave Abraham a vision; the Hebrew word for “vision” is “machazeh” and AMG says machazeh (OT: 4236) is a masculine noun that originates from chazah (2372). Machazeh means, “vision, apparition, and sight.” It occurs in Genesis 15:1; Numbers 24:4,16; and Ezekiel 13:7.
· Genesis 15:1 After these things, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision (machazeh), saying, “Fear not, Abram, I am your Shield, your abundant compensation, and your reward shall be exceedingly great.”
What kind of vision was this? The context of Genesis 15:1ff shows a conversation between Yahweh and Abram, but nothing visual is mentioned per say. Unless you backtrack a few chapters and dissect each incident where the LORD (Yahweh) spoke to Abram, you will miss an important interpretation key. The first time Yahweh spoke to him there does not appear to be any OBVIOUS visual manifestation.
· Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram…
However, as the text progresses, Yahweh speaks to Abram again, only this time He “appeared” to him (visual):
· Genesis 12:7 And the LORD appeared (ra’ah) to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared (ra’ah) to him. NAS
The use of ra’ah in Genesis 12:7probably indicates more than just mental perception; there is a wide array of uses for this Hebrew verb. The predominant use of ra’ah in its verb form is for things seen (literally). AMG lists numerous applications, of which the following seem possibilities for the text in Genesis 12:7:
· Show oneself
· Reveal oneself
· To show
· To make one feel or know
Which of the meanings listed above do you think applies? Did the Lord, “show Himself” to Abram? Did God, “reveal Himself,” to Abram? Do you think He, “showed Himself to Abram?” Or did Yahweh, “make Abram feel His presence?” Perhaps the answer to these questions is found in a combination of answers.
The text of Genesis chapter 12 simply does not say how Yahweh made Himself appear to Abram. To understand what Abram perceived, or saw, or felt, the following is a list of various uses of the Hebrew verb ra’ah (OT: 7200); these are but a few of numerous applications found throughout the Hebrew OT:
· Genesis 1:31 God saw (ra’ah) all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. NASU
· Genesis 3:6 When the woman saw (ra’ah) that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes… NASU
· Genesis 6:2 …the sons of God saw (ra’ah) that the daughters of men were beautiful. NASU
· Genesis 6:5 Then the LORD saw (ra’ah) that the wickedness of man…NASU
· Genesis 8:5 … the tops of the mountains became visible (ra’ah). NASU
· Genesis 8:8 Then he (Noah) sent out a dove from him, to see (ra’ah) if the water was abated from the face of the land… NASU
· Genesis 9:14 the rainbow is seen (ra’ah) in the clouds… AMP
· Genesis 9:22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, glanced at and saw (ra’ah) the nakedness of his father… AMP
· Genesis 11:5 And the Lord came down to see (ra’ah) the city and the tower… AMP
· Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, " Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father's house, to the land which I will show (ra’ah) you…” NASU
In nearly every example, (with some exceptions), ra’ah refers to LITERAL SIGHT. Therefore, it is plausible, even probable that Abram SAW something (visible) when the LORD “appeared” to him in Genesis 12:7.
Abram’s FIRST vision (Genesis 12:7) actually takes place BEFORE the incident in Genesis 15:1. The Hebrew verb ra’ah is poorly translated in Genesis 12:7 as, “appeared.” This rendering of ra’ah is not improper, for certainly ra’ah can mean, “to appear.”
Taken in context, ra’ah should have been translated in a way that portrays Abram as a prophet who is experiencing direct communication with God. His experience with the LORD was audible AND VISUAL (i.e. – probably in human form). Even though Genesis 12:7 does not specify God’s appearance was in human form, the context demands that it was, (at the very least), audible and visual.
Not let’s return to the text of Genesis 15:1; here we find Abram engaged in a dialogue with God while inside his tent. During the conversation Abram appears to be at ease as he talks with the LORD. He immediately launches a complaint to the LORD, venting his despondency (Genesis 15:2-3). His grievance is that he remains childless, even though God has promised his descendents would be numerous. Abram fears his steward Eliezer will be his only heir to the divine promise.
Next, in Genesis 15:4-5, “the word of the Lord came to Abram.” God leads Abram outside of his tent, into the starlight and then points his eyes upward toward the stars. God tells Abram his descendents will be as numerous as the stars. Abram’s demeanor seems rather, ‘matter-of-fact’ the whole time. This leads one to believe the Lord was speaking to him as one man speaks to another.
God revealed Himself in human form; he communicated with Abram as a man. So convinced was Abram by this encounter that he believed, trusted in, relied on, and remained steadfast to the Lord, and He (God) counted it to him (Abram) as righteousness (Genesis 15:6 with Romans 4:3).
Elsewhere in the Book of Genesis, Yahweh reveals Himself to Abraham in anthropomorphic form, as he did when the three men came to meet him and be his guests (Read Genesis 18:1-33). Of the three heavenly visitors (angels) only ONE of them spoke; the one that spoke was Yahweh, revealing His presence, His will, His promise (concerning Sarah bearing a man child), and His warning (concerning Lot & family in Sodom) to Abram.
The proof Abram saw and heard Yahweh in a man is his obedient response to the commands given him to bring animal sacrifices, cut the carcasses in half, and stand between them, “cutting a covenant” as customary in the East (Genesis 15:8-11). After the animals were sacrificed, THEN the LORD put him into a deep sleep, at which time foretold of his descendents captivity in a foreign land for 400 years. The LORD promised Abram would die in peace, and eventually his descendents would inherit the land promised to him.
God ratified His covenant with the prophet Abram in Genesis 15:17-18 by bringing His fiery Presence in the midst of the sacrifices. So begins the spiritual legacy of the father of our faith. The Father God continues ratifying His covenant with Abraham’s descendants thru the sacrificial blood of His son Jesus. Our great high priest takes us into the Presence of God, who is a consuming fire. As He did with Abraham, God the Father ratifies the covenant that He cut with One (Jesus) that is greater than Abraham in the kingdom of heaven.
After this covenant is cut with Yahweh, things change for Abram and Sarai; from then on the “angel of Yahweh,” appears to them, which is Yahweh revealed in this unique heavenly messenger (See Genesis chapter 16).
The angel of Yahweh (aka the angel of the LORD) also appears in the form of a man, as he did with Abraham’s grandson Jacob. Jacob wrestled with “God” all night long in the person of the angel of Yahweh.
· Genesis 32:27-28, 30 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 28 He said, "Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed." 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, " I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved." NASU
1. In Genesis 12:7 God “appeared” (ra’ah) to Abram; this is a visual and audible manifestation of God in human form prior to the mention of Abram’s first vision in Genesis 15:1ff. The Hebrew word for “appeared” is ra’ah and means, “to show oneself; to make one’s self known or felt.”
2. The second “vision” from God is in Genesis 15:1ff and the Hebrew word “machazeh” for “vision” means an, “apparition.” In Genesis 15:15 Abram spoke with God, Who then took him outside at night, and pointing his eyes toward the stars, declared Abram’s descendants would be as innumerable as the stars of heaven.
3. Abram is convinced of this promise, and therefore he, “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” This begins the fulfillment of Abram’s role and function as a prophet because this word from the Lord is fulfilled in the church.
4. At God’s command Abram sacrifices animals, cuts them in half, standing between the pieces to “cut covenant” with God, according to custom of the East.
5. The terms of God’s covenant include 400+ years of captivity in a foreign land (Egypt) for Abram’s descendants, after which they’d inherit the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates River. This act prefigures the sacrifice of Christ when Yahweh’s fiery presence passes thru the bloody sacrificial ablutions.
6. From then on, the Angel of the Lord (Yahweh) becomes the heavenly mediator to Abraham and his lineage. This also prefigures the church, in spiritual bondage for the past 400 years since the Reformation began, leading Abraham’s descendents to the inheritance made known in the church of Philadelphia thru Jesus Christ.
Links to the Entire "What is the Prophetic” Series:
To be Continued in Part 4