The Seven Prophetesses of the Old Testament

In a previous post, I wrote that I was finished writing on women prophets in the Old Testament. However, I have decided to write one more post on this subject since the response to these studies on the prophetesses has been very positive. At the end of this study I have included all the links to posts on this series.

In my studies on women prophets I have demonstrated that God calls men as well women to the prophetic ministry. The Old Testament mentions several women who were considered true prophets of God as well as a few women who were considered to be false prophetesses. Some of these false prophetesses are mentioned in the book of Ezekiel. I also studied the prophecy in the book of Joel where the prophet prophesied that in the last days both men and women, young and old, bond and free would be filled with the Spirit of God and would be endowed with the gift of prophecy.

The first woman prophet in the Old Testament was Miriam. Of Miriam, the Bible says:

“Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea’” (Exodus 15:20-21).

Miriam’s prophetic ministry was associated with music and dancing. In my study on Miriam, I wrote that the ministry of the Levitical musicians in the temple was associated with music. I also wrote that the daughters of Heman were musicians and were associated with their brothers in the music ministry of the temple (1 Chronicles 25:5-6).

The second woman to be called a prophet in the Old Testament was Deborah. Of Deborah, the Bible says:

“At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment” (Judges 4:4-5).

Deborah’s ministry came at a time when the people of Israel were being oppressed by Jabin, one of the kings of Canaan and by Sisera, commander of his army. Under the endowment of the Spirit of God, Deborah summoned Barak and led the army of Israel to fight against the oppressors. Because of Deborah’s leadership in battle, she was called “A Mother in Israel.”

The third woman to be called a prophetess was Isaiah’s wife. Little is written about her and her ministry. Isaiah mentioned his wife only once: “And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son” (Isaiah 8:3).

Since Isaiah calls his wife “the prophetess,” many scholars believe that she is called a prophetess because she was married to the prophet. However, in my study of Isaiah’s wife, I wrote that she was a prophet in her own right. This view is based on the fact that nowhere in the Old Testament is the wife of a prophet called “a prophetess.” My conclusion is that Isaiah’s wife was an integral part of the prophet’s ministry.

The fourth woman to be called a prophetess in the Old Testament was Huldah. Of Huldah, the Bible says:

“So the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to the prophetess Huldah the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; she resided in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter, where they consulted her” (2 Kings 22:14).

Huldah’s prophetic ministry occurred at a critical junction in the religious life of Judah. After many years of religious apostasy under Manasseh, his grandson Josiah embarked on a thorough religious reform of Judah. When the book of the Law was discovered in the temple, Josiah sent a delegation to consult Huldah. Although other male prophets were alive at that time, Huldah was chosen because of her influential ministry.

The fifth woman to be called a prophetess was Noadiah. Of Noadiah, the Bible says:

“Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid” (Nehemiah 6:14).

Noadiah opposed Nehemiah in his work in post-exilic Jerusalem. She was a fierce opponent of Nehemiah to the point that she intimidated him. It is for this reason that Noadiah is considered to be one of the false prophetesses in the Bible.

These five women are considered to be prophetesses in Israel. Several women prophets are mentioned in the book of Ezekiel. These women are discussed in more detail in my study of their ministry as narrated in the book of Ezekiel.

During the research for this series of studies, John Jarick’s article, “The Seven (?) Prophetesses of the Old Testament,” called my attention to the Rabbi’s views of the prophetesses in the Hebrew Bible. The Rabbis taught in Megillah (14a), one of the tractates of the Talmud, that there were seven prophetesses in Israel: “Our Rabbis taught: Forty-eight prophets and seven prophetesses prophesied to Israel. . . . ‘Seven prophetesses’. Who were these? – Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah and Esther.”

From this list, it can be seen that the Rabbis excluded Isaiah’s wife and Noadiah. And they included Sarah, Hannah, Abigail, and Esther.

Noadiah was excluded because she was probably considered to be a false prophetess. Isaiah’s wife was probably excluded because she was considered to be Isaiah’s wife or maybe because she is not mentioned by name.

Sarah, Hannah, Abigail, and Esther are never called prophetesses in the Hebrew Bible. Thus, the Rabbis had to explain the reasons they called these four women prophetesses.

Sarah is called a prophetess “because she discerned [sakethah] by means of the holy spirit, as it is said, In all that Sarah saith unto thee, hearken to her voice. Another explanation is: because all gazed [sakin] at her beauty.”

Hannah is called a prophetess because “Hannah prayed and said, My heart exulteth in the Lord, my horn is exalted in the Lord. [She said], ‘my horn is exalted’, and not, ‘my cruse is exalted’, thus implying that the royalty of [the hour of] David and Solomon, who were anointed from a horn, would be prolonged, but the royalty of [the house of] Saul and Jehu, who were anointed with a cruse, would not be prolonged.”

The views about Abigail appear at the end of Megillah 14a and at the beginning of Megillah 14b. Abigail is declared to be a prophetess because she declared that David would be a great king in the near future. According to the Talmud, Abigail said to David: “your fame is not yet spread abroad in the world. . . . When she left him she said to him, and when the Lord shall have done good to my lord . . . then remember thy handmaid.”

Esther is called a prophetess because “it is written, Now it came to pass on the third day that Esther clothed herself in royalty. Surely it should say, ‘royal apparel’? What it shows is that the holy spirit clothed her. It is written here, ‘and she clothed.’”

The Rabbis were not limited in their view that the Holy Spirit could use a woman to prophesy. It is possible that many nameless women also prophesied in Israel. These female voices remain unheard and undiscovered for unknown reasons. And they may remain silenced forever because their society failed to recognize that they too were called and sent by a God who does not discriminate because of gender.

Women of the twenty-first century who aspire to serve the Lord must remember the words of the prophet Joel: “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Joel 2:28). And when the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost, Peter said: “this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel” (Act 2:16). This is the only affirmation that women today need: that the Holy Spirit has been poured on all flesh.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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Bibibliography:

Jarick, John. “The Seven (?) Prophetesses of the Old Testament.” Lutheran Theological Journal 28 (1994): 116-121.

Studies on Women Prophets:

Women Prophets in the Hebrew Bible

Isaiah’s Wife

Deborah the Prophetess

Huldah the Prophetess

The Rabbis’ View on Huldah the Prophetess

Noadiah the Prophetess

The Nameless Prophetesses in the Book of Ezekiel

Miriam the Prophetess

Prophecy and the Spirit of God

Women Prophets: A Postscript

This entry was posted in Prophetess, Prophets, Women and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to The Seven Prophetesses of the Old Testament

  1. Lynyesha says:

    Thanks for this article on female prophets in the bible.
    There appears to be a rigorous and concerted to exclude the daughters of The Most High’s written and spoken word from the bible, thus diminishing entirely the feminine help meet of The Most High Power. My strong suspicion is that this is the beguiling work of the devil. For, by leaving women out of The Most High’s work, it then sets up an inherent spiritual imbalance that allows a man if led by a lying, beguiling spirit to take the place of God himself. In this way ANY man is permitted to lead his (headless) unquestioning woman into a ditch. I have NO doubt that the term “airhead” is an old epithet for a woman whose head/brain is another man or woman.

    Like

    • Lynyesha,

      Let us not blame the devil for everything that happens in the world. The purpose of the biblical writers was not to discuss what men and women were saying or doing. Their purpose of to relate what God was doing in Israel and in the world.

      Thank you for visiting my blog.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

      • Ekumu Silver Gabriel says:

        Thanks man of for this teachings

        Like

      • Ekumu,

        I am glad you enjoyed the post.

        Claude Mariottini

        Like

      • Crystal tinkle says:

        Yes, I am believed to be a clairvoyant. But the bible preaches that’s witchery. I have had a gift since a young child. And had a crazy life, where I should have died. I am not perfect but I love like no other. And try to live a godly life. Long, long stories. I have seen past future and have a connection with animals and can sometimes know what people are thinking. I have proof. People around me. No I don’t hear voices tho. I am concerned I am saved and baptized. What is the possibility that this is through the Lord.

        Sincerely Crystal Tinkle

        Like

      • Crystal,

        God give many gifts to people, gifts that sometimes other people may not understand. I cannot judge your gifts from afar. If you know that these gifts are from the Lord, then use them for the glory of the Lord.

        Claude Mariottini

        Like

  2. Thanks dearly for this research work, God Bless You.

    Like

  3. Alude Olajumoke says:

    God will bless your knowledge and you’ll keep growing in divine wisdom.

    Like

  4. ps says:

    I plan to do a Bible Study this Wednesday about prophetesses in the Bible and ur site was very helpful. Thanks so much!

    Like

    • PS,

      I am glad the series of studies will help you in your presentation. I would suggest that you subscribe to receive my posts by email and you will always receive articles that can help you gain a better understanding of the Old Testament.

      Claude F. Mariottini
      Professor of Old Testament
      Northern Baptist Seminary

      Like

  5. Louisa ogba says:

    Sir, thank you very much. May the lord continue to use you as a blessing In this life. Many years in good health and more grace.

    Like

    • Louisa,

      Thank you very much for your nice words. Also, thank you for visiting my blog.

      Claude F. Mariottini
      Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
      Northern Baptist Seminary

      Like

      • Rebecca Levy-Gottesfeld says:

        Professor Mariottini: Kindly refrain from calling the Hebrew Bible “Old Testament”. It is insulting and its implication that it is superseded is wrong. Christianity’s favorite prophet Isaiah is part of the Hebrew Bible.

        Like

      • Rebecca,

        Thank you for your comment. The Jewish people called their Bible Tanak or the Hebrew Bible. Christians divide their Bible into two sections: Old Testament and New Testament.

        I write as a Christian because of my faith tradition. Some scholars use First Testament and Second Testament to designate the Bible, but this terminology is an academic construct. I could use the term Hebrew Bible to designate what Christians call the “Old Testament.” But that creates a problem: what do I call the “New Testament?” The moment I use New Testament, that use in itself presupposes an Old Testament.

        I do not believe in supersessionism or that the New Covenant through Jesus Christ supersedes the Old Covenant, which was made with the Jewish people. As a person who loves the Hebrew Scriptures, I have a great love for the Jewish people and I believe that God is still at work in the lives of the Jewish people. I mean no offense when I use “Old Testament.” As a Christian, I follow the terminology used in the church.

        Claude Mariottini

        Like

  6. Bret Goebel says:

    What is the basis for the statement that “God does not discriminate on the basis of gender”? Did not God create Woman for Man, and not the other way around? Is not there a hierarchy in Genesis 2 that, albeit perhaps uncomfortable with our modern sensibilities, is nevertheless the Holy Word of God?

    Like

    • Bret,

      God does not discriminate on the basis of gender. God does not discriminate. The view that there is is a hierarchy in Genesis 2 is a misinterpretation of Scriptures. I am considering writing a series of studies on Genesis 1-3 and address this issue in more detail.

      Thank you for visiting my blog.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

  7. HOPE GLOVER-ADDY says:

    Great work my big brother.

    Like

    • Dear Hope,

      I am glad that you like my post on the Seven Prophetesses. If you look at the Archive section of my blog, you will find a series of studies on the women prophets in the Old Testament.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

  8. Pingback: FAR: The Bodies of Christ, Broken for You by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee

  9. Gretchen says:

    Thank you ever so much for providing the info. Not much credit is given by man for these women. It helps tremendously in my research. My hats off to you.
    Gretchen

    Like

    • Gretchen,

      Thank you for your nice words and for visiting my blog. I am happy to know that you enjoyed my posts on the prophetesses of the Old Testament.

      I have several posts dealing with Old Testament women. People tend to forget that these women played an important role in Israel.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

  10. Thank you for doing one more!!! GOD brought me to this for a purpose!

    Like

  11. THANK YOU for your obedience to do one more…And maybe you’ll do another too because there is really no reason to limit yourself!

    Like

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