The Meaning of “Prophet”
In everyday terms, prophecy is a window through which one can peer into the future. Technically, the word comes from two Greek words, pro which means “for,” “in front of,” “on behalf of,” and phanai, which means “to speak,” so it is literally to “speak in front of,” to “speak for” (as an agent), or to “speak before” (in time).
The prophet of God had two primary responsibilities: 1) to speak out in front of, or “in behalf of” God, delivering His messages and 2) to speak beforehand, in advance, of coming events. The prophet was, in the first sense, the mouthpiece of God. In earlier Old Testament times, the prophets were known as “seers” (literally, one who “sees”). As related in 1 Sam. 9:9 NIV, “Formerly in Israel, if a man went to inquire of God, he would say, ‘Come, let us go to the seer,’ because the prophet of today used to be called a seer.”
In a broader sense, the word “prophet” can refer to anyone who speaks the word or will of God, whether revealed through dream, vision, or spoken message.