The debate on men and women in the church is one that won’t end until Jesus returns. Usually, when someone makes the complementarian statement that “women are not to lead in the church,” I ask them why that is the case. I remember being at seminary and having a guy say to me, “So and so is a female Pastor.”
Immediately, I responded with “Praise the Lord,” forgetting that I was at a conservative, Southern Baptist seminary. This individual proceeded to tell me that the woman Pastor was out of order, but when we finished talking through the Scriptures over the next year or two, the same brother returned to me and expressed his guilt over just how many women he’d turned away from pastoral ministry.
While complementarians and many conservatives point to passages such as 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14, or 1 Timothy 3 (Pastoral requirements) and Titus 2 (Elders) to “make their case,” egalitarians (those who believe women can serve in the same roles in pastoral ministry as men) don’t have to look very far to show that complementarians are flat out wrong. They merely point to the female prophetesses of the Bible and say, “Aha! You’re wrong; women served as God’s mouthpieces on earth in the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, and they served in the New Testament, too.”
And that’s what this article is all about: the women prophets of the Old Testament and New Testament. We’ll look at the women prophets of the Old Testament, followed by the women prophets of the New Testament. The evidence will show both godly women prophets and ungodly ones, too, but the ungodly women prophets do not stain the role of prophetess as ordained by the Lord God Himself.
Women Prophets of the Old Testament
In the Old Testament, despite the heavy patriarchalism that dominated the nation of Israel, women were still chosen by God to deliver His message to His people. These women warned Israel to return to God, to turn away from their sin, and to seek the salvation of the Lord and His cleansing.
Miriam was the sister of Aaron and Moses and the daughter of Levites Amram and Jochebed. The first time we meet Miriam, we see that she’s an older sister looking out for her baby brother Moses and her mother. She talks to Pharaoh’s daughter and gets her mother secured in a position to babysit Moses for Pharaoh’s daughter:
And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi. 2 So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months. 3 But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank. 4 And his sister stood afar off, to know what would be done to him.
5 Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river. And her maidens walked along the riverside; and when she saw the ark among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it. 6 And when she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him, and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”
7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?”
8 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the maiden went and called the child’s mother. 9 Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. So she called his name Moses, saying, “Because I drew him out of the water.” (Exodus 2:1-10)
Miriam stars in a role here in Exodus 2: she asks Pharaoh’s daughter to “call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you” (v.7), and then calls her mother, Jochebed, to come and nurse her own son (Jochebed being Moses’ mother). Pharaoh’s daughter pays Jochebed to nurse her own child, and she weans him until he is fully grown. By Miriam’s clever words, she gets her mother to be close to Moses (her mother’s son), all while getting paid for it at the same time. In the next scene, we see Miriam celebrating the Israelites’ victory over Pharaoh and his army at the Red Sea, when God parts the waters to let His people walk through and then drowns the Egyptians:
20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. 21 And Miriam answered them:
“Sing to the Lord,
For He has triumphed gloriously!
The horse and its rider
He has thrown into the sea!” (Exodus 15:20-21, NKJV)
Miriam is called a “prophetess” here, the Greek word προφητις, meaning “prophetess.” In Exodus 15, Miriam directs the women to sing a victory song to the Lord because of Israel’s victory at the Red Sea that day over the Egyptians. Even after the Lord had shown that His hand was mighty to save His people and bring them out of Egypt, and Pharaoh had approved for Israel to flee, he went on horseback after them. God parted the Red Sea and let the Israelites walk by on dry land, but He then raised the waters and let them drown and cover the Egyptians. Miriam helps lead the song of victory, and the women follow after her. We don’t know if she was in charge of the women, but we know that she feels led to sing and the women follow after her. Perhaps they looked up to and admired her because she was Moses’ and Aaron’s sister. Perhaps it was because she was a prophetess. Perhaps it was because she was both.
Miriam was Aaron’s sister, as the text says, but she was also Moses’ sister because he and Aaron were brothers:
58 These are the families of the Levites: the family of the Libnites, the family of the Hebronites, the family of the Mahlites, the family of the Mushites, and the family of the Korathites. And Kohath begot Amram. 59 The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; andto Amram she bore Aaron and Moses and their sister Miriam. 60 To Aaron were born Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 61 And Nadab and Abihu died when they offered profane fire before the Lord. (Numbers 26:58-61)
The sons of Levi were Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. 2 The sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. 3 The children of Amram were Aaron, Moses, and Miriam. And the sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. (1 Chronicles 6:1-3)
Miriam was the sister of both Moses and Aaron, and Moses was a prophet and Miriam was a woman prophet or prophetess. The Lord also testifies that Miriam was sent to the nation of Israel in the same way that the Lord sent Moses and Aaron:
Hear now what the Lord says:
“Arise, plead your case before the mountains,
And let the hills hear your voice.
2 Hear, O you mountains, the Lord’s complaint,
And you strong foundations of the earth;
For the Lord has a complaint against His people,
And He will contend with Israel.
3 “O My people, what have I done to you?
And how have I wearied you?
Testify against Me.
4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
I redeemed you from the house of bondage;
And I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
5 O My people, remember now
What Balak king of Moab counseled,
And what Balaam the son of Beor answered him,
From Acacia Grove to Gilgal,
That you may know the righteousness of the Lord.” (Micah 6:1-5)
The one event for which Miriam becomes famous before God’s people concerns Moses and his decision to marry an Ethiopian woman. Miriam and Aaron murmured against Moses and the Lord heard it. He responds by making Miriam leprous:
Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. 2 So they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. 3 (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)
4 Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!” So the three came out. 5 Then the Lord came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both went forward. 6 Then He said,
“Hear now My words:
If there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision;
I speak to him in a dream.
7 Not so with My servant Moses;
He is faithful in all My house.
8 I speak with him face to face,
Even plainly, and not in dark sayings;
And he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
To speak against My servant Moses?”
9 So the anger of the Lord was aroused against them, and He departed. 10 And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper. 11 So Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord! Please do not lay this sin on us, in which we have done foolishly and in which we have sinned. 12 Please do not let her be as one dead, whose flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother’s womb!”
13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “Please heal her, O God, I pray!”
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp seven days, and afterward she may be received again.” 15 So Miriam was shut out of the camp seven days, and the people did not journey till Miriam was brought in again. 16 And afterward the people moved from Hazeroth and camped in the Wilderness of Paran. (Numbers 12:1-16)
Miriam and Aaron complained against Moses because he married an Ethiopian woman, an African woman. Keep in mind that Moses had married Zipporah earlier back in Exodus 2:
15 When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well.
16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. And they came and drew water, and they filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 Then the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.
18 When they came to Reuel their father, he said, “How is it that you have come so soon today?”
19 And they said, “An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and he also drew enough water for us and watered the flock.”
20 So he said to his daughters, “And where is he? Why is it that you have left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.”
21 Then Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses. 22 And she bore him a son. He called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.”
23 Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. 24 So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.(Exodus 2:15-25)
In Exodus 2, Moses married Zipporah. In Numbers 12, Moses marries an African woman. Though we don’t hear of it, it appears as though Zipporah dies and Moses, as a widower, marries a second time. He marries an African woman and it is possible that Aaron and Miriam, Moses’ siblings, were upset about his choice to marry a woman of another race. We don’t know their feelings about Zipporah (who was Gentile), but we know that they weren’t too happy about Moses marrying an African woman.
The Lord heard it and responded by dealing with Moses, Miriam, and Aaron away from the nation of Israel. The Lord called Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to the tabernacle of meeting, where God could talk with them alone. He told them that how He dealt with Moses was different than how He dealt with prophets: “If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings. And he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?” (Numbers 12:6-8)
Miriam becomes leprous, Aaron pleads with Moses to pray to God for her, and Moses does; the Lord allows her to be “put outside the camp” for seven days until the leprosy healed. That is the last major event we hear from Miriam. The next thing we’re told about the woman prophet is that she dies and is buried in Kadesh:
Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there and was buried there. (Numbers 20:1)
Miriam dies and is buried in Kadesh, and we’re not told her age nor how she died. What we do know is that Miriam becomes part of the word concerning God’s command for leprosy patients:
8 “Take heed in an outbreak of leprosy, that you carefully observe and do according to all that the priests, the Levites, shall teach you; just as I commanded them, so you shall be careful to do. 9 Remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam on the way when you came out of Egypt! (Deuteronomy 24:8-9)
Miriam was the byword due to her murmuring against Moses, even in Deuteronomy, as the Israelites prepare to cross over into the Promised Land.
Deborah (Judges 4-5)
We meet Deborah in Judges 4:
When Ehud was dead, the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. 2 So the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth Hagoyim. 3 And the children of Israel cried out to the Lord; for Jabin had nine hundred chariots of iron, and for twenty years he had harshly oppressed the children of Israel.
4 Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. 5 And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. 6 Then she sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun; 7 and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand’?”
8 And Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!”
9 So she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; he went up with ten thousand men under his command, and Deborah went up with him.
11 Now Heber the Kenite, of the children of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, had separated himself from the Kenites and pitched his tent near the terebinth tree at Zaanaim, which is beside Kedesh.
12 And they reported to Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor. 13 So Sisera gathered together all his chariots, nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people who were with him, from Harosheth Hagoyim to the River Kishon.
14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him. 15 And the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot. 16 But Barak pursued the chariots and the army as far as Harosheth Hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left.
17 However, Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between Jabin king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. 18 And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; do not fear.” And when he had turned aside with her into the tent, she covered him with a blanket.
19 Then he said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.” So she opened a jug of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him. 20 And he said to her, “Stand at the door of the tent, and if any man comes and inquires of you, and says, ‘Is there any man here?’ you shall say, ‘No.’”
21 Then Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went down into the ground; for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died. 22 And then, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said to him, “Come, I will show you the man whom you seek.” And when he went into her tent, there lay Sisera, dead with the peg in his temple.
23 So on that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan in the presence of the children of Israel. 24 And the hand of the children of Israel grew stronger and stronger against Jabin king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan. (Judges 4:1-24)
Deborah was a judge of Israel who was also a woman prophet: “Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time” (Judges 4:4). The phrase for “prophetess” here is γυνη προφητις ( gune prophetis) translated to mean “a woman prophet.” Deborah tells Barak, the leader of the Israelite army, to go and attack Sisera and the Canaanite army, that the Lord would give them the victory. Barak was afraid, and wanted Deborah to go up to battle with him. She complies, but she tells Barak that there’s a consequence for his fear and failure to go up courageously:
8 And Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!”
9 So she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; he went up with ten thousand men under his command, andDeborah went up with him. (Judges 4:8-10)
Deborah went up with Barak, and the Lord gave Barak the victory over the Canaanites. Sisera got away on foot, however, but Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, made him comfortable in her tent, and gave him milk instead of water and covered him with a blanket. He slept, tired from the battle he’d been fighting. While asleep, she drove a tent peg into his temple and killed him. Deborah said that God would give a woman the victory over Sisera (Judges 4:9), and it happens, as she said it would (Judges 4:17-22).
Deborah had a role to judge the nation of Israel; that alone made her important in the national affairs. And yet, she was also chosen by God as a prophetess, a woman prophet, one who spoke as a representative of God who delivered God’s message to God’s people. Deborah (whose name means “Bee”) was a courageous woman in war, a judge of integrity, and a prophet who exhorted God’s people. Not only did men come to her to judge their issues; they also came to her for spiritual advice and teaching as well.
Huldah (2 Kings 22)
We read of Huldah in only two passages. The first of those concerns the Book of the Law:
3 Now it came to pass, in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, that the king sentShaphan the scribe, the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to the house of the Lord, saying:4 “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may count the money which has been brought into the house of the Lord, which the doorkeepers have gathered from the people. 5 And let them deliver it into the hand of those doing the work, who are the overseers in the house of the Lord; let them give it to those who are in the house of the Lord doing the work, to repair the damages of the house—6 to carpenters and builders and masons—and to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the house. 7 However there need be no accounting made with them of the money delivered into their hand, because they deal faithfully.”
8 Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. 9 So Shaphan the scribe went to the king, bringing the king word, saying, “Your servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of those who do the work, who oversee the house of the Lord.”10 Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king.
11 Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. 12 Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Michaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king, saying, 13 “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”
14 So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went toHuldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. (She dwelt in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter.) And they spoke with her. 15 Then she said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Tell the man who sent you to Me, 16 “Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants—all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read— 17 because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore My wrath shall be aroused against this place and shall not be quenched.’”’ 18 But as for the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, in this manner you shall speak to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel: “ Concerning the words which you have heard—19 because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the Lord. 20 “Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place.”’” So they brought back word to the king. (2 Kings 22:3-20)
Huldah is considered to be a “prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. (She dwelt in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter.)” (2 Kings 22:14) The Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) refers to Huldah’s name as “Oldan, the woman prophet” (Greek phrase ολδαν την προφητιν γυναικα), with prophetin gunaika being translated as “woman prophet.” Huldah (Greek, Oldan) lived in the Second Quarter. The location of the Second Quarter is unknown. Huldah was the wife of Shallum, though we know very little about him. We know that he isn’t a prophet, so Huldah is not being labeled “the wife of a prophet,” but rather, is a woman prophet in her own right (in the same way that Deborah was the wife of Lapidoth, but Lapidoth wasn’t a prophet).
We read of the same account of Huldah’s prophecy in 2 Chronicles 34:
19 Thus it happened, when the king heard the words of the Law, that he tore his clothes. 20 Then the king commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Abdon the son of Micah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king, saying, 21 “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for those who are left in Israel and Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book.”
22 So Hilkiah and those the king had appointed went toHuldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tokhath,the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe. (She dwelt in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter.) And they spoke to her to that effect.
23 Then she answered them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Tell the man who sent you to Me, 24 “Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants, all the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah, 25 because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore My wrath will be poured out on this place, and not be quenched.’”’26 But as for the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, in this manner you shall speak to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel: “ Concerning the words which you have heard—27 because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and you humbled yourself before Me, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the Lord. 28 “Surely I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place and its inhabitants.”’” So they brought back word to the king. (2 Chronicles 34:19-28)
Outside of Huldah giving God’s judgment on the people for their failure to heed the words of the Book of the Law, we don’t hear from Huldah again. But what we do know is that she was the one who spoke God’s word at this time in the nation, that even the priest and king had to defer to her when it came to God’s law. In the Law of God, a woman prophet (Huldah) was over males. Yep, it happened.
Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8)
We now arrive at a woman prophet that some may never have heard about or know. The woman prophet in question is Isaiah’s wife, and we call her “Isaiah’s wife” because her real name is unknown:
Moreover the Lord said to me, “Take a large scroll, and write on it with a man’s pen concerningMaher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. 2 And I will take for Myself faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.”
3 Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said to me, “Call his name Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz; 4 for before the child shall have knowledge to cry ‘My father’ and ‘My mother,’ the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be taken away before the king of Assyria.” (Isaiah 8:1-4)
The prophet Isaiah says that “I went to the prophetess,” the word “prophetess” here in the Greek being την προφητιν (Isaiah 8:3 in the Septuagint). The woman prophet conceived (we don’t know her name), but we can presume that this woman prophet was Isaiah’s wife because the Lord tells Isaiah to “Call his name.” This phrase can be found in other passages of Scripture as well, usually referring to God-fearers and believers who have a child:
20 And Adamcalled his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. (Genesis 3:20)
28 Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and had a son. 29 Andhe called his name Noah, saying, “This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.” (Genesis 5:28-29)
9 The Angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.”10 Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.”11 And the Angel of the Lord said to her:
“Behold, you are with child,
And you shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
Because the Lord has heard your affliction.
12 He shall be a wild man;
His hand shall be against every man,
And every man’s hand against him.
And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” (Genesis 16:9-12)
19 Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.” (Genesis 17:19-21)
36 Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father. 37 The firstborn bore a son andcalled his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day. 38 And the younger, she also bore a son andcalled his name Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the people of Ammon to this day. (Genesis 19:36-38)
14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, andshall call His name Immanuel. 15 Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings. (Isaiah 7:14-16)
13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, andyou shall call his name John. (Luke 1:13)
24 So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him. (Judges 13:24)
13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel!15 And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.”16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. 17 Alsothe neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. (Ruth 4:13-17)
19 Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. 20 So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, andcalled his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:19-20)
24 Then David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in to her and lay with her. So she bore a son, and hecalled his name Solomon. Now the Lord loved him, 25 and He sent word by the hand of Nathan the prophet: Sohe called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord. (2 Samuel 12:24-25)
3 So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. 4 Then the Lord said to him:
“Call his name Jezreel,
For in a little while
I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu,
And bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.
5 It shall come to pass in that day
That I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”
6 And she conceived again and bore a daughter. Then God said to him:
“Call her name Lo-Ruhamah,
For I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel,
But I will utterly take them away.
7 Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah,
Will save them by the Lord their God,
And will not save them by bow,
Nor by sword or battle,
By horses or horsemen.”
8 Now when she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. 9 Then God said:
“Call his name Lo-Ammi,
For you are not My people,
And I will not be your God.(Hosea 1:3-8)
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18-21)
As can be seen from these verses, the language of the prophet conceiving and Isaiah being responsible to name the child shows that Isaiah was the father of the child and the husband of “the prophetess,” his wife. She brings forth a child whose name prophesies the end of Damascus and Samaria. The name of Isaiah and the prophetess’s child, “Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz,” means “hurry to the spoils!” or “He has made haste to the plunder.” The meaning of the child’s name reflects how quickly Damascus and Samaria will lose their riches and wealth.
Noadiah is a name that is rather obscure in Scripture, and with good reason. Though this woman prophet shares her name with a Levite in Scripture (Noadiah, the son of Binnui, see Ezra 8:33), Noadiah was a woman prophet (prophetess) who tried to instill fear into the heart of Nehemiah and the Jews who were working to rebuild the wall. All we know about Noadiah is that she was one of a number of prophets who wanted to do Nehemiah harm:
5 Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand. 6 In it was written:
It is reported among the nations, and Geshem says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king. 7 And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you at Jerusalem, saying, “ There is a king in Judah!” Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together.
8 Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.”
9 For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, “Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.”
Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.
10 Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.”
11 And I said, “Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!”12 Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me.
14 My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, andthe prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid. (Nehemiah 6:5-14)
Nehemiah 6 can be found in the Septuagint’s Nehemiah 16 (for those who’re curious), and it is there that we turn to discover what insights can be gleaned from Noadiah. The Greek phrase τω νωαδια τω προφητη ( toe noadia toe prophete) with Noadia being Greek for “Noadiah” and “ prophete” being prophet. Noadiah is called a “prophetess” in translations such as the New King James Version, so it’s highly doubtful that she was a man (even if her name was also given to Levites). As for her activities, we don’t know the exact nature of what she was up to, but Nehemiah says that Noadiah was with “the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid.” The word for “made me afraid” in the Greek is φοβεριζοντες ( phoberizontes), which means “to make someone afraid.” The verb is a participle, meaning that Noadiah and the rest of the prophets were “terrorizing” or “planting fear.” Perhaps the Noadiah and the women prophets, along with the male prophets, were prophesying evil toward Nehemiah in order to deter him from building the wall, or they were saying “the wall won’t be completed, something bad will happen, nothing good will come of this,” etc., to discourage Nehemiah and the workers. Noadiah was an evil woman prophet, but it just goes to show that the Gentile nations around the Jews, as well as the Jews, had women prophets.
Women Prophets in the New Testament
There are five Old Testament women prophets, but there are three mentions of women prophets in the New Testament. Like the Old Testament, not all women prophets were righteous and godly.
Anna (Luke 2)
Anna is the oldest woman prophet of the seven we see in Scripture, though we don’t have a record of the ages of all the women prophets. What we do know is that some of the women prophets mentioned in the Old Testament (Deborah and Huldah, for example) were married, while Miriam (the sister of Moses and Aaron) remained single (we’re never told that she married, though Moses married twice). Anna, though, is 84 years old and widowed, having chosen to serve God in the temple rather than marry again after the death of her first and only husband:
36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, andhad lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)
We’re told that Anna was the daughter of Phanuel and was from the tribe of Asher. In the temple, she served God day and night and was 84 years old when Jesus was presented in the temple. She thanked God for Jesus His Son being born (and what He would do in His earthly advent), “and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). What this means is that Anna preached before Jesus, His mother, and step-parent, as well as those in the temple who would listen. She was preaching to them, proclaiming what the Scriptures said about Jesus and how the baby before them was the very fulfillment of the Old Testament Messianic prophecies.
This is all we’re given in terms of information about Anna, but it’s important to note that she and Simeon (a male prophet) were both in the Temple when Jesus is presented 8 days after His birth.
<32>Four Daughters of Philip
Now it came to pass, that when we had departed from them and set sail, running a straight course we came to Cos, the following day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. 2 And finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. 3 When we had sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo. 4 And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem. 5 When we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed. 6 When we had taken our leave of one another, we boarded the ship, and they returned home.
7 And when we had finished our voyage from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, greeted the brethren, and stayed with them one day. 8 On the next day we who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. 9 Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. (Acts 21:1-9)
Acts 21 tells us something about Philip, one of the original seven deacons. While he was a deacon, Philip was also an evangelist (Acts 21:8). His daughters, however, were prophetesses, women prophets, as they were prophesying. Here in the NKJV translation of Acts 21:9, these four daughters of Philip (who, by the way, are called virgins because they’re single and unmarried) are prophesying. While the NKJV renders the word as “prophesied,” past tense, a snapshot action, the Greek tells us more: the verb for “prophesied” here is προφητεύουσαι ( propheteuousai), which tells us it was a continuous action because the verb is a participle, a reoccurring activity. There were times in the Old Testament where someone prophesied once and never did it again (as in the case of the seventy elders, see Numbers 11:25), but in this case, Philip’s daughters continued to prophesy. They were women prophets, but we’re never given their names.
The last woman prophet in the Bible is in the last book of Scripture, Revelation:
18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write,
‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass:19 “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. 20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, becauseyou allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:18-23)
“That woman Jezebel” leaves us wondering if the Lord is comparing her to Queen Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, who committed iniquity and had so many prophets against the Lord, or if the Lord Jesus Himself calls her “Jezebel” because that is her name. In any case, if she is called “Jezebel,” she certainly relates to Ahab’s wife because of her evil deeds. Notice, though, that the Lord Jesus says of this woman that she “calls herself a prophetess” (v. 20). The translation of the Greek phrase in Revelation 2 is “calling herself a prophet,” with the Greek word προφῆτιν (prophet) being the same word used of Deborah, Huldah, and Noadiah in the Old Testament.
And yet, she calls herself a prophetess; the Lord doesn’t call her a prophet, and the content of what she teaches tells us that this Jezebel is not from God: “to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent” (Revelation 2:20-21). Jezebel has taught those in the church at Thyatira to 1) commit fornication, adultery, sexual immorality of all kinds and 2) to eat food sacrificed to idols. This self-named prophetess is encouraging the believers at Thyatira to engage in sexual immorality and then eat food that lies at the feet of false gods. So, this self-named “prophetess” is encouraging Christians to worship other gods. If Jezebel was a believer, she wouldn’t move Christians to go worship false gods and live in sin; her teaching tells us that she isn’t legitimate, and she isn’t acting in accordance with true doctrine. The Lord says that He’s given her time to repent of her deeds (v.21), but He is still patient and now gives an extension of time for Jezebel to repent of her deeds (v.22).
This woman could likely be called Jezebel, but it seems as though she has been named after one of the most wicked women in all of Scripture, the Jezebel who’s the most infamous woman in the Scriptures — the one who kills Naboth and steals his vineyard without blinking:
29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel; andAhab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. 31 And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him. 32 Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made a wooden image. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. (1 Kings 16:29-33)
And it came to pass after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth.”
2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab; and there was a severe famine in Samaria. 3 And Ahab had called Obadiah, who was in charge of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly. 4 For so it was, while Jezebel massacred the prophets of the Lord, that Obadiah had taken one hundred prophets and hidden them, fifty to a cave, and had fed them with bread and water.) 5 And Ahab had said to Obadiah, “Go into the land to all the springs of water and to all the brooks; perhaps we may find grass to keep the horses and mules alive, so that we will not have to kill any livestock.”6 So they divided the land between them to explore it; Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.
7 Now as Obadiah was on his way, suddenly Elijah met him; and he recognized him, and fell on his face, and said, “ Isthat you, my lord Elijah?”
8 And he answered him, “ It is I. Go, tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”
9 So he said, “How have I sinned, that you are delivering your servant into the hand of Ahab, to kill me? 10 As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to hunt for you; and when they said, ‘ He is not here,’ he took an oath from the kingdom or nation that they could not find you. 11 And now you say, ‘Go, tell your master, “Elijah is here”’!12 And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from you, that the Spirit of the Lord will carry you to a place I do not know; so when I go and tell Ahab, and he cannot find you, he will kill me. But I your servant have feared the Lord from my youth. 13 Was it not reported to my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, how I hid one hundred men of the Lord’s prophets, fifty to a cave, and fed them with bread and water? 14 And now you say, ‘Go, tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ He will kill me!”
15 Then Elijah said, “ As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely present myself to him today.”
16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah.
17 Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “ Is that you, O troubler of Israel?”
18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals. 19 Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” (1 Kings 18:1-19)
And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” 3 And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”
5 Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.”6 Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.”8 So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.
9 And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” (1 Kings 19:1-10)
As can be seen, Jezebel had the prophets of Asherah eating at her table and killed the prophets of the Lord. And then, after Jezebel’s Asherah prophets are killed at Mount Carmel, where the Lord rains down fire on the altar and consumes the water, Elijah orders that the false prophets of Baal and Asherah be killed. This means that all the prophets that eat with Jezebel are killed in the battle. Jezebel, upset at this, threatens to take Elijah’s life: “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time” (1 Kings 19:2).
While this article has invested in the women prophets of the Bible from both the Old and New Testaments, the Bible mentions not only the women prophets of the past but also the women prophets of the future. What we see in Scripture with regard to women prophets is only a foretaste of what God will do in the future. Joel says as much in the book that bears his name:
28 “And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sonsand your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
29 And also on My menservants andon My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth:
Blood and fire and pillars of smoke.
31 The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
32 And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Shall be saved.
For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance,
As the Lord has said,
Among the remnant whom the Lord calls. (Joel 2:28-32)
The Lord will pour out His Spirit, will give His Spirit, to “all flesh,” all humans, and even women will prophesy. They prophesied in the Old Testament, but, as opposed to just the Jews, God would pour out His Holy Spirit upon all mankind, including the Gentiles. In verse 28 above, Joel says that women, “your daughters, shall prophesy,” that “My Maidservants” will have the Spirit and evidence it publicly. In verse 32, Joel gives the statement that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. So in the midst of what God is doing, God will also save those who call upon His name.
God has plans for the future, and those plans involve women. Just as women prophesied in the days of Scripture, women will prophesy today. Deborah, Miriam, and Huldah were women of great faith with a great calling, women who were visited by priests, kings, and other national officials to see what God had to say through the women prophets. These men listened to the women of God and what message God had to deliver to the people through them.
And in the same way that God gives women prophets to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, and He tells us through the prophet Joel that He would give women prophets in the New Testament, the Lord delivers in the NT: we see Anna in the temple, who prophesies concerning the birth and life of Christ; we see the four virgin daughters of Philip, who prophesied in Acts.
This study of women prophets also brings up one more thing — that is, that the gift of prophet has not died or ceased, but still lives:
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—2 if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, 7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. (Ephesians 3:1-7)
7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
9 (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:7-16)
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:27-30)
The gift of prophecy exists, has existed in the Old Testament, and still exists today — and, in the same way it existed in the Old Testament and God used women prophets as well as male prophets, the Lord still calls women prophets today and still uses them as He pleases.