Does it come as a surprise that there are women prophets in the Bible, or maybe that there are more than you thought? But who were they? There is a list here of inspiring women, who prophesied, from the Old and New Testament Scriptures. Some are only mentioned briefly while others are women who fulfilled their godly calling, who were bold and courageous to speak God’s word. And more than that, they acted in faith and sought to honor God through their actions. We will explore who they were, but before we do that let’s first examine exactly what is a prophetess.
What is a Prophetess?
The Old Testament begins with Adam and Eve in direct communication with God. But that close relationship was lost because of sin. Then God called individual ‘prophets’ to Israel to speak His words to the people. The prophet became God’s representative, empowered by the Holy Spirt to be God’s voice to the nation.
The role of king and priest in Israel became one of heritage, simply by being born into the royal or priestly families. But a prophet was uniquely chosen and called by God. Family heritage, gender, and age were not qualifications to be a prophet. Scripture clearly shows that God chose both men and women.
What is a prophetess? A prophetess is a female chosen by God for the role of prophet.
In Scripture there are also examples of those who spoke prophetically, or sang a prophetic song, but who were not designated a ‘prophet.’ This was from a specific event, an answer to prayer, or encounter with God. Temporarily the person would experience the anointing of the Holy Spirt to respond with praise and worship, or a prophetic word.
In the New Testament, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God restored our sin-broken relationship with Him. Now through the indwelling Holy Spirit we are able to hear God’s voice – and He speaks to us in many different ways.
Today there are those who have a prophetic ministry, whose role is to equip and prepare the church. The office of prophet, or prophetess, is very different to the gift of prophesy – which is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that is available to all believers. The gift of prophetic encouragement is speaking a Holy Spirit inspired word that edifies, exhorts, or comforts another person.
Who is the First Female Prophetess in the Bible?
The first woman who is recorded as being a prophetess in the Bible is Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron. Miriam was a gifted singer and worship leader who was also a prophet. After the exodus from Egypt, and passing through the Red Sea, she led the whole community in praise and worship to the LORD.
“Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing.”Exodus 15:20
Miriam had a leadership position that was accepted by the whole community. She is a witness to us that God speaks to His people through men and women of faith. And we are all called, whatever our age, to use the gifts that God has given us to the full, for His glory.
Who is the Oldest Prophetess in the Bible?
We can’t say definitively who is the oldest prophetess in the Bible because their ages were not always recorded. But Miriam could be a candidate in the Old Testament. She was the older sister of Moses and Aaron, old enough to be tasked to watch over Moses when he was a new-born baby. Old enough to speak to Pharaoh’s daughter and devise a plan to include her mother in his care. She was described as a girl, maid, or maiden, not as a child at this time.
Miriam could have been anything between 5-12 years older than Moses. When Moses and Aaron first spoke to Pharaoh, they were eighty and eighty-three years old respectively. By the time the Israelites had left Egypt and passed through the Red Sea Miriam could have been 85-92 years of age! Possibly the oldest prophetess in the Bible, as well as the oldest worship leader.
There is also an elderly prophetess mentioned in the New Testament, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel. She is described, at the age of eighty-four, as being very old. Anna spent her time in the Temple worshipping God and He honored her faithfulness. She was privileged to see and to recognize the baby Jesus as the Messiah!
Nine Women Prophets in the Bible
Here we have a list of names of female prophets from the Old and New Testament Scriptures. Not surprisingly there are more names recorded in the Old Testament than in the New Testament which brought in a different era.
I have not included Noadiah or Jezebel as women prophets in the Bible. They were false prophets, and here the focus is on inspirational women of God.
Some may say what about Sarah or Esther then? Women who are traditionally regarded, in Judaic writings, as prophesying to Israel. These were women of faith, and even great faith. But they are not designated as being a prophetess in the Bible. There are no prophetic words recorded by them in Scripture, so they are not included in this list.
Miriam – Exodus 15
A list of women prophets in the Bible has to begin with Miriam. She is the first recorded female prophetess in the Bible (see above) and was a gifted singer and worship leader.
“I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam.” Micah 6:4
Read more here: 3 Relevant Lessons from the Life of Miriam
Deborah – Judges 4 & 5
Deborah’s story is found in the book of Judges which recounts a troubled period in Israel’s history. This was before the monarchy when God would raise up a leader for His people. They came from different tribes, and each leader was unique in their own way. Deborah was the only woman chosen and Scripture describes her in this way:
“Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.”Judges 4:4
Deborah’s relationship with God is listed first as she is designated a prophet. Then the role in her family comes second. And finally, her ministry, or calling, to serve the people. Deborah was one of the foremost women prophets in the Bible, a unique and inspiring woman of God. Read more of her story here: An Inspirational Woman of God – A Deborah Bible Study.
Hannah – 1 Samuel 1 & 2
In the Bible Hannah’s story is found at the beginning of 1 Samuel. There we find two prayers recorded that are set apart by a couple of years. The first is with tears and a desperate vow, but the second prayer is regarded as a song of praise, and worship, with a prophetic declaration. Hannah prophesises a new era for Israel…
Related Post: Hannah’s Prayer
Abigail – 1 Samuel 25
Abigail was a woman who took a risk to diffuse a volatile situation and used everything she had to divert danger. She revealed herself to be a courageous, and prudent, woman of faith. Abigail spoke prophetic words over David, that God would make a lasting dynasty for him, long before he became king. She showed concern for his integrity in the light of who he would become as ruler of Israel.
Related Post: Three Inspirational Qualities of Abigail
Huldah – 2 Kings 22 & 2 Chronicles 34
Huldah lived in Jerusalem during a critical time in Judah’s history when most of the people had turned their backs on God. When King Josiah started a program of reform a long-lost book of the law was found in the Temple. This was read to the King who was alarmed at the extent of the nations rebellion. He wanted to hear a word from God for the nation and sent his representatives to enquire of the Lord.
Five of the King’s advisers, including the priest and secretary chose to go and speak to Huldah, who was known as a prophet.
“Hilkiah and those the king had sent with him went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter.”2 Chronicles 34:22
Huldah is designated a prophet first, emphasising her close relationship with God. Then her family role and her proximity to the palace. Huldah is not intimidated but faithfully delivers God’s word, and the implications, to the king’s representatives.
Huldah’s Prophetic Word – Bible Gateway link – 2 Chronicles 34:23-28
There were other prophets, men who were in ministry, at the same time as Huldah. She, like Deborah before her, is a witness to women that God does not disbar anyone because of their gender. There is also a clear message that Biblically ministry is compatible with marriage.
Isaiah’s Wife – Isaiah 8
Isaiah’s children, and their names, were signs to Israel to re-enforce God’s message. Isaiah was given a word by God and told to write it on a scroll, which he did in the presence of two witnesses. The word was Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz meaning ‘quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil.’
“Then I made love to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the LORD said to me, “Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.”Isaiah 8:3
This child would be a reminder to the people of God’s word through Isaiah, and while the child was young they would see the fulfilment of the prophecy.
The brief mention here of ‘the prophetess’ is the only reference to Isaiah’s wife. Some might suggest that she was only known as a prophetess because she was the wife of a prophet. But this use of the title prophetess is not supported anywhere else in Scripture.
The prophetess is faceless, anonymous even, to us – but not to God! He knows her name, her heart, her service and ultimately her reward comes from God.
Elizabeth – Luke 1
As we move into the New Testament searching for women prophets in the Bible, the first prophetic word is powerfully significant. Zechariah and Elizabeth were a godly couple who had unfulfilled dreams and unanswered prayer in their lives. But they were faithfully serving God. Then finally in their old age God acted, in His perfect timing Elizabeth would become pregnant and have a child. Their son, John, would have a specific calling to prepare Israel for the ministry of Jesus.
Elizabeth was related to Mary and became the first person to acknowledge and recognize Mary as the mother of Jesus. With the anointing of the Holy Spirit Elizabeth spoke a prophetic word of greeting when Mary visited her in the early stages of her pregnancy.
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her.”Luke 1:42-45
Related Post: Zechariah and Elizabeth – Authentic Faith
Anna – Luke 2
Anna was probably the oldest prophetess in the Bible and God honored her faithful service. (see above).
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout… There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old…” Luke 2:25,36.Luke 2:25,36.
Read more: The Prophetess, Anna Daughter of Phanuel
Philips’s Daughters – Acts 21
We know slightly more about Philip in Scripture than we do about his daughters. He was one of the first men selected by the Apostles to be a deacon. The criteria was, to have the reputation of being full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. What a great recommendation of Philip!
After persecution broke out against the Christians in Jerusalem, Philip left for Samaria. He had a significant ministry there with many signs, wonders, healings, and new believers. Philip was guided by the Holy Spirit and became an evangelist travelling to many different towns until he finally settled in Caesarea. (Acts 6:1-6, 8:4-40)
Many years later, Paul with his travelling companions stopped on their journey at Philip’s house in Caesarea. Now Philip had a family, and his daughters were believers.
“…we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.” Acts 21:9Acts 21:9
This list of women prophets in the Bible ends with Philip’s daughters. Paul, and Luke the writer of the book of Acts, considered it noteworthy to mention them. They were second generation Christians, and are recorded as anonymous women. Whether they held the office or role of prophet is unlikely, but they were clearly using the spiritual gift of prophecy. Their gifting is a witness that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were not just for the disciples, or apostles, but to be passed on for all believers!
“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.”1 Corinthians 14:1-5
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