What was the school of prophets?Question: "What was the school of prophets?"
Answer: The Old Testament mentions a school of prophets in 1 Samuel 19:18–24 and in 2 Kings 2 and 4:38–44 (some translations say “company of prophets” or “sons of the prophets”). Also, the prophet Amos possibly mentions a prophetic school in stating his credentials (or lack thereof) to King Amaziah: “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet” (Amos 7:14).
First Samuel 19 relates an account in which King Saul sends messengers to arrest David. When these men encountered a company of prophets under Samuel’s leadership, the king’s men also prophesied. This happened three times. Saul himself then went, and he, too, prophesied, leading people to ask, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Samuel 19:24), which became a saying in those days.
The “group of prophets” in 1 Samuel 19 was clearly comprised of students of the prophet Samuel. These students were likely Levites who served in roles related to the tabernacle and ceremonial worship. The content of their “prophesies” is not specified. Their messages could have been general teachings from God’s laws in the Books of Moses, or they could have included additional revelation.
In 2 Kings 2 Elijah is traveling with Elisha, and a group of prophets from Bethel tells Elisha that Elijah would be taken from him that day (verse 3). Another group of prophets at Jericho repeats the prophecy (verse 5), and a third group of prophets near the Jordan River also delivers the same message (verse 7). This third group of 50 men may have been a subset of the group of prophets at Jericho. After Elijah was taken up into heaven, Elisha reluctantly sends 50 of these prophets to search for Elijah for three days (verses 15–18).
In 2 Kings 4:38–41 Elisha is in Gilgal during a time of famine. Elisha miraculously changes an inedible stew into a comestible dish for the group of prophets there. Chapter 4 ends with Elisha’s turning 20 loaves of bread into more than enough food for 100 people. Nothing else is mentioned about this school of prophets, though it is clear they lived together in some kind of community and were known as sons of the prophets who worshiped the Lord.
These groups of men were likely leaders among those 7,000 Israelites who had not bowed down to Baal, as God had told Elijah (1 Kings 19:18). There were at least three schools or communities of these prophets and possibly more, consisting of men who were devoted to God and served Him. They followed the teachings of Samuel, Elijah, and Elisha during the time of the prophets and were known as their “students.”
Recommended Resource: Prophets, Priests, and Kings: The Lives of Samuel and Saul by John MacArthur
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