There are several people mentioned in the Bible that have written or spoken prophetic statements, but more of them are not prophets. One example of this is Saul, who eventually became the King of Israel that the people had sought for so long. Saul fell under God’s influence and makes several prophetic statements, but he is not considered to be one of the Major Prophets in the Bible.
The fact is that God employed prophets throughout biblical history for the purpose of guiding and warning his people. As was often the case with humans, they tended to ignore and not follow warnings or instructions very well.
Let us take a look at the 4 Major Prophets from the Bible.
Isaiah is considered by many religious scholars to be perhaps greatest of all prophets in the Bible. His very name actually means “YHWH (the LORD) is salvation.” He reside within Jerusalem and the prophecies he was given by God were specific toward Israel, Judah as well as other nations. The local Jewish tradition makes a claim that he came from royal descent, and many believe he might have been a distant cousin to King Uzziah. This most likely provided access for him to the Kings of Judah within Jerusalem.
Biblical accounts claim that Isaiah got visions from God during the rule of four Kings from Judah, who were Ahaz, Uzziah, Jotham, and Hezekiah. The biblical timeline here extends from the end of King Uzziah’s rule up until the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrian King Sennacherib. His ministry lasted 40-years during the later stages of the 8th century B.C. Jewish writings indicate that he was executed by King Manasseh who had him sawed in half.
If you read the biblical book of Jeremiah, then you will notice it depicts Jeremiah as a major prophet of Yahweh, the Israelite god. During Jeremiah’s lifetime, the nation of Judah was divided over by both religion and policy and there were many prophets that brought forth opposing messages from Yahweh. The Bible claims that Jeremiah fiercely preached the word of Yahweh against all opposition during those times and it eventually strengthened his authenticity. He was not shy about pointing out those who were prophesying lies.
Jeremiah gave warnings that Judah will suffer disaster from Yahweh because the people had rebelled against him as they began worshipping other gods. Not only that, they had adopted certain policies of Babylon that led to widespread social injustices.
Ezekiel conducted his ministry in both Babylon and Jerusalem during first few decades of the 6th century BC. For Ezekiel and his followers, these were terrible years as the Israelite nation and the tiny state of Judah was both eliminated by the Babylonians under the rule of Nebuchadrezzar. Jerusalem eventually surrendered in year 597 BC. However, the Israelites built a resistance which led to the city’s destruction following a long siege. This resulted most of the survivors getting deported.
Prior to the surrender of Jerusalem, Ezekiel was seen as a very effective priest. He was deported along with his followers to Babylonia and lived at Tel-abib (near Nippur). It was apparent that he was seen as someone with uncommon stature. Ezekiel’s first vision was the popular “throne-chariot” of God. This was followed up by many more prophesies.
All biblical accounts about Daniel claim that he was also taken captive by Babylon under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar around 604 B.C. This Babylonian captivity went on for some 70 years – something that God foretold using the prophet Jeremiah. During that time period, Daniel served in various governmental positions under the reign of several Babylonian as well as Medo-Persian rulers – among them were King Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, Belshazzar, and Cyrus.
Sometime during the initial year under the rule Darius, Daniel began to understand this prophecy by the Prophet Jeremiah who forecasted his people would remain in captivity for 70 years. This took place as this 70 year stretch was coming to an end. It is assumed that Daniel was around 80 or 90 years old at this time. He obviously lived a very long life, but biblical accounts do not specify how old he actually was. Daniel authored the book of Daniel throughout the 6th century B.C.
We should also address how what the Bible refers to as false prophets, who are people that claim to speak on behalf of God, but really are not. And in addition to this, there are those people who are speaking as representatives of other gods as well. Perhaps the biggest example of this is when a showdown involving Elijah against over 400 prophets of Baal, the Canaanite god. In this instance, Elijah fully demonstrates that he is the only one who has the right to speak on behalf of the true God.