The Bible has many books written by and about the prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, to mention a few of the biggies. But in 2 Chronicles, they play more of a minor role.
Ask the Prophet's Magic 8-Ball
Prophets appear every now and then to advise the kings of Judah and Israel. Their main role is to speak as God's messengers on Earth and let the monarch know exactly what God's thinking:
- The prophet Shemaiah came to Rehoboam and to the officers of Judah […] and said to them, "Thus says the Lord: You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak." (12:5)
- The spirit of God came upon Azariah son of Oded. He went out to meet Asa and said to him, "Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The Lord is with you, while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you abandon him, he will abandon you." (15:1-2)
- At that time the seer Hanani came to King Asa of Judah, and said to him, "Because you relied on the king of Aram, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped you." (16:7)
- Then Micaiah said, "I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep without a shepherd; and the Lord said, 'These have no master; let each one go home in peace.'" (18:16)
- Jehu son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the Lord." (19:2)
- A letter came to him from the prophet Elijah, saying […] "The Lord will bring a great plague on your people, your children, your wives, and all your possessions, and you yourself will have a severe sickness with a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out, day after day, because of the disease." (21:12, 14-15)
- The spirit of God took possession of Zechariah son of the priest Jehoiada; he stood above the people and said to them, "Thus says God: Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has also forsaken you." (24:20)
- The Lord was angry with Amaziah and sent to him a prophet, who said to him, "Why have you resorted to a people's gods who could not deliver their own people from your hand?" (25:15)
- He did not humble himself before the prophet Jeremiah who spoke from the mouth of the Lord. (36:12)
You might have noticed that prophets tend to be big on delivering warnings from God (as opposed to patting kings on the back with divine congrats). In a way, the prophets served as a check on the monarchy. The kings were appointed by God himself, so who's to stop them from doing what they want all the time? Enter the prophets.
It's sort of like the way the system of checks and balances works in American government. The legislative branch makes laws, but the executive branch can veto them and the judicial branch can declare them unconstitutional. A king might decide to start worshipping another god, but a prophet would be right there behind him to let him know that Yahweh does not approve and spell out the disastrous consequences. Kings tend not to like what the prophets have to say because it usually involves their own doom.
It's Hard Out There for a Prophet
Just because you have a direct line to God doesn't mean you're popular. While true prophets usually speak the truth, they often meet with resistance:
- Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in the stocks, in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. (16:10)
- Take Micaiah, and return him to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king's son; and say, "Thus says the king: Put this fellow in prison, and feed him on reduced rations of bread and water until I return in peace." (18:25-26)
- King Joash did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah's father, had shown him, but killed his son. (24:22)
- As he was speaking the king said to him, "Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be put to death?" So the prophet stopped. (25:16)
No one likes to hear bad news. They especially don't like hearing that they're the cause of the bad news. So prophets are regularly persecuted and reviled for passing along God's messages. Read to the end of 2 Chronicles, though, and it's one big "We told you so."
In Popular Culture
Prophets and seers show up everywhere in literature:
- Harry Potter's entire life is changed by a prophecy that Voldemort got wind of.
- In the Matrix films, the Oracle can't see the future, but she can predict what everyone will do based on her excellent understanding of human nature.
- Melisandre on Game of Thrones is a prophet for the Lord of Light. A really gorgeous, really weird prophet.
- The action in Macbeth begins when the three witches prophecy about Macbeth's chance at snagging the throne. Misinterpreting one of those predictions gets him killed, though.
These prophets share the ability to predict the future, but the big difference between them and the Biblical prophets is that they're not sent by God. Their divine backing by the One, the Only, gives the biblical prophets more cred. Consulting other sources, like ghosts, witches, and oracles, is a capital crime in God's eyes.