25. The Various Forms of Prophecy
We have already said that prophecies were delivered through dreams and visions. When a prophet did receive a message, it could come in a variety of forms [II, 44]:
- It might be in the form of an allegory;
- The prophet might perceive God speaking to him, as in Isaiah 6:8 ("I heard the voice of God saying...");
- It is very common for the prophet to perceive an angel addressing him, as in Genesis 31:11 ("The angel of God said to me..."), Zechariah 4:5 ("The angel that spoke with me answered..."), and elsewhere;
- A prophet might also perceive a human being speaking to him, as in Ezekiel 40:3 ("Behold, there was a man, whose appearance was like that of brass...");
- Sometimes a prophet might not see anything but he would hear a disembodied voice, as in Daniel 8:16 ("I heard the voice of a man...) and Job 4:16 ("There was silence and I heard a voice...").
However a prophet received his message, he could perceive it with great clarity, like a person who hears thunder in a dream.
Perhaps most surprisingly, a prophet might be contacted just through normal speech, without anything to indicate that something out of the ordinary is occurring. This is what happened to Shmuel (Samuel). When he was first called in a vision, he thought that his mentor Eli was summoning him. Three times he ran to Eli because, as I Samuel 3:7 tells us, "the word of God had not yet been revealed to him." Shmuel was unfamiliar with prophecy, so he did not recognize this subtle form of the phenomenon when he first experienced it.
Prophets could experience more than one type of prophecy during their careers [II, 45].