The Lord Says, “Listen and Pay Attention to My Female Prophets”

Did God commission men and women to prophesy—to speak authoritatively on his behalf? Is there evidence that the Lord says, “Listen and pay attention to my female prophets?” Ancient Near East scholar Christopher Rollston notes, “The fact that certain biblical texts presuppose that there were women prophets, there can be no debate. There were women prophets in ancient Israel and in Early Christianity. And the term that is used in Hebrew and in Greek for women prophets is the same as the term used for men prophets.”1 The litmus test for discerning a true prophet from a false one is whether the prophecy comes to pass (Deut 18:22).

Prophecy Defined

Prophecy is defined in 2 Peter 1:21 (KJV), “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man [anthrōpos]: but holy men [anthrōpoi] of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” At first blush, it sounds like only “men” spoke for God. Yet, from Old and New Testament evidence we know God chose both men and women as his prophets.

The Greek word anthrōpos (anthrōpoi, plural form) means “human being, man, person.” Context and the intended meaning to the original audience determine whether to translate it as “man” or “man and woman.” Like the KJV, the ESV, HCSB, CSB, and the pre-2011 NIV each translate anthrōpos in verse 21 as “man” and “men,” an interpretative decision obscuring female prophets’ presence and reality.2 The NRSV provides a clearer translation, “No prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women [anthrōpoi] moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” Read more about translation issues in “Who Gets Lost in Bible Translation.”

Proper Response to Prophecy

How should a hearer respond to prophetic proclamations? Moses, a prophet himself, explains that the Lord says, “I will raise up a prophet,” and “I will personally hold responsible anyone who then pays no attention to the words that prophet speaks in my name” (Deut 18:18–19). The apostle Peter admonishes believers that “the prophetic word” is reliable and “to pay attention to this as you would a light shining in a murky place” (2 Pet 1:19). From these verses, we can conclude that indeed the Lord says, “Listen and pay attention to my female prophets.”

Ways and Means of Prophecy

Some prophets began their message with, “This is what the Lord says.” At times, singing and musical instrumentation accompanied the ministry of prophecy (1 Chr 25:1–7).3 Some prophets delivered specific messages. In other instances, a prophet delivered a rebuke for disobedience, an encouragement, a prediction, a reminder of God’s covenant with his people, or specific instructions for carrying out the message from God.

God communicated to his prophets through various methods. Moses uniquely enjoyed speaking to God “face-to-face” (Num 12:6–8). Most often, prophets received God’s messages by less direct means—visions; dreams and vivid imagery; an audible voice; an inaudible, internal voice; the supernatural opening of their eyes to see unseen things; an angelic messenger; or symbolic actions.

Female Prophecy in Redemption History

Throughout the Bible, the Lord empowered women to speak his words to others. Sandra Glahn, a Professor of Media Arts and Worship at Dallas Theological Seminary, writes, “In every era of redemption history in which men have prophesied, God has raised up at least one woman, and sometimes multiple women, to speak for him as his prophet… Even if one believes the gift of prophecy ended in the first century, he or she must still reckon with the consistent Spirit–work of speaking God’s truth through women to men and women throughout redemption history.”4

Female Prophets in the Old Testament

The Hebrew Bible reveals five female prophets. The four named female prophets are:

Miriam (Mic 6:4; Ex 15:20­­–21)

Miriam was the sister of Moses and Aaron. When baby Moses needed an overseer, young Miriam protectively watched over him as he floated in a basket among river reeds until an Egyptian princess rescued him. Miriam’s prophetic ministry included music and singing. She was one of the three leaders who led the children of Israel out of captivity.

“Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.”

“I brought you up from the land of Egypt, I delivered you from that place of slavery. I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to lead you.”

Deborah (Judges 4–5)

Deborah was a prophet and one of the twelve major judges God called forth to lead the nation of Israel. She spoke the Word of the Lord to Barak. Under her command, the Israelites defeated King Sisera and the Canaanites and subsequently enjoyed forty years of peace. Her song of victory and praise is recorded in Judges 5.

“Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided”.

Huldah (2 Kings 22:14–20)

Huldah, wife of Shallum, was a prophet living in Jerusalem. She confirmed that the scroll the high priest Hilkiah found in the temple was part of the Torah. [Some scholars view this as the first symbolic act of scripture canonization of Deuteronomy.] Speaking to King Josiah’s priestly entourage, Huldah prefaced her prophetic warning message with, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel says…” (2 Kgs 22:16). King Josiah consulted the prophet Huldah rather than one of her contemporary male prophets, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, or Habakkuk. After hearing her prophecy, Josiah summoned all his leaders and “carried out the terms of the law recorded on the scroll…” (v 24).

“Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Akbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum, son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe…She said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, ‘This is what the LORD says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read…”

Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14)

Noadiah is the prophet described in Nehemiah’s prayer. She opposed Nehemiah’s work to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Some consider her a false prophet.

“Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophet Noadiah and how she and the rest of the prophets have been trying to intimidate me.”

Isaiah’s Wife (Isaiah 8:3) is another female prophet. Although the Bible does not give her a name, the wife of Isaiah is described as a “prophetess.”

“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.”

Female Prophets in the New Testament

Like the Old Testament, the New Testament has named and unnamed female prophets. The female prophets identified by name are Anna and Jezebel.

Anna (Luke 2:36–38)

Anna, a prophet in the temple court, “never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” She was married for seven years and a widow for eighty-four years. When Mary and Joseph brought their newborn to the Temple for the first time, Anna prophesied over the baby Jesus, whom she recognized by the Spirit, “to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Jezebel (Revelation 2:20–25)

Jezebel was a teacher in the church at Thyatira, one “who calls herself a prophet.” Jesus rebuked her, “By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.” Jezebel is not reprimanded for being a woman teaching in the church.5

There are also numerous references to prophetic proclamations made by women.

    • Mary, the mother of Jesus, sang a song of praise in response to Elizabeth’s Spirit-filled declaration of blessings (Luke 1:41–45). Mary’s prophetic song of praise is often called the Magnificat (vv. 46­–55).

    • Daughters who will prophesy. Peter quoted Joel, “And your sons and your daughters will prophesy” in Acts 2:17.

    • Philip’s four daughters. Luke’s reference to the “four unmarried daughters who prophesied.” These four female prophets were the daughters of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:9).

    • The women in Corinth. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church, he described women prophesying: “Any woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered…” (1 Cor 11:5).


We began by asking two questions: Did God commission men and women to prophesy—to speak authoritatively on his behalf? and, Is there evidence that the Lord says, “Listen and pay attention to my female prophets?” We’ve answered both questions affirmatively. Along this brief journey, we’ve also glimpsed the impact of masculine language on our understanding of women and their functioning. Scholar Jeffrey D. Miller cautions, “The likelihood that a sermon or lesson will feature female prophets such as Miriam, Huldah, Anna, or Philip’s daughters quickly declines when several translations of the verse used to define prophecy inaccurately call them men.” The Lord preserved portions of his prophet’s stories and words for our “strengthening, encouragement, comfort,” and “edification” (1 Cor 14:3–4). May we, therefore, listen and pay attention to his female prophets.

How many of the women prophets were you familiar with? Are you surprised that God chose to speak authoritatively through women, and not only men?

Dr. Cynthia Hester teaches, writes, and speaks on topics of faith and women, both women in the Bible and church history. A graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary with a Doctor of Ministry (DMin, 2022), Cynthia writes at cynthiahester.com and is a contributing author to the book 40 Questions About Women in Ministry (Kregel, 2023). She has also written articles published at Fathommag.org, Parker County Today, heartstrongfaith.com, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 2021, Cynthia founded Theology of Women Academy.® In this online academy, she teaches Christ-followers, including ministry leaders, the spectrum of orthodox views on women and the church to equip them to develop their beliefs—their theology of women. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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