John Paul Jackson: "Prophets & Seers"
Years ago, I considered anyone who had a revelatory gift to be a "prophet." I no longer believe this. Over the years, I have come into contact with many revelatory styles. I define these styles by the manner in which someone ministers, combined with their own God-given personality.
During my 20-year tenure in ministry, I have observed many gifted, revelatory people. I was delighted to discover how radically different they are from one another. Their differences are more than just a broad array of personalities or the way revelation is delivered. How a person receives revelation from God and the type of revelation they receive may vary from person to person. This makes for quite a potpourri of visual differences when watching how someone ministers or delivers a word from the Lord.
After reflecting on these various types and styles, I have come to understand that there are unique personalities, as well as variations in the respective gifts of prophets and seers. Notice that I have not made a value statement, making one gift more valuable than another. Rather, they are two of many expressions within the revelatory arena.
Differences between prophets and seers seem to be more clearly distinguished in the Old Testament. However, the lack of distinction in the New Testament does not necessarily indicate they are the same. Instead, it may simply indicate the writers did not distinguish between prophets and seers, which may reflect a difference between the Hebrew and Greek mind-sets. The Greek language does not seem to recognize a difference between the two titles.
Since the Early Church, many believers in the West have failed to make a distinction between prophets and seers. At some point, the Church also stopped recognizing the title of a seer. In a similar way, they diminished the role of a prophet and failed to note the distinction between prophets and pastors, or even prophets and evangelists. Today however, these perceptions are rapidly changing in many places around the world.
A STARTING POINT
As a starting point, I would like to suggest using the following three approaches. These steps will lay a biblical foundation for understanding these gifts. First, we need to approach the differences between prophets and seers through translating the original Hebrew words. Second, we need to approach the differences between prophets and seers by looking at the manner in which the titles are used. Third, we need to approach the differences between prophets and seers by looking at those who were given the titles and by trying to ascertain whether or not their titles indicated differences in their respective functions.
Perhaps we should begin by looking at some of the Hebrew words translated in Scripture as "prophet" and "seer." The Strong's Concordance translates these as follows:
"SEER" Hebrew (7200, 7203, 2374, 2372)
Hebrew 7200: ra'ah, raw-aw'; to see, look, view; to realize, know, consider; to be selected; to become visible, appear, show oneself; to be seen; to cause to see, show; to be shown; to look at each other, meet with; a general word for visual perception.
Hebrew 7203: ro'eh, ro-eh'; a seer; vision.
Hebrew 2374: Chozeh, kho-zeh'; seer, one who receives a communication from God, with a possible focus that the message had a visual component; agreement.
Hebrew 2372: Chazah, khaw-zaw'; to see, to look, observe, gaze, by extension: to choose (one thing or another); to have visions, to prophesy.
"PROPHET" Hebrew (5030, 5012, 5197)
Hebrew 5030: nabiy', naw-bee'; a prophet (true or false).
Hebrew 5012: naba', naw-baw'; to prophesy, speak as a prophet; prophesy has its focus on encouraging or restoring covenant faithfulness, the telling of future events encourages obedience or warns against disobedience.
Hebrew 5197: nataph, naw-taf'; to pour down; gently fall, drip; to (drip words) preach, prophesy.
We also need to look at how the words are used. Many use the terms "seer" and "prophet" interchangeably. Furthermore, some believe that seers have not existed since the time of the Prophet Samuel (1150 B.C. - 1010 B.C.). They quote 1 Samuel 9:9: "(Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: 'Come, let us go to the seer' for he who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer)."
However, this is a shortsighted point of view and creates a dilemma: why does Scripture continue to make a distinction between prophets and seers after the era of Samuel?
I believe that seers and prophets continue to "co-exist" throughout Scripture. Both Gad, the seer, and Nathan, the prophet, served in King David's court (2 Samuel 24:4; 1 Chronicles 29:29). Asaph, the seer, and Isaiah, the prophet, were also contemporaries during King Hezekiah's reign (2 Chronicles 29:30; 2 Kings 20:1).
Therefore, I believe that 1 Samuel 9:9 implies that Samuel moved from functioning as a seer to functioning as a prophet. Or more likely that Samuel fulfilled both the functions of a seer and a prophet!
In addition, there seems to be a difference even between those who functioned as "seers." In 1 Chronicles 29:29, the word "seer" is used twice, but it is not the same Hebrew word.
"Now the acts of Kind David, first and last, indeed they are written in the book of Samuel the seer (7200), in the book of Nathan the prophet (5030), and in the book of Gad the seer (2374)." -- 1 Chronicles 29:29
Perhaps this indicates a difference in how Samuel and Gad received revelation from God.
Samuel had a wide variety of revelatory experiences, perhaps broader than Gad's. Samuel was gifted in visions, knowings, and dreams. He transcended time and geographic locality to watch events that were occurring simultaneously outside of his immediate geographic location. He knew who was coming to his door before the person arrived. He even predicted weather patterns (1 Samuel 12:17).
In contrast, Gad's revelatory gift was not as well documented. It is possible that he walked in the same level of prophetic gifting as Samuel, but there is no record of this. Scripture indicates that he carried the Lord's rebuke to David for numbering Israel (2 Samuel 24:11-13). He also helped arrange Levitical music (2 Chronicles 9:25), and he apparently wrote a history book about David's reign (1 Chronicles 29:29).
Did people go to a seer more than to a prophet? It seemed to be common practice for the people of Israel to look to the seers for direction (1 Samuel 9:6-9). It was also common for them to bring the seer an offering for his livelihood (1 Samuel 9:7). There are also several instances where people went to the prophet for wisdom and direction from God.
In conclusion, prophets and seers still function today as they did in biblical times. In fact, we are seeing a worldwide renaissance in these types of revelatory gifts.
John Paul Jackson