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Prophet or Priest: What's the Difference?

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


Who Is a Prophet?

A prophet is a person chosen BY God to speak TO people FOR God. A prophet receives his call directly from God and not from anyone else. No real prophet is self-made even though some people attempt to make themselves prophets. The calling, anointing, and authority must come from God in order for the assignment to be authentic.

Two well-known prophets were called to prophesy before they were born. Jeremiah and John the Baptist were called to become prophets before their births, according to Jeremiah 1:5 and Luke 1:13-16.

Even though Jeremiah was declared a prophet before he was born, he was a priest until he was 21 years old, and God called him to use his gifts as a prophet.

John the Baptist is considered to be a transitional prophet. That's because he was the first prophet in the New Testament following Malachi in the Old Testament. During the 430 silent years, God called no prophet. Therefore, there was no prophet until John the Baptist showed up on the scene in the New Testament.


There are many prophets in the Old Testament; however, there are only four major prophets and twelve minor prophets with books bearing their names.

The major prophets were not more special than the minor prophets. The four prophets are called major because their books are longer than the minor prophets.

Four Major Prophets

  1. Isaiah
  2. Jeremiah
  3. Ezekiel
  4. Daniel

Twelve Minor Prophets

  1. Hosea
  2. Joel
  3. Amos
  4. Obadiah
  5. Jonah
  6. Micah
  7. Nahum
  8. Habakkuk
  9. Zephaniah
  10. Haggai
  11. Zechariah
  12. Malachi

Here are a few prophets in the Bible who don't have books named after them.

  1. Elijah
  2. Elisha
  3. Nathan

Who Is a Priest?

A priest is a person who speaks TO God FOR the people and conducts various rituals to atone for the sins of the people. In the Bible, priests had to be born into a priestly family.



Every priest in the Bible could trace his lineage back to the tribe of Levi and descendants of Aaron (1 Chronicles 23:2; 24:6, 31).

Some priests in the Bible included the following:

  1. The first priest mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 14:18-20 is Melchizedek, king of Salem, who officiated for Abraham.
  2. Eli, the priest of Shiloh, was the one who thought Hannah was drunk when she was praying for a son. When Samuel was born, he went to help Eli in the temple.

Today, there are religious leaders in some churches who consider themselves priests because they are authorized to act as mediators between God and people. They also have the authority to administer religious rites.

Jeremiah, one of the four major prophets

Jeremiah, one of the four major prophets

Jeremiah: A Prophet and a Priest

It was stated above that Jeremiah was a priest before he became a prophet when he was 21 years old. Up until then, Jeremiah was satisfied with what he was doing in Anathoth, the city of priests where his father was also a priest.

Jeremiah tried to get out of his assignment when God called him to become a prophet. Jeremiah was much like Moses when he was called from the burning bush. The son of Hilkiah used his age as an excuse for not being equipped, according to Jeremiah 1:7. God told Jeremiah on no uncertain terms that he would go where God sent him. Therefore, Jeremiah remained faithful to God for the rest of his life. He concluded that God's word in his heart was like a fire shut up in his bones (Jeremiah 20:9). Even though he lived to be only 53, there is more information reported about him than any other prophet.

The life application here is that we might be successful doing something, but ultimately we will be called to do what we were born to do. Even though Jeremiah operated as a priest before he was a prophet, we can't say he was a priest first because God made him a prophet long before he was born.


Called by God

Called by God

Doesn't have to be born into a family of prophets

Born into a priestly family

Represents God

Represents God

Speaks to people on behalf of God

Speaks to God on behalf of people

Samuel was a prophet

Samuel was a priest

Jeremiah was called from being a priest to being a prophet

Jeremiah was a priest until he was 21, then God called him to become a prophet


In the Bible, a prophet approached the people as a representative of God.

In the Bible, a priest approached God as a representative of the people.

We, today, can approach God on our own because of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. Jesus Christ is our High Priest who offered Himself as a sacrifice once and for all to bear the sins of the world (Hebrew 9:28).

There are times when we need to hear from a prophet. There are also times when we need to hear encouragement from a priest.

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