In Hebrew, the word traditionally translated as prophet is נְבִיא (navi), which likely means "proclaimer". This forms the second of the three letters of TaNaKh, derived from Torah, Navim, Ketuvim. The meaning of navi is perhaps described in Deuteronomy 18:18, where God said, "I will put my words in his mouth and he will speak to them all that I command him." Thus, the navi was thought to be the "mouth" of God. The root nun-bet-alef ("navi") is based on the two-letter root nun-bet which denotes hollowness or openness; to receive transcendental wisdom, one must make oneself “open”. Cf. Rashbam's comment to Genesis 20:7. Fully a third of the TaNaKh is devoted to books about prophetic experience including a separate book of ‘minor’ prophets known as The Twelve Prophets (Trei-Assar) .
According to I Samuel 9:9, the old name for navi is ro'eh, ראה, which literally means "Seer". That could document an ancient shift, from viewing prophets as seers for hire to viewing them as moral teachers. Allen (1971) comments that in the First Temple Era, there were essentially seer-priests, who formed a guild, divined, performed rituals and sacrifices, and were scribes, and then there were canonical prophets, who did none of these (and were against divination) and had instead a message to deliver. The seer-priests were usually attached to a local shrine or temple, such as Shiloh, and initiated others as priests in that priesthood: it was a mystical craft-guild with apprentices and recruitment. Canonical prophets were not organised this way. The similar term "ben-navi" ("son of the prophet") means "member of a seer-priest guild".
A Jewish tradition suggests that there were 600,000 male and 600,000 female prophets. Judaism recognizes the existence of 48 male prophets who bequeathed permanent messages to mankind. According to the Talmud there were also seven women who are counted as prophets whose message bears relevance for all generations: Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Hannah (mother of the prophet Samuel), Abigail (a wife of King David), Huldah (from the time of Jeremiah), and Esther. There were, of course, other women who functioned as prophets, and the last prophet mentioned in the Bible, Noahdiah (Nehemiah 6:14) was a woman.
Malachi's full name was Ezra Ha'Sofer (the scribe), and he was the last prophet of Israel if one accepts the opinion that Nechemyah died in Babylon before 9th Tevet 3448 (313 BCE). Babylonian Talmud, Vilna Gaon, volume, San.11a, Yom.9a, Yuch.1.14, Kuz.3.39,65,6, Yuch.1, Mag.Av.O.C.580.6
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In his book The Prophets, Abraham Joshua Heschel describes the unique aspect of the Jewish prophets as compared to other similar figures. Whereas other nations have soothsayers and diviners who attempt to discover the will of their gods, according to Heschel the Hebrew prophets are characterized by their experience of what he calls theotropism — God turning towards humanity. Heschel argues for the view of Hebrew prophets as receivers of the "Divine Pathos," of the wrath and sorrow of God over his nation that has forsaken him.
"Prophecy is the voice that God has lent to the silent agony, a voice to the plundered poor, to the profane riches of the world. It is a form of living, a crossing point of God and man. God is raging in the prophet's words. (The Prophets Ch. 1)"