Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
The root נבא (nb') occurs all over the Semitic language spectrum, always yielding words with meanings like to announce, utter, proclaim or inform. Biblical Hebrew contains four derivations of this root:
- The masculine noun נביא (nabi'), meaning spokesman or speaker. In their discussion of this word HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament reads, "The essential idea in the word is that of authorized spokesman". Most often this nabi would be the spokesman for God and so this word is the common Biblical word for prophet. But a nabi could also represent a human. In the scene where Moses confronts Pharaoh, Aaron is said to be Moses' nabi (Exodus 7:1). Note that our noun נביא (nabi') is spelled the same as the Niphal or 'incomplete passive' form of the verb בוא (bo'), meaning to come or bring. This form would thus mean 'he has come' or , 'it was brought' or even 'to be brought about': 1 Samuel 9:7, Nehemiah 10:37.
- The denominative verb נבא (naba'), meaning to prophesy (1 Samuel 10:11, Amos 2:12, Jeremiah 2:8). This verb appears to be derived from the previous noun. Various experts list all sorts of possible origins of the concept of prophesying, but the basic idea seems to be a vicarious pronunciation of some kind of message.
- The feminine noun נבואה (nebu'a), meaning prophecy (2 Chronicles 15:8, Nehemiah 6:12).
- The feminine noun נביאה (nebi'a), meaning prophetess. In the stories that play earlier, the prophetess was someone who was endowed with the gift of music and song, Miriam (Exodus 15:20) and Deborah (Judges 4:4). Later, our word seems to apply to women who convey the word of YHWH: Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), or even someone who happened to be married to a male prophet, such as Isaiah (Isaiah 8:3).