Ezra 5:1

Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them.

Upon further investigation into the Hebrew translation I see the word נְבִיאָה for "prophetess" is apparent. The Strong's Number for prophetess is 5031 but appears to be missing.

Which word is being used in this passage and why does the word for prophetess seem to appear?

  • Well, if you have two prophets, one female and one male, and you are referring to both of them in Hebrew, you would use the masculine plural נְבִיאִים. In other words, even if a group of 100 people consisted of only 1 male, you would still address the group by a masculine (rather than feminine) plural (whether pronoun, verb, etc.).
    – user862
    Jan 14, 2014 at 3:15
  • interesting. I'm not surprised. Any idea why the word "prophetess" is in Ezra 5:1 but not acknowledged?
    – Kate
    Jan 14, 2014 at 3:24
  • There's a ktiv v. kri variant. The ktiv (i.e., what is written) is נְבִיאָה, meaning "prophetess," but the kri (what is recited/ read) is נְבִיָּא, meaning "prophet." This also occurs in Ezra 6:14, however we find הַנָּבִיא (the prophet) elsewhere, e.g. Hag. 1:1, 1:3, etc. Also, we always find verbs conjugated in masculine-gender when the subject is Haggai. I'll let someone else answer though. :)
    – user862
    Jan 14, 2014 at 3:39
  • I knew it was written in Aramaic, but I figured (wrongly) that the definite Aramaic would be written the same as the Hebrew (because the Hebrew word ends in א). And most definite Aramaic nouns simply end in א-, not אה-. Anyway, apparently נְבִיאְתָא is the equivalent Aramaic word for "prophetess."
    – user862
    Jan 15, 2014 at 8:35
  • @H3br3wHamm3r81 - right - I updated answer to include the fem. form of the Aramaic for clarity, just as you have it in your comment.
    – Dɑvïd
    Jan 15, 2014 at 9:43

1 Answer 1


The short answer is "No". Perhaps there is a little confusion at work here, because this verse is embedded in one of the Aramaic passages found in the (otherwise) Hebrew Bible: it is not in Hebrew.1

The "-ah" ending that makes this look like "prophetess" (if the word was in Hebrew), is in fact the Aramaic definite article, = "the". (See heading 2.2, bullet #2 in the link, above.) There is no question of Haggai being a woman.

For corroboration, see the very last entry on p. 1101 of Brown, Driver and Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (it comes from the Aramaic section at the end), or the very last line of p. 868 (with the entry itself on the next page) of Marcus Jastrow's Dictionary of Targumim, Talmud and Midrashic Literature.

For convenience, here is the whole BDB entry for the word(s) in question:


Also, bonus citation, this the corresponding entry from Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner and J.J. Stamm (eds), The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament:


The little "dagger" (†) symbol in both entries is the standard symbol in these lexica that means "all known occurrences cited in this entry".

Neither of these authoritative lexica makes any reference to "prophetess". I hope that helps.

(One moral of this story: use "Strongs" with extreme caution, and especially in the absence of knowledge of the languages themselves.)

Postscript: for comparison, this is the Jastrow entry (linked above) indicating what the "prophetess" (feminine) form in Aramaic would look like:


(Note that the references provided as examples for the forms circled in red come from the Targumim - Aramaic translations of the Hebrew scriptures.)

  1. I don't know why the Biblehub (OP's link) has the mark-up it does. All the related terms of interest for this question are found in the entry for Strongs #5013 - in left column, note reference to "Aramaic"; the three terms at the top of the right column are found in Ezra 5:1. (N.b. This entry, #5013, refers to an Aramaic word: it should not be confused with #5031 which is a Hebrew word!)
    As a comment on the Question notes, "Ketiv/Qere" is also a factor, not once, but twice in fact: once each for the descriptors given for Haggai and Zechariah!
  • Thank you so much for your help. *I also noticed the Brown-Driver -Briggs says this for Strongs #5013 נְבִיאָה noun masculine prophetess; —
    – Kate
    Jan 15, 2014 at 2:47
  • I thought נְבִיָא was the definite form. What about, for example, the targum of 1 Sam. 22:5? It has נְבִיָא which is supposedly a translation of the Hebrew הַנָּבִיא?
    – user862
    Jan 15, 2014 at 8:40
  • @H3br3wHamm3r81 - No, נְבִיָא is the indefinite: see the HALOT entry, above: the "det." ("determined" = articulated) form has the "-ah" ending; so too the "emph." form given in BDB. You're quite right about Tg 1 Sam 22:5, only it says "Gad, a prophet", where TNK has "Gad, THE prophet". I expect you're aware that the Septuagint and Targum don't always mechanically represent every element of their parent text. ;) (So too with English versions -- and every translation, come to that!)
    – Dɑvïd
    Jan 15, 2014 at 9:25
  • Yeah, I'm aware...but it also happens in 1 Kings 1:8, 1:10 with Natan (נְבִיָא), as well as 1 Kings 1:22-23, 1:32, 1:34, etc. In fact, it seems to be the norm. :) Surely, the targumist doesn't mean "a prophet" in all those passages where the Hebrew clearly means "the prophet." Thoughts?
    – user862
    Jan 15, 2014 at 17:53
  • Interesting question. My short answer: don't know! :) Did a bit of digging, and it does appear that "determinate state" was undergoing change and weakening. (I do know that even by the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 'alef is quiescing and can drop out even in Hebrew forms.) The best thing I ran across was a paper on Academia.edu which you might want to look at. It's heavy going! In addition to the author's leading hypothesis (note heading 1.1!), see the extended quote on the bottom half of p. 94. That's the best I can do.
    – Dɑvïd
    Jan 15, 2014 at 20:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.