Deuteronomy 18:18

The LORD said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.

If yes, then what exactly makes someone an Israelite according to the Bible?

3 Answers 3


No the Bible does not say that only Israelites can be prophets and it in fact explicitly shows non Israelite prophets and also priests in Scripture.

One such case would be Balaam son of Beor in Numbers 22 and 23. When Israel crosses into the plains of Moab the Moabite king Balak son of Zippor calls on the prophet Balaam to prophecy against them and put them under a curse for payment. Balaam builds 7 altars and performs sacrifices then consults with God who refuses to allow him to prophecy a curse over the Israelites and instead he prophecies a blessing on 2 seperate occasions.

Deuteronomy 23:4 states he was or mesopotamian/assyrian origin (Pethor in Aram Naharaim)

For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt, and they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim to pronounce a curse on you

He's also explicitly called a prophet in 2 Peter 2.

There are other examples of similar figures in scripture as either priests or religious. Eg: Melchizedek the king of Salem and Priest of the most high El Elyon.

The passage you refer to in Deuteronomy 18 and also the preceding 17 is specifically giving the Israelite as a nation instructions for selecting their future leadership. It talks about the process for selecting Kings, Priests and Prophets that will lead their people and can thus for all 3 offices be interpreted messianically as per Jesus "3 fold office".

This doesn't exclude God raising up a prophet from outside Israel but he gives explicit instructions here on how to distinguish a true prophet from false and whether a prophet should be listened to by Israelites.

As for how someone could become an Israelite. Prior to the coming for Christ the first and most obvious way was by birth and entering into the covenant agreement through the covenant processes specified by God. The second would be as outlined in Isaiah 56.

Isaiah 56:6-7

Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, To minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD, To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath And holds fast My covenant; Even those I will bring to My holy mountain And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar.”


First, Deut 18:15-19 says nothing about who can be a prophet - it is talking about the origin of Messiah who had to be Jewish as per -

Acts 3:22, 23 - For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must listen to Him in everything He tells you.f Everyone who does not listen to Him will be completely cut off from among his people.

That is, the NT, and Peter in particular, interprets the prophecy in Deut 18 messianically.

Second, to answer to OP's headline question - could people other than Israelites be prophets - here are some example of just that -

  • Pharaoh rebukes Abram after a vision from God. Gen 12:17-20
  • Abimelech rebukes Abraham after a vision from God. Gen 20:3-6
  • Abimelech rebukes Isaac about Rebekah. Gen 26:8-11
  • The Philistine king Achish appeared to recognize YHWH, the LORD, in 1 Sam 29:6, 7.
  • King Necho of Egypt rebukes Josiah’s foolishness. 2 Chron 35:20-22
  • Job was not an Israelite but was a prophet of God
  • Balaam was a prophet of God and uttered several sublime prophesies, including messianic prophesies.

See also https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/73900/were-there-non-jewish-prophets-if-yes-who-were-they-and-what-were-their-purpos about Jewish attitudes to this question.


An Israelite is someone descended from Jacob. However, Abraham and Isaac were both included under the Israelite umbrella, and both of them were prophets. Among the pre-Israelite prophets are also included at least three women: Sarah, Rebekah and (notably) Hagar, who was an Egyptian.

A talmudic tradition says that there were seven non-Israelite prophets.

Bava Batra 15b

Seven prophets prophesied to the nations of the world, and they are: Balaam and his father Beor, and Job, Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, and Elihu ben Barachel the Buzite.

As with many talmudic discussions, some rabbis disagree that all of the above should be included. Of the above, only Job's status as a true prophet is clear. Balaam and his father Beor are clearly prophets, but they do not necessarily always speak truly. We may make bold to add Enoch, who "walked with God" is cited as a prophet in Jude 1:14.

Cyrus the Great

To these we may add Cyrus of Persia, whom the Book of Isaiah described as being called by God "my anointed," and "my shepherd." He is depicted in the Book of Ezra responding perfectly to that call of God.

Isaiah 44:28

I say of Cyrus, My shepherd! He carries out my every wish, Saying of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Lay its foundations.”

Isaiah 45:1-3

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and ungird the loins of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: “I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut asunder the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

Ezra 1

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia... the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: 2 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem."

It may be noted that Cyrus himself left a historical record in which he attributes his inspiration to Marduk, not Yahweh. However, for our purposes, based on the Book of Isaiah, he heard the voice of God and responded. To quote the Jewish Encyclopedia, in the Book of Isaiah:

This prophet, Cyrus, through whom were to be redeemed His chosen people, whom He would glorify before all the world, was the promised Messiah, "the Shepherd of Yhwh" (xliv. 28, xlv. 1). Having received the sovereignty of the whole earth as the ransom for Israel, Cyrus would now rebuild Jerusalem for them.

Conclusion. Non-Israelites could be prophets. This includes both pre-Israelites who were part of the lineage that produced Jacob/Israel and others, who were of a different line.

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