What is a prophet, and what is he or she supposed to do?

Shemaiah was a prophet who lived around 930 b.c. He is mentioned only twice in the Bible but at critical times—just before and during the division of Israel into two kingdoms.

We’re told that Rehoboam, Solomon’s successor, had ignored the advice of his advisors and decided to increase the burdens imposed on the people by his father.

Jeroboam appealed the decision and, when he was refused, broke away with all of Israel except the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, as had been foretold by the prophet Ahijah.[1]

In response, Rehoboam assembled an army of 180,000 and was about to set out to reconquer Israel when God sent his prophet Shemaiah with a word.

“Thus says the Lord, “You must not go up and fight against your relatives the sons of Israel; return every man to his house, for this thing has come from Me.”’

So they listened to the word of the Lord, and returned and went their way according to the word of the Lord.[2]

Even so, peaceful relations were never restored between Israel and Judah during Rehoboam’s reign. He just kept trying to widen the split.

Then, in the fifth year, Egyptian King Shishak attacked Jerusalem with 1,200 chariots, 60,000 horsemen and countless soldiers, “because they had transgressed against the Lord.

And God sent Shemaiah again.

“Thus says the Lord: ‘You have forsaken Me, and therefore I also have left you in the hand of Shishak.’[3]

So, Jeroboam and his leaders humbled themselves, and God said through Shemaiah:

“They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance. My wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak. Nevertheless they will be his servants, that they may distinguish My service from the service of the kingdoms of the nations.”[4]

So Shishak looted Jerusalem, including the treasures of the house of the Lord.

Shemaiah did what most prophets did in the Old Testament. God sent him to rulers in an attempt to direct or redirect their paths.

What is particularly interesting about Shemaiah, however, is that he was also a writer. After his ministry, he wrote a book that contained an account of the history of Israel under Rehoboam.

In fact, the books of Kings themselves are attributed by most to have been written by the prophet Jeremiah, who is believed to have begun the account before he was carried off to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar and completed there before his death, when he was in his nineties.

Once again, the Holy Spirit does not put all of his prophets on stage. Sometimes, he puts a quill in their hand or sits them down in front of a keyboard.

~ Photo by Clark Young


[1] 1 Kings 11:30-39.

[2] 1 Kings 12: 24.

[3] 2 Chronicles 12:15.

[4] Ibid. vv. 7-8.