Popular belief holds that prophets are essentially engaged in prediction of the future and that they were always critics of the state, the church, or other power centers in their contemporary worlds. Neither of these beliefs is entirely true.
Prediction of the future is only one of the roles that ancient prophets filled. Fundamentally, they were spokespersons for the deities of their cultures, and they were primarily concerned with analyzing their world and providing insight into the causes of issues within their societies and courses of action that would address these issues. Most were professionals, well trained in reading, writing, and mathematics. Sometimes prophets critiqued governments and other organs of state power; at other times, they spoke on behalf of those powers.
To shed light on the various roles, techniques, and messages of prophets in the ancient Near Eastern world, Christopher A. Rollston has assembled a team of some 28 specialists who produced the volume under review.