WHO WERE “THE SONS OF THE PROPHETS?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
The title appears nine times in the Authorized Version (King James Bible)—once in 1 Kings, and the others in 2 Kings. A synonym is “children of the prophets,” a word found once. Usually, they are associated with the Prophet Elisha’s ministry—about 800 years before Christ. They mysteriously appear in the record of Scripture, and disappear just as inexplicably.
- 1 Kings 20:35: “And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said unto his neighbour in the word of the LORD, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man refused to smite him.”
- 2 Kings chapter 2: “ And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace….  And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace….  And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan….  And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.”
- 2 Kings chapter 4: “ Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen….  And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets.”
- 2 Kings 5:22: “And he said, All is well. My master hath sent me, saying, Behold, even now there be come to me from mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets: give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments.”
- 2 Kings 6:1: “And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us.”
- 2 Kings 9:1: And Elisha the prophet called one of the children of the prophets, and said unto him, Gird up thy loins, and take this box of oil in thine hand, and go to Ramothgilead:….”
The likely explanation is that “the sons of the prophets” refers to men who had studied under the Old Testament prophets/preachers themselves. Someone would wonder about the priests and other Levites in Israel. Were they not to teach the Word of God to the Jewish people? Indeed! “And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses” (Leviticus 10:11; cf. 1 Samuel 12:23; Ezra 7:10,25; Malachi 2:7). Alas, many apostates existed in Israel’s religious leadership—like a good many so-called “Christian” preachers today! The Priest Eli and his sons Hophni and Phinehas are three prime examples of corruption prior to Samuel’s ascension to the office of Prophet-Priest-Judge (cf. 1 Samuel 2:12-36; 1 Samuel 3:1-14). The LORD directly chose Samuel to replace Eli and his perverted household.
One idea is that Samuel himself established Bible schools throughout Israel’s land about 1,000 B.C. Although not explicitly stated in Scripture, this may be the origin of “the sons of the prophets.” They were Jewish men trained in the Law of Moses and other Divine (Scriptural) teachings. Dr. Scofield refers to them as “theological students”—although we certainly do not want to confuse them with modern seminary graduates who are oftentimes religion/philosophy students instead of Bible students!