“Then Yahweh sent a man, a prophet, to the Sons of Israel, and he said to them, ‘Thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt and I led you out of the house of slavery. And I delivered you from the hand of Egypt and from the hand of all who oppressed you. I drove them out from before you and gave to you their land. And I said to you, ‘I am Yahweh, your God; do not fear the gods of the Amorites which are in the land where you dwell.’ Bit you did not listen to my voice.’”
Prior to sending a deliverer, God sends the people a prophet with a single purpose…to tell the people of Israel that He had told them what he expected of them, but they had not listened to God’s voice. What is particularly interesting about this prophet is that here we are told specifically that the prophet is a man (many of the English translations do not reflect this). In Hebrew, the text reads: ayIbÎn vyIa hwhy jAlVvˆ…yÅw (wayyishlach YHWH ‘yish nabiy’) — literally, “Then Yahweh sent a man, a prophet…”
What makes this even more interesting is that this is the only place in the Old Testament where you see a formulation like this. The question, then, is what is the author seeking to point out? Given that this account takes place after the cycle where Deborah was a Judge and a Prophetess, it seems that the author is making a point that this prophet is not another female, but a male. If you remember our discussion regarding Judges 4:4, we noted that there, too, the language of the passage highlighted that Deborah was a woman prophet…a phrase designed to highlight the unusual nature of her role. Here it seems that we have an echo of the text about Deborah, but almost in reverse. Here is an unnamed prophet and the author is making it clear that he is a male — that Deborah was an exception and we are back in a context where male spiritual leadership should be seen as normative.
While it is true that there were several female prophets in the Scriptures, these are few and far between. The emphasis here simply stands as one more reminder to us that while God has the authority to make exceptions to the rule, we do not, and all that we do as a church must conform to what God defines for us as normative. Where we do not, we will find ourselves, like Israel, hearing the words, “But you did not listen to my voice.”