A prophet is a person inspired by God to deliver a certain message to the people of his or her time and society. In the present day, the words 'prophet' and 'prophecy' usually refer to the prediction of future events by divine inspiration, but the biblical meaning of prophet is more general: some prophets foretold events such as the coming of Jesus, while others had a more immediate message such as warning of impending danger or denouncing the iniquities of the age.
Prophets appear as influential figures throughout the history books of the Old Testament. Their role is to advocate for the place of God in society, often seeking audiences with kings and other rulers to do so. Prophets are often disbelieved and punished for denouncing the actions of powerful men, although others gain positions of high esteem; for example, David's legitimacy as king stems from having been anointed by the prophet Samuel, and the prophet Daniel found great favour in the Babylonian court.
The Bible warns strongly against the making of false prophecies. The book of Jeremiah tells of one such false prophet, Hananiah, who had his life cut short by God.
Seventeen of the books of the Old Testament are devoted exclusively to the writings of prophets. These are the major prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah (plus Lamentations), Ezekiel and Daniel, and the twelve minor prophets. Other important prophets include Elijah, the most important prophet in Jewish tradition, and his successor Elisha.
In Islam, prophets have significance as a continuous succession of people who were charged with spreading the word of Allah. Muslims accept all the Old Testament prophets as part of this tradition, along with John the Baptist and Jesus. The final prophet is Mohammed, who wrote down the word of God in the Qu'ran, thus ensuring that the message would be preserved for all time.