It should be obvious from Scripture that, while a king might have a court seer, the actual presence of genuine prophets was a matter of God’s provision. The difference between to two terms “prophet” and “seer” is not something easily rendered into English. The terms refer to a common core calling from God, but tend to express themselves differently. A seer is someone who does this work all the time by profession, whereas prophets have widely varying commissions from God. A seer is presumed to be a prophet, but not all prophets were seers. By New Testament times, the terms had lost their distinction, and you’ll see the Greek term translated into the English word “prophet” labeling both offices.
We also know that Samuel in the Old Testament was both Judge and Prophet, and judges of that sort were actually more like special elders. They had a commission from God that placed them in obvious authority, never mind the existing network of hereditary elders, chiefs and nobles. An Old Testament king was simply formalizing the function of judge as an institutionalized office.
Now Samuel led a School of the Prophets. This took root as an institution that ebbed and flowed in the history of Israel, and we glimpse it now and then. What isn’t obvious to our minds from this distance is how one can sense a calling to prophetic ministry and not carry the label. Samuel’s objective seems to have been establishing a cadre of folks who would learn how to maintain a prophetic orientation on life. It would reduce the moral chaos seen in the Period of Judges.
A prophet in that sense is someone who thinks in terms of God’s priorities within the context. It’s being able to view the current situation in terms of how God does things. Thus, it’s a mind organized to consider the situation in light of revelation, along with a tendency to receive strong urges to communicate some of these insights.
Obviously this requires a great deal of study for the mind to learn how to kneel before conviction, because our world tends to teach us a lot of bad habits that we must unlearn. You could learn a lot from a prophetic academy even if you weren’t actually used by God to prophesy. Thus, it became an institution in Israel that kept this prophetic orientation, and produced a significant portion of Scripture over the centuries. The books of Samuel and Kings were written and edited by these folks, whereas the Chronicles were penned by royal appointed secretaries.
By now you may grasp that the School of Prophets was often within a close orbit of the Temple and the priesthood. Such was the case at times, yet it remained a separate institution. They did overlap a great deal, and we see that some portion the prophetic Psalms were written by priests. In the Old Testament, worship music was largely a priestly function. It wouldn’t mean all music composition would be in priestly hands, but that we would have a cadre of ordained priestly musicians leading most of the worship in churches. It would all be tinged with a prophetic tone, with a strong stripe of anti-establishment watchfulness. People forget that it is part of Hebrew culture to watch out for slipping into elitist human wisdom. There stood a strong ethic of people in leadership roles not taking themselves too seriously.
There was clearly an aim at holding institutions and people accountable to the moral fundamentals. Prophecy is not like a pipeline of random predictions pouring into your mind. A prophetic message is not written by God on a blank slate, to be delivered word for word. It’s an orientation on God’s glory and how so very much of what humans tend to do disregards that glory. It’s fiery urges to provoke awareness of that conflict, with periodic cleaning out of the old leaven.
Teaching prophecy as a task means far more than Biblical Law, but it starts there. It means absorbing enough Law and precedent to have a strong mental frame of reference about God’s personality. That was the whole point of publishing a ruler’s law in the first place. It was so folks within his domain would know what makes him happy; they could look at any given context and predict what he would want from it. His person would be a living presence in their minds, because their hearts were committed to his reign. This is what a School of the Prophets would do, teaching folks to think as much like God as fallen humans could, with an emphasis on refreshing it by shaking things up now and then.
I’d love to see a restoration of that ancient School of Prophets.