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If a recent thread, I asked, "Will the king messiah be a prophet?"

@b a cited a source from Rambam's Hilkhot Teshuva, 9.2 which states, "מפני שאותו המלך שיעמוד מזרע דויד בעל חכמה יהיה יתר משלמה, ונביא גדול הוא קרוב ממשה רבנו." But, I did not see Rambam directly refer to an actual pasuk that explicitly states that the king messiah would be a prophet. (However, I do realize that a lot of ideas or notions are not explicitly stated in scripture, but otherwise inferred through various exegetical techniques.)

So, I did a little research using the technique of inference by analogy.

I suppose it is the ruach elohim that causes one to prophecy [truthfully].

For example, in Num. 11:25, it is written,

And Adonai descended in a cloud, and He spoke to him, and He took of the spirit that was upon him and put [it] upon the seventy elders. And, it came to pass, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, but they did not [prophesy] again.

וירד יהוה בענן וידבר אליו ויאצל מן־הרוח אשר עליו ויתן על־שבעים איש הזקנים ויהי כנוח עליהם הרוח ויתנבאו ולא יספו

Now, in Isaiah 11:2, a pasuk that is often cited as referring to the future king messiah, it is written,

And the spirit of Adonai will rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Adonai

ונחה עליו רוח יהוה רוח חכמה ובינה רוח עצה וגבורה רוח דעת ויראת יהוה

Based on the similar phrases employed in each pasuk, is it an accurate inference from analogy (edit: binyan av) that the king messiah would indeed be able to prophesy (and thus, be a prophet) since the spirit of Adonai rests upon him, just as the seventy elders prophesied "when the spirit [of Adonai] rested upon them"?

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gzera shava is something that's passed by tradition. The rational analogy you refer to is called binyan av. –  yair Dec 16 '12 at 22:17
@yair: thank you! I will edit to reflect that. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Dec 16 '12 at 22:30
Is there a difference between prophesying and being a prophet? The 70 elders did the former but only once and I'm not used to hearing them called prophets. –  Monica Cellio Dec 17 '12 at 0:31
@MonicaCellio related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/22451/759 –  Double AA Dec 17 '12 at 0:52
Good question. I think one reason why you might not be used to hearing them called "prophets" or nevi'im is because what they prophesied is not recorded in the Tanakh, unlike, for example, the prophecies of the prophets who have actual books attributed to them (e.g., Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.). However, there are other pesukim that essentially state the same thing about the ruach elohim coming upon or resting upon an individual and then that individual began prophesying, e.g. 1 Sam. 10:6, 10:10; Joel 3:1. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Dec 17 '12 at 0:54

1 Answer 1

A major challenge when studying the Rambam's Mishneh Torah is figuring out his sources. Countless commentaries and volumes have been written on finding the Rambam's sources. A contemporary example is Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky's קרית מלך. It's a small volume, and very concise, so it takes some work to figure why he considers a particular text the source for a halacha in the Mishneh Torah. In that volume he points to the end of the Midrash Tanchuma in Toldot and comments "צריך עיון" which indicates that even that source is not so clear.

That Midrash lists the virtues of the Messiah:

ונשא ממשה שאמר (במדבר יא) כי תאמר אלי שאהו בחיקך

"[And he'll be] loftier than Moses, as it's written (Num. 11:12) "[Did I conceive this entire people? Did I give birth to them,] that You say to me, 'Carry them in your bosom [as the nurse carries the suckling,' to the Land You promised their forefathers?]"

(It seems to me, that the Midrash is indicating that the Messiah is greater that Moses in that he will bring Israel into the Promised Land- something that Moses did not do.) But it's not clear what this verse has to do with prophecy. (And that's probably why R' Kanievsky writes "צריך עיון"- the Midrash contrasts Moses' greatness with the Messiah, but not necessarily in regards to prophecy.)

Indeed this very question is dealt with by R' Tzvi Hirsch Chajes in his אגרת בקורת. Here too he struggles to find a source. He also mentions the above cited Midrash as a possibility, but rejects it for the reason I mentioned above: the Midrash is referring to some virtue that the Messiah has above Moses- but it can't be prophecy for we know that וְלֹא קָם נָבִיא עוֹד .בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל כְּמֹשֶׁ (Indeed the Rambam repeats this principle in his commentary on Tractate Sanhedrin and in Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah.) The מהרי"ץ חיות then states that he's unaware of any source that states that the Messiah will be a prophet, rather he will be Divinely inspired as stated in Isaiah (cited in the question) and other verses:

באמת לא אדע המקום אשר מפורש בו שמלך המשיח יהי׳ גם כן נביא, רק שרוח הקודש תנוח עליו ויתיחסו על פיו, וזה מבואר בפסוק ישעיה ו׳, ונחה עליו רוח ד', ובפסוקים אחרים

The מהרי"ץ חיות then cites the Rambam in the Guide For the Perplexed:

The second degree [of prophecy] is this: A person feels as if something came upon him, and as if he had received a new power that encourages him to speak. He treats of science, or composes hymns, exhorts his fellow-men, discusses political and theological problems; all this he does while awake, and in the full possession of his senses. Such a person is said to speak by the holy spirit. David composed the Psalms, and Solomon the Book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon by this spirit; also Daniel, Job, Chronicles, and the rest of the Hagiographa were written in this holy spirit; therefore they are called ketubim (Writings, or Written), i.e., written by men inspired by the holy spirit.

He continues:

ואם יקרא בקצת העתים נביא הוא לקצת כללות להיותו קרוב לנביאים מאוד אשר מפני זה גם סדר דניאל וכתובים היו רק בעלי רוח הקודש אבל בכל זאת נקרא נביאים בכלל יש לומר באמת כי משיח לא יהיה נביא ומש״כ הרמב״ם נביא פי׳ שרות הקודש יהיה עליו ובמעלה הזאת יהיה קרוב למשה אבל לא נביא ממש


Sometimes, these individuals (David, Solomon & Daniel) are called prophets because that have achieved a level that is very close to real prophecy. Perhaps, R' Chajes concludes, Moshiach need not be a prophet, but must reach a level close to prophecy through his attainment of Divine inspiration- and thus approaches the level of Moses, while still not technically being a prophet. (i.e. when the Rambam writes "prophet" in the Laws of Repentance, he's using the term loosely.)

Return to your original question, it would appear that the verse in Isaiah could not necessarily prove that the Messiah will be a prophet, rather it shows that he will attain the lesser "prophecy" of Divine inspiration.

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I must admit, this answer by the מהרי"ץ חיות is somewhat disappointing since it assumes that the Rambam would use imprecise language... –  Ephraim Feb 28 at 11:21
I must be missing something, because I don't understand the struggle. Hilchos Malachim 12:3 יתייחסו כולם על פיו ברוח הקודש שתנוח עליו שנאמר וישב מצרף ומטהר, compare with Yisodei HaTorah 7:1 מיד רוח הקודש שורה עליו ובעת שתנוח עליו הרוח תתערב נפשו במעלת המלאכים הנקראים אישים ויהפך לאיש אחר ... כמו שנאמר בשאול והתנבית עמם ונהפכת לאיש אחר. But all other prophets are sleeping, the implication here is that Moshiach will be awake, so close to Moshe Rabbeinu (but Moshiach will be married, so not quite the level of Moshe Rabbeinu, not to mention he won't replace Moshe's Navua). –  Yishai Feb 28 at 14:57
@Yishai, the problem is that the Rambam is making a statement that the Messiah will be a prophet, but provides no source. Indeed, there is no clear source. Rather the Messiah will have רוח הקודש, which is not quite prophecy. Those who have achieved such Divine Inspiration may be colloquially referred to as prophets, even though they have not technically reached that lofty level. –  Ephraim Mar 30 at 13:32
@Ephraim It's quite possible that Rabbi Kanievsky's and מהר"ץ חיות's difficulty is not ולא קם נביא עוד בישראל, since in Rosh Hashanah 21a there is an opinion that allows for a king to surpass Mosheh in prophecy. The problem is that Rambam doesn't seem to hold in accordance with this opinion, rather the other one, that no one, not even a king, will be able to surpass Mosheh in prophecy. And here in the Tanchuma, the Messiah surpasses Moshe, so if anything this Tanchuma is like the other opinion. I address this question in the original discussion page. –  gaagu May 30 at 0:03

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