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I can roughly divide the text of the Torah into two categories - historical facts and prophecies. But, traditionally, they were all dictated by G-d to Moses.

The books of prophets retain a similar structure - it's a blend of history and prophecy.

While regarding the Torah, the Gemmorah says that every word has the same sacredness, what about the books of Prophets, that were not dictated by G-d literally, and were put in writing many generations later? Are the historical passages in them on the level of sacredness as the texts of G-d's prophecies?

Do any sources deal with this question?

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  • I do not think ANYTHING in the Torah is there for the purpose of historical fact. It's either morality relayed directly or in examples taken from history. (Halakhah is relayed by derashah. It is just that it is only in a minority of cases forced to diverge from the moral message.) Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 15:01
  • I too don't follow this category of historical fact. As you said, according to our sages the entire Torah, every word, was dictated from G-d to Moses, and written by Moses and repeated to Israel. Thus, it is all prophecy. Some of the prophecy teaches laws, some of it describes events, sometimes both at once.
    – MichoelR
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 3:24

2 Answers 2

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The Gemara in the fourth chapter of Megillah deals with relative holiness of Nach vs. Chumash. No distinction is drawn within the individual books however, implying they are all equal.

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Abarbanel in his introduction to Yehoshua wrote:

"ואמנם אופן כתיבת הספרים ההם, ואיך ידעו הנביאים הדברים העוברים בימים הראשונים אשר כתבו על ספר, אין ספק שמצאו הנביאים דברים נכתבו באותם הזמנים בספרי דברי הימים שנזכרו בספר מלכים, והיו נכתבים אותם הדברים מאותו זמן, אם על ידי השופטים או המלכים או שאר חסידי אותם הדורות וסופרים, ומאשר היו מפוזרים ומפורדים מזה אחד ומזה אחד, והיו בהם דברים נכתבו כפי הרצון ולא כפי האמת, ומהם דברים מיותרים, כי זהו דרך הסופרים ומגידי הדברים לשבח ולגנות יותר מהראוי כפי אהבתם ושנאתם, והיה א"כ מעורב בהם האמת עם השקר והמותר עם ההכרחי, לכן נחה רוח ה' על הנביאים ההם ויצום לחבר על ספר כל הספורים ההם בשלמות ואמת, ויאספו אליהם כל הכתבים ההם והודיעם האל ית' בנבואתו השלמת אותם הדברים ואמתתם והצדקם והבדלת האמת מן השקר וההכרחי מהבלתי הכרחי, וא"כ מעלת המחבר ומדרגתן בנבואה והצווי האלקי שבאהו על זה וההתודעות הנבואיי שיאמת הדברים ויצדקם, המה הבחינות השלשה אשר מפניהם ידענו שצורת הספרים האלה היא נבואיית."

Translation: "...And indeed the manner in which those books [First Prophets] were written, and how did the prophets know the things that happened in the early days which they wrote in the books, undoubtedly the prophets found thigs that had been written in those days in the Books of Chronicles that were mentioned in the Book of Kings, and those had been written during those [earlier] times, if by the judges or the kings or other pious men from those eras and scribes, and since they were separate from one another, and in those books there were things written according to the personal views of the author and not according to the [objective] truth, and some of the things were unnecessary, for that is the way of scribes and sayers of things to praise and to curse more than is needed per their love and hate, therefore mixed into those books were together with the truth lies and unnecessary additions with the necessary, therefore the spirit of Hashem rested upon those prophets and commanded them to write in a book all of those stories perfectly and truthfully, and they collected all of those [older] writings and Hashem, Blessed is He informed them via prophecy how to complete those things, and their truthfulness and how to differentiate between the truth and lies and the necessary from the unnecessary, and therefore the [great] level of the author and their level in prophecy and the Godly commandment that came upon him, and the prophetic understanding of how to discern the truth, these three points [including previous points prior to this passage] are how we know that these books are in prophetic form..."

Per the Abarbanel, it seems that Hashem having directed the prophet what to include in the book and what to not include is what removed the historical passages from merely being quotes from history books and making them into fully-fledged prophetic verses. Per this, it seems that there is no difference between originally-prophetic verses and originally-historical verses. Consider perhaps also that while prophetic works were always prophetic - not all were intended to be preserved for the generations (לדורות) (many such works that were probably not intended for the generations were mentioned in Divrei Hayamim), so even those prophetic passages that were preserved were elevated in a sense - from a "one-time" prophecy to an eternal one.

As a side-note, I heard in a class from Dr. Yossi Baruchi (a lecturer in the Orot Yisrael institute (though that's not where I heard the class)) that there's some evidence that the author of Melachim1 might have considered at least some of the historical texts to have also had some level of holiness, seeing as the "splicing" of the various texts was often not done in a smooth manner. For example, in Melachim 1:11:26-27 it says:

"Jeroboam son of Nebat, an Ephraimite of Zeredah, the son of a widow whose name was Zeruah, was in Solomon’s service; he raised his hand against the king. The circumstances under which he raised his hand against the king were as follows: Solomon built the Millo and repaired the breach of the city of his father, David."

That's one sort of introduction to Yerov'am. Then it says in verse 28:

"And2 Jeroboam was an able man, and when Solomon saw that the young man was a capable worker, he appointed him over all the forced labor of the House of Joseph. etc [continues to describe his meeting with Achiyah]"

We find that Yerov'am is introduced twice, in two different parshiyot. In the first parshiya, it says that he was a man in the service of the king who decided to rebel against him for a certain political reason. In the second parshiya, it says that he was a capable man in the service of the king who one day went out and was stopped by Achiya, who told him he was destined to rule Yisrael.

In the first parshiya, it seems that Yerov'am was just some random who decided to rebel for some random reason, while according to the second parshiya, he was pushed into rebelling by Achiya (via word of Hashem). The first parshiya is what we may call a "historical" parshiya, or even a "royal" parshiya (historical - written by an eyewitness, "objective" historian of the time; royal - written by the subjective royal scribes biased in favor of the king) while the second one is obviously a "prophetic" parshiya, as it describes both a tale featuring a prophetic and the spiritual circumstances that brought upon a certain even.

The main point here is that the author of Melachim could have spliced together the two parshiyot, forming one parshiya, smoothly edited. It might have looked something like this:

"Jeroboam son of Nebat, an Ephraimite of Zeredah, the son of a widow whose name was Zeruah, was an able man, and when Solomon saw that the young man was a capable worker, he appointed him over all the forced labor of the House of Joseph. During that time Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem and the prophet Ahijah of Shiloh met him on the way. He had put on a new robe; and when the two were alone in the open country, Ahijah took hold of the new robe he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. “Take ten pieces,” he said to Jeroboam. “For thus said the LORD, the God of Israel: I am about to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hands, and I will give you ten tribes. [...]. Sometime later, he raised his hand against the king as he was commanded to by the LORD. And the circumstances under which he raised his hand against the king were as follows: Solomon built the Millo and repaired the breach of the city of his father, David."

Yet this is not the case. The prophet was evidently careful to preserve as much of each of the original texts as possible - perhaps because each was considered holy in his view.


1 Commonly believed to have been Yirmiyahu, though in Dr. Baruchi's opinion, Yirmiyahu only wrote the first version of the book. The book as we have it today was edited at least one more time by a student or students of Yirmiyahu during the exile (but in a manner more significant than just adding the ending of Yehoyachin being freed from prison).

2 I changed the word in the translation that Sefaria used because it seems that this translation attempted to deal with the exact point I'm trying to make.

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