According to Rambam (Yesodey Hatorah 7,2), a prophet sees a vision of prophecy, not receiving a clear verbal message:

וכולן אין רואין מראה הנבואה ...
...אלא בחלום בחזיון לילה או ביום אחר שתפול עליהן תרדמה

They receive prophetic visions only in a visionary dream or during the day after slumber has overtaken them...

How does a prophet translate it into words to pass the message to the masses? And if the vision IS G-dly, how the wording can be, as it is his own human interpretation? Is there only one way of possible putting/describing every prophecy?

  • 1
    A few versions of this process are nicely laid out in Sefer Daniel Jul 12, 2019 at 0:30
  • related judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/38317/…
    – rosends
    Jul 12, 2019 at 15:03
  • @AlBerko Your struggle with this subject is the artificial limitations that you place on it. There are an infinite variety of modes in which prophecy can be communicated to the prophet. Visions of letters is not a far reach. Regarding the UV’T, the Kohen Gadol would gaze at the Choshen HaMishpat after posing the question. The engraved letters on the UV’T relevant to the answer would glow and the K”G would be inspired to know the arrangement of the letters for the answer. Jul 14, 2019 at 3:16
  • @AlBerko All the discussions of prophecy are things taking place in the mind of the prophet, whether sounds, sights or other senses. See 4th section of Sha’ar Ruach HaKodesh from Rabbi Chaim Vital, for example. Jul 14, 2019 at 3:23
  • @yaacovdeane bottom line - is this verbalization exact to the letter? How trustful is it?
    – Al Berko
    Jul 14, 2019 at 5:18

1 Answer 1


"סגנון אחד עולה לכמה נביאים, ואין שני נביאים מתנבאים בסגנון אחד

one sign can appear to many nevi'im, but not two nevi'im prophecy using the same sign." (R Yitzchaq on Sanhedrin 89a)

It does seem to be a personal interpretation. Which would explain why the same revelation might not be described the same if seen by two prophets.

But then, according to the Rambam, the vision is also subjective. According to his understanding, nevu'ah is a glimpse of something that the brain can only comprehend by casting it in the familiar.

According to the Ramban, nevu'ah is a message sent in metaphor because only Moshe could handle more direct contact. There is reason to say the metaphor is chosen by HQBH, not the navi.

According to the Abravanel (on the end of Mishpatim) this is core to understanding their debate in Vayeira as well as on the Man in the Throne vision at Har Sinai.

The Rambam has no problem saying that Avraham could only see the angels prophetically. Because to the Rambam, "things" seen prophectically are really there, even if not physical substance that can be seen with the eyes. However, he says the "Man" the elders see at Mount Sinai is a created entity, the Kavod Nivra, because G-d cannot be seen, even by prophetic "vision".

Whereas to the Ramban, saying the angels came in a nevu'ah would mean that Hashem sent a message that included a vision of angels. Which would leave no one to heal Avraham, destroy the Cities of the Plains, or save Lot's family. He has to have the angels actually take the form of people. On the other hand, the Man in the Throne could be G-d Himself, since there is no theological problem with G-d sending the Elders a message in which He represents Himself as a person.

If we take the Rambam's position, then, the whole thing is subjective, followed by a creative element. And even by the Ramban's position, the vision is Hashem's choice, but the idiom in which it is is expressed is still personal choice.

  • Are we to draw from this that you are one of those who holds that Rambam actually studied kabbalah (including Kabbalah Navu'it, the teachings of Prophecy) and that he just didn't make that information know to the general public? Most people here at this site don't subscribe to that viewpoint. Jul 12, 2019 at 17:59
  • @YaacovDeane You're free to write your own answer from Kabbalah Nevu'it POV. This site does not obligate to include all viewpoints in one answer AFAIK.
    – Al Berko
    Jul 13, 2019 at 22:41
  • @Micha Berger I like the answer you provided but the the last two paragraphs sounds almost blasphemous. I’m not accusing you of blasphemy but I think you do not understand Rambam’s position that we cannot describe G-d. This idea of G-d being represented as a man may date back to the Middle Ages when Jewish holy books had a picture of G-d looking like a man on the cover! Rambam sought to do away with that.
    – Turk Hill
    Jul 13, 2019 at 23:05
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    @TurkHill: If you have problems with my description of the Rambam, check out the Abravanel (on Moreh Nevuchim 2:42 hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=30672&pgnum=79 ) for yourself, and see if I misunderstood him. Also, note that the Abravanel is talking about nevi'im "seeing" intellects (angels) and the Kavod Nivra, not G-d. It is this very point he uses to explain why the Rambam and Ramban understand the Man in the Throne at Sinai differently. Jul 14, 2019 at 2:35
  • @AlBerko: I do not mean the higher entities that Qabbalah discusses, I mean the chain of being the Rambam himself describes, e.g. in the beginning of Yesodei haTorah ch. 1 and the middle bulk of ch. 2. (Although the Leshem does note the similarlity between the Rambam's chain of intellects and Qabbalah's olamos, and holds they are two models of the same underlying metaphysical reality. The result is that the Leshem's Kelalim is a Qabbalah seifer that quotes the Moreh frequently. Perhaps his other works do too -- I've never looked at them.) Jul 14, 2019 at 2:38

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