Rambam in Yesodey Hatorah 7 writes that Prophets are very special people that prepare themselves thoroughly to detach themselves from this physical world and serve Hashem.

However, we can clearly see that some of them, once finally presented with prophecy and explicit commandments, backed off, tried to refuse or prove their unworthiness and incapability. For example, Moses refused to lead the Israelites till G-d got very angry, Yona ran away or Jeremiah that also thought he was unworthy and incapable of acting.

I'm trying to speculate on the reasons, but can't come up with anything more than they perceived G-d as a human-like partner that doesn't understand them or doesn't know what they have to say and not as all-knowing, all-present, etc, etc.

How their behavior can be explained in the approach of the almighty and all-knowing G-d?

  • Are you looking for speculation, or sources?
    – simyou
    Oct 22, 2019 at 12:53
  • @simyou speculations are for comments and explanations are for answers, I think.
    – Al Berko
    Oct 22, 2019 at 13:17
  • Are you asking how a righteous person could commit a sin? We don't believe that our prophets (or any human) is infallible, and the Torah even records your examples as 'sins' those prophets commited (although we generally say that the sin is not as severe as it seems based on a superficial reding of the text and that G-d is particularly exacting with the righteous). They were immensely great people, but in some minute way, relative to their level, they made some sort of 'sin' that G-d held them accountable for. Oct 23, 2019 at 1:38

1 Answer 1


What an excellent question. Though first let’s define our terms. For the sake of brevity, I will share two links to previous answers defining prophecy and the nature of G-d's all-knowingness.

Now to the question.

Why didn’t Jonah immediately obey God’s command to go into Nineveh? After all, didn't Abraham ‘blindly’ obeyed to sacrifice Isaac? Is it possible that a person can hear G-d’s voice and yet show disobedience? Did Jonah hear G-d’s voice? Maybe it was an inspiration—but nevertheless an act he was uncertain about. If it was G-d’s voice as the Bible implies, was it a small still voice as with Elijah or was it fiery thunder as with the people at Sinai?

We read that Noah was “a righteous man, perfect in his generation” (Genesis 6:9). In a word, he had ‘perfect’ faith. But what is faith? American satirist Ambrose Bierce defined faith like this: a “belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge of things.” The Devil’s Dictionary.

Did Noah think or acted on blind faith? Does G-d want us to have faith? Actually “faith” isn’t in the Hebrew Bible. The world “faith,” emunah, means “steadfast” or “steady.” Thus Moses’ hands were “steadily” held, not faithfully.

We read in Genesis 18 that Abraham debated the verdict with G-d whether to lay waste the city of Sodom. G-d approves of his reasoning and declares that He will spare the city if ten inhabitants are found not guilty. Others followed in Abraham’s footsteps. Moses, Isaiah and Jeremiah, felt it was unreasonable for G-d to select them for their divine mission despite Moses being a general in Pharaoh’s army. They questioned G-d to the point where the Judge Gideon asked for proof of his victory. They doubted the reasoning but used their intelligence as G-d desired.

The historian Josephus was so bothered with Noah's willingness to accept the divine decree that he imagined an episode of Noah begging G-d never again to flood the earth. Rabbi Judah in the Midrash Genesis Rabbah questioned Noah’s ‘righteous.’ He said in the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 108a, regarding Noah, that “In a street of totally blind people, a one-eyed man is called clear-sighted, and an infant a scholar.” Rabbi Nehemiah said that while Noah in Genesis 6:9 “walked with G-d,” Abraham in 17:1 walks “before Me [G-d].” which means that Noah had to rely on G-d while Avraham led the way. Some went as far as to say that Noah was only righteous in his generation (and would not be in another) simply because he did not warn anyone about the coming flood.

Maimonides also comments on one using his intelligence in his medical book Aphorisms, writing:

If anyone tells you that he has proof from his personal experience of something that he needs to confirm his theory, even though he is recognized as a man of great authority and truthfulness – sincere and moral – yet because he is so anxious for you to believe his notion, do not hesitate. Do not allow yourself to be swayed by the novelties that he tells you. Examine his theory and beliefs carefully.... Look into the matter. Don’t let yourself be persuaded.

Is it right to obey divine decrees without question? Did this improper act prompt the jihadist to fly plains into buildings simply because they did not use their intelligence to question the Koran and its evil teachings? Must we follow everyone of authority or listen to their arguments, evaluate them, and reject or accept their teaching based on our understanding of them. Indeed the Mishnah, Pirke Avot 2:6 says that: “An individual who acts without reason can still be a righteous fool.”

  • THank you for your effort. "For the sake of brevity" you say. "Must we follow everyone of authority?", you summarize - if it's G-d I'd say YES, what else? Didn't G-d already consider everything one has to say, and still He decided to command?
    – Al Berko
    Oct 22, 2019 at 17:46
  • I understand your point in "Moses, Isaiah and Jeremiah, felt it was unreasonable for G-d to select them for their divine mission", but how unreasonable connects to all-knowing G-d?
    – Al Berko
    Oct 22, 2019 at 17:48
  • Excellent questions. G-d, being all-knowing already considered everything in advance, however, people who are finite, do not know what G-d is about to task them and so question the verdict, like Abraham at Sodom. G-d desires that we obey Him, and follow the mitzvahs as the rabbis explained it. G-d also desires that we use our intelligence and question everything we hear, even if it is from G-d. That is not to champion disobedience to the law but it promotes evaluation and the use of one's intelligence and five senses.
    – Turk Hill
    Oct 22, 2019 at 18:22
  • @AlBerko But what do you think?
    – Turk Hill
    Oct 22, 2019 at 18:23
  • THis sounds like nonsense, the very reason to doubt is when something is unsure. THink how you use your GPS - if you'd know it's 100% true, it would be unreasonable to question it. I truly think you're bluffing, we're commanded to follow the prophets wholeheartedly even we have no confirmation of their divinity, and you question G-d? I know that your approach is supported by many shortsighted Rabbis, trying blindly justify any behavior, but I don't buy it. If it doesn't not fit it is not the truth, IMHO.
    – Al Berko
    Oct 22, 2019 at 18:36

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .