The Talmud tells us that there were 7 Gentile prophets:

Seven prophets prophesied to the nations of the world, and they are: Balaam and his father Beor, and Job, Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, and Elihu ben Barachel the Buzite. [Bava Batra 15b]

But the Torah tells us that many other Gentiles also had contact with God. For example:

God said to Noah... [Gen. 6:13]

And God appeared to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night. [Gen. 31:24]

Why do they not count? Because they came before the Exodus? Because prophecy is more than just God speaking to a person? What is the definition of a Gentile prophet?

  • 1
    I think the difference between a person who has prophecies and a prophet is that a prophet takes a message from Hashem to the people. Not necessarily every person to have contact with Hashem, then goes on to pass such a message to other people.
    – Harel13
    Jan 24, 2021 at 16:19
  • Possible duplicate judaism.stackexchange.com/q/66275/759
    – Double AA
    Jan 24, 2021 at 16:20
  • @Harel13 -- Were the 7 listed in the Gemara asked to take a message from God to the people? Jan 24, 2021 at 16:24
  • Well, there are various midrashim about Bilam and his father. Bilam, certainly, was expected to do so. The friends of Iyov all came to him with messages, didn't they? I don't know about Iyov, though.
    – Harel13
    Jan 24, 2021 at 16:27
  • Interesting question.
    – Turk Hill
    Jan 25, 2021 at 0:31

1 Answer 1


If you read the next few lines in the gemara Bava Batra 15b, you will see that the premise of the question is incorrect. The gemara clarifies that these seven listed are not gentile prophets, but rather prophets to the gentiles. Thus, possibly Iyov, included in the list, and certainly Elihu ben Barachel, included in the list, are Jewish, but prophesied to the nations of the world. Which is in fact what you quoted above from the gemara in your question:

Seven prophets prophesied to the nations of the world

without mention that they were gentiles. Here is what the ensuing gemara clarifies:

וליטעמיך אליהוא בן ברכאל לאו מישראל הוה והא כתיב ממשפחת רם

that is,

He said to him: And according to your reasoning that Job could not have been Jewish because he prophesied to the nations of the world, was Elihu ben Barachel not a Jew? Is it not written: “Of the family of Ram” (Job 32:2), meaning Abraham?

and continues:

אלא אינבוי אינבי לאומות העולם ה"נ איוב אינבוי אינבי [לאומות העולם] אטו כולהו נביאי מי לא אינבוי לאומות העולם התם עיקר נביאותייהו לישראל הכא עיקר נביאותייהו לאומות העולם

that is,

Rather, one must explain that Elihu is included in this list because he prophesied to the nations of the world; and so too it may be maintained that Job is included in this list, even though he is Jewish, because he prophesied to the nations of the world. The Gemara asks: But did not all the other prophets also prophesy to the nations of the world? Why then are only these seven mentioned? The Gemara answers: There, with regard to the other prophets, their main prophecies were directed to Israel, whereas here, with regard to these seven prophets, their main prophecies were directed to the nations of the world.

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