When can one be considered a prophet in Judaism? What do they have to do to achieve the title of prophet? Do they have to make a predication about the future?


2 Answers 2


Mishneh Torah Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah 10:1-2

Any prophet who arises and tells us that God has sent him does not have to [prove himself by] performing wonders like those performed by Moses, our teacher, or like the wonders of Elijah or Elisha, which altered the natural order. Rather, the sign of [the truth of his prophecy] will be the fulfillment of his prediction of future events, as [implied by Deuteronomy 18:21]: "How shall we recognize that a prophecy was not spoken by God?..."

Therefore, if a person whose [progress] in the service of God makes him worthy of prophecy arises [and claims to be a prophet] - if he does not intend to add [to] or diminish [the Torah], but rather to serve God through the mitzvot of the Torah - we do not tell him: "Split the sea for us, revive the dead, or the like, and then we will believe in you." Instead, we tell him, "If you are a prophet, tell us what will happen in the future." He makes his statements, and we wait to see whether [his "prophecy"] comes to fruition or not.

Should even a minute particular of his "prophecy" not materialize, he is surely a false prophet. If his entire prophecy materializes, we should consider him a true [prophet].

We should test him many times. If all of his statements prove true, he should be considered to be a true prophet, as [I Samuel 3:20] states concerning Samuel, "And all of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, knew that Samuel had been proven to be a prophet unto God."

(Touger translation)

  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/113671/…
    – Alex
    May 16, 2022 at 21:33
  • Re: "Should even a minute particular of his 'prophecy' not materialize, he is surely a false prophet": Wait, does this mean that Jonah was a false prophet??
    – ruakh
    May 17, 2022 at 6:44
  • @ruakh No. In 10:4 he clarifies that this rule does not apply to prophecies about punishment, since it is possible for people to repent and for God to forgive.
    – Alex
    May 17, 2022 at 10:48
  • Ah, OK; phew! ;-)
    – ruakh
    May 17, 2022 at 22:21

Just to add to Alex's answer. Before becoming a prophet, the person must work on refining himself, until he reaches a level where receiving prophecy is possible. From Mishneh Torah Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah 7:1

Prophecy is bestowed only upon a very wise sage of a strong character, who is never overcome by his natural inclinations in any regard. Instead, with his mind, he overcomes his natural inclinations at all times. He must [also] possess a very broad and accurate mental capacity.

A person who is full of all these qualities and is physically sound [is fit for prophecy]. When he enters the Pardes and is drawn into these great and sublime concepts, if he possesses an accurate mental capacity to comprehend and grasp [them], he will become holy. He will advance and separate himself from the masses who proceed in the darkness of the time. He must continue and diligently train himself not to have any thoughts whatsoever about fruitless things or the vanities and intrigues of the times.

Instead, his mind should constantly be directed upward, bound beneath [God's] throne [of Glory, striving] to comprehend the holy and pure forms and gazing at the wisdom of the Holy One, blessed be He, in its entirety, [in its manifold manifestations] from the most elevated [spiritual] form until the navel of the earth, appreciating His greatness from them. [After these preparations,] the divine spirit will immediately rest upon him.

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