What are the differences between the "typical" navi's prophecy, Moshe Rabbeinu's prophecy, and Bil'am HaRasha's prophecy? (Answers with sources [and preferably links to sources] only please!)

  • Why do you assume that there was a difference?
    – mevaqesh
    May 22 '17 at 2:23

Typical navi:

  • sees prophetic visions only in a dream state (Rambam, Hil. Yesodei Hatorah 7:2)
  • becomes terrified and physically weak from the experience (ibid.)
  • sees a metaphorical vision, from which he or she then deduces the actual meaning (ibid. 7:3). This is because their prophecy comes to them via an angel (ibid. 7:6) - or as the Gemara puts it (Yevamos 49b), "in an unclear mirror."
  • has to prepare himself (or herself) for prophecy (ibid. 7:4), and therefore may lead a normal family life (ibid. 7:6).

Moshe Rabbeinu (ibid. 7:6):

  • receives prophecy while in full control of his senses
  • is able to converse with G-d without being overwhelmed, like someone talking with another person
  • is told the actual content of the message directly by G-d - he "sees" Him as though "in a clear mirror"
  • can receive prophecy at any time, and therefore must be permanently separated from his wife.

Bil'am Harasha:

  • was not really a navi at all, but a sorcerer (Josh. 13:22 thus calls him הקוסם). However, to honor the Jewish People, Hashem first appeared to him at night, then later via an angel, and finally during the daytime. All of this was only temporary, though, and afterwards he reverted to his former status. (Ramban to Num. 22:31; see also Sanhedrin 106a)
  • even when he did receive prophecy, Hashem was (so to speak) "embarrassed" to do so, and therefore allowed it to happen only at night (Rashi to Num. 22:8). Further on, Hashem's appearances to him are depicted with the word ויקר, which suggests an "accidental," shameful, unclean experience. (Rashi to Num. 23:4)
  • would fall to the ground from the intensity of the experience, because he was uncircumcised. (Rashi to Num. 24:4) (Rashi here may be disputing Rambam's statement, above, that this is true of all Jewish prophets too, except Moshe.)
  • Great topic!!!! Jun 25 '10 at 21:12
  • If it is such a great topic, YS, then do me a favor and give an up vote for my question! :-)
    – Yahu
    Jun 25 '10 at 23:41
  • Noted, i did it Jun 27 '10 at 13:21
  • Alex, btw, I really like your answer. I was just hoping someone would come up with a source from the GR"A on this. Someone quoted to me from the GR"A on this topic and it was a very surprising view on Moshe Rabbeinu and on Bil'am. I was hoping someone would be familiar with such a source.
    – Yahu
    Jun 27 '10 at 16:54
  • Ans YS, thanks! If everyone knew where their votes came from I have a feeling that people might just vote to reciprocate, but when you wrote "Great topic!!!!" you voted, just forgot to pull the lever (or poke the chad). ;-)
    – Yahu
    Jun 27 '10 at 21:46

HaShem has His prophets among other nations too. Here Bil'am is presented as an example. In Israel, the tipical prophet, if there is one among them, the Lord will make Himself known to him or her in a vision, and will speak to him or her in a dream. (Numb. 12:6) The only thing special about Moses in verse 7 and 8, is not that HaShem would speak to him mouth-to-mouth or face-to-face. The expression here is metaphorical for promoting Moses as the greatest of all the prophets. "Mouth-to-mouth" or "face-to-face" are not expressions to be said of G-d, Who is Incorporeal.

  • 2
    Ben, are you reading the responses already given to the questions? I don't want to toot my own horn here, but there's really little or nothing in your answer that's not in the summary I provided of the Rambam's formulation.
    – Alex
    Nov 23 '10 at 20:53
  • 1
    Yahu, the Gemara (Bava Basra 15b, top) lists "seven prophets who prophesied to the nations of the world." Of these, the Gemara goes on to identify one (Elihu) as a Jew, and is uncertain about another (Iyov); but the other five are identified as non-Jews (see also Avodah Zarah 3a, where three of them will appear as witnesses at Hashem's judgment of the nations to testify to our fidelity to the Torah).
    – Alex
    Nov 24 '10 at 17:37
  • Alex, you mean this Gemara: hebrewbooks.org/… . I stand corrected.
    – Yahu
    Nov 25 '10 at 11:40
  • 1
    Ben, check who's writing; that was me. And yes, while it is perfectly true that Hashem knows and sees all, we speak of Him anthropomorphically as judging the world with all of the trappings that this entails. (Since you like to have Biblical sources for these things, try Gen. 11:5 and 18:21, and I Kings 22:19ff, for examples.)
    – Alex
    Nov 25 '10 at 18:35
  • 1
    So yes, speaking in those terms, Hashem calls on various prominent non-Jews to declare - not so much for G-d's benefit, but for that of the audience, both Jews and non-Jews - that we have been loyal to the Torah, both its written and oral components, as it's been transmitted to us throughout the generations, and that we have not tried to replace or alter it. You tell me, then: do you want to be able to have the same said about you at that time?
    – Alex
    Nov 25 '10 at 18:38

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