Has anyone else noticed the seeming incongruity in Lekh Lekha, Gen 15:1...that Avram is "seeing" the words? The verse states:

אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, הָיָה דְבַר-יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, בַּמַּחֲזֶה, לֵאמֹר: אַל-תִּירָא אַבְרָם, אָנֹכִי מָגֵן לָךְ--שְׂכָרְךָ, הַרְבֵּה מְאֹד.
After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying: 'Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield, thy reward shall be exceeding great.'

How does one "see" that which is spoken? Any thoughts or midrashim that I may have missed that address this? I notice it also in Yeshyahu 2:1, Shemot 20:14 and many other pasukkim.

  • 3
    Kovesh, welcome to Mi Yodeya and thank you for bringing this interesting question here. Please consider also registering your account for free which will allow you to utilize the full functionality of the site. I look forward to seeing you around!
    – Double AA
    Oct 25, 2012 at 5:38
  • Perhaps Nevua is so overwhelming it gives you synesthesia.
    – Double AA
    Oct 25, 2012 at 18:37

1 Answer 1


As Maimonides writes (Y'sode Hatora chapter 7):

הנביאים… אין רואין מראה הנבואה אלא בחלום בחזיון לילה או ביום אחר שתפול עליהן תרדמה…‏

הדברים שמודיעים לנביא במראה הנבואה דרך משל מודיעין לו ומיד יחקק בלבו פתרון המשל במראה הנבואה וידע מה הוא. כמו הסולם שראה יעקב אבינו ומלאכים עולים ויורדים בו והוא היה משל למלכיות ושעבודן. וכמו החיות שראה יחזקאל

In my own loose translation:

The prophets… see a prophetic vision only in a dream, a vision of the night, or by day after they fall into a deep sleep….

The דברים made known to a prophet in a prophetic vision are made known to him in an allegorical manner, and he immediately carves out in his mind the prophetic vision's allegory's interpretation and knows what's meant by the allegory. Like the ladder Yaakov saw with angels ascending and descending it, which was an allegory for kingdoms and their subjugation. Like the animals Y'chezkel saw.…

So prophets [except Moshe] see visions, not words, and the "דְבַר" in the verse you quoted means merely "communication" (an extension of the "word" sense) or perhaps something even more general.

  • I thank you for finding that quote for me. It's interesting how in this verse the "דבר" is anthropomorphized in a sense...that "The word of Hashem came...saying", as if it is the WORD saying something. I understand it's rather common grammar but it still fascinates me.
    – Kovesh
    Oct 25, 2012 at 7:10
  • Actually, came was inserted: it's not in the original.
    – msh210
    Oct 25, 2012 at 14:27
  • Right - "came" being an english insertion, there solely for the syntax of the English sentence...yet in Hebrew you still see "היה" meaning "to be" or, an existential verb (as far as I know). I suppose in a rough mechanical translation it might read something like: "After these Things/Words, there was the word of HaShem unto Avraham in vision, saying..." Am I far off? :)
    – Kovesh
    Oct 25, 2012 at 16:23
  • 1
    Sounds right, except that "the word of" might be off, per my answer.
    – msh210
    Oct 25, 2012 at 17:44

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