The Torah tells us (Deut.20) that if someone utters a prophecy in the name of God and even a minute detail of that prophecy does not occur, then the prophet is false and incurs the death penalty.

does this law apply always? Even the king of israel or the kohen gaol or a previously verified prophet

  • "even a minute detail of that prophecy does not occur, then the prophet is false and incurs the death penalty" I don't see the Torah saying anything about minute details?
    – mevaqesh
    Jul 3, 2015 at 13:30

2 Answers 2


Yes this law applies to everyone, even the king of Israel, the kohen gadol, or a previously verified prophet--see Sefer Hachinuch 517. In fact, there is a specific prohibition not to fear executing a false prophet (Sefer HaChinuch 519). Actually, there are some who say that the death penalty applies only to someone who could plausibly have been a prophet, but if the person could not have been a prophet regardless, he would not receive the death penalty--see Minchat Chinuch 517.

  • how is it determined? two witnesses claim the guy said such and such in God's name and then it did not happen?
    – ray
    Jul 2, 2015 at 17:36
  • דברים יח: כ אַךְ הַנָּבִיא אֲשֶׁר יָזִיד לְדַבֵּר דָּבָר בִּשְׁמִי אֵת אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוִּיתִיו לְדַבֵּר וַאֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר בְּשֵׁם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים וּמֵת הַנָּבִיא הַהוּא. כא וְכִי תֹאמַר בִּלְבָבֶךָ אֵיכָה נֵדַע אֶת הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר לֹא דִבְּרוֹ יְהוָה. כב אֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר הַנָּבִיא בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה וְלֹא יִהְיֶה הַדָּבָר וְלֹא יָבוֹא הוּא הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר לֹא דִבְּרוֹ יְהוָה בְּזָדוֹן דִּבְּרוֹ הַנָּבִיא לֹא תָגוּר מִמֶּנּוּ.
    – wfb
    Dec 8, 2019 at 20:20

The death penalty appears to be a Heavenly one. The obvious source in Tanach is Jeremiah chapter 28, where a false prophet called Hananiah prophecies that Nebuchadnezzar's rule would be overthrown within 2 years and Judah restored to its own sovereignity.

Jeremiah responds firstly with "so it may be so.." but warns Hananiah about false prophecies and then passes the word of G-d that he will die within a year, which he does.


Sanhedrin runs through laws regarding prophets and prophecies. In general, a "bad" prophecy might be overturned (e.g. Jonah) through "teshuva, tefila and tzedaka" but a good one will always come to pass (unless it's a false one).

With regards to the "detail". it's often in the detail that it becomes clear that the prophecy was a true one. We see this a lot with Elisha. For example, the price of flour after the famine, and what happened to the king's steward who laughed at the prophecy. (The first is an example of a good prophecy. If that hadn't happened it would have meant Elisha was a false prophet. But of course he wasn't. With regards to the second, if the steward had responded "I have sinned before Hashem" and done a true teshuva, that one might have been overturned).

  • you are saying beit din does not have the authority to kill a false prophet?
    – ray
    Jul 2, 2015 at 11:13
  • 1
    see Sanhedrin 89. halakhah.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_89.html which discusses who is at the hands of Heaven and who at the hands of Bet Din. It specifically identifies Chananiah as subject to Bet Din. Why in his particular case, he died at the hands of Heaven is another interesting question - perhaps this was a prophetic sign offered by Yirmeyah as proof in this prophetic 'contest' - but it is clear that they did not extrapolate in this manner. And certainly the death penalty in the general case is not in the hands of Heaven, only in certain subsets of cases. See the Mishna linked. Jul 2, 2015 at 11:29
  • Chananiah died within a year but it would have taken 2 years to show his prophecy was false
    – CashCow
    Jul 2, 2015 at 12:25
  • With that in mind, he could not have been put to death by Beit Din until 2 years had passed. The hope of Jeremiah's prophecies is that they would get the people to do Teshuvah. Without the edict on Chananiah the people were too likely to follow him and not do Teshuvah so it may have been felt necessary to give him a forecast heavenly death to prove the point. The Gemara itself suggests it wasn't a false "prophecy" but a false interpretation of a different true prophecy which is why he wasn't tried by Beis Din (aside from having to wait 2 years)
    – CashCow
    Jul 2, 2015 at 15:55
  • i think menashe killed isaiah on pretext of being a false prophet. but then again he did not follow the torah
    – ray
    Jul 2, 2015 at 17:30

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