I've heard that G-d's (or neviim's) good decrees/prophecies can't be erased, but bad ones can if G-d sees that we repent. Is this a well-believed concept? What are the sources of this?


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Deuteronomy 18, 21-22:

כִי תֹאמַר בִּלְבָבֶךָ אֵיכָה נֵדַע אֶת הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר לֹא דִבְּרוֹ יְהֹוָה: אֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר הַנָּבִיא בְּשֵׁם יְהֹוָה וְלֹא יִהְיֶה הַדָּבָר וְלֹא יָבֹא הוּא הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר לֹא דִבְּרוֹ יְהֹוָה בְּזָדוֹן דִּבְּרוֹ הַנָּבִיא לֹא תָגוּר מִמֶּנּוּ:

Translation: Now if you say to yourself, "How will we know the word that the Lord did not speak?" If the prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, and the thing does not occur and does not come about, that is the thing the Lord did not speak. The prophet has spoken it wantonly; you shall not be afraid of him.

From here it seems that any type of prophecy must come true.

Jeremiah 18, 7-10:

רֶגַע אֲדַבֵּר עַל גּוֹי וְעַל מַמְלָכָה לִנְתוֹשׁ וְלִנְתוֹץ וּלְהַאֲבִיד: וְשָׁב הַגּוֹי הַהוּא מֵרָעָתוֹ אֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתִּי עָלָיו וְנִחַמְתִּי עַל הָרָעָה אֲשֶׁר חָשַׁבְתִּי לַעֲשׂוֹת לוֹ: וְרֶגַע אֲדַבֵּר עַל גּוֹי וְעַל מַמְלָכָה לִבְנוֹת וְלִנְטוֹעַ: וְעָשָׂה הָרַע (כתיב הָרַעה) בְּעֵינַי לְבִלְתִּי שְׁמֹעַ בְּקוֹלִי וְנִחַמְתִּי עַל הַטּוֹבָה אֲשֶׁר אָמַרְתִּי לְהֵיטִיב אוֹתוֹ:

Translation: One instant I may speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to uproot and to demolish and to destroy. And when that nation repents of its evil for which I spoke concerning it, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do to it. And at one instant I may speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant, And it will do what is evil in My eyes, not to hearken to My voice, I will repent of the good I said to benefit it.

Here it seems that both good and prophecies can be canceled by Hashem.

Rambam, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 10:

דברי הפורענות שהנביא אומר, כגון שיאמר פלוני ימות או שנה פלונית שנת רעב או מלחמה וכיוצא בדברים אלו: אם לא עמדו דבריו, אין בזה הכחשה לנבואתו, ואין אומרין הנה דבר דיברת ולא בא, שהקדוש ברוך הוא "ארך אפיים ורב חסד, וניחם על הרעה" (יואל ב,יג; יונה ד,ב), ואפשר שעשו תשובה ונסלח להם כאנשי נינווה, או שתלה להם כחזקייה. אבל אם הבטיח על טובה ואמר שיהיה כך וכך, ולא באה הטובה שאמר: בידוע שהוא נביא שקר, שכל דבר טובה שיגזור האל, אפילו על תנאי, אינו חוזר. הא למדת, שבדברי הטובה בלבד ייבחן הנביא. הוא שירמיהו אומר בתשובתו לחנניה בן עזור, כשהיה ירמיה מתנבא לרעה וחנניה לטובה. אמר לו חנניה, אם לא יעמדו דבריי, אין בזה ראיה שאני נביא שקר. אבל אם לא יעמדו דבריך, ייוודע שאתה נביא שקר, שנאמר "אך שמע נא את הדבר הזה" (ראה ירמיהו כח,ז).

Translation: Prophecies of retribution which a prophet will utter - e.g., "So and so will die," "This or that year will be a year of famine or a year of war," and the like: If his words do not come true, this does not nullify the validity of his prophecy, nor do we say: "Behold, he spoke and his words were not fulfilled."
Because the Holy One, Blessed be He, is slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and forgiving of evil. Thus, it is possible that they will repent and [their sin] will be forgiven, as in the case of the people of Nineveh, or that [retribution] will be held in abeyance, as in the case of Hezekiah.
But if [a prophet] promised that good would come and such and such will occur, and the good about which he prophesied did not materialize, he is surely a false prophet. Any good which God decrees - even if [the decree] is provisional - will never be nullified. We can conclude from this that a prophet should be tested on the basis of his positive prophecies. This was what Jeremiah meant by his reply to Chananiah ben Azur, when he was prophesying doom and Chananiah was promising a [glorious future]. He told Chananiah: "If my words are not fulfilled, this will not lead to the conclusion that I am a false prophet. If your promises are not fulfilled, however, it will be proven that you are a false prophet," as implied by [Jeremiah 28:7,9]: "Hear, now, this word... As for the prophet who prophesies for peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, it will be known that God has truly sent this prophet."

As you can see, these seem like conflicting ideas. There are several explanations. For example, the Radak says that it is true that a good prophecy cannot be canceled (and so one can test a prophet who foretells a good thing). He explains the verse above from Jeremiah so that people may sin, and the good thing that was supposed to happen will be therefore postponed, but it will eventually come. More sources about this issue here.


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