Devarim 18:21-22 says that the way to determine that a prophet is a false prophet is if the prophet speaks in the name of G-d and says that something will happen but it doesn't occur.

I'm curious how practical this is. Let's say a prophet comes and says, "I came with a message from G-d that says that you need to sell your home in the next week, or you will lose everything you own."

Chances are that I wouldn't want to really take a gamble and think he's lying, but would I be cautious and just sell my home.

As a matter of fact, this is somewhat "predicament" of Jonah. According to Midrash, the very reason that Jonah fled on a boat rather than immediately deliver the message to Nineveh is that he feared that the people of Nineveh would consider him a false prophet because he predicted disaster yet it didn't happen.

Is there an additional condition that I missed from what the Torah is stating that would make the average person wait around and not listen to the prophet? (The Torah does explicitly state in an earlier verse NOT to listen to him.)

  • 2
    If memory serves, Rambam discusses this in Hilchot Teshuvah. Negative decrees (which includes negative prophecies from a true prophet) can always be reversed. So if the negative prophecy doesn't materialize, it only indicates that some type of merit averted the negative decree. Only positive prophecies that relate to the whole nation are irreversible. Aug 24, 2017 at 18:08
  • @YaacovDeane Good supplemental info to Sabba's answer. Please post when you can!
    – DanF
    Aug 24, 2017 at 19:13

1 Answer 1


If someone, who has already been established as a true navi, comes with a message (like Elisha or Shmuel), then you must listen. Until that happens, then you do not need to listen. The navi would have to say, the as a proof, this will happen before you need to sell your house.

Of course, if he says something that is against the Torah, then he is a navi sheker.

Shmuel was an established navi and everyone went to him for advice. Shmuel I 9:9.

Elisha showed what would happen as in Melachim II 7:2

And the king's officer upon whose hand he would lean, answered the man of God, and said, "Behold, if the Lord makes windows in the sky, will this thing come about?" And he said, "Behold, you will see with your own eyes, but you shall not eat therefrom."

If he then went to an individual and told him to do something, then he would have to do it. As an example, we see that first Shmuel told Saul about the donkeys, gave him the portion that he had set aside the other day, and only then told him that he would become king.

Shmuel I 9:27](http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15838#v=27)

As they were going down at the outskirts of the city, Samuel said to Saul, "Tell the servant to go ahead of us," and he went ahead. "And you, stand still at this time, and I shall let you hear the word of God."

Another example is Yeshayahu 7:14

Therefore, the Lord, of His own, shall give you a sign; behold, the young woman is with child, and she shall bear a son, and she shall call his name Immanuel.

Where he gives a proof that the prophesy will come true, by citing an event (the woman is already pregnant an will name her son) that will happen before the scheduled prophesy. Here too one must obey the prophet who has already been proven to be a true prophet.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .