When we read stories of Nevuah in Tanach, are the nevuos being recorded as verbatim or is each Navi "paraphrasing" what the nevuah was?

  • 1
    ou.org/torah/parsha/vayigdal-moshe/parshas-balak-2 do you mean "is the text of the written text the exact nevuah" or "was the nevuah spoken exactly as it was received"?
    – rosends
    Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 16:41
  • Have you seen Z'charya 1:7 and on? It's not clear how widely his experience can be generalized to other instances of the prophecy experience (and other prophets have less explicit visions along these lines), but he is being a) shown an image and b) given an [interactive] explanation of it in parallel. So the possibility of verbatim transmission is obviated in at least some cases by the input not being wholly verbal.
    – WAF
    Commented Oct 23, 2018 at 5:58

2 Answers 2


As Rambam explains Mishneh Torah, Mada, Yesodei haTorah, 7 all prophets (other than Moshe) received their prophecy as a vision and a metaphor (through an angel). They would then tell over either the metaphor, the meaning, or both.

This was not the exact wording, because it was perceived through a metaphor, and so they used the term "כה" ("so said Hashem...).

On the other hand, Moshe perceived the matter directly like someone speaking to him. Therefore, Moshe uses the term "זה" (this is what Hashem said).

Yet, the nature of prophecy is a deep subject that requires further study. See Moreh Nevuchim, and the Arizal's Shaarei Kedushah for a detailed discussion on the topic.

A relevant quote:

פרי צדיק שמות פרשת יתרו אות ד':‏

והיה דברו [של בלעם] דבר ה' ממש. ועל זה נאמר (דברים ל"ד, י') ולא קם נביא עוד בישראל כמשה ואמרו (במדבר רבה י"ד, י"ט) בישראל לא קם אבל באומות העולם קם ומנו בלעם וכמו שמובא בזוה"ק (ח"ג קצ"ג: וכן הוא בספרי סוף פרשת וזאת הברכה ט"ז) והמכוון דכח משה רבינו היה שבשעה שדיבר היה דבר ה' ממש שהיתה שכינה מדברת מתוך גרונו וכמו שאמרנו שזה שאמרו (ספרי מטות א') מוסיף עליהם משה שנתנבא בזה הדבר שהוא דכשדיבר היה ממש זה הדבר ולא כמספר מה שדיבר לו ה' שזה מורה לשון כה אמר ה' מדריגת שאר נביאים שלא זכו שיהיה ממש דבר ה' שיהיה שכינה מדברת מתוך גרונם. מה שאין כן בלעם שהיה גם כן שכינה מדברת בתוך פיו וכמו שמובא בזוה"ק דמדת כה שהיא שכינתא כמו שמובא בזוה"ק (ח"ג קמ"ה סוף ע"ב) האי צדק אתקרי כה וכו' ואמר דהיא תמלל מלין וכו' וזה כעין נבואת משה רבינו ע"ה להבדיל. רק דבלעם לא היה לו שום שייכות וידיעה כלל בדבר ה' שיצא דרך פיו).‏

  • So prophets got visions, we got words. Why don't God just transmit his will to us via podcast rather than playing telephone games? I mean people literally kill each other over different interpretation of what He "means"
    – user4951
    Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 20:44
  • @user4951 The nature of prophecy is seeing an abstract G-dly potential, which can come into the world in many forms. I would compare it to a mentor seeing potential in a child. Speaking to the child about this potential helps inspire him or her to actualize these hidden gifts. Yet, our Sages (Taanis) compare spiritual development to a seed sprouting. At first it is covered in dirt. So people fight as they struggle to develop and understand the true intent of G-d's words, like children fighting over helping their parent. Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 20:57

Depending upon the level of prophecy, the communication can come in many different forms to the prophet (visual, or verbal, sometimes even edits of his own words of Torah from when he was learning or praying previously). This last point also emphasizes the importance of saying the words clearly and distinctly when you learn or pray. If you mumble or slur, that could be exactly how G-d communicates back to you, measure for measure.

The text of the prophets we have is how the prophet put his communication into words. And it would be understood that why the prophet would choose particular expressions is also under Divine Providence. Think in terms of the opening phrase that is said before the Amidah prayer (L-rd, open my lips and my mouth will tell of Your praises.)

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