J. (Joshua) Abelson.

The immanence of God in rabbinical literature online

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of the Holy Spirit. They attribute its possession to
many others besides the traditional prophets ; and they
make its coming dependent upon the accumulated moral
worth of the recipient.

(d) There were times when the " Inyan " was an
inward endowment of the whole Israelite nation ; and
the return of such a time should be the ideal of Israel
in all ages. The Rabbins ofttimes speak of the Holy
Spirit as pervading the whole of Israel, or as forsaking
the whole of Israel.

(e) The Shechinah in Jehuda Ha-Levi's system has
the closest connexion with prophecy and the "Inyan."
Prophecy found its home, its only home, in Palestine,
because the latter was the land of the Shechinah par
excellence. The obvious inference is that the Jew can
only hope to reach that high stage of perfection
enabling him to be as the prophet, i.e. to have real
communion with God, by dwelling once again on the
land where the Shechinah dwelt. That all this has
the closest affinity with Rabbinic doctrine, is too obvious
to need dwelling upon here.


(1) See on tliis subject Volz, Der Geist Gottes (Tubingen, 1910), pp.


(2) See article " Proplietic Literature," in Cheyne's Encyclopcedia

(3) Volz (op. cit.) on p. 79 describes prophecy as embracing "ekstati-
sche Verzuckung, Weissagung, begeisterte Rede, iibernatiirliche Erkennt-
niss w.dgl." Volz bere also quotes several interesting passages from
tbe Antiquities of Josephus, in which the latter historian ascribes the
prophetic ecstasy to several Biblical characters, such as Saul, David, etc,

(3a) On this question of activity and passivity in prophecy, Volz
draws an apt contrast between the views held by the Palestinian
Rabbis and the Alexandrian Jewish scholars on the subject. He
remarks (j). 81): "Man reflektiert jetzt iiber die Passivitat des
Offenbarungsorgans, wobei die Rabbiner den Propheten starkere Selb-
standigkeit zumessen, wiihrend der Alexandriner wohl unter dem Einfluss
der ihn umgebenden Erscheinungen die Passivitat betont." As an
instance of the Rabbinic " Selbstandigkeit " he quotes T. B. Sanhedrin
89a : nnx p:JD3 D'NnJnn o'N'a: ':» j'ni d'n'3: naj*? nh^l! inx pjJD. " One style of
thought {i.e. according to Rashi, ' one style of exj)ression by the Holy
Spirit ') enters several prophets ; but no two prophets prophesy in one
style." In other words, the prophet is passive in his reception of the
spirit of prophecy, hence all prophets are alike in this respect ; but in
giving out the message, the prophet is active and moulds the message
according to his own will. As an instance of the other view he quotes
Philo. In his " Who is the Heir to Divine Things " (li. 52) Philo says :
" For a prophet says nothing of his own, but everything which he says
is strange and prompted by some one else. . . . He alone is a sounding
instnmient of God's voice, being struck and moved to sound in an
invisible manner by him." Again, in par. 53, speaking of inspiration,
he says ; " For the mind that is in us is removed from its place at the
arrival of the Divine Spirit, but is again restored to its previous
habitation when that spirit departs ; for it is contrary to holy law for
what is mortal to dwell with what is immortal." He quotes several
other passages in which Philo speaks in the same strain. Interesting in
this connexion is the passage in Josephus which runs : " Thus did Balaam
speak by inspiration, as not being in his own power, but moved to say
what he did by the Divine Spirit " {Antiquities, Book iv. ch. vi. 5). In
the same paragraph Josephus makes Balaam reply to Balak as follows :
"O Balak, if thou rightly considerest this whole matter, canst thou
suppose that it is in our power to be silent, or to say anything when the
spirit of God seizes upon us ? For He puts such words as He j)leases in
our mouths and such discourses as we are not ourselves conscious of."

(4) There is another fact about Maimonides, which to my mind
stamps him as a mystic, viz. the view he takes concerning certain
miracles of Scripture. He regards the wrestling of Jacob with an
angel, the speaking of Balaam's ass, the translation of Ezekiel from
Babylon to Jerusalem (Ezekiel viii. 3), Isaiah's walking naked and
barefoot (Isaiah xx. 2) as things which had no exterior reality at all, but
as mere subjective exjieriences, visions, dreams in the brain of the
prophets themselves. A rationalist would either deny the truth of these
things altogether or he would try to interjjret them on natural grounds.

xvm NOTES 257

(5) M. Friedlander, Guide of the Pei-plexed, i. j). Ixx. Iiilioduction.

(6) For a further searching criticism of this theory of Maimonides
see the commentary of Nahmanides on Genesis xviii. 2. The latter
makes use of such an unsparing remark as : ainan onmo nnan.T nht<y
Dnn i'CK.nS'3 f|N ci'Dicy'? ^1DK. " Words like these [of Maimonides] con-
tradict Scripture. It is forbidden to give ear to them, much more to
believe in them." Nahmanides draws the distinction between seeing an
angel or hearing the words of an angel, and the state of mind which is a
concomitant of prophecy. The former, he says, is comprehended by the
subject when in a state of vision or dream. But not the latter. And
the two states are utterly distinct from one another. Abarbanel on
chap. xlii. of second book of the Moreh defends Maimonides against these
strictures of Nahmanides.

(7) Jehuda Ha - Levi concludes this argmnent (Book ii. 14) with
a passage bristling with similes of the boldest type. He says :
. . . "i3i 13 pann*? 'inic 'cS n£3is 123 'n'^xn }':y.ii. " The Divine Principle
waits, as it were, for him to whom it is meet that it should attach itself,
so that it should become his God, as was the case with the prophets and
the saints. It is just the same as the Active Intelligence which waits
for him whose natural powers have reached perfection, and whose soul
and moral qualities have reached that stage of equilibrium which enables
the Active Intelligence to apj^ly itself to them in the way of perfection.
It is just as the soul which waits for its entry into the foetus until the
latter's vital powers are sufficiently completed to enable it to receive this
higher state of things. It is in just the same way as Nature herself waits
for a temperate climate, in order that she might exert her effect upon
the soil and produce vegetation."



Enough has now been said to show the close affinity
between the Holy Spirit and Prophecy, and how the
Rabbins for this reason attributed the prophetic faculty
to a far wider circle of individuals than those whom
we are accustomed to regard as prophets in the light of
O.T. teaching on the subject. Detailed illustrations
must now be given /'^

In Genesis Rabba xxxvii. 7 we read : " R. Simeon
b. Gamliel said, The first fathers (i.e. Shem, Eber,
Peleg, etc., mentioned in Genesis x.) owing to the fact
that they employed the medium of the Holy Spirit,
used to name their children (at birth) after the name
of some event (i^tindh Dwh), but we who do not employ
the medium of the Holy Spirit name our children
after the names of our grandparents ("iD'^niiN nwh)."
The allusion is to the statement that Peleg (Genesis
X. 25) was so named " because in his days was the
earth divided." But, as one of the commentators on
this Midrash points out, this division of the earth
happened when Peleg was grown up ; therefore his
name at birth must have been a prophetic anticipation
on the part of his father. This prophetic power was
possessed by all the cd^idn-i, i.e. the Noachide families.
They saw into the future, hence they could keep alive



the memory of any coming event by embodying it in
a name. But Simeon b. Gamliel denies the possession
of this prophetic power by the Holy Spirit in his own
days, hence it w^as only the past that could be im-
mortalised in a name, not the future. The Midrash
follows up the statement by the remark, " R. Jos^
b. Halafta said Eber was a great prophet." But
the fact that Simeon b. Gamliel speaks of the non-
existence of the Holy Spirit in his day is surprising
when put by the side of other statements emanating
from about the same date which show that it decidedly
did exist. Of course it is difficult to say which Simeon
b. Gamliel is meant here. There were two of that
name. Simeon b. Gamliel I. was President of the Great
Sanhedrin at Jerusalem in the last two decades before
the destruction of the Temple. Simeon b. Gamliel H.
was a Tanna of the third generation, and, as we gather
from T. B. Sotah 49b and parallel passages, he lived
at the time of the Bar Kochba revolt, i.e. the second
century a.d. Now, in Leviticus Rabba xxi. 8, we
get the phrase in the midst of a peculiar anecdote,
tui^pn mnn nn^pi? 'S hds, " R. Akiba saw by the Holy
Spirit." Akiba's dates, roughly, are from a.d. 50-130.
If, then, our Simeon be he who lived before the
destruction of the Temple, it seems strange that the
Holy Spirit being already then extinct, it should be
said to reappear in a man who lived after that time.
If, however, he be the Simeon who lived at the time
of Bar Kochba, then his dates are practically identical
with those of Akiba. Why, then, should the Holy
Spirit have been extinct in the one case while it
was extant in the other? Again, in Leviticus Rabba
xxxvii. 3 (cp. T. B. Erubin 64a, Jerusalem Talmud
Aboda Zara, chap, i.) Gamliel II. "sees by the Holy
Spirit." He lived at the beginning of the second


century a.d. I have already quoted E. Meir in this
connexion. He too belongs to the second century a.d.
The explanation of the difficulty seems to be this :
Holy Spirit is employed in Rabbinic literature as
an adjunct to prophecy in three distinct senses.
Firstly, it is a Divine emanation which inspired the
recognised prophets of the O.T and the writers of all
the books included in the O.T. canon. Secondly, it
inspired with a sort of prophetic sense several miscel-
laneous characters not only in O.T. Scripture but after
the close of the canon. Thirdly, it is a Divine endow-
ment akin to prophecy which any one may attain
provided he lives the life which leads up to this high
state of moral, religious, and intellectual perfection. It
is not merely a thing of the past. God's revelation of
Himself is not confined to any particular period of
human history. The worthy man in any age can reach
the highest stage of communion with God. For this
highest stage of communion is rendered possible, because
God's Holy Spirit is immanent in man ; thus, man can
reach this ideal in any age, provided only that his
merits warrant it.

R. Simeon b. Gamliel in the statement attributed
to him above, is clearly using the phrase rmi ]''t2?Gn2JD
ti?"r"iprT in the first of the three senses. With the
destruction of the second Temple, canonical prophecy
ceased. Nay, it ceased many years before the
destruction, so that whether our Simeon b. Gamliel
be he who lived two decades before the destruction
of the Temple, or he who lived at the time of the Bar
Kochba revolt is really immaterial to the argument.
The locus classicus, whence is derived the theory of
the cessation of prophecy in the time of the second
Temple, is the following statement, which occurs
many times in different parts of Rabbinical literature :



''"iDi ptDN-irr ;d idti pnnNrr n^i n^nm n^-in nwT:in (Song of
Songs Rabbaviii.seeNote(2), p. 267), " Five things which
existed in the first Temple were lacking in the second.
These were (a) Fire from on High, (/;) Anointing Oil, (c)
the Ark, (d) Holy Spirit, (e) the Urim and Thummim." <'>
That the Holy Spirit is here an allusion to canonical
prophecy is seen from a parallel remark which like-
wise occurs with great frequency : D"^3*nnN D"'N''n3 *inot!?o
Sntd^d tu-npn nn npoD ^dnSdi h^-idt ^in, " With the death
of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi the Holy Spirit
ceased in Israel." ^^^ The Rabbins regarded these
three as the only prophets of the second Temple.
Their deaths probably occurred in the early days of
the second Temple's existence ; hence the statement
that the " Holy Spirit " was wanting in the second

The second sense of Holy Spirit is found in passages
such as the following : —

Most of the prominent characters, men and women,
in the Book of Genesis " foresaw" by the Holy Spirit,
i.e. the possession of the Holy Spirit meant the ability
to prophesy. Yalkut on Genesis xvi. attributes it to
Sarai, thus : " And Abram hearkened to the voice of
Sarai, i.e. to the voice of the Holy Spirit within her."
By the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit, Sarai foresaw
that Abram's taking Hagar to wife would result in
the birth of a son.

Genesis xxvii. 42 reads, " And these words of Esau
her elder son were told to Rebekah." Who told her?
Midrash Rabba on this passage answers by saying,
" The mothers (i.e. the wives of the patriarchs) were
prophetesses." Rashi, however, on the passage says,
" It was told her by the Holy Spirit." Now, Rashi
frequently quotes from Rabbinic sources without men-
tioning that they are Rabbinic. I cannot, however.


find this passage in any of the Midrashim to which I
have access. Accordingly the remark is to be regarded
as Rashi's own interpretation of the Midrash Rabba
passage. And it proves my point. It proves that in
Rashi's mind, Holy Spirit and Prophecy were inter-
changeable terms. Another interesting reference is
verse 45 in the same chapter of Genesis, "Why
should I be deprived also of you both in one day ? "
Rashi on the passage here remarks, ''idi m npTT3 n"~i,
" The Holy Spirit cast itself within her [i.e. took
possession of her] and she prophesied." Rashi gives
his source as T. B. Sotah 13a. What do we read in
the latter ? The words npyi h\D nn^inD nD"^^pnD, " the
prophecy of Rebekah was fulfilled." The Rabbins
deduce from certain data that Jacob and Esau met
their death on one and the same day (or rather, that
the burial of both took place on the same day), and
that Rebekah in her exclamation " Why should I be
deprived also of you both in one day ? " had a sort of
prophetic dread that the death of both her sons
would happen on the same day. This point is merely
to show how, to Rashi, there is an identity between the
possession of Holy Spirit and the gift of prophecy.

Genesis Rabba Ixxv. 8, commenting on Genesis
xxviii. 1, pertinently asks the question, Why does Isaac
give his son a second Ijlessing, seeing that he had
already invoked upon him the blessing of Heaven in the
preceding chapter? The Midrash gets out of the difficulty
by saying that " Isaac sees by the Holy Spirit that his
sons would one day be exiled among the nations. He
therefore says to his son Jacob, ' Come and let me give
thee the blessings of exile. ^*^ May God return to thee
and gather thee from the places of thy captivity.'"
Genesis Rabba Ixx. 12, commenting on Genesis xxix. 11,
says, " Why did Jacob weep when he kissed Rachel ?


It was because he foresaw by the Holy Spirit that he
would not lie with her in burial."

Genesis Rabba Ixxxiv. 19, commenting on the
words "an evil beast hath devoured him" (Genesis
xxxvii. 33), says : " The Holy Spirit gleamed (nii3!i3)
within him ; the evil spirit was the wife of Potiphar,
i.e. Jacob prophetically declared, by this remark about
an evil beast, the coming calamity to Joseph in
connexion with Potiphar's wife.

An interesting reference to the association between
Holy Spirit, Shechinah, Prophecy, and Urim and
Thummim is afforded by a passage in T. B. Yoma 71b :
" Every priest who spoke by the Holy Spirit, and
upon whom the Shechinah rested, consulted the Urim
and Thummim successfully" {i.e. all the priests who
had not these qualifications received no assistance from
the Urim and Thummim). Zadok (2 Samuel xv.) and
Abiathar are given as instances. The former had the
necessary qualifications of Holy Spirit and Shechinah.
The latter had not. As Rashi on the passage says,
Zadok was a -itt?D ;rTD, " a worthy priest," otherwise the
Shechinah and Holy Spirit would not have rested upon
him. It is exceedingly difficult to differentiate here
between the meaning of *' speaking by the Holy Spirit "
and "the Shechinah resting upon any one." The latter
phrase possibly refers to the inspiration of prophecy and
the capacity to utter it ; the former alludes to what
causes this capacity, viz. the fact of being filled with
the Presence of God. Thus, it was only he who already
possessed the equipment of prophecy, that could reap
any benefit from the Urim and Thummim. The
method of consultation by the Urim and Thummim is
given in several Talmudic and Midrashic passages, e.g.
Yoma 73b; Sanhedrin 16a; Baba Bathra 122a;
Targum Jonathan on Exodus xxviii. 30 ; Sifri Numbers


141, etc. From all these passages it can be generally
inferred, that the Urim and Thummim were regarded
by the Rabbins as a materialised conception of the
Presence of God under the guise of light. It had
close affinity to Shechinah, which was familiarly con-
ceived as a mysterious light ; the Rabbinic explanation
of the word " Urim " as " those whose words give light "
substantiates the argument.^^^ The whole matter, then,
amounts to what has been said previously, viz. that
it is only he who has previously sought God that
can find Him. The priest, in order to receive the
prophetic message from the Divine Light, must
previously have cultivated the art of prophecy. This
he could only do by ordering his life after such an
exalted standard that the Holy Spirit could find
lodgment in him.

Yalkut on Song of Songs i. 11 declares that Jacob
on his death-bed by means of the Holy Spirit gave his
sons a prophetic forecast of the Tabernacle, and even
commanded them concerning the making of "the
middle bar" (Exodus xxvi. 28).

That Holy Spirit and Prophecy should associate
themselves in all sorts of ways and degrees round the
person of Moses in Rabbinical literature, is only to be
expected. It is, however, worth quoting here, an
illustration of the lengths to which the Rabbins at
times went in some of their assertions. It is in
Midrash Tan hum a on N^m "'D ""D : " Moses looked by
means of the Holy Spirit and foresaw that the Temple
would one day be laid in ruins, and that the bringing
of the first-fruits would cease ; he therefore arose
and instituted for Israel the three daily Prayers ;
because prayer is more beloved before God than all
good deeds and than all sacrifices, for so it is
written, Let my prayer be set before Thee as incense,


and the lifting up of my bands as the evening
sacrifice (Psalm cxli. 2)." This, by the way, is in-
consistent with the oft -repeated Rabbinic saying that
the three daily Prayers were instituted by the three
Patriarchs of Genesis. Yalkut on Joshua vii. (from
Jerusalem Talmud Sanhedrin vi.) makes Joshua at the
very outset of his career foresee by the Holy Spirit
that he would be called upon one day to divide the
Holy Land by lot among the tribes.

Ruth Rabha ii. (repeated in Yalkut on Deuteronomy
chap, i.) attributes the spirit of prophecy by means of the
Holy Spirit to Rahab who hid the spies, otherwise how
could she have foreseen that the pursuers would return
after exactly three days ? This ascription of the Holy
Spirit to Rahab, who is described in Joshua ii. as a
harlot, might seem strange. But the Rabbins make out
Rahab to have become a proselyte to Judaism after the
capture of Jericho. She married Joshua, and became
the ancestress of a line of priests and of prophets, of
whom Jeremiah was one (T. B. Megillah 14b).

Yalkut on 1 Samuel chap. i. 28, "As long as he
liveth he shall be lent (Sinc?) to the Lord," says that at
the moment she uttered this remark, Hannah was
inspired with the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, this
remark of hers was a prophecy. The Hebrew for
" lent " is the same as the Hebrew for " SauL" So that
what Hannah prophesied was, " As long as he liveth
there shall be a Saul to the Lord," i.e. Hannah
prophesied the rise of Saul, who would live as long as
Samuel and survive him.

Tanhuma on npn^'D makes Solomon prophesy by
the Holy Spirit the death of certain workmen sent him
by Pharaoh Necho to aid in the construction of the

Yalkut on 2 Samuel xx. 22 makes David foresee


by the Holy Spirit that Mordecai would be descended
from Shimei who had " cursed him with a grievous
curse." This was the reason why David pardoned

Yalkut on 2 Kings ii. says as follows ^^^ : " Before
the time of Elijah's disappearance, the Holy Spirit
was abundant in Israel, as it is said, ' And the sons
of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to
Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the
Lord will take away thy master from thy head to-day ? '
They then went and stood afar off and crossed the
Jordan. I might have thought that they were few in
number 1 Therefore it is said, ' And fifty men of the
sons of the prophets' (verse 7). I might have thought
that they were ignorant men (Q^:D'i''~rn). Therefore it is
said, ' thy master,' "[D^itn. It is not said ' our master,' but
' thy master.' This shows that they were as wise as
Elisha, but when Elijah was taken away, the Holy Spirit
departed from them, as it is said (verse 16), ' And they
said unto him. Behold now, there be with thy servants
fifty strong men {i.e. not, as before, fifty men of the
sons of the prophets, but merely men of physical
prowess) ; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master
{i.e. not as before 'our master,' but 'thy master').
This teaches that the Holy Spirit had by then departed
from them."

The close association, in the Rabbinic opinion, be-
tween Prophecy and Holy Spirit, is a point of great
importance to the student of early Christianity. From
the remark that "the Holy Spirit was abundant in
Israel" it is to be inferred, that the world did not
have to wait till the^ wondrous times of the birth of
Christ to see an outburst of prophetic power among men.



(1) See what Volz says on this point (pp. 116, 117): "So scheint
es doch unwiderlegbar, dass die grossten Rabbinen Pnenmatiker
waren. Sie hatten das pneumatische Element in sich, in ihnen
lebte das jnophetische Feuer, die wimderbare Weisheit, die gottliche
Froiumigkeit ; von der Dingen der Welt los, konzentrierte sich ihre Seele
aiTf den geistigen Beruf. . . ." Volz goes on to give instances of the
Rabbinic ascription of the prophetic power to many a Rabbi of the time,
and he associates with this the many recorded instances of the wonder-
M'oi'king powers of certain Rabbis. Thus, he points to the passage in
Jerusalem Talmud Schebiit ix. 38d where R. Simeon b. Yohai when in
a subterranean hiding-place could divine what was going on outside.
Also to T. B. Ta'anith 25b where rain falls at the intervention of Akiba ;
to T. B. Berachoth 34b where R. Hanina b. Dosa, by prayer, heals the
son of Gamliel the son of Jolianan b. Zakkai. In T. B. Yoma 39b
Johanan b. Zakkai prophesies the fall of the Temple forty years ahead ;
and Simeon the Just prophesies, from a certain fact that had befallen
him on the Day of Atonement, that the coming year would be his last.
Volz gives many more examples.

(2) This passage of nnai ncan not only recurs with frequency
but also with differing wording. In T. B. Yoma 2 lb the " anoint-
ing oil " is left out of the list and " Shechinah " is substituted.
In Numbers Rabba xv. 10 the word nna; "which were concealed," is
used. This points to the belief in the future restoration of the five.
Also in jjlace of the "anointing oil" and " Urim and Thummim" we
get the " candlestick " and " cherubim." Whether these variations are
merely accidental as being due to error, or whether they point to an
original larger list of which these form but a part, or whether they reveal
an identity of interpretation in the case of some of the terms, is a matter
for the investigator.

(3) See T. B. Sukkah 48a ; Sanhedrin 1 la ; Song of Songs Rabba viii.

(4) Quoted also in Yalkut on Micah v.

(5) For a concise description of Urim and Thummim and a good
summary of the various views held by scholars, as well as the relations
to Babylonian oracular consultations, the student should see Kennedy's
article " Urim and Thimimim " in Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible.

(6) Drawn by the Yalkut from Tosefta Sotah, xii. 5.

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