Will There be Any More Prophets?

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From the beginning of creation, God has communicated with people. One of those forms of communication is prophecy.

There have been many prophets in the past. Are there any prophets alive today? Will there be any more prophets in the future?

A Brief History of Prophecy

The article “What is Prophecy?” explains prophecy and the role of the prophets. Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch writes about the word prophet (navi in Hebrew):

Hirsch on Genesis 20:7

“Navi” stems from the root nun-bet-aleph, related to nun-bet-ayin, meaning “to flow” or “gush forth.” A navi, then, is a wellspring of living waters for God’s Word and holy spirit, a channel through which God’s spirit speaks to mankind.

A prophet / navi is a man or woman God can use to communicate with people. The message from God may be about the future, but will usually be about any aspect of life and our relationship with God.

Let’s look at the history of prophecy from creation until today.

Prophecy Before the Exodus

According to Seder Olam (chapter 21) there were many non-Jewish prophets from the time of creation until the giving of the Torah. Here is his list:

  • Adam
  • Noach
  • Yaphet son of Noach (Genesis 9)
  • Shem son of Noach (Genesis 9)
  • Malchizedek (Genesis 14:18, though some say this is also Shem)
  • Ever son of Shem (Genesis 10:25)
  • Beor father of Bilam (Balaam) (Numbers 22)
  • Bilam (Balaam) (Numbers 22)
  • Job
  • Eliphaz the Temani (Job 2)
  • Bildad the Shuchi (Job 2)
  • Zophar the Naamati (Job 2)
  • Elihu son of Barachel the Buzi (Job 32)

(The references in parenthesis is a guide to where the lesser-known people are mentioned in the Bible.)

The Era of Jewish Prophecy Begins

The era of Jewish prophecy begins with the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

God gave the Torah to the Jewish people 50 days after the Exodus from Egypt. Shortly after that, the Jewish people sinned with the Golden Calf.

Here is part of what Moses prayed for after that sin:

Exodus 33

15. And he [Moses] said to Him, If Your presence does not go, carry us not from here.
16. For where shall it be known here that I and Your people have found grace in Your sight? Is it not in that You go with us that we are distinct, I and Your people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth?
17. And the Lord said to Moses, I will do this thing also that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.

Here is how the Gemara understands this prayer:

Gemara Berachot 7a

He [Moses] asked that the Divine Presence should not rest upon the idolaters, and it was granted to him. For it is said: “So that we are distinct, I and Your people, [from all the people on the face of the earth]” (Exodus 33:16).

Moses asked God that prophecy be limited to just the Jewish people. God granted him this request.

From this time on, a non-Jew could only have a prophetic experience if it was for the benefit of the Jewish people. This explains, for example, why Bilam was able to experience prophecy as recorded in Numbers 22 – 24.

clouds - Is prophecy Relevant Today?

Many Jews Experienced Prophecy

It turns out that prophecy was rather common from the giving of the Torah until the destruction of the first Temple.

The Gemara mentions the tradition that there were 48 prophets and 7 prophetesses.

It then objects that in fact there were many more prophets:

Gemara Megillah 14a

Were there no more prophets than these [forty-eight]? … There were actually very many, as it has been taught, “Many prophets arose for Israel, double the number of [the Israelites] who came out of Egypt,” only the prophecy which contained a lesson for future generations was written down, and that which did not contain such a lesson was not written.

The number of adult men who left Egypt was about 600,000. Therefore, the Gemara is teaching us that there were about 1.2 million prophets!

The vast majority of those prophets did not have messages that were needed for all generations to know.

1000 Years of Jewish Prophecy

Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi in his book The Kuzari writes about the era of Jewish prophecy.

Kuzari 1:87:4

The Ark remained with the Jewish people as long as prophecy was prevalent among them, for about nine hundred years. When they sinned, the Ark was hidden away, and Nebuchadnezzar conquered the nation and exiled them.

His writes “about 900 years.” The Ark was with the Jewish people for 40 years in the Wilderness plus 850 years they lived in the Land of Israel for a total of 890 years.

Kuzari also points out that prophecy continued for a few years during the 2nd Temple.

Kuzari 3:39:5

Prophecy continued into the Second Temple era for close to forty years.

So here is the full calculation of the 1000 years of prophecy:

  • 40 years in the Wilderness
  • 850 years in the Land of Israel
  • 70 years of exile in Babylon
  • 40 years after the return from Babylon

Based on the Jewish calendar, the era of prophecy was from the exodus from Egypt in the year 2448 until the year 3448.

I am writing this in the year 5783 (2023 CE on the secular calendar) which means that prophecy ended 2,335 years ago.

The Last Jewish Prophets

When the Jews returned to the Land of Israel from Babylon, the ruling body was called the Men of the Great Assembly. The Assembly had 120 members who were the sages and elders of the Jewish people.

Some of the members of this governing body were prophets.

The last 3 of those prophets were Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The prophecy of Zechariah includes this verse:

Zecharia Chapter 11

8. Three shepherds I cut off in one month; …

The commentator Radak (writing about verses 11:8 and 11:14) suggests that the “3 shepherds” are the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. In other words, Zechariah is prophesying that he and two of his fellow prophets will all die in the same month of the year 3448.

Gemara Sanhedrin 11a

Our Rabbis taught: Since the death of the last prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, the Holy Spirit [of prophetic inspiration] departed from the Jewish people.

The Book of Genesis answers some fundamental questions of human existence: Who are we? Why are we here? What does God want from us? Genesis: From Creation To Covenant

Prophecy in Modern Times

As I wrote above, it’s been over 2,300 years since the last of the Jewish prophets died.

This is the world we live in.

I’ve been asked, “How many prophets are alive today?” Sadly, the answer is clear. There are no true prophets alive today.

As I wrote in the article “Types of Prophets“, there are different levels of prophecy. And according to the Rambam there are levels of Divine inspiration that are at a lower level than true prophecy.

Hence, it’s still possible that today a person may experience one of these lower levels of Divine inspiration.

The Future of Prophecy

Even though our modern world lacks true prophets, there will come a time when prophecy will be restored. In fact, prophecy will flourish in the world more than it did in the past.

First, let me show you how we know this is true.

Only a Prophet can Anoint a King

There will come a time when a descendant of King David will reign over the Jewish people. A Jewish king requires a prophet and Sanhedrin to appoint him.

Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Kings and Wars, 1:3

As an initial and preferred option, a king may be appointed only by a court of 70 elders, together with a prophet, as Joshua was appointed by Moses and his court, and as Saul and David, were appointed by Samuel of Ramah and his court.

The source for this law is here:

Deuteronomy Chapter 17

15. You shall surely set over yourselves a king whom the Lord Your God shall choose; …

In the past, God spoke to a prophet to tell the Jewish people who should be king. So too, in the future, God will use a prophet for this task.

The Prophet Elijah Will Come Before Messiah

It just so happens, we’ve already been told the name of the prophet God will use.

The prophet Malachi writes near the end of his book:

Malachi Chapter 3

23. Behold, I send to you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.

One reason why God will send Elijah is so that he can serve as the prophet to anoint the Messiah as king.

The Book of Genesis answers some fundamental questions of human existence: Who are we? Why are we here? What does God want from us? Genesis: From Creation To Covenant

Prophecy Restored in the Messianic Era

The Bible only hints at what the world will be like when Messiah comes. Let’s look at a couple of verses about the time of Messiah and prophecy.

Here is how Ezekiel describes that time:

Ezekiel Chapter 39

28. Then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, Who caused them to be led into exile among the nations; but I have gathered them to their own land, and have left there none of them any more.
29. And I will not hide My face any more from them; for I have poured out My spirit upon the house of Israel, says the Lord God.

The phrase “poured out My spirit” is a reference to the return of prophecy to the Jewish people.

Similarly, the prophet Joel writes about the future world using these words:

Joel Chapter 3

1. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions;
2. And also upon the servants and upon the maidservants in those days will I pour out My spirit.

As verse 3:1 states, God will pour out His spirit on all flesh. This includes the entire human race. However, the starting point is “your sons and your daughters” indicating the Jewish people.

Messiah as a Prophet

The first person who will achieve this level of prophecy is the Messiah.

The Rambam points out that it is Messiah who will lead the people to achieve very exalted levels of knowledge and prophecy.

Rambam – Mishneh Torah, Teshuvah 9:2

In that [Messianic] era, knowledge, wisdom, and truth will become abundant. …

[These changes will come about] because the king who will arise from David’s descendants will be a greater master of knowledge than Solomon and a great prophet, close to the level of Moses, our teacher. Therefore, he will teach the entire nation and instruct them in the path of God.

Messiah’s knowledge will surpass that of Solomon, but as a prophet he will be slightly inferior to Moses.

All People Will Become Prophets

Ramchal wrote a short essay which is a summary of his book Derech HaShem – The Way of God.

Here is how he summarizes the Messianic era:

Ramchal – An Essay on Fundamentals – The Redemption

The instrument for this will be a descendent of David, whom God will choose especially for this purpose, assuring his success. This individual will be the Messiah.

Through the Messiah, at the proper time, a great degree of rectification will be attained by Israel, and subsequently by all creation. …

When this time comes, folly will cease to exist in the world, and all hearts will be filled with wisdom. Divine Inspiration will be “poured out over all flesh” in such a manner that all mankind will attain it without any difficulty whatsoever. Thus the prophet said [in God’s name]: “I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 3:1).

Summary and Conclusion

Here’s a question that I’ve seen people asking: Is prophecy still relevant today?

The answer depends on what is meant by this question.

The question could be wondering if the prophecies included in the Jewish Bible are still relevant today. Then the answer is that certainly they are relevant today. Those prophecies were recorded so that all generations may learn from them.

On the other hand, the question could be if there is prophecy today or if there are any true prophets with the power of prophecy today? Then the answer, sadly, is no. But that will change at the time God will choose.

Further Reading

This article is part of a series on the subject of prophecy. A good place to start is with the article What is Prophecy – A Jewish Perspective.

At the end of that article you will links to all of the other articles.

A Note on the Translations

The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.

The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.

The Book of Genesis answers some fundamental questions of human existence: Who are we? Why are we here? What does God want from us? Genesis: From Creation To Covenant