False Prophet

But the prophet, that with sinful intent speaks a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, then that prophet shall die. Now if you say in your heart: ‘How shall we know the word which Hashem has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of Hashem, and the matter will not occur nor will it come, this is the thing, which Hashem has not spoken; with intentional malice the prophet has spoken it; you shall not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:20-22

Rashi on verse 21 of the above quoted excerpt from the Torah comments:

Now if you say in your heart – In the future you will (indeed) say (such) when Chananiah son of Azur will come and prophesy (Yirmiyahu/Jeremiah 27:16) “Behold the vessels of the House of Hashem shall now quickly be brought back from Babylon,” while Yirmiyahu stood and cried regarding the pillars and the laver, and regarding the rest of the vessels that were not exiled with Yechoniah (Yirmiyahu/Jeremiah 27:22), “To Babylon they shall be brought with the exile of Tzidkiyahu/Zedekiah”.

Rashi on verse 22 (of Deuteronomy 18) continues:

When a prophet speaks – And he will say: This thing in the future will come upon you; and you see that it does not happen, (then) “that is thing which Hashem has not spoken,” and you shall kill him. Now if you will say that this applies to the one that speaks of prophecy regarding future matters; behold if he came and said, “Do such and such, and from the mouth of the Holy One Blessed be He do I say this”; (concerning this) they have already been commanded that if he comes to turn you away from any one of all the commandments, “do not listen to him” (Deuteronomy 13:4,9), unless it is certain to you that he is a perfectly righteous man, like Eliyahu (Elijah) on Mount Carmel, who sacrificed on a temporary altar at the time of the prohibition against temporary altars in order to “sustain a fence” of the Israelites; all in accordance with the needs of the hour and the fencing in of breaches. Therefore it is stated (verse15) “Unto him you shall listen”.

You shall not be afraid of him – You shall not refrain yourself from judging him detrimentally nor shall you fear that you will be punished because of what you do to him.

Sefer Hachinuch- commandment 519

That We Should Not Refrain From Killing A False Prophet Nor Fear From Him

That we should not fear to kill the false prophet nor be afraid that any type of punishment will be for us concerning this. And even if he prophesied to fulfill the commandments after he had lied with his mouth, there is no punishment for us on account of his death; rather it is a commandment upon us. Now concerning this it was said, (Deuteronomy 18:22) “You shall not be afraid of him”, and the wording of Sifri [here], “You shall not be afraid of him”, ‘do not refrain yourself from judging him detrimentally’.


The rationale for the commandment is what I already have written nearby, regarding he who prophesies falsely.


The details of the commandment are short and they are in tractate Sanhedrin.


Now this commandment is applicable at the time of the Temple when the nation of Israel was in a settled state, for then we had the ability to judge capital punishment crimes. And they of Blessed Memory said, that only a court of 71, judges the false prophet.

Minchat Chinuch’s Commentary

That We Should Not Refrain From Killing A False Prophet Nor Fear From Him

That we should not fear to kill the false prophet etc. This too, is in Rambam’s writings (chapter 5 of Hilchot Avoda Zara, Halacha 9) and he concludes, “and so too one who refrains from judging him for the detriment is included in this prohibition” and so too wrote the author (of Sefer Hachinuch), and it appears in Sifri here.

Now look in the book Mishnat Chachamim commandment 31 [in Yavin Shmua] that all that are liable to the death penalty, it is a positive precept to put them to death and it also pertains to the prohibition “do not have mercy”, etc. [commandment 521]. Now here by the case of the false prophet the prohibition was doubled and one transgresses 2 negative commandments (for abstaining from one’s duty). Now he also wrote that this particular prohibition is just for the case of the false prophet as it is written in the Torah, however, one that prophesied on behalf of idolatry is not included in this particular prohibition, and one does not judge by comparing the light case with the heavy case, see there. Now I have already written previously [commandment 518, subsection 3] that a prophet who speaks prophecy in the name of the Holy One Blessed be He, for the sake of idolatry is also classified as a false prophet. If so, it is possible that this particular prohibition is also applicable; however in the Torah this prohibition was written concerning the matters of the future that do not come [to be], etc., if so, it is possible that just by this [is there the double negative prohibition], and the matter needs further investigation.


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