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Who was the greatest prophet?

Who was the greatest prophet?


Although only 48 prophets and seven prophetesses are mentioned in the Bible,1 throughout our history our nation has been blessed with tens of thousands of individuals who transmitted the word of G‑d, each of them excelling in his or her unique area.

Nevertheless, the Bible2 tells us that “there was no other prophet who arose in Israel like Moses, whom the L‑rd knew face to face.”

Maimonides3 lists a number of ways in which Moses’ manner of communicating with G‑d was superior to that of any other prophet. He bases these differences upon G‑d’s statement:4 “If there be prophets among you, I, the L‑rd, will make Myself known to him in a vision; I will speak to him in a dream. Not so is My servant Moses; he is the most trusted of all My household. With him I speak mouth to mouth; in a vision and not in riddles, and he beholds the image of G‑d . . .”

  • All others received their prophecy while asleep or in a trancelike state. Moses, on the other hand, was fully aware and conscious when he stood before G‑d.
  • Moses “saw” what G‑d was telling him with the clarity of literal vision. All others only received their communiqués by way of riddles and parables.
  • While most prophets became fearful and agitated while receiving divine communication, Moses remained calm and collected. He spoke with G‑d “as a man would speak to a friend.”5
  • Moses was able to converse with G‑d whenever he so wished.6 Other prophets had to wait for revelations from G‑d; they needed to enter a spiritually aware state in order to receive G‑d’s presence. Moses was constantly on such an elevated plane.

Yours truly,

Rabbi Menachem Posner


Talmud, Megillah 14a.


Deuteronomy 34:10.


Laws of the Foundations of the Torah 7:6.


Numbers 12:6–8.


Exodus 33:11.


See Numbers 9:8, where Moses tells a group of individuals who expressed their dismay at being excluded from the paschal offering proceedings: “Wait, and I will hear what G‑d instructs concerning you!” See also ibid. 27:5.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for He lives with his family in Montreal, QC.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
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Discussion (8)
November 15, 2012
His real name.
His name pronounced in Hebrew is Moshe.
Efraim Ben Uri
November 14, 2012
But Torah says clearly that G-d spoke to Moses, not just face-to-face, but further clarifies with the words "as a man speaks to a friend.' I take Torah at its plain, clear, common sense meaning (dare I say 'face-value?!) I believe Torah language here is unambiguous and the vocabulary is easy and Torah is not speaking in 'riddles.' When I speak to a friend, especially a close friend, I look at his face and see his face and sense his expression.
Even Ramban says that Moses saw the image of God.
So this whole portion of Exodus remains extremely difficult for me. What does Rashi say about this seeming contradiction in his explanation?
Thomas Mendels
November 14, 2012
Thank you for the informative and straight forward article. I have found that one is better to not take Scripture literally. Interpretation is the basis of understanding the wisdom of the lessons in Scripture. Moses saw G-d through his faith. It is faith that can move mountains. Faith IS the centerpiece of religion.
Renelda Moorehead
November 13, 2012
The greatest prophet
Malachi 4:4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

Question: Why then does the Lord send 'Elijah' and not Moses to rescue Israel-Judah and 'turn' their hearts?
David H.
July 8, 2011
greatest prophet
Moses was th greatest prophet he knew God face to face
nelspruit, south africa
December 18, 2007
RE: Moses, who knew the L-RD face to face
In order to reconcile these two verses telling us that a) G-d spoke to Moses “face-to-face,” and b) that Moses didn’t see G-d's face, we must say that to speak to G-d face-to-face is not the same as seeing His face.

So what does it mean to speak to G-d tete a tete? The Hebrew word for face is Panim; from the same root as the word for inside or core. While all others only experienced external presentations of G-d’s revelation, Moses received the very essence.

However even Moses was not able to ‘see’ the essence of G-d. What does seeing mean? When you gaze upon an object, it appears as if you see it all. You, an objective observer, are seizing it all up and now have it down pat. G-d greatness is so out-of-this-world that no one, not even Moses, was able to peer at it as a peer (excuse the pun!).
Menachem Posner (author)
December 13, 2007
Who was the greatest Prophet?
Thanks for answering my question regarding the greatest prophet.
Houston, TX
December 11, 2007
Moses, who knew the L-RD face to face
Didn't the L-RD tell Moses to go behind a rock and not to try to see HIS face, "A man may not see MY face and live." Moses could only see the L-ORD from the back. Even then Moses's face was all aglow as he decended from the encounter.

So my question is did Moses actually see or know the face
Stephen L. Dubinsky
Chicago, IL