Sunday, December 03, 2006

Lavan the Prophet?

The Torah (Gen. 31:24) tells us: "And God came to Lavan the Aramean in a dream of the night, and said unto him: 'Take heed that you do not speak to Ya'akov either good or bad.'"

This prophecy is suprising according the Maimonidean view that prophecy is the perfection of the intellect and its joining with the God's intellect (an admittedly gross simplification of a complex view; for a fuller picture, see Maimonides and Abrabanel on Prophecy). How could Lavan have achieved prophecy? Did he really have such an accomplished intellect?

The answer is in Moreh Nevukhim 2:41 (Hebrew, English):

[T]he phrase, "And Elokim came to a certain person in the dream of night," does not indicate a prophecy, and the person mentioned in that phrase is not a prophet; the phrase only informs us that the attention of the person was called by God to a certain thing, and at the same time that this happened at night. For just as God may cause a person to move in order to save or kill another person, so He may cause, according to His will, certain things to rise in man's mind in a dream by night.
In other words, what Lavan (and Avimelekh -- Gen. 20:3) had was not a prophetic dream in which they connect with God but just that God influenced them to dream that an angel spoke to them.

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