We are told in the narrative of Numbers 11 that, instead of meeting with the other elders of Israel around the Tabernacle of Meeting, two (mortals) remained in the camp and there prophesied under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

There remain two of the men in the camp...and the Spirit rested upon them, and they were of them that were written (notified to meet), but went not out unto the tabernacle; and they prophesied in the camp. (Numbers 11:26)

And this seems similar to the experience of King Saul at the town of Naioth in Ramah:

And he went hither to Naioth in Ramah, and the Spirit of God was upo0n him also, and he went on and prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay do0wn naked also that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" (1 Samuel 19:23-24)

So the question is, "What does it mean by the use of the word, 'prophesy'?" When one thinks of a biblical prophecy, it is either to designate (1) a foretelling of future events or conditions, such as in the book of Daniel. Or, (2) the forthtelling of a message from God concerning moral conditions of the nation, and the need for repentance such as in the book of Micah.

But neither definitions seem to fit on this occasion, nor in the experience of Saul later in Israel's history. And the conundrum is heightened by the fact that the contents (words or message) was not recorded outright in the narratives. Or, is there a hint to this verbage somewhere?

The 70 who were at the Tabernacle also prophesied, as well did the other prophets among Samuel's entourage in Naioth. Were these a mass chorus of spiritual utterances? Did they prophesy one by one? (See 1 Corinthians 14:29-33) What were they prophesying (saying) en mass or singularly, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit?

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Let's start with a basic definition from gotquestions:

Prophecy at its most basic definition is “a message from God.” So, to prophesy is to proclaim a message from God. The one who does this is, therefore, a prophet. Although foretelling is often associated with prophecy, revealing the future is not a necessary element of prophecy; however, since only God knows the future, any authoritative word about the future must of necessity be a prophecy, that is, a message from God.

Strong's Exhaustive Concordance

prophesying, make self a prophet A primitive root; to prophesy, i.e. Speak (or sing) by inspiration (in prediction or simple discourse) -- prophesy(-ing), make self a prophet.

In Numbers 11:26, the word “prophesied” is used to refer to the fact that the elders who gathered round the tabernacle were “empowered by the Spirit of God.” This means that the elders were speaking under the power of the Holy Spirit and were not necessarily predicting future events or giving moral exhortations.

Elders may have spoken about God's truth, declared His will, or praised Him in a way that was divinely inspired.

They may have declared God's praises, praised His name, or spoke words of spiritual importance and truth.

The story doesn’t say exactly what they said, but it’s clear that the Spirit of God was upon them and they began to speak while they were at the camp.

In the same way, in the narrative of the Naioth at Ramah, the emphasis is on how the Spirit of God appeared to him and prompted him to speak. This might mean that he spoke God's truth or declared God's will, rather than predicting future events or preaching morality.

In either case, the concept of “prophesy” encompasses a wider range of inspired speaking under the power of the Holy Ghost, rather than simply predicting the future or preaching morality. It about the supernatural power and inspiration that the Spirit provides for communication that is in harmony with God’s purposes and truth.


The word 'prophesy' here should be understood in its 'primitive' or 'ecstatic' sense rather than in terms of classical prophecy, which involved a foretelling of future events or giving a message from God concerning moral conditions of the nation. Saul's experience of collective prophesying is the best OT parallel to the prophesying described in the OP. We get a vivid picture of this kind of prophecy in 1 Sam. 10:5-6

thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery and a taboret and a pipe and a harp before them; and they shall prophesy. And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them and shalt be turned into another man.

Acts 2 describes the NT version of this kind of prophecy:

They were all in one place together... 4 And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim...15 "These people are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy..'"

The unique thing in the Book of Numbers' narrative is that Eldad and Medad were originally meant to join the larger group of elders inside the sacred space of the tabernacle. For whatever reason, Eldad and Medad did not join this meeting, but the spirit nevertheless rested upon them, so they prophesied in the camp. We simply do not know the specific content of their utterances but it seems to have been the ecstatic type rather than classical prophecy. In the NT parallel, this would be as if two people were who were meant to be gathered with the other believers suddenly received the gift of tongues outside of the meeting place.


In Jewish tradition, prophecy is a profound phenomenon that transcends mere foretelling of future events. While prediction of the future is one aspect of prophecy, its deeper significance lies in its spiritual dimension.

Below is a partial reference from chabad.org, a Jewish internet sites;

Prophecy: A fundamental principle of faith: Knowing that God grants prophecy to human beings is a principle of faith.

Characteristics of prophets and preparations for prophecy: Prophecy only rests upon a person who is extremely wise, has mastery over his inclinations so that his drives do not overcome him in any way, rather, he always overcomes his natural drives, and upon one who possesses an extremely broad and sound mind.

Numbers 11:25-26, 1 Samuel chapter 10 and 19, we encounter instances where the divine spirit rests upon specific individuals, and they spoke distinctively. Interestingly, most English translations may have used "prophesize", the Sefaria Hebrew-English translation uses the term "spoke in ecstasy" to emphasize this theme. While those who spoke in ecstasy may have appeared different, their words should have profound meaning but beyond literal interpretation.


Prophecy in Judaism @chabad.org

Numbers 11 @sefaria.org


The medieval commentator Hezekiah bar Manoah links this passage to prophecies of the coming war against Gog in his commentary on the Torah, Chizkuni:

ויתנבאו במחנה ועל מי היו מתנבאים על גוג ויחזקאל רמז נבואתם כדכתיב כה אמר ה׳‎ האתה הוא אשר דברתי בימים קדמונים ביד הנבאים שנים אל תקרי שנים אלא שנים.

'We find a hint of the subject of their prophecies in Ezekiel 38:17: כה אמר ה' האתה הוא אשר דברתי בימים קדמונים ביד הנביאים שנים, “you are the one I spoke of in ancient times through My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those years about you and about Gog;” instead of reading the word שנים to mean: ”years,” understand it to mean: “שניים, two.”'

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