In Parshat Re’eh, Dvarim 13:2-4 we are commanded:
If a prophet arises among you or a dreamer of a dream, and he gives you an omen or a miracle, and the omen or the miracle happens-the one he told you about- saying, “Let us go after other gods that you do not know, and let us serve them.” Do not listen to the words of that prophet or the dreamer of the dream, because HaShem, your God is testing you to know whether you love HaShem, your God, wholeheartedly and with your entire beings.
Why do we need to be warned not to follow false prophets? Isn’t it obvious?
If we look at the accounts in Melachim I, Chapter 22 and throughout the Book of Yirmiyahu, we actually find that false prophets were a real problem. They even tried to trick the real prophets.
In Melachim I, we read about Achav, King of Israel. He did not like the true prophets Eliyahu HaNavi and Michayahu ben Yimla as they spoke the truth about Achav’s downfall. Achav actually requested that Michayahu give a good prophecy, even if it meant changing God’s prophecy and lying. Since Michayahu would only tell the truth, Achav preferred to jail him and accept the prophecy of the false prophet Tzidkiyahu ben K’nana who “prophecied” that Achav would win the war. Of course, the prophecies of Eliyahu and Michayahu came true. If Achav had listened to the true prophets and sincerely repented, their prophecies would have been cancelled.
Throughout Yirmiyahu’s life, there were false prophets who tried to show him up including four who were specifically mentioned by name. The first, Chananya ben Azor prophesied to King Tzidkiyahu (not related to the false prophets named Tzidkiyahu) that he would win the war (and just like in the story of King Achav, he didn’t). Two other false prophets were Achav ben Kulya (not related to King Achav) and Tzidkiyahu ben Maasiya. The last false prophet who was mentioned by name was Shmaya HaNachlami.
In a few cases, Yirmiyahu himself wasn’t sure if these “prophets” were true prophets or false prophets. One example is in Yirmiyahu 14:13-14:
Then I (Yirmiyahu) said, “Alas My Lord HaShem/Elokim. Behold, the false prophets say to them, ‘You will not see a sword, and famine will not befall you; for I will present you a true peace in this place.’” But God said to me, “These prophets prophecy falsehood in My Name. I did not send them nor command them nor speak to them. A false vision, divination, emptiness and the deception of their heart are they prophesying to you.
Michayahu was jailed by King Achav for presenting a true prophecy in the Book of Melachim and Yirmiyahu was jailed by King Tzidkiyahu for declaring that Jerusalem would be destroyed. In both cases, the kings thought that if they would silence the prophet then his prophecies would disappear. Unfortunately, Yirmiyahu’s prophecy came true and the King of Babylonia attacked the Land of Israel.
We learn from here that the truth can’t be silenced.
Every Shabbat and holiday, before the Haftara is read, the reader makes two blessing which state “…God has chosen good prophets and was pleased with their words that were uttered with truth…Blessed are you HaShem, who chooses the Torah, Moshe, His servant; Israel, His nation; and the prophets of truth and righteousness.”
May we be as courageous as the true prophets to speak the truth and always stand up for justice.