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The Bat Kol — Daughter of a Voice

The rabbis speak of the Bat Kol, which means Daughter of a Voice, and is generally manifested as a voice delivering a Divine message proclaiming God's will or judgment. The Bat Kol is sometimes described as an “echo” of the Divine voice although the nature of the “echo” cannot be described in normal terms. The term bat (daughter) suggests that the voice is not a direct voice from heaven; rather a voice that that is derivative, heard indirectly, rather like an echo is heard.

Quick Links
The Characteristics of the Bat Kol
Bat Kol as "Echo" of the Divine Voice
The Bat Kol and the Holy Spirit
The Authority of the Bat Kol
The Bat Kol in Biblical Times
Prophecy and the Bat Kol
The Bat Kol in popular tradition
Bat Kol in biblical, textual and tradition

The Bat Kol is sometimes envisaged as a dove: The voice of the Bat Kol might be loud or soft according to circumstances; but the quality of the tone was considered noteworthy...

• Rav said: “God roars like a lion, and says: ‘Woe unto the children on whose account I have destroyed My house, and burnt My Temple, and whom I have dispersed among the nations’” (Ber. 3a).
• Jose entered a ruin at Jerusalem and encountered there the prophet Elijah, who asked him: “My son, what voice did you hear in the ruins?" Jose answered: “I heard a Bat Kol; it murmured like a dove [ שמעתי בת קול ] and exclaimed: ‘Woe unto the children,’ etc.”
In the course of the conversation it is God who is spoken of instead of the Bat Kol (Ber. 3a).
• Elisha b. Abuyah heard a voice chirping behind the Temple [ מצפצפת ואומרת ], Eccl. R. vii. 8). (Jewish Encyclopedia, Bat Kol)

The Characteristics of the Bat Kol

The outstanding characteristic of the the Bat Kol the invisibility of the speaker. The Bat Kol speaks succinctly; its message is direct, clearly understood, and perceived as deriving from heaven. The message delivered by the Bat Kol may be derived from a biblical text or make a pronouncement regarding a matter in the future e.g., So-and-so has a place in the “world to come” — “R. Hanina ben Teradyon and the Roman who hastened his death have been assigned to the world to come” (Av. Zar. 18a).]

Although not directly linked to the Holy Spirit as understood in the prophetic tradition, the Bat Kol was identified with the Divine Voice. The manner of the Bat Kol’s manifestation in the human realm, however, differed from the word of God received by the prophets, being seen as a different “level” of communication; a mighty and powerful voice. Bat Kol - "Daughter of a Voice"

The nature of the audible quality of the Bat Kol varies in the literature. At times described as a quiet voice at others as an “echo” or a “great voice” and yet again as a reverberating or resounding voice. In some contexts the word “bat kol” was simply understood as “sound” and it is the absence of all sound which indicated the presence of God as indicated in the following observation. “As oil has no ‘Bat Kol’ [i.e., gives no sound], so Israel is not heard of in this world; but, as it is said in Isaiah (29:4, 6) Israel will enjoy great fame in the world to come” (Cant. R. 1.3).

Bat Kol as "Echo" of the Divine Voice, a clarification...Top

The concept of “echo” associated with the Bat Kol is somewhat of a misnomer since “echo” can be confused as a sound emanating from a separate source i.e., two sources. The rabbi sought to clarify this concept. On Sinai God caused the whole world to be silent, in order that mankind might know there is none besides God. “Johanan said, ‘When God revealed the Torah, no sparrow chirped, no bird flew, no ox lowed; the heavenly ofanim [wheels] moved not; the Seraphim did not chant the Thrice Holy; man spoke not; the sea roared not; no creature uttered a sound; and the world was silent, while God's voice resounded, ‘I am the Lord Thy God.’ This is the meaning of the words, ‘With a great voice: and he added no more.’” (A.V. 22) These words, according to Resh Lakish should be understood in the following sense. “If one man calls to another, his voice has a Bat Kol [i.e., an echo]; but the voice proceeding from God has no Bat Kol.” In other words, God's voice is not an “echo” in the sense that it is not a part of the general “noise” generated in the universe whether natural or human made, whether accompanying the human voice or any other sound. The use of the word Bat Kol found in the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal underscores the absence of any sound of the world i.e., the presence of absolute silence, ensured that any words of any priests of Baal might be heard. “God bade the upper and the lower world keep silence; and the world became like an empty desert, as if no living creature existed: ‘there was neither voice, nor answer, nor response’ (I Kings 18:29). For if a sound had been heard, the priests would have said: ‘Baal has answered us.’”

Not withstanding the above clarification the concept of “echo” in relation to the Bat Kol the term Bat Kol has some relevance in describing the nature of the Bat Kol’s apprehension in the world. The Bat Kol is a voice which is heard, not seen, perceived as of Divine origin, a sound not originating in the created universe but proceeding from God. [Sounds originating in the world are called "kol habarah" (R.H. 3.7; Yoma 19b).] The Bat Kol is sometimes regarded as being spoken by an angel, especially Gabriel, and as such is the “echo” of God's communication. The term “echo” is thus a means to convey the idea that even after the cessation of prophecy the Divine voice is heard by individuals or groups of people not included among the Prophets. “Echo” or “Daughter of a Voice” reinforces the understanding that the Bat Kol is heard by people who are not already in a special relationship with God (i.e. The Prophets.)Top

The Bat Kol and the Holy Spirit

Although the Bat Kol was associated with the voice of God heard within the human realm the Bat Kol was apprehended in a different way to the Spirit of God which spoke through the Prophets. The understanding that the Prophets spoke with inspired words of God through the Holy Spirit was prevalent in 1st Temple times. In the period before the exile, however, an understanding took hold that the days of prophecy were coming to an end. Jeremiah spoke of the cessation of prophecy attributing this to the rise of false prophets in Israel (Jer. 13:2-6; 23:11-40). Thus we hear in the Tosefta, “After the death of the last three prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel; but the Bat Kol was yet heard” (Tos., Sotah, 13.2). However, the Tosefta remarks, “But even so, they made them (Israel) hear [God] through an echo.”

According to the sages Prophecy was a gift which followed the worthiness of not only the prophet but the generation. For this reason, according to a Bat Kol, Hillel and Samuel the Little were not afforded the gift of prophecy, although they themselves were worthy of the Holy Spirit. As a consequence the Bat Kol was imagined as a “lesser” gift to Israel and not, as some said, a lesser or lower degree of prophecy (Yoma 9b; Pes. R. 160a), and not as the Holy Spirit as the Holy Spirit was understood in the Prophetic tradition.

The manner of the Bat Kol’s manifestation in the human realm differed from the word of God received by the prophets, being seen as a lower “level” of gift to God to Israel, but at the same time as a mighty and powerful voice (Yoma 9b; Pes. R. 160a). According to the sages, Prophecy was a gift which followed the worthiness of not only the prophet but the generation. For this reason, according to a Bat Kol, Hillel and Samuel the Little were not afforded the gift of prophecy, although they themselves were worthy of the Holy Spirit. As a consequence the Bat Kol was imagined as a “lesser” gift to Israel and not, as some said, a lesser or lower degree of prophecy (Yoma 9b; Pes. R. 160a).

The Bat Kol, however, was not the Holy Spirit as the Holy Spirit was understood in the Prophetic tradition, or linked with the Holy Spirit as portrayed in Christian tradition. In the baptismal scenes in the Gospels it is noted that first the Holy Spirit descends and then the Voice of God is heard (Mt. 3:13-17; Mk. 1:9-11; Lk. 3:21-22). The same can be said of the Transfiguration event (Mt. 17:1-8; Mk. 9:2-8; Lk. 9:28-36)—first the Holy Spirit descends and then the Voice speaks. The imagery of a Divine Voice [the Bat Kol] associated with a dove as found in Christian literature is also found in Jewish literature. Sometimes the imagery of the Bat Kol is associated with the sound of a dove cooing as related in the Story of Rabbi Jose in the ruins of Jerusalem (see above).

The absence of the Holy Spirit in late 1st Temple and post-exilic Judaism was not universally accepted as a finality, however. We find Rabbi Yohanan ben Nappaha explaining “Since the destruction of the Temple, the gift of prophecy has been taken away from the prophets and given to fools and children” (Baba Bathra 121b), an indication that the notion of the presence of the Holy Spirit had been removed from the learned yet continued to be heard. A similar sentiment is expressed in the New Testament, “I bless you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children” (Mt. 11:25).

In post-exilic Judaism the Spirit of God [the Holy Spirit] is found identified Wisdom (Wis. 1:4,6). Wisdom is a spirit and a friend to man (1:6). Wisdom refuses to pardon the blasphemer. Wisdom is described as a spirit with 21 positive attributes (7:22-23) and Wisdom, the spirit, ruah, is a breath of the power of God (7:25). The understanding that the Holy Spirit continued to play an active role in the world is perhaps better explained by Rabbi Judan who noted “...It is to teach you that whoever preaches on the Torah in public merits that the Holy Spirit should rest on him. From whom do you learn this? From Solomon; for, because he discoursed on the Torah in public, he earned the privilege that the Holy Spirit rested on him and he composed three books, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Songs of Songs (Canticle of Canticle Rabbah). These notions of the Holy Spirit and the Divine voice from heaven help to clarify the association of the Divine voice and the Holy Spirit as accepted in Christianity. Top

The authority of the Bat Kol

Talmudic discussion sought to clarify the authority attributed to the Bat Kol. In settling a dispute regarding different views between the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel the sages were happy to accept the authority of the Bat Kol. “The words of both are the words of the living God, but the halakhah is in agreement with the rulings of Bet Hillel” (Eruvin 13b).

On another occasion, however, the sages were unable to accept the authority of the Bat Kol. Rabbi Joshua was not able to accept the ruling of a Bat Kol which determined in favor of Rabbi Eliezer’s view in a dispute concerning the ritual purity of the oven of Akhai (Bava Metzia 58b) exclaiming that the Torah “is not in heaven” (Deut. 30:12) and consequently no attention is to be given to a “heavenly voice” but rather to the majority of the sages who determined the halakhah. Later authorities accepted the view of R. Joshua explaining that the authority of the Bat Kol in the former case (in the dispute between the Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel) was valid because the sages could not determine the ruling between themselves.

It is clear from rabbinic writings that the Bat Kol lacked authority of the dimension that is known as Gilluy Shekinah (revelation) associated with the authority and authenticity of Prophetic words. This lack of authority distances the Bat Kol from the authority that is the result of the direct experience of God and therefore weakens the function of the Bat Kol (Kidushin, The Rabbinic Mind, p. 262-3).Top

The Bat Kol in Biblical Times

According to rabbinic tradition the Bat Kol was already known during the biblical period. Rabbinic tradition understood that the Bat Kol had been present since biblical times and coexisted with prophecy. Midrashic aggadah relates that when Abraham was beset with the worry that Isaac may have been unworthy as a sacrifice, a Bat Kol quietened his fears saying, “Go you way, eat your bread with joy ... for God has already accepted your works” (Eccl. 9:7, Lev. R. 20.2) and in response to Esau’s fear that his father would soon die the Bat Kol was heard to proclaim, “The hide of many a foal has served to cover its dam” (Gen. R. 67.8). Midrash also refers to the Bat Kol.

Before the death of Moses a heavenly voice proclaimed that God, the Divine self, would attend to the burial of Moses (Deuteronomy Rabbah, 11:10), and following his death, a Bat Kol was heard over an area of 12 sq. miles announcing his demise (Sot. 13b). It was a Bat Kol that proclaimed Tamar’s innocence (Sotah 10b; Targ. Yer. on Gen. 38:26) and declared Samuel had not materially benefitted from his public position and validated Solomon’s judgement regard the true mother of the child (Mak. 23b).Top

Prophecy and the Bat Kol

According to the Talmud (Yoma 9b) with the cessation of prophecy the Bat Kol remained the sole means of communication between God and man. The Bat Kol at times refers to an external voice which is heard by the recipient; at other times the Bat Kol is a voice which is heard in dreams (cf. Hag. 14b). Tosafot Sanhedrin (11a) explains the Bat Kol as the sound of a voice issuing from heaven, hence the name, “the daughter of the voice.” Top

The Bat Kol in popular tradition

The Bat Kol is said to be heard in the synagogue when the devotion lacks harmoniousness where, in the words of the Song of Songs, it proclaims, “Flee away, my beloved,” addressing the Shekinah (Cant. R. to viii. 14).

Some say the Bat Kol sounds like a man's voice when heard in the city and like a woman's in the desert, and the Bat Kol repeats words, like “Yea, yea” and “Nay, nay” (Meg. 32a).

According to the Talmud (Sot. 33a) the Bat Kol was taken to be the voice of angels, particularly of Gabriel, who knows all the world's seventy languages. According to Rashi it is: “The divine power [middah] residing in the Bat Kol makes its announcements in each language according as circumstances demand.” Maimonides (Moreh, ii. 42) compares the Bat Kol with the voice of the angel heard by Hagar, or by Manoah and his wife, it being a degree of prophecy. The same view is also expressed by Judah ha-Levi, in Kuzari, 3.11, 41, 73; Nachmanides, Exodus 28:30 and Bahya ben Asher to Deuteronomy 38:7.

In apocalyptic literature, the Bat Kol is a special being whose function it is to lead the song of the celestial beings in praise of the Most High around His throne [see Jellinek, B.H. ii. 45]. Top

Instances of the Bat Kol in biblical, textual and tradition include:

  • Rav Yehudah stated, in the name of Rav, concerning David's attitude toward Mephibosheth: “A heavenly voice (Bat Kol) issued forth and said to him [David] that Rehoboam and Jeroboam would divide the kingdom.” (Shab. 56b)
  • According to the Amora a heavenly voice rebuked Koheleth (cf. Eccl. 12:10) when he sought to emulate Moses, creating a bridge for a Talmudic discussion regarding Solomon; whether Solomon was as knowledgeable as Moses (RH, 21b).
  • On the death of Hannah, the mother of seven executed sons, a voice proclaimed “A joyful mother of children” (Ps. 113:9; Git. 56b). [The story is related of Antiochus Epiphanes in the second book of the Maccabees Ch. 7.]
  • On the execution of R. Hanina b. Teradyon a Bat Kol was heard to call out: “R. Hanina ben Teradyon and the Roman who hastened his death have been assigned to the world to come” (Av. Zar. 18a).
  • After R. Akiva's execution the Echo of a Voice emanated [from heaven]: “Fortunate are you, R. Akiva, that your soul departed as you said ‘Echad’.” [As he died, tradition states that R. Akiva was reciting the Shema: Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad.] When, on Akiva’s death, the angels protested, “Is this the rewrad of Torah?” another Echo of a Voice emanated and proclaimed: “Fortunate are you, R. Akiva, for you are ready for the life of the world to come” (Ber. 61b).
  • When a Roman officer sacrificed his life for that of Rabbi Gamaliel a Bat Kol declared: “This high officer is destined to enter into the world to come” (Ta’an. 29a).
  • The Bat Kol also communicates with others [non Jews]. When Titus returned to Rome, after the destruction of the Temple, the sea was stormy, and he remarked that the God of Israel is strong only upon the waters, whereupon a Bat Kol said to him: “Blasphemer and son of a blasphemer, I possess an insignificant little creature, a midge; take it with thee to the land.” The midge penetrated through his nose into his brain (Git. 57b).
  • Hadrian wanted to plumb the ocean: for three and a half years he tied ropes together until finally he heard a Bat Kol telling him to desist (Midrash Tehillim, xciii. 418b).
  • A Bat Kol comforted the Israelites with the words of the Song of Songs (2:14) when, in their flight from Egypt, saw the Red Sea before them while Pharaoh pressed close behind (Targum).
  • When, according to Psalm 68:17, the mountains disputed with Sinai, a Bat Kol cried out: “Ye are all deficient as compared with Sinai” (Meg. 29a).
  • A Bat Kol pronounced the words (Ex. 24:6): “Here is the half of the blood” (Lev. R. 6.5).
  • A Bat Kol reassured Moses and Aaron when they were in doubt about using the anointment oil too freely (Sifra, Lev. 10:5, etc.).
  • When Israel was cured by the brazen serpent (Num. 21:8) a Bat Kol was heard moralizing (Targum).
  • At the offering of the firstlings (Deut. 26:2) the Bat Kol said: “Thou shalt be able to make an offering again next year” (this alludes to verse 16; Grünhut, Likkutim, 5. 153a, 7).
  • At the promulgation of the terrible threats of Deuteronomy 28, the anxious Patriarchs who listened were calmed by a Bat Kol (Targ. Yer. on Deut. 28:15).
  • When Moses died, a Bat Kol drew the attention of the world to his suffering (Targ. Yer. on Deut. 34:5)
  • The Bat Kol is frequently connected with Moses’ death (Sifre, Deut. 357; Sotah 13b; Num. R. 14.10; Yelamdenu, in Likkutim, v. 104b; Jellinek, Bet ha-Midrash i. 120-128, etc.).
  • When Saul reasoned speciously about his expedition against the Amalekites, a Bat Kol quoted to him the words of Ecclesiastes 7:16: “A divine voice came forth and said: Be not righteous overmuch” (Yoma 22b).
  • A Bat Kol pronounced judgment in the cases of David and Uriah (M.K. 16b), “But an echo came forth and said: ‘Save only for the matter of Uriah the Hittite’! (I Kgs. 15:5)
  • At the dedication of Solomon’s Temple, during which the celebration of the Day of Atonement was omitted, a Bat Kol promised to all present a portion in the life to come (M.K. 9a; Gen. R. 35.3; in Shab. 30a the Bat Kol is not mentioned).
  • Upon the favorable reception of Solomon’s offering, a Bat Kol uttered the verse, Cant. 4:1 (Targ.); and it used Proverbs 23:15 and 27:11 to approve Solomon’s institution of the ‘Erub and of the washing of the hands (Shab. 14b).
  • When Israel separated from Judah and chose Jeroboam as king, a Bat Kol gave warning in the words of Micah 1:14, “A heavenly voice cried out and said, ‘He who slew the Philistine and thereby gave you possession of Gath, shall ye give parting gifts to his sons!’ [Therefore] the houses of Achzib shall be a lie to the kings of Israel.” (Sanh. 102a)
  • When Ahab doubted the piety of Obadiah, the governor of his house, a Bat Kol upheld his piety, quoting I Kings 18:3. “It is written, ‘And Ahab called Obadiah who was over the household’ — Now Obadiah feared the Lord exceedingly. What did he say to him? — R. Isaac answered: ‘He spoke thus to him: Of Jacob it is written, I have observed the signs and the Lord hath blessed me [Laban] for thy sake; and of Joseph it is written, The Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake, whilst my house has not been blessed! Perhaps [it is because] you are not a God-fearing man?’ Thereupon a Heavenly voice issued and proclaimed, ‘And Obadiah feared the Lord greatly, but the house of Ahab is not fit for a blessing’.” (Sanh. 39b).
  • A Bat Kol spoke concerning the reason why King Hezekiah would not be the Messiah and said: “This is My secret” (Sanh. 94a).
  • When King Manasseh criticized the Torah, a Bat Kol recited to him Psalm 50:20, “Our Rabbis taught: But the soul that doeth aught presumptuously (Num. 15:30) this refers to Manasseh the Son of Hezekiah, who examined [Biblical] narratives to prove them worthless. Thus, he jeered, had Moses nothing to write but, And Lotan's sister was Timna (Gen. 36:22), And Timna was concubine to Eliphaz (Gen. 36:12), And Reuben went in the days of the wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field (Gen. 30:14). Thereupon a Heavenly Voice cried out: ‘You sit and speak against thy brother; you slander thine own mother’s son. These things have you done, and I kept silence, you thought that I was altogether such an one as yourself’ but I will reprove you, and set them in order before your eyes. (Ps. 50:20) And of him it is explicitly stated in the post-Mosaic Scriptures, ‘Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope’ (Isa. 5:18). What is meant by ‘and sin as it were with a cart rope’? — R. Assi said: ‘Temptation at first is like a spider’s thread, but eventually like a cart rope’” (Sanh. 99b).
  • For eighteen years a Bat Kol whispered into Nebuchadnezzar’s ears: “Destroy My sanctuary” (Cant. R. 2.13); when he said: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High,” it cried: “Into the nether world must thou go” (following Isa. 14:13, 14; Pes. 94a, the dictum of R. Johanan b. Zakkai). When he waxed arrogant because he had succeeded in destroying the Temple, it called to him: “Thou hast killed a people already dead; thou hast burned a sanctuary already burned. Yea, thou hast ground meal already ground” (Sanh. 96b with reference to Isa. 47:2; however, this is lacking in the parallel passage, Yer. Ta’anit 69b). When he descended into Sheol, all the inmates feared that he would tyrannize over them, until a Bat Kol calmed them with the two Biblical verses: Ezekiel 32:19 and Isaiah 14:4, ”Rav Judah also said in Rav's name: When that wicked man descended to Gehenna, all who had [previously] descended thither trembled, saying, Does he come to rule over us, or to be as weak as we [are], for it is said, Art thou also become weak as we? or art thou to rule over us? (Isa. 14:10). A Heavenly Echo went forth and declared, ‘Whom dost thou pass in beauty? Go down with, and be thou laid with the uncircumcised. (Ezek. 32:19). How hath the oppressor ceased! The golden city [Madhebah] ceased’ (Isa. 14:4).(Shab. 149b).
  • When the water-drinkers (Rechabites) in Jeremiah 35 brought an offering, a Bat Kol, proceeding from the Holy of Holies, declared it was acceptable (Mekilta, Yitro, 2).
  • When Haman tested the gallows intended for Mordechai, a Bat Kol called out: “It fits thee!” (Targ. on Esth. v. 14; Esth. R. v. 3).
  • At the feast of Ahasuerus the wine was served in the vessels carried off from the Jerusalem Temple, and a Bat Kol warned the feasters (Meg. 12a). “And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, the vessels being diverse [shonim] one from another (Esth. 1:7). It should have said, in different vessels? — Raba said: ‘A Bat Kol went forth and said to them, Your predecessors met their end on account of vessels, and yet you use them again [shonim]?’”
  • Whenever there is no law, no high-priesthood, no Sanhedrin (II Chron. 15:3), a Bat Kol cries: “Strengthen ye the weak hands” (Lev. R. 19.5, following Isa. 35:3).
  • When the men of the Great Synagogue counted Solomon among those kings who would not have a portion in the life to come, flames flashed forth out of the Holy of Holies, and then a Bat Kol uttered the words of Proverbs 22:29, “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; He shall not stand before mean men,” but they did not harken to this; nor did they abandon their resolution until the Bat Kol repeated Job 34:33 (Yer. Sanh. 29b; Num. R. 14, beginning, and parallels).
  • It happened that the high priest, John Hyrcanus, heard a voice from the Holy of Holies, announcing that the youths who had proceeded against Antioch had obtained a victory; the hour was noted; and it transpired later that the victory had been won at that very hour (Tosefta, Sotah, 13.5 and parallel passages; Josephus, Antiquities, 13.10, § 3). [A remarkable parallel to this story is afforded by the legend on the martyrdom of Polycarp: it is said that on the day and at the hour that he suffered death at Smyrna, Irenæus, who was at Rome, heard a voice like a trumpet proclaiming: “Polycarp has become a martyr” (Weimel, “Die Wirkungen des Geistes und der Geister,” p. 166, Freiburg-in-Breisgau, 1899).]
  • Once Herod heard a Bat Kol saying that fortune should attend every slave who would then rise in rebellion against his master; thereupon he destroyed the house of the Hasmoneans. “Herod was the slave of the Hasmonean house, and had set his eyes on a certain maiden [of that house] (Mariamne, the daughter of Alexander, a son of Aristobulus II). One day he heard a Bat Kol say, ‘Every slave that rebels now will succeed.’ So he rose and killed all the members of his master’s household, but spared that maiden. When she saw that he wanted to marry her, she went up on to a roof and cried out, ‘Whoever comes and says, I am from the Hasmonean house, is a slave, since I alone am left of it, and I am throwing myself down from this roof.’” (B.B. 3b).
  • In four cases the Temple-court itself called out against or in favor of the priests ministering in the Temple (Pes. 57a). “Our Rabbis taught: Four cries did the Temple Court cry out. The first: ‘Depart hence, ye children of Eli,’ for they defiled the Temple of the Lord. And another cry: ‘Depart hence, Issachar of Kefar Barkai, who honours himself while desecrating the sacred sacrifices of Heaven’; for he used to wrap his hands with silks and perform the [sacrificial] service. The Temple Court also cried out: ‘Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and let Ishmael the son of Phabi, Phineas’s disciple, enter and serve in the [office of the] High Priesthood.’ The Temple Court also cried out: ‘Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and let Johanan the son of Narbai, the disciple of Pinkai, enter and fill his stomach with the Divine sacrifices’”.
  • When Jonathan ben Uzziel translated the Scriptures into Aramaic, a Bat Kol cried: “Who reveals My secrets to My children?” And when he was about to translate the Hagiographa, it cried: “Let this suffice, lest he betray the time of the Messiah” (Meg. 3a).
  • A Bat Kol announced that the legal norm should be established according to the views of the school of Hillel in cases in which they conflicted with those of the school of Shammai (Yer. Ber. 3b). However, the Tosefta on the same question (Yeb. i., end; ‘Eduy. ii. 3) does not mention a Bat Kol.
  • When a Bat Kol called out that the views of Rabbi Eliezer should be adopted, R. Joshua declared: “The Torah is not in heaven; we pay no heed to the Bat Kol.” That is to say, the Bat Kol deserved no consideration in giving legal decisions (Yer. Hag. 81. 11; Bab. B.M. 59b; Hul. 44a, and frequently elsewhere).
  • Hillel devoted his life to study of the Law, while his brother Shebna, who was engaged in business, supported him, thinking they should share as well everything in common in the life to come; but a Bat Kol called out (Cant. 8:7): “If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned” (Sotah 21a).
  • “Every day,” says Rav (see Bacher, “Die Agada der Babylonischen Amoräer,” p. 11, note 58), “a Bat Kol resounds from Mt. Horeb, proclaiming: ‘Woe unto man, that he neglects the Law!’” (Pirke Abot, 6.2).
  • A Bat Kol announces: “The whole world is fed because of the merit of My son, Hanina; and he himself is content with a peck of locust beans from one Friday to another” (Ber. 17b, etc.).
  • While a heretic was with the patriarch Judah, a Bat Kol called out: “To pronounce the benedictions of the grace after meals is worth as much as forty gold dinars” (Hul. 87a). “Said he [the min]. ‘My Master, I bring you good tidings; your opponent could find no answer and so threw himself down from the roof and died’. He said: ‘Would you dine with me?’ He replied. ‘Yes’. After they had eaten and drunk, he [Rabbi] said to him, ‘Will you drink the cup of wine over which the Benedictions of the Grace [after meals] have been said, or would you rather have forty gold coins?’ He replied: ‘I would rather drink the cup of wine’. Thereupon there came forth a Heavenly Voice and said: ‘The cup of wine over [which] the Benedictions [of Grace have been said] is worth forty gold coins.’”
  • A Bat Kol proclaims daily: “This and this maid, this and this house, this and this field, are destined for such and such a man” (Sotah 2a, etc.).
  • Simon ben Yohai and his son had hidden themselves for thirteen years in a cave. When they came out, everything on which they turned their eyes took fire, and a Bat Kol called to them: “Have ye come out in order to destroy My world?”
  • When Simon was once watching a bird-catcher, he heard a Bat Kol saying, as each bird passed: “Let this bird be caught; let this bird go free”; and the bird was caught or allowed to escape accordingly (Shab. 33b; Yer. Sheb. ix. 1, p. 39d, and elsewhere. In later sources the legend is changed).
  • Elisha ben Abuya, a prominent Talmud teacher who became an apostate, told his favorite pupil, R. Meïr, that once, when the Day of Atonement fell on a Sabbath and he was violating both, a voice behind the sanctuary whispered to him: “Let every sinner return to Me except Elisha, who knows Me and yet sins against Me” (Yer. Hag. 77b, near end; Bab. Hag. 13b; Ruth R. on 3.13; Eccl. R. on 7.8).
  • Johanan related: “Once, when on a ship, we saw a chest of gems and diamonds in the water surrounded by fish. When a man sprang into the sea to get it, a sea-monster was about to swallow half of him; but he drove it away with vinegar. A Bat Kol then resounded, saying: ‘What dost thou want with the chest in which the wife of Hanina ben Dosa keeps the purple which the pious will wear in the future world?’”
  • Rabba bar bar Hana, among his many mythical stories, relates that he saw from a ship a bird standing only ankle-deep in water. When the travelers wanted to cool themselves in the sea, a Bat Kol called out: “Seven years ago a carpenter’s ax fell into the water and has not yet reached bottom!” Rabba bar bar Hana also tells of a Bat Kol he heard in the wilderness at Mt. Sinai saying: “Woe is Me that I have sworn to send Israel into exile!” (B.B. 73b, 74a, 74b.)
  • R. Perida having taught his pupil one thing four hundred times, a Bat Kol called to him to choose between two rewards for his patience; and God Himself proclaimed that he should receive both (‘Er. 74b).
  • When Joshua ben Levi wrested the knife from the Angel of Death, the dying man heard a Bat Kol saying: “Give it back to him; for mankind needs it” (Ket. 77b).
  • When Judah I lay in the agonies of death, a Bat Kol said, in the words of Isa. 57:2. “He shall enter into peace!” (Ket. 104a and elsewhere.) The Sabbath was violated for his burial; but excepting a laundryman who had failed to do him honor, those present were comforted by a Bat Kol that assured to all a portion in the life to come. When, in consequence of this, the laundryman threw himself from a balcony, the Bat Kol was again heard, saying that even the laundryman was assured of a portion in the life to come (Yer. Kil. ix. 3, 32b).
  • When R. Jose b. R. Eleazar died, a serpent at the mouth of his father’s grave prevented the burial, until a Bat Kol declared: “The father was no greater than the son!”
  • As Rabba bar Nahmani expired, he muttered “Clean! Clean!” and a Bat Kol called out: “Happy art thou, Rabba bar Nahmani, clean is thy body, clean thy soul!” At Pumbedita slips fell from the skies, bearing the words, “Rabba bar Nahmani has been called away.”
  • A Bat Kol went forth and exclaimed: “Woe! woe! Samuel, son of R. Isaac, is dead!” (B.M. 85a, 86a; Yer. ‘Ab. Zarah 42c.)
  • Simeon ben Lakish marked the graves of the rabbis, but could not find R. Hiyya’s. When he grieved over this, feeling that he had not so keen an intellect as R. Hiyya, a Bat Kol said: “Thou art as keen of intellect as he; but thou hast not spread the Torah as he did” (B.M. 85b).
  • Those who occupied themselves in mystic teachings heard a Bat Kol promising them great honor in the future world. Johanan b. Zakkai in a dream saw himself and his colleagues on Mt. Sinai and heard a Bat Kol there (Yer. Hag. 77a; Bab. Hag. 14b).
  • When a drought drove the inhabitants of Palestine to despair, and R. Eliezer’s prayers did not bring rain, while Akiba’s did, the rabbis believed there must be some stain upon R. Eliezer’s character; but they heard a Bat Kol saying: “Akiba is not a greater man than Eliezer, but less severe” (Ta’anit 25b).
  • A Bat Kol blamed Bar Kokba when he killed Eliezer of Modi’in (Yer. Ta’anit 68a).


Birnbaum, P., Encyclopedia of Jewish Concepts, New York: Hebrew Publishing Company, 1998.
Encyclopedia Judaica, 1906 [online edition], (
Goh, Lionel, Some Aspects of the Holy Spirit in early Judaism, Theology Annual vol.19 1998. p.91-95.
Jacobs, Louis, Bat Kol - A Divine Voice,
Kidushin, M. The Rabbinic Mind, New York, Global Productions, 2001.
The Soncino Talmud (©1973 Judaica Press, Inc.) Judaica Press, Inc. Brooklyn, NY. Judaic Classics, Davka Corporation, 1993-2003
Werblowsky, R. J. Zwi & Wigoder, G., (Eds) The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion, New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

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