the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Voice of Heaven
The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
A heavenly or divine voice which proclaims God's will or judgment, His deeds and His commandments to individuals or to a number of persons, to rulers, communities, and even to whole nations. The meaning of the word is "sound," "resonance." In this sense it is used in Syriac and in the following Midrash and Talmud passages: "As oil has no Bat Ḳol [that is, 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). The most significant passage is Ex. R. , end (compare , end):
"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,' in Deuteronomy 5:19 [A.V. 22] (). 'These words,' says Simeon ben Laḳish, 'are to be taken as follows: If one man calls to another, his voice has a Bat Ḳol; but the voice proceeding from God has no Bat Ḳol. If you marvel at this, think of the story of the prophet Elijah and the priests of Baal. 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 attention' [1 Kings 18:29, Hebrew]. For if a sound had been heard, the priests would have said: 'Baal has answered us.' On Sinai God caused the whole world to be silent, in order that mankind might know there is none besides Him."
Bat Ḳol Not an Echo.
It is clear that in this passage Bat Ḳol does not mean an echo, as is the general opinion (Lampronti, "Paḥad Yiẓḥaḳ"; Levy, "Neuhebräisches Wörterbuch"; Kohut, "Aruch Completum," s.); but it means the reverberation or hum, caused by the motion of all things, which fills the whole world and which accompanies the human voice and every other sound. Of old the belief in the music of the spheres was universal; and the Talmud says (Yoma 20b) that the noises of Rome would be heard all over the world but for the music of the spheres. Echo is called "ḳol habarah" (R. H. 3:7; Yoma 19b). Nor is an echo referred to in the dispute between the schools of Shammai and Hillel as to whether a woman may marry if a Bat Ḳol has been heard saying that her husband is dead (compare Yeb. 122a; Tosef., Nazir. 1:1). As Rashi remarked in his commentary (compare Lippman Heller, in "Tosafot Yom-Ṭob" to Yeb. 16:6), the Bat Ḳol here is more probably the same as when a voice is heard and no man is seen. A parallel is afforded in the case of Paul, when he heard a voice saying: " Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? . . . And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man" (Acts 9:4,7; compare 22:7,9; 26:14). On this account Bat Ḳol was called a voice which is heard behind the back (Meg. 32a). The same idea is expressed in Revelation 1:10: "And I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet." In the Greek there is no adequate expression for Bat Ḳol [unless the φημαὶ μαντικί in Sophocles' "Œdipus," 723, are comparable; see S. Louis, in "Trans. of Soc. for Biblical Archeology," 9:182 et seq.—K.]; consequently the New Testament renders it by φωνή, but not by ἠχώ [see Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22; and John 12:28: φωνὴ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ("a voice from heaven"); Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; and Luke 9:35: "a voice out of the cloud"; Acts 10:13,15: "a voice"; compare Lightfoot to Matthew 3:17—K.].
According to the Talmud (Yer. Soṭah 9:24b; compare Tosef., Soṭah, 13:5) the high priest Johanan hears a Bat Ḳol in the sanctuary; according to Josephus ("Ant." 13:10, § 3), he hears a φωνή.
The expression ("daughter of a voice"; that is, a small voice) is intended to distinguish it from the usual voice. Originally, however, it was also in the Hebrew called "ḳol" (voice) as is shown by the Aramaic . "There fell a voice from heaven, saying, O King Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken: The kingdom is departed from thee" (Daniel 4:28 [A. V. 31]); and here and there in the Talmud it is briefly given as ("voice") (Sanh. 96b; compare Ta'anit 21b; B. M. 85b, Rashi). In the Aramaic versions of the Bible, in the Midrash and Talmud, the heavenly revelation is usually introduced with the formula: "A voice fell from heaven," "came from heaven," "was heard," or "proceeded from heaven." The New Testament has the same formula, 'Hλθεν οὖν φωνὴ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (John 12:28; compare Revelation 10:4,8; 18:4, etc.), which is the equivalent of the Hebrew , and the Aramaic . Through frequent use the formula was abbreviated into Bat Ḳol; and it is not correct to differentiate between the longer and shorter expressions. The fact probably is that the fuller form is used generally in the older sources. Since God permits His glory to abide in the Temple at Jerusalem, it results that a voice is also heard from the sanctuary (Yerushalmi and Josephus, c.; Revelation 14:14,17: "the temple which is in heaven"; ib. 18, "another angel came out from the altar").
Revelation Through Sound.
The characteristic attributes of the Bat Ḳol are the invisibility of the speaker and a certain remarkable quality in the sound, regardless of its strength or weakness. A sound proceeding from some invisible source was considered a heavenly voice, since the revelation on Sinai was given in that way: "Ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude;only ye heard a voice" (Deuteronomy 4:12). God reveals Himself to man through his organs of hearing, not through those of sight. Even Ezekiel, who sees many visions, "heard a voice of one that spake" (Ezekiel 1:28); Elijah recognized God by a "still, small voice," and a voice addressed him (1 Kings 19:12,13; compare Job 4:16); sometimes God's voice rang from the heights, from Jerusalem, from Zion (Ezekiel 1:25; Jeremiah 25:30; Joel 4:16,17; Amos 1:2, etc.); and His voice was heard in the thunder and in the roar of the sea.
Quality of the Bat Ḳol.
The Bat Ḳol was loud or soft according to circumstances; but the quality of the tone was peculiar. Rab said: "God roars like a lion, and says: 'Wo unto the children on whose account I have destroyed My house, and burnt My Temple, and whom I have dispersed among the nations.'" Jose entered a ruin at Jerusalem and encountered there the prophet Elijah, who asked him: "My son, what voice didst thou hear in the ruins?" He answered: "I heard a Bat Ḳol; it murmured like a dove () and exclaimed: 'Wo unto the children,' etc." In the course of the conversation God is spoken of instead of the Bat Ḳol (Ber. 3a). Elisha b. Abuyah heard a voice chirping behind the Temple (, Eccl. R. 7:8).
When God wishes to announce harm, He uses the Bat Ḳol; but good proceeds from His own mouth (Targ. on Lamentations 3:38). Nebuchadnezzar hears a Bat Ḳol which sounds like the shout of a nation (Ex. R. 30:20). When Moses died, a Bat Ḳol rang through the camp of twelve square miles and proclaimed: "Moses is dead!" (Sifre 2:357; Soṭaḥ 13b, below, etc.).
Josephus in telling the portents of the destruction of the Temple says ("B. J." 6:5, § 3; compare Revelation 19:1,6): "Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the] Temple, as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that in the first place they felt a quaking, and heard a noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, 'Let us remove hence.'"
Ḥullin 59b tells of the great strength of God's voice. From these passages it is evident that the strength of the Bat Ḳol was adapted to circumstances, as the divine word of the Ten Commandments on Sinai was spoken with a strength that adapted itself to children, youths, etc. (Tan. on Deut., in Grünhut, "Liḳḳuṭim," 5:111b, 112a: "The word called from heaven"). The original conception undoubtedly was that the heavenly voice whispered or chirped, as is indicated by the expression which Isaiah (8:19; compare 10:14, 29:4, 38:14) uses in regard to the veiled voice of the familiar spirit, and several times in regard to the Bat Ḳol.
A Bat Ḳol could come from under the earth and from the nether world, and is heard on heights (Targ. Yer. Numbers 21:6). Since such sounds supposedly came from the spirit world, Jewish monotheism could conceive of it as springing only from heaven, from the Holy Spirit, from angels, or from God Himself. All nations regarded such sounds as the voices of spirits (Tylor, "Primitive Culture," 1:469; Blau, "Altjüdisches Zauberwesen," p. 65, n. 2). The troubled mind, the soul in despair, would hear sounds promising comfort in sorrow and misfortune. The Arabs tell of a voice, "hâtif," which calls to lost travelers in the wilderness. The "munadi," a similar voice, came in the solitude of night to the Persian poet Nizami when discontented with his lot (Bacher, "Leben und Werke Nizamis," p. 11; Goldziher, "Abhandlungen zur Arabischen Philologie," 1:6).
As shown by the name, this heavenly voice was often considered divine. In the course of the narrative in Ber. 3a, "God" is put instead of "Bat Ḳol"; and not infrequently God, when using the Bat Ḳol, is represented as speaking in the first person. Sometimes Bat Ḳol is identified with the Holy Spirit. In Sifra, Leviticus 10:5 (ed. Weiss, 46a), it is the Holy Spirit which speaks; while in Ker. 5b and Hor. 12a, which give the same account, it is the Bat Ḳol. "At three courts of justice the Holy Spirit beamed forth: at the courts of Shem, of Samuel, and of Solomon. At the first a Bat Ḳol cried: 'She [Tamar] hath been more righteous than I' (Genesis 38:26); at the second: 'I am a witness' (Mak. 23b, referring to 1 Samuel 12:5); and at the third: 'She is the mother'" (1 Kings 3:27; Mak. 23b; Gen. R. , et seq.).
Voice of the Holy Spirit.
The Bat Ḳol usually makes its announcements by means of a passage from the Law or the Scriptures; and, to judge from the instances that are related, it was heard oftenest in Biblical times, when the Holy Spirit rested upon the chosen people. At the death of Moses a Bat Ḳol was heard saying: "Fear thou not, Moses! I myself will care for thy burial" (Deut. R., end). When R. Bannaa visited the graves of the Patriarchs, and wished also to see Adam's grave, a Bat Ḳol called out: "Thou hast seen the likeness of My image, but My image thou mayest not see" (B. B. 58a). When Israel at Sinai said: "We will do and we will hear" (Exodus 24:7, Hebrew), a Bat Ḳol called out: "Who has revealed to My children the secret which the angels alone possessed"; that is, to do before hearing (Shab. 88a; compare Soṭah 10b).
Bat Ḳol and Prophecy.
From the foregoing it is evident that the Bat Ḳol was identified with the Holy Spirit, even with God; but it differed essentially from the Prophets, though these spoke as the medium of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit rested upon the Prophets, and the intercourse was personal and intimate; while those that heard the Bat Ḳol stood in no relation whatever to the Holy Spirit. The Prophets again possessed the Holy Spirit; but the Bat Ḳol could not be possessed: God spoke through it as He did through the Prophets. For this reason the Bat Ḳol addressed not only favored mortals, but sinners, individuals, or multitudes, within or without the Holy Land (B. M. 86a; B. B. 73b, 74b). It revealed the higher Will, not in the unintelligible speech of the Christian gift of tongues, but in perfectly intelligible words. "After the death of the last three prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel; but the Bat Ḳol was yet heard" (Tos., Soṭah, 13:2, where is nearer the original than Soṭah 48b; Bab. Sanh. 11a, ). Prophecy was agift of which not only the prophet but his generation had to be worthy. A Bat Ḳol pronounced Hillel and Samuel the Little to have been worthy of having the Holy Spirit rest upon them, were it not for their generation (ib.). From this point of view the Bat Ḳol was explained as a lesser gift to Israel than prophecy, but not, as some said, as a lower degree of prophecy (Yoma 9b; Pes. R. 160a).
Instances of Its Action.
According to rabbinical tradition, the Bat Ḳol coexisted with prophecy; that is, at a time when the Holy Spirit rested upon Israel, as well as at other times. When Abraham was beset with doubt as to whether Isaac had not been rejected because he was unworthy to be sacrificed, a Bat Ḳol quieted him with Ecclesiastes 9:7 (Lev. R. 20:2). When Esau thought that his father would soon die, a Bat Ḳol proclaimed: "The hide of many a foal has served to cover its dam" (Gen. R. 67:8; compare Pes. 173a and the parallel passage, Sanh. 52a, where the words are quoted as the saying of men, ; and this gave rise to the erroneous conclusion that by Bat Ḳol was meant the same as "vox populi vox Dei"). A Bat Ḳol spoke the words, "She hath been more righteous than I," in the story of Tamar and Judah (Soṭah 10b; Targ. Yer. on Genesis 38:26). When the Israelites, in their flight from Egypt, saw the Red Sea before them while Pharaoh pressed close behind, a Bat Ḳol comforted them with the words of the Song of Songs 2:14 (Targ. ad loc.). When, according to Psalms 68:17, the mountains disputed with Sinai, a Bat Ḳol cried out: "Ye are all deficient as compared with Sinai" (Meg. 29a). A Bat Ḳol pronounced the words (Exodus 24:6): "Here is the half of the blood" (Lev. R. 6:5). A Bat Ḳol reassured Moses and Aaron when they were in doubt about using the anointment oil too freely (Sifra, Leviticus 10:5, etc.). When Israel was cured by the brazen serpent (Numbers 21:8) a Bat Ḳol was heard moralizing (Targ. ad loc.). At the offering of the firstlings (Deuteronomy 26:2) the Bat Ḳol said: "Thou shalt be able to make an offering again next year" (this alludes to verse 16; Grünhut, "Liḳḳuṭim," 5:153a, 7). At the promulgation of the terrible threats of Deuteronomy 28, the anxious Patriarchs who listened were calmed by a Bat Ḳol (Targ. Yer. on Deuteronomy 28:15). When Moses died, a Bat Ḳol drew the attention of the world to his suffering (Targ. Yer. on Deuteronomy 34:5); and, as already mentioned, the Bat Ḳol is frequently connected with Moses' death (Sifre, Deut. 357; Soṭah 13b; Num. R. 14:10; Yelamdenu, in "Liḳḳuṭim," 5:104b; Jellinek, "B. H." 1:120-128, etc.). When Saul reasoned speciously about his expedition against the Amalekites, a Bat Ḳol quoted to him the words of Ecclesiastes 7:16 (Yoma 22b). A Bat Ḳol pronounced judgment in the cases of David and Uriah (M. Ḳ. 16b) and of David's attitude toward Mephibosheth (Shab. 56b, above). At the dedication of Solomon's Temple, during which the celebration of the Day of Atonement was omitted, a Bat Ḳol promised to all present a portion in the life to come (M. Ḳ. 9a; Gen. R. 35:3; in Shab. 30a the Bat Ḳol is not mentioned). Upon the favorable reception of Solomon's offering, a Bat Ḳol uttered the verse, Song of Solomon 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, below). When Solomon wanted to place himself on a level with Moses a Bat Ḳol warned him in the words of Ecclesiastes 12:10 (R. H. 21b, below). When Israel separated from Judah and chose Jeroboam as king, a Bat Ḳol gave warning in the words of Micah 1:14 (Sanh. 102a); and when Ahab doubted the piety of Obadiah, the governor of his house, a Bat Ḳol upheld his piety, quoting 1 Kings 18:3 (Sanh. 39b, below). It 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, it recited to him Ps. 20 (ib. 99b). For eighteen years it 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 Isaiah 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 Isaiah 47:2; but this is lacking in the parallel passage, Yer. Ta'anit 69b, above). When he descended into Sheol, all the inmates feared that he would tyrannize over them, until a Bat Ḳol calmed them with the two Biblical verses: Ezekiel 32:19 and Isaiah 14:4 (Shab. 149b). When the water-drinkers (Rechabites) in Jeremiah 35 brought an offering, a Bat Ḳol, proceeding from the Holy of Holies, declared it was acceptable (Mek., Yitro, 2). When Haman tested the gallows intended for Mordecai, a Bat Ḳol called out: "It fits thee!" (Targ. on Esther 5:14; Esth. R. 5:3). At the feast of Ahasuerus the wine was served in the vessels carried off from the Jerusalem Temple, and a Bat Ḳol warned the feasters (Meg. 12a). Whenever there is no law, no high-priesthood, no Sanhedrin (2 Chronicles 15:3), a Bat Ḳol cries: "Strengthen ye the weak hands" (Lev. R. 19:5, following Isaiah 35:3).
Instances in Talmudic Times.
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 Ḳol uttered the words of Proverbs 22:29: but they did not harken to this; nor did they abandon their resolution until the Bat Ḳol repeated Job 34:33 (Yer. Sanh. 29b; Num. R. , 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 (Tosef., Soṭah, 13:5 and parallel passages; Josephus, "Ant." 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 Ḳol saying that fortune should attend every slave who would then rise in rebellion against his master; thereupon he destroyed the house of the Hasmoneans (B. B. 3a). In four cases the Temple-court itself called out against or in favor of the priests ministering in the Temple (Pes. 57a). When Jonathan ben Uzziel translated the Scriptures into Aramaic, a Bat Ḳol 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 Ḳol 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, below and elsewhere). But the Tosefta on the same question (Yeb. , end; 'Eduy. 2:3) does not mention a Bat Ḳol. When a Bat Ḳol 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 Ḳol." That is to say, the Bat Ḳol deserved no consideration in giving legal decisions (Yer. Ḥag. 81:11; Bab. B. M. 59b; Ḥul. 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 Ḳol called out (Song of Solomon 8:7): "If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned" (Soṭah 21a). "Every day," says Rab (see Bacher, "Die Agada der Babylonischen Amoräer," p. 11, note 58), "a Bat Ḳol resounds from Mt. Horeb, proclaiming: 'Wo unto man, that he neglects the Law!'" (Ab. 6:2). A Bat Ḳol announces: "The whole world is fed because of the merit of My son, Ḥanina; and he himself is content with a peck of locustbeans from one Friday to another" (Ber. 17b, etc.). While a heretic was with the patriarch Judah, a Bat Ḳol called out: "To pronounce the benedictions of the grace after meals is worth as much as forty gold dinars" (Ḥul. 87a). A Bat Ḳol proclaims daily: "This and this maid, this and this house, this and this field, are destined for such and such a man" (Soṭah 2a, etc.). Simon ben Yoḥai 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 Ḳol 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 Ḳol 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. 9:1, p. 39d, and elsewhere. In later sources the legend is changed).
From these examples it is evident that the Bat Ḳol was heard under various conditions—in the interest of a whole nation or of a favored individual; either as a plaintive cry or as a voice of admonition. As a rule, the accounts are merely embellishments of the Biblical narrative: at times they are clearly legendary in character. The question arises whether the Bat Ḳol was not a psychological fact, especially in those cases in which it was repeated by the person who actually heard it. The psychological possibility must be admitted in cases where the imagination may have been stimulated by the solitude of a desert or of ruins, or by the impressiveness of the mountain where God gave His revelation; or again by the overwhelming consciousness of sin, or, when face to face with death, that great mystery of man's existence. An inner voice may have made itself heard. The same is the case when the voice of the national and religious conviction impelled leaders of the people, men beloved and almost worshiped by their fellows, to a martyr's death. Thus the prominent Talmud teacher Elisha ben Abuya, 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. Ḥag. 77b, near end; Bab. Ḥag. 13b; Ruth R. on 3:13; Eccl. R. on 7:8).
Bat Ḳol and Death.
Supernatural phenomena are also accompanied by a Bat Ḳol. Thus 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 Ḳol then resounded, saying: 'What dost thou want with the chest in which the wife of Ḥanina ben Dosa keeps the purple which the pious will wear in the future world?'" Rabba bar bar Ḥana, 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 Ḳol called out: "Seven years ago a carpenter's ax fell into the water and has not yet reached bottom!" Rabba bar bar Ḥana also tells of a Bat Ḳol he heard in the wilderness at Mt. Sinai saying: "Wo 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 Ḳol 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 Ḳol saying: "Give it back to him; for mankind needs it" (Ket. 77b). When Judah I. lay in the agonies of death, a Bat Ḳol said, in the words of Isaiah 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 Ḳol 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 Ḳol was again heard, saying that even the laundryman was assured of a portion in the life to come (Yer. Kil. 9:3,32b).
When R. Jose b. R. Eleazar died, a serpent at the mouth of his father's grave prevented the burial, until a Bat Ḳol declared: "The father was no greater than the son!" As Rabba bar Naḥmani expired, he muttered "Clean! Clean!" and a Bat Ḳol called out: "Happy art thou, Rabba bar Naḥmani, clean is thy body, clean thy soul!" At Pumbedita slipsfell from the skies, bearing the words, "Rabba bar Naḥmani has been called away," etc. A Bat Ḳol went forth and exclaimed: "Wo! wo! Samuel, son of R. Isaac, is dead!" (B. M. 85a, 86a; Yer. 'Ab. Zarah 42c.) Simeon ben Laḳish marked the graves of the rabbis, but could not find R. Ḥiyya's. When he grieved over this, feeling that he had not so keen an intellect as R. Ḥiyya, a Bat Ḳol said: "Thou art as keen of intellect as he; but thou hast not spread the Torah as he did" (B. M. 85b; Yer. Kil. 32b, below, does not mention a Bat Ḳol). Those who occupied themselves in mystic teachings heard a Bat Ḳol 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 Ḳol there (Yer. Ḥag. 77a, below; Bab. Ḥag. 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 Ḳol saying: "Akiba is not a greater man than Eliezer, but less severe" (Ta'anit 25b).
A Bat Ḳol was often heard at the death of a martyr. In the story of the mother with her seven sons a Bat Ḳol exclaimed, "A joyful mother of children!" Psalms 113:9; Giṭ. 57b, below.) A Bat Ḳol blamed Bar Kokba when he killed Eliezer of Modi'in (Yer. Ta'anit 68a, below). When at Bar Kokba's rebellion Ḥanina ben Teradion was horribly burned, a Bat Ḳol called out: "Ḥanina and the one Roman who made his death easy are destined to the future life" ('Ab. Zarah 18a, and elsewhere, but a Bat Ḳol is not mentioned in Sifre 2:357). R. Akiba suffered a dreadful death—his flesh was torn from his body with brazen tongs. And as with his last breath he said the final words of the Jewish confession of faith, "The Lord is one," a Bat Ḳol came forth and said: "Hail to thee, R. Akiba, that thy soul left thee with the word 'One.'" Then the angels protested, saying: "Is this the Torah and this its reward?" Whereupon God replied: "They have their portion in the life to come"; and a Bat Ḳol again resounded and said: "Hail to thee, Akiba, thou art destined for eternity!" (Ber. 61b; two other instances in 'Ab. Zarah 10b, below, and 17a.) When a Roman official prevented the execution of R. Gamaliel II. by offering his own life, the deed was proclaimed by a Bat Ḳol (Ta'anit 29a). The Bat Ḳol spoke to two later conquerors of Judea as it had once spoken to Nebuchadnezzar. 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 Ḳol said to him: "Blasphemer and son of a blasphemer, I possess an insignificant little creature, a midge; take it with thee to the land." And the midge penetrated through his nose into his brain (Giṭ. 57b). Hadrian wanted to plumb the ocean: for three and a half years he tied ropes together until finally he heard a Bat Ḳol telling him to desist (Midr. Teh. 93:418b).
In later times, the Bat Ḳol is heard in the synagogue when the devotion lacks harmoniousness; and it proclaims, in the words of the Song of Songs, "Flee away, my beloved," addressing the Shekinah (Cant. R. to 8:14). Regarding the nature of the Bat Ḳol it is said (Meg. 32a) that it sounds like a man's voice when heard in the city, and like a woman's in the desert; that it repeats words, like "Yea, yea," and "Nay, nay." According to Soṭah 33a, it was taken to be the voice of angels, particularly of Gabriel, who knows all the world's seventy languages. (See Rashi: "The divine power ["middah"] residing in the Bat Ḳol makes its announcements in each language according as circumstances demand.") Maimonides ("Moreh," 2:42; see commentaries) compares it 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 "Cuzari," 3:11,41,73; Naḥmanides, Exodus 28:30; Baḥya ben Asher to Deuteronomy 38:7; Tosafot Sanh. 11a explains the Bat Ḳol as the sound of a voice issuing from heaven, whence the name "the daughter of the voice" (compare Lippman Heller to Yeb. 16:6). In apocalyptic literature, the Bat Ḳol 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." 2:45). Concerning a kind of Bat Ḳol which, in view of its aims, falls into the category of omens, see AUGURY.
- H. Chajes, in Orient, 6:345,347;
- Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums, 1845, pp. 345 et seq.;
- W. Wessely, in Basch's Jahrbuch, 1844, 3:227 et seq.;
- A. Kohut, Aruch Completum, 3:212;
- Hamburger, R. B. T. 2:92;
- F. Weber, System der Altsynagogalen Palästinensischen Theologie, pp. 187, 194;
- S. Louis, Ancient Traditions of Supernatural Voices: Bath Ḳol, in Trans. Soc. Biblical Archœology, 9:18;
- Pinner, Talmud Babli, Berakhoth, pp. 22-24, where a list of all Talmudical and Midrashic passages is given;
- Bacher, Agada der Tannaiten, 1:88, note 3;
- Agada der Palästinensischen Amoröer, 1:351, note 3, 2:26;
- and indexes to Bacher's Agada der Tannaiten, and Agada der Palästinensischen Amoräer, , ,
These files are public domain.
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Voice of Heaven'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​v/voice-of-heaven.html. 1901.