Guide for the Perplexed, by Moses Maimonides, Friedländer tr. , at sacred-texts.com
I HAVE already described the four points in which the prophecy of Moses our Teacher was distinguished from that of other prophets, in books accessible to every one, in the Commentary on the Mishnah (Sanhedrin x. 1) and in Mishneh-torah (S. Madd‘a I. vii. 6); I have also adduced evidence for my explanation, and shown the correctness thereof. I need not repeat the subject here, nor is it included in the theme of this work. For I must tell you that whatever I say here of prophecy refers exclusively to the form of the prophecy of all prophets before and after
[paragraph continues] Moses. But as to the prophecy of Moses I will not discuss it in this work with one single word, whether directly or indirectly, because, in my opinion, the term prophet is applied to Moses and other men homonymously. A similar distinction, I think, must be made between the miracles wrought by Moses and those wrought by other prophets, for his signs are not of the same class as the miracles of other prophets. That his prophecy was distinguished from that of all his predecessors is proved by the passage, "And I appeared to Abraham, etc., but by my name, the Lord, I was not known unto them" (Exod. vi. 3). We thus learn that his prophetic perception was different from that of the Patriarchs, and excelled it; a fortiori it must have excelled that of other prophets before Moses. As to the distinction of Moses' prophecy from that of succeeding prophets, it is stated as a fact, "And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face" (Deut. xxxiv. 10). It is thus clear that his prophetic perception was above that of later prophets in Israel, who are "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation," and "in whose midst is the Lord"; much more is it above that of prophets among other nations.
The general distinction between the wonders of Moses and those of other prophets is this: The wonders wrought by prophets, or for them, are witnessed by a few individuals, e.g., the wonders wrought by Elijah and Elisha; the king of Israel is therefore surprised, and asked Gehazi to describe to him the miracles wrought by Elisha: "Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath done. And it came to pass as he was telling, etc. And Gehazi said: 'My lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life'" (2 Kings viii. 4, 5). The same is the case with the signs of every other prophet, except Moses our Teacher. Scripture, therefore, declares that no prophet will ever, like Moses, do signs publicly in the presence of friend and enemy, of his followers and his opponents; this is the meaning of the words: "And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, etc., in all the signs and the wonders, etc., in the sight of all Israel." Two things are here mentioned together; namely, that there will not arise a prophet that will perceive as Moses perceived, or a prophet that will do as he did; then it is pointed out that the signs were made in the presence of Pharaoh, all his servants and all his land, the opponents of Moses, and also in the presence of all the Israelites, his followers. Comp. "In the sight of all Israel." This is a distinction not possessed by any prophet before Moses; nor, as is correctly foretold, will it ever be possessed by another prophet. We must not be misled by the account that the light of the sun stood still certain hours for Joshua, when "he said in the sight of Israel," etc. (Josh. x. 12); for it is not said there "in the sight of all Israel," as is said in reference to Moses. So also the miracle of Elijah, at Mount Carmel, was witnessed only by a few people. When I said above that the sun stood still certain hours, I explain the words "ka-jom tamim" to mean "the longest possible day," because tamim means "perfect," and indicates that that day appeared to the people at Gibeon as their longest day in the summer. Your mind must comprehend the distinction of the prophecy and the wonders of Moses, and understand that his greatness in prophetic perception was the same as his power of producing miracles. If you further assume that we are unable fully to comprehend the nature of this greatness, you will understand
that when I speak, in the chapters which follow this, on prophecy and the different classes of prophets, I only refer to the prophets which have not attained the high degree that Moses attained. This is what I desired to explain in this chapter.