Bat Kol

Bat Kol
Ezekiel hears the voice, represented by the Hand of God, Dura-Europos Synagogue, 3rd century CE.

Bat Kol (Hebrew בּת קול: lit. small voice or whisper) is a "heavenly or divine voice which proclaims God's will or judgment."[1] It 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."[1]



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" (Deut 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" (Ezek 1:28); Elijah recognized God by a "still, small voice," and a voice addressed him (I Kings 19:12–13; compare Job 4:16); sometimes God's voice rang from the heights, from Jerusalem, from Zion (Ezek. 1:25; Jer 25:30; Joel 4:16–17; Amos 1:2, etc.); and God's voice was heard in the thunder and in the roar of the sea.[1]

The concept appears in Dan 4:31:[2]

עוד מלתא בפם מלכא קל מן־שׁמיא נפל לך אמרין נבוכדנצר מלכא מלכותה עדת מנך
[T]here fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee (emphasis added).

In Jewish art the Bat Ḳol was often represented by the Hand of God, as in the Synagogue of Dura-Europas, which Christian art also adopted for the relevant New Testament scenes.

In the New Testament

In the New Testament mention of “a voice from heaven” occurs in the following passages: Mat 3:17; Mar 1:11[3]; Luk 3:22 (at the baptism of Jesus); Mat 17:5; Mar 9:7; Luk 9:35 (at the transfiguration); Joh 12:28 (shortly before the Passion); Acts 9:4; Acts 22:7; Acts 26:14 (conversion of Paul), and Acts 10:13, Acts 10:15 (instruction of Peter concerning the clean and unclean). In the period of the Tannaim (circa 100 BCE-200 CE) the term bath ḳōl was in very frequent use and was understood to signify not the direct voice of God, which was held to be supersensible, but the echo of the voice (the bath being somewhat arbitrarily taken to express the distinction). The rabbis held that bath ḳōl had been an occasional means of divine communication throughout the whole history of Israel and that since the cessation of the prophetic gift it was the sole means of Divine revelation. It is noteworthy that the rabbinical conception of bath ḳōl sprang up in the period of the decline of Old Testament prophecy and flourished in the period of extreme traditionalism. Where the gift of prophecy was clearly lacking – perhaps even because of this lack – there grew up an inordinate desire for special divine manifestations. Often a voice from heaven was looked for to clear up matters of doubt and even to decide between conflicting interpretations of the law. So strong had this tendency become that Rabbi Joshua (c. 100 CE) felt it to be necessary to oppose it and to insist upon the supremacy and the sufficiency of the written law. It is clear that we have here to do with a conception of the nature and means of divine revelation that is distinctly inferior to the Biblical view. For even in the Biblical passages where mention is made of the voice from heaven, all that is really essential to the revelation is already present, at least in principle, without the audible voice.[2]


Josephus (Ant., XIII, x, 3) relates that John Hyrcanus (135–104 BCE) heard a voice while offering a burnt sacrifice in the temple, which Josephus expressly interprets as the voice of God.[2]

Christian scholars interpreted Bath Kol as the Jews' replacement for the great prophets when, "after the death of Malachi, the spirit of prophecy wholly ceased in Israel" (taking the name to refer to its being "the daughter" of the main prophetic "voice").[4]


  1. ^ a b c The Jewish Encyclopedia
  2. ^ a b c The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
  3. ^ And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." Mark 1:11
  4. ^ The Old and New Testament connected in the history of the Jews


This article incorporates text from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia article "Bath Kol", a publication now in the public domain.

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