Divination [N] [T] [E] [S]

Communication with a deity for the purpose of determining the deity's knowledge, resulting in clarification of a decision or discernment of the future. Two forms of divination developed in the ancient Near East, one using inductive manipulation of natural or human phenomena and the other taking intuitive forms of inner revelation.

The History of Divination. In Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Egypt, and Canaan, people communicated with their deities by means of divination, both on a personal and public level. From the Old Babylonian period (ca. 2000 b.c.) on in Mesopotamia, the reading of livers helped determine the actions of commoners and kings. A sheep was slaughtered, its liver removed, and the markings of the organ "read" for an answer. Other inductive types of divination included the analysis of stars, moon, entrails, lungs, weather, birds, and fetuses. Human-produced phenomena studied included casting lots, shooting arrows, dropping oil in water, drinking wine, calling the dead, and sprinkling water on an ox. Intuitive types of divination in the ancient Near East involved oracles, prophecies, and dreams.

In Israel, an official position on divination limited its uses to forms that did not reflect the practices of surrounding cultures. Most inductive forms were forbidden ( Lev 19:26 ; Deut 18:11 ), although the use of Urim and Thummim and lots supposes some inductive approaches. Most ancient practices, however, were used by both the populace and the officials. The Bible alludes to the use of omens ( Isa 44:25 ), arrows ( Ho 4:12 ), animal actions ( 1 Sam 6:7-12 ), the reading of livers ( Eze 21:21-22 ), budding plants ( Num 17:1-11 ), necromancy ( 1 Sam 28 ), and prophetic utterances, called false ( Micah 3:7 Micah 3:11 ) or "lying divinations" ( Isa 44:25 ; Jer 14:14 ; 27:9-10 ; Ezek 12:24 ; Zech 10:2 ). References to the "soothsayers' tree" ( Judges 9:37 ), the "sons of a sorcerer" ( Isa 57:3 ), and the girl with a spirit of divination ( Acts 16:16-19 ) are evidence of widespread practice.

Theology of Divination. Divination presupposes that the divine communicates with the human. This communication takes both human and divine initiative. Inductive techniques depend on human initiation. The Bible supposes that a priority rests on revelatory forms (dream, vision, oracle) rather than on inductive ones (Urim/ Thummim, ephod). Although natural phenomena may communicate God's will, their interpretation must be scrutinized and may be helped by the verbal. It seems clear that God is not limited to the use of any one means of revelation.

Why would the Bible record such strong negative injunctions against inductive divination? Deuteronomic law especially attacks everything connected with pagan religions. Foreign deities may have attached themselves to these methods. Even then, most of Israel's approved methods display parallels with the surrounding cultures. The question of veracity may be involved because they prove difficult to interpret. For this reason, verbal forms take precedence over inductive methods. Yet even prophecies need to stand the test of whether they come true ( Deut 18:21-22 ).

Human need requires discernment of divine desires. God chooses to communicate in a variety of ways, including divination techniques, but always in the clearest, most unambiguous way possible.

G. Michael Hagan

See also Idol, Idolatry; Revelation, idea of

Bibliography. M. deJong-Ellis, Journal of Cuneiform Studies41 (1989): 127-86; H. A. Hoffner, JETS30 (1987): 257-85; A. L. Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
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Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Divination'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.
Divination [N] [T] [B] [S]

of false prophets ( Deuteronomy 18:10 Deuteronomy 18:14 ; Micah 3:6 Micah 3:7 Micah 3:11 ), of necromancers ( 1 Samuel 28:8 ), of the Philistine priests and diviners ( 1 Samuel 6:2 ), of Balaam ( Joshua 13:22 ). Three kinds of divination are mentioned in Ezekiel 21:21 , by arrows, consulting with images (the teraphim), and by examining the entrails of animals sacrificed. The practice of this art seems to have been encouraged in ancient Egypt. Diviners also abounded among the aborigines of Canaan and the Philistines ( Isaiah 2:6 ; 1 Samuel 28 ). At a later period multitudes of magicians poured from Chaldea and Arabia into the land of Israel, and pursued their occupations ( Isaiah 8:19 ; 2 Kings 21:6 ; 2 Chr 33:6 ). This superstition widely spread, and in the time of the apostles there were "vagabond Jews, exorcists" ( Acts 19:13 ), and men like Simon Magus ( Acts 8:9 ), Bar-jesus ( Acts 13:6 Acts 13:8 ), and other jugglers and impostors ( 19:19 ; 2 Tim 3:13 ). Every species and degree of this superstition was strictly forbidden by the law of Moses ( Exodus 22:18 ; Leviticus 19:26 Leviticus 19:31 ; 20:27 ; Deuteronomy 18:10 Deuteronomy 18:11 ).

But beyond these various forms of superstition, there are instances of divination on record in the Scriptures by which God was pleased to make known his will.

  • There was divination by lot, by which, when resorted to in matters of moment, and with solemnity, God intimated his will ( Joshua 7:13 ). The land of Canaan was divided by lot ( Numbers 26:55 Numbers 26:56 ); Achan's guilt was detected ( Joshua 7:16-19 ), Saul was elected king ( 1 Samuel 10:20 1 Samuel 10:21 ), and Matthias chosen to the apostleship, by the solem lot ( Acts 1:26 ). It was thus also that the scape-goat was determined ( Leviticus 16:8-10 ).

  • There was divination by dreams ( Genesis 20:6 ; Deuteronomy 13:1 Deuteronomy 13:3 ; Judges 7:13 Judges 7:15 ; Matthew 1:20 ; Matthew 2:12 Matthew 2:13 Matthew 2:19 Matthew 2:22 ). This is illustrated in the history of Joseph ( Genesis 41:25-32 ) and of ( Daniel 2:27 ; 4:19-28 ).

  • By divine appointment there was also divination by the Urim and Thummim ( Numbers 27:21 ), and by the ephod.

  • God was pleased sometimes to vouch-safe direct vocal communications to men ( Deuteronomy 34:10 ; Exodus 3:4 ; 4:3 ; Deuteronomy 4:14 Deuteronomy 4:15 ; 1 Kings 19:12 ). He also communed with men from above the mercy-seat ( Exodus 25:22 ), and at the door of the tabernacle ( Exodus 29:42 Exodus 29:43 ).

  • Through his prophets God revealed himself, and gave intimations of his will ( 2 Kings 13:17 ; Jeremiah 51:63 Jeremiah 51:64 ).

    These dictionary topics are from
    M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,
    published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

    [N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
    [T] indicates this entry was also found in Torrey's Topical Textbook
    [B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
    [S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

    Bibliography Information

    Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for Divination". "Easton's Bible Dictionary". .
  • Divination [N] [T] [B] [E]

    is a "foretelling future events, or discovering things secret by the aid of superior beings, or other than human means." It is used in Scripture of false systems of ascertaining the divine will. It has been universal in all ages, and all nations alike civilized and savage. Numerous forms of divination are mentioned, such as divination by rods, ( Hosea 4:12 ) divination by arrows, ( Ezekiel 21:21 ) divination by cups, ( Genesis 44:5 ) consultation of teraphim, ( 1 Samuel 15:23 ; Ezekiel 21:21 ; Zechariah 10:2 ) [TERAPHIM]; divination by the liver, ( Ezekiel 21:21 ) divination by dreams, ( deuteronomy 13:2 deuteronomy 13:3 ; Judges 7:13 ; Jeremiah 23:32 ) consultation of oracles. ( Isaiah 41:21-24 ; 44:7 ) Moses forbade every species of divination, because a prying into the future clouds the mind with superstition, and because it would have been an incentive to idolatry. But God supplied his people with substitutes for divination which would have rended it superfluous, and left them in no doubt as to his will in circumstances of danger, had they continued faithful. It was only when they were unfaithful that the revelation was withdrawn. ( 1 Samuel 28:6 ; 2 Samuel 2:1 ; 5:23 ) etc. Superstition not unfrequently goes hand in hand with skepticism, and hence, amid the general infidelity prevalent throughout the Roman empire at our Lords coming, imposture was rampant. Hence the lucrative trade of such men as Simon Magus, ( Acts 8:9 ) Bar-jesus, ( Acts 13:6 ) the slave with the spirit of Python, ( Acts 16:16 ) the vagabond jews, exorcists, ( Luke 11:19 ; Acts 19:13 ) and others, ( 2 Timothy 3:13 ; Revelation 19:20 ) etc., as well as the notorious dealers in magical books at Ephesus. ( Acts 19:19 )

    [N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
    [T] indicates this entry was also found in Torrey's Topical Textbook
    [B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
    [E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary

    Bibliography Information

    Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Divination'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary". . 1901.



    1. Definition

    2. Kinds of Divination

    3. Fundamental Assumption in Divination

    4. Legitimate and Illegitimate Divination

    5. The Bible and Divination

    6. Modes of Divination Mentioned in the Bible:

    Those Approved and Those Condemned

    7. Terms Used in the Old Testament in Connection with Divination

    8. Divination and Prophecy


    1. Definition:

    Divination is the act of obtaining secret knowledge, especially that which relates to the future, by means within the reach almost exclusively of special classes of men.

    2. Kinds of Divination:

    Of this there are two main species:

    (1) artificial,

    (2) inspirational, or, as it was called in ancient times (Cicero, Lord Bacon, etc.), natural divination.

    Artificial divination depends on the skill of the agent in reading and in interpreting certain signs called omens. See \AUGURY\. In inspirational or natural divination the agent is professedly under the immediate influence of some spirit or god who enables the diviner to see the future, etc., and to utter oracles embodying what he sees. Among the Romans artificial divination prevailed almost exclusively, the other having vogue largely among the Greeks, a proof surely of the more spiritual trend of the Greek mind. Yet that great Roman, Cicero, in his memorable treatise on Divination, says he agrees with those who take cognizance of these two distinct kinds of divination. As examples of inspirational divination he instances men dreaming or in a state of ecstasy (De Divinatione, i. 18). But though Cicero arranges diviners according to their pretentions, he does not believe in any superhuman communication. Thus he explains dreams on psychological principles much as modern psychologists would (op. cit. ii.63). As a matter of fact Cicero was an atheist, or at least an agnostic.

    The Latin word divinatio was confined almost exclusively to divination by outward signs, though its etymology (deus, "god") suggests that it denoted originally the other kind--that due to the inspiration of superhuman beings. Chrysippus (died at Athens 207 BC), though himself a Greek philosopher, defines the word in a way which would have commanded the approval of nearly every Roman, including Cicero himself who gives it. "Divination," Cicero makes him say (op. cit. ii.63), is "a power in man which foresees and explains those signs which the gods throw in his way." The Greeks were, on the other hand, a more imaginative and emotional people, and with them inspirational divination held much the larger place. The Greek (mantis) bears a close resemblance to the Old Testament prophet, for both claimed to be inspired from without and to be superhumanly informed. The Greek term for divination (he) mantike (= he mantike techne) has reference to the work of the mantis, and it hardly ever means divination of the lower sort--that by means of signs.

    3. Fundamental Assumption in Divination:

    Underlying all methods of divination there lay the belief that certain superhuman spiritual beings (gods, spirits) possess the secret knowledge desired by men, and that, on certain conditions,, they are willing to impart it.

    (1) The word "divination" itself, from deus, "god," or divus, "pertaining to god," carries with it the notion that the information obtained came from deity. Similarly the Greek mantike implies that the message comes to the mantis from gods or spirits by way of inspiration.

    (2) Astrology, or astromancy, is but one form of divination and it rests upon the ultimate belief that the heavenly bodies are deities controlling the destinies of men and revealing the future to those who have eyes to see. According to the Weltanschauung or conception of the universe advocated by Hugo Winckler, Alfred Jeremias (see The Old Testament in the Light of the East) and others, terrestrial events are but shadows of the celestial realities (compare Plato's doctrine of ideas). These latter represented the mind of the gods (see ASTROLOGY secs. 1,2).

    (3) On hepatoscopy, or divining from the liver, see below, 6, (2), (c).

    (4) It can be proved that among the ancient peoples (Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, etc.) the view prevailed that not only oracles but also omens of all kinds are given to men by the gods and express the minds of these gods.

    4. Legitimate and Illegitimate Divination:

    Among the ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans the diviner stood in the service of the state and was officially consulted before wars and other great enterprises were undertaken. But among these and other ancient peoples certain classes of diviners were prohibited by the government from exercising their calling, probably because they were supposed to be in league with tile gods of other and hostile nations. The gods of a people were in the beliefs of the time the protectors of their people and therefore the foes of the foes of their proteges. It is on this account that witchcraft has been so largely condemned and punished (see WITCHCRAFT). Necromancy is uniformly forbidden in the Old Testament (see Leviticus 19:31; Deuteronomy 18:11; Isaiah 8:19; 19:3), probably on account of its connection with ancestor worship. But among other ancient peoples it was allowed and largely practiced. Note that the Hebrew words translated (Deuteronomy 18:11) "consulter with a familiar spirit" and "wizards" denote alike such persons as seek oracles from the spirits of the dead (see the present writer's Magic, Divination, and Demonology among the Hebrews, 85). The early Fathers believed that in the divination of heathenism we have the work of Satan who wished to discredit the true religion by producing phenomena among pagan races very similar to the prophetical marvels of the chosen people. This of course rests on a view of the Old Testament prophet which makes him a "predicter" and little if anything more. See PROPHECY.

    5. The Bible and Divination:

    The attitude of the Bible toward divination is on the whole distinctly hostile and is fairly represented by Deuteronomy 18:10, where the prophet of Yahweh is contrasted with diviners of all kinds as the only authorized medium of supernatural revelation. Yet note the following:

    (1) Balaam (Numbers 22-24) was a heathen diviner whose words of blessing and of cursing were believed to have magical force, and when his services are enlisted in the cause of Yahwism, so that, instead of cursing he blessed Israel, there is not a syllable of disapproval in the narrative.

    (2) In Isaiah 3:2 diviners are ranked with judges, warriors and prophets as pillars of the state. They are associated with prophets and seers in Jeremiah 27:9; 29:8; Ezekiel 22:28 (compare 13:6-9; 12:24). It is true that the prophets and diviners mentioned in these passages use utter falsehoods, saying peace where there is none; all the same the men called prophets and diviners are classed together as similar functionaries.

    Pure Yahwism in its very basal principle is and must ever have been antagonistic to divination of every kind, though inspirational divination has resemblances to prophetism and even affinities with it. Why then does the Bible appear to speak with two voices, generally prohibiting but at times countenancing various forms of divination? In the actual religion of the Old Testament we have a syncretism in which, though Yahwism forms the substructure, there are constituents from the religions of the native aborigines and the nations around. The underlying thought in all forms of divination is that by employing certain means men are able to obtain knowledge otherwise beyond their reach. The religion of Israel made Yahweh the source of that knowledge and the prophet the medium through which it came to men. We have an analogous example of syncretism resulting in the union of opposite elements in ancient Zarathustraism (Zoroastrianism) which, though in its central principle inconsistent with divination by omens, yet took on from the native Turanian cults of Persia certain forms of divination, especially that by lot (see Lenormant, La Divination, 22). Nor should it be forgotten that the Bible is a library and not a book, and where so many writers, living at widely separated times, have been at work it is natural to look for diversity of teaching, though no one can deny that in fundamental matters Bible authors are wonderfully consistent.

    6. Modes of Divination Mentioned in the Bible:

    For modes of divination in vogue among the ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, etc., see the relevant works and dictionary articles. The species of divination spoken of in the Bible may be arranged under two heads:

    (1) those apparently sanctioned, and (2) those condemned in the Bible.

    Those Approved and Those Condemned:

    (1) Methods of Divination Tacitly or Expressly Sanctioned in the Bible.

    (a) The following are instances of inspirational divination:

    (i) The case of Balaam has already been cited. He was a Moabite and therefore a heathen soothsayer. His word of blessing or of curse is so potent that whether he blesses or curses his word secures its own realization. So far is his vocation from being censured that it is actually called into the service of Yahweh (see Numbers 22-24).

    (ii) To dreams the Bible assigns an important place as a legitimate means of revealing the future. Such dreams are of two kinds:

    (aa) Involuntary or such as come unsought. Even these are regarded as sent for guidance in human affairs. The bulk of the dreams spoken of in the Bible belong to this class:

    see Genesis 20:3,1 (Abimelech); 28:2; 31:10-14 (Jacob); 37:5-9 (Joseph; see \ASTRONOMY\, sec. II, 6); 40:5-21 (Pharaoh's butler and baker); 41:1-35 (Pharaoh); Judges 7:9-14 (Gideon and an unnamed man); Daniel 1:17 (Daniel had understanding of dreams); Daniel 2:1-49 (Nebuchadnezzar's dream and its interpretation by Daniel); Matthew 1:20; 2:13,19 f (Joseph, husband of Mary the virgin); 27:19; see also Jeremiah 23:25, where the lawfulness of prophetic dreams is assumed (compare 23:32, where "lying dreams" imply genuine ones). In the document usually ascribed by modern critics to the Elohist (E), dreams bulk largely as the above examples serve to show. Among the Babylonians belief in the significance of dreams gave rise to a science (oneiromancy) so elaborate that only special interpreters called seers (singular, baru) were considered able to explain them (see Lenormant, op. cit., 143, for examples).

    (bb) The other species of dreams consists of such as are induced by what is called "incubation," i.e. by sleeping in a sacred place where the god of the place is believed to reveal his secrets to the sleeper. Herodotus (iv.172) says that the Nasamonians, an Egyptian tribe, used to practice divination by sleeping in the graves of their ancestors. The dreams which then came to them were understood to be revelations of their deified ancestors. See Herod. i.181 for another instance of incubation in Nineveh. We have a reference to this custom in Isaiah 65:4 ("that sit among the graves"), where Yahweh enters into judgment with the Jews for their sin in yielding to this superstition. Solomon's dream (1 Kings 3:5-15) came to him at the high place of Gibeon. See also \DREAM\, \DREAMER\.

    (b) But the Bible appears in some places to give its approval to some kinds of artificial or (as it may be called) ominal divination.

    (i) Sortliege or divination by lot. The use of the lot as a means of ascertaining the will of Deity is referred to at least without expressed censure, and, as the present writer thinks, with tacit approval, in many parts of the Bible. It was by lot that Aaron decided which of the two goats was to be for Yahweh and which for Azazel (Leviticus 16:7-10). It was by lot that the land of Canaan was divided after the conquest (Numbers 26:56; Joshua 18; 19). For other Biblical instances see Joshua 7:14 (Achan found out by lot); 1 Chronicles 6:54; 24:5; 25:8; 26:13; Esther 3:7 ("They cast Pur, that is, the lot"; see Century Bible in the place cited.); Nehemiah 10:34; 11:1; Jonah 1:7 ("The lot fell upon Jonah"); Matthew 27:35; Acts 1:26. In the URIM AND THUMMIM (which see), as explained by modern scholars, the same principle is applied, for these two words, though etymologically still obscure, stand for two objects (pebbles?), one denoting yes or its equivalent, and the other number Whichever the high priest took from his ephod was believed to be the answer to the question asked. In all cases it is taken for granted that the lot cast was an expression and indication of the Divine will. See AUGURY, IV, 3.

    (ii) Hydromancy, or divination by water. In Genesis 44:5 Joseph is represented as practicing this kind of divination and not a word of disapproval is expressed. See AUGURY, IV, 2.

    (iii)We read in the Old Testament of other signs or omens which are implicitly approved of, thus Judges 6:36-40 (Gideon's fleece); 1 Samuel 14:8-13 (Jonathan decides whether or not he is to attack the Philistines by the words which he may happen to hear them speak).

    (2) Modes of Divination Condemned.

    The following methods of divination are explicitly or implicitly condemned in the Old Testament:

    (a) Astromancy (= Astrology). See ASTROLOGY.

    (b) Rhabdomancy, or the use of the divining rod, referred to apparently in Hosea 4:12 (which may be paraphrased:

    "My people ask counsel of a bit of wood, and the rod made thereof answers their questions"); Ezekiel 8:17 ("They put a rod (EV "the branch") to their nose").

    (c) By an examination of the liver of animals; see Ezekiel 21:21. This mode of divining, hepatoscopy, as it is has been called, was very widespread among the Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, etc., of the ancient world, and it is still in vogue in Borneo, Burma and Uganda. We have no evidence that it was practiced among the Israelites, for in the above passage it is the king of Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar) who is said to have "looked in the liver."

    Opinions differ as to how the state of the liver could act as an omen. Jastrow says the liver was considered to be the seat of life, and that where the liver of the animal sacrificed (generally a sheep) was accepted, it took on the character of the deity to whom it was offered. The soul of the animal as seen in the liver became then a reflector of the soul of the god (see EB, XX, 102 f). On the other hand, Alfred Jeremias says that in the view of the ancient Babylonians the lines and forms of the sheep's liver were regarded as reflecting the universe and its history (The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient East, I, 61). Neither of these explanations is made probable by its advocates.

    (d) By teraphim (compare \TERAPHIM\); see 1 Samuel 15:23; Ezekiel 21:21; Zechariah 10:2.

    (e) Necromancy, or consulting the dead; see Leviticus 19:31; 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:11; Isaiah 8:19; 19:3; see above.

    (f) Divination through the sacrifice of children by burning (see Deuteronomy 18:10). The context makes it almost certain that the words translated "that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire" (EV; but read and render "that burns his son or his daughter in the fire") refer to a mode of obtaining an oracle (compare 2 Kings 3:27). The Phoenicians and Carthaginians sacrificed their children to Kronos in times of grave national danger or calamity (Porphyry Apud Euseb. Praep. Ev. iv.64,4; Diod. Sic. xx.14).

    7. Terms Used in the Old Testament in Connection with Divination:

    These are examined in detail in T. Witton Davies' Magic, Divination, and Demonology among the Hebrews and Their Neighbors. See also the article "Divination" in Encyclopedia Biblica by the same writer. The following brief notes must suffice here.

    (1) kecem, generally rendered "divination," is a general term for divination of all kinds. In Ezekiel 21:21 (26) it stands for divination by arrows while in 1 Samuel 28:8 it is used of divination through the medium of an 'obh ("familiar spirit"). On the derivation of the word see EB, article "Magic," section 3.

    (2) me`onen, probably from a Semitic root (compare Arabic `anna) which denotes to emit a hoarse nasal sound such as was customary in reciting the prescribed formula (see CHARM). For "oak of the me`onim" see AUGUR'S OAK. Some say the word means one who divines from the clouds, deriving from `anan, "a cloud," though nothing in the context suggests this sense, and the same remark applies to the meaning "one who smites with the evil eye," making the term a denominative from `ayin, "eye." The usual rendering in the King James Version is plural "observers of times" and in the Revised Version (British and American) "them that practice augury" (Dt. 18:10,14).

    (3) The verb nichesh, of which lichesh, is but a variant, is probably a denominative from nachash, "a serpent" (l and n interchange in Hebrew), denoting "to hiss," "to whisper" (like a serpent), then "to utter divinatory formulas." As it is used for so many kinds of divination, W. R. Smith concludes that it came to be a general term for divine. The participle of this verb is translated "enchanter" in Deuteronomy 18:10, the cognate verb, "to use enchantments" in Leviticus 19:26; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chronicles 33:6, and the corresponding noun "enchantment" in Numbers 23:23; 24:1.

    (4) gazerin, literally, "cutters," i.e. such as kill (in Arab, the cognate verb = "to slaughter") for the purpose of examining the liver or entrails as omens. Perhaps the etymology implies "sacrifice," animals being sacrificed as an appeal to deity. The word occurs only in Da (2:27; 4:7 (4); 5:7,11), and is translated "soothsayers." Some think they were "astrologers," the etymology in that case referring to the dividing of the heavens with a view, by casting the horoscope, to forecasting the future.

    (5) 'ashshaph (the King James Version "astrologer," the Revised Version (British and American) "enchanter"), occurs only in Da in the Hebrew (1:20; 2:2) and in the Aramaic (2:10; 4:4 (7), etc.) parts of the book. The term is probably taken from the Babylonian and denotes a magician and especially an exorcist rather than a diviner.

    (6) kasda'im, the same word as the Greek (Chaldaioi) (English Verisons, "Chaldeans"), denotes in Da (1:4, etc.) where alone it occurs, not the people so designated but a class of astrologers. This usage (common in classical writers) arose after the fall of the Babylonian empire, when the only Chaldeans known were astrologers and soothsayers. See further, MAGIC. For "spirit of divination" (Acts 16:16) see PYTHON; PHILIPPI.

    8. Divination and Prophecy:

    Inspirational divination and Old Testament prophecy have much in common. Both imply the following conditions:

    (1) the primitive instinct that, craves for secret knowledge, especially that relating to the future;

    (2) the belief that such knowledge is possessed by certain spiritual beings who are willing on certain terms to impart it;

    (3) such secret knowledge is imparted generally to special classes of men (rarely women) called diviners or (Bab) seers and prophets.

    Many anthropologists (Tylor, Frazer, etc.) and Old Testament scholars (Wellhausen, W. Robertson Smith, etc.) consider prophecy to be but an outgrowth and higher form of divination. The older theologians almost to a man, and a goodly number of moderns, take precisely the opposite view, that divination is a corruption of prophecy. Probably neither view is strictly true. Sometimes in human life we find evidences of progress from lower to higher. Sometimes the process is the very reverse. It is important to take notice of the differences as well as the resemblances between the diviner and the prophet.

    (1) The Old Testament prophet believes in a personal God whose spokesman he considers himself to be. When he spoke or wrote it was because he was, at least professedly, inspired and informed by Yahweh. "Thus says Yahweh," was the usual formula with which he introduced his oracles. The Greek and Roman mantis, on the other hand, worked himself up to the necessary ecstatic state by music, drugs (intoxicants, etc.), sacrificial smoke and the like. Sometimes it has been thought a sufficient means of divination to swallow the vital portions of birds and beasts of omen. It was believed that by eating the hearts of crows, or moles, or of hawks, men took into their bodies the presaging soul of the creature (Frazer, Golden Bough (NOTE:

    Separation, distinction: "I will put a division (the Revised Version, margin "sign of deliverance") between my people and thy people" (Exodus 8:23). The Hebrew word here is pedhuth =" ransom," "redemption" (compare Psalms 111:9), but the reading is doubtful. The King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) follow Septuagint, Syriac and Vulgate, which render "set a distinction," perhaps on the basis of a different reading from that of our Hebrew text.), II, 355).

    (2) The mantis practiced his art as a remunerative occupation, charging high fees and refusing in most cases to ply his calling without adequate remuneration. The local oracle shrines (Delphi, Clavis, etc.) were worked for personal and political ends. The Old Testament prophet, on the other hand, claimed to speak as he was bidden by his God. It was with him a matter of conviction as to what lives men ought to live, what state of heart they should cultivate. So far from furthering his own material interests, as he could by saying what kings and other dignitaries wished to hear, he boldly denounced the sins of the time, even when, as often, he had to condemn the conduct of kings and the policy of governments. Look, for example, at Isaiah's fearless condemnation of the conduct of Ahaz in summoning the aid of Assyria (Isaiah 7), and at the scathing words with which Jeremiah censured the doings of the nation's leaders in his day (Jeremiah 9:26, etc.), though both these noble prophets suffered severely for their courage, especially Jeremiah, who stands out as perhaps the finest recorded example of what, in the face of formidable opposition, the religious teacher ought ever to be. Of Micaiah ben Iralab, King Ahab of Israel said, "I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil." What reward did this prophet have for his fidelity to his conscience and his God? Imprisonment (1 Kings 22:1-35). Had he pleased the king by predicting a happy, prosperous future that was never to be, he would have been clothed in gorgeous robes and lodged in a very palace.


    In addition to the references above and the full bibliography prefixed to the present writer's book named above (Magic, etc.), note the following:

    Bouche-Leclercq, Histoire de la divination dans l'antiquite; E. B. Tylor, Primitive Culture 3, I, 78-81; 117- 33; II, 155; J. G. Frazer, Golden Bough 2, I, 346; II, 355; III, 342, et passim, and the articles in the principal Bible dictionaries.

    T. Witton Davies

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.

    Bibliography Information
    Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'DIVINATION'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.