Hebrew Prophets I
Azusa Pacific University
Dr. Gerald Wilson
September 17, 2002
"Ancient Near East Background: Mesopotamian Omenology"

I.   Cautions: Comparative Materials
A.   Not a search for "foreign influences"
B.   Egypt, Mesopotamia considered "source"
C.   Similarities of thought & language (if they aren't borrowing where do they come from?)
D.   Direct "borrowing" not necessarily because it shares common heritage
E.   Similar conditions/attitudes
F.   Similarities may indicate common milleu (setting)
II.   Comparative Study
A.   Some felt necessary to prove uniqueness of Judeo-Christian faith - without uniqueness truth is in question
B.   Uniqueness of content rather than form
1.   Not so much if you sacrifice, but to whom and why
2.   The God pressed is different
3.   Specific theological content is different
III.   What are omens?
A.   Events/phenomena indicating the future
1.   Red sky at morning/sailor take warning, red sky at night/sailor's delight
2.   Corn aches/it will rain tomorrow
3.   Swallow swoops close to ground/it will rain
B.   Derived from actual observation & experience
IV.   Mesopotamian Omen Collections
A.   Theory of Omens
1.   All reality part of interlocking whole - divine, spiritual, material, natural, animal, & human
2.   Coming events may be notices in one sphere (animal) before another (human)
3.   Gods communicate their will through events
4.   Important to observe, collect, classify, preserve omenological material
5.   This is the beginning of science
B.   Types of Phenomena
1.   Ittum - "sign"
a.   Natural phenomena not induced - humans can't cause these to happen
b.   Sky: eclipse, meteors, unusual constellations, storms
2.   Tertum - "guidance"
a.   Induced for additional information
3.   Summa Alu - "If there arises" [Ittum class: see IV.B.1]
a.   Collection of natural phenomena
b.   Accompanied by after the fact interpretations
V.   Special observation techniques [Tertum class: see IV.B.2]
A.   Observation of entrails
1.   Sacrificial animals
2.   Whisper question in animal's ear
3.   Physical characteristics linked with events
4.   Long history of scholarly study & arrangement
5.   Expected events often vague
6.   Extispic (bird entrails); hepatospicy (livers)
B.   Various other techniques
1.   Movement of smoke
2.   Oil patters in water
3.   Dream interpretation
4.   Animal behavior
C.   Enuma Anu Enlil - "When in the heaves of Enlil"
1.   Astrological omens [Ittum class: See IV.B.1]
2.   Based on celestial phenomena
VI.   Special Function of Omens
A.   Offer opportunity for private inquiry
1.   Events could be countered with namburbi ritual (prophylactic ritual to remove evil)
2.   Primarily employed in service of king/state
a.   Determine appropriate time/manner of political action
b.   Highly controlled process - repeated; confirmed, distortion ignored
B.   Social Context of Omenology
1.   Official guilds of diviners/omenologist
a.   Baru [to see] priests
i.   Careful selection (unblemished)
ii.   Apprenticeship required
iii.   Primarily central cult operatives (for state)
iv.   Bound by rigid traditions
i.   Prescribe rituals
ii.   Canonical literature
iii.   Limited opportunities for social change
VII.   Biblical References to Omenology
A.   Biblical Reference/Acknowledgement of Divination in Other Nations
1.   1Sam. 6:2 And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, "What shall we do with the ark of the LORD? Tell us how we shall send it to its place."
2.   Gen. 30:27 But Laban said to him, "If now it pleases you, stay with me; I have divined that the LORD has blessed me on your account."
3.   Gen. 44:5 ÔIs not this the one from which my lord drinks, and which he indeed uses for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.'"
4.   Gen. 44:15 And Joseph said to them, "What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that such a man as I can indeed practice divination?"
5.   Lev. 19:26 You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying.
B.   Biblical Reference to Israel's use of Divination
1.   Num. 22:7 So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand; and they came to Balaam and repeated Balak's words to him.
2.   Num. 23:23 "For there is no omen against Jacob, Nor is there any divination against Israel; At the proper time it shall be said to Jacob And to Israel, what God has done.
3.   Deut. 18:10 "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer,
4.   Deut. 18:14 "For those nations, which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do so.
5.   Josh. 13:22 The sons of Israel also killed Balaam the son of Beor, the diviner, with the sword among the rest of their slain.
C.   References to Israel using two stones (Urim & Thummim) for divination
1.   Ex. 28:30 "And you shall put in the breastpiece of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron's heart when he goes in before the LORD; and Aaron shall carry the judgment of the sons of Israel over his heart before the LORD continually.
2.   Lev. 8:8 He then placed the breastpiece on him, and in the breastpiece he put the Urim and the Thummim.
3.   Num. 27:21 "Moreover, he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the LORD. At his command they shall go out and at his command they shall come in, both he and the sons of Israel with him, even all the congregation."
4.   Deut. 33:8 And of Levi he said, "Let Thy Thummim and Thy Urim belong to Thy godly man, Whom Thou didst prove at Massah, With whom Thou didst contend at the waters of Meribah;
5.   1Sam. 28:6 When Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by prophets.
6.   2Kings 25:11 Then the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon and the rest of the multitude, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away into exile.
D.   Ittum (natural occurance in response of a request)
1.   Is. 38:7 "This is the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he has promised: 8 See, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps." So the sun turned back on the dial the ten steps by which it had declined.
E.   Other References
1.   Judg. 6:33 Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the sons of the east assembled themselves; and they crossed over and camped in the valley of Jezreel. 34 So the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him. 35 And he sent messengers throughout Manasseh, and they also were called together to follow him; and he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they came up to meet them.
Judg. 6:36 Then Gideon said to God, "If Thou wilt deliver Israel through me, as Thou hast spoken, 37 behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that Thou wilt deliver Israel through me, as Thou hast spoken." 38 And it was so. When he arose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, "Do not let Thine anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground." 40 And God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew was on all the ground.
2.   1Sam. 6:7 "Now therefore take and prepare a new cart and two milch cows on which there has never been a yoke; and hitch the cows to the cart and take their calves home, away from them. 8 "And take the ark of the LORD and place it on the cart; and put the articles of gold which you return to Him as a guilt offering in a box by its side. Then send it away that it may go. 9 "And watch, if it goes up by the way of its own territory to Beth-shemesh, then He has done us this great evil. But if not, then we shall know that it was not His hand that struck us; it happened to us by chance."
1Sam. 6:10 Then the men did so, and took two milch cows and hitched them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. 11 And they put the ark of the LORD on the cart, and the box with the golden mice and the likenesses of their tumors. 12 And the cows took the straight way in the direction of Beth-shemesh; they went along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the right or to the left. And the lords of the Philistines followed them to the border of Beth-shemesh.
3.   2Kings 13:14 When Elisha became sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash the king of Israel came down to him and wept over him and said, "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" 15 And Elisha said to him, "Take a bow and arrows." So he took a bow and arrows. 16 Then he said to the king of Israel, "Put your hand on the bow." And he put his hand on it, then Elisha laid his hands on the king's hands. 17 And he said, "Open the window toward the east," and he opened it. Then Elisha said, "Shoot!" And he shot. And he said, "The LORD's arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram; for you shall defeat the Arameans at Aphek until you have destroyed them." 18 Then he said, "Take the arrows," and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, "Strike the ground," and he struck it three times and stopped. 19 So the man of God was angry with him and said, "You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it. But now you shall strike Aram only three times."
4.   Deut. 13:1 "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ÔLet us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,' 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 "You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. 5 "But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.