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

I.   Mari: 18th Century B.C.
A.   Types of Oracular Speakers
1.   Apilum/apiltum (male/female) prophets
a.   "to answerÉ" - respond to inquires to gods
b.   Probably peripheral prophets (oracles confirmed)
c.   Limited influence in central cult (ridicule/rejection)
d.   Largely concerned to gain social status/influence
2.   Muhhum/muhhutum (male/female)
a.   "enter a traceÉevidence ecstasy/frenzy
b.   Show violent possession behavior
c.   Oracles unintelligible without interpretation
d.   Generally peripheral role (except Ishtar cult)
e.   Supported by some Assyrain kings
3.   Qabbatum (female)
a.   Speaker
b.   Assume primarily peripheral role
4.   Untitled Speakers
a.   Apparently nonprofessionals
b.   Experienced compulsion to speak
c.   Had to demonstrate authority to be taken seriously
d.   Most receive message in dreams
e.   Usually people lacking social status (women & slaves)
f.   Probably peripheral status
B.   Conclusions
1.   Diviners were central operatives
a.   Served state
b.   Closely controlled by state
2.   Oracular Speakers were peripheral operatives
a.   Concerned to bring social change
b.   Received support/encouragement
i.   From peripheral cults (lesser deities)
ii.   From patronage in high places (kings)
II.   Assyria: 7th Century BC
A.   Same basic tension observed
1.   Diviners primary central operatives
2.   Oracular speakers still peripheral
a.   Supported by less influential cults
b.   Socially peripheral personnel (e.g. woman)
c.   Message seek to better social position of group
3.   Yet oracular speakers have increased prestige and power from earlier period
B.   Similar Types of Oracular Speakers
1.   Mahhu = former Muhhum/muhhutum (see point I.A.2)
2.   Raggim/raggintu - "caller/shouter"
a.   Distinctive form of speech
b.   Found in cultic context (official?)
3.   Shabru - "make know/revealer"
a.   Message received through dreams
b.   Professional visionaries
4.   Untitled speakers (individuals)
a.   Evidently not official or professional
b.   Demonstrates possibility of diving speech through lay person
c.   Messages confirmed by official personnel
C.   Assyrian Oracle Collections
1.   Demonstrates importance of preserving oracles
2.   No clear pattern of organization evident
a.   Little or no historical context provided
b.   Independent oracles, randomly arranged
3.   Most from non-professional intermediaries
4.   Some stereotypical language employed
a.   "Word of DN to É"
b.   "From the mouth of [speaker]"