Thursday, January 15, 2004

Joseph in Potiphars House: Genesis 39

Genesis 39

Joseph in Potiphars House

1Now when Joseph arrived in Egypt with the Ishmaelite traders, he was purchased by Potiphar, a member of the personal staff of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Potiphar was the captain of the palace guard.
2The LORD was with Joseph and blessed him greatly as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. 3Potiphar noticed this and realized that the LORD was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did. 4So Joseph naturally became quite a favorite with him. Potiphar soon put Joseph in charge of his entire household and entrusted him with all his business dealings. 5From the day Joseph was put in charge, the LORD began to bless Potiphar for Joseph's sake. All his household affairs began to run smoothly, and his crops and livestock flourished. 6So Potiphar gave Joseph complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn't have a worry in the world, except to decide what he wanted to eat!

Now Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man. 7And about this time, Potiphar's wife began to desire him and invited him to sleep with her. 8But Joseph refused. "Look," he told her, "my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. 9No one here has more authority than I do! He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I ever do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God."

10She kept putting pressure on him day after day, but he refused to sleep with her, and he kept out of her way as much as possible. 11One day, however, no one else was around when he was doing his work inside the house. 12She came and grabbed him by his shirt, demanding, "Sleep with me!" Joseph tore himself away, but as he did, his shirt came off. She was left holding it as he ran from the house.

13When she saw that she had his shirt and that he had fled, 14she began screaming. Soon all the men around the place came running. "My husband has brought this Hebrew slave here to insult us!" she sobbed. "He tried to rape me, but I screamed. 15When he heard my loud cries, he ran and left his shirt behind with me."

16She kept the shirt with her, and when her husband came home that night, 17she told him her story. "That Hebrew slave you've had around here tried to make a fool of me," she said. 18"I was saved only by my screams. He ran out, leaving his shirt behind!"

Joseph Put in Prison
19After hearing his wife's story, Potiphar was furious! 20He took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king's prisoners were held. 21But the LORD was with Joseph there, too, and he granted Joseph favor with the chief jailer. 22Before long, the jailer put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. 23The chief jailer had no more worries after that, because Joseph took care of everything. The LORD was with him, making everything run smoothly and successfully.

Joseph Interprets Two Dreams: Genesis 40

Genesis 40

Joseph Interprets Two Dreams

1Some time later, Pharaoh's chief cup-bearer and chief baker offended him. 2Pharaoh became very angry with these officials, 3and he put them in the prison where Joseph was, in the palace of Potiphar, the captain of the guard. 4They remained in prison for quite some time, and Potiphar assigned Joseph to take care of them.
5One night the cup-bearer and the baker each had a dream, and each dream had its own meaning. 6The next morning Joseph noticed the dejected look on their faces. 7"Why do you look so worried today?" he asked.

8And they replied, "We both had dreams last night, but there is no one here to tell us what they mean."

"Interpreting dreams is God's business," Joseph replied. "Tell me what you saw."

9The cup-bearer told his dream first. "In my dream," he said, "I saw a vine in front of me. 10It had three branches that began to bud and blossom, and soon there were clusters of ripe grapes. 11I was holding Pharaoh's wine cup in my hand, so I took the grapes and squeezed the juice into it. Then I placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand."

12"I know what the dream means," Joseph said. "The three branches mean three days. 13Within three days Pharaoh will take you out of prison and return you to your position as his chief cup-bearer. 14And please have some pity on me when you are back in his favor. Mention me to Pharaoh, and ask him to let me out of here. 15For I was kidnapped from my homeland, the land of the Hebrews, and now I'm here in jail, but I did nothing to deserve it."

16When the chief baker saw that the first dream had such a good meaning, he told his dream to Joseph, too. "In my dream," he said, "there were three baskets of pastries on my head. 17In the top basket were all kinds of bakery goods for Pharaoh, but the birds came and ate them."

18"I'll tell you what it means," Joseph told him. "The three baskets mean three days. 19Three days from now Pharaoh will cut off your head and impale your body on a pole. Then birds will come and peck away at your flesh."

20Pharaoh's birthday came three days later, and he gave a banquet for all his officials and household staff. He sent for his chief cup-bearer and chief baker, and they were brought to him from the prison. 21He then restored the chief cup-bearer to his former position, 22but he sentenced the chief baker to be impaled on a pole, just as Joseph had predicted. 23Pharaoh's cup-bearer, however, promptly forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.

Pharaohs Dreams: Genesis 41

Genesis 41

Pharaohs Dreams

1Two years later, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing on the bank of the Nile River. 2In his dream, seven fat, healthy-looking cows suddenly came up out of the river and began grazing along its bank. 3Then seven other cows came up from the river, but these were very ugly and gaunt. These cows went over and stood beside the fat cows. 4Then the thin, ugly cows ate the fat ones! At this point in the dream, Pharaoh woke up.
5Soon he fell asleep again and had a second dream. This time he saw seven heads of grain on one stalk, with every kernel well formed and plump. 6Then suddenly, seven more heads appeared on the stalk, but these were shriveled and withered by the east wind. 7And these thin heads swallowed up the seven plump, well-formed heads! Then Pharaoh woke up again and realized it was a dream.

8The next morning, as he thought about it, Pharaoh became very concerned as to what the dreams might mean. So he called for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt and told them about his dreams, but not one of them could suggest what they meant. 9Then the king's cup-bearer spoke up. "Today I have been reminded of my failure," he said. 10"Some time ago, you were angry with the chief baker and me, and you imprisoned us in the palace of the captain of the guard. 11One night the chief baker and I each had a dream, and each dream had a meaning. 12We told the dreams to a young Hebrew man who was a servant of the captain of the guard. He told us what each of our dreams meant, 13and everything happened just as he said it would. I was restored to my position as cup-bearer, and the chief baker was executed and impaled on a pole."

14Pharaoh sent for Joseph at once, and he was brought hastily from the dungeon. After a quick shave and change of clothes, he went in and stood in Pharaoh's presence. 15"I had a dream last night," Pharaoh told him, "and none of these men can tell me what it means. But I have heard that you can interpret dreams, and that is why I have called for you."

16"It is beyond my power to do this," Joseph replied. "But God will tell you what it means and will set you at ease."

17So Pharaoh told him the dream. "I was standing on the bank of the Nile River," he said. 18"Suddenly, seven fat, healthy-looking cows came up out of the river and began grazing along its bank. 19But then seven other cows came up from the river. They were very thin and gaunt--in fact, I've never seen such ugly animals in all the land of Egypt. 20These thin, ugly cows ate up the seven fat ones that had come out of the river first, 21but afterward they were still as ugly and gaunt as before! Then I woke up.

22"A little later I had another dream. This time there were seven heads of grain on one stalk, and all seven heads were plump and full. 23Then out of the same stalk came seven withered heads, shriveled by the east wind. 24And the withered heads swallowed up the plump ones! I told these dreams to my magicians, but not one of them could tell me what they mean."

25"Both dreams mean the same thing," Joseph told Pharaoh. "God was telling you what he is about to do. 26The seven fat cows and the seven plump heads of grain both represent seven years of prosperity. 27The seven thin, ugly cows and the seven withered heads of grain represent seven years of famine. 28This will happen just as I have described it, for God has shown you what he is about to do. 29The next seven years will be a period of great prosperity throughout the land of Egypt. 30But afterward there will be seven years of famine so great that all the prosperity will be forgotten and wiped out. Famine will destroy the land. 31This famine will be so terrible that even the memory of the good years will be erased. 32As for having the dream twice, it means that the matter has been decreed by God and that he will make these events happen soon.

33"My suggestion is that you find the wisest man in Egypt and put him in charge of a nationwide program. 34Let Pharaoh appoint officials over the land, and let them collect one-fifth of all the crops during the seven good years. 35Have them gather all the food and grain of these good years into the royal storehouses, and store it away so there will be food in the cities. 36That way there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come. Otherwise disaster will surely strike the land, and all the people will die."

Joseph Made Ruler of Egypt

37Joseph's suggestions were well received by Pharaoh and his advisers. 38As they discussed who should be appointed for the job, Pharaoh said, "Who could do it better than Joseph? For he is a man who is obviously filled with the spirit of God." 39Turning to Joseph, Pharaoh said, "Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, you are the wisest man in the land! 40I hereby appoint you to direct this project. You will manage my household and organize all my people. Only I will have a rank higher than yours."
41And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I hereby put you in charge of the entire land of Egypt." 42Then Pharaoh placed his own signet ring on Joseph's finger as a symbol of his authority. He dressed him in beautiful clothing and placed the royal gold chain about his neck. 43Pharaoh also gave Joseph the chariot of his second-in-command, and wherever he went the command was shouted, "Kneel down!" So Joseph was put in charge of all Egypt. 44And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I am the king, but no one will move a hand or a foot in the entire land of Egypt without your approval."

45Pharaoh renamed him Zaphenath-paneah[a] and gave him a wife--a young woman named Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of Heliopolis.[b] So Joseph took charge of the entire land of Egypt. 46He was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. And when Joseph left Pharaoh's presence, he made a tour of inspection throughout the land.

47And sure enough, for the next seven years there were bumper crops everywhere. 48During those years, Joseph took a portion of all the crops grown in Egypt and stored them for the government in nearby cities. 49After seven years, the granaries were filled to overflowing. There was so much grain, like sand on the seashore, that the people could not keep track of the amount.

50During this time, before the arrival of the first of the famine years, two sons were born to Joseph and his wife, Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of Heliopolis. 51Joseph named his older son Manasseh,[c] for he said, "God has made me forget all my troubles and the family of my father." 52Joseph named his second son Ephraim,[d] for he said, "God has made me fruitful in this land of my suffering."

53At last the seven years of plenty came to an end. 54Then the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had predicted. There were crop failures in all the surrounding countries, too, but in Egypt there was plenty of grain in the storehouses. 55Throughout the land of Egypt the people began to starve. They pleaded with Pharaoh for food, and he told them, "Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you." 56So with severe famine everywhere in the land, Joseph opened up the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians. 57And people from surrounding lands also came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph because the famine was severe throughout the world.


Genesis 41:45 Zaphenath-paneah probably means "God speaks and lives."
Genesis 41:45 Hebrew of On; also in 41:50.
Genesis 41:51 Manasseh sounds like a Hebrew term that means "causing to forget."
Genesis 41:52 Ephraim sounds like a Hebrew term that means "fruitful."

Prophecy as divination

Prophecy as divination

Kitz, Anne Marie

(ProQuest Information and Learning: ... denotes foreign text omitted.)

AS OUR UNDERSTANDING of biblical prophecy has increased, there is a growing sense that the custom is linked to the broader religious phenomenon of divination.1 The difficulty, however, lies in establishing a model that illustrates the nature of this connection. Since prophecy involves human beings, there has been a tendency to treat the procedure in isolation. This has usually, but not always, resulted in comparative studies limited to an examination of similar activities in other cultures, most especially those of Mari, Emar, Ebla, and now Neo-Assyria.2

In spite of the growing recognition that the practice of prophecy was more widespread throughout the ancient Near East than previously acknowledged, scholars tend to cling to a model based on two separate categories distinguished by procedure or technique.3 Under one heading, the so-called "technical/operational/deductive" methods, such as divination by livers, stars, smoke, birds, and so on are listed. Contingent on this is the additional modern distinction between procedures characterized by consultation, ritual, and inquiry on the one hand,4 and prophecy and oneiromancy on the other hand, which are described as "intuitive," "direct," or "inspired."5 According to this paradigm, the unrestricted deities freely dispose their decisions outside the limitations of any carefully structured human request. Taking this approach, one can imagine that the words and/or messages of the deities received through prophecy and even oneiromancy were so explicit that they required no further interpretation, especially not in the manner of omens received through technical divinatory methods.6

Even today, definitions of divination tend to focus on the aim and the means of the various procedures. Thus, The Oxford English Dictionary defines divination as "[t]he foretelling of future events or discovery of what is hidden or obscure by supernatural or magical means."7

The purpose of this review will be to offer a preliminary working model for the analysis of procedures of divination. By operating within this framework, we shall locate biblical prophecy, as presented in the received text of the Hebrew Bible, among other techniques of divination, particularly those evidenced by Mesopotamian texts. The Hebrew Bible strongly advocates divinely inspired interpretation of heavenly generated signs, while in Mesopotamia the emphasis on this is less explicit. Thus, whereas in Mesopotamia the signs remained divine in origin, their interpretation could be attributed, in large degree, to human skill and to a familiarity with the appropriate documents of divination. This difference in emphasis suggests that the Hebrew Bible may not necessarily dismiss the efficacy of divination per se, but rather any human attempt, unaided by Yahweh alone, to interpret the implications of divine activity.8

I. The Fundamental Principle

A. Recognizing Divine Activity

It would appear that divination is based on one very simple premise: all divine action causes material reaction. This fundamental tenet assumes that the deities, in their omnipotence, are the activating directors of a material world in which individual components can function as their agents. Accordingly, there are three ways one can detect a divine catalyst behind an occurrence: (1) by its extraordinary quality; (2) through duplication or repetition; and (3) through ritual.

1. The extraordinary. Each culture categorizes existence according to a set of expectations defined by experience. When something occurs outside these anticipated behaviors and/or exhibits great power, it is generally characterized as out of the ordinary and, therefore, divine or divine in origin.9 Such natural phenomena as eclipses, comets, earthquakes, floods, and storms would be seen as divine activities. Likewise, the effects that these occurrences generated (the material manipulation), including lightning strikes, erosion, and catastrophic flooding, would naturally be understood as signs that required further explanation.

2. Repetition. The second way heavenly acts were perceived was through recurrence.10 We might consider the statement in Gen 41:32 to be an illustration of this. Here Joseph declares that the doubling of Pharaoh's dream meant "that the thing is fixed (...) by God, and God will shortly bring it about." One can infer from this remark that repetition not only indicated godly action but also implied its irreversibility.

Directly related to the feature of recurrence is the custom of divinatory confirmation. In essence, this was the way in which human beings invited the deities to repeat and thereby substantiate a sign.11 Thus, the doubling or tripling of divinatory procedures around the same issue served to establish the degree of inevitability of what was predicted. At the same time, the inability to find a negation, whether solicited or unsolicited, to a particularly strong sign would also indicate the inescapable completion of whatever that sign portended. Evidence for the understanding is offered by a unique Akkadian text, even though it dates from the late Neo-Assyrian period. After observing an unusually ominous omen, the diviner is instructed: "Watch during the period of that sign and if no sign has occurred to counteract (that) sign, and no repeal has taken place, it will not pass by. Its evil cannot be removed. It will occur."12

There were two ways in which one could solicit the heavenly repetition of a sign in the ancient Near East. One approach repeated the same method of divination numerous times, while the other mixed divination techniques. The former custom is nicely illustrated through a Hittite phrase that occurs in certain divination texts. Before performing the haruspicy, the diviner sets the parameters: "Let the first extispicy be favorable and the following be unfavorable."13 The statement indicates not only that two victims were sacrificed, but that a positive answer was based on opposite results. In another Hittite text we read: "The first bird omen, favorable, but afterward it was unfavorable."14 Neo-Assyrian materials likewise suggest that several animals were examined before a diviner calculated the answer to an inquiry. A diviner's manual on extispicy implies this procedure: "(If) your first extispicy is favorable, (but) in the check of it there is one niph u, it is unfavorable."15 Another text dating to the reign of Sennacherib explicitly states that several extispices were taken and their answers tallied to reveal the deity's disposition toward the proposed project.16

The other strategy that mixed divination techniques is attested at Mari. Letter A 222 in the royal archives tells how the dream of a woman named Ayala was substantiated through the observation of a particular type of "bird." Lines 15-17 state, "by the h urru-'bird' I have examined this matter and she (Ayala) could see."17 At the same time it is interesting to note that two other Mari letters suggest that prophetic and oneiromantic activities could be validated with other methods, possibly extispicy. In ARM 10.81, Inibsina writes to the king, Zimri-lim, about the pronouncement of the prophetess Innibana. She advises the king: "Let him have an omen taken so that the Star [the king] may act according to his omens."18 Similarly, ARM 10.94 relates how dreams were confirmed through alternate divinatory means. These texts imply that prophecy and oneiromancy were just like other forms of divination that had to be submitted to the same series of religious checks and balances.19 Thus, it is possible that the three divinatory methods mentioned in 1 Sam 28:6-oneiromancy, cleromancy, and prophecy-could have been used in a similar fashion when necessary.20

3. Ritual. A third means of distinguishing divine activity is by means of ritual. Many rites of the diviner appear to be constructed to circumscribe time in order to delimit the period within which the deities were invited to act.21 Thus, rituals were a tool that not only established which deity was acting and how that deity was to reply (birds, stars, lightning) but also enabled the diviner to identify the heavenly action that was sent in reply to his or her inquiry. To press the argument further, rituals could also enable diviners to distinguish an otherwise ordinary sight as a sign sent in reply to a ritually posed question. Therefore, when an omen of extraordinary character was not available, rituals helped maintain an ongoing dialogue between the heavenly and earthly realms.

A unique text from Haran provides the best evidence for this feature. At the beginning of one astromantic rite, the diviner makes the following request: "I . . . watch for your lumasu star, give me a definite 'yes' answer! From among the countless brilliant . . . , sparkling stars of heaven . . . let one star shoot from my right and pass toward my left; if. . . , let it pass from behind me to in front of me!"22 Once the opening words conclude, the diviner knows that the next shooting star he or she sees is the one sent by that particular deity in response to the inquiry.

B. Divination and Divine Activity

When the rudimentary axiom that the heavenly realm could declare itself by affecting the physical universe is broken down further, we learn that succesful divination depends on a model composed of three intrinsic components: (1) material manipulation by the deity, (2) the sign produced from such heavenly maneuvering, and (3) the interpretation of the sign.

1. Material manipulation. Let us begin by examining the first characteristic of divination, material manipulation by a divinity. Generally, this means that a deity was free to exploit any element of the created world. Thus, all things, animate and inanimate alike, could at any time become the conduit through which divine sentiments were expressed.23 Divination is a human response to this theological principle. It seeks to study and analyze divine activity as manifested in its effects on the physical universe. Divination also acknowledges the intensity of divine provocation and its range of effects, which extend from the fierce to the gentle. Mild prompting by a deity merely influences movement or behavior. Stronger divine stimuli leave marks or scars, while heavenly violence radically alters physical appearance and may even cause death.

Using these observations as a foundation, let us examine the phenomenon of divination and locate biblical prophecy's position within this continuum. It may be best to begin by establishing the major categories of divination according to the ancients' understanding of the physical world's constitution. In general, it was divided into (1) inorganic materials and plants, (2) animals, and (3) human beings, with the deities governing all three divisions. In keeping with the time-honored use of Greek terms to distinguish these primary groupings, the consultations directed to them may be labeled as (1) chemomancy, (2) zoomancy, and (3) anthropomancy, respectively.

Extant Mesopotamian texts attest to the popularity of divination. Owing to the wide range of documented procedures and for the sake of clarity, only a few representative techniques will be categorized in the following table.24 Most of these exemplary strategies may be listed under one of the three main divisions listed above. Thus, under the first primary category, chemomancy (top of the second column), we may catalogue uranomancy (activity in the sky) and its subset astromancy (comets, stars, planets).23 Anemomancy (air/wind) is another secondary division of this group, which includes dendromancy (trees), libanomancy (smoke), and cleromancy (lots).26 There is also hydromancy (water) with its subcategories lecanomancy (oil on water) and aleuromancy (flour on water).27 The second primary category, zoomancy, includes, for example, teratomancy (malformed body),28 physiognomancy (marks on the external body), extispicy (marks on the internal body),29 ornithomancy (birds/bats), and herpetomancy (water snakes/eels).30 The third primary division, anthropomancy, incorporates some of the most familiar forms of divination, prophecy, and oneiromancy (dreams).31

Turning now to the one category of anthropomancy, let us briefly examine how this phenomenon may have been understood by the ancients themselves. As part of the physical world, human beings, like animals and inanimate objects, could be guided by the divine. The results of this encounter could be permanent or transitory and were not necessarily reciprocally restrictive. Therefore, anthropomancy was really no more than an evaluation of these divine effects. Abnormal physical appearance, unusual markings, or atypical behavior were the general indicators of past or current divine influence in the material domain. As noted above, the spectrum of these manifestations simply mirrored the range of divine strength associated with the stimulus. Divination methods based on the nature of these heavenly influences on human beings, extending from the most severe to the gentlest, are teratomancy (also known as tacomancy, involving a malformed body); physiognomancy (involving marks on the external body); prophecy (the stimulation of the body/senses in a conscious state); and oneiromancy (the stimulation of the body/senses in an unconscious state).33

Prophecy and oneiromancy are really two sides of the same coin of anthropomancy. In these encounters, God guides the body and/or the senses-sight and hearing in particular-to deliver information.34 Indicative of prophecy and oneiromancy is a change of consciousness.35 As reflective of the degree of strength of divine power itself, here, too, was a range of effects from the violent (fits, flailing in sleep) to the mild (altered voice, twitching in sleep). Thus, the external evidence for this mental transformation need not necessarily be intense or dramatic, only different-that is, out of the ordinary and, therefore, divine in origin.36

Unique to human beings, however, is the ability willingly to induce this alteration in consciousness (cf. 2 Kgs 3:15). It should be kept in mind that a change of consciousness only made one open to heavenly contact.37 For instance, sleeping, a change of consciousness, would not presuppose that a person was in touch with God. Nor did every remembered dream constitute an important message from the heavenly realm. Consequently, we might surmise that the ancients did not automatically perceive every vision or unusual act as divine in origin.

2. The sign. Up to this point, we have dealt primarily with the organization and range of the physical elements that any deity could manipulate. If this is an essential characteristic, then it appears that the entire system is based on or closely associated with a form of observation. And what is typically observed in divination is an omen or "sign," that is, something that can be identified as representing the disposition of a deity.38 This is divination's second major characteristic.

In view of this, we might acknowledge that the material manipulated by the deities obviously does not constitute the sign. Thus, the liver in a sacrificial animal is not the sign; rather, the heavenly inscribed marks on the liver are the sign. The birds themselves are not the sign, but it is their divinely prompted calls and/or movements from right to left or left to right, and so on. Therefore, a human being is not necessarily the sign, but it is the heavenly generated dream, vision, word, or divinely orchestrated deed that actually constitutes a sign. The prophet may experience a sign in one of two ways: passively, through visions or dreams, or actively, through the performance of acts and/or the delivery of speeches.39 Both types of signs would require communication to an audience: the former generally indirect, by the report of the vision or dream, and the latter in direct testimony.

Signs are symbols that, owing to their nature, represent complex notions. This means that signs must be interpreted. However, just as the birds did not, and obviously could not, analyze their own behavior, the same could apply to human beings who delivered the dreams, visions, and words or acted out the divinely instigated deeds. Thus, on one side is the divinely exploited object that is an agent in the production of a sign; on the other side stands the "decoder," so to speak, the one who explains the sign. This brings us to the third feature of divination, the interpretation.

3. The interpretation of the sign. On a methodological level, a sign is interpreted dispositively or analogously. The dispositive technique is usually confined to such evaluations as "favorable" and "unfavorable"; it tends to dominate many ancient Near Eastern divination materials. Extispicy texts dating to the Sargonid period in Assyria indicate that the final answer was calculated on the basis of the ratio of "favorable" to "unfavorable" signs. The greater the number of favorable signs, the stronger the divine support for the proposed endeavor; and the reverse was true for negative signs.40

The analogous style, however, tends to seek a more specific one-to-one correspondence between certain elements of the sign and its intended divine meaning. This method is featured throughout the Hebrew Bible not only in Joseph's interpretation of dreams (Gen 37:5-11) but also in the prophetic books, from Hosea's marriage to Amos's basket of summer fruit (8:1-3). In both versions of the Gilgamesh Epic, the Old Babylonian and the later Standard Babylonian, Gilgamesh's mother provides an analogous interpretation of her son's dreams, which portend the arrival of Enkidu.41

II. The Distinction of Roles

A. The Interpreter and the Manipulated Material

As we have suggested regarding other kinds of divination, so in anthropromancy, the person who experienced the divine stimulus that produced the dream, vision, or words might have been distinct from the individual who deciphered the sign. In other words, the two functions need not have been performed by the same individual.

Ancient Near Eastern texts indicate that such a distinction in roles prevailed in most if not all divination procedures. Evidence for this structure may be found as early as the Sumerian period. A key tablet provides the following observation involving what could be considered a form of "incipient prophecy." It reads: "A person who speaks a true word, the word (is) from his god; it is a favorable condition for existence and it is with him daily."42 Here we find that the ultimate source of the "true word,", is a deity.43 Yet the individual who speaks it is distinct from the implied person who deduces that the sign means favorable circumstances for the speaker.

The role of the interpreter may be tentatively associated with the activity of certain diviners.44 Thus, it is the diviner who interprets the signs, which the deities have produced through the manipulation of smoke, lots, livers, or even human beings as suggested above. Likewise, if events such as a war or the birth of a child were perceived to have been caused by a deity, then they, too, could be considered symbolic and open to the same standard of evaluation.

When primary and secondary roles in respect to the divine stimulus are strictly differentiated, we discover a further important distinction. One role, that of the individual who is manipulated by the deity, is more or less ubiquitous; and once it was verified and socially approved, it could lead to a quasi-professional status. The other role, that of the interpreter, tended to remain more sophisticated and erudite. The function of the former was unschooled, a feature that offered the potential that anyone, regardless of social rank, could be exploited by the deities. We have evidence of this in the Hebrew Bible's stories of Joseph and Samuel, where the pharaon, the chief cupbearer, the chief baker, and the child Samuel could all experience divine messages. Even an ordinary man such as Amos or a priest such as Ezekiel could be manipulated by Yahweh.45 The person in the interpreter's role, on the other hand, was usually a professional, schooled in the recognition, reading, and interpretation of divine activities as revealed through omens or signs.46

To put it another way, being an instrument of God through whom signs, experiences in dreams, actions, and/or messages are produced was a possibility open to everyone, and so might not have been very unusual.47 This strongly suggests that the role of interpreter was the more decisive component of the process, inasmuch as interpretation could give a sign legitimacy and confirm its godly origins. Thus, the diviner/interpreter would have been the individual or group of individuals who would also contextualize divine activity. This person deciphered and then clarified the elements found in such divine communications, whatever these might have been. It was the diviner/interpreter, then, who made divine activity relevant for others.

This separation of functions appears to be associated with certain methods of divination. Keeping the proposed model in mind, we are able to discern two styles of prophecy: one in which the word functions as the sign, and the other in which an act, vision, or dream is the sign. In the former case, the prophet may or may not offer an interpretation;48 in the latter, interpretation forms an essential component of the message, and it is here that the blending of roles occurs most readily.

1. Roles at Mari. Two letters from Mari provide us with some helpful information concerning the two styles of prophecy. The first is ARM 10.7, a letter from Sibtu(m) to her husband, Zimri-lim, in which she relates the words of Selebum, an assinnu of the deity Annunitum.49

^sup 1^To my Lord ^sup 2^speak: ^sup 3^Thus (says) ^sup 3^Sibtu ^sup 4^your servant.: The palace is peaceful. ^sup 5^In the temple of Annunitum, on the third day, ^sup 6^Selebum, ^sup 7^went into a trance. Thus Annunitum: ^sup 8^O Zimri-lim, ^sup 9^with a revolt ^sup 10^they will put you to the test. ^sup 11^Guard yourself. ^sup 12-15^Put at your side servants, your trustworthy men whom you love. ^sup 16^Station them ^sup 17-19^so they can guard you. Do not go around by yourself. ^sup 20^And as for the men who would put you to the test, ^sup 21-22^I shall deliver these men into your hand. ^sup 23-27^I have now sent to my lord the hair and the fringe of the assinnu.

Although the letter does not indicate how Sibtu became aware of the incident-whether she personally witnessed it or someone related the particulars to her-several details are important. The incident takes place in a temple (e^sub 2^.gal), which we might infer belonged to Annunitum. This feature lends credence to the event. The assinnu goes into a trance (muh u), and, even though we might presume that Selebum speaks, Sibtu records the words as if the goddess Annunitum were speaking herself (line 7b). This augments the authority of the account, which warns of an unsuccessful rebellion. A series of precautionary commands expressed with the imperative form of the verb then follows.50 Curiously, neither Annunitum nor Sibtu offers any interpretation.51 Thus, it would appear that Selebum's mouth and voice were manipulated by the deity and that the words constituted the sign, which Zimri-lim and his diviners would be left to interpret as to its essential details.

The second style of prophecy in which the sign is actually followed by an interpretation is best documented in a letter attributed to an official of Mari, Yaqqim-Addu, and presumably addressed to Zimri-lim.32 Yaqqim-Addu recounts an incident in which an ecstatic (muh h u) asks for and then devours a lamb before the gate (abullu) in view of the city elders (lumes sugi). Subsequently, he offers an interpretation of his actions.

^sup 1^To my Lord ^sup 2^speak: ^sup 3^Thus [says Yaqqim-Addu], ^sup 4^[your] servant. ^sup 5^A muh h u [. . . .] ^sup 6^came to me and th[us he spoke], ^sup 7^he (said) as follows: "[. . . .] belongs to Zi[mrilim] ^sup 9^I will eat. [Give me] a lamb and ^sup 10^let me eat." I gave him a lamb and ^sup 12^he ate it trembling ^sup 11^in front of the gate. ^sup 16^And he assembled ^sup 13^the elders ^sup 14^in front of the gate (15)of Sagaratum. (17)Thus he spoke, he (said) as follows: (18)"A devouring is at hand; (19)sue the cities; (20)let them return the sacred items. 21(The) man who committed a crime, (22)let them expel him from the city. (23)And for the well-being of your Lord, Zi[mri-lim], (24)you should clothe me with a garment.". . . (32)Now, he did not speak his message in secret, 34(but) he gave his message (33)In the assembly of the elders.

This remarkable text demonstrates that the sign-or the symbolic act, as some prefer-of eating a lamb required additional explanation by the person who performed the sign. Thus, the muh h u, who was presumably manipulated by a deity to act in a particularly bizarre if not gruesome way, believed it necessary to explain his symbolic actions further. The account concerning the muh h u may be divided into two sections, the symbolic act (lines 8-11) and the interpretation of the act (lines 18-22). The text underscores the correlation between the deed and its explication through location and terminology. Both are performed at the city gate, a place of public assembly, discussion, and even judgment. The specific choice of this site would have reinforced the perception that the muh h u was delivering an important decision.

The use of two verbs derived from the same root, (ProQuest Information and Learning: Symbol omitted.)kl,, "consume, eat," is also instructive because they appear in both sections (line 9 [a-ka-al]; line 18 [u^sub 2^-ku-ul-tum]). Not only is this root used to describe the muh h u's act in relation to the lamb; it is also used to characterize the symbolic implication of that deed: "a devouring is at hand." In this way a verbal pun links both act and interpretation.

These Mari letters offer the clearest evidence that divinatory activity did not necessarily involve spontaneous interpretation. The former text (ARM 10.7) illustrates the fact that words, when delivered by cultic personnel under the influence of a deity, could function as a sign. The exact implication of that sign would be left for others to determine, requiring contemplation and examination. This reflects two different roles occupied by two different people. The letter of Yaqqim-Addu, on the other hand, presents a case where the deed actually constitutes the sign, while the muh h u's words are an interpretation of the sign. Thus, interpretation could be a free-floating element: sometimes it was routinely supplied and other times it was not; sometimes it was furnished by the individual who had been manipulated by the deity and other times it was not.

2. Roles in the prophetic literature. As we shall see, a similar situation is not unknown in the Hebrew Bible. One example of a prophet delivering words as a "sign" which is followed by an interpretation provided by someone else occurs in 2 Kgs 20:16-19 (Isa 39:5-8).

The "sign" occurs in vv. 16-18, a divine warning delivered by Isaiah. Hezekiah, however, interprets the sign himself in v. 19. At first glance, the divine message would appear to be direct and to the point: Jerusalem will be destroyed by Babylon, after which a portion of the royal house will be exiled. On closer examination, however, we find that there is a certain vagueness in the text. The exact moment when these events are to transpire is ambiguous. Since the king of Babylon is not identified, the incident might occur at any time-in a month, a year, or even one hundred years. Even the expression ..., "in your house," is inexplicit. Is this house the palace in Jerusalem or some other residence? And why will Hezekiah's house be the only one that is stripped and not the temple, where other, more valuable items are also stored?

Hezekiah's interpretation in v. 19 is quite remarkable. What would surely be considered a negative sign under any circumstances, he pronounces ..., "good," that is, favorable. Even his reasoning is shortsighted. Thus, although Hezekiah, a nonprofessional, was free to calculate his own interpretation, he is also shown to be extraordinarily uninformed and poorly equipped for that function. Whatever the final analysis may be, the text demonstrates the distinction between the "sign" of the divinely produced words and the interpretation thereof by assigning these two stages to two different individuals.

In most cases, however, these separate functions are difficult to distinguish, particularly in the received texts of the prophetic books. We must also acknowledge that, to all intents and purposes, what could have been originally two roles was, when committed to the written record, subsumed under a central, dominant prophetic figure. It is likewise difficult to establish with confidence where the sign ends and the interpretation begins. Indeed, it is possible that extended sections of the prophetic corpus are nothing but interpretation without any specific indication of the nature of the "sign." Nevertheless, there are a few sections where we might tentatively distinguish sign from interpretation and perhaps catch a glimpse here and there of the two roles, that is, of the divinely manipulated prophet and of the prophetic interpreter of the sign produced by that manipulation. One such example might be found in Jer 13:1-11, the famous loincloth episode.

Passages of this type are often described as reports of symbolic action.53 Extending the application further, some scholars have even suggested that they constitute a discrete literary genre.54 Others prefer to characterize them as "prophetic drama."55 Whatever the case may be, these passages typically describe a performed action and its subsequent interpretation. Thus, Jer 13:1-7 describes Jeremiah's bizarre behavior: wearing unwashed underwear, burying it by the Euphrates, and then digging it up after many days. As the narrative indicates, Jeremiah did these things under the influence of Yahweh, and to emphasize that point the divine role is mentioned before each of the prophet's actions (vv. 1, 3, 6). Verses 8-11, however, provide the interpretation of Yahweh's manipulation of Jeremiah. This section is the key, because it gives meaning and relevance to the preceding series of actions, which could have remained completely incomprehensible and ineffective, despite the prophet's repeated claims that Yahweh had directed him to act. Nevertheless, we cannot be absolutely certain whether the author of vv. 8-11 was Jeremiah himself, or one of his followers, or even a later editor. It is also possible that this interpretative passage may not have been originally linked to the preceding loincloth episode. Still another possibility is that the whole passage, 13:1-11, was composed by one individual who was merely offering an interpretation of an otherwise well-known story about Jeremiah and his loincloth.56 Despite these uncertainties, the common component that unites the loincloth sequence with the oracle that follows it is clearly the conviction that both the sign and its interpretation come from Yahweh.

B. The Function of Divinely Inspired Interpretation

The distinction in roles that we find in many Mesopotamian divination practices is intriguing: the deity manipulates and the diviner explicates.57 This would appear to indicate that in certain fields of divination, interpretation could be perceived as a human activity. If this is so, then unlike the sign, which is established and correct because it is of divine origin, the interpretation of that sign would have the potential of being flawed and inaccurate.58 Those diviners who were particularly skilled (or lucky) at reliable interpretation were highly valued and could rise to high social positions. At the same time, Mesopotamian materials do not appear to emphasize godly, inspired interpretations of heavenly activities.59 This leaves the distinct impression that, for the most part, the diviner remained responsible for his or her explanations.60

The Hebrew Bible, however, seems to offer a slightly different perspective. Explicit reference is made to the notion of divinely inspired interpretation in the Joseph stories, particularly Genesis 40-41. Here Joseph rhetorically asks his two fellow prisoners, "Do not interpretations belong to God?" (40:8b).61 Likewise, after Joseph successfully interprets his dreams, Pharaoh observes, "Can we find anyone else like this-one in whom is the spirit of God?" (41:38).62 Therefore, it is not surprising to find that the interpretative sections of Jer 13:8-11 are prefaced by the well-known refrain: "Then the word of the Lord came to me: Thus says the Lord." Here there is no doubt that the source of the interpretation of Jeremiah's deed is Yahweh himself.

In the letter of Yaqqim-Addu quoted above (n. 52), however, the origin of the interpretation is not clear. It is prefaced only by iqbi umma, "Thus he spoke." There is no indication that the interpretation is divinely inspired except by way of the reconstructed identification of the muh h u as a muh h u sa Dagan, "a muh h u of Dagan" (line 5). Alternately, the key passage in Jer 13:9b-11 is written in the first person singular, which, if considered in light of vv. 8-9a, indicates that Yahweh, and not Jeremiah, is the ultimate speaker. The Mari interpretative passage is a series of commands that concludes with the muh h u demanding a cloak. Of one thing we can be sure: after his performance, this muh h u left well fed and well clothed.

Given these differences, it may be that at some moment in Israel's religious development the individual who was divinely guided in the experience or production of a sign came to be seen as inspired by Yahweh for the interpretation of that sign as well. This produced a semantic correlation between the initial, primary act of divinely inspired communication of symbolic acts, statements, visions, or dreams and the subsequent, secondary act of divinely inspired interpretation of those signs. Ultimately, this merger generated an interesting result. Just as any sign was understood to be fixed and true since it was of heavenly origin, so did the interpretation become fixed and true because of its perceived divine source. In this way, the inspired interpretation of a sign actually became part of the sign itself.

III. Conclusion

Through the articulation of a simple principle that divine action causes material reaction, it is possible to see how many divination techniques depend on the notion that divine activity was manifested through the manipulation of physical objects. This feature allows us to distinguish three fundamental elements associated with divination: (1) the substance manipulated by the deity, which produces (2) a sign, and (3) the one who interprets these signs produced by divine orchestrations. Thus, in one way the biblical prophet might be placed in the same category as the physical objects that were guided by a deity to produce particular effects-for example, a stone falling in a particular way or birds moving in a particular direction. It is this maneuvering that creates the heavenly sign. At the same time, we find that the prophetic corpus of the Hebrew Bible frequently includes the interpretation of such divinely inspired deeds, visions, and dreams. Mesopotamian texts tend to link this function with the diviner, a trained professional who studied and explained heavenly activity. Accordingly, in another way the biblical prophet might also be characterized as a diviner who explained divine activity.

In general, Mesopotamian texts do not distinctly state that diviners ever provided interpretations that were themselves divinely inspired. By the Neo-Assyrian period, competing interpretations were of such concern that the kings began to work out their own explanations.63 Viable analyses seem to have been based on sound training and experience as well as on the availability of reliable resource materials for consultation. It may be that the letter of Yaqqim-Addu (see n. 52) depicts a straddling of the threshold, so to speak. On the one side, a muh h u could be impelled to act by a deity, but on the other side, his interpretation might have remained his own. Those responsible for the received texts of the Hebrew Bible prefer a different emphasis. Sometime during the evolution of Israel's religion, the interpretation of a divine sign became its divinely inspired interpretation, which, in turn, became an integral element of the initial sign itself, whether this was received as word, vision, dream, or deed.

Whatever the fine points of a comparative analysis might be, it appears that biblical prophecy shares many common features with Mesopotamian practices ofdivination. The connections are such that we might conclude that the divine operations behind biblical prophecy allow it to be identified as a particular form of the widespread practice of divination. Thus, the question may be not so much what prophecy is as how the interpretation of prophetic activities came to be understood by the writers and editors of the Hebrew Bible as they responded to Yahweh's predilection for working through human beings to reveal his intentions.

A brief perusal of this arrangement demonstrates that human beings are thoroughly embedded in the physical world. Thus, on one level humanity was able to experience the divine in a manner that was shared by all elements of the material realm; accordingly, human beings could act out deeds under divine influence.32 Yet, because of the uniquely human capacity of speech, humans could also express divine messages with words.

1 Among the few scholars who have explicitly acknowledged that prophecy is a form of divination are J.-M. de Tarragon, "Witchcraft, Magic and Divination in Canaan and Ancient Israel," in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East (ed. J. M. Sasson; 4 vols.; New York: Scribner, 1995) 3. 2071-81, here 2071. Those who come close to this admission are T. W. Overholt, Channels of Prophecy: The Social Dynamics of Prophetic Activity (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989) 140-47; Martti Nissinen, References to Prophecy in Neo-Assyrian Sources (State Archives of Assyria 7; Helsinki: Helsinki University, 1980) 6-9, 167-69.

2 Some of the most influential treatments of the Mari texts are G. Dossin, "Une revelation du dieu Dagan a Terqa," RA 42 (1948) 125-34; W. J. Moran, "New Evidence from Mari on the History of Prophecy," Bib 50 (1969) 15-56; H. B. Huffmon, "The Expansion of Prophecy in the Mari Archives: New Texts, New Readings, New Information," in Prophecy and Prophets: The Diversity of Contemporary Issues in Scholarship (ed. Y. Gitay; SBLSS; Atlanta: Scholars, 1997) 7-22. Among those who have questioned the usefulness of the Mari letters for the interpretation of biblical prophecy are E. Noort, Untersuchungen zum Gotterbescheid in Mari (AOAT 202; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchenen Verlag, 1977) 93-110.

One of the earliest discussions on the topic of prophecy in Mesopotamia with the relevant textual materials is A. K. Grayson and W. G. Lambert, "Akkadian Prophecies," JCS 18 (1964) 7-30, esp. 8-10. More recent treatments include Simo Parpola, Assyrian Prophecies (State Archives of Assyria 9; Helsinki: Helsinki University, 1997); Nissinen, References to Prophecy in Nea-Assyrian Sources. It has been suggested lately that some of these "Assyrian prophecies" are proclamations delivered by religious functionaries in the name of a deity when royalty visited shrines; see F. M. Fales and G. B. Lanfranchi, "The Impact of Oracular Material on the Political Utterances and Political Action in the Royal Inscriptions of the Sargonid Dynasty," in Oracles et propheties dans l'antiquite (ed. Jean-Georges Heintz; Paris: Dc Boccard, 1997) 101-2.

3 M. Nissinen ("The Socioreligious Role of the Neo-Assyrian Prophets," in Prophecy in Its Ancient Near Eastern Context: Mesopotamian, Biblical, and Arabian Perspectives [ed. M. Nissinen; SBLSymS 13; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2000] 108) recently observed that the foundation for the categorization of divination in subsets "cannot be the difference between prophecy and all other kinds of divination. The dividing lines should be drawn between different techniques of divination."

4 The belief that diviners produced omens becomes another determinant in the modeling of distinctions between divination and prophecy. According to this line of thought, human beings create divinatory signs through magical acts that compel the deities to react, while unprovoked omens classify prophecy. One can indeed come to such a conclusion if divinatory procedures are evaluated by locating the primary production of a sign in the deed of the diviner. For instance, one section of an Akkadian divination text (see O. R. Gurney and J. J. Finkelstein, The Sultantepe Tablets I [Occasional Publications of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara 3; London: British Institute for Archaeology at Ankara, 1957] tablet 73; plates 90-93) instructs a diviner to sprinkle river water on the forehead of a resting bull during the midnight hour (plate 92; r. iii. 110-17). The reaction of the bull constituted the sign (plate 93; r. iv. 122-38). To the Mesopotamians, however, the true source of the sign's production may have been the deity in the water rather than the sprinkling act of the diviner. Thus, this is really a form of zoomancy (see table on p. 30).

5 A. Malamat, "The Forerunner of Biblical Prophecy: The Mari Documents," in Ancient Israelite Religion: Essays in Honor of Frank Moore Cross (ed. P. D. Miller, Jr., P. D. Hanson, and S. D. McBride; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987) 33-52, here 37. Not too long ago, M. deJong Ellis ("Observations on Mesopotamian Oracles and Prophetic Texts: Literary and Historiographic Considerations," JCS 41 [1989] 127-86, here 130) described prophecy as "the delivery of divine messages in human speech." Interestingly enough, Moran ("New Evidence from Mari," 22) distinguished oneiromantic and prophetic communication as "natural" while omens determined from livers or exta were "artificial." In a similar vein, A. Malamat (Mari and the Early Israelite Experience [Schweich Lectures of the British Academy, 1984; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989] 79-96, here 79) labeled technical divination as "run-of-the-mill" and "academic."

6 The assumption that prophecy was clear and distinct may contribute to the perception of its superiority among modern scholars. Thus, Jean Bottero ("Oneiromancy," in idem, Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning and the Gods [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992] 105-24, here 106) characterized "direct" divination as consisting "of the gods revealing frankly what they had to say."

7 The Oxford English Dictionary (ed. J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner; 2d ed.; 20 vols.; Oxford: Clarendon, 1989) 4. 892. F. Cryer (Divination in Ancient Israel and its Near Eastern Environment: A Socio-Historical Investigation [JSOTSup 142; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1994] 121-22) explains divination "as a set of socially defined and structured procedures for producing (notional) knowledge in a society from what are presumed to be extra-human sources."

8 1 Samuel 28 and Ezek 21:26-27 imply the success of divination.

9 This is in accord with R. Otto's discussion of the divine as "wholly other" (The Idea of the Holy [2d ed.; New York: Oxford University Press, 1950] 25-30).

10 Malamat ("Forerunner of Biblical Prophecy," 46) proposed that the duplication of dreams was a phenomenon specifically associated with "novice and inexperienced prophets who were unable to identify revelations when they first encountered them."

11 The repetition of a procedure would also be necessary if divinatory results were inconclusive, which would imply that there had been no response by the deity. The use of the Akkadian term pitrustu, "neutral" or "indecisive," in Old Babylonian extispicy-omen texts provides evidence that divinatory results could be indeterminate, implying a lack of divine responsiveness. See I. Starr, "Notes on some Technical Terms in Extispicy," JCS 27 (1975) 243; U. Jeyes, "The Act of Extispicy in Ancient Mesopotamia: An Outline," Assyriological Miscellanies 1 (1980) 24-27.

12 A. L. Oppenheim, "A Babylonian Diviner's Manual," JNES 33 (1974) 197-220, here 200. The key word here is adannu, which according to CAD (A 1/1, 97) can refer to "a moment in time at the end of a specified period" or "a period of time of predetermined length or characterized by a sequence of specific events."

13 H. H. Figulla, Keilschrifttexte aus Boghazkoi, vol. 2 (WVDOG 36; Leipzig: Gebr. Mann, 1916) tablet 6, i.16-17.

14 [A. Walther], Keilschrifturkunden aus Boghazkoi, vol. 5 (Berlin: Vorderasiatische Abteiling der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, 1922) 7.29.

15 R. C. Thompson, Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets, &c. in the British Museum, vol. 20 (London: British Museum, 1904) pi. 46, iii. 27. It must be acknowledged that it is difficult to determine whether the pitqittu, "check," was performed on the same victim or another animal was sacrificed to verify the first readings; see R. K. G. Temple, "An Anatomical Extispicy Verification," JCS 34 (1982) 19-27, here 23.

16 H. Tadmor, B. Landsberger, and S. Parpola, "The Sin of Sargon and Sennacherib's Last Will," State Archives of Assyria Bulletin 3 (1989) 10; lines 13'-22'a, comments 21-22.

17 G. Dossin, "Le songe d'Ayala," RA 69 (1975) 28-30, here 28.

18 G. Dossin, La correspondance feminine (ARM 10; Textes cuneiformes 31; Paris: Geuthner, 1967) pl. 35, 81.22b-25a.

19 Various reasons have been proposed for this custom: that prophecy in Mari was peripheral and therefore not valued as highly as the technical forms (R. R. Wilson, Prophecy and Society [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980] 102, 110); that prophecy was truly appreciated and extispicy was practiced only to prevent misinterpretations (S. B. Parker, "Official Attitudes Toward Prophecy at Mari and in Israel," VT 43 [1993] 50-68, here 67); that the prophetic process was not orderly and therefore extispicy, a "systematic source of revelation," was needed to confirm the information (Moran, "New Evidence from Mari," 23).

20 Malamat ("Forerunner of Biblical Prophecy," 47) sees otherwise: "In Israel the prophetic word . . . is never subjected to corroboration by cultic means, but is simply vindicated by the test of fulfillment." Babylonian, Assyrian, and Hittite materials that illustrate the custom of divinatory repetition do not necessarily indicate that corroboration was undertaken because one form of divination was inferior to another. See the comments by W. G. Lambert, "The Qualifications of Babylonian Diviners," in tikip santakki mala basmu: Eine Festschrift fur Rykle Borger (ed. S. M. Maul; Cuneiform Monographs 10; Groningen: Styx, 1998) 141-55, esp. 145-46.

21 See the Oppenheim text quoted in n. 12 above. Note that the diviner/astromancer is to "watch during the period of that sign" for additional portents.

22 Gurney and Finkelstein, Sultantepe Tablets, 1.73, 95-99.

23 Bottero (Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning, and the Gods, 127) is one of the few scholars who comes very close to making this observation.

24 Among the other attested forms of divination that I have not included in the table are hemerologies and menologies. Texts identified as such list favorable and unfavorable days or months. When additional information is provided, it appears that the evaluation of a day or month could be linked to celestial activities such as the appearance of the moon or the position of a planet; thus, it may in fact depend on a form of astromancy. See S. H. Langdon, Babylonian Menologies and the Semitic Calendars (London: Oxford University Press, 1935); R. Labat, Hemerologies et menologies d'Assur (Paris: Maisonneuve, 1939); E. Reiner, Astral Magic in Babylonia (Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 85/4; Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1995) 112-17.

25 The best known of celestial omen texts is the Enuma Anu Enlil, which appears to concentrate on solar eclipses and unique appearances of the sun. See W. H. Van Soldt, Solar Omens of Enuma Anu Enlil: Tablets 23(24)-29-(30) (Leiden: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut te Istanbul. 1995).

26 It is possible that uranomancy, astromancy, and even omithomancy were forms of anemomancy. This would be the case especially if the ancients believed that the deity was the wind which caused birds or stars to move in certain directions.

There have been only a few discussions of the textual evidence for the practice of divination by the smoke of incense. See G. Pettinato, "Libanomanzia presso i Babilonesi," RSO 41 (1966) 303-27; R. D. Biggs, "A propos des textes de libanomancie," RA 63 (1969) 73-74; E. Leichty, "Literary Notes," in Essays on the Ancient Near East in the Memory of Jacob Joel Finkelstein (ed. M. de Jong Ellis; Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1977) 143-44; I. L. Finkel, "A New Piece of Libanomancy," AfO 30 (1983-84) 50-54.

Cleromancy or psephomancy, divination with stones, is attested in Israel, Assyria, and among the Hittites. See W. Horowitz and V. Hurowitz, "Urim and Thummim in Light of a Psephomancy Ritual from Assur (LKA 137)," JANESCU 21 (1992) 95-115; A. Archi, "Il sistema KIN della divinazione Ittita," OrAnt 13 (1974) 113-44; I. L. Finkel, "In Black and White: Remarks on the Assur Psephomancy Ritual," ZA 85 (1995) 271-76.

27 Divination with oil on water, lecanomancy, has been the subject of several scholarly examinations. E. Laroche ("Lecanomancie hittite," RA 52 [1958] 150-62) and G. Pettinato (Die Otwahrsagung bei den Babylonien [Studi Semitici 21-22; Rome: Universita di Roma, 1966]) remain the most complete discussions of the texts and procedures.

Aleuromancy (flour on water) is attested as early as the Old Babylonian period and has been briefly treated by J. Nougayrol in "Aleuromancie babylonien," Or 32 [1963] 381-86. It is also incorporated into the definitive divination text, the summa alu (C. J. Gadd, Cuneiform Texts from the Babylonian Tablets, &c. in the British Museum, vol. 39 [London: British Museum Publications Limited, 1925] pl. 35).

28 The cuneiform texts that illustrate this form of divination were published by E. Leichty, The Omen Series summa IZBU (Texts from Cuneiform Sources 4; New York: J. J. Augustin, 1970). This series also covers the miscarriages of both animals and human beings. For documentation of the practice among the Hittites, see K. K. Riemschneider, Babylonische Geburtsomina in hethitischer Ubersetzung (Studien zu den Bogazkoy-Texten 9; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1970).

29 An early study of extispicy among the Hittites is E. Laroche "Elements d'haruspicine hittite," RHA 54 (1952) 19-48. A more up-to-date evaluation of Hittite extispicy customs may be found in M. Schuol, "Die Terminologie des hethitischen SU-Orakels," Altorientalische Forschungen 21 (1994) 73-124. The best discussion of extispicy among later Akkadian speakers is I. Starr, Queries to the Sungod (State Archives of Assyria 4; Helsinki: Helsinki University, 1990). See also idem, "Omen Texts Concerning Holes in the Liver," AfO 26 (1978/79) 45-55, for a text that contains apodoses with several interpretations for the same sign described in the protasis.

30 A. Archi is careful to distinguish the observation of bird behavior from the other Hittite practice that apparently used birds in extispicy ("L'ornitomanzia ittita," Studi micenei ed egeoanatolici 16 [1975] 119-80, esp. 139-40).

31 Evidence for the practice of physiognomancy as the examination of markings on the body may be found in F. Kocher and A. L. Oppenheim, "The Old-Babylonian Omen Text VAT 7525," AfO 18 (1957) 62-77. The Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian texts customarily classified as physiognomantic appear to have sections representing a divinatory method different from the one defined here. These might be related to teratomancy. F. R. Kraus published and evaluated these materials in two key articles, "Ein Sittenkanon in Omenform," ZA 9 (1936) 77-113, and "Weitere Texte zur babylonischen Physiognomatik," Or 16 (1947) 172-205.

To this date A. L. Oppenheim's work "The Interpretation of Dreams in the Ancient Near East" (TAPA 46 [1956] 179-356) remains the most detailed and inclusive treatment on oneiromancy in Akkadian texts. See also S. A. L. Butler, Mesopotamian Conceptions of Dreams and Dream Rituals (AOAT 258; Munster: Ugarit-Verlag, 1998).

32 W. D. Stacey (Prophetic Drama in the Old Testament [London: Epworth, 1990] 260-82, esp. 270-72) was among the first to suggest that Yahweh was the ultimate source of certain dramatic actions performed by the prophets.

33 As a matter of course, studies on divination/prophecy/oneiromancy frequently center on an analysis of titles attached to people who, presumably, practiced these mantic arts. At the same time, scholars have also discovered that it is difficult, if not impossible, to systematize these titles satisfactorily, let alone to match a specific divination technique with their bearers. Accordingly, K.-H. Bernhardt ("Prophetic und Geschichte," in Congress Volume: Uppsala, 1971 [VTSup 22; Leiden: Brill, 1972] 20-46, here 42) has proposed that biblical prophecy is no more than a mixture of these roles. In his discussion of similar difficulties in Greek religion, W. Burkert (Greek Religion [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985] 110) cogently observed: "These various expressions can neither be reconciled systematically nor distinguished in terms of an evolution in the history of ideas; they mirror the confusion in the face of the unknown." To this we should add F. Ellermeier's admission (Prophetie in Mari und Israel [Herzberg: Erwin Jungfer, 1968] 167) that the external manifestations of the muh h u's altered state of consciousness in Mari was multifaceted.

34 It can be proposed that necromancy, divination of the dead, is also a form of anthropomancy of the prophetic type. For Akkadian evidence, sec I. L. Finkcl, "Necromancy in ancient Mesopotamia," AfO 29-30 (1983-84) 1-17. Note that Samas is the activating principle that draws up the dead spirit for the necromancer.

Kledonomancy, the overhearing of snatches of conversations during a ritually determined moment in time, is yet another form of prophecy. The talk of several human beings is divinely manipulated for the benefit of a single auditor/witness. It has been suggested that the Akkadian term egirru, "oracular utterances," implies the practice in Mesopotamia (A. L. Oppenheim, "Sumerian: inim.gar, Akkadian: egirru = Greek: kledon." AfO 17 [1954-56] 49-55; CAD, 4.45).

35 The comment by Burkert (Greek Religion, 109) concerning the impact of an altered consciousness seems to be appropriate: "Since the sacred, the divine, always appears as out of the ordinary and wholly other, the overwhelming experiences of a changed and extended consciousness are, if not the sole origin, at least one of the most essential supports of religion." The notion that prophecy involved a change of consciousness is a more recent scholarly observation. See, e.g., T. Jacobsen, "The Graven Image," in Ancient Israelite Religon (n. 5 above), 15-32, esp. 18-20; and Parpola, Assyrian Prophecies, xlvi.

36 J. R. Porter ("The Origins of Prophecy in Israel," in Israel's Prophetic Tradition: Essays in Honour of Peter R. Ackroyd [ed. Richard Coggins, Anthony Phillips, Michael Knibb; Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982] 17-31, here 18) asserts: "The trance may take a variety of forms, ranging from uncontrolled physical behavior to quite normal actions, from the uttering of unintelligible sounds to perfectly rational discourse."

37 Wilson, Prophecy and Society, 40-41; Parpola, Assyrian Prophecies, xxxiv, xlvi. H. Schweizer (Elischa in den Kriegen: Literaturwissenschaftliche Untersuchung von 2 Kon 3,6,8-23; 6,24-7,20 [SANT 37; Munich: Kosel, 1974] 147-48 and n. 290) remains one of the few scholars to point out that divine contact was not an automatic feature of such stimulation.

38 See F. Rochberg, "Empiricism in Babylonian Omen Texts and the Classification of Mesopotamian Divination as Science," JAOS 119 (1999) 559-69, here 565. Implicit in the need to include all signs in the omen lists, whether possible or impossible, is the acknowledgment that all things were feasible with the deities.

39 In the case of oneiromancy, performance of action may be associated with somnambulism, and delivery of speech with talking in one's sleep.

40 Neo-Assyrian documents that include divinatory interpretations follow a rather standard form. These texts typically conclude with a final evaluation of the entire divinatory session in such statements as "It is completely unfavorable." For examples, see Starr, Queries to the Sungod, 286-87.

41 The Old Babylonian account of the first dream may be found in S. H. Langdon, The Epic of Gilgamesh (Publications of the Babylonian Section 10/3; Philadelphia: University Museum, 1917) tablet 2, lines 1-37.

42 The Sumerian Dictionary (ed. A. W. Sjoberg and Hermann Behrens; Ann Arbor, MI: University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, 1984) 2/B 54, tablet 7352 (in the Babylonian Collection at Yale University).

43 It might be pointed out that the salient clement in the Sumerian quotation above and in Gen 41:32 is the nature of the word (kanu), ... ("firm, fixed"); that is, whatever is stated will surely occur. Thus, words of this type can only be from the deities.

44 It can be said that some Mari letters show that a nonprofessional could interpret divine activity. Nevertheless, we might draw a distinction between giving advice and giving expert interpretation. Such a situation appears in a letter of Inibsina involving a divinatory utterance. Note how she crafts her advice. "Now guard yourself. Do not enter the city without an omen" (ARM 10, pl. 35; 80.20-24).

45 We might recall that the dream experience recounted in ARM 10, pl. 42; 94, quoted above, was written by Simatum, a daughter of Zimri-lim, not otherwise known to be a professional diviner. In her letter she advises her father to confirm its ominous meaning through an alternate form of divination. Bottero ("Oneiromancy," 106, 113) also noted the ordinariness of onciromancy. Nissinen (References to Prophecy, 8) argues to the contrary that "all visionary and oneiromantic practices are not prophecy. To be defined as such, the dreams or visions must be experienced by a person who is otherwise qualified as a prophet."

46 Those Mesopotamian materials that describe oneiromancers (who may be the masmasu) dreaming on behalf of others indicate that they do so because the individuals involved are so ill that they cannot be consulted about the content of their dreams. For textual evidence, sec E. Reiner, "Fortune-Telling in Mesopotamia," JNES 19 (1960) 23-35, here 33 (lines 61-68). Mari documents suggest that a person could record the contents of his or her own disturbing dream and, apparently, leave the interpretation of its overall significance to others. This seems to be the case in ARM 10, pl. 24; 50.

47 Huffmon ("Origins of Prophecy," 183) persuasively pointed out this feature. Wilson (Prophecy and Society, 61) sees this spontaneous character as an inherent quality of "peripheral intermediaries."

48 Some of the Assyrian so-called "prophetic" texts dating to the period of Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal may be an example of the word as sign. For a transcription and translation of these materials, see Parpola, Assyrian Prophecies, 4-44.

49 G. Dossin, ARM 10.7, 1-27.

50 usur (line 11 nasaru) and sukun (line 15 sakanu), both masc. sg. G imperatives; suzissunutima (line 16 izuzzu), a masc. sg. S imperative, followed by lissuruka (line 17 nasaru) a masc. pl. G precative expressing purpose.

51 It might be simplistic to consider the information so plain that no explanation is necessary. The text is really very vague. See additional observations by Moran, "New Evidence from Mari," 18-19.

52 J. M. Durand, Archives Epistolaires de Mari I/I (Paris: Editions Recherche sur les civilisations, 1988) 434-35.

53 In a report of a symbolic action, the audience can be the listener or reader. Accounts of this type do not necessarily require an audience to be a direct witness. For the problem of the audience, see Stacey, Prophetic Drama in the Old Testament, 217-24.

54 See the discussions by F. Horst. "Die Visionsschilderungen der alttestamentlichen Propheten," EvT 20 (1960) 193-205; G. Fohrer, Die symbolischen Handlungen der Propheten (ATANT 54; 2d ed.; Zurich: Zwingli, 1968); idem, "Die Gattung der Berichte uber symbolische Handlungen der Propheten," ZAW 64 (1952) 101-20.

55 Stacey, Prophetic Drama in the Old Testament.

56 It is possible that the interpretation of a sign could have developed over time.

57 The distinction of roles may have contributed to the important assumption that the diviner interpreted divine activity impartially.

58 As G. B. Lanfranchi points out ("Scholars and Scholarly Traditions in Neo-assyrian Times: A Case Study," State Archives of Assyria Bulletin 3 [1989] 99-119), diviners appear to have been allowed to offer "new" interpretations of very well established celestial signs. In this case, Esarhaddon's astromancer, Bel-usezib, provides a positive interpretation for an otherwise traditionally fixed, negative omen. Whatever the case may be, it does demonstrate that divinatory interpretations could be rather fluid.

59 On the slender evidence of belief in divinely inspired interpretation of heavenly signs in Mesopotamia, see W. van Binsbergen and F. Wiggermann, "Magic in History: A Theoretical Perspective, and Its Application to Mesopotamia," in Mesopotamian Magic: Textual, Historical, and Interpretive Perspectives [ed. T. Abusch and K. van der Toorn; Ancient Magic and Divination 1; Groningen: Styx, 1999] 3-34, here 24-25).

60 For a sense of this, see A. L. Oppenheim, "Divination and Celestial Observation in the Last Assyrian Empire," Centaurus 14 (1969) 97-135, esp. 111-26. M. deJong Ellis ("Observations on Mesopotamian Oracles," 159), who holds that the diviner is a mediator between the earthly and heavenly realms, observes that Akkadian "predictive" texts "seem to have more to do with his (the diviner's) position as a knowledgeable functionary and speculative scholar than with his activities as an intermediary between the divine sphere and that of mankind."

61 Patar, "to explain, interpret," appears only here in the Joseph stories (Gen 40:8, 16, 22; 41:8, 12 [2x], 13, 15).

62 Note how the spirit (rua) figures also in Num 11:16-17, 25-29, where it is specifically connected with prophesying (nb(ProQuest Information and Learning: Symbol omitted.), vv. 25, 26, 27, 29).

63 Lanfranchi, "Scholars and Scholarly Tradition," 109. Perhaps one factor that contributed to the interest of royals in generating their own interpretations during the Neo-Assyrian period was literacy. As far as we know, Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal could read and, therefore, could check these explications for themselves (G. B. Lanfranchi, "The Library at Nineveh," in Capital Cities: Urban Planning and Spiritual Dimensions: Proceedings of the Symposium Held on May 27-29, 1996, Jerusalem, Israel [ed. J. G. Westenholz; Jerusalem: Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, 1998] 147-56, esp. 152-54).


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