Having answered a query earlier this week regarding linguistic connections between divination and divine [yes, divination stems from Old French divinare, which literally means “to be inspired by a god”] my mind has turned to the Hebrew words commonly translated as divination. Are such translations adequate?
It seems there are a number of different Hebrew words associated with the English word divination. In each case however, the primary reference point seems to be the agent of inspiration, none of whom are gods per se. For example:
- nahash – to be inspired by snakes
- anan – to be inspired by omens
- ob – to be inspired by spirits
- yiddoni – to be inspired by ghosts
I am consequently questioning whether divination is really the most helpful term for describing these activities. Indeed, taken literally divination sounds closer to prophecy.