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.
But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind.