o’-gur-i: This word occurs in the
I. Definition. The derivation of "augur" is doubtful, but that it means strictly to divine from the flight of birds is suggested by its likeliest etymology (avis, gur) and especially from the fact that in early Latin the augur was called auspex ( = avi spex). But both words came to be applied to all forms of divining from omens.
II. Augury among the Romans. The Roman augur was a government official, paid to guide the councils of the nation in times of peace and of war. The principal signs from which these augurs deduced their omens were these:
(1) celestial signs, chiefly lightning and thunder, the direction of the former (right to left a good sign, and vice versa);
(2) signs from the flight, cries and feeding of birds;
(3) signs from the movements and audible sounds of animals, including serpents;
(4) signs from the examination of the entrails of animals;
(5) belomancy, or divination by arrows;
(6) sortilege, or divination by lot. Among the Romans as among other nations (Babylonians, etc.), a sacrifice was offered before omens were taken, so as to propitiate the gods.
III. Augury among the Greeks. Almost the only kind of divination practiced or even known among the Romans was that by signs or omens, though Cicero (de Div. i.1 f) notices another kind which may be called divining by direct inspiration from the gods. It is this higher and more spiritual mode of divining that obtained most largely among the Greeks, whose chief word for diviner implies this. Yet the lower kind of divination known as augury was to some extent practiced among the Greeks.
IV. Augury among the Hebrews .
In general it may be said that the religion of Israel set itself steadfastly and consistently against augury; a very remarkable fact when one remembers how rife it was among the surrounding peoples--Arabs, Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, etc. Surely there is in this evidence of special Divine guidance, for those ancient Hebrews are not fit to be compared with the Babylonians or Egyptians or Romans for achievements in art and general secular literature. For the attitude of thetoward augury see the passages enumerated in the opening of this article. Several kinds of augury are mentioned in the Old Testament, and in some eases without explicit condemnation.
Belomancy was a method of divination by arrows, a number of which were marked in certain ways, then mixed and drawn at random. We have a reference to this in
Hydromancy, or divination by water, was practiced by Joseph (
Of sortliege, or divination by lot, we have instances in
4. Other Methods:
We meet with several other signs. The prophet Elisha directs King Joash to throw two arrows through the window in order to find out whether the king will be victorious or not (
Dreams are very commonly mentioned in the Bible as a means of forecasting the future. See
That omens were taken from the heavenly bodies by the Babylonians, and other ancient nations is matter of definite knowledge, but it is never countenanced in the Old Testament. Indeed the only explicit reference to it in the Hebrew Scriptures occurs in
Several cuneiform inscriptions give lists of celestial omens by which Babylonian augurs prognosticated the future. In
V. Higher Character of Hebrew Prophecy .
Though Old Testament prophecy in its lowest forms has features in common with heathen divination, it stands on an infinitely higher level. The prophet speaks under a strong impulse and from a sense of duty. The heathen diviner plied his calling for money. The Greek mantis worked himself into a state of frenzy, thought to imply inspiration, by music and certain drugs. The prophet believed himself directly guided by God. See Astrology, 1; DIVINATION.
T. Witton Davies, Magic. Divination and Demonology among the Hebrews, 1898, 72 ff; articles on "Divination" in Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes) (Jevons); Encyclopedia Biblica (T. Witton Davies), and on "Augury" in Jewish Encyclopedia (Blau), valuable as giving the rabbinical side as well.
T. Witton Davies