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ORACLE (ŏr'a-k'l, Heb. dāvar, Gr. logion)

An utterance supposedly coming from a deity and generally through an inspired medium. This is the classical usage (cf. “Sibylline Oracles”).In the Bible, an utterance from God. In the KJV of 2Sam.16.23 we read that Ahithophel was so highly regarded before he turned traitor to David that his words were considered oracles from God.The OT was referred to as “living [kjv “lively”] oracles” or “words” (Acts.7.38). NIV has “elementary truths” in Heb.5.12 and “the very words of God” in 1Pet.4.11.

ORACLE (מַשָּׂא, H5362, burden). 1. A divinely inspired communication conveying God’s will to man (2 Sam 16:23; Rom 3:2; Heb 5:12; 1 Pet 4:11).

2. A wise utterance like those taught King Lemuel by his mother (Prov 31:1).

3. The Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 6:5; 7:49; 8:6, 8; Ps 28:2).

4. An utterance by a priest or priestess at the shrine of a god.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


(1) A divine utterance delivered to man, usually in answer to a request for guidance. So in 2Sa 16:23 for dabhar ("word," as in the Revised Version margin). The use in this passage seems to indicate that at an early period oracular utterances were sought from Yahweh by the Israelites, but the practice certainly fell into disuse at the rise of prophecy, and there are no illustrations of the means employed (1Sa 14:18,19,36-42, etc., belong rather to DIVINATION (which see)). In. the Revised Version margin of such passages as Isa 13:1, "oracle" is used in the titles of certain special prophecies as a substitute for BURDEN (which see) (massa’), with considerable advantage (especially in La 2:14).

(2) In heathen temples "oracle" was used for the chamber in which the utterances were delivered (naturally a most sacred part of the structure). This usage, coupled with a mistake in Hebrew philology (connecting debhir, "hinder part," with dibber, "speak"), caused English Versions of the Bible to give the title "oracle" to the Most Holy Place of the Temple, in 1Ki 6:5, etc., following the example of Aquila, Symmachus and the Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) But the title is very unfortunate, as the Most Holy Place had nothing to do with the delivery of oracles, and the Revised Version (British and American) should have corrected (compare Ps 28:2 margin).

(3) In the New Testament English Versions of the Bible employs "oracle" as the translation of logion, "saying," in four places. In all, divine utterances are meant, specialized in Ac 7:38 as the Mosaic Law ("living oracles" equals "commandments enforced by the living God"), in Ro 3:2 as the Old Testament in general, and in Heb 5:12 as the revelations of Christianity (Heb 6:2,3). In 1Pe 4:11 the meaning is debated, but probably the command is addressed to those favored by a supernatural "gift of speech." Such men must keep their own personality in the background, adding nothing of their own to the inspired message as it comes to them.

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