[b-hebrew] nevi

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Wed Aug 24 17:23:40 EDT 2005

On 8/21/05, Jan Pieter van de Giessen  wrote:
>  Yitzhak, 
>  First of all I have studied astronomy and specific archeo-astronomy. The
> Hebrew language is more a tool for understanding the sources, so I'm not a 
>  professional in it. 

This is what I had assumed.  That is why I asked you if you have any idea
why.  I looked up Ida Zatelli's article and while informative, I had hoped it
would contain specific information regarding Balaam.  What of his practices
represent namburbis?  Do the seven altars represent seven as a whole or
seven stars (sun, moon, mercury, venus, mars, saturn, jupiter)?  Things of
this sort.

>  In answer of your question, Bilaam was not only observing the stars and
> planets (=astronomy), he was searching for the will of gods
> (=astrology/astrolatry). Observing the planets was mostly done at sunset or
> sunrise, because one of the most important things was determing the heliacal
> rising/setting of the stars/planets. The planets where representing the gods
> and a conjunction of the planets with eachother or with a star in a certain
> constellation could be an answer of the gods (think about the star of
> Bethlehem). 

I will refer to this in the end of the post.  For now, having looked
that up, I think
that I can more strongly link xzh with astronomy or astrology, but the only
non-circumstancial link ends up being the cognate in Arabic.

> At last there is an interesting text about Bilaam found in the neigbourhood
> of Deir 'Alla which describes some of these rituals: 
> [TITLE of Inscription] 
> Inscription of Balaam son of Beor, 
> the seer-man of the gods. [SCENE A] 

This reads: xzh )lhn, and could be interpreted as "seer of the gods."  But I
believe it is possible to associated )lhn (gods) with the stars, hence a seer
of stars, comparable to Isa 47:13.  It is interesting to compare Isaiah and 
Jeremiah in this regard.   Zatelli points out that Jer 14:22 parallels $mym
(heavens) with hbly gwym (nullities of the nations).  Jeremiah repeatedly
condemns sky-worship in various terms, for example, Jer 8:2.  Throughout
Jeremiah, the root xzh is not found except in two places: both regarding
false prophets, one very near the above parallel at 14:14, and a second 
mention at 23:16, again referring to the "nullities" (mhblym) that they say.
In contrast, Isaiah speaks against those who claim that the "xzh" can't
prophecize, that all he speaks are delusions at Isa 30:10.  Thus, Isaiah
who prophecies (xzh) a "xzwn" speaks out against those who call the
"xzym" delusions, while Jeremiah, who never "xzh"-prophecies, speaks
out against the false "xzwn" of the false prophets.  Isaiah refers to an
)wt (a heavenly sign) based on his perceived behavior of the sun in Isa 38:8.
So there definitely seems to be a difference between Isaiah, who accepts
heavenly phenomena as indicators of the intentions of God on earth against
Isaiah who does not, and their use of Isaiah.  In fact, the multitude of terms
Isaiah uses based on the root xzh suggests some kind of specialized 
terminology: astrologer = xwzh, astrological forecast = xzwn, astrological
observations = x.z.h, etc.  This kind of specialized terminology is also used
regarding (iddo in 2 Chron 9:29 where his works are called "xzwt" and he 
himself is titled "xzh".  Amos is also a good example.  His action is called
x.z.h (Amos 1:1) and he himself is later referred to as xzh (Amos 7:12).  He
also mentions several important stars (Amos 5:8) and refers to the omen 
related to a solar eclipse (8:9, but some other verses too).  So it appears
that those who use astronomical signs as prophetic signs use the terms 
related by the root x.z.h while one important prophet who cries out against
such use (Jeremiah) does not, and refers to this root only in relation to
false prophets.  

I had mentioned Zakkur's inscription.  In this inscription, Zakkur describes
how Baal Shamayin (Lord of Heavens) took him from a pauper to a king, 
according to the prophecies of the xzyn and (ddn.  (ddn is sometimes
translated as magicians.  Benjamin Uffenheimer in "Early Prophecy in Israel"
rejects this interpretation, preferring to read "motivators," partly
because (dd,
while referring to magicians in Arabic, specifically is only a
derivative of the
Arabic root "to count", ie, diviners who count sticks, etc.  But it occurs to me
that "count" is a very appropriate name for astronomers/astrologers.  The 
concept is used in several places in reference to counting the stars and naming
the stars, and specifically the name "Iddo" (such a prophet) appears to be
derived from this root.  This might be the place to point out that in Arabic,
according to HALOT, "xazin" means astrologers.  Baal Shamayin would
seem to be related to Melekhet Shamayim (Jer 44:17, 19), and this would
be the reason to associate the text in any case with astronomical prophets.
Professor Heard pointed out earlier that Baal Shamayim was later associated
with Zeus, which I think would strengthen a connection between Baal Shamayim
and a planet as Zeus is simply the counterpart of Jupiter and I understand was
identified with the planet already then.
A Hebrew excerpt of Benjamin Uffenheimer's study is at:

Balaam's prophecies (which you quote in the Deir Alla inscription above) are
also constantly related by the root xzh.  The term "xozeh )elahin" (see above
intepretation for )elahin = stars) is used in reference to Balaam, his action
is described as wyxz, the vision as a mxzh and later xzn (xazon).  The verb
yxzh and the term mxzh are also used in reference to Balaam in Num 24:4,
as I pointed out.  As for how his activities (in the Bible at least)
are related to
astronomy, I'm still curious, but I note that God always appears to him "at 
night" (including in the Deir Alla inscription).  

My last attempt to look for a connection was to go back to Amos.  I
tried looking
for the type of conjuction sightings you mentioned.  It occurred to me
the following
may be such references:
Amos 7:1 So showed me the Lord God, and behold: ycr gby btxlt (lwt hlq$
Amos 7:4 So showed me the Lord God, and behold: qr) lrb b)$ )dny yhwh
Amos 7:7 So showed me the Lord God, and behold, )dny yhwh ncb (l xwmt 
)nk wbydw )nk.

Now, the various terms used "standing in", "at the start of the rise of" suggest
astronomical conjuctions, I think.  There's also an apparent form "X
in Y" where X
may be a planet and Y a planet or constellation.   But I don't know if
it is possible
to identify the terms as to which constellation or planet is actually
being referenced.
For example,  "qr) lrb" may be a reference to Mars, who is also known as the
"Bringer of War," but I could not locate any reasonable history of this epithet,
and I think it might be rather late (ie, last few centuries).  Also, I
am not sure what
"lq$" refers to.  It apparently refers to late sowing and planting,
based on the
Gezer calendar.  Having looked it a bit up, it appears that prior to 600 BCE,
there was no standardized zodiac.  I understand Mul Apin is the most detailed 
star catalogue, but can we compare it to Israel, which might have had other
(non Babylonian, and perhaps Aramaic-influenced) terms for the stars and 
planets?  For example, perhaps ycr gby and qr) lrb are two word terms for
planets, similar to the b(l $myn of Zakkur.  If we do identify,
several terms in
Mul Apin appear to relate to sowing, so which one should be identified with
"lq$" if "lq$" is read as a constellation?  So while I might be able
to claim that
the above seem to describe conjunctions, I am not sure we can actually begin 
to identify which stars they speak of (although it would really be
nice), simply
because the information is so scarce at this period of time.  So this line of
thought from Amos remains extremely vague.

Yitzhak Sapir

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