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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

 

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ORACLE

or'-a-k'-l: (1) A divine utterance delivered to man, usually in answer to a request for guidance. So in 2 Sam 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 (1 Sam 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 Lam 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 1 Ki 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 Acts 7:38 as the Mosaic Law ("living oracles" = "commandments enforced by the living God"), in Rom 3:2 as the Old Testament in general, and in Heb 5:12 as the revelations of Christianity (Heb 6:2,3). In 1 Pet 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.
Burton Scott Easton

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'ORACLE'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE; 1915.

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