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The Prophet and the Necromancer: Women’s Divination for Kings

From: Journal of Biblical Literature
Volume 132, Number 4, 2013
pp. 827-843 | 10.1353/jbl.2013.0061



It was for a long time the norm for scholars to discuss “prophecy” and “divination” as if the two were separate and opposing categories. It is now increasingly recognized that prophecy is simply one type of divination. A study of the full range of biblical portrayals of women engaging in divinatory activity—introduced ever so briefly here—offers a different picture than can be provided by considering any one type in isolation. This article demonstrates the point through a case study. It was common throughout Israel and the rest of the ancient Near East for kings to consult diviners, and we see many stories reflecting this in the Bible. There are only two stories, however, in which kings consult female diviners. Because one of these involves a necromancer and the other a prophet, they have not been treated as generically related. Reading the two stories together, as different expressions of the same broader phenomenon, offers a new perspective on each.

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