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What the Bible says about Oracle
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Webster's Second International Dictionary defines an oracle as,

the medium by which a god reveals hidden knowledge or makes known the divine purpose. . . .

Of more importance to us is a second definition:

the revelation or utterance supposed to issue from a divinity through a medium, usually a priest or priestess thought to be inspired.

One may recognize in oracle such words as "oration," "orator," "oratory," and "orison." They all find their root in the Latin verb orare: to pray, utter, or speak.

So an oracle is at once a medium and a message.

The most famous oracle in classical antiquity illustrates this medium-message connection. In central Greece, at the foot of Mount Parnassus, lies the town of Putho, wherein lived the Delphian oracle, a priestess who chanted prophetic messages—oracles. Those seeking to know their future flocked to her. In Greek mythology, a serpent, Puthon, inspired and guarded the priestess, that is, the oracle. The god Apollo killed the dragon and, appropriating his name, called himself Pythius. He named the priestess/oracle the Pythia.

So, the medium (person) who voiced the revelation of Puthon (and later of Apollo) was the Delphian oracle, or the Pythia. But the gods' revelations themselves were also oracles.

Surprisingly, Puthon is even mentioned once in the Bible. Paul, Luke, and Timothy had not been too long in Philippi when they ran into a "certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination" (Acts 16:16). The word "divination" is puthon in Greek, the source of our English word python. Demons are the source of pagan worship (I Corinthians 10:20). The young lady, probably not herself the Pythia, was possessed nevertheless by the same demon who backed up the pagan practices at Delphi. As an aside, in all likelihood, that demon's name is Apollo, perhaps an associate of the Apollyon of Revelation 9:11.

Charles Whitaker
The Oracles of God

Related Topics: Oracle


Debir first appears in I Kings 6:5, where God describes Solomon's Temple:

Against the wall of the temple [Solomon] built chambers all around, against the walls of the temple, all around both the sanctuary and of the inner sanctuary [(debir) "oracle" KJV].

Verse 16 makes clear what this oracle in fact is:

He built twenty cubits of the rear of the house with boards of cedar from the floor to the rafters; he built it within for the sanctuary [oracle—debir], the Holy of Holies. (The Amplified Bible)

In this verse, "Holy of Holies" parallels debir, or "oracle," explaining what the oracle is. The oracle of which God speaks here is none other than the Most Holy Place, the inner room wherein the Ark of the Covenant resided. Other translators render debir as "Holy Place," "sanctuary," "inner house," "hinder room," "back room," "recess," "inner sanctuary."

Debir is special. The translators never render it as the regular word for "behind" or "back."

We develop a composite picture of "oracle"—a clear picture of what it means—by merging the meaning of dabar ("word") in II Samuel 16:23 with the meaning of debir ("back") in the books of Kings and Chronicles. The oracle of God is the room wherein He abode, the Holy of Holies, from which He at times spoke. In the Old Testament, the oracle is God's speaking place.

In Psalm 28:2 debir makes its only appearance outside the books of Kings and Chronicles and forms a fine bridge to the New Testament understanding of the word "oracle." Like the other Old Testament instances we mentioned, debir is in the singular:

To You I will cry, O Lord my Rock: Do not be silent to me, lest, if You are silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit. Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You, when I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary [oracle, KJV].

Alone and troubled, David knows that he can look in prayer toward God's speaking place, His holy abode, from which He will surely break silence, speaking and acting—repaying the wicked "according to their deeds" (verse 4). David worshipped the Logos, He who all powerfully speaks and acts.

Charles Whitaker
The Oracles of God

Related Topics: Oracle


2 Samuel 16:23

At first glance, it appears that "oracle" here means the message—God's revelation concerning this or that. While that is not a wrong understanding, it is a bit too simplistic: We do not inquire at a message; we inquire of, in, or from a message. The various literal translations of God's Word confirm that "at" is in fact the correct preposition. We inquire at a place. Thus, the oracle is a place where a message is spoken.

Charles Whitaker
The Oracles of God

Related Topics: God's Revelation | Oracle


Acts 7:38

The speaker, Stephen, is most specifically alluding to Exodus 19:3, where

Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel."

See also Psalm 147:19, where the psalmist avers that God "declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Israel."

The living oracles in Acts refers specifically to the Ten Commandments, more broadly to the Torah, which were to be given "to us," to the church of God. God's Old Testament utterances are for us today.

Charles Whitaker
The Oracles of God

Romans 3:1-2

Paul extends the meaning of oracles here in two ways—in content and audience:

The content of the message includes the entire Law. Since the general context is circumcision (see chapter 2), we can conclude that the oracles given to the fathers included the covenants and hence the promises that attended them. The context does not limit the oracles to the revelation of God in the Pentateuch, but can include the Writings and Prophets as well.

The audience of the message includes those outside national Israel. Just before he writes of the oracles being committed to the Jews, Paul informs us that "he is not a Jew, who is one outwardly; . . . but he is a Jew, who is one inwardly" (Romans 2:28-29). Paul is speaking of the "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16). In this regard, Peter makes an instructive statement in his conversation with the gentile Cornelius:

The word [logos] which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John [the Baptist] preached. (Acts 10:36-37)

Peter came to recognize that the oracles of God are for all men, God showing "no partiality" (verse 34).

Charles Whitaker
The Oracles of God

Find more Bible verses about Oracle:
Oracle {Nave's}

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