Search the Site



A message from a god, usually in response to an inquiry; also the sacred precincts whose powers made it possible for the oracle prophet to consult the god. The biblical world knew three types of oracles: the oracle obtained through the casting of lots; the dream oracle obtained by sleeping in the sacred precincts, usually connected with healing; and the inspired oracle, by which an oracle prophet responded to inquiries. The lot type of oracle is found in the Bible in the use of the Urim and Thummim (1Sam 14:41; 1Sam 28:6; Exod 28:29; Deut 33:8; Lev 8:7; Num 27:21) and in the practice of casting lots (Acts 1:26). Dream oracles are reflected in Saul’s attempt to consult Samuel before a battle (1Sam 28:7-25) and in interpretation of dreams by the “wise” (Gen 40:8; Gen 41:25; Gen 41:39; Dan 2:19-47; Dan 5:11-12; Matt 1:20; Matt 2:13; Matt 2:19; Acts 10:10; Acts 10:30; Acts 9:10). Inspired oracles correspond to declarations of biblical prophets, which were sometimes pronounced in a cultic setting (Jer 4:10-12; Ezek 18:9-13). Likewise, Paul relates a healing oracle (2Cor 12:9) and oracles about the last days (1Cor 15:51-52; 1Thess 4:16-17; ). Other NT oracles predict suffering (1Thess 3:4; Acts 21:11; Acts 11:28; Acts 18:9-10; Acts 23:11; Acts 27:23-24).

  • Powell, Mark Allan, ed. HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. Abridged Edition. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009.