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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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—Biblical Data:

Rendering in the English versions of the Hebrew , which in 1 Samuel 9:9 is reported to have been the old popular designation for the later ("prophet"). The seer was an "ish Elohim," a man of God, and for a remuneration, as would appear from the story of Saul in quest of his father's asses (1 Samuel 9:3 et seq.), acted as intermediary between Yhwh and those that came to "inquire of him." In other words, he would consult Yhwh and give directions accordingly. Samuel more especially is designated as "the seer" (1 Samuel 9:11,18,19; I. Chron. 9:22, 26:28, 29:29); but Hanani also bears the title (2 Chronicles 16:7,10). A synonym, or , likewise is translated "the seer." Gad is known as such a "ḥozeh" (1 Chronicles 29:29), more especially as the ḥozeh of David (ib. 21:9; 2 Chronicles 29:2,5). Heman is another denominated "the king's seer," with the addition of the qualifying phrase "in the words of God" (1 Chronicles 25:5), as are also Jeduthun (2 Chronicles 35:15), Iddo (Hebr. "Jedi" or "Jedo"; ib. 9:29, 12:15), Hanani (ib. 19:2), and Asaph (ib. 29:30).

As the seer is a ḥozeh, his written "visions" are called "ḥazot" (2 Chronicles 9:29). The title (in the plural "ḥozim" = "seers") occurs in parallelism with "prophets" ("ro'im"; Isaiah 30:10). The ro'im are called the heads, while the nebi'im are called the eyes of the people (ib. 29:10); all "vision" is become as a sealed book. In Micah the seers are quoted in one breath with the diviners (Mic. 3:7). As for the prophets that "see vanity" and that "divine lies" ("see lies" in Ezekiel 13:8), God's hand will be against them (Ezekiel 13:9; comp. ib. 22:28).

—Critical View:

Comparison of the foregoing passages makes it plain that the seer in primitive time passed, and perhaps with good reason, for a clairvoyant. Among the kindred races, the ancient Arabs and even their modern descendants, sheikswere and are found with the ability to give such counsel as Saul expected to receive from Samuel (Wellhausen, "Reste Arabischen Heidentums," 2d ed., pp.135, 136; "Z.D.P.V."1889). The distinction between both the priest ("kohen") and the diviner ("ḳosem"), on the one hand, and the seer, on the other, was probably that the kohen threw or shot lots (hence "torah"), the urim and thummim, in order to ascertain the future, and the ḳosem resorted to various tricks and incantations, while the seer spurned any of these accessories and paraphernalia, and discovered the will of Yhwh while in a state of trance. Balaam's description of himself as "geber shetum ha-'ayin," and later as "geluy 'enayim," and as seeing the visions of Shaddai (Numbers 24:4,5,15,16) while falling, probably discloses the methods of the seers. They succeeded in putting themselves into a state of autohypnosis. The term "shetum ha-'ayin" ought to be read "ḥatum ha-'ayin" = "sealed as to the eye" (Comp. Isaiah 29:10, the "sealed" book in connection with seers upon whom sleep has fallen and whose eyes are tightly closed; or if the text be left unemendated, the strange word certainly means "half-opened and fixed," "immovable," in order to produce the hypnotic state). When the seer falls () into this quasi-cataleptic condition (as Mohammed did) his eyes are inwardly opened ("geluy 'enayim"), and he sees the vision.

These ḥozim or ro'im became absorbed into the nebi'im, who in their earlier days were also mere shouting dervishes (hence their name, "nabi" = "shouter"), relying on song and dance to arouse themselves and others (1 Samuel 10:5,10 et seq.; "mitnabbe'im" note the "hitpa'el" in the verb in X. 5).

E. G. H.

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Seer'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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