Original Research

‘And God gave Solomon wisdom’: Proficiency in ornithomancy

Abraham O. Shemesh
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 74, No 1 | a4904 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v74i1.4904 | © 2018 Abraham O. Shemesh | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 December 2017 | Published: 11 April 2018


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Abstract

The biblical text accords a great deal of attention to King Solomon’s personal abilities and governmental power. Solomon was described as a judge, poet, constructor and the wisest of all people in the Ancient Near East and Egypt. The current study discusses the interpretation of the midrashim that show how Solomon’s wisdom was manifested in his considerable knowledge of ornithomancy, that is, divination using birds, a practice that was considered as an important wisdom in the ancient world because of its practical applications, particularly in the military sphere. It seems that Solomon’s portrayal as a magician is intended and aimed at emphasising his abilities and his impressive character. Moreover, it may have had the purpose of disproving the conception of Solomon as inferior to his surroundings in this respect and the idea that he or his kingdom could be controlled by nations that command this type of wisdom.

Keywords

King Solomon; ornithomancy; ancient wisdom; midrash; bible; Quran; Talmudic literature; birds; divination; omens

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