Babylonian Priesthood

In ancient Babylonia, the king served as both the High Priest and the ruler. He actually performed sacrifices and controlled the religious life of the people. However, most of the time, the king had so many things he was doing he would assign a person as the Chief Priest.

The tasks of divination (foretelling future by the occult), interpreting of dreams, and otherwise determining the will of the gods were priestly functions requiring specialized training.

Hepatoscopy, divination of the liver, was another skill expected to be known. The liver was regarded as the seat of the mental life. At the time of sacrifice, the god's thoughts were to enter the animal's liver. After the sacrificial actions, the liver was removed and given a careful examination. The liver was compared to terra-cotta models to determine any abnormalities. Nebuchadnezzar used this divination technique to determine whether to attack Jerusalem or Rabbath Ammon (Ezek 21:18-23)

Another method of divination was the study of flight patterns of birds. We do not have any information on what was viewed and how the views affected decisions. However, persons with that capability were always part of the Babylonian armies.

Astrology was a popular cultic activity. It controlled some areas of life especially agriculture and national policy. The astrologers studied the speeds and directions of the winds, the color of the stars, and the movements of the planets and eclipses.

The priests were always on the lookout for abnormal occurrences. Unusual circumstances of births were studied. An exorcist could be called to remove spirits. If an exorcist were asked to participate, everything he encountered on the way would be considered for possible messages (shapes of items like puddles, animals encountered, etc.).

To the Babylonians, all sickness was associated with sin. Therefore, these specially trained persons were responsible for relieving the sick persons of those evil spirits. The priest always dressed in red. This color seemed more effective in removing evil spirits. Also, they could be dressed in a fish-like skin to show he was "in" with Ea, a wise god. The real problem was determining the sin. Without knowing the sin, the correct demon could not be attacked. Sometimes, the priest would make a deal with the spirit such as giving the spirit another home (possibly a pig) or awards of gifts. Another purger of the demon was not very pleasant. A horrible, putrid concoction, which tasted and smelled terrible, was eaten. If the "food" were vile enough, the spirit would leave. Another method was to trick the spirit. A body or an animal would be dismembered and placed on top of the patient. The body of the animal was close to the demon so the demon could move into the animal's body.

Chanters were used to soften the hearts of the gods. Drums and lyres (stringed instruments) and flutes were used to accompany the priests in prayers. There are records that described 57 chants required the drum, 40 required a flute, and 47 required the attitude of prayer.

Diviners must be physically sound and "perfect". Even the parents of a diviner had to be pure. They had to have sound teeth; they could nave no missing fingers; their eyes had to be perfect; there could be no pimples or distorted limbs. The training for a diviner was long and arduous. Daniel and his friends were trained for three years. The diviners were expected to interpret and solve all problems. Daniel showed Nebuchadnezzar the magic and sorcery of Babylon were no match for God.


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