“Made his arrows bright… consulted with images… looked in the liver?”


by Shawn Brasseaux

What is going on in Ezekiel 21:21? “For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver.” A strange verse indeed!

This passage features three methods of Babylonian divination, or discerning divine (pagan idol) guidance and foretelling the future. They are as follows:

  1. Making arrows bright — Also known as “belomancy,” it involved shaking marked or painted arrows in a quiver. The arrows were then thrown down. Finally, their pattern was used to determine the deity’s will. It was similar to casting lots. Think of the modern-day “drawing of straws” or the game known as “pick-up sticks.” We see another type of belomancy in 2 Kings 13:15-19, although this is JEHOVAH God’s prophet and not done under pagan/heathen circumstances.
  2. Consulting the images — This was the method of asking teraphim (small, household statues or gods) for advice. According to heathen superstitions, these inanimate (dead) idols were assumed to talk and relay information to their worshippers (Psalm 115:4-8; Psalm 135:15-18; Isaiah 8:19-20; Habakkuk 2:18-19; 1 Corinthians 12:2).
  3. Looking in the liver — Also known as “hepatoscopy,” it was the examination of an animal’s liver, particularly a sheep’s liver, when the carcass was sacrificed in pagan worship services. A special priest inspected the liver’s shape and arrangement, and used a catalog to interpret a certain prediction (thus arriving at the will of the gods).

The King of Babylon (in this context, Nebuchadnezzar) used such practices as ways to know what action his gods would have him to take—mainly, which area to conquer. Regardless of what Nebuchadnezzar would do though, JEHOVAH God would still accomplish His will for the nation Israel. Wicked Jerusalem would be invaded, and the LORD God evidently influenced Nebuchadnezzar’s divination to get him to do what He wanted (attack Jerusalem).

With all that in mind, read Ezekiel 21:18-24 now: “[18] The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying, [19] Also, thou son of man, appoint thee two ways, that the sword of the king of Babylon may come: both twain shall come forth out of one land: and choose thou a place, choose it at the head of the way to the city. [20] Appoint a way, that the sword may come to Rabbath of the Ammonites, and to Judah in Jerusalem the defenced. [21] For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver. [22] At his right hand was the divination for Jerusalem, to appoint captains, to open the mouth in the slaughter, to lift up the voice with shouting, to appoint battering rams against the gates, to cast a mount, and to build a fort. [23] And it shall be unto them as a false divination in their sight, to them that have sworn oaths: but he will call to remembrance the iniquity, that they may be taken. [24] Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye have made your iniquity to be remembered, in that your transgressions are discovered, so that in all your doings your sins do appear; because, I say, that ye are come to remembrance, ye shall be taken with the hand.”

Also see:
» What were “Urim” and “Thummim?”
» Were the 12 Apostles wrong in choosing Matthias?
» What is God’s will for my Christian life?