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Balaam, Mopsus and Melampous: Tales of travelling seers

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Chapter Summary

This chapter compares Balaam to two famous Greek seers, Mopsus and Melampous. Melampous was the ancestor of Greece's most famous family of seers, the Melampodidae. The mention of a family already illustrates one of the differences between Greek seers and the Israelite prophets. Whereas the latter were organised on the master-pupil principle, as is illustrated by Elija giving his coat to Elisha, the former handed the profession down from father to son. In addition to these differences, there were also resemblances. One of these is the geographical mobility of both Israelite and Greek seers. It is an interesting aspect of the Balaam story that he is sent for by the Moabite king Balak from his town on the Mid-Euphrates. Such an invitation is probably not unique, since there are several other indications that kings of the Ancient Near East invited foreign craftsmen and professionals to their courts.

Keywords: Balaam; Greek seers; Israelite prophets; master-pupil principle; Melampodidae; Melampous; Mopsus; travelling seers



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