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רֹאֶה – seer, diviner

Semantic Fields: Cult   Divination   
Author(s): T. Jonathan Stökl
First published: 2010-08-02
Last update: 2024-06-30
Citation: T. Jonathan Stökl, רֹאֶה – seer, diviner,
               Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database (, 2010 (update: 2024)


Grammatical Type: n. m.
Occurrences: 11x HB (0/6/5); 0x Sir; 2x Qum.; 0x inscr. (Total: 13).

  • Nebiim: 1 Sam 9:9 (2x), 11, 18, 19; Isa 30:10.
  • Ketubim: 1 Chron 9:22; 26:28; 29:29; 2 Chron 16:7, 10.1
  • Qumran: 1QSb 5:4; 4Q446 f2:3.

Text doubtful

B.1 Traditionally, הָרֹאֶה in 1 Chron 2:52 has been interpreted as a name, but it could be the professional title ‘seer’. If the tradition underlying the Masoretic accents is not followed, there is no reason why רֹאֶה should not be interpreted as the title רֹאֶה, either attributed to Kiriath-jearim (‘Kiriath-jearim, the seer’) or, less unlikely, why it should not be interpreted as a verbal participle (‘Kiriath-jearim who saw half of Menuhoth’).

B.2 The active qal participle of רָאָה is employed 18x in Qumran in its verbal sense rather as the technical term ‘seer’.2

B.3 In 2 Chron 16:12 Jastrow (1909:49 n.23) suggests emending בָּרְפָאִם to בָּרֹאִים. This emendation has not caught on.

B.4 According to Jeffers (1996:99 n.339) 2 Sam 15:27 attributes the title רֹאֶה to Zadok the priest. However, according to MT the text is vocalised as an interrogative ה. Most of the versions follow MT with the exception of the Peshiṭta which translates ܚܙܘܝܐ (ḥzwyʾ), ‘seer’. If the emendation were to be accepted the resulting Hebrew syntax would be somewhat unusual, if still possible.

Qere/Ketiv: None.

1. Root and Comparative Material

See the verb רָאָה (in preparation).

A.1 רָאָה is the common Hebrew root for ‘to see’. In other Semitic languages, the root appears most commonly in Old South Arab. as rʾy , Eth. rěʾěya , and Arab. raʾā with the same meaning.3

A.2 The attestation of the verb in the Meša-stele in lines four (H-Stem) and seven (G-stem) indicates that Moabite shared the root with Hebrew.4

A.3 Ugaritic and Akkadian use the root ʾmr for the verb ‘to see’.

2. Formal Characteristics

A.1 qōtel of a ל״ה, nominalised qal masculine active participle.

3. Syntagmatics

A.1 רֹאֶה is the subject of רָאָה (Isa 30:10).

A.2 Additionally, the following verbs are used for individuals who are identified as a רֹאֶה in the same pericope:

  • אמר, ‘say’ in 1 Sam 9:23, 24; 2 Chron 16:7;
  • בוא, ‘come’ in 2 Chron 16:7;
  • ברך pi., ‘bless’ in 1 Sam 9:13;
  • דבר pi., ‘speak’ in 1 Sam 9:25;
  • לקח, ‘take’ in 1 Sam 9:22;
  • משׁך pi., ‘anoint’ in 1 Sam 9:16;
  • עלה, ‘go up’ in 1 Sam 9:14;
  • ענה qal, ‘answer’ in 1 Sam 9:19;
  • יצא, ‘go out’ in 1 Sam 9:14;
  • קדשׁ hiph., ‘dedicate’ in 2 Chron 26:28;
  • ראה, ‘to see’ in 1 Sam 9:17;
  • שׁלך pi., ‘to send’ in 1 Sam 9:19.

A.3 רֹאֶה is the object of כעס, ‘to be angry (with)’ (2 Chron 16:10).

A.4 רֹאֶה occurs as the subject for the predicate יֵשׁ, ‘there is’ (1 Sam 9:11) and אָנֹכִי , ‘I’(1 Sam 9:19).

A.5 רֹאֶה is the nomen rectum for בַּיִת, ‘house’ (1 Sam 9:18).

A.6 Samuel (1 Chron 9:22; 26:28; 29:29) and Hanani (2 Chron 16:7) are given the title רֹאֶה.

A.7 The following prepositions are used with רֹאֶה: עַד, ‘to’ (1 Sam 9:9), לְ, ‘to’ (Isa 30:10).

4. Ancient Versions

a. Septuagint (LXX):

  • αὐτός, ‘he’: 1 Sam 9:19;
  • βλέπων, ‘seer’: 1 Chron 9:22; 29:29; 1 Sam 9:9 (2x), 11, 18;
  • προφήτης, ‘prophet’: 1 Chron 26:28; 2 Chron 16:7, 10; Isa 30:10.

b. Peshitta (Pesh):

  • ܕܘܩܐ (dwqʾ ), ‘observer, watchman’: 2 Chron 16:10;
  • ܚܙܘܝܐ (ḥzwyʾ ), ‘seer’: 1 Chron 26:28; Isa 30:10; 1 Sam 9:9 (2x), 11, 18, 19;
  • ܢܒܝܐ (nbyʾ ), ‘prophet’: 1 Chron 9:22; 29:29; 2 Chron 16:7.

c. Targum (Tg):

  • חזוון, ‘seer’: 1 Chron 29:29;
  • חזוי, ‘seer’: 1 Sam 9:9 (2x), 11, 18, 19;
  • נבי, ‘prophet’: 1 Chron 9:22; 2 Chron 16:7, 10; Isa 30:10;
  • סכוי, ‘watchman, seer’: 1 Chron 26:28.

d. Vulgate (Vg):

  • propheta, ‘prophet’: 2 Chron 16:7;
  • videns, ‘seer’: 1 Sam 9:9, 11, 18, 19; Isa 30:10; 1 Chron 9:22; 26:28; 29:29; 2 Chron 16:10;
  • videre, ‘to see’: 1 Chron 2:52 (name in MT).

A.1 The versions regularly translated רֹאֶה with a participle from a verb ‘to see’.

A.2 Alternatively, they use a word with the meaning ‘prophet’.

5. Lexical/Semantic Field(s)

A.1 רֹאֶה is explained as the obsolete term for נָבִיא (1 Sam 9:9).

A.2 רֹאֶה is used in parallel with חֹזֶה (Isa 30:10).

A.3 The primary connection of רֹאֶה is to Samuel in his function as diviner (1 Sam 9; 1 Chron 9:22; 26:28; 29:29).

6. Exegesis

A.1 Zorell translates videns. HAL and Ges18 translate ‘Seher’. BDB and DCH have ‘seer’.

A.2 It is common, as the dictionaries do, to regard רֹאֶה and חֹזֶה as synonymous, with רֹאֶה as the older and חֹזֶה as the younger term (see, e.g., Vetter 1976:699). The possibility that both are synonymous with the נָבִיא is usually denied but the dictionaries point to 1 Sam 9:9 where רֹאֶה is explained as the older term for נָבִיא.5

A.3 The attestations of רֹאֶה are clustered in 1 Sam 9 and 1-2 Chronicles (5x each). This indicates that temporal distinction does not explain any possible difference between חֹזֶה and רֹאֶה.

A.4 As morphologically רֹאֶה is the qal active participle of the verb רָאָה (‘to see’) the standard translation to be found in the dictionaries (‘seer’) seems justified.

A.5 As a direct title רֹאֶה is attributed to Samuel three times and once to Hanani in 1-2 Chronicles. In addition, the five attestations in 1 Samuel 9 all refer to Samuel as well, which means that eight out of thirteen attestations of the term refer to Samuel.6

A.6 Jastrow (1909:46-49) links the רֹאֶה with the Babylonian bārû as a priestly seer, similar to the חֹזֶה, but–in contrast to the חֹזֶה–access to whom is open to the wider public and not restricted to the royal court. He bases this on the observation that Samuel is approached by common people while Gad–the חֹזֶה par excellence–is closely linked to the court.

A.7 1 Samuel 9 has long been recognised as a composite text with verse 9 as the centre-piece around which the narrative evolves. According to Petersen (1981:38-40) it is unclear why ‘the original rōʾeh was supplanted by ʾiš (hā)ʾĕlōhîm in the initial part of the folk tale is unclear.’ His solution that the author may have chosen a title with ‘wider currency’ than the ‘archaic rōʾeh’ does not convince, since the antiquity of the title רֹאֶה rests on 1 Samuel 9 itself.

A.8 As Petersen points out, the רֹאֶה is active in an urban setting and that he is not itinerant.

A.9 According to Petersen, the רֹאֶה was ‘held in honor (1 Samuel 9:6)’, based on the accuracy of their prediction. While it is likely that a successful diviner would be well respected, the text in question refers to the ‘man of god’ rather than the רֹאֶה. The same is true for the question of payment in the folk-etymology of נביא in vv. 7-8.

7. Conclusions

The semantics of the verb רָאָה suggest that רֹאֶה, the qal participle of the verb, means ‘seer’ and the dictionaries translate it accordingly. The only person referred to as a רֹאֶה more than once is Samuel in 1 Samuel 9 and in 1 Chronicles (eight of thirteen attestations) and it is possible that the title is specifically attributed to him. In the basic meaning ‘seer’ there does not appear to be any difference to the חֹזֶה, and both titles are mainly used in late texts. The traditional distinction with רֹאֶה as the older title and חֹזֶה as the newer one therefore appears difficult uphold. The main distinction between them appears to lie in the focus of the רֹאֶה on Samuel, and that of חֹזֶה on figures who are situated at David’s court; it is possible to interpret the חֹזֶה as a court diviner and the רֹאֶה as a diviner available to the wider public.


For the abbreviations see the List of Abbreviations.

Blenkinsopp 1995
Joseph Blenkinsopp, Sage, Priest, Prophet: Religious and Intellectual Leadership in Ancient Israel (Library of Ancient Israel) Louisville: Westminster John Knox.
Clermont-Ganneau 1887
Charles Clermont-Ganneau, ‘La stele de Mésa: examen critique du texte’, JA ser.8, tome 9:72-112.
Hentschke 1957
Richard Hentschke, Die Stellung der vorexilischen Schriftpropheten zum Kultus (BZAW, 75) Berlin: Töpelmann.
Jastrow 1909
Morris Jastrow, ‘Rôʾēh and Ḫôzēh in the Old Testament’, JBL 28:42-56.
Jeffers 1996
Ann Jeffers, Magic and Divination in Ancient Palestine and Syria (SHANE, 8), Leiden: Brill.
Lemaire 1987
André Lemaire, ‘Notes d’épigraphie nord-ouest sémitique’, Syria 64:205–16.
Lemaire 2007
André Lemaire, ‘New Photographs and ryt or hyt in the Mesha Inscription, Line 12’, IEJ 57:204-07.
Petersen 1981
David L. Petersen, The Roles of Israel’s Prophets (JSOTSup, 17), Sheffield: JSOT Press.
Rendtorff 1968
Rolf Rendtorff, ‘προφητης κτλ. B. נביא in the Old Testament’, TDNT 6:796-812.
Schade 2007
Aaron Schade, ‘New Photographs Supporting the Reading ryt in Line 12 of the the Mesha’, IEJ 55:205-08.
Vetter 1976
Dieter Vetter, ‘ראה, r’h - sehen’, THAT 2:692-701.


  1. Jeffers (1996:99) counts only nine times because she disregards Isa 30:10 and 2 Chron 16:10. 

  2. The term is used as a participle in CD 5:7; 1QM 10:10; 4QPešIsac (163) f17:1; 4QPešIsac (163) f23ii:17; 4QPešNah (169) f3-4iii:2; 4QpapJubh (223-224) f2ii:3; 4QpapJubh (223-224) f2v:9; 4QDama (266) f13:3; 4QDame (270) f4:2; 4QRewPentb (364) f25a-c:7; 4QRewPentb (364) f30:3; 4QPsaJoshb (379) f4:2; 4QLetHala (394) f8iii:20; 4QLetHala (394) f8iv:1; 4QLetHalc (396) f1-2ii:2; 4QLetHalc (396) f1-2ii:3. 

  3. SD, 112-13; DOSA, 473-74. 

  4. In line twelve the hapax legomenon ryt used to be the accepted reading, based on Clermont-Ganneau (1887). Lemaire (1987) suggested a reading hyt , which has been generally accepted. Schade (2007) recently challenged this reading arguing that the old reading (ryt) is correct but Lemaire (2007) has defended his new reading. 

  5. In addition to the dictionaries see e.g. Hentschke (1957:150); Rendtorff (1968:809-10); Vetter (1976:699). 

  6. Blenkinsopp (1995:124-25) focuses on 1 Sam 9 and the parallel use of נביא and חֹזֶה there. 

Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database