Reflection 2 – Biblical Snake Divination

Page 63: “A Geat drew his bow and struck a slithering one. […] they examined its entrails, awed and aggrieved.”

I’m going out on a limb, perhaps, but I assume that a ‘slithering one’ is a snake. And the second bit of that quote made me think of the practice of divination via entrails, so I looked it up.

I found this resource, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.15699/jbl.1341.2015.2757?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents , claiming that in biblical texts, the Hebrew words for ‘snake’ and ‘divination’ are very similar. It also gives us this tidbit of information:

“An arrow piercing its scales, it struggled and thrashed in the water.” According to this, the manner of the snake’s death perhaps foreshadows Beowulf’s victory in the upcoming fight with Grendel’s mom.

Why are his men “aggrieved” then? Frankly, I don’t know. Maybe they’re resentful that they needed to come along when Beowulf can clearly handle this. And we see on page 70 that while Hrothgar’s men give up on Beowulf returning, the Geats wait for him. As if they expected him to be victorious.

It’s worth noting that this has nothing to do with the entrails of the snake, but the fact that they specifically examined its entrails in the text is what put me down this line of thinking.

TLDR: Biblical snake divination says that Beowulf is going to win

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