Job and the Sabians

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Puritan Board Junior
Can anyone shed some light on the Sabians mentioned in Job chapter 1:15?


13And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:

14And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:

15And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

Check out this Wiki article.

Sabians practice initiation through submersion; intended to hark back to the inundation of the world during the deluge of the time of Noah which cleansed man's sinful nature from the face of the earth. Hence ablution is an important part of the Sabian religions. The practice involves falling back into running water in condemnation of the sinful nature and is a sign of submission and awe before God. There has been much speculation as to the origins of the religious endonym from this practice. Some have argued that the term Sābi'ūn derives from the Syriac root S-b-' , referring to conversion through submersion; the Syriac (and Hebrew) nouns derived from this root refer to proselytes, both "Judaisers"—non-converts who followed certain basic rules of Judaism—and early Christian converts of non-Jewish origin and practice. These latter were called Theosebeians "God-Fearers", Sebomenoi "Believers", or Phobeomenoi "Pious ones" in Greek sources (from the root meaning "to fall back"). The Greek etymology for sebomai, applied to the proselytes, is in the word eusebeian meaning a kind of godliness and reverance or worshipfulness. However, proselytization has also long been associated with submersion and although the Greek etymology of the Sabian appellation is more than likely the original (there being no record of any similar people prior to the Hellenic era), Mandaean Nasaraeans claimed the word Sabium (from Subi or Sabi, plural Subba or Sabba), colloquial Mandaic or Syriac in origin, for themselves giving the meaning "to submerse" or "plunge in" [citation needed].

According to Islamic scholars, the word Sābi'ūna (Sabian) is derived from the verb saba’a, which refers to the action of leaving one religion and entering another [1].

Tabari said: as-Sābi'ūn is the plural of Sābi', which means "proselyte" (such as an apostate from Islam) who has left his original religion, or anyone who has left the religion that he used to follow and joins another. The Arabs called such a person Sābi'.

Though meaning upright and monotheistic these days, the word Hunafa` also derives from the Syriac word "hanifo" which literally means Agnostic. Similar distortion has occurred with the word Mushrik which though meaning polytheist these days originally referred only to shittuf/shirk or the act of establishing a parter with God—most commonly in the form of an evil opponent.

Who are these people Pre-Islamic Arab Baptists? ;)


Puritanboard Librarian
Here is an entry on them from McClintock & Strong's Cyclopedia:


(sometimes confounded with Saboeans), a very ancient sect, said to be named after Sabi, son of Enoch, reputed to have been the founder of their religion in its original and purest form. Their creed comprehended the worship of one God, the Governor and Creator of all things, who was to be addressed through a mediator, which office was to be performed by pure and invisible spirits. An admiration of the heavenly bodies, and an undue idea of their influence over earthly objects, soon produced an idolatrous worship of the heavenly luminaries, in which they conceived that the mediative intelligences resided. At first the Sabians worshipped towards the planets, as the residences of the mediating spirits between God and man; hence soon arose star worship. Then they made images to represent the stars, in which, after consecration, they imagined the intelligences came to reside; they named the images after the planets, and hence arose idolatry and its corruptions. They taught that the sun and moon were superior deities and the stars inferior ones; that the souls of the wicked were punished for nine thousand years, and then pardoned. They highly valued agriculture and cattle, and it was unlawful to kill the latter. The principal seats of Sabianism were Harran and “Ur of the Chaldees.” Maimonides says that Abraham was originally a Sabian, till he was converted and left Chaldaea. Maimonides also says that it was very prevalent in the time of Moses. It is to Sabianism that Job alludes (<183126>Job 31:26, 27), “If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness; and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand” — i.e. in token of salutation. Also in different parts of the second book of Kings, and in <360105>Zephaniah 1:5; <241913>Jeremiah 9:13, the idolatrous worship of the host of heaven is mentioned. The Sabians of later times, when praying, turn towards the north pole; pray at sunrise, noon, and sunset; abstain from many kinds of vegetables; believe in the ultimate pardon of the wicked, after nine thousand years of suffering; keep three yearly fasts — one in February of seven days, one in March of thirty days, and one in December of nine days; offer many burned offerings, or holocausts; adore the stars; teach that mediators live in the seven planets, whom they call lords and gods, but the true God they call Lord of lords; each planet, they teach, has his distinct region, office, and objects of guardianship; they believe that an intercourse is kept up between the planetary intelligences and the earth, and that their influence is conveyed by talismanic mystic seals, made with spells and according to astrological rules. They go on pilgrimage to Harran, in Mesopotamia, respect the temple at Mecca, and venerate the pyramids in Egypt, which they believe to be the sepulchres of Seth, Enoch, and Sabi; and they offer there a c o c k and black calf, and burn incense (Sale, Koran). SEE TSABIANS.


Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Interesting stuff. I must say I'd never really thought about just who these folks were before. Thanks for the history/anthropology lesson.


Puritan Board Junior
Here is an entry on them from McClintock & Strong's Cyclopedia:

Thank you, brother. Very interesting.

Have you taken note of liberal theologians seizing on the idea that Abraham was a Sabian? They tend to start here before they try to discredit the Israelites as being polytheists originally. Maybe before Jacob they presume . . .

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