Are there any myths or stories where someone asks an oracle (or prophet or deity) tricky questions in order to test/trick/falsify it, which results in punishment of the doubter?

Two examples, which do not match completely:

  • Herodotus reports that king Croesus tested several oracles for their knowledge and is later misled by the Delphic oracle regarding his war against the Persians.

    However, Herodotus seems not to indicate that the ambiguity of the Delphic answer is a direct consequence of Croesus' initial skepticism.

  • In "Oedipus the King" by Sophocles, king Laius' attempt to thwart a Delphic prophecy is the ultimate cause for the fulfillment of that prophecy. However, Laius is just reacting; he has never approached the oracle with a malicious or cunning intent in the first place.

The two examples I have given are from Greek mythology, but I am interested in the stories of any religion, place, and epoch.

1 Answer 1


I feel a bit like this isn't what you want, but I'm not sure how else to define the question, so I'll start with a definition of what an oracle is. From the Oxford English Dictionary:

A priest or priestess acting as a medium through whom advice or prophecy was sought from the gods in classical antiquity.

And since we want to ignore that classical antiquity bit, being that we want to look to other religions and times, biblical prophets would seem to qualify quite nicely as oracles.

So, the book of Exodus would be a good example of punishment meted out to people who refused to heed the words of Moses, in his role as an oracle.

From the King James version of the Bible (Exodus 10:3-5):

And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? let my people go, that they may serve me.
Else, if thou refuse to let my people go, behold, to morrow will I bring the locusts into thy coast:
And they shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field:

And Pharoah, refusing to heed the words of Moses and Aaron, is punished with the specified plague of locusts, along with 9 other plagues over the course of the story.

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