The show “Bewitched” is a fascinating one. I have memories of watching this show growing up, seeing the witch as a good witch who saves the day in certain situations. Samantha, one of the main characters of the show, uses her “dark power” to bring good out of situations and rescue good people from bad circumstances. Then, when people are too curious about witches, seances, sorcery, and other forms of divination, Samantha often does things to entertain them and keep them off the trail of just how far the dark powers go. Mrs. Kravitz never really gets to learn just how much dark power Samantha has, nor how far the witch powers stretch in her family, but that’s a good thing — at least for Samantha.
And yet, despite the show, the truth of the matter is that witches are known biblically as evil, as those who don’t give glory to God but rather give glory to some unknown Power out there. Witches don’t mention God or achieve anything through Him, and they don’t give glory to Him. Whenever they attempt to bring up a spirit, for example, they attribute it to a saying out of a book, a spell, a chant, the wind, “Mother Earth,” or something else that isn’t named God. This is a sign that witches, sorcerers, wizards, and other dark magic workers are not of God and should be avoided (and their practices shunned) by Christians.
I’ve had a discussion about dark magic and power with someone in my circles that tried to convince me that witches can do good in the world and that some spells and chants are good. I don’t see how. I don’t see why witches would want to “wear black” (as is the case with witch Halloween costumes), stir large pots, and recite spells, and yet, be about that which is good. And have you ever noticed that witch costumes are only worn around Halloween? Witch costumes are not popular at other times of the year, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas; no, witch costumes are only in demand around Halloween, a holiday that, whether you know it or not, celebrates the dead and the dead “haunting” earth. The same can be said for “ghosts” and “goblins.” All of these things are about restless souls and the restless dead, who supposedly (as legend goes) return to earth around Hallow’s Eve (for which Hallow Ween is named).
The Bible has something to say about divination, mediums, witchcraft, séances, sorcery, and other forms of dark magic. We’ll take a look at these. For now, though, it must be said: if you think witches are for the good, and that “Glinda the Good Witch” or the “Wizard” in the movie Wizard of Oz are good representations of witches, you’ll be unhappy with what Scripture has to say.
What Scripture says about Divination
Merriam-Webster defines divination as “the art or practice that seeks to foresee or foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge usually by the interpretation of omens or by the aid of supernatural powers.”
The first instance of what God says about divination is found in Leviticus 19:
26 ‘You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor shall you practice divination or soothsaying. (Leviticus 19:26)
The Greek word for “divination” in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) version of Leviticus 19:26 is οἰωνιεῖσθε (oionieisthe), and the Lord says to “not eat anything with the blood,” which was forbidden as early as Genesis:
So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. (Genesis 9:1-5)
10 ‘And whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’ 12 Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.’
13 “Whatever man of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who hunts and catches any animal or bird that may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with dust; 14 for it is the life of all flesh. Its blood sustains its life. Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.’ (Leviticus 17:10-14)
In Leviticus 19:26 also forbids one to “practice divination” or “soothsaying.” The word for “divination” is familiar to the word “aionios,” a word that means “eternal” (aionios and oionios). Divination and soothsaying are two forms of dark magic or dark power that are forbidden by the Lord here. Divination is an attempt of man to contact the divine for answers, power, or a combination of both. We’re not told what divination here is, but alongside of divination the Lord forbids “soothsaying.” The word for soothsaying here is ὀρνιθοσκοπήσεσθε, a word from which our English word ornithoscopy arrives, which means to study birds. The Greek word The word “skopesthe” means “to scope out, to search for,” so the Greek word here means to search or watch for birds (bird-watching and observation to foretell of the future). One who practices soothsaying, therefore, searches the birds and their flights to determine what the future holds. When one performs ornithoscopy, he or she “takes omens from the flight and cries of birds” (the word for soothsaying in the Greek Old Testament of Leviticus 19:26 is οἰωνίζομαι, which has the aforementioned definition regarding omens and flights of birds).
Notice that soothsaying, using the flights and cries of birds to determine future events, is forbidden along with “eat anything with the blood,” since one couldn’t eat birds with their blood remaining. The individual had to pour out the blood upon the dirt or the ground because the Lord would take the life of such a person if he or she disobeyed God. Could it be that some would eat birds, or examine their liver or innards to see what the “god’s(s’) decision would be? Whatever the person would eat of the birds, he or she could not eat the blood. The blood was used to atone for souls; it was sacred to God, so sacred that no man could have what belongs to Him.
Numbers 22 and Numbers 23
Then the children of Israel moved, and camped in the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan across from Jericho.
2 Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3 And Moab was exceedingly afraid of the people because they were many, and Moab was sick with dread because of the children of Israel. 4 So Moab said to the elders of Midian, “Now this company will lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.” And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time. 5 Then he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor, which is near the River in the land of the sons of his people, to call him, saying: “Look, a people has come from Egypt. See, they cover the face of the earth, and are settling next to me! 6 Therefore please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”
7 So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the diviner’s fee in their hand, and they came to Balaam and spoke to him the words of Balak. 8 And he said to them, “Lodge here tonight, and I will bring back word to you, as the Lord speaks to me.” So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam.
9 Then God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?”
10 So Balaam said to God, “Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying, 11 ‘Look, a people has come out of Egypt, and they cover the face of the earth. Come now, curse them for me; perhaps I shall be able to overpower them and drive them out.’”
12 And God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.”
13 So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, “Go back to your land, for the Lord has refused to give me permission to go with you.”
14 And the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak, and said, “Balaam refuses to come with us.”
15 Then Balak again sent princes, more numerous and more honorable than they. 16 And they came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak the son of Zippor: ‘Please let nothing hinder you from coming to me; 17 for I will certainly honor you greatly, and I will do whatever you say to me. Therefore please come, curse this people for me.’”
18 Then Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more. 19 Now therefore, please, you also stay here tonight, that I may know what more the Lord will say to me.”
20 And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men come to call you, rise and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you—that you shall do.” 21 So Balaam rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab.
22 Then God’s anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the Lord took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 Now the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road. 24 Then the Angel of the Lordstood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. 25 And when the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she pushed herself against the wall and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck her again. 26 Then the Angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. 27 And when the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam’s anger was aroused, and he struck the donkey with his staff.
28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?”
29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!”
30 So the donkey said to Balaam, “ Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?”
And he said, “No.”
31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face. 32 And the Angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me. 33 The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.”
34 And Balaam said to the Angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know You stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases You, I will turn back.”
35 Then the Angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but only the word that I speak to you, that you shall speak.” So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.
36 Now when Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, which is on the border at the Arnon, the boundary of the territory. 37 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not earnestly send to you, calling for you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?”
38 And Balaam said to Balak, “Look, I have come to you! Now, have I any power at all to say anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I must speak.” 39 So Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kirjath Huzoth. 40 Then Balak offered oxen and sheep, and he sent some to Balaam and to the princes who were with him.
41 So it was, the next day, that Balak took Balaam and brought him up to the high places of Baal, that from there he might observe the extent of the people. (Numbers 22:1-41)
Numbers 22 and Numbers 23 pertain to Balaam the prophet, who was selected by the Moabites to prophesy against the nation of Israel. We are told in Numbers 22:7 that “So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the diviner’s fee in hand” by which to approach Balaam. The diviner’s fee was, apparently, a monetary donation for his work. The elders of Moab and Midian brought money to Balaam to possibly entice him to agree to prophesy against Israel. “For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed,” King Balak of the Moabites said in his message to Balaam (Numbers 22:6).
In Numbers 23:23, Balaam, a prophet who speaks the words of the Lord, told Balak the King of the Moabites that “for there is no sorcery against Jacob, nor divination against Israel.” In other words, God wouldn’t let Balaam curse Israel because Israel was His special people. He wouldn’t bless the Moabites against them unless it was designed to teach His people a lesson about what happens when they turn from Him. The Israelites weren’t perfect, but they belonged to Him.
Ezekiel 13 gives an example of false prophets in Israel who’ve been lying about Him, saying God has prophesied when He has not. They’ve also been using magic charms and veils as part of their dark magic practices:
And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy out of their own heart, ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’”
3 Thus says the Lord God: “Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! 4 O Israel, your prophets are like foxes in the deserts. 5 You have not gone up into the gaps to build a wall for the house of Israel to stand in battle on the day of the Lord. 6 They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord!’ But the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope that the word may be confirmed. 7 Have you not seen a futile vision, and have you not spoken false divination? You say, ‘The Lord says,’ but I have not spoken.”
8 Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Because you have spoken nonsense and envisioned lies, therefore I am indeed against you,” says the Lord God. 9 “My hand will be against the prophets who envision futility and who divine lies; they shall not be in the assembly of My people, nor be written in the record of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord God.
10 “Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people, saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace—and one builds a wall, and they plaster it with untempered mortar — 11 say to those who plaster it with untempered mortar, that it will fall. There will be flooding rain, and you, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall tear it down. 12 Surely, when the wall has fallen, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the mortar with which you plastered it?’”
13 Therefore thus says the Lord God: “I will cause a stormy wind to break forth in My fury; and there shall be a flooding rain in My anger, and great hailstones in fury to consume it. 14 So I will break down the wall you have plastered with untempered mortar, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be uncovered; it will fall, and you shall be consumed in the midst of it. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.
15 “Thus will I accomplish My wrath on the wall and on those who have plastered it with untempered mortar; and I will say to you, ‘The wall is no more, nor those who plastered it, 16 that is, the prophets of Israel who prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and who see visions of peace for her when there is no peace,’” says the Lord God.
17 “Likewise, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people, who prophesy out of their own heart; prophesy against them, 18 and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Woe to the women who sew magic charms on their sleeves and make veils for the heads of people of every height to hunt souls! Will you hunt the souls of My people, and keep yourselves alive? 19 And will you profane Me among My people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, killing people who should not die, and keeping people alive who should not live, by your lying to My people who listen to lies?”
20 ‘Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against your magic charms by which you hunt souls there like birds. I will tear them from your arms, and let the souls go, the souls you hunt like birds. 21 I will also tear off your veils and deliver My people out of your hand, and they shall no longer be as prey in your hand. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.
22 “Because with lies you have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and you have strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save his life. 23 Therefore you shall no longer envision futility nor practice divination; for I will deliver My people out of your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”’” (Ezekiel 13:1-23)
In Ezekiel 13, we see that these false prophets were practicing divination by saying “The Lord has spoken” when the Lord had not spoken (they were using dark magic to deceive the people). We know this because the Lord also says in Ezekiel 13 that the false prophetesses “sew magic charms on their sleeves and make veils for the heads of people of every height to hunt souls” (Ezekiel 13:18).
What is this practice of magic charms, veils, and hunting souls all about? The word for magic charms is προσκεφάλαια, meaning “cushion or pillow,” and that the women sewed cushions or pillows on the sleeves (or elbows, Grk. ἀγκῶνα (agkona), as the Greek Old Testament says). The women are also putting veils upon the heads of the people “to hunt souls.” The Greek word ἐπιβόλαια (epibolaia) doesn’t tell us much except to say that it was an article or ornament that is placed upon (Greek preposition ἐπι) the head.
What one can see from the context of Ezekiel 13 is that these women are using magical charm bracelets (or amulets) and veils as articles that can put others into connection with the divine, all the while doing all of this for the purpose of making money. As the Lord asks these false prophets,
19 And will you profane Me among My people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, killing people who should not die, and keeping people alive who should not live, by your lying to My people who listen to lies?”
20 ‘Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against your magic charms by which you hunt souls there like birds. I will tear them from your arms, and let the souls go, the souls you hunt like birds. 21 I will also tear off your veils and deliver My people out of your hand, and they shall no longer be as prey in your hand. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.
22 “Because with lies you have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and you have strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save his life. 23 Therefore you shall no longer envision futility nor practice divination; for I will deliver My people out of your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”’” (Ezekiel 13:19-23)
These false prophets are using trinkets as sources of divination that can put the nation of Israel in touch with the divine, all for “handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread” (v.19). In other words, these false prophetesses are making a living by lying to the people. These magic charms and veils are sources of income; like a modern-day psychic, these prophetesses are selling these wearables to put people in touch with the divine, to allow them to “summon the supernatural” on their own. The Lord says that, rather than help the Israelites summon the divine, the prophetesses are using these veils they’re selling to “hunt people like birds.” They’re making prey of these people, exploiting them and destroying them for daily bread. In Ezekiel 13:23, the Lord says that He will no longer allow the false prophetesses to “envision futility nor practice divination.” From this, we gather what the idea behind divination is: to summon magic or the supernatural through alternate sources other than the Lord God Himself. It is an alternate power from a “dark” source, since to seek the supernatural from anyone other than the Lord is not idolatry but wickedness.
18 The word of the Lord came to me again, saying: 19 “And son of man, appoint for yourself two ways for the sword of the king of Babylon to go; both of them shall go from the same land. Make a sign; put it at the head of the road to the city. 20 Appoint a road for the sword to go to Rabbah of the Ammonites, and to Judah, into fortified Jerusalem. 21 For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the road, at the fork of the two roads, to use divination: he shakes the arrows, he consults the images, he looks at the liver. 22 In his right hand is the divination for Jerusalem: to set up battering rams, to call for a slaughter, to lift the voice with shouting, to set battering rams against the gates, to heap up a siege mound, and to build a wall. 23 And it will be to them like a false divination in the eyes of those who have sworn oaths with them; but he will bring their iniquity to remembrance, that they may be taken.
24 “Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Because you have made your iniquity to be remembered, in that your transgressions are uncovered, so that in all your doings your sins appear—because you have come to remembrance, you shall be taken in hand. (Ezekiel 21:18-24)
The king of Babylon is using divination in Ezekiel 21: he “shakes the arrows, consults the images, looks at the liver” (v.21). These actions are some of those that were done to consult dark powers when it came time to deciding what to do and what direction to take. In the case of Jerusalem here, the Lord had it designed that the king of Babylon would be able to wreak havoc and be victorious over Jerusalem — even though the Babylonian king would consult divination to discover that he should attack Jerusalem. As the Lord says in Ezekiel 21, the Babylonian king is standing at the fork of two roads or two decisions: one road is marked for “Rabbah of the Ammonites” (v.20), with the other road marked for Jerusalem. The Babylonian king has offered a sacrifice to a deity or an image, by which he summoned the favor of the god or gods. Then, he requests that the god or gods provide some direction of which nation to attack (Ammonites or Jerusalem) by 1) shaking the arrows up in a bag, with one arrow being drawn. The arrow drawn would have a choice or decision on it, and whatever the arrow said, that would determine how the Babylonian king would proceed. Consulting the liver is another way the Babylonian king could discover what the god(s) decided. Apparently, the liver would tell the king what decision to make, though there’s little information on exactly how this would happen. The Benson Commentary says that markings, colors, and the state of the liver itself (whether whole or mutilated) could indicate a given decision from the divine:
He looked in the liver —This was another way of divination used among these heathen; they determined for or against certain things, according to the state of the liver of sacrificed animals, whether mutilated or complete, sound or unsound, or from its colour, or some marks appearing in particular places of it, and this by rules laid down among them.
The Lord said in Ezekiel 21 that the Babylonian king would trust in his own divination to determine which route to take (to attack Jerusalem), but it would really be the Lord’s doing that would make Jerusalem putty in his hands.
In the Book of Acts, we read of a diviner who made a lot of money for those who owned her (she was a slave girl). Paul puts an end to her divination:
16 Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” 18 And this she did for many days.
But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour. 19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.
20 And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; 21 and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” 22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. (Acts 16:16-24)
A slave girl was “possessed with a spirit of divination” (v.16), who followed Paul and his company around for many days. Paul sensed that something wasn’t right about her, even though she disguised it by saying, “These servants are men of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” The fact that she continued to repeat this was something strange. Finally, after days of hearing this, Paul realized that the slave girl was demon-possessed. Paul commanded the demon spirit to come out of her, and the demon spirit left her.
What does it mean that this girl was “possessed with a spirit of divination”? It means that the slave girl was one who had a demon spirit. It’s likely the case that the slave girl practiced divination, that she consulted spells, books, chants, and other formulas in order to summon supernatural power. The fact that she stays behind Paul and his company for so many days shows that she recognized supernatural power in people; she clearly saw it in Paul and his ministry team. She knew that these men were from God, that these men were men who had supernatural power from the Source — God Himself.
What God’s Word says about Soothsaying
We’ve talked about divination and what Scripture says about it, how Scripture gives some insight into what divination was like in biblical days and how animal liver was consulted, deities (small idol statues) were worshipped, and arrows were thrown in a bag, shaken up, and one arrow was drawn (akin to casting lots). We know that the false prophetesses in Ezekiel 13 that were placing charms or amulets on their elbows (or sleeves) and giving veils to people in order to earn their bread was against God, a false hope, that their divination practices were designed to claim that these false prophets had heard from God when God hadn’t spoken to them.
In this section, we cover what God’s Word says about soothsaying. We’ve already covered soothsaying from Leviticus 19. We know that soothsaying pertains to studying the flights and cries of birds to determine future events. Now, we’ll glean more about soothsaying and what God says about the practice from other passages of Scripture.
2 Kings 17
5 Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. 6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
7 For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and they had feared other gods, 8 and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made. 9 Also the children of Israel secretly did against the Lord their God things that were not right, and they built for themselves high places in all their cities, from watchtower to fortified city. 10 They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree. 11 There they burned incense on all the high places, like the nations whom the Lord had carried away before them; and they did wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger, 12 for they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.”
13 Yet the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets.” 14 Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God. 15 And they rejected His statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them; they followed idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them that they should not do like them. 16 So they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. 17 And they caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger. 18 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone. (2 Kings 17:5-18)
2 Kings 17 is all about the sins of Israel, and how the Lord turned them over to the Assyrians. Not only did they do public rebellious acts against God, they also built high places within their nation, and offered incense upon them to other gods. In verse 17ff, we read that Israel “caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger. Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight” (2 Kings 17:17-18). The practice of “passing through the fire” comes from the practices of pagan nations. The practice is mentioned some dozen times in Scripture, so there are a few I can point out here:
21 And you shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 18:21)
In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, Ahaz the son of Jotham, king of Judah, began to reign. 2 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord his God, as his father David had done. 3 But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel; indeed he made his son pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel. 4 And he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree. (2 Kings 16:1-4)
26 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, 27 “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me? 28 Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the Chaldeans, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall take it. 29 And the Chaldeans who fight against this city shall come and set fire to this city and burn it, with the houses on whose roofs they have offered incense to Baal and poured out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke Me to anger; 30 because the children of Israel and the children of Judah have done only evil before Me from their youth. For the children of Israel have provoked Me only to anger with the work of their hands,’ says the Lord. 31 ‘For this city has been to Me a provocation of My anger and My fury from the day that they built it, even to this day; so I will remove it from before My face 32 because of all the evil of the children of Israel and the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke Me to anger—they, their kings, their princes, their priests, their prophets, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 33 And they have turned to Me the back, and not the face; though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not listened to receive instruction. 34 But they set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to defile it. 35 And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.’ (Jeremiah 32:26-35)
Going back to the 2 Kings 17 passage above, the nation not only passed their children through the fire and offered them to the god Molech; they also “practiced witchcraft and soothsaying.” As for soothsaying, other verses such as 2 Kings 21:6 and 2 Chronicles 33:6 show that soothsaying was a common practice among other nations and even the nation of Israel when the nation turned away from God (they followed in the paths of the pagan nations when they rebelled against their God). We’ll get into witchcraft in the next section.
What the Bible Says About Witchcraft
What is witchcraft? Witchcraft is divination and magic practiced by witches. Witches are considered in Scripture to be evil and mean, despite the attempts of some to say today that there is a such thing as a “good witch.” Shows such as “Bewitched” and “Wizard of Oz” have ruined us into thinking that witches are good, but they are not: they use Satan’s power by which to perform the supernatural. Witchcraft includes spells, books, chants, rhymes, potions, chemicals, and other concoctions that are ingested, etc. It can also include casting spells or curses on others by way of Ouija boards or Voodoo dolls, for example.
Merriam-Webster defines witchcraft as “the use of sorcery or magic,” “communication with the devil or with a familiar,” “an irresistible influence or fascination,” or “Wicca.”
We’ll be able to define witchcraft better by way of scriptural mentions below.
9 “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you. (Deuteronomy 18:9-14)
The passage of Deuteronomy 18:9-14 is one that includes many categories of divination that we’ll cover in this article, so it is one of the cornerstone passages for our discussion. The Lord told Israel that they were not to practice witchcraft or divination in general, that “all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord” (v.12). That which is an abomination is hated by the Lord, that the Lord would drive Israel out of the land if “she” listened to those nations around her. Divination was the reason behind why the pagan nations were being expelled (they also listened to the diviners and soothsayers who studied birds and “summoned the supernatural” through inanimate objects), but Israel was to live by the law of the Lord; in His Law, divination was forbidden because the only supernatural source for Israel was to be God Himself. There would be no substitute for the Lord their God in the life of the nation.
The word “witchcraft” in Deuteronomy 18:10 isµa?te?a? (manteian), meaning to do what witches do (which possibly involves fortune-telling). We’ll get into the other divination activities later.
1 Samuel 15:10-23
10 Now the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, 11 “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night. 12 So when Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul went to Carmel, and indeed, he set up a monument for himself; and he has gone on around, passed by, and gone down to Gilgal.” 13 Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord.”
14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”
15 And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”
16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Be quiet! And I will tell you what the Lord said to me last night.”
And he said to him, “Speak on.”
17 So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel? 18 Now the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the Lord?”
20 And Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”
22 So Samuel said:
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He also has rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:10-23)
Saul rebels against the Lord by keeping the possessions of the Amalekites instead of destroying them. Saul was to kill the possessions (the animals included), and to do away with all the spoil of the Amalekites — but he kept the best of the Amalekite possessions. He believed that by keeping the possessions, he could sacrifice them to the Lord; what he forgot was that the Lord didn’t want a sacrifice of the Amalekite possessions because He didn’t want the spoils of pagans to be sacrificed to Him. He wanted it destroyed, and Saul couldn’t even do that one thing the Lord commanded. This is why Samuel tells Saul (words from the Lord) that “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” (1 Samuel 15:23). The word for “witchcraft” here in the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint, LXX) is οιωνισμα, a word that is the same as divination. It’s unclear why the New King James Version refers to it as “witchcraft,” since the context doesn’t specifically state what makes this sin “witchcraft” as opposed to any other magic art.
Rebellion is tantamount to witchcraft, the Lord was saying. If a person disobeys God, it is as if they’ve tried to conjure up supernatural power by some means other than God. Rebellion is an attempt to bypass God’s supernatural power and might and do things one’s own way. When one practices witchcraft, he or she uses alternative means for the supernatural instead of coming to God and requesting His supernatural strength for life’s circumstances. To practice witchcraft is to presume that one can get to the supernatural while bypassing God and Jesus. It is to set one’s own self up as God instead of realizing one’s weakness, helplessness, and utter dependence on God.
The words “sin of witchcraft” tells us that there’s nothing godly about witchcraft. There’s nothing godly about witches, either.
2 Kings 9 is all about the Lord’s promise to bring destruction on the house of Ahab. That, of course, includes destruction on Jezebel, who stole the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite and had Naboth killed to acquire it:
20 So Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?”
And he answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord: 21 ‘Behold, I will bring calamity on you. I will take away your posterity, and will cut off from Ahab every male in Israel, both bond and free. 22 I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and made Israel sin.’ 23 And concerning Jezebel the Lord also spoke, saying, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’ 24 The dogs shall eat whoever belongs to Ahab and dies in the city, and the birds of the air shall eat whoever dies in the field.” (1 Kings 21:20-24)
The Lord prophesied the end of Jezebel, her death, being eaten by dogs; in 2 Kings, the Lord makes good on His word to Ahab by way of the prophet Elijah. Jezebel comes to her end, being eaten by dogs who lick her blood. When Jehu is anointed king, the Lord does it to bring down Joram, all the house of Ahab and his descendants, and Jezebel. Jehu tells Joram that “the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcraft are so many” (2 Kings 9:22), meaning that Jezebel practiced witchcraft.
There is very little known about witchcraft within Scripture (specifically, since all forms of divination are often placed together with little description), but we do know that it involved books that likely contained formulas, chants, and “recipes.” We read of this in the Book of Acts:
11 Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” 14 Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.
15 And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”
16 Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 18 And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. 19 Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed. (Acts 19:11-20)
It is only here in Acts that we read of “books” pertaining to the art of magic. We don’t read this anywhere else, but we’re thankful for this detail. What we can see is that witchcraft was, like all art forms, a practice, and that there may have even been books used to perform successful “spells.”
With regards to Wicca, the religion is something of a peaceful practice in many ways. I know someone who has researched Wicca heavily, and this individual and I have had many a conversation about the practice. I was told that Wiccans are not mean and cruel people and that there’s “white magic” and “dark magic,” that some Wiccans use white magic for personal, leisure reasons, and that not all Wiccans are bad witches. This same individual, who is a Christian by the way, would never get close to practicing Yoga because she thinks it’s too evil, but somehow, she thinks that Wicca is better and that it’s “good” because “it’s not designed to harm anyone.” The pagan religions of the nations surrounding Israel in the Old Testament weren’t meant to harm anyone, either, but that didn’t make them any less evil in the eyesight of God. Satan will use any means necessary to cause the children of God to stumble and fall — whether violent or peaceful.
Mediums and Spiritists
Mediums and spiritists are essentially the same in what they do: mediums consult the dead and bring them before someone else in a form such as a séance, while spiritists are known for conjuring up dead spirits or the spirits of deceased persons. As Merriam-Webster says, a medium is “an individual held to be a channel of communication between the earthly world and a world of spirits.”
The medium or spiritist knows how to bring up a deceased person with which a living person can have communication, even in the cases of deceased relatives, spouses, friends, and so on. The reasons vary. Sometimes, the person may want to know about an inheritance left behind (which child gets what portion), while others may want to know about wishes for money donations (whether or not to give to charity), whether the individual should move on and start dating again (in the case of a deceased spouse), and so on.
Let’s get into discussion regarding both mediums and spiritists.
The first reference to mediums within Scripture can be found in Leviticus:
31 ‘Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:31)
The Lord says here not to consult mediums and spiritists who conjure up the souls of deceased persons. “Do not seek after them” is a command that says, in so many words, “do not place them in high regard, do not consider them to be spiritual authority, do not revere them.” The Lord said the same thing to Israel regarding false prophets and their divination practices.
6 ‘And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people. (Leviticus 20:6)
To be “cut off” was to be killed, to be disowned by the Lord. One who did these things would see his or her life taken by the Lord. Interestingly enough, both Leviticus 19:31 and 20:6 explain well what happened in the life of King Saul, who eventually loses his kingship, loses the Holy Spirit, and finally, his own mortal life because he disobeyed God’s Word in these two verses. We’re now set to cover Saul and theséance.
Saul and theSéance
3 Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had lamented for him and buried him in Ramah, in his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the spiritists out of the land.
4 Then the Philistines gathered together, and came and encamped at Shunem. So Saul gathered all Israel together, and they encamped at Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. 6 And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets.
7 Then Saul said to his servants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.”
And his servants said to him, “In fact, there is a woman who is a medium at En Dor.”
8 So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes, and he went, and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Please conduct a séance for me, and bring up for me the one I shall name to you.”
9 Then the woman said to him, “Look, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the spiritists from the land. Why then do you lay a snare for my life, to cause me to die?”
10 And Saul swore to her by the Lord, saying, “ As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.”
11 Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?”
And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.”
12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul!”
13 And the king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What did you see?”
And the woman said to Saul, “I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth.”
14 So he said to her, “What is his form?”
And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle.” And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down.
15 Now Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”
And Saul answered, “I am deeply distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God has departed from me and does not answer me anymore, neither by prophets nor by dreams. Therefore I have called you, that you may reveal to me what I should do.”
16 Then Samuel said: “So why do you ask me, seeing the Lord has departed from you and has become your enemy? 17 And the Lord has done for Himself as He spoke by me. For the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. 18 Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day. 19 Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.”
20 Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, and was dreadfully afraid because of the words of Samuel. And there was no strength in him, for he had eaten no food all day or all night.
21 And the woman came to Saul and saw that he was severely troubled, and said to him, “Look, your maidservant has obeyed your voice, and I have put my life in my hands and heeded the words which you spoke to me. 22 Now therefore, please, heed also the voice of your maidservant, and let me set a piece of bread before you; and eat, that you may have strength when you go on your way.”
23 But he refused and said, “I will not eat.”
So his servants, together with the woman, urged him; and he heeded their voice. Then he arose from the ground and sat on the bed. 24 Now the woman had a fatted calf in the house, and she hastened to kill it. And she took flour and kneaded it, and baked unleavened bread from it. 25 So she brought it before Saul and his servants, and they ate. Then they rose and went away that night. (1 Samuel 28:3-25)
In 1 Samuel 16, we read that the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul; no prophets, dreams, or divine revelation would come to him, but he didn’t know how bad it was until he prepared to fight the Philistines and got no divine word from God regarding whether or not Israel would win the battle. He wanted to know whether or not he could be victorious. 1 Samuel 28 tells us in verse 3 that Saul had done away with the mediums and spiritists: he had put them out of the land, removed them from Israel, which is what the Law of the Old Testament told Saul to do. And yet, it was in this desperate time, when the Spirit abandoned Saul, that he wanted to find out what would happen, have some sense of direction regarding the battle. And so, in his haste to get answers for his desperate situation, he “disguises himself” (1 Samuel 28:8) and goes to see the medium/spiritist at En Dor. What’s interesting is that Saul had put the mediums out of the land — but, as in every case, there’s always still 1 that lingers behind. There’s always one that somehow “slips through the cracks.” It was this medium that Saul consulted. His disguise was to prevent him from being caught by men and by his constituents; but no matter how much he hid from men, he couldn’t hide from God. God saw every action, every word, and saw every step. Saul thought he was upending his situation, surprising his situation, but his situation would surprise him!
When Saul goes to the medium (some call her a “witch”) at En Dor, he tells her “Please conduct aséancefor me” (v.8). The wordséance in the Greek is manteusai, meaning to pull up someone, a dead spirit in this case, or perform divination (contact with the supernatural). The medium is aware that her activities are illegal and that, if she gets caught, her life is at risk, which is why she tells Saul, “Look, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the spiritists from the land. Why then do you lay a snare for my life, to cause me to die?” (v.9) Saul promises the medium that she would not die for thisséance(a sin indeed; the Lord punished the mediums and spiritists, and here Saul promises her protection).
And the medium doesn’t disappoint: she sees Samuel coming to Saul and Samuel actually talks posthumously, beyond the dead. He is in the form of an old man, the medium says, and has a mantle, which is how the reader remembers Samuel when he dies. Samuel inquires of Saul why he has awaken him from his sleep, and Saul tells him that the Lord isn’t answering him:
And Saul answered, “I am deeply distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God has departed from me and does not answer me anymore, neither by prophets nor by dreams. Therefore I have called you, that you may reveal to me what I should do.” (1 Samuel 28:15).
Saul wasn’t always the smartest guy, and as his ego became hardened, so did his head and heart against God, but he was smart enough to know that God had departed from him: “God has departed from me,” he said (v.15). This was the most tragic part of it all: God had departed from Saul, and he was still trying to see what God would say by conjuring up the soul of deceased Samuel (who was God’s man and prophet, remember?). Since Saul conjures up Samuel by way of this medium, we find that God manifests Himself through it all, despite the fact that the medium was against God’s will and that God had told Saul to eliminate them from the land.
Leviticus 19:31 and 20:6 both say that for those who consult the spiritists and mediums would be cut off from Israel, would be killed. And Samuel tells Saul in theséance ”that “tomorrow, you and your sons will be with me” — a statement that told Saul he’d die the following day, he and his sons. Saul would die because of his sin. Saul didn’t want to eat after the seance, but the medium and Saul’s men with him urge him to eat. In his battle against the Philistines the following day, Saul and his sons are killed (1 Samuel 31), as God had told him through Samuel.
1 Samuel 28 gives us a spiritist/medium at work in theséance, reminding us that, even in an alternative supernatural means, God can still work in them to bring righteous judgment upon those who do evil. The Lord didn’t endorse Saul seeking a spiritist/medium because He told Saul to put them out of the land, but if he wouldn’t put them all out, then the Lord would use of them to teach Saul a lesson.
19 And when they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Isaiah 8:19-20)
The word “wizards” is used here in Isaiah 8:19, a word that doesn’t occur often in Scripture. And yet, it’s used here with regard to mediums, a sign that wizardry has something to do with the dead. The Wizard of Oz is a fun movie to watch, and the wizard is seen as a man of great power though he’s short and doesn’t have much power after all, but it shows us that wizard is another name for someone who works “magic,” someone who can conjure up dead spirits as well as mediums. Wizards have all kinds of power. Isaiah says in Isaiah 8:19 that there’s no reason to seek mediums and wizards when the people have God, who is Almighty and has all power. “Should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?” These words remind us that, if one wants to deal with living things, he or she should seek living people. It is counterintuitive and against common sense to go to a living, breathing medium or spiritist to consult a dead or deceased person. That was the lack of common sense demonstrated by Saul when he went to the living medium at En Dor to consult the deceased prophet Samuel.
The burden against Egypt.
Behold, the Lord rides on a swift cloud,
And will come into Egypt;
The idols of Egypt will totter at His presence,
And the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst.
2 “I will set Egyptians against Egyptians;
Everyone will fight against his brother,
And everyone against his neighbor,
City against city, kingdom against kingdom.
3 The spirit of Egypt will fail in its midst;
I will destroy their counsel,
And they will consult the idols and the charmers,
The mediums and the sorcerers. (Isaiah 19:1-3)
The word of the Lord from the prophet Isaiah says that the Lord will bring destruction upon Egypt. “The Lord rides on a swift cloud” (v.1) is a way of saying that the Lord will come quickly upon Egypt, He will visit Egypt with destruction. “The idols of Egypt will totter at His presence, and the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst” (v.1) refers to the fear of Egypt. Egypt will be afraid of the Lord because of His coming, and all the gods of Egypt will tremble before Him. In verse 2, brothers will fight against each other and turn on each other, and cities will war with one another. There will be so much turmoil and chaos that some will consult the medium to discover the nature of all the chaos, war, and death: “they will consult the idols and the charmers, the mediums and the sorcerers” (Isaiah 19:3). The word for “idols” here, Grk. theous, refers to the idol gods (the statues). The charmers, Grk. agalmata, refers to charms, idols, statuettes (from which we get the famous “Lucky Charms” cereal). The “charms” are designed for good luck (like four leaf clovers, for example), and the charmers are those who collect and sell little statuettes for good luck or fortune. The word for “sorcerers” is φωνουντας (phonountas) from the Greek parent word phoneo meaning “to call.” Sorcerers “call up” the dead or familiar spirits, as did the medium at En Dor.
“Come down and sit in the dust,
O virgin daughter of Babylon;
Sit on the ground without a throne,
O daughter of the Chaldeans!
For you shall no more be called
Tender and delicate.
2 Take the millstones and grind meal.
Remove your veil,
Take off the skirt,
Uncover the thigh,
Pass through the rivers.
3 Your nakedness shall be uncovered,
Yes, your shame will be seen;
I will take vengeance,
And I will not arbitrate with a man.”
4 As for our Redeemer, the Lord of hosts is His name,
The Holy One of Israel.
5 “Sit in silence, and go into darkness,
O daughter of the Chaldeans;
For you shall no longer be called
The Lady of Kingdoms.
6 I was angry with My people;
I have profaned My inheritance,
And given them into your hand.
You showed them no mercy;
On the elderly you laid your yoke very heavily.
7 And you said, ‘I shall be a lady forever,’
So that you did not take these things to heart,
Nor remember the latter end of them.
8 “Therefore hear this now, you who are given to pleasures,
Who dwell securely,
Who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me;
I shall not sit as a widow,
Nor shall I know the loss of children’;
9 But these two things shall come to you
In a moment, in one day:
The loss of children, and widowhood.
They shall come upon you in their fullness
Because of the multitude of your sorceries,
For the great abundance of your enchantments.
10 “For you have trusted in your wickedness;
You have said, ‘No one sees me’;
Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you;
And you have said in your heart,
‘I am, and there is no one else besides me.’
11 Therefore evil shall come upon you;
You shall not know from where it arises.
And trouble shall fall upon you;
You will not be able to put it off.
And desolation shall come upon you suddenly,
Which you shall not know.
12 “Stand now with your enchantments
And the multitude of your sorceries,
In which you have labored from your youth—
Perhaps you will be able to profit,
Perhaps you will prevail.
13 You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels;
Let now the astrologers, the stargazers,
And the monthly prognosticators
Stand up and save you
From what shall come upon you.
14 Behold, they shall be as stubble,
The fire shall burn them;
They shall not deliver themselves
From the power of the flame;
It shall not be a coal to be warmed by,
Nor a fire to sit before!
15 Thus shall they be to you
With whom you have labored,
Your merchants from your youth;
They shall wander each one to his quarter.
No one shall save you. (Isaiah 47:1-15)
The “enchantments” and “sorceries” (v.12) the people have labored in from their youth; this means that they’ve had these forms of divination as part of their tradition. These are some of the “bedrocks” the people turn to when chaos ensues. The Chaldeans rely on divination, seeking the counsel of their gods, to determine their direction and their future. In verse 13, the Lord said, “Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, and the monthly prognosticators stand up and save you from what shall come upon you.” The Lord intends to bring evil upon the Chaldeans and calls for the diviners to come and save the nation from His wrath. He’s almost laughing at them and mocking them because He knows their power is no match for His.
These words let us see how the Chaldeans determine the future. Astrologers are those who practice astrology, the study of the stars. Astrology is, according to Merriam-Webster, “the divination of the supposed influences of the stars and planets on human affairs and terrestrial events by their positions and aspects.” Astrologers use the stars and planets and their positions in the solar system (if a planet aligns with the sun and the waves are affected, for example) to tell them about the future.
Speaking of astrology and signs of the stars and planets and how they foretell of future events, there is a passage that pertains to this in Jeremiah 10:
2 Thus says the Lord:
“Do not learn the way of the Gentiles;
Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven,
For the Gentiles are dismayed at them.
3 For the customs of the peoples are futile;
For one cuts a tree from the forest,
The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.
4 They decorate it with silver and gold;
They fasten it with nails and hammers
So that it will not topple.
5 They are upright, like a palm tree,
And they cannot speak;
They must be carried,
Because they cannot go by themselves.
Do not be afraid of them,
For they cannot do evil,
Nor can they do any good.” (Jeremiah 10:2-5)
From Jeremiah 10:2, we see that “the Gentiles are dismayed at them,” the word “them” referring to “the signs of heaven.” In other words, the Gentiles look at the signs in the sky or the phenomena or patterns in the sky to determine what will happen in the future or to predict it.
In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, 2 “Thus says the Lord to me: ‘Make for yourselves bonds and yokes, and put them on your neck, 3 and send them to the king of Edom, the king of Moab, the king of the Ammonites, the king of Tyre, and the king of Sidon, by the hand of the messengers who come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah. 4 And command them to say to their masters, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel—thus you shall say to your masters: 5 ‘I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are on the ground, by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and have given it to whom it seemed proper to Me. 6 And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant; and the beasts of the field I have also given him to serve him. 7 So all nations shall serve him and his son and his son’s son, until the time of his land comes; and then many nations and great kings shall make him serve them. 8 And it shall be, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and which will not put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation I will punish,’ says the Lord, ‘with the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand. 9 Therefore do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers, or your sorcerers, who speak to you, saying, “You shall not serve the king of Babylon.” 10 For they prophesy a lie to you, to remove you far from your land; and I will drive you out, and you will perish. (Jeremiah 27:1-10)
The Lord says through Jeremiah that He will bring judgment upon the Israelites. The “diviners, dreams, soothsayers, and sorcerers” who say that Israel shouldn’t serve Babylon are liars (“they prophesy a lie to you,” Jeremiah 27:10). Notice that these diviners who practice all sorts of supernatural encounters with the divine are prophesying falsely. This means that they were telling outright lies; and yet, the Lord said that the Israelites were to do the exact opposite of what those in touch with the divine were saying. Whatever or whoever they were listening to, it clearly wasn’t God and it clearly wasn’t true.
In Daniel 2, we also see a mention of sorcery:
Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was so troubled that his sleep left him. 2 Then the king gave the command to call the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. 3 And the king said to them, “I have had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to know the dream.”
4 Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation.”
5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “My decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made an ash heap. 6 However, if you tell the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts, rewards, and great honor. Therefore tell me the dream and its interpretation.”
7 They answered again and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will give its interpretation.”
8 The king answered and said, “I know for certain that you would gain time, because you see that my decision is firm: 9 if you do not make known the dream to me, there is only one decree for you! For you have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the time has changed. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation.”
10 The Chaldeans answered the king, and said, “There is not a man on earth who can tell the king’s matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean. 11 It is a difficult thing that the king requests, and there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”
12 For this reason the king was angry and very furious, and gave the command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. 13 So the decree went out, and they began killing the wise men; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. (Daniel 2:1-13)
King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and he wanted his men to tell him the dream and its interpretation (Daniel 2:5-6), but the sorcerers and diviners he had on staff were unable to. As the Chaldeans told the king, “There is not a man on earth who can tell the king’s matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean” (v.10). No magician (someone who does magic), an astrologer (someone who studies the stars), or any Chaldean of their country has ever been able to know the dream; many men have been able to provide an interpretation, but usually, the dreamer would have to tell the exact dream first. Guessing the dream and the interpretation was a difficult thing — a rather impossible thing — to do. The Chaldeans responded with the following: “there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (Daniel 2:11). In other words, only the gods could know the dream, the men tell the king; no mortal could get it right.
Except for Daniel. Daniel is the one who is used by God and has the Spirit of God, who knows the dream and its interpretation, unlike the astrologers, magicians, and sorcerers in the kingdom (Daniel 2:16-45). As Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar,
27 Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, “The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. 28 But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. (Daniel 2:27-28a)
As Daniel says, the soothsayers, those who study birds and their flights and cries, those who study the stars, and those who perform magic and make things appear and disappear (those who turn rods into snakes, for example, as was the case with Pharaoh’s men in Exodus), couldn’t tell the dream. “But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets,” Daniel says in Daniel 2:28, showing us that God is above the diviners who rely on alternate supernatural sources other than the one true God Himself.
8 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 9 “When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Show a miracle for yourselves,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your rod and cast it before Pharaoh, and let it become a serpent.’” 10 So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and they did so, just as the Lord commanded. And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent.
11 But Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. 12 For every man threw down his rod, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. 13 And Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the Lord had said. (Exodus 7:8-13)
In Exodus 7, the Old Testament, we find Moses and Aaron go to Egypt to free God’s people because Moses has been called by God. Moses wanted signs from the Lord to show the people that he was from God, and God gives him two feats: 1) he can make his hand leprous and clean again, and 2) Aaron can throw down his rod and it will become a serpent; he can then pick it up again as a rod (see Exodus 4:1-17). Moses and Aaron head to Egypt and do as God commands, and they even get to show the power of God.
Unfortunately, the wise men, sorcerers, and magicians of Egypt can do the same as Aaron (Exodus 7:11-12). The word for “magicians” in Exodus 7:11 is επαοιδοι (epaoidoi), meaning “familiar spirit-worker” or spiritist. So what we discover through the use of this word is that the magicians mentioned here are not simple magic-workers, but those who conjure up familiar spirits. They were using evil spirits in order to perform the miracles they did. The use of spirit power to make turn rods into serpents indicates that these men were using “dark power” (the powers of darkness) to achieve their feats. Yes, the powers of darkness have their hooks into the world by way of, as Paul says, “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
We see another witness against sorcerers in the same passage that heralds the future advent of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, to earth:
“Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
2 “But who can endure the day of His coming?
And who can stand when He appears?
For He is like a refiner’s fire
And like launderers’ soap.
3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver;
He will purify the sons of Levi,
And purge them as gold and silver,
That they may offer to the Lord
An offering in righteousness.
4 “Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem
Will be pleasant to the Lord,
As in the days of old,
As in former years.
5 And I will come near you for judgment;
I will be a swift witness
Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans,
And against those who turn away an alien—
Because they do not fear Me,”
Says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:1-5)
Malachi 3 is all about the coming of the Messiah, as can be seen from the phrases “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me.” Notice that the Lord says “Me,” meaning that the messenger will prepare the way for the coming of the Lord? The Lord will come to earth, but who is the messenger? John the Baptist, the voice crying out in the wilderness to “Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight” (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 1:76; Luke 3:4). God is distinguished from “the Messenger of the covenant,” and the Lord God says “He is coming” (v.1, end), telling us that the coming Messenger is God in Himself, distinct from the Lord God speaking (this implies that the Trinity, the Godhead, consists of more than one member). When the Lord Jesus comes, the Messiah, He will be a witness against sorcery, against the practice of magic, the practice of divination, opposed to the idea that one can summon the divine in any way other than calling upon the name of the Lord.
The power of God, as demonstrated in the life of Jesus in the New Testament through the aid of the Holy Spirit, is the real deal; all the other alternative sources of power are futile. That’s not to say that there’s nothing real about them, but it is to say that they are evil and no more good than Satan is. “Black magic” can be effective when used in the hands of a genius, but it’s evil. There’s no such thing as “white magic” because anything that goes around God, that tries to circumvent God to get what a person wants, is opposed to God. White magic, like black magic in sorcery, says that there are ways to bypass God. These views detract from God, sideline God, in their attempts to satisfy. The Lord has said that we are to have no other gods before Him; we are to seek nothing supernatural apart from Him. All who do are declaring themselves to be the enemies of God.