DIVINATION, MAGIC &
IN THE BIBLE
Occultic techniques in the Hebrew Scriptures:
There are a number of instances in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) where respected
biblical leaders were involved
with various black magic, divination and occultic activities
as a normal part of their daily activities -- apparently without any condemnations from God:
||In Genesis 44:5, Joseph's household manager refers to a silver drinking
cup "...in which my lord drinketh and whereby indeed he devineth". Later,
Joseph accuses his brothers of stealing the cup, saying "that such a man as I can
certainly divine [the identity of the thieves]". These passages show that Joseph
engaged in scrying. This is an ancient occultic method of divination in which a cup
or other vessel is filled with water and gazed into. This technique of foretelling the
future was used by Nostradamus and is still used today.
||Numbers 5:12-31 describes a ritual of black magic that the
Priest would perform on a woman if her husband suspected that she he had
committed adultery. Verse 17 says: "Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some
dust from the tabernacle floor into the water.." She and her husband would
go, with an offering of barley meal, to the tabernacle. The priest would make a magical drink consisting of holy water and
sweepings from the tabernacle floor. He would have the woman drink the water while he
recited a curse on her. The curse would state that her abdomen would swell and her thigh
waste away if she had committed adultery. Otherwise, the curse would have no
effect. If she were pregnant at this time, the curse
would certainly induce an abortion. Yet nobody seems to have been concerned about the fate of
any embryo or fetus that was present. There was no similar magical test that a woman could require her husband
to take if she suspected him of adultery.
||The Urim and Thummim were two objects mentioned in
and 1 Samuel 28:6 of the Hebrew Scriptures. They were apparently devices
(perhaps in the form of flat stones) that the high priest consulted to determine the will
of God. They might have worked something like a pair of dice.
||Elisha was on his way to Bethel. Some small boys came out of the city and made fun of
him because of his lack of hair; they called him "baldy". In a violent display
of the power of black magic, Elisha cursed the children in the name of God. Two bears,
apparently prompted by God, came out of the forest and tore 42 of the boys to shreds.
The implication is that the children were all murdered. See 2 Kings
||Lots -- pieces of wood or stone with markings -- were used to
determine the will of God. They were similar to dice. See: Numbers
26:55; Proverbs 16:33 Proverbs 18:18.
||Daniel, the prophet, was employed for many years in Babylon as the chief occultist to
the king. He was supervisor "of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans and
soothsayers". See Daniel 5:11.
Occultic techniques in the Christian Scriptures:
||St. Paul engaged in evil sorcery as described in
Acts 13:6-12. (Sorcery
is here used in the same way as Exodus 22:18: a person saying magical words or performing magical rituals
in order to harm or kill another person). During his journey to Cyprus, St. Paul met
Bar-Jesus, who was an attendant of the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus. He had a conflict
with cursed Bar-Jesus, saying:
"You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are
full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of
the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a
time you will be unable to see the light of the sun. (NIV)
Bar-Jesus heard the curse and immediately was blinded.
||St. Peter also engaged in evil sorcery, as described in
Acts 5:9. After
he determined that Sapphira had lied to him, he cursed her, saying
"How is it that ye have agreed together to try the Spirit of the Lord? behold,
the feet of them that have buried thy husband are at the door, and they shall carry thee
She collapsed and died immediately.
Biblical Condemnation of the Occult
There are many Biblical passages that described some prohibited types of occultic
activity by the ancient Israelites. These include
Exodus 22:18, Leviticus
19:26-26; 19:31; 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10-11; Isaiah 8:19 and
Of these, Deuteronomy 18 is perhaps the most important. They forbade the Israelites
from engaging in human sacrifice and in eight specific practices which some have been
regarded as occultic. The King James translation is:
"There shall not be found among you anyone that maketh his son or his daughter
to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an
enchanter or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or
Various other translations of the Bible use the following terms or phrases here:
augur, black magic, calls up the dead, charm, consults with spirits, fortune teller,
interpret omens, look for omens, magician, medium, sorcerer, soothsayer, spiritist, weaves
or casts spells, witchcraft, and wizard.
Clearly, translators have had a great deal of difficulty selecting unique English words
or short phrases to match the 8 original Hebrew words:
yid'oni Making contact with spirits (not of God).
sho'el 'ov Making contact with the dead .
qosem q'samim Foretelling the future by using lots or a similar system.
m'onen Predicting the future by interpreting signs in nature.
m'nachesh Enchanting (perhaps related to nachash, a snake).
chover chavar Casting spells by magical knot tying.
m'khaseph evil sorcery; using spoken spells to harm other people.
doresh 'el hametim "One who asks the dead", probably via another method
than sho'el 'ov
The reference to passing children through the fire has historically been interpreted as
the ritual killing of the first born child in each family. Tribes surrounding the
Israelites were believed to engage in this practice. In reality, it probably refers to a
painful coming-of-age challenge that children had to endure. They would pass through
the fire and (hopefully) emerge without much injury. In other traditions, they would run
between two fires. This phrase has caused many people to believe that Pagans in ancient
times engaged in child sacrifice. This appears to be the source of the belief among some
Christians that modern day Pagans do the same thing. While we do not know what
ancient Pagans did, we can be certain that modern-day Pagans do not murder
children. This phrase (and many
similar ones throughout the Bible) has probably contributed greatly to the public's widely
held fear of Ritual Abuse and
Satanic Ritual Abuse.
Interpreting Deuteronomy 18 in terms of modern-day practice, it is apparent
that the following are prohibited:
yid'oni The New Age practice of channeling in which a person attempts to contact
a spirit in order to gain knowledge.
sho'el 'ov Spiritualism, in which a medium contacts the dead.
qosem q'samim Casting stones or sticks and predicting the future by their
position (e.g. I Ching, and perhaps runes, or Tarot cards).
m'onen Foretelling the future by looking for signs in nature (e.g. predicting the
harshness of a winter by looking at moss on trees, or fur thickness on animals in the
wild, or whether the groundhog sees his shadow on FEB-2.)
m'nachesh Snake charming.
chover chavar Casting (presumably evil) spells while tying knots.
m'khaseph Reciting evil spoken spells to injure others .
doresh 'el hametim Any other method of contacting the dead .
Other currently used methods of foretelling the future, such as tea cup reading,
astrology, palm reading, tarot cards, runes etc. are not mentioned. It is thus not obvious
whether they are forbidden (as in snake charming) or whether they are acceptable to
God (as in scrying). A Membership in the Masonic Order (or similar fraternal/spiritual
organization) is not banned. Wicca (Witchcraft), which does not allow its followers to
engage in black magic or manipulative spells, is not prohibited either. Black magic rituals,
are occasionally performed by Satanists as revenge to injury done to them by others;
be condemned by this passage.
The Biblical passages appear to apply to persons who are directly engaged in the
various practices (e.g. mediums, channelers, astrologers, etc.); they do not seem to refer
to people who simply observe the activity.
The Greek word "pharmakos" which appears in Galatians 5:20 refers to
poisoners. It was mis-translated as witchcraft in the King James Version. Since no
modern-day Pagan, Neopagan or occultic activity engages in killing people by poison, the verse does not refer in any way
to Wicca, other Neopagans or Occultists.
Related essays on this web site:
Copyright © 2000 to 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2000-JUL-12
Latest update: 2004-NOV-26
Author: B.A. Robinson