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Interpretation of Exodus 22:18

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Exodus 22:18 in 19 English translations of the Bible:

Various Biblical translations render this verse as:

  1. American Standard Version "Thou shalt not suffer a sorceress to live."
  2. The Answer: Put to death any woman who does evil magic.
  3. Amplified Bible: You shall not allow a woman to live who practices sorcery.
  4. Good News Version: Put to death any woman who practices magic.
  5. James Moffatt Translation: You shall not allow any sorceress to live.
  6. Jerusalem Bible: You shall not allow a sorceress to live.
  7. King James Version: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
  8. Living Bible: A sorceress shall be put to death.
  9. Modern Language Bible: Allow no sorceress to live.
  10. New American Bible: You shall not let a sorceress live.
  11. New American Standard Bible: You shall not let a sorceress live.
  12. New Century Version: Put to death any woman who does evil magic.
  13. New International Version: Do not allow a sorceress to live.
  14. New Living Translation: A sorceress must not be allowed to live.
  15. New Revised Standard Version: You shall not permit a female sorcerer to live.
  16. New World Translation: You must not preserve a sorceress alive.
  17. The Promise: Contemporary English Version: Death is the punishment for witchcraft.
  18. Revised Standard Version: You shall not permit a sorceress to live.
  19. Revised English Bible: You must not allow a witch to live.

In the original Hebrew manuscript, the author used the word m'khashepah to describe the person who should be killed. The word means a woman who uses spoken spells to harm others - e.g. causing their death or loss of property. Clearly "evil sorceress" or "woman who does evil magic" would be the most accurate phrases in today's English usage for this verse.

The Good News Bible uses the term "magic." This is also a poor selection because that term has been used to refer to:
bullet stage magic, sleight of hand, magic tricks.
bullet ceremonial magic used to harm other persons.
bullet ceremonial magic used to heal other persons.

The King James Version and Revised English Bible use the term "witch." In North America, the term normally refers to Wiccans -- the followers of the Wiccan religion. According to the Scofield Reference Bible this verse from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) was written in the year 1491 BCE. This is some 650 years before the origin of the Celtic people circa 850 BCE from whom some elements of Wicca were taken. So Exodus 22:18 can hardly be referring to Wiccans.

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References used:

  1. Alexi Kondratiev "Suffer a Witch to Live", Enchanté, the Journal for the Urbane Pagan, Mabon & Vinalia (1994), P. 11-15
  2. Paul Hume, "Thou shalt not suffer a Witch to live," at:

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Copyright © 1997 to 2001 incl. and 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2003-JUN-2
Author: B.A. Robinson

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