The Jews seem early to have consulted the teraphim (q.v.) for oracular answers ( Judges 18:5 Judges 18:6 ; Zechariah 10:2 ). There is a remarkable illustration of this divining by teraphim in Ezek. 21:19-22 . We read also of the divining cup of Joseph ( Genesis 44:5 ). The magicians of Egypt are frequently referred to in the history of the Exodus. Magic was an inherent part of the ancient Egyptian religion, and entered largely into their daily life.
All magical arts were distinctly prohibited under penalty of death in the Mosaic law. The Jews were commanded not to learn the "abomination" of the people of the Promised Land ( Leviticus 19:31 ; Deuteronomy 18:9-14 ). The history of Saul's consulting the witch of Endor ( 1 Samuel 28:3-20 ) gives no warrant for attributing supernatural power to magicians. From the first the witch is here only a bystander. The practice of magic lingered among the people till after the Captivity, when they gradually abandoned it.
It is not much referred to in the New Testament. The Magi mentioned in Matthew 2:1-12 were not magicians in the ordinary sense of the word. They belonged to a religious caste, the followers of Zoroaster, the astrologers of the East. Simon, a magician, was found by Philip at Samaria ( Acts 8:9-24 ); and Paul and Barnabas encountered Elymas, a Jewish sorcerer, at Paphos ( 13:6-12 ). At Ephesus there was a great destruction of magical books ( Acts 19:18 Acts 19:19 ).