The occult arts, either supposedly or pretentiously supernatural, were common to all oriental races. They included enchantment, sorcery, witchcraft, sooth-saying, augury, necromancy, divination in numberless forms, and all kinds of magic article Nine varieties are mentioned in one single passage in the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 18:10,11); other varieties in many passages both in the Old Testament and New Testament, eg. Leviticus 19:26,31; Isaiah 2:6; 57:3; Jeremiah 27:9; Micah 5:12; Acts 8:9,11; 13:6,8; Galatians 5:20; Revelation 9:21.
The extent of the magic arts (forbidden under Judaism and Christianity) may incidentally be seen from the fact that the Scriptures alone refer to their being practiced in Chaldea (Daniel 5:11), Babylon (Ezekiel 21:21), Assyria (2 Kings 17:17), Egypt (Exodus 7:11), Canaan (Leviticus 18:3,11; 19:26,31), Asia (Ephesus, Acts 19:13,19), Greece (Acts 16:16), Arabia also, as "customs from the East," etc. (Isaiah 2:6) indicates. These secret arts were prohibited by the laws of Moses (Deuteronomy 18:9-12), inasmuch as they constituted a peculiar temptation to Israel to apostatize. They were a constant incentive to idolatry, clouded the mind with superstition, tended and were closely allied to imposture (Matthew 24:24). The term "enchantment" is found only in the Old Testament and its Hebrew originals indicate its varieties.
(1) laTim, and lehaTim "to wrap up," "muffie," "cover," hence, "clandestine," "secret." It was this hidden element that enabled the magicians of Egypt to impose on the credulity of Pharaoh in imitating or reproducing the miracles of Moses and Aaron; "They .... did in like manner with their enchantments" (Exodus 7:11,22). Their inability to perform a genuine miracle is shown by Exodus 8:18.
(2) nachash, "to hiss," "whisper" referring to the mutterings of sorcerers in their incantations. Used as a derivative noun this Hebrew word means "a serpent." This involves the idea of cunning and subtlety. Although employed in the wider sense of augury or prognostication, its fundamental meaning is divination by serpents. This was the form of enchantment sought by Balaam (Numbers 24:1). Its impotence against the people of God is shown by Numbers 23:23 m. Shalmaneser forced this forbidden art upon the Israelites whom he carried captive to Assyria (2 Kings 17:17). It was also one of the heathen practices introduced during the apostasy under Ahab, against which Elijah protested (compare 1 Kings 21:20).
(3) lachash, "to whisper," "mutter," an onomatopoetic word, like the above, in imitation of the hiss of serpents. It is used of the offensive practice of serpent charming referred to in Ecclesiastes 10:11, and as Delitzsch says, in the place cited., "signifies the whispering of formulas of charming." See also Isaiah 3:3, "skilful enchanter"; Jeremiah 8:17, "serpents, cockatrices (the Revised Version (British and American) "adders") .... which will not be charmed"; Psalms 58:4,5, "the voice of charmers (the Revised Version, margin "enchanters"), charming never so wisely." Ophiomancy, the art of charming serpents, is still practiced in the East.
(4) chebher, "spell," from chabhar, "to bind," hence, "to bind with spells," "fascinate," "charm," descriptive of a species of magic practiced by binding knots. That this method of imposture, eg. the use of the magic knot for exorcism and other purposes, was common, is indicated by the monuments of the East. The moral mischief and uselessness of this and other forms of enchantment are clearly shown in Isaiah 47:9,12. This word is also used of the charming of serpents (Deuteronomy 18:11; Psalms 58:5).
(5) `anan, "to cover," "to cloud," hence, "to use covert arts." This form of divination was especially associated with idolatry (so Gesenius, Hebrew Lexicon). Delitzsch, however, in a note on this word (Isaiah 2:6), doubts the meaning "conceal" and thinks that it signifies rather "to gather auguries from the clouds." He translates it "cloud-interpretive" (Micah 5:12). This view is not generally supported. Rendered "enchanters" (Jeremiah 27:9, the Revised Version (British and American) "soothsayers"; so also in Isaiah 2:6). Often translated in the Revised Version (British and American) "practice augury," as in Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:10,14; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chronicles 33:6; a form of magical art corresponding in many respects to that of the Greek mantis, who uttered oracles in a state of divine frenzy. Septuagint kledonizomai, i.e. augury through the reading or acceptance of a sign or omen. A kindred form of enchantment is mentioned in the New Testament (2 Timothy 3:13; Greek goetes, "enchanters," "jugglers," the original indicating that the incantations were uttered in a kind of howl; rendered "seducers" the King James Version, "impostors" the Revised Version (British and American); compare Revelation 19:20). The New Testament records the names of several magicians who belonged to this class of conscious impostors:
Simon Magus (Acts 8:9); Bar-Jesus and Elymas (Acts 13:6,8); the slave girl with the spirit of Python ("divination," Acts 16:16); "vagabond (the Revised Version (British and American) "strolling") Jews, exorcists" (Acts 19:13; compare Luke 11:19); also the magicians of Moses' day, named Jannes and Jambres (2 Timothy 3:8).
All these forms of enchantment claimed access through supernatural insight or aid, to the will of the gods and the secrets of the spirit world. In turning away faith and expectation from the living God, they struck a deadly blow at the heart of true religion. From the enchanters of the ancient Orient to the medicine-men of today, all exponents of the "black art" exercise a cruel tyranny over the benighted people, and multitudes of innocent victims perish in body and soul under their subtle impostures. In no respect is the exalted nature of the Hebrew and Christian faiths more clearly seen than in their power to emancipate the human mind and spirit from the mental and moral darkness, the superstition and fear, and the darkening effect of these occult and deadly articles.
Dwight M. Pratt
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