Hello and welcome back!
It’s nice to be online again after an enjoyable and rewarding fall festival. Now back to the real world, and all it entails–especially Halloween, which is practically upon us.
Since the witch costume is one of the two most popular worn on this dark celebration, I have a perfect lede for a blog about a category of individuals which appears in both the Old and New Testaments. It contains several descriptors: witch, soothsayer, diviner, necromancer, and sorcerer/sorceress. All participated in various occult activities facilitated by demons, and all are soundly condemned in the pages of the Bible.
Two familiar examples
There are two well-known examples of women involved in these devilish practices. The first is often referred to as “the witch of En Dor,” a name which is not found in the scriptural account (I Samuel 28).
The Woman’s Study Bible furnishes some background for this “witch”: “The medium lived in eleventh-century B.C. En Dor, a Canaanite city three miles southwest of Mt. Tabor and within the territory of Manasseh’s tribe. She practiced divination, a common occupation among ancient Near Eastern women.”
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia offers a clarification of terms:
“The phrase ‘the witch of Endor’ occurs frequently in literature, and especially in common parlance, but it is not found in the English Bible. The expression has come from the heading and summary of the King James Version, both often so misleading. In 1 Sam 28, where alone the character is spoken of, English Versions of the Bible translates the Hebrew ‘esheth ba`alath ‘obh by “a woman that hath a familiar spirit.” A literal rendering would be ‘a woman who is mistress of an ‘obh or ghost,’ i.e. one able to compel the departed spirit to return and to answer certain questions. This woman was therefore a necromancer, a species of diviner… and not what the term “witch” imports.”(International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database (2003), Biblesoft, Inc.)
The second is a slave girl who possessed the power of divination and troubled the disciples during their ministry (Acts 16:16-24). With reference to “The Fortune-telling Slave,” The Woman’s Study Bible notes: “Divination was widely practiced in the ancient Middle East. This attempt to contact supernatural powers sought unknown answers that usually foretold the future. The Old Testament strongly condemns such practices (see Lev. 19:26; Jer. 27:9).”
Reviewing the rules
A quick review reveals the following instructions given to Israel in this regard:
Exodus 22:18 You shall not permit a sorceress [witch, in the KJV] to live.
Deuteronomy 18:10-12 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, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 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.
If one checks a concordance, it soon becomes clear this demonic influence was evident in some form from Genesis to Revelation (there are over 40 references to various activities such as sorcery, divinations, etc.), and was not limited solely to women.
There is a lesser known reference in this regard concerning the infamous Jezebel in 2 Kings 9:22: “Now it happened, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, ‘Is it peace, Jehu?’ So he answered, ‘What peace, as long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcraft are so many?’
The next two posts will explore the background leading to this episode with Joram, and review the actions that caused the name “Jezebel” to personify pure evil.
*For a history of the pagan origins of Halloween, click on the following links: