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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

1. Definition. -Primitive man, under the influence of animatism and animism, came to think of himself as surrounded by in numerable spirits. These in course of time became differentiated into gods, goddesses, demons, ghosts, etc. These beings could influence, enter into, and animate not only each other, but human beings, beasts, and things. Man gradually realized that it was his duty to discover and cultivate relations, friendly or defensive, with these-a duty intensified by his covetousness of good and his aversion to calamities or privations. Some of the methods he employed for doing this became regulated and systematized into forms of worship, i.e. approved methods of approaching and propitiating the spirits. As these forms became more and more universally recognized, they acquired a sacred character, which differentiated them from, and placed them on a higher level than, other ceremonies. Still the latter continued to be practised, because the forms of worship did not meet all men’s necessities. Unusual circumstances occurred through which, or on account of which, the divinities communicated with men, or by reason of which men felt the need of communicating with those beings in whose hands lay the destinies of their lives. These survivals of the lower culture, from which the regular forms of worship had shaken themselves free, may be grouped under the name ‘Divination.’

The Latin name for a divine being was deus. Divus indicates the quality possessed by a thing which makes it ‘godlike’; divinus rather the qualities which mate a being ‘divine’; divinitas means ‘the divine nature’; divinare , ‘to see like a god’; and divinatio , ‘the power of seeing like a god.’ This came to be confined, in ordinary use, to the power of foreseeing. But the word has a much wider meaning. To Chrysippus and the Stoics, ‘divination’ was the means of communication between the gods and men. Cicero ( de Div . i. 38) argues that, if there are gods, there must be men who have the power of communicating with them. In English ‘divination’ has the wider meaning akin to the original significance. Divination then rests on the idea that, apart from forms of worship, a divinity and a human being can, when necessary, come into living touch with each other, the divinity acting on or through the man, thus revealing his mind to him; or the man by approved methods so revealing his mind to the divinity that the latter acts on or through him.

2. Divination and magic .-Just as worship, by becoming systematized, left behind it the forms of communication called ‘divination,’ so divination, as it became more regulated and elaborated in the hands of professional diviners, left behind it cruder and lower forms of communication which may all be included under the term ‘magic.’*[Note: C. Haddon, Magic and Fetishism, 1906; F. B. Jevons, Comparative Religion, 1913.]The distinction between divination and magic may be briefly and not inaccurately stated thus: the diviner is in touch with the divinities because he is their servant; the magician, because, for the time being, he is their master. Thus, each of these forms of communication, though existing alongside of each other and accepted by the same people, has its own distinctive features.

3. Development .-If we think of the above three methods of communication between the divinities and men as existing, in embryo, in the earliest ages, we can realize how they were each developed by such great races as the Semites and the Aryans, and how the common inheritance of each of thesis was developed along distinctive lines by the different nations springing from them. Thus, to confine our attention to divination, we have that of the Semites,*[Note: Robertson Smith, RS2, 1894; Th. Nöldeke, Sketches from Eastern History, Eng. tr., 1892; ERE i. 390; J. E. Carpenter, Comparative Religion, 1913; HDB v. 83 ff. and the Literature there mentioned.]developing into that of the Mesopotamians,†[Note: E. Carpenter, op. cit.; A. H. Sayce, Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, 1887; G. Maspero, Dawm of Civilization2, 1896; Stephen Langdon, ‘Private Penance,’ in Transactions of the Third International Congress for the History of Religions, 1908, p. 249; L. W. King, Bab. Magic and Sorcery, 1896, Bab. Religion and Mythology, 1899; L. R. Farnell, Greece and Babylon, 1911; ERE i. 316, iv. 783, and Literature there mentioned; R. C. Thompson, The Report of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, 1900, also The Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonia, 1903-04.]Persians,‡[Note: ERE iv. 818; J. H. Moulton, Early Religious Poetry of Persia, 1911.]Jews,§[Note: ERE iv. 806; S. A. Cook, The Religion of Ancient Palestine, 1908: T. W. Davies, Magic, Divination, and Demonology among the Hebrews and their Neighbours, 1898; HDB i. 611 ff.]and Arabians;||[Note: | ERE i. 659.]and that of the Aryans,¶[Note: v. lhering, The Evolution of the Aryan, tr. Drucker, 1897; I. Taylor, The Origin of the Aryans, 1889; ERE i. 11 and the Literature there mentioned.]developing into that of the Vedas,**[Note: * Ib. iv. 827.]Greeks,††[Note: † W. R. Halliday, Greek Divination, 1913; ERE iv. 796, vi. 401; Gilbert Murray, Four Stages of Greek Religion, 1912.]Romans,‡‡[Note: ‡ W. Warde Fowler, The Religious Experience of the Roman People, 1911; ERE iv. 820.]Celts,§§[Note: § Ib. iii. 277, iv. 787.]Teutons,||||[Note: ||| Ib. iv. 827.]and Lithuanians;¶|¶[Note: |¶ Ib. iv. 814.]while that of the Egyptians strongly influenced and was influenced by many of these.***[Note: ** Ib. vi. 374; F. Cumont, The Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism, Eng. tr., 1911, p. 73 ff.]

The Pax Romana and the toleration of the Roman Government permitted the cults of innumerable divinities and all these forms of divination to spread throughout the Empire; and Jews, Christians, worshippers of all kinds of Eastern and Egyptian deities, diviners, ‘magicians, astrologers, and wizards jostled each other in a theological confusion to which no parallel can be found’ (K. Lake, The Earlier Epistles of St. Paul , 1911, p. 47).

4. Divination in the Apostolic Age .-It is difficult, but necessary, to realize this amazing profusion of divinities as a distinct feature of the Apostolic Age. Besides mentioning Jahweh, the God of the Hebrews, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, worshipped by the Christians, and some of the innumerable ethnic deities, the literature of the Apostolic Age contains references to angels, archangels, living creatures, Satan, the Devil, the Wicked One, the Antichrist, demons, unclean and evil powers, dominions, principalities, authorities, thrones, and glories.

It is not easy to decide how far belief in these affected the various classes. But practically this is true: each man had his favourite divinity to which all Gentiles added a select group of deities whom they reverenced. Rationalists like the Sadducees denied the existence of ἄγγελοι and πνεύματα ( Acts 23:8); many of the more educated viewed the existence of the minor supernatural beings with more or less scepticism; but the mass of people lived in the belief and the fear of these divine beings. In that age men felt themselves surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses ( Hebrews 12:1), living in a world where the gods appeared ( Acts 14:11;  Acts 28:6), where Jesus appeared to St. Paul ( Acts 9:17;  Acts 9:27;  Acts 26:16) and to Stephen ( Acts 7:56), and His Spirit prohibited action ( Acts 16:7), where an itinerant preacher was received as a messenger of God, or even as Christ Jesus re-incarnated ( Galatians 4:14); where the Holy Spirit was a distinct living personality, where the assertion that a man was the Son of God made a Roman governor tremble ( John 19:8), and the patience of His death caused a Roman centurion to exclaim: ‘This was a Son of God’ ( Matthew 27:54). In such a world the Satan fashioned himself into an ἄγγελος φωτός ( 2 Corinthians 11:14), δαίμονες entered into men, and were cast out by men ( Luke 11:19,  Mark 9:38), converts to the religion of Jesus who had believed and were baptized proposed to purchase the ability to confer the Holy Spirit ( Acts 8:19), the power of the evil eye was exercised ( Mark 7:22), and ἀρχαί and δυνἁμεις, ‘principalities’ and ‘powers’ ( Romans 8:38), ‘mustered their unseen array.’ Nor must we think that the Christians stood far removed from the common beliefs of the age. This is clear from many things. Think of their belief in the Satan, the antagonist who stood over against God. He was conceived as a huge dragon, or old serpent ( Revelation 12:9;  Revelation 13:11 [as amended by Charles in his Studies in the Apocalypse , 1913, p. 100]  Revelation 20:2), and as such was identified with διάβολος. He was regarded as having his abode in the skies, in which he and his ἄγγελοι had been defeated by an ἀρχάγγελος Michael and his ἄγγελοι, and thrown down on the earth ( Revelation 12:7-9) to be flung into the abyss for a thousand years ( Revelation 20:3;  Revelation 20:7). He had his subordinate spirits. Special mention is made of ‘the Lawless One’ [according to א B] ( 2 Thessalonians 2:3), and the ἄγγελοι who fought for him ( Revelation 12:7-9), and afflicted men’s bodies ( 2 Corinthians 12:7), and even destroyed them ( 1 Corinthians 5:5). He himself could masquerade as ἄγγελος φωτός ( 2 Corinthians 11:14), and could equip his servants with full powers, the miracles and portents of falsehood, and the full deceitfulness of evil ( 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10). The Satan was the adversary of men; his chief aim was to seduce to wrong ( Revelation 20:3;  Revelation 20:8;  Revelation 20:10,  Ephesians 2:2) by tempting to such sins as lying, cheating ( Acts 5:3), incontinence ( 1 Corinthians 7:5,  1 Timothy 5:15), gross sexual excess, ‘his deep mysteries’ ( Revelation 2:24,  Ephesians 2:3). He gains advantages by clever manœuvres ( 2 Corinthians 2:11). He is the accuser of the members of the Christian brotherhood ( Revelation 12:10). He hinders good endeavours ( 1 Thessalonians 2:18), but the God of peace crushes him under His people’s feet ( Romans 16:20). Jews hostile to the religion of Jesus are thought of by the Christians as his servants who form his synagogue ( Revelation 2:9;  Revelation 3:9), and in places noted for wickedness he dwells in power as a king on his throne ( Revelation 2:13). By a deliberate act of judgment an offender could be consigned to the Satan’s power for the destruction of his body ( 1 Corinthians 5:5,  1 Timothy 1:20).

The natural and inevitable outcome of this multiplicity of divinities was the universal practice of divination. The testimony of history to this fact is fully confirmed by the discovery of contemporary texts, among which are ‘innumerable … horoscopes, amulets, cursing tablets, and magical books.… The whole ancient world is full of miracles’ (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East 2, 1911, pp. 284, 393). Divination and magic were prevalent not merely among sects like the Essenes, but among the Jews generally (Schürer, History of the Jewish People (Eng. tr. of GJV).] II. iii. [1886] p. 151ff., II. ii. [1855] p. 204). The writings of the Apostolic Fathers show the relation of the Christians to these arts. In the Didache among other commandments are these, ‘thou shalt not practise magic, thou shalt not use enchantments,’ οὐ μαγεύσεις, οὐ φαρμακεύσεις (ii.), and this entreaty, ‘become not an omen-watcher, nor one who uses charms, nor an astrologer, nor one who purifies,’ i.e. one who averts disease or removes sin by sacrifices, μὴ γἰνου οἱωνοσκόπος … μηδὲ ἐπαοιδὸς, μηδὲ μαθηματικὸς, μηδὲ περικαθαίρων (iii.). Hermas ( Mand . xi. 4) cautions Christians not to consult soothsayers (μαντεύονται). The Didache describes the Way of Death as full, among other things, of ‘magical arts and potions,’ μαγεῖαι, φαρμακίαι (v.), while in the Way of Darkness, among other things that destroy the soul, are ‘potions and magical arts,’ φαρμακεία, μαγεία ( Ep. Barn . xx.). Ignatius speaks of the birth of Jesus as destroying or making ridiculous every kind of magic, πᾶσα μαγεία (Eph. 19.), and exhorts his readers ‘to flee evil arts,’ τὰς κακοτεχνίας φεῦγε, but all the more to discourse in public regarding them ( Ep. to Polycarp , v.). In Ps.-Ignatius, Ep. to the Antiochians , xi., ‘the practice of magic,’ γοητέας, is a vice forbidden even to the Gentiles. Aristides ( Apol . xi.) in indicating the things which Christians should not do, omits all reference to divination or magic, and a similar omission is noticeable in Ep. Barn . xix. and in 1 Clement, xxx, xxxv. Hero is warned (Ps.-Ignatius, Ep. to Hero , ii.) to distrust any one teaching beyond what is commanded, even ‘though he work miracles,’ κἄν σημεῖα ποιῆ. In the description which Aristides declares the Greeks give of their gods, he writes that they say some of them were ‘sorcerers,’ φαρμακούς [ Apol . viii.), ‘practising sorcery,’ φαρμακείας (xiii.), and he calls Hermes ‘a magician,’ μάγον (x.). But it is noticeable that in Ps.-Ignatius, Ep. to the Antiochians , xii. among the Church officials is ‘the exorcist,’ ἐπορκιστής, and in the Ep. to the Philippians , v., Christ is by way of honour called ‘this magician,’ μάγος οὖτος, while in Ephesians , xx., the sacramental bread is called ‘the medicine of immortality,’ φάρμακον ἀθανασίας. Pagan testimony is to the same effect. The Emperor Hadrian (a.d. 117-138), writing to the Consul Servianus on the state of Egypt, says: ‘There is no ruler of a synagogue of Jews, no Samaritan, no Presbyter of the Christians who is not an astrologer, a soothsayer, a quack [ mathematicus, haruspex, aliptes ]’ ( Script. Hist. August. , 1774, ‘Vopisci Saturninus,’ 8).

These supernatural beings communicated with men by means of ἄγγελοι (‘angels’ or ‘messengers’) or prophets, by possession, by means of the hand, tongues, dreams, visions, trances, voices, sounds.

The human beings in touch with these supernatural beings, were variously named exorcists, soothsayers, sorcerers, enchanters; and, lower still, magicians, witches, and wizards. They had various methods of bringing the power of the divinities to act on men, all of which may be classed into two groups: ( a ) regular  : blessing, cursing, pronouncing anathema, invoking the Name, embracing, laying on of hands, shadowing, signs and wonders, as e.g. healing, or smiting with disease such as blindness; ( b ) exceptional  : the lot, the vow, the oath, and committing to Satan.

As religion has become spiritualized, divination has more and more lost its hold on the minds of men. The ultimate end will be reached when worship shall be the approach to the One Father by a man, who, because he is taught and led by the indwelling Spirit of Jesus, needs no divination, and who, because he can proffer his requests to the Father in prayer, scorns all magic. But the end is not yet.

Literature.-There is no book dealing with Divination in the Apostolic Age. Reference to its various phases will be found in modern Commentaries and in works on Comparative Religion, and Anthropology, as those of E. B. Tylor, A. E. Crawley, J. G. Frazer, F.B, Jevons, J. H. Leuba, and R. R. Marett. In addition to these and the authorities cited throughout the article, reference may be made to F. W. H. Myers, on ‘Greek Oracles,’ in Essays , 1883, and to the series of articles in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics vi. 775ff.

P. A. Gordon Clark.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

 Ezekiel 13:7. Used in Scripture of false systems of ascertaining the divine will, such as are allied to idolatry: as necromancy, which evoked the dead ( 1 Samuel 28:8); prognostication by arrows ( Ezekiel 21:21). The arrows marked with names of places to be attacked were shaken (for "He made His arrows bright," translated, "He shook") together in a quiver; whichever came out first intimated the place selected; or else threw them in the air to see in alighting which way they inclined, toward Jerusalem or Ammon. Inspecting entrails. The healthy or unhealthy state of the sacrificial entrails intimated success or failure. In the Nineveh sculptures the king is represented with a cup in his right hand, his left hand resting on a bow, also two arrows in the right hand, possibly for divination. The "magicians" of Egypt in  Genesis 41:8, ( Chartumim , from Cheret "a style" or pen,) were sacred "scribes" of the hieroglyphics, devoted to astrology, magic, etc.; else from Egyptian chertom, "wonder workers," or cher-tum, "bearers of sacred spells."

Daniel was made "master of the magicians" ( Daniel 5:11); Chokmim , wise men, our wizards ( Exodus 7:11);" sorcerers" ( Mekaskphim ), "mutterers of magic formulae" ( Isaiah 47:9-12). Jannes or Anna in Egyptian means "scribe," a frequent name in papyri of the time of Rameses II. Jambres, the other name of an Egyptian magician preserved by Paul ( 2 Timothy 3:8), means "scribe of the south." The earliest prohibition of witchcraft is  Exodus 22:18, "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Witchcraft was an appeal to a power alien from God. So it was accounted rebellion against Jehovah. Saul's disobedience and rebellion against God's will led him, though zealous to extirpate witches so long as God's law did not interfere with his impatient self-will, at last to consult the witch of Endor; Samuel's words as to his disobedience in the case of Amalek proving prophetic, "rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry" ( 1 Samuel 15:23; compare  1 Samuel 28:3-20).

"So Saul died for his transgression (Hebrew shuffling evasion of obedience) ... and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it" ( 1 Chronicles 10:13). "Wizards," Yid'Oniym , from Yaada "to know" ( Leviticus 19:31). Consulters of "the dead," 'Oboth ( Leviticus 20:6), "those having familiar spirits" which they consulted to evoke the dead; literally, "bottles" (leather) inflated by the spirit; compare  Job 32:19, "my belly is as wine which hath no vent ... ready to burst like new bottles." The pythonesses (margin of  Acts 16:16) spoke with a deep voice as from the belly; by ventriloquism (Septuagint so translated "them that have familiar spirits," ventriloquists) they made a low voice sound ("peep and mutter") as from the grave or departed person's spirit ( Isaiah 19:3;  Isaiah 29:4).

Scripture has written for all ages ( Isaiah 8:19-20):"when they shall say, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits; and unto wizards that peep and that mutter, should not a people seek unto their God? (should they seek) for the (good of) the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony ... if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." This tests and condemns modern spiritualism, the sign of "the latter times and the last days" ( 1 Timothy 4:1), "seducing spirits and doctrines suggested by demons" ( 2 Timothy 3:1-8). The phenomena seem supernatural and Satanic, and the communications often lying, as was to be expected from "the father of lying" ( John 8:44). The Angekoks, Esquimaux sorcerers, when converted, have declared that their sorceries, when they were heathen, were not mere impostures, that they were acted on by a power they could not control; but when they believed in Jesus they had neither the will nor the power to do what they used in their pagan state.

Brainerd states the same as to the Indian diviners, namely, that all their former powers of divination departed the moment the word of God entered their souls. Satan's design in spiritualism is, judging from the alleged spirit communications, to supersede Scripture with another authority (namely, spirit communications) in matters of faith. Satan and his demons are the real speakers in these pretended communications from the spirits of the dead. The "associate spirit" of spiritualism answers to the Scripture "familiar spirit" of the wizards. The pythoness and the witch of Endor were each a "medium" between the consulters and the powers of darkness. The consulters are put en rapport with the latter, not really with the departed dead. Scripture ( Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, "the dead know not anything ... neither have they any more a portion forever in anything done under the sun";  2 Kings 2:9;  Luke 16:19-31) implies that it is not the spirits of the dead that make the alleged communications, though these communications assert that it is; this assertion is from a lying spirit, such as was in Ahab's prophets ( 1 Kings 22:22).

The dead do not return, they are personated by evil spirits. Spiritualism is virtually condemned in  Deuteronomy 18:10;  2 Kings 17:17;  2 Kings 21:6. "Sorcerers" are especially mentioned as about to abound with "lying wonders," and to be adjudged to damnation, at the Lord's coming again ( 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11;  Malachi 3:5;  Revelation 21:8;  Revelation 22:15). The three frog-like demons out of the mouths of the anti-trinity, the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet, shall "work miracles" to tempt the ten kings under Antichrist to the last battle for the kingship of the world, against Christ, in "the great day of God Almighty" ( Revelation 16:13-14; compare  Zechariah 13:2;  Matthew 24:24;  Revelation 13:14-15). Paul was "grieved," so far was he from seeking and welcoming like spiritualists the pythoness' testimony to him ( Acts 16:17-18); for the Spirit of Christ and the spirit of divination cannot dwell together in the same soul.

God condemns those who "remain among the graves and lodge in the monuments" ( Isaiah 65:4) for necromancy, to consult the dead. The warning in  Isaiah 8:19-20;  Mark 5:3, applies to all times. The witch of Endor was "mistress of a spirit by which the dead are conjured up" ( 1 Samuel 28:7, Ba'Alath 'Owb ). Saul's request, "bring me him up whom I shall name," explains the previous "divine ( Qacomi ) unto me by the familiar spirit." The witch's recognizing Saul as soon as Samuel appeared proves that her art was not mere jugglery: "Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul"; she was in a state of clairvoyance. On the other hand, her "crying with a loud voice," startled at the sight of Samuel, shows that his appearance differed essentially from anything she had ever by demon art effected before. She tells Saul, "I saw gods (a supernatural being) ascending out of the earth ... an old man covered with a (prophet's) mantle" ( Me'Il ).

Saul apparently did not see Samuel's person, but recognized the "mantle." Saul's inconsistency is convicted by Samuel: "wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?" If God was departed from him he should have been the more afraid to increase Jehovah's displeasure by breaking the laws in consulting the dead, as if they were less under God's control than the living. Abject superstition never reasons. Samuel's prophecy of his and his sons' death on the morrow, and Israel's defeat by the Philistines, proves Samuel's appearance to have been of God, and not by demoniac agency nor an illusion ( Sirach 46:20). God for special reasons awakened His servant out of his repose ("why hast thou disquieted me," etc.) to appear, not at a conjuring call which He forbids, but to show the witch and the king the terrible penalty of disobedience and witchcraft, as he (Samuel) had long ago declared in more general terms when alive ( 1 Samuel 15:23;  1 Samuel 28:17-19).

Jehovah's principle is ( Ezekiel 14:4;  Ezekiel 14:7-8), "every man that setteth up his idols in his heart and putteth the stumbling-block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him that cometh, according to the multitude of his idols, that I may take the house of Israel in their own heart ... I will answer him by Myself" (by My own special interposition), answering the fool according to his folly, making the sinner's sin his own punishment. In Egypt books containing magic formulae belonged exclusively to the king, the priests and wise men, who formed a college, being called in by Pharaoh when needful. The Qecem divined the future by any mode of taking omens, from a root "to cut." But the Kashaph , Mekashphim , "sorcerers" above, used fascinations and magic charms ( Exodus 7:11;  Exodus 22:18;  Daniel 2:2;  Deuteronomy 18:10). The Me'Oneen ( 2 Kings 21:6),"an observer of times," from 'Aanan "to cover," using covert arts; or else from 'On , "time," "fixed time"; those who define the exact auspicious time to travel, to traffic, etc.; or else "astrologers," who judge by the stars auspicious and inauspicious days.

The Septuagint explain it of "observers of words," so as to decide by them whether success will attend an undertaking or not ( Genesis 24:14;  1 Samuel 14:9-10;  1 Kings 20:33). Others take it from ''Αyin , "the eye," "one fascinating with the eyes" ( Matthew 20:15). "Monthly prognosticators" ( Mod'Im ), who every new moon professed by observations of it to foretell the future ( Isaiah 47:13). Μenachashim , "charmers of serpents," from Naachaash , "serpent," "to augur." Ηobreb Shamaim , "dividers of the heavens," watching conjunctions and oppositions of the stars; in casting a nativity they observed the sign which arose at the time of one's birth, the mid heaven, the sign in the west opposite the horoscope, and the hypogee.

Divination by rods is alluded to in  Hosea 4:12, "their staff declareth unto them"; a rod stripped of bark on one side, not on the other, was thrown up; if the bore side alighted uppermost it was a good omen, otherwise a bad omen. The Arabs mark one rod God bids, the other God forbids; whichever came out first from the case decided the issue. Consultation of idols' oracles is referred to in  2 Kings 1:2-6. The only true "oracle" ( Debir ) was the holy of holies ( 1 Kings 6:16;  Psalms 28:2); previously, consultation of the Lord through the priest with the ephod ( 2 Samuel 2:1;  2 Samuel 5:23). Our "oracles" are the Holy Scriptures ( Acts 7:38;  Romans 3:2). Of dealings in magic in the New Testament instances occur: Simon Magus ( Acts 8:9-11); Elymas Bar Jesus ( Acts 13:6;  Acts 13:8); the pythoness ( Acts 16:16's margin); the vagabond Jews, exorcists ( Acts 19:13;  Acts 19:19), the Ephesian books treating of "curious arts";  Galatians 5:20, "witchcraft";  Revelation 9:21, "sorceries."

Morrish Bible Dictionary [3]

The numerous references in scripture to the various forms of occult science, as it is now called, and the strong denunciations against the Israelites having anything to do with it, show that it was a dangerous reality, however much deception might at times have been associated with it. We read of it first in  Genesis 41:8 , when Pharaoh called for all the magicians, chartummim, of Egypt and the wise men, to interpret his dream. All their resources failing, God's man in the prison was called forth to show the dream, and this proved the occasion of working out God's purposes respecting Joseph. Doubtless the above class of men were eminent for their learning, as those were at the court of Babylon, over whom Daniel was made chief.  Daniel 4:7,9 .

Among those in Egypt there were some at least who were able to exercise powers beyond what they obtained by human learning. When Moses was endeavouring by means of signs to convince Pharaoh of the power of God, the magicians of Egypt were able to turn their rods into serpents, and to simulate the first two plagues with their enchantments.  Exodus 7:22;  Exodus 8:7 . These plagues were 'turning the water into blood' and 'bringing up frogs upon the land.' This was beyond mere human power, and certainly the magicians did not work by the power of God; it must therefore have been by the power of Satan. We know not the nature of the enchantments used, the word is lat, and signifies 'secret, magic arts.' Satan can suggest what incantations to employ, if man is willing, and can exercise his powers as far as permitted by God. After the first two plagues the power was stopped, and the magicians had to own, whenlice were produced, "This is the finger of God."

In  Deuteronomy 18:10,11 there is a list of things bearing on our subject which were denounced by the Lord:

1. DIVINATION, qesem, 'prediction.' A remarkable passage in  Ezekiel 21:21,22 gives some instances of how the heathen divined. The king of Babylon had come to two roads, and wanting to know whether he should take the road to Rabbath or to Jerusalem, resorted to divination. First 'he shook his arrows' (as it should be translated). Doubtless two or more arrows were marked each with the name of one of the cities, and shaken in the quiver, whichever arrow was taken by the right hand decided which road was to be taken. Jerusalem fell to the right hand. Perhaps the king was doubtful, so he consulted with images, teraphim; it is not known how these were used for divination: cf.  Zechariah 10:2 . The king still sought another guide: 'he looked in the liver.' By certain set rules the intestines of a sacrifice were said to be propitious or the reverse. The king using three sets of prognostications shows that he had no great confidence in his divinations: he may have been often deceived by them previously. How different from an answer from God vouchsafed to Israel!

Other means of divination are named, as, 'divining by the cup.'  Genesis 44:5,15 . This was practised by the Egyptians and Persians and is thus described: small pieces of metal and stones, marked with signs were thrown into the cup, and answers gathered from the marks as they fell. Sometimes the cup was filled with water, and, as the sun fell upon the water, images were seen or fancied on its surface. Another reference is "My people ask counsel at their stocks and their staff declareth unto them."  Hosea 4:12 . The Arabs used two rods, on one of which was written God bids, and on the other God forbids, these were shaken together, and the first that fell, or was drawn, was taken for the answer; or one rod was thrown up and the direction in which it pointed when it fell was answer. It will be seen here that a 'stock' or god was invoked that what the staff declared should be controlled by him. So in all divination, incantations were used, and the gods invoked to let the replies given be the most favourable. Behind all this we know there were demons who controlled the results given, so as to work out the purposes of Satan.

In the Acts we find a damsel possessed with a spirit of divination, or of Python. This was the prophetic oracle at Delphi, held to be the centre and focus of Gentile divination. An evil spirit connected with that oracle possessed this young woman. The testimony of the evil spirit to the servants of the most high God is remarkable: it may have been compelled to speak thus when brought face to face with the power of God (as the demons owned Christ): but the apostle could not tolerate commendation from such a source — the spirit was cast out by a superior power. Her soothsaying or divination was stopped, and her master lost the source of his evil gains  Acts 16:16-19 .

2. Observer Of Times or, as others translate it, 'a practiser of augury:' it may have included both. The word is anan, which is also translated 'enchanter, soothsayer, and sorcerer.' An observer of times had his lucky and unlucky days, and nothing must be set on foot without the gods being consulted. We have an instance of this in Esther, when Haman wanted to find a lucky day on which his plans against the Jews should be carried out. They resorted to the lot, but doubtless invoked their god to give it success. Others practised augury for the like purpose of ascertaining the will of their god. Thunder, lightning, observing the clouds, the flight of birds, or the appearance of certain birds, answered their questions.

3. Enchanter nachash, 'a whisperer.' This seems to refer to the songs sung or charms muttered as a preliminary to obtaining a response from the spirits they wished to consult. It was one of the things that Manasseh resorted to.  2 Kings 21:6 .

4. Witch or Sorcerer The Hebrew word is kashaph, and refers to the practice of magical arts, with the intent to injure man or beast, or to pervert the mind; to bewitch. It may be that they had no power to injure another unless that person, out of curiosity or friendship, was a willing listener to the incantations used. Manasseh practised also this wickedness.  2 Chronicles 33:6 . Nineveh is compared to a well-favoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts.  Nahum 3:4 . The woman at Endor is usually called a witch.

5. Charmer from chabar, 'to join together, to fascinate.' It is associated with another word, lachash, 'to speak in a soft gentle manner,' and then is applied to the charming of serpents.  Psalm 58:5 . In like manner man is deceived and disarmed of his aversion to intercourse with evil spirits until he finds himself under their sway. In  Isaiah 19:3 another word, ittim, is translated 'charmer' with a similar meaning, as giving a gentle sound in the incantations of the sorcerers.

6. Consulter With Familiar Spirits The word is ob, which signifies 'a leathern bottle or skin,' and is supposed to imply that the persons alluded to were professedly inflated with a spirit. It occurs sixteen times and is translated in all the places as above. As an example of the meaning of this word we have the woman at Endor whom Saul consulted: she is said to have had a familiar spirit. Saul at once said to the woman, "Bring me him up whom I shall name unto thee." The woman, as soon as her life was secured by an oath, replied, "Whom shall I bring up unto thee?" Apparently it was her profession to call up departed spirits, but on this occasion she recognised the work of a superior power, for when she saw Samuel she cried with a loud voice. Samuel told Saul that he and his sons on the morrow would be with him. Whether having the power to call up departed spirits is always implied in the above word is not known. A remarkable thing, in connection with those who have a familiar spirit, is that apparently there is a voice heard 'out of the ground.'  Isaiah 29:4 .*

* It has been doubted by many whether it was really Samuel that arose, because of his being God's prophet. The woman had reckoned that her familiar demon would personate as usual: hence her fear when God allowed Samuel's spirit in this special instance to appear. Of course Satan can do nothing without God's permission, but it must be remembered that it is Satan that had the power of death,  Hebrews 2:14; and both Hades and Death, as powers of Satan, will eventually be cast into the lake of fire.  Revelation 20:14 .

7. Wizard from yiddeoni, 'a knowing, wise one.' The only thing said in scripture concerning such is that they 'chirp and mutter.'  Isaiah 8:19 . This was doubtless a part of their incantations, used to bewilder those who came for advice, and needful perhaps to arouse to action the spirit they wished to consult. The counsel may have been good at times in order the more effectually to draw the deluded ones under the influence of the evil spirits.

8. Necromancer from darash methim, 'to consult the dead.' This occurs only in  Deuteronomy 18:11 , though the same is implied in  Isaiah 8:19; Should the living go to the dead? should they not seek unto their God? And in  Psalm 106:28 we read of some who 'ate the sacrifices of the dead,' which may have been a preliminary to consulting them. The above is the list given in   Deuteronomy 18:10,11; a few still demand attention.

9. ASTROLOGERS, habar shamaym, 'dividers of the heavens' for astrological purposes.  Isaiah 47:13 . The word for 'astrologers' throughout Daniel is a different word, ashshaph, and does not imply any connection with the heavens, but is rather 'sorcerers' or 'enchanters,' as we read with reference to Babylon in  Isaiah 47:9,12 , where a multitude of sorceries and great abundance of enchantments are spoken of. Along with the Babylonish astrologers in  Isaiah 47:13 are associated Star-Gazers who may have prognosticated events from the altered positions of the planets in respect to the stars. To this is added Monthly Prognosticators who probably drew their deductions from the moon. Connected with Babylon is also the word Soothsayer gezar, 'to divide, determine fate or destiny' by any pretended means of predicting events.

In the N.T., besides the case referred to of the damsel possessed by a spirit of Python, we read of others, such as Simon who used sorcery and bewitched the people of Samaria for a long time,  Acts 8:9-11; and Elymas the sorcerer, a Jew who was met with in Cyprus, who perverted the right ways of the Lord.  Acts 13:6,8 . These used magical arts (called 'curious arts' in  Acts 19:19 ) and bewitched the people. Another word is used for sorceries in the Revelation, φαρμακεία, which refers to drugs, 'to stupefy with drugs,' and then for any system of sorcery by incantations.  Revelation 9:21;  Revelation 18:23; cf.  Revelation 21:8;  Revelation 22:15 . Sorcery is classed with the grossest of sins, and is also applied to the professing church in mystical Babylon. The same word is translated 'witchcraft' in  Galatians 5:20 .

The above is a brief glance at the subtle power of Satan in the unseen world, by which he deludes mankind, at least where man is the willing victim. Is it not clear that divination should not be confounded with mere jugglery? However much that may be associated with it, the real power of Satan is behind it. Some sorcerers converted in modern times in various parts of the earth have confessed that they were controlled by a power beyond their own; but that it ceased entirely on their believing and confessing Christ. It is important to see that this power is of Satan, because of thegreat increase in the present day of attempting to have intercourse with the spirits of the dead, to which even Christians may be, and indeed have been, drawn out of mere curiosity. "Let no man beguile you of your reward . . . . intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind."  Colossians 2:18 .

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [4]

Communication with a deity for the purpose of determining the deity's knowledge, resulting in clarification of a decision or discernment of the future. Two forms of divination developed in the ancient Near East, one using inductive manipulation of natural or human phenomena and the other taking intuitive forms of inner revelation.

The History of Divination . In Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Egypt, and Canaan, people communicated with their deities by means of divination, both on a personal and public level. From the Old Babylonian period (ca. 2000 b.c.) on in Mesopotamia, the reading of livers helped determine the actions of commoners and kings. A sheep was slaughtered, its liver removed, and the markings of the organ "read" for an answer. Other inductive types of divination included the analysis of stars, moon, entrails, lungs, weather, birds, and fetuses. Human-produced phenomena studied included casting lots, shooting arrows, dropping oil in water, drinking wine, calling the dead, and sprinkling water on an ox. Intuitive types of divination in the ancient Near East involved oracles, prophecies, and dreams.

In Israel, an official position on divination limited its uses to forms that did not reflect the practices of surrounding cultures. Most inductive forms were forbidden ( Leviticus 19:26;  Deuteronomy 18:11 ), although the use of Urim and Thummim and lots supposes some inductive approaches. Most ancient practices, however, were used by both the populace and the officials. The Bible alludes to the use of omens ( Isaiah 44:25 ), arrows ( Hosea 4:12 ), animal actions ( 1 Samuel 6:7-12 ), the reading of livers ( Ezekiel 21:21-22 ), budding plants ( Numbers 17:1-11 ), necromancy ( 1 Samuel 28 ), and prophetic utterances, called false ( Micah 3:7,11 ) or "lying divinations" ( Isaiah 44:25;  Jeremiah 14:14;  27:9-10;  Ezekiel 12:24;  Zechariah 10:2 ). References to the "soothsayers' tree" ( Judges 9:37 ), the "sons of a sorcerer" ( Isaiah 57:3 ), and the girl with a spirit of divination ( Acts 16:16-19 ) are evidence of widespread practice.

Theology of Divination . Divination presupposes that the divine communicates with the human. This communication takes both human and divine initiative. Inductive techniques depend on human initiation. The Bible supposes that a priority rests on revelatory forms (dream, vision, oracle) rather than on inductive ones (Urim/ Thummim, ephod). Although natural phenomena may communicate God's will, their interpretation must be scrutinized and may be helped by the verbal. It seems clear that God is not limited to the use of any one means of revelation.

Why would the Bible record such strong negative injunctions against inductive divination? Deuteronomic law especially attacks everything connected with pagan religions. Foreign deities may have attached themselves to these methods. Even then, most of Israel's approved methods display parallels with the surrounding cultures. The question of veracity may be involved because they prove difficult to interpret. For this reason, verbal forms take precedence over inductive methods. Yet even prophecies need to stand the test of whether they come true ( Deuteronomy 18:21-22 ).

Human need requires discernment of divine desires. God chooses to communicate in a variety of ways, including divination techniques, but always in the clearest, most unambiguous way possible.

G. Michael Hagan

See also Idolatry Idol; Idea Of Revelation

Bibliography . M. deJong-Ellis, Journal of Cuneiform Studies 41 (1989): 127-86; H. A. Hoffner, JETS 30 (1987): 257-85; A. L. Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia .

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [5]

a conjecture or surmise, formed concerning future events, from things which are supposed to presage them. The eastern people were always fond of divination, magic, the curious arts of interpreting dreams, and of obtaining a knowledge of future events. When Moses published the law, this disposition had long been common in Egypt and the neighbouring countries. To prevent the Israelites from consulting diviners, fortune tellers, interpreters of dreams, &c, he forbade them, under very severe penalties, to consult persons of this description, and promised to them the true spirit of prophecy as infinitely superior. He commanded those to be stoned who pretended to have a familiar spirit, or the spirit of divination,  Deuteronomy 18:9-10;  Deuteronomy 18:15 . The writings of the prophets are full of invectives against the Israelites who consulted diviners, and against false prophets who by such means seduced the people.

2. Different kinds of divination have passed for sciences, as

1. Aeromancy, divining by the air.

2. Astrology, by the heavens.

3. Augury, by the flight and singing of birds, &c.

4. Cheiromancy, by inspecting the lines of the hand.

5. Geomancy, by observing cracks or clefts in the earth.

6. Haruspicy, by inspecting the bowels of animals.

7. Horoscopy, a branch of astrology, marking the position of the heavens when a person is born.

8. Hydromancy, by water.

9. Physiognomy, by the countenance.

10. Pyromancy, a divination made by fire.

3. The kinds of divination, to which superstition in modern times has given belief, are not less numerous, or less ridiculous, than those which were practised in the days of profound ignorance. The divining rod, which is mentioned in Scripture, is still in some repute in the north of England, though its application is now confined principally to the discovery of veins of lead ore, seams of coal, or springs. In order that it may possess the full virtue for this purpose, it should be made of hazel. Divination by Virgilian, Horatian, or Bible lots, was formerly very common; and the last kind is still practised. The works are opened by chance, and the words noticed which are covered by the thumb: if they can be interpreted in any respect relating to the person, they are reckoned prophetic. Charles I. is said to have used this kind of divination to ascertain his fate. The ancient Christians were so much addicted to the sortes sanctorum, or divining by the Bible, that it was expressly forbidden by a council. Divination by the speal, or blade bone of a sheep, is used in Scotland. In the Highlands it is called sleina-reached, or reading the speal bone. It was very common in England in the time of Drayton, particularly among the colony of Flemings settled in Pembroke- shire. Camden relates of the Irish, that they looked through the bare blade bone of a sheep; and if they saw any spot in it darker than ordinary, they believed that somebody would be buried out of the house. The Persians used this mode of divination.

4. Of all attempts to look into futurity by such means, as well as resorting to charms and other methods of curing diseases, and discovering secrets, we may say, that they are relics of Paganism, and argue an ignorance, folly, or superstition, dishonourable to the Christian name; and are therefore to be reproved and discouraged.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [6]

Divination. Divination is a "Foretelling Future Events, Or Discovering Things Secret By The Aid Of Superior Beings, Or Other Than Human Means". It is used, in Scripture, of False Systems Of Ascertaining The Divine Will. It has been universal in all ages, and all nations alike, both civilized and savage.

Numerous forms of divination are mentioned, such as

divination by rods,  Hosea 4:12,

divination by arrows,  Ezekiel 21:21,

divination by cups,  Genesis 44:5,

consultation of teraphim,  1 Samuel 15:23;  Ezekiel 21:21;  Zechariah 10:2, See Teraphim . ;

divination by the liver,  Ezekiel 21:21,

divination by dreams,  Deuteronomy 13:2-3;  Judges 7:13;  Jeremiah 23:32, and

consultation of oracles.  Isaiah 41:21-24;  Isaiah 44:7.

Moses forbade every species of divination, because, a prying into the future, clouds the mind with superstition, and because, it would have been an incentive to idolatry. But God supplied his people with substitutes for divination which would have rended it superfluous, and left them in no doubt as to his will in circumstances of danger, had they continued faithful.

It was only when they were unfaithful that the revelation was withdrawn.  1 Samuel 28:6;  2 Samuel 2:1;  2 Samuel 5:23, etc. Superstition, not unfrequently, goes hand in hand with skepticism, and hence, amid the general infidelity prevalent throughout the Roman empire at our Lord's coming, imposture was rampant.

Hence, the lucrative trade of such men as Simon Magus,  Acts 8:9,

Bar-jesus,  Acts 13:6,

the slave with the spirit of Python,  Acts 16:16,

the vagabond Jews,

exorcists,  Luke 11:19;  Acts 19:13 and

others,  2 Timothy 3:13;  Revelation 19:20, etc.,

as well as the notorious dealers in magical books at Ephesus.  Acts 19:19.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [7]

Is a conjecture or surmise formed concerning some future event from something which is supposed to be a presage of it; but between which there is no real connection, only what the imagination of the diviner is pleased to assign in order to deceive. Divination of all kinds being the offspring of credulity, nursed by imposture, and strengthened by superstition, was necessarily an occult science, retained in the hands of the priests and priestesses, the magi, the soothsayers, the augurs, the visionaries, the priests of the oracles, the false prophets, and other like professors, till the coming of Jesus Christ, when the light of the Gospel dissipated much of this darkness. The vogue for these pretended sciences and arts is nearly past, at least in the enlightened parts of the world. There are nine different kinds of divination mentioned in Scripture. These are,

1. Those whom Moses calls Meonen of Anan, a cloud,  Deuteronomy 18:10 .

2. Those whom the prophet calls, in the same place, Menachesch, which the Vulgate and generality of interpreters render Augur.

3. Those who in the same place are called Mecasheph, which the Septuagint and Vulgate translate "a man given to ill practices."

4. Those whom in the same chapter, ver.11. he calls Hhober.

5. Those who consult the spirits, called Python.

6. Witches, or magicians, called Judeoni.

7. Necromancers, who consult the dead.

8. Such as consult staves,  Hosea 4:12 . called by some Rhabdomancy.

9. Hepatoscopy, or the consideration of the liver.

Different kinds of divination which have passed for sciences, we have had:

1. Aeromancy, divining by the air.

2. Astrology, by the heavens.

3. Augury, by the flight and singing of birds, &c.

4. Chiromancy by inspecting the hand.

5. Geomancy, by observing of cracks or clefts in the earth.

6. Haruspicy, by inspecting the bowels of animals.

7. Horoscopy, a branch of astrology, marking the position of the heavens when a man is born.

8. Hydromancy, by water.

9. Physiognomy, by the countenance. (This, however, is considered by some as of a different nature, and worthy of being rescued from the rubbish of superstition, and placed among the useful sciences. Lavater has written a celebrated treatise on it.).

10. Pyromancy, a divination made by fire. Thus we see what arts have been practised to deceive, and how designing men have made use of all the four elements to impose upon weak minds.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [8]

The Eastern people were fond of divination, magic, and the pretended art of interpreting dreams and acquiring a knowledge of futurity. When Moses published the law, this disposition had long been common in Egypt and the neighboring countries; and to correct the Israelites inclination to consult diviners, wizards, fortune-tellers, and interpreters of dreams, it was forbidden them under very severe penalties, and the true spirit of prophecy was promised to them as infinitely superior,  Exodus 22:18   Leviticus 19:26,31   20:27 . Those were to be stoned who pretended to have a familiar spirit, or the spirit of divination,  Deuteronomy 18:9-12; and the prophecies are full of invectives against the Israelite who consulted such, as well as against false prophets, who seduced the people,  Isaiah 8:19   47:11 -  14   Ezekiel 13:6-9 . A fresh impulse to these superstitions was gained from intercourse with the Chaldeans, during the reign of the later kings of Judah and the captivities in Babylon,  2 Kings 21:6   2 Chronicles 33:6 . See Magic , Sorcerers

Divination was of several kinds: by water, fire, earth, air; by the fight of birds, and their singing; by lots, dreams, arrows, clouds, entrails of sacrifices, pretended communication with spirits, etc.,  Ezekiel 21:21 .

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [9]

1: Πύθων (Strong'S #4436 — Noun Masculine — puthon — poo'-thone )

(Eng., "python"), in Greek mythology was the name of the Pythian serpent or dragon, dwelling in Pytho, at the foot of mount Parnassus, guarding the oracle of Delphi, and slain by Apollo. Thence the name was transferred to Apollo himself. Later the word was applied to diviners or soothsayers, regarded as inspired by Apollo. Since demons are the agents inspiring idolatry,  1—Corinthians 10:20 , the young woman in  Acts 16:16 was possessed by a demon instigating the cult of Apollo, and thus had "a spirit of divination."

People's Dictionary of the Bible [10]

Divination is the profession of foretelling future events.  Deuteronomy 18:10. Various modes of doing this have been resorted to in different nations. Thus Joseph's cup was used in this art.  Genesis 44:5. The Egyptian magicians used to practise divination: so did the Chaldæans at Babylon. Divination was practised among the Greeks. The appearance of the sky and of the heavenly signs, the flight and song of birds, the phenomena presented by the entrails of victims, etc., were supposed to prognosticate events; and, according to these prognostications, public as well as private actions were regulated. The Romans were equally zealous in divining. The hold that such practices had upon the public mind was very strong. We need the less wonder at it when we notice the eagerness with which, even now, persons will resort to a specious fortune-teller. There is frequent mention of diviners in Scripture; and the Hebrews are repeatedly warned against the pretensions of those who affected to foretell events.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [11]

  • Through his prophets God revealed himself, and gave intimations of his will ( 2 Kings 13:17;  Jeremiah 51:63,64 ).

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Divination'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/ebd/d/divination.html. 1897.

  • King James Dictionary [12]

    DIVINATION, n. L., to foretell. See Divine.

    1. The act of divining a foretelling future events, or discovering things secret or obscure, by the aid of superior beings, or by other than human means. The ancient heathen philosophers divided divination into two kinds, natural and artificial. Natural divination was supposed to be effected by a kind of inspiration or divine afflatus artificial divination was effected by certain rites, experiments or observations, as by sacrifices, cakes, flour, wine, observation of entrails, flight of birds, lots, verses, omens, position of the stars, &c. 2. Conjectural presage prediction.

    Webster's Dictionary [13]

    (1): ( n.) An indication of what is future or secret; augury omen; conjectural presage; prediction.

    (2): ( n.) The act of divining; a foreseeing or foretelling of future events; the pretended art discovering secret or future by preternatural means.

    Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [14]

    DIVINATION . See Magic, Divination, and Sorcery.

    Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [15]

    Divination is a general term descriptive of the various illusory arts anciently practiced for the discovery of things secret or future. The human mind has always shown a strong curiosity to ascertain the course of fortune, and the issue of present or contemplated schemes; and in those countries and ages where ignorance of physical laws has combined with superstition to debase it, it has sought to gratify this innate disposition to pry into futurity, by looking for presages in things between which and the object of its anxiety no connection existed but in the diviner's imagination. Scarcely a single department of nature but was appealed to, as furnishing, on certain conditions, good or bad omens of human destiny; and the aspect of things, which, perhaps by the most casual coincidence, marked some event or crisis in the life of one or two individuals, came to be regarded, by blind credulity, as the fixed and invariable precursor of a similar result in the affairs of mankind in general. By such childish and irrational notions was the conduct of the heathen guided in the most important, no less than in the most ordinary occurrences of life; and hence arose the profession of augurs, soothsayers, et hoc genus omne of impostors, who, engrafting vulgar traditions on a small stock of natural knowledge, established their claims to the possession of an occult science, the importance and influence of which they dexterously increased by associating it with all that was pompous and imposing in the ceremonies of their religion.

    This science, if that can be called science which was the product of ignorance and fraud united, was divided into various branches, each of which had its separate professors. In a general view, divination may be considered as either natural or artificial: the first being founded on the notion that the soul possesses, from its spiritual nature, some prescience of futurity, which it exemplifies particularly in dreams, and at the approach of death: the second, resting on a peculiar interpretation of the course of nature, as well as on such arbitrary observations and experiments as superstition introduced. The different systems and methods that were anciently in vogue are almost incredible: as, for instance, Aëromancy, divining by the air; Arithmomancy, by means of numbers; Capnomancy, by the smoke of sacrifices; Chiromancy, by the lines on the palms of the hands; Hydromancy, by water; Pyromancy, by fire, etc. but without attempting an enumeration and explanation of all the arts of divination that were anciently practiced, let us confine ourselves to the mention of those which occur in sacred history.

    1. Wise men (;;; , etc.), a term applied generally to magicians, or men who were skilled in natural science.

    2. 'Wizards' or wise men, and 'a witch,' from an Arabic verb signifying 'to reveal,' both practicing divination by the same arts, i.e. pretending to reveal secrets, to discover things lost, find hidden treasure, and interpret dreams.

    3. One who foretold what was to happen by the flight of birds, or the use of lots.

    4. One who, though rendered by our translators 'an observer of times,' foretold political or physical changes by the motion of the clouds, along with whom Isaiah conjoins those who made the same predictions from eclipses, and the conjunction of the stars .

    5. 'An enchanter' was probably one who practiced Ophiomancy, or the art of charming serpents, which was, and still is, a favorite trick of jugglery in the East.

    6. 'A charmer,' one who placed words and things in a certain arrangement, or muttered them, as a kind of spell.

    7. 'A consulter with familiar spirits,' or 'a ventriloquist,' was a wizard who asked counsel of his familiar, and gave the responses received from him to others—the name being applied in reference to the spirit or demon that animated the person, and inflated the belly, so that it protuberated like the side of a bottle (see;; also ).

    8. 'A necromancer,' one who, by frequenting tombs, by inspecting corpses, etc. like the witch of Endor, pretended to evoke the dead, and bring secrets from the invisible world .

    9. Belomancy, as it is called, a form of divination by means of arrows (; see also ), a notable example of which occurs in the history of Nebuchadnezzar, who, being undecided whether to march first against Jerusalem or Rabbah, allowed neither his policy nor resentment to decide the course of his expedition, but was determined wholly by the result of superstitious rites. The way of divining by arrows was, having first made them bright 'in order the better to follow them with the eye,' to shoot them, and to prosecute the march according to the direction in which the greatest number of arrows fell; or, having 'mixed together' some arrows with the names of the devoted cities marked on them, to attack that first which was first drawn out; or to put in a bag three arrows, as is the practice of the Arabs, one of which is inscribed with the words 'Command me, Lord,' the second with 'Forbid me, Lord,' while the third is left blank; so that if the first is taken out, he was to go; if the second, he was to desist; if the third is drawn, no decision being given, the experiment is to be repeated.

    10. Rhabdomancy, or divination by rods . This has been confounded with the preceding. But the instruments of divination which Hosea alludes to are entirely different from those described by Ezekiel, arrows being used by the latter, whereas the former speaks of 'staff.' The form of divination by the staff was, after placing it upright, to let it fall, and decide by the direction in which it fell, or, according to others, by measuring the staff with the finger, saying at each span, 'I will go' or 'I will not go' and determining the course, according as it happened to be the one or the other at the last measurement. Both of these, as Jerome informs us, were frequently practiced by the Assyrians and Babylonians. Herodotus (vi.) describes the Alani women as gathering and searching anxiously for very smooth and straight wands to be used in this superstitious manner.

    11. Another way of divining was by 'images' , which are generally considered talismans, but which the Persian and other versions render astrological instruments or tables.

    12. Another form of divination was, 'by looking into the liver' of a newly killed sacrifice, and by observing its state and color according to certain rules, to draw a favorable or unfavorable omen.

    The last form which it is of consequence to notice as alluded to in Scripture was by 'the cup.' But in what manner it was practiced; whether it was by observing the appearance of some magical ingredients that were infused into the vessel; or whether allusion is made to a famous cup which the immemorial tradition of the East says has been in the possession of some great personages, and represents the whole world; or, finally, whether the original word rendered 'divineth,' should be rendered by 'searching' or 'inquiring earnestly,' as many learned writers, anxious to save the character of Joseph from the imputation of sorcery , have labored to prove, it is absolutely impossible, and we shall not attempt, to determine.

    Egypt, the cradle of arts and sciences, if she did not give it birth, seem to have encouraged the practice of divination at an early age, and whether any of its forms had become objects of popular superstition, or were resorted to for the purposes of gain in the days of Joseph, it is well known that at the time of the Hebrew Exodus there were magicians in that country whose knowledge of the arcana of nature, and whose dexterity in the practice of their art, enabled them, to a certain extent, to equal the miracles of Moses. By what extraordinary powers they achieved those feats, how they changed their rods into serpents, the river water into blood, and introduced frogs in unprecedented numbers, is an inquiry that has occasioned great perplexity to many men of learning and piety. Some have imagined that the only way of accounting for the phenomena is to ascribe them to jugglery and legerdemain; the serpents, the frogs, and the other materials requisite having been secretly provided and dexterously produced at the moment their performances were to be exhibited. Others contend that these conjurors were aided by familiar spirits or infernal agents, with the Divine permission, in the performance of their wonderful feats. 'Earth, air, and ocean,' says a sensible writer, 'may contain many things of which our philosophy has never dreamed. If this consideration tend to humble the pride of learning, it may remind the Christian that secret things belong not to him, but to a higher power.'

    It is reasonable to suppose that as Moses never had been in any other civilized country, all the allusions contained in his writings to the various forms of divination were those which were practiced in Egypt; and, indeed, so strong a taste had his countrymen imbibed there for this species of superstition, that throughout the whole course of their history it seems to have infected the national character and habits. The diviners, who abounded both among the aborigines of Canaan and their Philistine neighbors , proved a great snare to the Israelites after their settlement in the promised land; and yet, notwithstanding the stern prohibitions of the law, no vigorous efforts were made to put an end to the crime by extirpating the practitioners of the unhallowed art, until the days of Saul, who himself, however, violated the statute on the night previous to his disastrous fall (1 Samuel 28). But it was Chaldea to which the distinction belongs of being the mother country of diviners. Such a degree of power and influence had they attained in that country, that they formed the highest caste and enjoyed a place at court; nay, so indispensable were they in Chaldean society that no step could be taken, not a relation could be formed, a house built, a journey undertaken, a campaign begun, until the diviners had ascertained the lucky day and promised a happy issue. A great influx of these impostors had, at various times, poured from Chaldea and Arabia into the land of Israel to pursue their gainful occupation, more especially during the reign of the later kings , and we find Manasseh not only their liberal patron, but zealous to appear as one of their most expert accomplices . The long captivities in Babylon spread more widely than ever among the Jews a devoted attachment to this superstition; for after their return to their own country, having entirely renounced idolatry, and, at the same time, no longer enjoying the gift of prophecy or access to the sacred oracles, they gradually abandoned themselves, as Lightfoot has satisfactorily shown, before the advent of Christ, to all the prevailing forms of divination (Comment. on Matt.).

    Against every species and degree of this superstition the sternest denunciations of the Mosaic law were directed (;;;; ), as fostering a love for unlawful knowledge and withdrawing the mind from God only wise; while, at the same time, repeated and distinct promises were given that, in place of diviners and all who used enchantments, God would send them prophets, messengers of truth, who would declare the divine will, reveal futurity, and afford them all the useful knowledge which was vainly sought for from those pretended oracles of wisdom. Much discussion, however, has been carried on by learned men to determine the question whether the ancient tribe of diviners merely pretended to the powers they exercised, or were actually assisted by demoniacal agency. The latter opinion is embraced by almost all the fathers of the primitive church. On the other hand, it has been, with great ability and erudition, maintained that the whole arts of divination were a system of imposture, and that Scripture itself frequently ridicules those who practiced them as utterly helpless and incapable of accomplishing anything beyond the ordinary powers of nature .

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [16]

    Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Divination'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/d/divination.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.