Idolatrous Witches


For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. (1Sa 15:23)

Witchcraft! Yikes! EEEK! Hiss, boo. Nasty. WE would NEVER do that.

Oh - wait. I found something interesting:

Since the 13th century the word "witch" has come more and more to denote a woman who has formed a compact with the Devil or with evil spirits, by whose aid she is able to cause all sorts of injury to living beings and to things. The term "witchcraft" means in modern English the arts and practices of such women. Since the ideas we attach to "witch" and "witchcraft" were unknown in Bible times, the words have no right place in our English Bible, and this has been recognized to some extent but not completely by the Revisers of 1884.

That"s from the ISBE article on "Witch;Witchcraft" and according to these scholars the Bible doesn"t actually talk about what we today call "witchcraft." Do you believe that? Hmmm. I"m not so sure, but they are a bunch of scholars and probably have a good point. What they are really getting at is that when the Old Testament writers talk about "witches" and "sorcerers" and such it is really using Hebrew words that refer to various forms of "divination" and the modern translations usually discard the word "witchcraft" for that reason. For example, the NET Bible (a very recent translation) has this:

For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and presumption is like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king. (1Sa 15:23)

So, I checked the commentaries and lexicons I have to see what some other "real smart dudes" had to say and it seems they are all in agreement. OK. Fine. Now what about "divination" and why is this such a bad thing? For that, it"s best to go back to Deuteronomy chapter 18.

There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. (Deu 18:10-11)

So, it"s not just "witches" that are to be avoided but any form of divination, no matter what means is used. In Manners & Customs of the Bible, I found this:

The word divination (Hebrew kosem kesamim, "divining divinations") may here be taken as a generic term, of which the seven terms following represent the species or types. This might be clearly shown in the KJV by a slight change in the punctuation, and an omission of the word or, which was supplied by the translators; e.g., "that useth divination: an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch," etc.

By divination, as the term is used in the text, we understand an attempt to penetrate the mysteries of the future by using magical arts, or superstitious incantations, or by the arbitrary interpretation of natural signs. Its practice was prevalent in the times of Moses among all idolatrous nations, as it is even today. Even in our own Christian land, there is much of this going on at the present time.

Ahhh... Makes sense doesn't it? No? Well, try this then:

Man is always seeking to preserve his own well-being or improve his lot in life and one way of doing that is to get some inside information on the future. If you know what is going to happen, you can better prepare for it and thus avoid calamity and hardship. You can avoid that storm that is coming, or that financial crash, or maybe win a big war if you know what your enemy is up to. So, it is common practice in every society on earth in every generation to practice some form of "fortune telling." It goes on even to this day.

Today we are much more clever about it, of course. We don't usually try to read the future in tea leaves or the entrails of an animal. We usually consider "omens" to be just superstition and such and are much, much too rational for all that nonsense. No, we have much better means today. Everyday people pick up the newspaper or turn on the TV and get their "omens" from those sources. Ya know - all the sensationalist stuff about things that are a real danger to you? The prognostication about what is going to be happening soon if people don't change? And I don't mean the Astrology pages either. I see stuff all the time about how if you do this or do that you can increase your chances of success by 20, 30, 80, etc. All those stories of people getting killed is an "omen" of the for-sure moral decay in society. Readers of the news are not just being entertained by what is going on in the world. They are looking for some warning about what might happen next. Should I live in this neighborhood? Should I refinance my home? Should I invest in real estate or pork bellies? People are staring at those stock market charts in the business section in much the same way that the ancient people stared at the liver of a chicken. Maybe there is a discernible trend there if I just squint my eyes a bit.

So what"s wrong with that?

What"s wrong with it is when all the prognosticating and forecasting and future planning becomes the means by which man seeks to control his own destiny without regard to God's will. It is man rebelling against God by saying, in effect, we will figure it out all by ourselves and don't need any Deity to tell us what to do. And, even if God wants to do something else, we will ignore that and just hear what we want to hear because it suits our own desires.

That's what.

And that's what Deuteronomy is warning about. That's what cost Saul his kingship. Ahh, you say. So we are just to walk blindly into the future like a bunch of idiots? Nope. It"s like this:

The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; (Deu 18:15)

We don't need all of those various forms of divination to know what we need to prepare for. God cares for us and will send us the knowledge we need when we need it. We are to wait for His guidance and follow His instruction. If we go off trying to spy out the future with our silly little forms of divination we are bound to get it wrong anyway. So, we wait for God to lead and until we hear from Him we just keep going along as He has already told us to do. Being anxious about the future such that we are constantly looking for another source of information about the future is a lack of faith. It puts our own efforts on a level with God.

The difference here is one of attitude. Those who fret and fear are just as bad as those that plan and scheme. It's all about the little ol' "me" having to do it all by myself because I am worried about my future. Seeking signs of the future can easily become an obsession, even for those who claim to trust God. We don't need to be running around worried about it. When God wants us to know, He will let us know.

When we do get a sure word from God we must take it seriously. The tendency is to get so stuck on what we want that we ignore the word God sends us. That is where the "rebellion" and "presumption" sets in and pretty soon we find we are going downhill really fast with no way to stop. Fortunately, God is merciful and if we turn back to Him there is always a solution available, albeit usually with a cost. So, it's better to wait patiently on God in the first place, don't you think?

Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. (Jas 4:13-15)

This word from the epistle of James spells it out for us. We live according to God's will, not our own, and at each step of the journey in life we trust in His leading. With this attitude eventually comes a sense of peace. We don't have to worry and fret over the future because God has given us His promises to lead us by the Spirit. What we need to do is be prepared at any time to hearken to that leading and follow it. If you try to figure it all out by yourself, or if you don't listen but rebel against the leading God is giving you, then you are just like someone practicing "witchcraft" and "idolatry."

And, you wouldn't want to be doing that, now would you?



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