Magic/ witch craft in the Old Testament

I’ve been reading the old testament lately and I’ve come across at least 2 instances of some kind of magic. In Genesis, Laban said he uses divination and later on Joseph says that he knows many things through divination. Also in Exodus, the Pharoah had some sorcerers who mimicked Moses when he turned his staff into a snake and turned the rivers into blood. This is just a little strange to me because it looks like we have to accept the fact that there were other forms of supernatural power back then. What do you think?

Exodus 22:17 says “Do not allow a sorceress to live”

We don’t deny that there was supernatural power in Old Testament times, nor do we deny that there is supernatural power now. We believe that any power that is not subject to God is in rebellion against Him.

Eph. 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Interesting times, weren’t they? We tend to think of the Hebrew people as monotheists, but in the OT when they lived alongside pantheistic or pagan faiths they were really more monocredists. A monotheist believes there is only one God. A monocredist believes there are multiple gods but chooses to worship only One. Hence the language of Joshua 24:15 is indeed exclusionary, though when we only take the last phrase (as I see on the sign of a local church here) “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” it sounds more an affirmation of belief than a rejection of other belief.

Are there supernatural powers? Indeed, and you’ve spotted an interesting contradiction in Laban’s use Gn 30:27, Joseph’s implied support of divination in Gn 44:5, and several other places.

But these aren’t really pro-divination passages. Laban - Jacob’s uncle and the father of his wife Rachael - practiced divination and received a message from the Lord through it, but this was before the Mosaic Covenant and so divination was not yet forbidden by that Covenant. It may have been something the Lord disliked but was allowed to continue for some time while something the Lord detested more (idolatry) was suppressed among His people. Think of how slavery - which the Lord detests - was allowed to continue for a time even after the institution of Christianity.

Consider Balaam - a gentile - in the Book of Numbers. He uses divination in an attempt to curse Israel (Nu 22:10) but in the same divination is told by God to leave the people alone. Again, Balaam is not a part of the Covenant that would condemn his use of divination, but this does not keep God from using him (before kiling him, anyway, in Jos 13:22).

Note that after Deuteronomy condemns divination a second time, nothing good comes of the practice - it is condemned along with idolatry in 1 Sa 15:23, 2 Ki 17:17, 2 Ch 33:6, and by Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

No, I don’t think we have to accept it as anything other than the pagan belief that it is.

At one level, it’s discouraging for me to read the first books of the Bible, because there is such a pitched battle by God to get the Israelites to give up pagan belief and practices, and they keep falling back to the idolatry that they were familiar with in Egypt.

And, God becomes so enraged (anthropomorphisms admitted here) that He condemns to die in the wilderness almost all of the generation of the Israelites who were liberated from Egypt. If it wasn’t an issue of their old Egyptian superstitions, then it was that they adopted those pagan beliefs and practices (including ritual prostitution) of the Edomites.

Not only did this apostasy occur, but it is enshrined in the Bible. Exodus and Leviticus,for example, are loaded with commandments intended to disassociate the Israelites from the enticing rituals of paganism.

And, scripture uses a metaphor of “Israel’s God conquering the gods of the Canaanites” (for example), even though this scripture rejects the basis of belief in those other gods.

Most, if not all, of the plagues inflicted on Egypt were intended to show the superiority of Israel’s God. For example, the death of the first-born Egyptians was a direct attack on their belief in the first-born later performing rituals to ensure the journey of the parents into some sort of afterlife state.

The attack of Pharoah and the Egyptians on the Israelites at the sea of Reeds was a confrontation at a spiritual level with an Egyptian god who was supposedly their protector in battle. So, their being cast into the waters of the sea and drowned was the last demonstration to Israel of the superiority of their God over the mythic gods of Egypt.

So, yes, loosely, there was a belief in “other” supernatural powers by the enemies of Isreal, but God used His power to deliver the Isrealites and to prove His faithfulness and to debunk the power of those other “gods.”

I just think that it’s a little strange that according to the author of Exodus, there were pagan magicians who had the power to turn their staffs into snakes and turn the river into blood.

I don’t know why it should be strange. David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear. Doug Henning turned a woman into a panther. And those are just illusionist tricks, not even talking about whether the priests of false gods would be able to invoke their powers to mimic the signs God was giving the Egyptians.

Curious Hobbit

That which has Light, gives Light, that which does not have Light can only reflect the Light as though it is giving Light.

The Light shined so bright from the face of Moses, he had to wear a vail over his face so other could look upon him. There is no “magic” in that.

Their powers came from demons whom they worshiped…

There’s a very interesting book out by a Cult expert - *Today’s Destructive Cults and Movements ***. by Rev. Lawerence J. Gesy, M.Div., M.S. It’s actually a collaberation of Father Gesy’s expertice together with other specific experts in various fields of similar study and/or experience. It’s worth the read insofar as Catholic awareness of today’s moral issues.
Those of you who go quietly thru the night thinking you’ve got a real grip on things have no idea what or who is leading you. This book will open some eyes as to today’s reality: the term “New Age”. We’ve probably heard that term for so long one might think we’ve passed thru it. Well, sorry, we didn’t pass thru it: WE ARE IN IT…up over our heads.
In Genesis, man gets his first ‘biblical’ warning. God essentially says, “No! DO NOT go there!”. We’re queued to a scene which uses created ‘material creature’ [Adam & Eve], an created object [something forbidden but alluring - an apple from the Tree of Good & Evil], and a created ‘spiritual creature’ in form [Snake - Devil]. Man is [ordered by his nature] to make a decison based on his gift of free will. He chooses what he wants. Notice his reaction: Eve says “the devil made me do it” and Adam, poor Adam, then offs it on Eve “the woman gave it to me.”
The fact that the spiritual world exists is quite evident. The fact that man has ignored all warnings not to dabble in an area he is forbidden access is likewise quite evident. Look around you. Everything in our society has been permeated with what we term “New Age”. However, it ‘is not new’ but very old…very very old. Every one of us is being recruited in some way, fashion, and form. Our mothers used to warn us, “Choose your friends wisely.” We need to beware of those unaware: the unaware are those most easily lost whereas those who continue to make themselves aware have a better chance at discerning the truth. I’ll bet you if you were to ask parents what the term “New Age” means to them insofar as Catholic teaching, you will probably get some general sense of just how deeply we’re entrenched in this predicament.

There is also another angle to this subject i.e. defiance

“Because it is like the sin of witchcraft, to rebel: and like the crime of idolatry, to refuse to obey. Forasmuch therefore as thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord hath also rejected thee from being king.”

  • 1 Kings 15,23

“Because of the multitude of the fornications of the harlot that was beautiful and agreeable, and that made use of witchcraft, that sold nations through her fornications, and families through her witchcrafts.”

  • Nahum 3,4
    19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury,
    20 Idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects,
    21 Envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God.
  • Galatians 5: 19 - 21

I reread my initial post and, as I read over the following words, "*It’s worth the read insofar as Catholic awareness of today’s moral issues. *, I thought: what a weak statement!
Not only did I lessen [my] intent but also the teaching source of my intent.
The book is definitely worth the read. For those of you who are interested in cult awareness, the book gives many other sources of current as well as traditional material.
For those who are Protestant, Jew, Moslem, non-christian, agnostic, atheist, or Catholic: this information is Catholic, universal in tradition and teaching: it’s the benchmark. Every tradition has within itself similar understandings through varied teachings and practices. How these messages are then accepted is then the tradition of the receivers.
The sole purpose of the book was to demonstrate that, in the material world, there are things that material creation [man] should not dabble in. It also demonstrates the HOWs, WHYs and EFFECTs of pursuing such error. It firmly attests, according to part of the Nicene Creed, that we believe in things “Seen and Unseen”.
The people of this age have become so simulated with all the visual queues builtt into the multi-billion dollar advertizing industry that they are completely unaware of how ‘syncretion’ works much less the active ‘recruiting’ processes each of us encounter. I remember my early Catholic education and the Nun warning us, “Be careful of every thought, word, and deed.”
You often hear people opening wonder why God no longer performs miracles. G. K. Chesterton puts it this way, “Some times some things are just to big to be seen.” People need to be extremely careful with what they want. Thou shalt not have strange gods before Me. Be careful for what you wish for. You haven’t mastered this life yet.

Since Genesis, evil is around us and manifests in many ways. Anything supernatural attributed to any other source than GOD, be it through JESUS or genuine representatives of GOD are straight up evil. I do think it is important that we have an awareness of these issues such as magic, pagan religions and so forth. Awareness will have us better prepared to deal with and or search for help if anything unholy starts to flourish in your community. For example, unfortunately in the Caribbean many people have a confused spiritual life were they mix and match Catholicism with Voodoo, Hexes and so forth.

Be Safe, Be Blessed

the Craft was a great movie.

I think it’s important to understand that, in the Created World, there are two worlds: Material & Spiritual. And, in both worlds, there are likewise two worlds: good and bad. Based on the message of Creation, all things created [were] good. The angelic world [spirit] and the material world [matter & man]. Biblical tradition tells two stories of Fall(s). The first [permanent] is that of Lucifer the Archangel [The Devil] and his followers. The second [temporal] is that of Adam & Eve.
Man is warned to remain in his [material] world and to not attempt to crossover into the other [spiritual] world. The warning doesn’t indicate that man can’t, it only warns that he should not: the reason being is that he is not equipped to live in this other world. Man is material and only part spirit as of yet.
The real problem arises when man succeeds in crossing over, or opening a gateway so to speak. Not only does he not know what he’s dealing with, he finds much more then what he asked for yet, once discovered, man’s Pride excels. A simply analogy would be Promeatheus and Pandora’s Box of Greek Mythology.
So, yes, Evil is real but not necessarily in the ways you’ve expressed. There are things Material and Spiritual, some intrinsically good and some intrinsically bad. It’s up to us to, first, discern the differences and, second, to use of our free will when choosing. As for the cultural impurities in cult & religion which is evident throughout history, this is where Christ says he needs no defense. What He asks for is for us to “proclaim the good news”…giving sound reasons for Faith.

There is also the time in the desert, after the exodus, when the Israelites suffered some affliction, and it was cured by Moses making a copper serpent.

And there are several other books, not in the Bible, that talk of magic. For example,
The Key of Solomon and
The Lemegeton (The “Lesser Key” of Solomon).
I think the 6th and 7th books of Moses might mention it too (these two books of Moses are not included in the Bible because many authorities doubt their authenticity).

The two Solomon books are supposed to be the original books of magic, from which all others come. Supposedly, when Solomon was on his deathbed, he wanted to pass on his knowledge to his son, who should share it with the people, so he informed him how to summon the various spirits, and the lords of the spirits, and what their field of authority was. That was, in large part, how Solomon gained so much of his knowledge, by having access to these spirits. However, again, many people think these books are hoaxes.

Egypt, the birthplace of “magic”, played a big part in the Bible, so it is not surprising if some found its way back to Canaan with the Israelites. After all, Moses was a prince of Egypt, and would have had access to the priests and magicians there and some of their teachings. And Jesus spend his childhood there.

Egypt must have some significance in the Bible, other than what is literally stated in the Bible.

The Holy Family took refuge in Egypt to escape King Herod…and OT prophecy is… Out of Egypt I have called my son

From David 2010 - *“There is also the time in the desert, after the exodus, when the Israelites suffered some affliction, and it was cured by Moses making a copper serpent.”*That “some affliction” was thousands of snakes [asps] which God sent upon the wandering Israelites because of their continued infidelities. They then beg Moses to ask God to take them [asps] away. God told Moses to make a staff with an image of a serpent, called the Nahustan" and raise for all to see [this prefigures Christ] and anyone who was bitten who looked at the Nahustan would not die. The record indicates 23,000 died. Whether that speaks of the timing of the Nahustan or the lack of trust [belief], I can’t say. It does press the idea that there must have been a lot of snakes. This staff was one of the objects contained in the Ark of the Covenant but was later destroyed by a less zealous Isaelite king.

From Curious Hobbit - “This is just a little strange to me because it looks like we have to accept the fact that there were other forms of supernatural power back then.”

We Catholic profess our tradition in our faith- we believe in all things…visible and invisible. We believe there are two created worlds: spiritual and material. We are warned to remain in our ‘material’ world and not try to cross into the ‘spiritual realm’. The entire sequence of biblical tradition is a love story: God slowly forming His stubborn creature, man, into following Him. The 1st Commandment “I am the Lord, thy God, thou shalt not have false gods before Me.” The Nahustan was not magic. Moses power was not magic. These were all “Signs” from God pointing to God: they were gifts [grace - unmerited gift]. I think I’ve crossed a threshold here which leads to a very long conversation. It’s not intended. The short of the long is this: all things originate and end with God. What we do with them is not necessarily our part to find out [Adam & Eve]. We have the Grace of Free Will which is tempered by God’s Will. Our ultimate purpose in life is to seek God’s Will. The greatest mystery of this universe stares at you in the mirror every day. Learn to master that one.:thumbsup: From all historical accounts it takes a lifetime.

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