Occult Practices in the Bible

Occult Practices in the Bible
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Sunday, August 23, 2009 at 7:35pm

In a few weeks I will begin teaching a Wednesday-night series of lessons at my church on “demonology and spiritual warfare.” One major factor in spiritual warfare is resisting the temptation to become involved in occult activities, which always have been and still are a major weapon of demons. The following is an outline of the three main kinds of occult activity, and the Biblical teaching regarding each. I’m not sure how all aspects of my outline will show up in the FB format.



A. Hebrew terminology (from Deut. 18:10).

#1. Ksm kesam m. (Pronounced ko-same kesameem.)

a) It means “to practice divination, to speak a message revealed to one’s mind by the gods.” It is a kind of inspired fortune-telling.

b) Translations: one who “useth divination” (KJV); “uses divination” (NASB); “practices divination” (NIV,

#2. Me nn. (Pronounced meh-oh-nane.)

a) It means “one who uses secret means to foretell the future.”

b) Translations: “an observer of times” (KJV); one who “tells fortunes” (ESV); one who “practices
witchcraft” (NASB); one who “practices sorcery” (NIV). [The last two are NOT good translations.]

#3. Menachsh. (Pronounced men-ah-khaysh.)

a) It means “one who prophesies from observing snakes and other phenomena of nature.”

b) Translations: “an enchanter” (KJV); “one who interprets omens” (NASB, NIV, ESV). [The former is
NOT a good translation.]

B. These practices are mentioned in a number of places elsewhere in the Old Testament.

1. Numbers 23:23 (#1 & #3 above)
2. 1 Samuel 6:2 (#1 above)
3. 1 Samuel 28:8 (#1)
4. Joshua 13:22 (#1)
5. Ezekiel 21:21 (#1)

C. Most significantly, these practices are consistently condemned and prohibited throughout the OT.

1. Lev. 19:26 (#3, #2) 6. Isaiah 2:6 (#2)
2. Deut. 18:14 (#1, #2) 7. Isaiah 57:3 (#2)
3. 2 Kings 17:17 (#1, #3) 8. Jeremiah 29:8-9 (#1)
4. 2 Kings 21:6 (#2, #3) 9. Micah 3:6-7, 11 (#1)
5. 2 Chron. 33:6 (#2, #3) 10. Micah 5:12 (#2)

D. Another occult practice in the category of occult knowledge is astrology, which is also condemned throughout the OT.

1. See especially Isaiah 47:12-14; Jeremiah 10:2; 19:13.

2. See also Deut. 4:14-15, 19; 17:2-5; 2 Kngs 17:16; 21:3, 5; 23:4-5; 2 Chr. 33:3-5; Jer. 8:2; Zeph. 1:4-6.

3. In the New Testament see Acts 7:42.

E. A very important New Testament example of occult knowledge is Acts 16:16ff.

F. God is victorious over all diviners: Isaiah 44:25.


A. Hebrew terminology (from Deut. 18:10-11).

#l. Micashph (v. 10). (Pronounced mick-ah-shayf.)

a) It means “sorcerer, healer.”

b) Translations: “witch” (KJV); “sorcerer” (NASB, ESV); one who “engages in witchcraft” (NIV).

#2. Chvr chaver (v. 11). (Pronounced coh-vare cah-ver.)

a) It means “one who casts a spell.”

b) Translations: “charmer” (KJV; ESV); “one who casts a spell” (NASB); one who “casts spells” (NIV).

B. These practices are mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament, for example:

1. Exodus 7:11 (#1 above). See 2 Tim. 3:8.
2. Genesis 41:8 (#1); Dan. 2:2 (#1); etc.

C. These practices are condemned and prohibited elsewhere in the Old Testament (all #1 above):

1. Exodus 22:18. 2. 2 Kings 9:22; 3. 2 Chron. 33:6. 4. Isaiah 47:9, 12.
5. Jeremiah 27:9. 6. Micah 5:12. 7. Nahum 3:4. 8. Micah 5:12.

D. New Testament equivalents.

1. Mageuo, “to practice sorcery” (Acts 8:9); mageia (or magia), “magic, sorcery” (Acts 8:11); magos, “sorcerer” (Acts 13:6, 8).

2. Periergos, “sorcery” (Acts 19:19).

3. Ta pharmaka (plural of to pharmakon, “a drug”), “sorceries” (Rev. 9:21 [some mss.]); pharmakeia (or pharmakia), “the practice of magical arts, sorcery” (Gal. 5:20; Rev. 9:21 [some mss.]; Rev. 18:23); pharmakos (or pharmakeus), “sorcerer” (Rev. 21:8; 22:15).


A. Hebrew terminology (from Deut. 18:11).

#1. Sh l v. (Pronounced shoh-ale ohv.)

a) It means “a medium.” Ben Alexander says ov means “a divining demon that uses the vocal cords of a medium to give messages.”

b) Translations: “a consulter with familiar spirits” (KJV); “a medium” (NASB; NIV, ESV).

#2. Yidde ni. (Prounouced yiddeh-oh-nih.)

a) It means “one who communicates with spirits.”

b) Translations: “wizard” (KJV, ESV); “spiritist” (NASB; NIV). [The former is NOT a good translation.]

#3. Drsh el-hamm t m. (Pronounced doh-raysh el – hammay-teem.)

a) It means “one who calls up the dead.”

b) Translations: “necromancer” (KJV, ESV); “one who calls up the dead” (NASB); one who “consults the
dead” (NIV).

B. This practice is mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament: 1 Sam. 28:7 (#1 above); 1 Sam. 28:3, 9 (#2); 2 Kings 23:24 (#2).

C. It is condemned or prohibited elsewhere in the Old Testament:

1. Lev. 19:31 (#1, #2 above).
2. Lev. 20:6 (#1, #2).
3. Lev. 20:27 (#1, #2).
4. 2 Kings 21:6 (#1, #2).
5. 1 Chron. 10:13 (#1).
6. 2 Chron. 33:6 (#1, #2).
7. Isaiah 8:19 (#2, and a combination of #1 and #3, drsh v , pronounced doh-raysh ohv). The verse refers to mediums and spiritists (not “wizards”) who “whisper and mutter.” The words “whisper (peep, chirp)” and “mutter” are two odd words referring to the TRANCE-voice of a medium. The former refers to a high-pitched voice (and is usually used of birds); the latter refers to a low-pitched voice. See Isaiah 29:4.

D. In the New Testament, Luke 16:26ff. seems to confirm the Old Testament condemnation of desiring to consult the spirits of the dead.

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