Deuteronomy 18:9-14 commands us to avoid the occult by saying, “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.” (NKJV)
When the people moved into the Promised Land, they were not to observe and participate in the practices of its people. The first thing forbidden was to make one’s son or daughter pass through the fire. This is a reference to sacrificing children to Molech, the god of Ammonites. According to the Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Molech was believed to be a consuming, destroying, and purifying god. As such, he is obviously a counterfeit of the Lord God of Israel.[i]
This prohibition should make us automatically think of the abortion of babies. I believe there is a demonic spirit driving the abortion industry which is related to the child sacrifice required in the worship of Molech. Abortion puts the desires of the flesh above the responsibilities of parenthood. Either way you look at it, the infant or child is placed in the hands of the agent of death—the hands of the statues of Molech to eventually be burned as a sacrifice[ii] or the hands of the physician performing the abortion who will eventually incinerate the biological remains with the rest of their facility’s bio-hazardous waste.
Parents who offer their children as sacrifices to Molech or those who abort their children so they can be free to live their lives as they see fit are counterfeiting God who offered His son as a sacrifice in our place so that we might have eternal life. We are supposed to offer ourselves and not our children as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to Him. This is our spiritual act of worship. This was pictured in the pattern of a ram being substituted in place of Isaac. Isaac was offered alive to God by Abraham and because of the substitutionary ram provided by God, Isaac remained alive to worship the Lord. Instead of sacrifice, we should dedicate our children to the Lord and raise them in the training and admonition of the Lord.
When we read the rest of the prohibitions listed in Deuteronomy 18:10-11, we tend to separate them from the first command and lump the rest into the category of the occult. This is a mistake because they all involve submitting to demons. In addition, idolatry is very similar to the Hebrew word “kashaph” for casting spells because it means to pray or offer prayers of worship (to idols) in addition to using enchantment. Unfortunately, people who commit these abominations believe they are controlling unseen powers but it is ultimately the demons that control them.
As we look at the remaining prohibitions, we should know what the original Hebrew terms conveyed. For this reason, I’ve generated the following list of prohibitions:
- Divination – fortune telling, seeking hidden knowledge of the future through supernatural means such as interpreting omens or supernatural powers. Divination is accomplished through a wide variety of methods such as palm readings, tarot cards, use of mirrors or crystal balls, holding articles that belong to someone, numerology, astrology, etc.
- Any kind of magic – sorcery, enchantments (use of charms and incantations), or use of demonic power.
- Praying to or worshiping idols or demons.
- Charm or fascinate; join or make alliances with spirits; binding people with magical knots.
- Be a medium, spiritist; being possessed with a python or soothsaying demon; call up the dead or deities that represent the dead for answers concerning the future or doubtful things; attempt to learn from the dead; deliver oracles.
- Be a wizard or false prophet; observe signs.
- Be a necromancer — pray to the dead to seek, inquire, or demand aid from them.
I find it interesting to note that the Hebrew word for soothsayer (qacam) and wizards (yidde’oniy) are also used of false prophets. Since that is the case, we should be very careful to not speak false prophecies today. Many believe the command of Deuteronomy 13:1-4 no longer applies today and that prophets today are not like the prophets of Biblical times. God never put a disclaimer on those verses. The problem of incorrect prophecies, dreams, and visions today is usually a result of poor interpretation; therefore, we should be very careful to avoid using language such as “The Lord told me…,” or “thus says the Lord.” Since it’s often hard to know for sure if an idea is coming from our own spirit or if it’s truly coming from the Lord, it’s better to say what you believe to be true and let others judge for themselves. Sometimes it might be best to record our dreams and visions and possible interpretations and wait for the Lord to reveal their true meanings.
In the meantime, Jesus gave us some warnings about false prophets.
- They are ravenous wolves (Matt. 7:15).
- There will be false christs and false prophets who will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect (Matt. 24:24).
Scripture also makes it clear that we are not to participate in things like séances where mediums consult the dead or spirits who represent the dead. Many think this is something fun to do and that it is staged and not real. The truth of the matter obviously depends on the practitioner. People wish for answers to life’s questions but this is the wrong place to go because demons often lie just like Satan does and also because God has forbidden it.
I remember when Pope John Paul II went to Ukraine in 2001. Around that time, there was an article in a local newspaper that discussed the beatification of the deceased. If I recall the details correctly, a Ukrainian man felt that one dead man in particular deserved to be beatified because many people were healed when they went to his grave and prayed to him. He said if Jesus won’t answer your prayers, pray to this dead man because he will answer your prayers.
At the time, I thought that was the most horrible advice any man could give the public. Petitioning the dead and praying to the icons of dead saints is in complete violation of God’s word. If your prayers are answered, they aren’t answered from God, they are answered by demons. Let God’s people have no communication with them!!
One might think it is acceptable to seek healing from the dead since in 2 Kings 13:21 a dead man came back to life when his body touched Elisha’s bones. This was certainly an incredible miracle but the man’s friends did not go there seeking their friend’s resurrection. They intended to bury him but threw him into Elisha’s burial place at the last minute. It’s quite possible the anointing of God had remained on Elisha’s bones because Elisha did not impart it to someone else prior to his death. Even so, this is not justification to seek healing from the dead. Remember, death is frequently associated with that which is unclean and life is always associated with the clean. We are commanded to cleanse ourselves and be holy.
Today, the occult is portrayed as powerful, fun, or exciting. Games, books, and movies exalt witchcraft, divination, and sorcery and market it as entertaining fantasy. Many people enjoy these things but do not believe the power of the occult is real. Hopefully, most believers realize the power behind these things is real and it comes from demons, the powers of darkness.
This kind of entertainment is dangerous for everyone, especially children. I remember when the first Harry Potter movie came out. My nieces and nephews were going to see it while we were visiting them. We didn’t let our children go. Their parents didn’t see any harm in it. I warned them that when the kids got home, they would start playfully imitating what they were about to see, but their parents denied it would happen. Sure enough, after the movie, the kids were all play-acting scenes from the movie they had just seen and heard. Needless to say, we packed up our kids and went home.
On one Halloween several years ago, I read a newspaper article with statements from people dressed up for Halloween and local harvest festivals. Some people had dressed up as Harry Potter. One child from a Baptist church said he was Harry Potter. His mother tried to correct him and say he was only dressed up as Harry Potter. He replied, “No, I AM Harry Potter.” I wonder how often he played the role of Harry Potter at his house and whether or not he binds people with magical knots today! Could it be possible he is actually possessed with a demonic spirit? How many times are believers opening the doorway to the occult in their lives while brushing off the seriousness by calling it “pure fantasy”?
During Biblical times, people went to inquire of the prophets in time of need. In Saul’s early days, Saul sought Samuel’s help to find his father’s donkeys. Samuel was known as a prophet and a seer. He anointed Saul as the first king of Israel and told him the donkeys had been found (1 Samuel 9-10).
On another occasion, after Samuel’s death, Saul wanted to consult the Lord because he was fighting the Philistines; however, the Lord was not answering Saul in dreams, urim, nor by the prophets. Saul made the mistake of consulting a woman who was a medium in En Dor (1 Sam. 28). When she conducted a séance for him, she became very afraid of what came up and cried out because it was not one of the familiar spirits she was accustomed to seeing. Saul asked her what she saw. The English translation says she saw a spirit.
Some believe it was a demonic spirit while others say it was actually Samuel. In this verse, the Hebrew does not use “ov” which is for a familiar spirit. It doesn’t use the Hebrew term “ruach” either which is a term for the Spirit or God or the spirit of man. In 1 Samuel 28:13, the woman said she saw “elohim,” which is the plural for “el” which is a term used for gods or God himself and the Greek Septuagint uses “theous” which is the accusative plural of “theos” or God (god).
Who did she really see? These words make us wonder. The woman described him as an old man covered with a mantle but Saul perceived it was really Samuel. From that point, this spirit is referred to as Samuel. Perhaps this was a glorified Samuel since he referred to himself as Samuel and since he appeared to her as being “elohim.” Saul should never have sought Samuel because God had forbidden it, not to mention it made him discouraged to know the kingdom would be given to David the following day as he returned to battle and to his death.
In Exodus, while the Israelites were in the wilderness, the High Priest carried the urim and thumim and used them to consult the Lord when they had questions about something or wanted to know what to do in a given situation. An example of this was when the governor (Tirshata) told the descendants of the priests who could not locate their genealogical records not to serve or eat any of the especially holy food until a priest appeared who could consult the urim and thumim (Ezra 2:61-62). This took place after the exiles had returned from the Babylonian exile.
Today, the urim and thumim are no longer available but the Lord still speaks to men in dreams and visions. In addition, 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 indicates that there are several manifestations of the Spirit which are given to each believer individually as the Holy Spirit sees fit for the profit of all. They include:
- The word of wisdom – a word of divine direction, instruction, or advice.
- The word of knowledge – person has knowledge of something (a person, circumstance, etc.) they could not normally have knowledge of without being told or shown.
- Faith – an unusually strong trust that can only come from the Holy Spirit
- Gifts of healings similar to those performed by Jesus and His disciples.
- Working of miracles similar to those performed by Jesus and His disciples.
- Prophecy – foretelling by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Discerning of spirits – being able to discern the presence and kinds of spirits.
- Different kinds of tongues – ability to speak in previously unknown languages.
- Interpretation of tongues – ability to interpret previously unknown languages.
As I consider this list, it seems some of the things that were prohibited in Deuteronomy 18:9-11 were forbidden because they were counterfeits of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. After all, divination, sorcery, charming, wizardry and the like are accomplished by the power of demons and not by the Holy Spirit. Demonic displays of power only bring glory to men and the powers of darkness whereas the purpose of the gifts which are manifested by believers by the power of the Holy Spirit is to bring people to Christ and glory to God.
As we look toward the future, we need to remember 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 which describes the coming of the Beast who is known as the Antichrist or the Lawless One: “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (NKJV)
It seems obvious to me that this person will be skilled in the occult if he is going to fulfill these verses. Those who are involved in the occult will be much like the ultimate man of lawlessness and will be condemned.
Ultimately, the Lord will frustrate the false prophets and their omens. He will make fools of the diviners. He will make the wisdom of the wizards look silly (Isaiah 44:25). He will expel the false prophets and the spirit of uncleanness from the land of Israel (Zech. 13:2). Be forewarned! Sorcerers will not enter the New Heaven (Rev. 22:15).
Please do not allow yourself to be seduced by the spirits of this world who seek to draw you away from the Lord. If it’s too late for that and you want to stop practicing divination, witchcraft, sorcery, and/or necromancy in order to put your faith in Christ, it’s the best thing you could ever do. It won’t be easy but it can be done. As you forsake the powers of darkness, just be aware that demons and those you know who practice the crafts of darkness don’t want you to leave and they will try to stop you. They will even torture you or kill you if they can. If this describes your situation, remember Matthew 10:28 which says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (NKJV) Whatever the cost, don’t be involved with anything that would cause Jesus to destroy both your soul and body in hell!