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1. Definition

2. Kinds of Divination

3. Fundamental Assumption in Divination

4. Legitimate and Illegitimate Divination

5. The Bible and Divination

6. Modes of Divination Mentioned in the Bible:

Those Approved and Those Condemned

7. Terms Used in the Old Testament in Connection with Divination

8. Divination and Prophecy


1. Definition:

Divination is the act of obtaining secret knowledge, especially that which relates to the future, by means within the reach almost exclusively of special classes of men.

2. Kinds of Divination:

Of this there are two main species:

(1) artificial,

(2) inspirational, or, as it was called in ancient times (Cicero, Lord Bacon, etc.), natural divination.

Artificial divination depends on the skill of the agent in reading and in interpreting certain signs called omens. See AUGURY. In inspirational or natural divination the agent is professedly under the immediate influence of some spirit or god who enables the diviner to see the future, etc., and to utter oracles embodying what he sees. Among the Romans artificial divination prevailed almost exclusively, the other having vogue largely among the Greeks, a proof surely of the more spiritual trend of the Greek mind. Yet that great Roman, Cicero, in his memorable treatise on Divination, says he agrees with those who take cognizance of these two distinct kinds of divination. As examples of inspirational divination he instances men dreaming or in a state of ecstasy (De Divinatione, i. 18). But though Cicero arranges diviners according to their pretentions, he does not believe in any superhuman communication. Thus he explains dreams on psychological principles much as modern psychologists would (op. cit. ii.63). As a matter of fact Cicero was an atheist, or at least an agnostic.

The Latin word divinatio was confined almost exclusively to divination by outward signs, though its etymology (deus, "god") suggests that it denoted originally the other kind-that due to the inspiration of superhuman beings. Chrysippus (died at Athens 207 B.C.), though himself a Greek philosopher, defines the word in a way which would have commanded the approval of nearly every Roman, including Cicero himself who gives it. "Divination," Cicero makes him say (op. cit. ii.63), is "a power in man which foresees and explains those signs which the gods throw in his way." The Greeks were, on the other hand, a more imaginative and emotional people, and with them inspirational divination held much the larger place. The Greek (mantis) bears a close resemblance to the Old Testament prophet, for both claimed to be inspired from without and to be superhumanly informed. The Greek term for divination (he) mantike (= he mantike techne) has reference to the work of the mantis, and it hardly ever means divination of the lower sort-that by means of signs.

3. Fundamental Assumption in Divination:

Underlying all methods of divination there lay the belief that certain superhuman spiritual beings (gods, spirits) possess the secret knowledge desired by men, and that, on certain conditions,, they are willing to impart it.

(1) The word "divination" itself, from deus, "god," or divus, "pertaining to god," carries with it the notion that the information obtained came from deity. Similarly the Greek mantike implies that the message comes to the mantis from gods or spirits by way of inspiration.

(2) Astrology, or astromancy, is but one form of divination and it rests upon the ultimate belief that the heavenly bodies are deities controlling the destinies of men and revealing the future to those who have eyes to see. According to the Weltanschauung or conception of the universe advocated by Hugo Winckler, Alfred Jeremias (see The Old Testament in the Light of the East) and others, terrestrial events are but shadows of the celestial realities (compare Plato's doctrine of ideas). These latter represented the mind of the gods (see ASTROLOGY secs. 1, 2).

(3) On hepatoscopy, or divining from the liver, see below, 6, (2), (c).

(4) It can be proved that among the ancient peoples (Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, etc.) the view prevailed that not only oracles but also omens of all kinds are given to men by the gods and express the minds of these gods.

4. Legitimate and Illegitimate Divination:

Among the ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans the diviner stood in the service of the state and was officially consulted before wars and other great enterprises were undertaken. But among these and other ancient peoples certain classes of diviners were prohibited by the government from exercising their calling, probably because they were supposed to be in league with tile gods of other and hostile nations. The gods of a people were in the beliefs of the time the protectors of their people and therefore the foes of the foes of their proteges. It is on this account that witchcraft has been so largely condemned and punished (see WITCHCRAFT). Necromancy is uniformly forbidden in the Old Testament (see Leviticus 19:31 Deuteronomy 18:11 Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 19:3), probably on account of its connection with ancestor worship. But among other ancient peoples it was allowed and largely practiced. Note that the Hebrew words translated (Deuteronomy 18:11) "consulter with a familiar spirit" and "wizards" denote alike such persons as seek oracles from the spirits of the dead (see the present writer's Magic, Divination, and Demonology among the Hebrews, 85). The early Fathers believed that in the divination of heathenism we have the work of Satan who wished to discredit the true religion by producing phenomena among pagan races very similar to the prophetical marvels of the chosen people. This of course rests on a view of the Old Testament prophet which makes him a "predicter" and little if anything more. See PROPHECY.

5. The Bible and Divination:

The attitude of the Bible toward divination is on the whole distinctly hostile and is fairly represented by Deuteronomy 18:10, where the prophet of Yahweh is contrasted with diviners of all kinds as the only authorized medium of supernatural revelation. Yet note the following:

(1) Balaam (Numbers 22-24) was a heathen diviner whose words of blessing and of cursing were believed to have magical force, and when his services are enlisted in the cause of Yahwism, so that, instead of cursing he blessed Israel, there is not a syllable of disapproval in the narrative.

(2) In Isaiah 3:2 diviners are ranked with judges, warriors and prophets as pillars of the state. They are associated with prophets and seers in Jeremiah 27:9; Jeremiah 29:8 Ezekiel 22:28 (compare 13:6-9; 12:24). It is true that the prophets and diviners mentioned in these passages use utter falsehoods, saying peace where there is none; all the same the men called prophets and diviners are classed together as similar functionaries.

Pure Yahwism in its very basal principle is and must ever have been antagonistic to divination of every kind, though inspirational divination has resemblances to prophetism and even affinities with it. Why then does the Bible appear to speak with two voices, generally prohibiting but at times countenancing various forms of divination? In the actual religion of the Old Testament we have a syncretism in which, though Yahwism forms the substructure, there are constituents from the religions of the native aborigines and the nations around. The underlying thought in all forms of divination is that by employing certain means men are able to obtain knowledge otherwise beyond their reach. The religion of Israel made Yahweh the source of that knowledge and the prophet the medium through which it came to men. We have an analogous example of syncretism resulting in the union of opposite elements in ancient Zarathustraism (Zoroastrianism) which, though in its central principle inconsistent with divination by omens, yet took on from the native Turanian cults of Persia certain forms of divination, especially that by lot (see Lenormant, La Divination, 22). Nor should it be forgotten that the Bible is a library and not a book, and where so many writers, living at widely separated times, have been at work it is natural to look for diversity of teaching, though no one can deny that in fundamental matters Bible authors are wonderfully consistent.

6. Modes of Divination Mentioned in the Bible:

For modes of divination in vogue among the ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, etc., see the relevant works and dictionary articles. The species of divination spoken of in the Bible may be arranged under two heads: (1) those apparently sanctioned, and (2) those condemned in the Bible.

Those Approved and Those Condemned:

(1) Methods of Divination Tacitly or Expressly Sanctioned in the Bible.

(a) The following are instances of inspirational divination:

(i) The case of Balaam has already been cited. He was a Moabite and therefore a heathen soothsayer. His word of blessing or of curse is so potent that whether he blesses or curses his word secures its own realization. So far is his vocation from being censured that it is actually called into the service of Yahweh (see Numbers 22-24).

(ii) To dreams the Bible assigns an important place as a legitimate means of revealing the future. Such dreams are of two kinds:

(aa) Involuntary or such as come unsought. Even these are regarded as sent for guidance in human affairs. The bulk of the dreams spoken of in the Bible belong to this class: see Genesis 20:3, 1 (Abimelech); 28:2; 31:10-14 (Jacob); 37:5-9 (Joseph; see ASTRONOMY, sec. II, 6); 40:5-21 (Pharaoh's butler and baker); 41:1-35 (Pharaoh); Judges 7:9-14 (Gideon and an unnamed man); Daniel 1:17 (Daniel had understanding of dreams); Daniel 2:1-49 (Nebuchadnezzar's dream and its interpretation by Daniel); Matthew 1:20; Matthew 2:13, 19 (Joseph, husband of Mary the virgin); 27:19:00; see also Jeremiah 23:25, where the lawfulness of prophetic dreams is assumed (compare 23:32, where "lying dreams" imply genuine ones). In the document usually ascribed by modern critics to the Elohist (E), dreams bulk largely as the above examples serve to show. Among the Babylonians belief in the significance of dreams gave rise to a science (oneiromancy) so elaborate that only special interpreters called seers (singular, baru) were considered able to explain them (see Lenormant, op. cit., 143, for examples).

(bb) The other species of dreams consists of such as are induced by what is called "incubation," i.e. by sleeping in a sacred place where the god of the place is believed to reveal his secrets to the sleeper. Herodotus (iv.172) says that the Nasamonians, an Egyptian tribe, used to practice divination by sleeping in the graves of their ancestors. The dreams which then came to them were understood to be revelations of their deified ancestors. See Herod. i.181 for another instance of incubation in Nineveh. We have a reference to this custom in Isaiah 65:4 ("that sit among the graves"), where Yahweh enters into judgment with the Jews for their sin in yielding to this superstition. Solomon's dream (1 Kings 3:5-15) came to him at the high place of Gibeon. See also DREAM, DREAMER.

(b) But the Bible appears in some places to give its approval to some kinds of artificial or (as it may be called) ominal divination.

(i) Sortliege or divination by lot. The use of the lot as a means of ascertaining the will of Deity is referred to at least without expressed censure, and, as the present writer thinks, with tacit approval, in many parts of the Bible. It was by lot that Aaron decided which of the two goats was to be for Yahweh and which for Azazel (Leviticus 16:7-10). It was by lot that the land of Canaan was divided after the conquest (Numbers 26:56 Joshua 18; Joshua 19). For other Biblical instances see Joshua 7:14 (Achan found out by lot); 1 Chronicles 6:54; 24:5; 25:8; 26:13; Esther 3:7 ("They cast Pur, that is, the lot"; see Century Bible in the place cited.); Nehemiah 10:34; Nehemiah 11:1 Jonah 1:7 ("The lot fell upon Jonah"); Matthew 27:35 Acts 1:26. In the URIM AND THUMMIM (which see), as explained by modern scholars, the same principle is applied, for these two words, though etymologically still obscure, stand for two objects (pebbles?), one denoting yes or its equivalent, and the other number Whichever the high priest took from his ephod was believed to be the answer to the question asked. In all cases it is taken for granted that the lot cast was an expression and indication of the Divine will. See AUGURY, IV, 3.

(ii) Hydromancy, or divination by water. In Genesis 44:5 Joseph is represented as practicing this kind of divination and not a word of disapproval is expressed. See AUGURY, IV, 2.

(iii)We read in the Old Testament of other signs or omens which are implicitly approved of, thus Judges 6:36-40 (Gideon's fleece); 1 Samuel 14:8-13 (Jonathan decides whether or not he is to attack the Philistines by the words which he may happen to hear them speak).

(2) Modes of Divination Condemned.

The following methods of divination are explicitly or implicitly condemned in the Old Testament:

(a) Astromancy (= Astrology). See ASTROLOGY.

(b) Rhabdomancy, or the use of the divining rod, referred to apparently in Hosea 4:12 (which may be paraphrased: "My people ask counsel of a bit of wood, and the rod made thereof answers their questions"); Ezekiel 8:17 ("They put a rod (EV "the branch") to their nose").

(c) By an examination of the liver of animals; see Ezekiel 21:21. This mode of divining, hepatoscopy, as it is has been called, was very widespread among the Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, etc., of the ancient world, and it is still in vogue in Borneo, Burma and Uganda. We have no evidence that it was practiced among the Israelites, for in the above passage it is the king of Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar) who is said to have "looked in the liver."

Opinions differ as to how the state of the liver could act as an omen. Jastrow says the liver was considered to be the seat of life, and that where the liver of the animal sacrificed (generally a sheep) was accepted, it took on the character of the deity to whom it was offered. The soul of the animal as seen in the liver became then a reflector of the soul of the god (see EB, XX, 102). On the other hand, Alfred Jeremias says that in the view of the ancient Babylonians the lines and forms of the sheep's liver were regarded as reflecting the universe and its history (The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient East, I, 61). Neither of these explanations is made probable by its advocates.

(d) By teraphim (compare TERAPHIM); see 1 Samuel 15:23 Ezekiel 21:21 Zechariah 10:2.

(e) Necromancy, or consulting the dead; see Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6 Deuteronomy 18:11 Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 19:3; see above.

(f) Divination through the sacrifice of children by burning (see Deuteronomy 18:10). The context makes it almost certain that the words translated "that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire" (EV; but read and render "that burns his son or his daughter in the fire") refer to a mode of obtaining an oracle (compare 2 Kings 3:27). The Phoenicians and Carthaginians sacrificed their children to Kronos in times of grave national danger or calamity (Porphyry Apud Euseb. Praep. Ev. iv.64, 4; Diod. Sic. xx.14).

7. Terms Used in the Old Testament in Connection with Divination:

These are examined in detail in T. Witton Davies' Magic, Divination, and Demonology among the Hebrews and Their Neighbors. See also the article "Divination" in Encyclopedia Biblica by the same writer. The following brief notes must suffice here.

(1) kecem, generally rendered "divination," is a general term for divination of all kinds. In Ezekiel 21:21 (26) it stands for divination by arrows while in 1 Samuel 28:8 it is used of divination through the medium of an 'obh ("familiar spirit"). On the derivation of the word see EB, article "Magic," section 3.

(2) me`onen, probably from a Semitic root (compare Arabic `anna) which denotes to emit a hoarse nasal sound such as was customary in reciting the prescribed formula (see CHARM). For "oak of the me`onim" see AUGUR'S OAK. Some say the word means one who divines from the clouds, deriving from `anan, "a cloud," though nothing in the context suggests this sense, and the same remark applies to the meaning "one who smites with the evil eye," making the term a denominative from `ayin, "eye." The usual rendering in the King James Version is plural "observers of times" and in the Revised Version (British and American) "them that practice augury" (Dt. 18:10, 14).

(3) The verb nichesh, of which lichesh, is but a variant, is probably a denominative from nachash, "a serpent" (l and n interchange in Hebrew), denoting "to hiss," "to whisper" (like a serpent), then "to utter divinatory formulas." As it is used for so many kinds of divination, W. R. Smith concludes that it came to be a general term for divine. The participle of this verb is translated "enchanter" in Deuteronomy 18:10, the cognate verb, "to use enchantments" in Leviticus 19:26 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chronicles 33:6, and the corresponding noun "enchantment" in Numbers 23:23; Numbers 24:1.

(4) gazerin, literally, "cutters," i.e. such as kill (in Arab, the cognate verb = "to slaughter") for the purpose of examining the liver or entrails as omens. Perhaps the etymology implies "sacrifice," animals being sacrificed as an appeal to deity. The word occurs only in Daniel (2:27; 4:7 (4); 5:7, 11), and is translated "soothsayers." Some think they were "astrologers," the etymology in that case referring to the dividing of the heavens with a view, by casting the horoscope, to forecasting the future.

(5) 'ashshaph (the King James Version "astrologer," the Revised Version (British and American) "enchanter"), occurs only in Daniel in the Hebrew (1:20; 2:2) and in the Aramaic (2:10; 4:4 (7), etc.) parts of the book. The term is probably taken from the Babylonian and denotes a magician and especially an exorcist rather than a diviner.

(6) kasda'im, the same word as the Greek (Chaldaioi) (English Verisons, "Chaldeans"), denotes in Daniel (1:4, etc.) where alone it occurs, not the people so designated but a class of astrologers. This usage (common in classical writers) arose after the fall of the Babylonian empire, when the only Chaldeans known were astrologers and soothsayers. See further, MAGIC. For "spirit of divination" (Acts 16:16) see PYTHON; PHILIPPI.

8. Divination and Prophecy:

Inspirational divination and Old Testament prophecy have much in common. Both imply the following conditions:

(1) the primitive instinct that, craves for secret knowledge, especially that relating to the future;

(2) the belief that such knowledge is possessed by certain spiritual beings who are willing on certain terms to impart it;

(3) such secret knowledge is imparted generally to special classes of men (rarely women) called diviners or (Bab) seers and prophets.

Many anthropologists (Tylor, Frazer, etc.) and Old Testament scholars (Wellhausen, W. Robertson Smith, etc.) consider prophecy to be but an outgrowth and higher form of divination. The older theologians almost to a man, and a goodly number of moderns, take precisely the opposite view, that divination is a corruption of prophecy. Probably neither view is strictly true. Sometimes in human life we find evidences of progress from lower to higher. Sometimes the process is the very reverse. It is important to take notice of the differences as well as the resemblances between the diviner and the prophet.

(1) The Old Testament prophet believes in a personal God whose spokesman he considers himself to be. When he spoke or wrote it was because he was, at least professedly, inspired and informed by Yahweh. "Thus says Yahweh," was the usual formula with which he introduced his oracles. The Greek and Roman mantis, on the other hand, worked himself up to the necessary ecstatic state by music, drugs (intoxicants, etc.), sacrificial smoke and the like. Sometimes it has been thought a sufficient means of divination to swallow the vital portions of birds and beasts of omen. It was believed that by eating the hearts of crows, or moles, or of hawks, men took into their bodies the presaging soul of the creature (Frazer, Golden Bough (NOTE: Separation, distinction: "I will put a division (the Revised Version, margin "sign of deliverance") between my people and thy people" (Exodus 8:23). The Hebrew word here is pedhuth =" ransom," "redemption" (compare Psalm 111:9), but the reading is doubtful. The King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) follow Septuagint, Syriac and Vulgate, which render "set a distinction," perhaps on the basis of a different reading from that of our Hebrew text.), II, 355).

(2) The mantis practiced his art as a remunerative occupation, charging high fees and refusing in most cases to ply his calling without adequate remuneration. The local oracle shrines (Delphi, Clavis, etc.) were worked for personal and political ends. The Old Testament prophet, on the other hand, claimed to speak as he was bidden by his God. It was with him a matter of conviction as to what lives men ought to live, what state of heart they should cultivate. So far from furthering his own material interests, as he could by saying what kings and other dignitaries wished to hear, he boldly denounced the sins of the time, even when, as often, he had to condemn the conduct of kings and the policy of governments. Look, for example, at Isaiah's fearless condemnation of the conduct of Ahaz in summoning the aid of Assyria (Isaiah 7), and at the scathing words with which Jeremiah censured the doings of the nation's leaders in his day (Jeremiah 9:26, etc.), though both these noble prophets suffered severely for their courage, especially Jeremiah, who stands out as perhaps the finest recorded example of what, in the face of formidable opposition, the religious teacher ought ever to be. Of Micaiah ben Iralab, King Ahab of Israel said, "I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil." What reward did this prophet have for his fidelity to his conscience and his God? Imprisonment (1 Kings 22:1-35). Had he pleased the king by predicting a happy, prosperous future that was never to be, he would have been clothed in gorgeous robes and lodged in a very palace.


In addition to the references above and the full bibliography prefixed to the present writer's book named above (Magic, etc.), note the following: Bouche-Leclercq, Histoire de la divination dans l'antiquite; E. B. Tylor, Primitive Culture 3, I, 78-81; 117-33; II, 155; J. G. Frazer, Golden Bough 2, I, 346; II, 355; III, 342, et passim, and the articles in the principal Bible dictionaries.

T. Witton Davies


See AUGURY, IV, 1.



4436. puthon -- Python, a mythical serpent slain by Apollo ...
... Python, a mythical serpent slain by Apollo, divination. Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine
Transliteration: puthon Phonetic Spelling: (poo'-thone) Short Definition ...
//strongsnumbers.com/greek2/4436.htm - 6k
Strong's Hebrew
5172. nachash -- to practice divination, observe signs
... nachash. 5173 . to practice divination, observe signs. Transliteration: nachash
Phonetic Spelling: (naw-khash') Short Definition: divination. Word Origin a prim ...
/hebrew/5172.htm - 6k

7081. qesem -- divination
... 7080, 7081. qesem. 7082 . divination. Transliteration: qesem Phonetic Spelling:
(keh'-sem) Short Definition: divination. Word Origin ...
/hebrew/7081.htm - 6k

4738. miqsam -- divination
... 4737, 4738. miqsam. 4739 . divination. Transliteration: miqsam Phonetic
Spelling: (mik-sawn') Short Definition: divination. Word ...
/hebrew/4738.htm - 6k

7080. qasam -- to practice divination
... to practice divination. Transliteration: qasam Phonetic Spelling: (kaw-sam') Short
Definition: diviners. ... diviner prudent, soothsayer, use divination. ...
/hebrew/7080.htm - 6k

5173. nachash -- divination, enchantment
... 5172, 5173. nachash. 5174 . divination, enchantment. Transliteration: nachash
Phonetic Spelling: (nakh'-ash) Short Definition: omen. ...
/hebrew/5173.htm - 6k


Whether Divination is a Sin?
Objection 1: It would seem that divination is not a sin. ...
/.../christianbookshelf.org/aquinas/summa theologica/whether divination is a sin.htm

Whether Divination is a Species of Superstition?
... OF SUPERSTITION IN DIVINATIONS (EIGHT ARTICLES) Whether divination is a species
of superstition? ... But divination does not seem to pertain to undue worship. ...
/.../aquinas/summa theologica/whether divination is a species.htm

Whether Divination by Dreams is Unlawful?
... OF SUPERSTITION IN DIVINATIONS (EIGHT ARTICLES) Whether divination by dreams is
unlawful? Objection 1: It would seem that divination by dreams is not unlawful. ...
/.../aquinas/summa theologica/whether divination by dreams is.htm

Whether Divination by the Stars is Unlawful?
... OF SUPERSTITION IN DIVINATIONS (EIGHT ARTICLES) Whether divination by the stars
is unlawful? ... Nom. iv). Therefore divination by the stars is not unlawful. ...
/.../aquinas/summa theologica/whether divination by the stars.htm

Whether Divination by Drawing Lots is Unlawful?
... OF SUPERSTITION IN DIVINATIONS (EIGHT ARTICLES) Whether divination by drawing lots
is unlawful? ... Therefore it would seem that divination by lot is not unlawful. ...
/.../aquinas/summa theologica/whether divination by drawing lots.htm

Whether Divination Practiced by Invoking the Demons is Unlawful?
by invoking the demons is unlawful? Objection 1: It ...
/.../aquinas/summa theologica/whether divination practiced by invoking.htm

Whether Divination by Auguries, Omens, and by Like Observations of ...
... OF SUPERSTITION IN DIVINATIONS (EIGHT ARTICLES) Whether divination by auguries,
omens, and by like observations of external things is unlawful? ...
/.../aquinas/summa theologica/whether divination by auguries omens.htm

The Divination by a Cauldron; Illusion of Fiery Demons; Specimen ...
... Book IV. Chapter XXXV."The Divination by a Cauldron; Illusion of Fiery Demons;
Specimen of a Magical Invocation. But neither shall ...
/.../hippolytus/the refutation of all heresies/chapter xxxv the divination by a.htm

They who Practice Divination, and Follow the Customs of the ...
... Canon XXIV. They who practice divination, and follow the customs of the
heathen´┐Ż They who practice divination, and follow the ...
/.../schaff/the seven ecumenical councils/canon xxiv they who practice.htm

That Divination must not be Used.
... Third Book. 82. That divination must not be used. In Deuteronomy:
"Do not use omens nor auguries." [4551]. Footnotes: ...
/.../three books of testimonies against the jews/82 that divination must not.htm

Smith's Bible Dictionary

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 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) [TERAPHIM]; divination by the liver, (Ezekiel 21:21) divination by dreams, (13:2,3; Judges 7:13; Jeremiah 23:32) consultation of oracles. (Isaiah 41:21-24; 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; 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)

ATS Bible Dictionary

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 Le 19:26,31 20:27. Those were to be stoned who pretended to have a familiar spirit, or the spirit of divination, De 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.

Easton's Bible Dictionary
Of false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:10, 14; Micah 3:6, 7, 11), of necromancers (1 Samuel 28:8), of the Philistine priests and diviners (1 Samuel 6:2), of Balaam (Joshua 13:22). Three kinds of divination are mentioned in Ezek. 21:21, by arrows, consulting with images (the teraphim), and by examining the entrails of animals sacrificed. The practice of this art seems to have been encouraged in ancient Egypt. Diviners also abounded among the aborigines of Canaan and the Philistines (Isaiah 2:6; 1 Samuel 28). At a later period multitudes of magicians poured from Chaldea and Arabia into the land of Israel, and pursued their occupations (Isaiah 8:19; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chronicles 33:6). This superstition widely spread, and in the time of the apostles there were "vagabond Jews, exorcists" (Acts 19:13), and men like Simon Magus (Acts 8:9), Bar-jesus (13:6, 8), and other jugglers and impostors (19:19; 2 Timothy 3:13). Every species and degree of this superstition was strictly forbidden by the law of Moses (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:26, 31; 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10, 11).

But beyond these various forms of superstition, there are instances of divination on record in the Scriptures by which God was pleased to make known his will.

(1.) There was divination by lot, by which, when resorted to in matters of moment, and with solemnity, God intimated his will (Joshua 7:13). The land of Canaan was divided by lot (Numbers 26:55, 56); Achan's guilt was detected (Joshua 7:16-19), Saul was elected king (1 Samuel 10:20, 21), and Matthias chosen to the apostleship, by the solem lot (Acts 1:26). It was thus also that the scape-goat was determined (Leviticus 16:8-10).

(2.) There was divination by dreams (Genesis 20:6; Deuteronomy 13:1, 3; Judges 7:13, 15; Matthew 1:20; 2:12, 13, 19, 22). This is illustrated in the history of Joseph (Genesis 41:25-32) and of Daniel (2:27; 4:19-28).

(3.) By divine appointment there was also divination by the Urim and Thummim (Numbers 27:21), and by the ephod.

(4.) God was pleased sometimes to vouch-safe direct vocal communications to men (Deuteronomy 34:10; Exodus 3:4; 4:3; Deuteronomy 4:14, 15; 1 Kings 19:12). He also communed with men from above the mercy-seat (Exodus 25:22), and at the door of the tabernacle (Exodus 29:42, 43).

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

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
1. (n.) A foreseeing or foretelling of future events; the pretended art discovering secret or future by preternatural means.

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

Topical Bible Verses
2 Kings 21:6
And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he worked much wickedness in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.

2 Chronicles 33:6
And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he worked much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.

2 Kings 17:17
And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.

Deuteronomy 18:10
There shall not be found among you any one that makes his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that uses divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.

Leviticus 19:31
Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.

Isaiah 8:19
And when they shall say to you, Seek to them that have familiar spirits, and to wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek to their God? for the living to the dead?

Micah 5:12
And I will cut off witchcrafts out of your hand; and you shall have no more soothsayers:

Leviticus 20:27
A man also or woman that has a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be on them.

Ezekiel 13:18
And say, Thus said the Lord GOD; Woe to the women that sew pillows to all armholes, and make kerchiefs on the head of every stature to hunt souls! Will you hunt the souls of my people, and will you save the souls alive that come to you?

Nahum 3:4
Because of the multitude of the prostitutions of the well favored harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that sells nations through her prostitutions, and families through her witchcrafts.

Divination (25 Occurrences)
... Three kinds of divination are mentioned in Ezek. 21:21, by arrows, consulting with
images (the teraphim), and by examining the entrails of animals sacrificed. ...
/d/divination.htm - 45k

Augury (5 Occurrences)
... Noah Webster's Dictionary 1. (n.) The art or practice of foretelling events by
observing the actions of birds, etc.; divination. ... See DIVINATION. I. Definition. ...
/a/augury.htm - 17k

Divinations (10 Occurrences)
... the prophets are prophesying in My name, I did not send them, nor command them,
Nor have I spoken unto them: A false vision, and divination, and vanity, And ...
/d/divinations.htm - 9k

Enchantment (4 Occurrences)
... They included enchantment, sorcery, witchcraft, sooth-saying, augury, necromancy,
divination in numberless forms, and all kinds of magic article Nine varieties ...
/e/enchantment.htm - 16k

Magician (5 Occurrences)
... MAGIC IN THE BIBLE 1. Hostility to Magic 2. Potency of Magical Words 3. Influence
of Charms V. MAGICAL TERMS USED IN THE BIBLE 1. Divination 2. Sorcery 3 ...
/m/magician.htm - 24k

Devils (48 Occurrences)
... This is the one instance in the New Testament where divination is connected with
spirits. ... The result of the divination is the calling up of a spirit. ...
/d/devils.htm - 31k

Demons (54 Occurrences)
... This is the one instance in the New Testament where divination is connected with
spirits. ... The result of the divination is the calling up of a spirit. ...
/d/demons.htm - 34k

Sorcery (10 Occurrences)
... (n.) Witchcraft; divination by the assistance of evil spirits, or the power of
commanding evil spirits; magic; necromancy; enchantment. Int. ...
/s/sorcery.htm - 10k

Magic (12 Occurrences)
... MAGIC IN THE BIBLE 1. Hostility to Magic 2. Potency of Magical Words 3. Influence
of Charms V. MAGICAL TERMS USED IN THE BIBLE 1. Divination 2. Sorcery 3 ...
/m/magic.htm - 29k

Witchcraft (8 Occurrences)
... The damsel with "a spirit of divination" (Acts 16:16) was possessed by an evil spirit,
or, as the words are literally rendered, "having a spirit, a pithon ...
/w/witchcraft.htm - 23k

Bible Concordance
Divination (25 Occurrences)

Acts 16:16 It happened, as we were going to prayer, that a certain girl having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by fortune telling.

Genesis 30:27 Laban said to him, "If now I have found favor in your eyes, stay here, for I have divined that Yahweh has blessed me for your sake."

Genesis 44:5 Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby he indeed divineth? ye have done evil in so doing.'

Genesis 44:15 And Joseph said unto them: 'What deed is this that ye have done? know ye not that such a man as I will indeed divine?'

Leviticus 19:26 Ye shall not eat anything with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantments, nor practise augury.

Leviticus 20:27 And if there be a man or a woman in whom is a spirit of Python or of divination, they shall certainly be put to death: they shall stone them with stones; their blood is upon them.

Numbers 22:7 The elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came to Balaam, and spoke to him the words of Balak.

Numbers 23:23 Surely there is no enchantment with Jacob; Neither is there any divination with Israel. Now it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What has God done!

Deuteronomy 18:10 There shall not be found with you anyone who makes his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices sorcery, or an enchanter, or a sorcerer,

Deuteronomy 18:14 For these nations, which thou shalt dispossess, hearkened unto those that use auguries, and that use divination; but as for thee, Jehovah thy God hath not suffered thee to do so.

Joshua 13:22 And Balaam, son of Beor, the diviner, have the sons of Israel slain with the sword, among their wounded ones.
(See NIV)

1 Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And selfwill is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of Jehovah, He hath also rejected thee from being king.

2 Kings 17:17 They caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh, to provoke him to anger.

2 Kings 21:6 And he caused his son to pass through the fire, and used magic and divination, and appointed necromancers and soothsayers: he wrought evil beyond measure in the sight of Jehovah, to provoke him to anger.

2 Chronicles 33:6 He also caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom; and he used magic and divination and sorcery, and appointed necromancers and soothsayers: he wrought evil beyond measure in the sight of Jehovah, to provoke him to anger.

Isaiah 2:6 For you have forsaken your people, the house of Jacob, because they are filled from the east, with those who practice divination like the Philistines, and they clasp hands with the children of foreigners.

Jeremiah 14:14 Then Yahweh said to me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name; I didn't send them, neither have I commanded them, neither spoke I to them: they prophesy to you a lying vision, and divination, and a thing of nothing, and the deceit of their own heart.

Ezekiel 12:24 For there shall be no more any false vision nor flattering divination within the house of Israel.

Ezekiel 13:6 They have seen falsehood and lying divination, who say, Yahweh says; but Yahweh has not sent them: and they have made men to hope that the word would be confirmed.

Ezekiel 13:7 Haven't you seen a false vision, and haven't you spoken a lying divination, in that you say, Yahweh says; but I have not spoken?

Ezekiel 13:23 Therefore you shall no more see false visions, nor practice divination. I will deliver my people out of your hand; and you shall know that I am Yahweh.

Ezekiel 21:21 For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he shook the arrows back and forth, he consulted the teraphim, he looked in the liver.

Ezekiel 21:22 In his right hand was the divination for Jerusalem, to set battering rams, to open the mouth in the slaughter, to lift up the voice with shouting, to set battering rams against the gates, to cast up mounds, to build forts.

Ezekiel 21:23 It shall be to them as a false divination in their sight, who have sworn oaths to them; but he brings iniquity to memory, that they may be taken.

Micah 3:6 therefore ye shall have night without a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, without divination; and the sun shall go down upon the prophets, and the day shall be black over them.



Divination: A System of Fraud

Divination: All Who Practised It, Abominable

Divination: An Abominable Practice

Divination: Could not Injure the Lord's People

Divination: Effected Through: A Lucrative Employment

Divination: Effected Through: Books of, Numerous and Expensive

Divination: Effected Through: Connected With Idolatry

Divination: Effected Through: Cups

Divination: Effected Through: Dreams

Divination: Effected Through: Enchantments

Divination: Effected Through: Inspecting the Inside of Beasts

Divination: Effected Through: Observing Heavenly Bodies

Divination: Effected Through: Observing Times

Divination: Effected Through: Raising the Dead

Divination: Effected Through: Rods

Divination: Effected Through: Sorcery

Divination: Effected Through: The Flight of Arrows

Divination: Frustrated by God

Divination: Practised by Astrologers

Divination: Practised by Charmers

Divination: Practised by Consulters of Familiar Spirits

Divination: Practised by Diviners

Divination: Practised by Enchanters

Divination: Practised by False Prophets

Divination: Practised by Magicians

Divination: Practised by Necromancers

Divination: Practised by Soothsayers

Divination: Practised by Sorcerers

Divination: Practised by Witches

Divination: Practised by Wizards

Divination: The Jews Prone To

Divination: The Law: Forbade Seeking To

Divination: The Law: Forbade to the Israelites the Practice of

Divination: The Law: Punished Those Who Sought To

Divination: The Law: Punished With Death Those Who Used

Divination: Those Who Practised used Mysterious Words and Gestures

Divination: Those Who Practised: Consulted in Difficulties

Divination: Those Who Practised: Regarded As Wise Men

Divination: Those Who Practised: Regarded With Awe

Related Terms

Augury (5 Occurrences)

Divinations (10 Occurrences)

Enchantment (4 Occurrences)

Magician (5 Occurrences)

Devils (48 Occurrences)

Demons (54 Occurrences)

Sorcery (10 Occurrences)

Magic (12 Occurrences)

Witchcraft (8 Occurrences)

Liver (16 Occurrences)

Communion (8 Occurrences)

With (66342 Occurrences)

Omen (6 Occurrences)

Wise (422 Occurrences)

Divine (39 Occurrences)

Python (6 Occurrences)

Witch (2 Occurrences)

Visions (43 Occurrences)


Necromancers (8 Occurrences)

Observer (3 Occurrences)

Inquire (95 Occurrences)

Familiar (35 Occurrences)

Times (1875 Occurrences)

En-dor (3 Occurrences)

Endor (3 Occurrences)

Delusive (4 Occurrences)

Diviner (3 Occurrences)

Men (18419 Occurrences)

Auguries (4 Occurrences)

Sorcerer (3 Occurrences)

Magi (4 Occurrences)

Teraphim (14 Occurrences)

Greece (15 Occurrences)

Arrows (59 Occurrences)

Ancient (64 Occurrences)

Cup (86 Occurrences)

Consult (27 Occurrences)

Omens (3 Occurrences)

Enchantments (12 Occurrences)

Soothsayers (16 Occurrences)

Lots (26 Occurrences)

Dividing (23 Occurrences)

Zedekiah (63 Occurrences)

Vision (106 Occurrences)

Practice (71 Occurrences)

Images (158 Occurrences)

Falsehood (107 Occurrences)

Vault (2 Occurrences)


Useth (9 Occurrences)

Uses (15 Occurrences)

Oracle (57 Occurrences)

Oak (22 Occurrences)

Junction (1 Occurrence)

Girl (71 Occurrences)

Inquireth (7 Occurrences)

Idolatries (3 Occurrences)

Flattering (11 Occurrences)

Fork (8 Occurrences)

Fortune (7 Occurrences)

Fees (1 Occurrence)

Fee (5 Occurrences)

Forts (12 Occurrences)

Futility (19 Occurrences)

Fortune-telling (1 Occurrence)

Fulfillment (19 Occurrences)

Remind (16 Occurrences)

Rewards (26 Occurrences)

Repeated (16 Occurrences)

Ramp (9 Occurrences)

Ramps (8 Occurrences)

Enchanter (5 Occurrences)

Earned (6 Occurrences)

Engages (1 Occurrence)

Experience (28 Occurrences)

Delusions (7 Occurrences)

Divined (6 Occurrences)

Deception (24 Occurrences)

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