Deuteronomy 18:10
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,
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(10) To pass through the fire.—See Leviticus 18:21.

Useth divination—(Numbers 22:7), possibly by sacrifices.

Observer of times.—This is the Rabbinical explanation of the word. In Hebrew the idea of “time” is not so clear. It seems to mean practising hidden arts. (See Leviticus 19:26.)

Enchanter.—Whisperer, or serpent charmer. (See Genesis 44:5.)

Witch.—One who uses charms or spells (Exodus 7:11).

Deuteronomy 18:10. That maketh his son or daughter pass through the fire — By a superstitious dedicating, or a cruel sacrificing of them, see on Leviticus 18:21. That useth divination — Of which there were many sorts, as is implied in the original expressions here: קסם קסמים, kosem kesamim, divining divinations, or with divinations. The meaning undoubtedly is, That seeketh to know or foretel things secret, or to come, by unlawful arts and practices. An observer of times — Superstitiously pronouncing some days lucky and others unlucky: or, an observer of the clouds, or heavens; for the word מעונן, megnonen, here used, may be derived from ענן, gnanan, a cloud; and then it means, That divineth by the motion or figure of the clouds, the appearance or passage of meteors, by thunder, lightning, by the stars, the flying or chattering of birds, and the like. Or, deriving the word from עין, gnain, an eye, qui præstigiis utitur, a juggler, one who causes things to assume a false appearance, practises illusions on people’s fancies, or deceives them by sleight of hand. An enchanter — Or a conjecturer, that endeavours, or pretends, to discover hidden things by a superstitious use of words or ceremonies, by observation of water or smoke, or tiny contingencies. Or, as the original word seems to be derived from נחשׁ, nachash, a serpent, it means one that divines by means of serpents, of which kind of diviners we have many instances in the heathen poets, particularly Homer and Virgil. A witch — Supposed to be in covenant with the devil, and by his help to delude people’s senses, or hurt their persons, their cattle, or other property, through the use of evil arts. The same Hebrew word is translated witch also, Exodus 22:18, where it is evidently intended to be taken in the same sense as here. But, Exodus 7:11; Daniel 2:2, and Malachi 3:5, where it occurs in the plural number, it is translated sorcerers, and interpreted by Aben Ezra of those who change and transform natural things so as to deceive the eyes of the beholders. Le Clerc translates the word, hariolus, soothsayer, because it is joined in the Scriptures with other species of divination.

18:9-14 Was it possible that a people so blessed with Divine institutions, should ever be in any danger of making those their teachers whom God had made their captives? They were in danger; therefore, after many like cautions, they are charged not to do after the abominations of the nations of Canaan. All reckoning of lucky or unlucky days, all charms for diseases, all amulets or spells to prevent evil, fortune-telling, &c. are here forbidden. These are so wicked as to be a chief cause of the rooting out of the Canaanites. It is amazing to think that there should be any pretenders of this kind in such a land, and day of light, as we live in. They are mere impostors who blind and cheat their followers.To pass through the fire - i. e., to Moloch; compare the Leviticus 20:2 note.

That useth divination - Compare Numbers 23:23 note.

Observer of times ... enchanter - Compare Leviticus 19:26 note.

Witch - Rather "sorcerer," compare the Exodus 7:11 note.

De 18:9-14. The Abominations of the Nations Are to Be Avoided.

9-14. thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations—(See on [152]Le 18:21; [153]Le 19:26; [154]Le 19:31; [155]Le 20:4). In spite of this express command, the people of Canaan, especially the Philistines, were a constant snare and stumbling block to the Israelites, on account of their divinations and superstitious practices.

To pass through the fire; either by a superstitious lustration or purgation, or by a cruel sacrificing of them. See Leviticus 18:21 2 Kings 17:31 23:10 2 Chronicles 28:3 Psalm 106:37 Jeremiah 7:31 19:5 Ezekiel 16:20,21 Eze 23:37-39.

That useth divination, i.e. foretelleth things secret or to come, Micah 3:11, by unlawful arts and practices.

An observer of times; superstitiously pronouncing some days good and lucky, and others unlucky, for such or such actions. Or,

an observer of the clouds or heavens, i.e. one that divineth by the motions of the clouds, by the stars, or by the flying or chattering of birds, all which heathens used to observe.

An enchanter, or, a conjecturer, that discovers hidden things by a superstitious use of words or ceremonies, by observation of water or smoke, or any contingencies, as the meeting of a hare, &c. See Poole "Leviticus 19:26".

A witch; one that is in covenant with the devil, and by his help deludes their senses, or hurts their persons. See Exodus 7:11 22:18.

There shall not be found among you anyone that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire,.... To Moloch, which was a sort of lustration by fire, two fires being made, and the child led by a priest between them, and which was an initiation of him into the religion of that deity, and devoting him to it; so Jarchi says, this is the service of Moloch, making piles of fire here and there (on this side and on that), and causing (the children) to pass between them both. Besides this they used to burn them with fire to this deity, perhaps after the performance of this ceremony; see Deuteronomy 12:31, or that useth divination: according to Aben Ezra this is a general name, and so Ben Melech, the particulars of which are what follow:

an observer of times, &c. Cicero says (z), there are two sorts of divination, one is of art, the other of nature. What nation or what city is not moved by prediction, either by the entrails of beasts, or of those that interpret strange things and lightnings, or of soothsayers, or astrologers, or of lots (for these are mostly of art); or of dreams or prophecies, for these two are thought to be natural? Again he says (a), the Phrygians, Pisidians, and Cilicians, pay a great respect to the signs of birds--from the beginning of the world it was that certain signs were forerunners of certain things; some in the entrails of beasts, some in birds, others in lightnings, others in marvellous things, others in the stars; some in visions and dreams, and others in the words of frantic persons. So the comedian remarks (b), that if a strange black dog comes into a house, or a snake falls from the tiles through rain, or a hen crows, these, are observed as ominous, by the diviner or soothsayer. Porphyry says (c), that soothsayers divine by the noise of crows and ravens; and it is said (d) the Arabians, from birds as from oracles, divine what shall come to pass; and that they attain to, as they say, by eating the heart and liver of dragons. Jarchi on this place asks, who is the diviner? one that lays hold on his staff, and says, shall I go? or shall I not go? that is, to such a place; and according as it fell, so judgment was made; see Hosea 4:12. Now such sort of diviners and divinations are cautioned against, as not to be admitted among the people of Israel, and regarded by them:

or an observer of times: and such things the Egyptians were very inquisitive about, what month or day belonged to the gods, what day any one was born on, what shall befall him, how he will die, and what he shall be, as Herodotus (e) relates; and such are they who are here meant, according to R. Akiba (f) that count times and hours, and say such a time is beautiful (or seasonable) to go out in and trade; but the wise men say, as Jarchi observes, these are they that hold the eyes, cast a mist over people's eyes, that they cannot perceive their juggling tricks. Some think the word has the signification of clouds, and so designs such that observed them and their motions, and made their conclusions according to them; see Leviticus 19:26,

or an enchanter; according to Jarchi, one that remarks things as ominous; as when a morsel falls out of a man's mouth, a roe stops him in the way, or his staff falls out of his hands: the word has the signification of a serpent in it, and so may signify one that enchants them; see Psalm 58:4 or makes observations by them, as portending this and that, and the other, as before observed of the snake falling from the tiles; and Horace (g) speaks of a serpent lying in the way, and frightening horses, as taken notice of by soothsayers:

or a witch; of whom see Exodus 22:18.

(z) De Divinatione, l. 1. c. 8. (a) Ibid. (b) Terent Phormio, Acts 4. Sc. 4. "introit in aedes", &c. (c) De Abstinentia, l. 3. c. 4. (d) Philostrat. Vit. Apollon. l. 1. c. 14. (e) Enterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 82. (f) Apud R. Sol. Urbin. Ohel Moed, fol. 24. 1.((g) "Rumpat et serpens iter institutum", &c. Horat. Carmin. l. 3. Ode 27.

There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to {e} pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,

(e) Signifying they were purged by this ceremony of passing between two fires.

10. There shall not be found with thee] Deuteronomy 17:2.

that maketh his son … to pass through the fire] See on Deuteronomy 12:31 : the want of a conjunction following this clause (so also Sam. and LXX except in some codd.) is remarkable, and raises a doubt as to the originality of the clause.

On the following terms see W. R. Smith, Journal of Philology, xiii. 273 ff., xiv. 113 ff.: ‘The Forms of Divination and Magic in Dt. xviii. 10, 11’; Wellhausen, Reste des arab. Heidentums2, 135–153; Driver, Deut. 223–226; T. W. Davies ‘Divination’ and ‘Magic,’ in E.B.; F. B. Jevons ‘Divination,’ Hastings’ D.B., to all of which the references below are directed.

one that useth divination] Heb. kôsem kesamîm. From its root and certain Ar. forms which = ‘to divide’ or ‘allot,’ the vb appears to have meant originally to divine by the lot (disputed by Davies, E.B. 2900), e.g. by arrows as described in Ezekiel 21:21 ff. (Ezekiel 21:26 ff.); practised by the Babylonians (Lenormant, Chald. Magic, 238 n. 2), and Arabs (Korân, Deuteronomy 5:4, where it is forbidden; Sale, Prelimin. Discourse, Sec. v.). Elsewhere in O.T. it has a wider sense, e.g. 1 Samuel 28:8. LXX here μαντευόμενος μαντείαν.

one that practiseth augury] Better, soothsayer. LXX κληδονιζόμενος. Heb. me‘ônen, which used to be derived from ‘anan, ‘cloud,’ as if cloud-gazer, and is by Wellh. supposed to spring from the root-meaning of ‘anan, ‘to appear’ or ‘intervene’ (cp. Ar. ‘ann), as if dealing in phenomena. But the word is probably onomatopoetic, humming or crooning (W. R. Smith); cp. Ar. ghanna, and Jdg 9:37, the oak of the me‘ônenîm, a whispering, oracular tree. Condemned also in Isaiah 2:6, as Philistine, Micah 5:12, Jeremiah 27:9.

or an enchanter] Better, augur or observer of omens. LXX οἰωνιζόμενος. That this is the meaning of the Heb. menaḥesh appears from the story of Balaam, Numbers 24:1 (where for enchantments read omens), from Genesis 44:15, of Joseph’s divination With his cup (hydromancy; cp. for Babylonia Zimmern in KAT3[141], 533 f., and for the Arabs, Doughty ii. 188), the use of the vb in Genesis 30:27, 1 Kings 20:33, to observe, and its meaning in Syriac, ‘divination from natural signs.’ Others take it as onomatopoetic, ‘to hiss,’ or connect it with naḥash, serpent. On divination on the sand, see Doughty i. 162.

[141] Die Keilinschriften und das AIte Testament, 3rd edition (1903), by H. Zimmern and H. Winckler.

or a sorcerer] Heb. mekashsheph. For this and keshaphîm, see Exodus 7:11; Exodus 22:18 (17) (E’s law against the sorceress, see Dri.’s note), Micah 5:11, Nahum 3:4, Jeremiah 27:9, Malachi 3:5, 2 Chronicles 33:6 (of Manasseh) and Isaiah 47:9; Isaiah 47:12, Daniel 2:2 (both of Babylon). W. R. Smith, comparing the Ar. form, suggests that keshaphîm were ‘herbs or other drugs shredded into a magic brew’ (in Micah 5:12, they are held in the hand); cp. the LXX φάρμακα, ‘magical potions.’ But the original meaning of the Ar. kispu is (Zimmern, Schrader’s KAT3[142], 605) spittle or foam from the mouth by which a man might be bewitched; cp. Ḫammurabi, § 2.

[142] Die Keilinschriften und das AIte Testament, 3rd edition (1903), by H. Zimmern and H. Winckler.

Verses 10, 11. - Maketh his son or daughter to pass through the fire (see note on Deuteronomy 12:31). That useth divination (cf. Ezekiel 21:21, where the different methods of divination are enumerated). An observer of times. This is according to the Targum, observans horns; the LXX. have κληδονιζόμενος, "one who augurs what is to happen;" Vulgate, qui observat somnia atque auguria. The word (מְעונֵן) is part of a verb which signifies to cover, to use covert arts, to practice sorcery; though some derive it from the noun עָנַן, a thick cloud, and explain it as "interpreter of clouds;" while others trace it to עַיִן, the eye, and explain it as "one who cheats by optical fascinations" (so the Syriac, fascinans oculis), or one who divines by inspection - an augur." An enchanter; one who practices magic, or divines by signs (cf. Genesis 44:5; Numbers 24:1). It is sometimes said that the verb of which this word is a part (נִחֵשׁ) is a denominative from נָחָשׁ, a serpent; whence it is inferred that the species of divination indicated by this word is ophiomancy, or divination by serpents, but this is not generally accepted by scholars. A witch (מִכַשֵׁפ; LXX., φαρμακός: Vulgate, maleficus); probably one who pretended to cure diseases, or procure some desired result, by means of nostrums and philtres. In the enumeration of the wise men of Babylon (Daniel 2:2), the Mecashephim have a place beside the Hartummim, and in Genesis 41:8 and Exodus 7:11, they are joined with the Hachamim or Magi of Egypt; and this favors the conclusion that their sorcery had a quasi-scientific basis. The English word "witch" is now restricted to the female practicer of unlawful arts; formerly it was applied to males as well, if not chiefly (Trench, 'Select Glossary,' p. 806). A charmer (חֹבֵר הָבֶר); a dealer in spells, one who by means of spells or charms pretends to achieve some desired result. The verb here used primarily means to bind, and the species of magic indicated is probably that practiced by binding certain knots, whereby it was supposed that the curse or blessing, as the case might he, was bound on its object; this was accompanied apparently with incantation (Psalm 58:5). Comp. English spell-bound, and the phrase, "to rivet charms" (Jonson, 'Sad Shepherd,' 2:2). A species of incantation known to the Romans consisted in tying knots with threads of different colors, three in number, which were supposed to become a bond to secure an object (cf. Virg., 'Eclog.' 8:76, 77). A consulter with familiar spirits. This phrase conveys something different from what is expressed, in the Hebrew. שֹׂאֵל אוב is one who asks or inquires of an Ob, that is, a Python, or divining spirit. This spirit was supposed to be in the person of the conjurer, and to be able to reveal to him what was secret or hidden in the future (Leviticus 20:27; 1 Samuel 28:7, 8; Acts 16:16). The notion of "a familiar spirit," i.e. a spirit not dwelling in the person, but with which he is intimate - generally the spirit of one who formerly lived on earth - is a modern notion not known to Scripture. The persons here referred to were probably ventriloquists (LXX., ἐγγαστρίμυθοι), and used their faculty in this respect for purposes of magic, pretending that they had within them a spirit which they could consult, and by which they could predict what would happen or reveal what was hid. Wizard. The English word "wizard" did not originally convey the idea of anything evil in the person of whom it was used; Milton applies it to the Magi who came to worship at Bethlehem ('Ode on the Nativity,' 4.); it meant merely "the wise one," or "the knowing one;" and thus is an exact equivalent for the Hebrew word here used (יְדעֹנִי, knowing, wise, from יָדַע, to know). A necromancer; one who professed to call up the dead, and from them to learn the secrets of futurity (cf. 1 Samuel 28:7). (See on all these names the learned and copious dissertation of Dr. Holmes, art. 'Divination,' in Kitto's 'Bibl. Cyclop.,' 3rd. edit., 1:682.) Deuteronomy 18:10The Gift of Prophecy. - The Levitical priests, as the stated guardians and promoters of the law, had to conduct all the affairs of Israel with the Lord, not only instructing the people out of the law concerning the will of God, but sustaining and promoting the living fellowship with the Lord both of individuals and of the whole congregation, by the offering of sacrifices and service at the altar. But if the covenant fellowship with Himself and His grace, in which Jehovah had placed Israel as His people of possession, was to be manifested and preserved as a living reality amidst all changes in the political development of the nation and in the circumstances of private life, it would not do for the revelations from God to cease with the giving of the law and the death of Moses. For, as Schultz observes, "however the revelation of the law might aim at completeness, and even have regard to the more remote circumstances of the future, as, for example, where the king is referred to; yet in the transition from extraordinary circumstances into a more settled condition, which it foretells in Deuteronomy 17:14, and which actually took place under Samuel when the nation grew older (Deuteronomy 4:25), and in the decline and apostasy which certainly awaited it according to Deuteronomy 31:16-29, when false prophets should arise, by whom they were in danger of being led astray (Deuteronomy 13:2 and Deuteronomy 18:20), as well as in the restoration which would follow after the infliction of punishment (Deuteronomy 4:29-30; Deuteronomy 30:1.); in all these great changes which awaited Israel from inward necessity, the revelation of the will of the Lord which they possessed in the law would nevertheless be insufficient." The priesthood, with its ordinances, would not suffice for that. As the promise of direct communications from God through the Urim and Thummim of the high priest was restricted to the single circumstance of the right of the whole congregation being endangered, and did not extend to the satisfaction of the religious necessities of individuals, it could afford no godly satisfaction to that desire for supernatural knowledge which arose at times in the hearts of individuals, and for which the heathen oracles made such ample provision in ungodly ways. If Israel therefore was to be preserved in faithfulness towards God, and attain the end of its calling as the congregation of the Lord, it was necessary that the Lord should make known His counsel and will at the proper time through the medium of prophets, and bestow upon it in sure prophetic words what the heathen nations endeavoured to discover and secure by means of augury and soothsaying. This is the point of view from which Moses promises the sending of prophets in Deuteronomy 18:15-18, and lays down in Deuteronomy 18:19-22 the criteria for distinguishing between true and false prophets, as we may clearly see from the fact that in Deuteronomy 18:9-14 he introduces this promise with a warning against resorting to heathen augury, soothsaying, and witchcraft.

Deuteronomy 18:9-11

When Israel came into the land of Canaan, it was "not to learn to do like the abominations of these nations" (the Canaanites or heathen). There was not to be found in it any who caused his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, i.e., any worshipper of Moloch (see at Leviticus 18:21), or one who practised soothsaying (see at Numbers 23:23), or a wizard (see at Leviticus 19:26), or a snake-charmer (see at Leviticus 19:26), or a conjurer, or one who pronounced a ban (חבר חבר, probably referring to the custom of binding or banning by magical knots), a necromancer and wise man (see at Leviticus 19:31), or one who asked the dead, i.e., who sought oracles from the dead. Moses groups together all the words which the language contained for the different modes of exploring the future and discovering the will of God, for the purpose of forbidding every description of soothsaying, and places the prohibition of Moloch-worship at the head, to show the inward connection between soothsaying and idolatry, possibly because februation, or passing children through the fire in the worship of Moloch, was more intimately connected with soothsaying and magic than and other description of idolatry.

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