Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Regard not.—Better, Turn ye not unto, as the Authorised Version renders this very phrase in Leviticus 19:4.
Them that have familiar spirits.—This phrase represents the single word oboth in the original, and the translators of our Authorised Version by adopting it implied that those who practised this craft were supposed to be attended by an invisible spirit who was subject to their call to supply them with supernatural information. According to the authorities during the second Temple it denotes one who has a spirit speaking from under his arm-holes, or chest, with a hollow voice, as if it came out of a bottle, which is the meaning of ob in Job 32:19. They identified it with the spirit of Python, by which the ancient Chaldee Version renders it.
Neither seek after wizards.—The expression “wizard,” which in old English denotes “wise man,” “sage,” is almost the exact equivalent of the word in the original. These cunning men pretended to tell people their fortunes, where their lost property was to be found, &c. According to ancient tradition, these wizards took in their mouth a bone of a certain bird called yaduā, burned incense, thus producing fumes which sent them off into an ecstacy, and then foretold future events. Hence their name, yidonee, as it is in the original. It occurs eleven times in the Bible, and always together with the word translated “familiar spirit.”Leviticus 19:31. Wizards — Them that have entered into covenant with the devil, by whose help they foretel many things to come, and acquaint men with secret things; see Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:11; 1 Samuel 28:3; 1 Samuel 28:7; 1 Samuel 28:9; 2 Kings 21:6.Leviticus 19:30, is the true preservative against the superstition which is forbidden in this verse. The people whose God was Yahweh were not to indulge those wayward feelings of their human nature which are gratified in magical arts and pretensions. Compare Isaiah 8:19.
Familiar spirits - literally, "bottles". This application of the word is supposed to have been suggested by the tricks of ventriloquists, within whose bodies (as vessels or bottles) it was fancied that spirits used to speak. In other cases, the word is used for the familiar spirit which a man pretended to employ in order to consult, or to raise, the spirits of the dead. See 1 Samuel 28:7-8.
neither seek after wizards—fortunetellers, who pretended, as the Hebrew word indicates, to prognosticate by palmistry (or an inspection of the lines of the hand) the future fate of those who applied to them.Them that have familiar spirits; that have entered into covenant with the devil, by whose help they foretell many things to come, and acquaint men with secret things. See Leviticus 20:27 Deu 18:11 1 Samuel 28:3,7,9 2 Kings 21:6.
Wizards; another name expressing the same thing for substance, to wit, persons in league with the devil, with some difference only in the manner of their operation, Acts 16:16; and so the words may be rendered here, "look not to the Python" (n), or those who have the spirit of Python; so Jarchi from the Misnah (o) interprets the word here used, "Baal Ob" or the master of the bottle, this is Python, one that speaks from under his arm holes:
neither seek after wizards; such as pretend to a great deal of knowledge, as the word signifies; such as are called cunning men, who pretend to know where lost or stolen goods are, and to tell people their fortunes, and what will befall them hereafter:
to be defiled by them; for by seeking to them, and believing what is said by them, and trusting thereunto, and expecting events answerable to their predictions, they would be guilty of a gross sin, and so bring pollution and guilt on them; according to the Jewish canons (p), such sort of persons as are cautioned against were to be stoned, and they that consulted them to be reproved:
I am the Lord your God; who only is to be regarded and sought unto for advice and assistance; see Isaiah 8:19.Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)31. familiar spirits … wizards] Cp. ch. Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27. For the difference between the two see Driver on Deuteronomy 18:11. The former expression (’ôb) may be rendered ghost. Its oracles were uttered in a twittering voice, which, through ventriloquism, appeared to rise from the ground. Accordingly the LXX. mostly renders the word by ἐγγαστρίμυθοι, ventriloquists. See the narrative of the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28). The latter of the two appellations, lit. knowing (but Rob.-Sm. Journal of Philology, xiii. 273 ff.; xiv. 113 ff., prefers acquaintance), may fitly be rendered familiar spirit. The distinction between the two modes of divination will then be that ‘those who divine by the former profess (1 Samuel 28:11) to call up any ghost; those who divine by the latter consult only the particular spirit which is their familiar’ (Driver as above).Verse 31. - This verse contains a prohibition of all dealings with those that have familiar spirits or are wizards. The punishment of such persons is appointed in the next chapter. Both in the Old and the New Testament, the real existence of evil spirits and their power of communicating with the human spirit is assumed. Judges 9:27) seems to point to sacrificial meals of the first-fruits, that had already been reaped: and this is the way in which Josephus has explained the command (Ant. iv. 8, 19). For (Leviticus 19:25) they were not to eat the fruits till the fifth year, "to add (increase) its produce to you," viz., by the blessing of God, not by breaking off the fruits that might set in the first years.
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