Searching the Scriptures: What the Scriptures Say about Astrology, Divination, Spirit Mediums, Magic, Wizardry, and Necromancy
March 1974

“Searching the Scriptures: What the Scriptures Say about Astrology, Divination, Spirit Mediums, Magic, Wizardry, and Necromancy,” Ensign, Mar. 1974, 26

Searching the Scriptures:

What the Scriptures Say about Astrology, Divination, Spirit Mediums, Magic, Wizardry, and Necromancy

In recent years there has been increased interest throughout the Western world in the occult and mystical-type religions. This is not a revival of the spirituality characteristic of the ancient patriarchs and prophets of Israel, but is a type of magic and spiritualistic wizardry that the true prophets vigorously opposed. For example, the Lord spake through Moses:

“Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 19:31.) And also:

“When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.

“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,

“Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.

“For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee.

“Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God.

“For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the Lord thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.” (Deut. 18:9–14.)

It is clearly seen from the foregoing passages that belief in astrology, spirit mediums, etc., did not constitute the true religion taught by the prophets and patriarchs, but was characteristic of the false religions practiced by the surrounding nations that had departed from the Lord.

However, the full impact of Moses’ instruction to Israel can only be appreciated by noting the next verse, which reads:

“The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.” (Deut. 18:15.)

Thus, the message of the entire passage is that Israel should not look to the fortuneteller and astrologer for spiritual guidance, for the God of heaven will speak to his people through his own appointed servants, the prophets. Moses was one of these prophets.

The passage has also a direct allusion to Christ, of whom all the prophets testified, and who is the ultimate example of a true prophet. Because of the reference to Jesus, we frequently quote verse 15 separately from the other verses, but in doing so we lose the contrast that is made between the false prophets and the true prophets. The pagan superstitions appear to counterfeit the true gifts possessed by the prophets, seers, and revelators whom God had appointed.

Isaiah also discussed this matter:

“And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to [hear from] the dead?

“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isa. 8:19–20.)

The superiority of the true prophets over the astrologers, the wizards, and the enchanters is illustrated in the experience of Daniel with the Chaldeans:

“Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.

“And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream, …

“[But] The thing is gone from me. …

“The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king’s matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean.

“And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh. …

“Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

“Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God forever and ever: for wisdom and might are his. …

“I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and has made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king’s matter. …

“Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king;

“But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. …” (See Dan. 2:2–28.)

Likewise, Moses and Aaron had greater power than the Egyptian sorcerers. (See Ex. 7:10–12.)

The northern kingdom of Israel did not heed the warnings of the true prophets and so began to practice the false religions of its neighbors, especially as introduced by the wicked queen Jezebel, a Phoenician who was the wife of the Israelite king, Ahab. That these false religions included divination and enchantments is learned from reading 2 Kings 17:16–18:

“And they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.

“And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and use divination and enchantments and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger.

“Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only.” [2 Kgs. 17:16–18]

As a result, Israel soon fell to the strength of the conquering Assyrian army.

Nearly a century later, good King Josiah sponsored a much-needed reform in the southern kingdom of Judah, and we read that he

“… put down the idolatrous priests, … and … them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets. …

“Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord.” (2 Kgs. 23:5, 24.)

In New Testament times, while Paul was doing missionary work on the island of Cyprus, Elymas, “a sorcerer, a false prophet” not only withstood Paul’s teaching himself, but sought “to turn away the deputy” [of the island] from the faith. Then Paul, “filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes upon him, And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:6–10.)

There can be no mistaking how Paul felt about this representative of sorcery.

Later, at Ephesus, Paul’s preaching resulted in a conversion of many people to the gospel of Jesus Christ, insomuch that “… many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.

“Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.

“So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” (Acts 19:18–20.)

When these people came into the true fold of the Lord they no longer had any desire or need for the books of the “curious arts” which apparently were the manuals of false religious crafts.

Willful participation in these forms of superstitious worship is sinful, as Samuel the prophet counseled king Saul, “… rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. …” (1 Sam. 15:23.) The Biblical record also shows that when Saul lost the spirit of the Lord, he became involved in spiritualism. (See 1 Sam. 28:1–20.)

And finally, to the Galatians, Paul wrote that “witchcraft” is one of “the works of the flesh,” from which they who have the Spirit of the Lord will turn away. (See Gal. 5:19–21.)

The scriptures show that the enchantments and the spells of the wizard, the medium, and the necromancer are characteristic of the false religions and superstitions of the world, and that those who practice such are actually in competition with the true prophets and apostles. All who are acquainted with the spirit and faith of Jesus Christ will want nothing to do with any form of divination and spiritual wizardry.

  • Dr. Matthews is assistant professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University and serves on the Church Adult Correlation Committee.

Illustrated by Michael Clane Graves