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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Fig. 35—Amulets. 1. Modern Oriental. 2, 3, 4, 5. Ancient Egyptian

Amulet (Isaiah 3:20). From the earliest ages the Orientals have believed in the influences of the stars, in spells, witchcraft, and the malign power of the evil eye; and to protect themselves against the maladies and other evils which such influences were supposed to occasion, almost all the ancient nations wore amulets. These amulets consisted, and still consist, chiefly of tickets inscribed with sacred sentences, and of certain stones or pieces of metal. Not only were persons thus protected, but even houses were, as they still are, guarded from supposed malign influences by certain holy inscriptions upon the doors.

The previous existence of these customs is implied in the attempt of Moses to turn them to becoming uses, by directing that certain passages extracted from the law should be employed (Exodus 13:9; Exodus 13:16; Deuteronomy 6:8; Deuteronomy 11:18). The door-schedules being noticed elsewhere, we here limit our attention to personal amulets. By this religious appropriation the then all-pervading tendency to idolatry was in this matter obviated, although in later times, when the tendency to idolatry had passed away, such written scrolls degenerated into instruments of superstition.

The earrings (Authorized Version) of Isaiah 3:20, it is now allowed, denote amulets, although they served also the purpose of ornament. They were probably precious stones, or small plates of gold or silver, with sentences of the law or magic formulae inscribed on them, and worn in the ears, or suspended by a chain round the neck. It is certain that earrings were sometimes used in this way as instruments of superstition, and that at a very early period (Genesis 35:4), and they are still used as charms in the East. Augustin speaks strongly against earrings that were worn as amulets in his time.

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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Amulet'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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