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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(only occurs in the A.V. at Wisdom of Solomon 17:7, μαγική s.v. τεξνή , "art magic;" but the term "magician" [q.v. is frequent), a word used to designate the power or art of working wonders beyond the range of science or natural skill. It is derived from the Greek, and refers ultimately to the nmagi (q.v.), who were anciently regarded as its depositaries or experts. The magical arts spoken of in the Bible are those practiced by the Egyptians, the Canaanites, and their neighbors, the Hebrews, the Chaldaeans, and probably the Greeks. In all ages and parts of the world they have played an important part in popular superstitiou (q.v.). I. Position of Magic in relation to Religion and Philosophy in Anicient Times. — The degree of the civilization of a nation is not the measure of the importance of magic in its convictions. The natural features of a country are not the primary causes of what is termed superstition in its inhabitants. With nations as with men — and the analogy of Plato in the "Republic" is not always false — the feelings on which magic fixes its hold are essential to the mental constitution. Contrary as are these assertions to the common opinions of our time inductive reasoning forbids our doubting them.
1. With the lowest race magic is the chief part of religion. The Nigritians, or blacks of this race, show this in their extreme use of amulets and their worship of objects which have no other value in their eves but as having a supposed magical character through the influence of supernatural agents. With the Turanians, or corresponding whites of the same great family — we use the word white for a group of nations mainly yellow, in contradistinction to black incantations and witchcraft occupy the same place, Shamanism characterizing their tribes in both hemispheres. In the days of Herodotus the distinction in this matter between the Nigritians and the Caucasian population of North Africa was what it now is. In his remarkable account of the, journey of the Nasamonian young men-the Nasamones, be it remembered, were "a Libyan race," and dwellers on the northern coast, as the historian here says — we are told that the adventurers passed through the inhabited maritime region, and the tract occupied by wild. beasts, and the desert, and at last came upon a plain with trees, where they were seized by men of small stature, who carried them across marshes to a town of such men black in complexion. A great river, running from west to east, and containing crocodiles, flowed by that town, and all that nation were sorcerers (ἐς τοὺς ουτοι ἀπικοντο ἀνθρωπους, γόητας ειναι παντας , 2:32, 33). It little matters whether the conjecture that the great river was the Niger be true, which the idea adopted by Herodotus that it was the upper Nile seems to favor: it is quite evident that the Nasamoines came upon a nation of Nigritians beyond the Great Desert, and were struck with their fetishism. So, in our own days, the traveler is astonished at the height to which this superstition is carried among the Nigritians, who have no religious practices that are not of the nature of sorcery, nor any priests who are not magicians, and magicians alone. The strength of this belief in magic in these two great divisions of the lowest race is shown in the case of each by its having maintained its hold in an instance in whiclh is tenacity must have been severely tried. The ancient Egyptians show their partly-Nigritian origin not alone in their physical characteristics and language, but in their religion. They retained the strange, low nature-worship of the Nigritians, forcibly combining it with more intellectual kinds of belief, as they represented their gods with the heads of animals and the bodies of men, and even connecting it with truths which point to a primeval .revelation. The Ritual, which was the great treasury of Egyptian belief, and explained the means of gaining future happiness, is full of charms to be said, and contains directions for making and for using amulets. As the Nigritian goes on a journey hung about with amulets, so amulets were placed on the Egyptian's embalmed body, and his soul went on its mysterious way fortified with incantations learned while on earth. In China, although Buddhism has established Itself, and the system of Confucius has gained the power its positivism would insure it with a highly-educated people of low type, another belief still maintains itself which there is strong reason to hold to be older than the other two, although it is usually supposed to have been of the same age as Confucianism; in this religion magic is of the highest importance, the distinguishing characteristic by which it is known.
2. With the Shemites magic takes a lower place. Nowhere is it even part of religion, yet it is looked upon as a powerful engine, and generally unlawful or lawful according to the aid invoked. Among many of the Shemitic peoples there linger the remnants of a primitive fetishism. Sacred trees and stones are reverenced from an old superstition, of which they do not always know the meaning, derived from the nations whose place they have taken. Thus fetishism remains, although in a kind of fossil state. The Importance of astrology with the Shemites has tended to raise the character of their magic, which deals rather with the discovery of supposed existing influences than with the production of new influences. The only direct association of magic with religion is where the priests, as the educated class, have taken the functions of magicians; but this is far different from the case of the Nigritians, where the magicians are the only priests. The Shemites, however, when depending on human reason alone, seem never to have doubted the efficacy of magical arts, yet recourse to their aid was not usually with them the first idea of a man in doubt. Though the case of Saul cannot; be taken as applying to the whole race, yet, even with the heathen Shemites, prayers must have been held to be of more value than incantations. The Iranians assign to magic a still less important position. It can scarcely be traced in the relics of old nature-worship, which they with greater skill than the Egyptians interwove with their more intellectual beliefs, as the Greeks gave the objects of reverence in Arcadia and Crete a place in poetical myths, and the Scandinavians animated the hard remains of primitive superstition. The character of the ancient belief is utterly gone with the assigning of new reasons for the reverence of its sacred objects. Magic always maintained some hold on men's minds, but the stronger intellects despised it, like the Roman commander who threw the sacred chickens overboard, and the Greek who defied an adverse omen at the beginning of a great battle. When any, oppressed by the sight of the calamities of mankind, sought to resolve the mysterious problem, they fixed, like AEschylus, not upon the childish notion of a chance-government by many conflicting agencies, but upon the nobler idea of a dominating fate. Men of highly sensitive temperaments have always inclined to a belief in magic, and there has therefore been a section of Iranian philosophers in all ages who have paid attention to its practice; but, expelled from religion, it has held but a low and precarious place in philosophy.
The Hebrews had no magic of their own. It was so strictly forbidden by the law that it could never afterwards have any recognized existence save in times of general heresy or apostasy, and the same was doubtless the case in the patriarchal ages. The magical practices which obtained among the Hebrews were therefore borrowed from the nations around. The hold they gained was such as we should have expected with a Shemitic race, making allowance for the discredit thrown upon them by the prohibitions of the law. From the first entrance into the Land of Promise until the destruction of Jerusalem we have constant glimpses of magic practiced in secret, or resorted to, not alone by the common, but also by the great. The Talmud abounds in notices of contemporary magic among the Jews, showing that it survived idolatry notwithstanding their original connection, and was supposed to produce real effects. The Koran in like manner treats charms and incantations as capable of producing evil consequences when used against a man. It is a distinctive characteristic of the Bible that from first to last it warrants no such trust or dread. In the Psalms, the most personal of all the books of Scripture, there is no prayer to be protected against magical influences. The believer prays to be delivered from every kind of evil that could hurt the body or the soul, but he says nothing of the machinations of sorcerers. Here and everywhere magic is passed by, or, if mentioned, mentioned only to be condemned (comp. Psalms 106:28). Let those who affirm that they see in the Psalms merely human piety, and in Job and Ecclesiastes merely human philosophy, explain the absence in them, and throughout the Scriptures, of the expression of superstitious feelings that are inherent in the Shemitic mind. Let them explain the luxuriant growth, in the after-literature of the Hebrews and Arabs, and notably in the Talmud and the Koran, of these feelings with no root in those older writings from which that after-literature was derived. If the Bible, the Talmud, and the Koran be but several expressions of the Shemitic mind, differing only through the effect of time, how can this contrast be accounted for? — the very opposite of what obtains elsewhere: for superstitions are generally strongest in the earlier literature of a race, and gradually fade, unless a condition of barbarism restore their vigor. Those who see in the Bible a divine work can understand how a God taught preacher could throw aside the miserable fears of his race, and boldly tell man to trust in his Maker alone. Here, as in all matters, the history of the Bible confirms its doctrine. In the doctrinal Scriptures magic is passed by with contempt, in the historical Scriptures the reasonableness of this contempt is shown. Whenever the practisers of magic attempt to combat the servants of God, they conspicuously fail. Pharaoh's magicians bow to the divine power shown in the wonders wrought by Moses and Aaron. Balaam, the great enchanter, comes from afar to curse Israel, and is forced to bless them.
II. Biblical Notices. — In examining the references to magic in the Bible, we must keep in view the curious inquiry whether there be any reality in the art. We would at the outset protest against the idea, once very prevalent, that the conviction that the seen and unseen worlds were often more manifestly in contact in the Biblical ages than now necessitates a belief in the reality of the magic spoken of in the Scriptures. We do indeed see a connection of a supernatural agency with magic in such a case as that of the damsel possessed with a spirit of divination mentioned in the Acts; yet there the agency appears to have been involuntary in the damsel, and shrewdly made profitable by her employers. This does not establish the possibility of man being able at his will to use supernatural powers to gain his own ends, which is what magic has always pretended to accomplish. Thus much we premise, lest we should be thought to hold latitudinarian opinions because we treat the reality of magic as an open question. Without losing sight of the distinctions we have drawn between the magic of different races, we shall consider the notices of the subject in the Bible in the order in which they occur. It is impossible in every case to assign the magical practice spoken of to a particular nation, or, when this can be done, to determine whether it be native or borrowed, and the general absence of details renders any other system of classification liable to error.
1. The theft and carrying away of Laban's teraphin (תְּרָפַים ) by Rachel seems to indicate the practice of magic in Padan-aram at this early time. It appears that Laban attached great value to these objects from what he said as to the theft and his determined search for them (Genesis 31:19; Genesis 31:30; Genesis 31:32-35). It may be supposed, from the manner in which they were hidden, that these teraphim were not very small. The most important point is that Laban calls them his "gods" (Genesis 31:30; Genesis 31:32), although he was not without belief in the true God (Genesis 31:24; Genesis 31:49-53); for this makes it almost certain that we have here, not an indication of the worship of strange gods, but the first notice of a superstition that afterwards obtained among those Israelites who added corrupt practices to the true religion. The derivation of the name "teraphim" is extremely obscure. Gesenius takes it from an "unused" root, תָּרִ, which he supposes, from the Arabic, probably signified "to live pleasantly" (Thesaur. s.v.). It may, however, be reasonably conjectured that such a root would have had, if not in Hebrew, in the language whence the Hebrews took it or its derivative, the proper meaning "to dance" corresponding to this, which would then be its tropical meaning. We should prefer, if no other derivation be found, to suppose that the name teraphim might mean "dancers" or "causers of dancing," with reference either to primitive nature-worship or its magical rites of the character of Shamanism, rather than that it signifies, as Gesenius suggests, "givers of pleasant life." There seems, however, to be a cognate word, unconnected with the "unused" root just mentioned, in ancient Egyptian, whence we may obtain a conjectural derivation. We do not, of course, trace the worship of teraphim to the sojourn in Egypt.
They were probably those objects of the pre-Abrahamite idolatry, put away by order of Jacob (Genesis 35:2-4), yet retained even in Joshua's time (Joshua 24:14); and, if so, notwithstanding his exhortation, abandoned only for a space (Judges 17, 18); and they were also known to the Babylonians, being used by them for divination (Ezekiel 21:21). But there is great reason for supposing a close connection between the oldest language and religion of Chaldaea and the ancient Egyptian language and religion. The Egyptian word ter signifies "a shape, type, transformation," and has for its determinative a mummy: it is used in the Ritual, where the various transformations of the deceased in Hades are described (Todtenbuch, ed. Lepsius, ch. 76 sq.). The small mummy-shaped figure, shebti, usually made of baked clay covered with a blue vitreous varnish, representing the Egyptian as deceased, is of a nature connecting it with magic, since it was made with the idea that it secured benefits in Hades; and it is connected with the word ter, for it represents a mummy, the determinative of that word, and was considered to be of use ill the state in which the deceased passed through transformations, teru. The difficulty which forbids our doing more than conjecture a relation between ter and teraphim is the want in the former of the third radical of the latter; and in our present state of ignorance respecting the ancient Egyptian and the primitive language of Chaldaea in their verbal relations to the Shemitic family, it is impossible to say whether it is likely to be explained. The possible connection with the Egyptian religious magic is, however, not to be slighted, especially as it is not improbable that the household idolatry of the Hebrews was ancestral worship, and the shebti was the image of a deceased man or woman, as a mummy. and therefore as an Osiris, bearing the insignia of that divinity, and so in a manner as a deified dead person, although we do not know that it was used in the ancestral worship of the Egyptians. It is important to notice that no singular is found of the word teraphim, and that the plural form is once used where only one statue seems to be meant (1 Samuel 19:13; 1 Samuel 19:16): in this case it may be a "plural of excellence." If the latter inference be true, this word must have become thoroughly Shemiticized. There is no description of these images; but. from the account of Michal's stratagem to deceive Saul's messengers, it is evident, if only one image be there meant, as is very probable, that they were at least sometimes of the size of a man, and perhaps in the head and shoulders, if not lower, of human shape, or of a similar form (1 Samuel 19:13-16).
The worship or use of teraphim after the occupation of the Promised Land cannot be doubted as having been one of the corrupt practices of those Hebrews who leaned to idolatry, but did not abandon their belief in the God of Israel. Although the Scriptures draw no marked distinction between those who forsook their religion and those who added to it such corruptions, it is evident that the latter always professed to be orthodox. Teraphim, therefore, cannot be regarded as among the Hebrews necessarily connected with strange gods, whatever may have been the case with other nations. The account of Micah's images in the book of Judges, compared with a passage in Hosea, shows our conclusion to be correct. In the earliest days of the occupation of the Promised Land, in the time of anarchy that followed Joshua's rule, Micah, "a man of Mount Ephraim," made certain images and other objects of heretical worship, which were stolen from him by those Danites who took Laish and called it Dan, there setting up idolatry, where it continued the whole time that the ark was at Shiloh, the priests retaining their post "until the day of the captivity of the land" (Judges 17, 18, esp. 30, 31). Probably this worship was somewhat changed, although not in its essential character, when Jeroboam set up the golden calf at Dan. Micah's idolatrous objects were a graven image, a molten image, an ephod, and teraphim (Judges 17:3-5; Judges 18:17-18; Judges 18:20).
In Hosea there is a retrospect of this period where the prophet takes a harlot, and commands her to be faithful to him "many days." It is added: "For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image [or "pillar," מִצֵּבָה, and without an ephod, and teraphim: afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek Jehovah their God, and David their king; and shall fear Jehovah and his goodness in the latter days" (3, esp. 4, 5). The apostate people are long to be without their spurious king and false worship, and in the end are to return to their loyalty to the house of David and their faith in the true God. That Dan should be connected with Jeroboam "who made Israel to sin," and with the kingdom which he founded, is most natural; and it is therefore worthy of note that the images, ephod, and teraphim made by Micah, and stolen and set up by the Danites at Dan, should so nearly correspond with the objects spoken of by the prophet. It has been imagined that the use of teraphim and the similar abominations of the heretical Israelites are not so strongly condemned in the Scriptures as the worship of strange gods. This mistake arises from the mention of pious kings who did not suppress the high places, which proves only their timidity, and not any lesser sinfulness in the spurious religion than in false systems borrowed from the peoples of Canaan and neighboring countries. The cruel rites of the heathen are indeed especially reprobated, but the heresy of the Israelites is too emphatically denounced, by Samuel in a passage soon to be examined, and in the repeated condemnation of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, "who made Israel to sin," to render it possible that we should take a view of it consistent only with modern sophistry. We pass to the magical use of teraphim.
By the Israelites they were consulted for oracular answers. This was apparently done by the Danites, who asked Micah's Levite to inquire as to the success of their spying expedition (Judges 18:5-6). In later times this is distinctly stated of the Israelites where Zechariah says "For the teraphim have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams" (Zechariah 10:2). It cannot be supposed that, as this first positive mention of the use of teraphim for divination by the Israelites is after the return from Babylon, and as that use obtained with the Babylonians in the time of Nebuchadnezzar, therefore the Israelites borrowed it from their conquerors; for these objects are mentioned in earlier places in such a manner that their connection with divination must be intended, if we bear in mind that this connection is undoubted in a subsequent period. Samuel's reproof of Saul for his disobedience in the matter of Amalek associates "divination" with "vanity," or "idols" (אָוֶן ), and "teraphim," however we render the difficult passage where these words occur (1 Samuel 15:22-23). (The word rendered "vanity," אָוֶן, is especially used with reference to idols. and even in some places stands alone for an idol or idols.) When Saul, having put to death the workers in black arts, finding himself rejected of God in his extremity, sought the witch of Endor, and asked to see Samuel, the prophet's apparition denounced his doom as the punishment of this very disobedience, as to Amalek. The reproof would seem, therefore, to have been a prophecy that the self-confident king would at the last alienate himself from God, and take refuge in the very abominations he despised. This apparent reference tends to confirm the inference we have indicated. As to a later time, when Josiah's reform is related, he is said to have put away "the wizards, and the teraphim, and the idols" (2 Kings 23:24); where the mention of the teraphim immediately after the wizards, and as distinct from the idols, seems to favor the inference that they are spoken of as objects used in divination.
The only account of the act of divining by teraphim is in a remarkable passage of Ezekiel relating to Nebuchadnezzar's advance against Jerusalem. "Also, thou son of man, appoint thee two ways, that the sword of the king of Babylon may come: both twain [two swords] shall come forth out of one land: and choose thou a place, choose [it] at the head of the way to the city. Appoint a way, that the sword may come to Rabbath of the Ammonites, and to Judah in Jerusalem the defenced. For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he shuffled arrows, he consulted with teraphim, he looked in the liver. At his right hand was the divination for Jerusalem" (Ezekiel 21:19-22). The mention together of consulting teraphim and looking into the liver may not indicate that the victim was offered to teraphim and its liver then looked into, but may mean two separate acts of divining. The former explanation seems, however, to have been adopted by the Sept. in its rendering of the account of Michal's stratagem, as if Michal had been divining, and on the coming of the messengers seized the image and liver and hastily put them in the bed. The accounts which the Rabbins give of divining by teraphim are worthless. (See TERAPHIM).
2. Joseph, when his brethren left after their second visit to buy corn, ordered his steward to hide his silver cup in Benjamin's sack, and afterwards sent him after them, ordering him to claim it, thus: "[Is] not this [it] in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth?" (Genesis 44:5). The meaning of the latter clause has been contested, Gesenius translating "he could surely foresee it" (ap. Barrett, Synopsis, ad loc.), but the other rendering seems far more probable, especially as we read that Joseph afterwards said to his brethren, "Wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?" (Genesis 44:15)-the same word being used. If so, the reference would probably be to the use of the cup in divining, and we should have to infer that here Joseph was acting on his own judgment, (See JOSEPH), divination being not alone doubtless a forbidden act, but one of which he, when called before Pharaoh, had distinctly disclaimed the practice. Two uses of cups or the like for magical purposes have obtained in the East from ancient times. In one use either the cup itself bears engraved inscriptions, supposed to have a magical influence (see D'Herbelot, Bibliotheque Orientale, s.v. (Gam), or it is plain, and such inscriptions are written on its inner surface in ink. In both cases water poured into the cup is drunk by those wishing to derive benefit, as, for instance, the cure of diseases, from the inscriptions, which, if written, are dissolved (Lane, Mod. E9. ch. 11).
This use, in both its forms, obtains among the Arabs in the present day, and cups bearing Chaldaean inscriptions in ink have been discovered by Mr. Layard, and probably show that this practice existed among the Jews in Babylonia in about the 7th century of the Christian aera (Nineveh and Babylon, p. 509, etc. There is an excellent paper on these bowls by Dr. Levy, of Breslau, in the Zeifschrift der Deutsch. Morgenlä nd. Gesellschaft, 9:465, etc.). In the other use the cup or bowl was of very secondary importance. It was merely the receptacle for water, in which, after the performance of magical rites, a boy looked to see what the magician desired. This is precisely the same as the practice of the modern Egyptian magicians, where the difference that ink is employed and is poured into the palm of the boy's hand is merely accidental. A Gnostic papyrus in Greek, written in Egypt in the earlier centuries of the Christian aera, now preserved in the British Museum, describes the practice of the boy with a bowl, and alleges results strikingly similar to the alleged results of the well-known modern Egyptian magician, whose divination would seem, therefore, to be a relic of the famous magic of ancient Egypt. (See Lane, Mod. Egyptians, ch. 12, for an account of the performances of this magician, and Mr. Lane's opinion as to the causes of their occasional apparent success.) As this latter use only is of the nature of divination, it is probable that to it Joseph referred. The practice may have been prevalent in his time, and hieroglyphic inscriptions upon the bowl may have given color to the idea that it had magical properties, and perhaps even that it had thus led to the discovery of its place of concealment, a discovery which must have struck Joseph's brethren with the utmost astonishment. (See CUP).
3. The magicians of Egypt are spoken of as a class in the histories of Joseph and Moses. When Pharaoh's officers were troubled by their dreams, being in prison they were at a loss for an interpreter. Before Joseph explained the dreams he disclaimed the power of interpreting save by the divine aid, saying, "[Do] not interpretations [belong] to God? tell me [them], I pray you" (Genesis 40:8). In like manner, when Pharaoh had his two dreams, we find that he had recourse to those who professed to interpret dreams. We read: "He sent and called for all the scribes of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but [there was] none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh" (Genesis 41:8; comp. 40:24). Joseph, being sent for on the report of the chief of the cup-bearers, was told by Pharaoh that he had heard that he could interpret a dream. Joseph said, ‘ [It is] not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace" (Genesis 40:16). Thus, from the expectations of the Egyptians and Joseph's disavowals, we see that the interpretation of dreams was a branch of the knowledge to which the ancient Egyptian magicians pretended. The failure of the Egyptians in the case of Pharaoh's dreams must probably be regarded as the result of their inability to give a satisfactory explanation, for it is unlikely that they refused to attempt to interpret. The two words used to designate the interpreters sent for by Pharaoh are חִרְטֻמּים, "scribes" (?) and חֲכָמַים "wise men."
We again hear of the magicians of Egypt in the narrative of the events before the exodus. They were summoned by Pharaoh to oppose Moses. The account of what they effected requires to be carefully examined, from its bearing on the question whether magic be an imposture. We read: "And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Show a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast [it] before Pharaoh, [and] it shall become a serpent." It is then related that Aaron did thus, and afterwards: "Then Pharaoh also called the wise men ad t the enchanters: now they, the scribes of Egypt, did so by their secret arts: for they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents, but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods" (Exodus 7:8-12).
The rods were probably long staves like those represented on the Egyptian monuments, not much less than the height of a man. If the word used mean here a serpent, the Egyptian magicians may have feigned a change: if it signify a crocodile, they could scarcely have done so. The names by which the magicians are designated are to be noted. That which we render "scribes" seems here to have a general signification, including wise men and enchanters. The last term is more definite in its meaning, denoting users of incantations. On the occasion of the first plague, the turning of the rivers and waters of Egypt into blood, the opposition of the magicians again occurs. "And the scribes of Egypt did so by their secret arts" (Exodus 7:22). When the second plague, that of frogs, as sent, the magicians again made the same opposition (Exodus 8:7). Once more they appear in the history. The plague of lice came, and we read that when Aaron had worked the wonder the magicians opposed him: "And the scribes did so by their secret arts to bring forth the lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man and upon beast. And the scribes said unto Pharaoh, This [is] the finger of God: but Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them, as the Lord had said" (8:18, 19 [Hebrews 14,15]). After this we hear no more of the magicians. All we can gather from the narrative is that the appearances produced by them were sufficient to deceive Pharaoh on three occasions. It is nowhere declared that they actually produced wonders, since the expression "the scribes did so by their secret arts" is used on the occasion of their complete failure. Nor is their statement that in the wonders wrought by Aaron they saw the finger of God any proof that they recognized a power superior to the native objects of worship they invoked, for we find that the Egyptians frequently spoke of a supreme being as God. It seems rather as if they had said, "Our juggles are of no avail against the work of a divinity." There is one later mention of these transactions, which adds to our information, but does not decide the main question. St. Paul mentions Jannes and Jambres as having "withstood Moses," and says that their folly in doing so became manifest (2 Timothy 3:8-9). The Egyptian character of these names, the first of which is, in our opinion, found in hieroglyphics, is not inconsistent with the opinion that the apostle cited a prevalent tradition of the Jews. (See JANNES AND JAMBRES).
We turn to the Egyptian illustrations of this part of the subject. Magic, as we have before remarked, was inherent in the ancient Egyptian religion. The Ritual is a system of incantations and directions for making amulets, with the object of securing the future happiness of the disembodied soul. However obscure the belief of the Egyptians as to the actual character of the state of the soul after death may be to us, it cannot be doubted that the knowledge and use of the magical amulets and incantations treated of in the Ritual was held to be necessary for future happiness, although it was not believed that they alone could insure it, since to have done good works, or, more strictly, not to have committed certain sins, was an essential condition of the acquittal of the soul in the great trial in Hades. The thoroughly magical character of the Ritual is most strikingly evident in the minute directions given for making amulets (Todtenbuch, ch. 100, 119, 134), and the secrecy enjoined in one case on those thus occupied (ch. 133). The later chapters of the Ritual (163-165), held to have been added after the compilation or composition of the rest, which theory, as M. Chabas has well remarked, does not prove their much more modern date (Le Papyrus Magique Harris, p. 162), contain mystical names not bearing an Egyptian etymology. These names have been thought to be Ethiopian; they either have no signification, and are mere magical gibberish, or else they are, mainly at least, of foreign origin. Besides the Ritual the ancient Egyptians had books of a purely magical character, such as that which M. Chabas has edited in his work referred to above.
The main source of their belief in the efficacy of magic appears to have been the idea that the souls of the dead, whether justified or condemned, had the power of revisiting the earth and taking various forms. This belief is abundantly used in the moral tale of "The Two Brothers," of which the text has recently been published by the trustees of the British Museum (Select Papyri, part 2), and we learn from this ancient papyrus the age and source of much of the machinery of mediaeval fictions, both Eastern and Western. A likeness that strikes us at once in the case of a fiction is not less true of the Ritual; and the perils encountered by the soul in Hades are the first rude indications of the adventures of the heroes of Arab and German romance. The regions of terror traversed, the mystic portals that open alone to magical words, and the monsters whom magic alone can deprive of their power to injure, are here already in the book that in part was found in the reign of king Mencheres, four thousand years ago. Bearing in mind the Nigritian nature of Egyptian magic, we may look for the source of these ideas in primitive Africa. There we find the realities of which the ideal form is not greatly distorted, though greatly intensified. The forests that clothe the southern slopes of snowy Atlas, full of fierce beasts; the vast desert, untenanted save by harmful reptiles, swept by sand-storms, and ever burning under an unchanging sun; the marshes of the south, teeming with brutes of vast size and strength, are the several zones of the Egyptian Hades. The creatures of the desert and the plains and slopes, the crocodile, the pachydermata, the lion, perchance the gorilla. are the genii that hold this land of fear. In what dread must the first scanty population have held dangers and enemies still feared by their swarming posterity. No wonder, then, that the imaginative Nigritians were struck with a superstitious fear which certain conditions of external nature always produce with races of a low type, where a higher feeling would only be touched by the analogies of life and death, of time and eternity. No wonder that, so struck, the primitive race imagined the evils of the unseen world to be the recurrence of those against which they struggled while on earth. That there is some ground for our theory, besides the generalization which led us to it, is shown by a usual Egyptian name of Hades, "the West;" and that the wild regions west of Egypt might directly give birth to such fancies as form the common ground of the machinery, not the general belief, of the Ritual, as well as of the machinery of mediaeval fiction, is shown by the fables that the rude Arabs of our own day tell of the wonders they have seen.
Like all nations who have practiced magic generally, the Egyptians separated it into a lawful kind and an unlawful. M. Chabas has proved this from a papyrus which he finds to contain an account of the prosecution, in the reign of Rameses III (B.C. cir. 1220), of an official for unlawfully acquiring and using magical books, the king's property. The culprit was convicted and punished with death (p. 169 sq.). A belief in unlucky and lucky days, in actions to be avoided or done on certain days, and in the fortune attending birth on certain days, was extremely strong, as we learn from a remarkable ancient calendar (Select Papyri, part 1) and the evidence of writers of antiquity. A religious prejudice, or the occurrence of some great calamity, probably lay at the root of this observance of days. Of the former the birthday of Typhon, the fifth of the Epagomenae, is an instance. Astrology was also held in high honor, as the calendars of certain of the tombs of the kings, stating the positions of the stars and their influence on different parts of the body, show us; but it seems doubtful whether this branch of magical arts is older than the 18th dynasty, although certain stars were held in reverence in the time of the 4th dynasty. The belief in omens probably did not hold an important place in Egyptian magic, if we may judge from the absence of direct mention of them. The superstition as to "the evil eye" appears to have been known, but there is nothing else that we can class with phenomena of the nature of animal magnetism. Two classes of learned men had the charge of the magical books: one of these, the name of which has not been read phonetically, would seem to correspond to the "scribes," as we render the word, spoken of in the history of Joseph; whereas the other has the general sense of "wise men," like the other class there mentioned.
There are no representations on the monuments that: can be held to relate directly to the practice of this art, but the secret passages in the thickness of the wall, lately opened in the great temple of Denderah, seem to have been intended for some purpose of imposture.
4. The Mosaic law contains very distinct prohibitions of all magical arts. Besides several passages condemning them, in one place there is a specification which is so full that it seems evident that its object is to include every kind of magical art. The reference is to the practices of Canaan, not to those of Egypt, which indeed do not seem to have been brought away by the Israelites, who, it may be remarked, apparently did not adopt Egyptian idolatry, but only that of foreigners settled in. Egypt. (See REMPHAN).
The Israelites are commanded in the place referred to not to learn the abominations of the peoples of the Promised Land. Then follows this prohibition: "There shall not be found with thee one who offereth his son. or his daughter by fire, a practicer of divinations (קְסָמַים קֹסֵם ), a worker of hidden arts (מְעוֹנֵן ), an augurer(מְנִחֵשׁ ), an enchanter (מְכִשֵׁ ), or a fabricator of charms (חֹבֵר חֶבֶי ), or an inquirer by a familiar spirit(שׂאה אוֹב ), or a wizard (יַדְּעֹנַי ), or a consulter of thedead (דֹרֵשׁ אֶלאּהִמֵּתַים )." It is added that these are, abominations, and that on account of their practice the nations of Canaan were to be driven out (Deuteronomy 18:9-14, esp. 10, 11). It is remarkable that the offering of children should be mentioned ill connection with magical arts. The passage in Micah, which has been supposed to preserve a question of Balak and an answer of Balaam, when the soothsayer was sent for to curse Israel, should be here noticed, for the questioner asks, after speaking of sacrifices of usual kinds, "Shall I give my first-born [for] my transgression, the fruit of my body [for] the sin of my soul?" (6:5-8). Perhaps, however, child-sacrifice is specified on account of its atrocity, which would connect it with secret arts, such as we know were frequently, in later times, the causes of cruelty. The terms which follow appear to refer properly to eight different kinds of magic, but some of them are elsewhere used in a general sense.
1. קֹסֵם קְסָמַים is literally "a diviner of divinations." The verb קָסִם is used of false prophets, but also in a general sense for divining, as in the narrative of Saul's consultation of the witch of Endor, where the king says "divine unto me (קְסוֹמַיאּנָא לַי בָּאוֹב ), I pray thee, by the familiar spirit" (1 Samuel 28:8).
2. מְעוֹנֵן conveys the idea of "one who acts covertly," and so "a worker of hidden arts." The meaning of the root עָנִן is covering, and the supposed connection with fascination by the eyes, like the notion of "the evil eve," as though the original root were "the eye" (עִיַו ), seems untenable. The ancient Egyptians seem to have held the superstition of the evil eye, for an eye is the determinative of a word which appears to signify some kind of magic (Chabas, Papyrus Magique Harris, p. 170 and note 4).
3. מְנִחֵש which we render "an augurer," is from נָחִשׁ, which is literally "he or it hissed or whispered," and in Piel is applied to the practice of enchantments, but also to divining generally, as in the case of Joseph's cup, and where, evidently referring to it, he tells his brethren that he could divine, although in both places it has been read more vaguely with the sense to foresee or make trial (Genesis 44:5; Genesis 44:15). We therefore render it by a term which seems appropriate, but not too definite. The supposed connection of נָחִשׁ with נָחָשׁ, "a serpent," as though meaning serpent-divination, must be rejected, the latter word rather coming from the former, with the signification "a hisser." The name Nahshon (נִחְשׁוִֹ), of a prince of Judah in the second year after the exodus (Numbers 1:7; Exodus 6:23; Ruth 4:20, etc.), means "enchanter:" it was probably used as a proper name in a vague sense.
4. מְכִשֵׁ signifies "an enchanter:" the original meaning of the verb was probably "he prayed," and the strict sense of this word "one who uses incantations."
5. חֹבֵר הֶבֶר seems to mean "a fabricator of material charms or amulets," if חָבִר, when,used of practicing sorcery, means to bind magical knots, and not to bind a person by spells.
6. שֹׁאֵל אוֹב is "an inquirer by a familiar spirit." The second term signifies a bottle, a familiar spirit consulted by a soothsayer, and a soothsayer having a familiar spirit. The Sept. usually render the plural אֹבוֹת by ἐγγαστριμύθοι , which has been rashly translated ventriloquists, for it may not signify what we understand by the latter, but refer to the mode in which soothsayers of this kind gave out their responses: to this subject we shall recur later. The consulting of familiar spirits may mean no more than invoking them; but in the Acts we read of a damsel possessed with a spirit of divination (Acts 16:16-18) in very distinct terms. This kind of sorcery — divination by a familiar spirit — was practiced by the witch of Endor.
7. יַדּעֹנַי, which we render "a wizard," is properly "a wise man," but is always applied to wizards and false prophets. Gesenius (Thesaur. s.v.) supposes that in Leviticus 20:21 it is used of a familiar spirit, but surely the reading "a wizard" is there more probable.
8. The last term, דֹרֵשׁ אֶלאּהִמֵּתַים, is very explicit, meaning "a consulter of the dead:" necromancer is an exact translation if the original signification of the latter is retained, instead of the more general one it now usually bears. In the law it was commanded that a man or woman who had a familiar spirit, or a wizard, should be stoned (Leviticus 20:27). An "enchantress" (מְכִשֵׁפָה ) was not to live (Exodus 22:18 [Hebrews 17]). Using augury and hidden arts was also forbidden (Leviticus 19:26). (See DIVINATION).
5. The history of Balaam shows the belief of some ancient nations in the powers of soothsayers. When the Israelites had begun to conquer the Land of Promise, Balak. the king of Moab, and the elders of Midian, resorting to Pharaoh's expedient, sent by messengers with "the rewards of divination (?
קְסָמַים ) in their hands" (Numbers 22:7) for Balaam the diviner (הֵקּוֹסֵם, Joshua 13:22), whose fame was known to them, though he dwelt in Aram. Balak's message shows what he believed Balaam's powers to be: "Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me: come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they [are] too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, [that] we may smite them, and [that] I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest [is] blessed; and he whom thou cursest is cursed" (Numbers 22:5-6). We are told, however, that Balaam, warned of God, first said that he could not speak of himself, and then by inspiration blessed those whom he had been sent for to curse. He appears to have received inspiration in a vision or a trance. In one place it is said. "And Balaam saw that it was good in the eyes of the Lord to bless Israel, and he went not, now as before, to the meeting of enchantments (נְחָשַׁים ), but he set his face to the wilderness" (Numbers 24:1). From this it would seem that it was his wont to use enchantments, and that when on the occasions he went away after the sacrifices had been offered, he hoped that he could prevail to obtain the wish of those who had sent for him, but was constantly defeated. The building of new altars of the mystic number of seven, and the offering of seven oxen and seven rams, seem to show that Balaam had some such idea; and the marked manner in which he declared "there is no enchantment (נִחִשׁ ) against Jacob, and no divination (קֶסֵם ) against Israel" (Numbers 23:23), proves that he had come in the hope that they would have availed, the diviner here being made to declare his own powerlessness while be blessed those whom he was sent for to curse. The case is a very difficult one, since it shows a man who was used as all instrument for declaring God's will trusting in practices that could only have incurred his displeasure. The simplest explanation seems to be that Balaam was never a true prophet but on this occasion, when the enemies of Israel were to be signally confounded. This history affords a notable instance of the failure of magicians in attempting to resist the divine will. (See BALAAM).
6. The account of Saul's consulting the witch of Endor is the foremost place in Scripture of those which refer to magic. The supernatural terror of which it is full cannot, however, be proved to be due to this art, for it has always been held by sober critics that the appearing of Samuel was permitted for the purpose of declaring the doom of Saul, and not that it was caused by the incantations of a sorceress. As, however, the narrative is allowed to be very difficult, we may look for a moment at the evidence of its authenticity. The details are strictly in accordance with the age: there is a simplicity in the manners described that is foreign to a later time. The circumstances are agreeable with the rest of the history, and especially with all we know of Saul's character. Here, as ever, he is seen resolved to gain his ends without caring what wrong he does: he wishes to consult a prophet. and asks a witch to call up his shade.
Most of all, the vigor of the narrative, showing us the scene in a few words, proves its antiquity and genuineness. We can see no reason whatever for supposing that it is an interpolation.
"Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land. And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem; and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa." That the Philistines should have advanced so far, spreading in the plain of Esdraelon, the garden of the Holy Land, shows the straits to which Saul had come. Here, in times of faith, Sisera was defeated by Barak, and the Midianites were smitten by (ideon, some of the army of the former perishing at En-dor itself (Psalms 83:9-10). "And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, [there is] a woman that hath a familiar spirit at En-dor. And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night." En-dor lay in the territory of Issachar, about seven or eight miles to the northward of Mount Gilboa. Its name, the "fountain of Dor," may connect it with the Phoenician city Dor, which was on the coast to the westward. If so, it may have retained its stranger-population, and been therefore chosen by the witch as a place where she might with less danger than elsewhere practice her arts. It has been noticed that the mountain on whose slope the modern village stands is hollowed into rock- hewn caverns, in one of which the witch may probably have dwelt. SEE EN-DOR.
Saul's disguise, and his journeying by night, seem to have been taken that he might not alarm the woman, rather than because he may have passed through a part of the Philistine force. The Philistines held the plain, having their camp at Shunem, whither they had pushed on from Aphek: the Israelites were at first encamped by a fountain at Jezreel, but when their enemies had advanced to Jezreel they appear to have retired to the slopes of Gilboa, whence there was a way of retreat either into the mountains to the south, or across Jordan. The latter seems to have been the line of flight, as, though Saul was slain on Mount Gilboa, his body was fastened to the wall of Bethshan. Thus Saul could scarcely have reached Endor without passing at least very near the army of the Philistines. "And he said, divine unto me, I pray thee, by the familiar spirit, and bring me [him] up whom I shall name unto thee." It is noticeable that here witchcraft, the inquiring by a familiar spirit, and necromancy, are all connected as though but a single art, which favors the idea that the prohibition in Deuteronomy specifies every name by which magical arts were known, rather than so many different kinds of arts, in order that no one should attempt to evade the condemnation of such practices by any subterfuge. It is evident that Saul thought he might be able to call up Samuel by the aid of the witch, but this does not prove what was his own general conviction, or the prevalent conviction of the Israelites on the subject. He was in a great extremity; his kingdom in danger; himself forsaken of God: he was weary with a night- journey, perhaps of risk, perhaps of great length to avoid the enemy, and faint with a day's fasting: he was conscious of wrong as, probably for the first time, he commanded unholy rites and heard in the gloom unholy incantations.
In such a strait no man's judgment is steady, and Saul may have asked to see Samuel in a moment of sudden desperation, when he had only meant to demand an oracular answer. It may even be thought that, yearning for the counsel of Samuel, and longing to learn if the net that he felt closing about him were one from which he should never escape, Saul had that keener sense that some say comes in the last hours of life, and so; conscious that the prophet's shade was near, or was about to come, at once sought to see and speak with it, though this had not before been purposed. Strange things we know occur at the moment when man feels he is about to die, and if there be any time when the unseen world is felt while yet unentered, it is when the soul first comes within the chill of its long- projected shadow. "And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore, then, layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die? And Saul sware to her by the Lord, saying, [As] the Lord liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing." Nothing shows Saul's desperate resolution more than his thus swearing when engaged in a most unholy act, a terrible profanity that makes the horror of the scene complete. Everything being prepared, the final act takes place. "Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou [art] Saul. And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. And he said unto her, What [is] his form? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he [is] covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it [was] Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself. And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted [or "disturbed"] me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams; therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. Then said Samuel, Wherefore, then, dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? And the Lord hath done to him as he spake by me, for the Lord hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbor, [even] to David: because thou obeyedst not the voice of the Lord, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the Lord done this thing unto thee this day. Moreover, the Lord will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines; and to-morrow [shalt] thou and thy sons [be] with me: the Lord also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines. Then Saul fell straightway all along on the earth, and was sore afraid, because of the words of Samuel: and there was no strength in him; for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night" (1 Samuel 28:3-20).
The woman clearly was terrified by an unexpected apparition when she saw Samuel. She must, therefore, either have been a mere juggler, or one who had no power of working magical wonders at will. The sight of Samuel at once showed her who had come to consult her. The prophet's shade seems to have been preceded by some majestic shapes which the witch called gods. Saul, as it seems interrupting her, asked his form, and she described the prophet as he was in his last days on earth, an old man, covered either with a mantle, such as the prophets used to wear, or wrapped in his winding-sheet. Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and bowed to the ground from respect or fear. It seems that the woman saw the appearances, and that Saul only knew of them through her, perhaps not daring to look, else why should he have asked what form Samuel had? The prophet's complaint we cannot understand, in our ignorance as to the separate state: thus much we know, that state is always described as one of perfect rest or sleep. That the woman should have been able to call him up cannot be hence inferred; her astonishment shows the contrary; and it would be explanation enough to suppose that he was sent to give Saul the last warning, or that the earnestness of the king's wish had been permitted to disquiet him in his resting-place. Although the word "disquieted" need not be pushed to an extreme sense, and seems to mean the interruption of a state of rest, our translators wisely, we think, preferring this rendering to "disturbed," it cannot be denied that, if we hold that Samuel appeared, this is a great difficulty.
If, however, we suppose that the prophet's coming was ordered, it is not unsurmountable. The declaration of Saul's doom agrees with what Samuel had said before, and was fulfilled the next day, when the king and his sons fell on Mount Gilboa. It may, however, be asked, Was the apparition Samuel himself, or a supernatural messenger in his stead? Some may even object to our holding it to have been aught but a phantom of a sick brain; but, if so, what can we make of the woman's conviction that it was Samuel, and the king's horror at the words he heard, or, as these would say, that he thought
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Magic'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​m/magic.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.