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Study Resources :: Dictionaries :: Enchantment

Dictionaries :: Enchantment

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Below are articles from the following 2 dictionaries:
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia



The occult arts, either supposedly or pretentiously supernatural, were common to all oriental races. They included enchantment, sorcery, witchcraft, sooth-saying, augury, necromancy, divination in numberless forms, and all kinds of magic article Nine varieties are mentioned in one single passage in the Pentateuch (De 18:10,11); other varieties in many passages both in the Old Testament and New Testament, eg. Le 19:26,31; Isa 2:6; 57:3; Jer 27:9; Mic 5:12; Ac 8:9,11; 13:6,8; Ga 5:20; Re 9:21.

The extent of the magic arts (forbidden under Judaism and Christianity) may incidentally be seen from the fact that the Scriptures alone refer to their being practiced in Chaldea (Da 5:11), Babylon (Eze 21:21), Assyria (2Ki 17:17), Egypt (Ex 7:11), Canaan (Le 18:3,11; 19:26,31), Asia (Ephesus, Ac 19:13,19), Greece (Ac 16:16), Arabia also, as "customs from the East," etc. (Isa 2:6) indicates. These secret arts were prohibited by the laws of Moses (De 18:9-12), inasmuch as they constituted a peculiar temptation to Israel to apostatize. They were a constant incentive to idolatry, clouded the mind with superstition, tended and were closely allied to imposture (Mt 24:24). The term "enchantment" is found only in the Old Testament and its Hebrew originals indicate its varieties.

(1) laTim, and lehaTim "to wrap up," "muffie," "cover," hence, "clandestine," "secret." It was this hidden element that enabled the magicians of Egypt to impose on the credulity of Pharaoh in imitating or reproducing the miracles of Moses and Aaron; "They.... did in like manner with their enchantments" (Ex 7:11,22). Their inability to perform a genuine miracle is shown by Ex 8:18.

(2) nachash, "to hiss," "whisper" referring to the mutterings of sorcerers in their incantations. Used as a derivative noun this Hebrew word means "a serpent." This involves the idea of cunning and subtlety. Although employed in the wider sense of augury or prognostication, its fundamental meaning is divination by serpents. This was the form of enchantment sought by Balaam (Nu 24:1). Its impotence against the people of God is shown by Nu 23:23 m. Shalmaneser forced this forbidden art upon the Israelites whom he carried captive to Assyria (2Ki 17:17). It was also one of the heathen practices introduced during the apostasy under Ahab, against which Elijah protested (compare 1Ki 21:20).

(3) lachash, "to whisper," "mutter," an onomatopoetic word, like the above, in imitation of the hiss of serpents. It is used of the offensive practice of serpent charming referred to in Ec 10:11, and as Delitzsch says, in the place cited., "signifies the whispering of formulas of charming." See also Isa 3:3, "skilful enchanter"; Jer 8:17, "serpents, cockatrices (the Revised Version (British and American) "adders").... which will not be charmed"; Ps 58:4,5, "the voice of charmers (the Revised Version, margin "enchanters"), charming never so wisely." Ophiomancy, the art of charming serpents, is still practiced in the East.

(4) chebher, "spell," from chabhar, "to bind," hence, "to bind with spells," "fascinate," "charm," descriptive of a species of magic practiced by binding knots. That this method of imposture, eg. the use of the magic knot for exorcism and other purposes, was common, is indicated by the monuments of the East. The moral mischief and uselessness of this and other forms of enchantment are clearly shown in Isa 47:9,12. This word is also used of the charming of serpents (De 18:11; Ps 58:5).

(5) ‘anan, "to cover," "to cloud," hence, "to use covert arts." This form of divination was especially associated with idolatry (so Gesenius, Hebrew Lexicon). Delitzsch, however, in a note on this word (Isa 2:6), doubts the meaning "conceal" and thinks that it signifies rather "to gather auguries from the clouds." He translates it "cloud-interpretive" (Mic 5:12). This view is not generally supported. Rendered "enchanters" (Jer 27:9, the Revised Version (British and American) "soothsayers"; so also in Isa 2:6). Often translated in the Revised Version (British and American) "practice augury," as in Le 19:26; De 18:10,14; 2Ki 21:6; 2Ch 33:6; a form of magical art corresponding in many respects to that of the Greek mantis, who uttered oracles in a state of divine frenzy. Septuagint kledonizomai, i.e. augury through the reading or acceptance of a sign or omen. A kindred form of enchantment is mentioned in the New Testament (2Ti 3:13; Greek goetes, "enchanters," "jugglers," the original indicating that the incantations were uttered in a kind of howl; rendered "seducers" the King James Version, "impostors" the Revised Version (British and American); compare Re 19:20). The New Testament records the names of several magicians who belonged to this class of conscious impostors: Simon Magus (Ac 8:9); Bar-Jesus and Elymas (Ac 13:6,8); the slave girl with the spirit of Python ("divination," Ac 16:16); "vagabond (the Revised Version (British and American) "strolling") Jews, exorcists" (Ac 19:13; compare Lu 11:19); also the magicians of Moses' day, named Jannes and Jambres (2Ti 3:8).

All these forms of enchantment claimed access through supernatural insight or aid, to the will of the gods and the secrets of the spirit world. In turning away faith and expectation from the living God, they struck a deadly blow at the heart of true religion. From the enchanters of the ancient Orient to the medicine-men of today, all exponents of the "black art" exercise a cruel tyranny over the benighted people, and multitudes of innocent victims perish in body and soul under their subtle impostures. In no respect is the exalted nature of the Hebrew and Christian faiths more clearly seen than in their power to emancipate the human mind and spirit from the mental and moral darkness, the superstition and fear, and the darkening effect of these occult and deadly articles.

Written by Dwight M. Pratt


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.