Divination or Divine?


Discerning the false from the true in prophecy.

Ever since I was saved 32 years ago, I’ve experienced many times where I was confused over prophecies given me.  I’ve also once or twice experienced that divination coming onto me and confusing my own thinking.  So, for some time, I’ve wanted to write on it but this morning’s admonition from Cyndee, sparked some thoughts to share.


What is it that annoyed Paul so about the girl who followed them and he finally cast out the demon from her of divination?

Acts 16:16-19 NKJV Paul and Silas Imprisoned:
“Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling.  This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.”
And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour.  But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.”

After all this girl was speaking the truth was she not… so why was Paul annoyed?

First of all, he did what he did without laud, without announcements, or gratuities.  She brought attention to them, not to the LORD, even though what she was saying was true.

This is true with many prophets today.  They bring attention to man, or themselves, or there is an unnatural display of pomposity that seems foreign to true prophetic, which in and of itself is quite powerful.  But not to cause laud to men, but rather to proclaim the power of the Risen Christ.  Prophecy is to always reflect the heart of Jesus.

“And I fell at his feet to worship him.  But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus.  Worship God!  For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy,”   Revelation 19:10 NKJV.

Prophecy is not about us, it is about Jesus, the All Consuming Fire and the King of Kings, and it is not to bring attention to us, though it is natural for man to wonder at man’s ability to hear.  It is to cause them to be jealous for relationship with HIM.

What I found with showing a prophecy of mine to a youth, was that he then asked me, “How do I hear God like this ?”  That should be the wonder.  That is the thing… to make men hungry for God.


Another thing that Paul saw, were the people making money off this girl because of her divination.  When Paul prophesied, and I’m sure he did this because He heard from God and wrote much of the New Testament from what he HEARD from God, he didn’t do it to gain money.  He was careful not to allow that to happen.

If only prophets today were so concerned!  I see the most extraordinary prices for discipleship of prophetic gifting I’ve seen in the church today.  And it is not done at all in most churches, so that people have to travel to conferences just to get some tidbits from someone more experienced, because it is not available.

Many feel all alone in what they are experiencing, because there is no shepherd to teach them who knows more than they do, or who is interested in hearing from God, or who is not discriminatory against women having gifts or something.  So people travel great distances, just to be around someone with greater anointing or gifting.

If the church in each city were actually in unity… that problem might be solved… for they would pray together, and worship together, and people would get to know each other by the Spirit so they would have someone to talk to, recognizing the spirit of prophecy in each other.

I Was Always on My Mind by Steve SampsonThere is another major problem here and it is related to money… and that is JEZEBEL in the church.  That spirit of jezebel is related to idolatry to SELF, as Steve Sampson so well describes in his book, “I was always on my mind”.

Divination is a major part of Jezebel and divination is a major part of religious spirits.  That is why religious people hear the Word spoken to them that may be totally out of context, or used to bludgeon someone.  It is coming from a spirit of divination.  That same spirit that came to Edgar Cayce as a beautiful woman.  This is a very sneaky and insidious spirit that makes itself sound like the Holy Spirit, and once accepted… it has a root to lie some more. It will prey on selfish ambition and a need to hear in order to be accepted by man.  That is how it enters.

I will tell you a vision a young friend of mine had when he was in 6th grade.  He was in my class and asked me this question,  “What does it mean when you see two angels and one is telling you to obey your mom and quoting scripture, and the other is telling you not to obey her and quoting scripture?”  He wanted to know which one was right?

What he saw was a religious spirit [misusing scripture through divination].  Scripturally a child should always obey their parents in things that are right…so that one was a no-brainer.  But the problem becomes more complex when we are in a religious system, that exalts self, and then you try to hear from God.  You may get prayed over by those with a religious spirit and end up with divination on your shoulder… causing confusion to your thoughts and direction.

You need to be careful whom you allow to lay hands on you.  This is not to be paranoid.  But like Cyndee’s article said, you don’t take in everything said to you.  You take that thing said to you back to the LORD and weigh it against scripture.

You reflect on how it made you feel.  Yes I said feel!  Peace, joy and love, come from the Holy Spirit.  Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit, but HE seldom airs your dirty laundry for someone to tear you apart piece by piece and know all your sins… think on it !

Divination knows THINGS about you because the devil has a system of information, but not REVELATION.  So often the person with Jezebel will just know all these things about your sin life…why ?  Because they are getting them from demons who have shared information- Not from GOD.

I have found that God seldom shares my dirty laundry with anyone for them to expose, but rather to PRAY.  And if they boast in all they’ve been shown about you… something is wrong.  God does not uncover our nakedness to hurt us.  And if He does, it is usually in private with you, by Himself or by a loving other, that will pray you through the problem to the solution.

The Holy Spirit in prophecy does not make us feel condemned and worthless.  God knows each person and speaks to them individually in a way they will best receive it.

I once got prayer up front in church and suddenly a strong feeling to commit suicide came over me and I felt to rush out of there, and on the way home, I felt like ramming the car into a pole!  I had not opened my eyes to see who was praying for me!  And somehow that spirit of suicide attacked me and I literally felt to RUN!  It was coming, I believe, from someone with a spirit of Jezebel as that is what Elijah did when she threatened him.

I once had this young girl I started to trust, speak a word to me after my divorce and it was said kind of harshly, without feeling, and it sent me reeling.  She said the LORD says, “I pity you not !”  I went outside and cried and cried, and unless I had gone back to confront her, I might have been under that spirit for some time longer.

She then told me that it was not meant that way, but that He thinks highly of me… yet she saw my reaction and didn’t budge.  Compassion in a person is a real sign to look for of truth and I don’t mean un-sanctified mercy.  That is a whole other thing.  The dis-compassionate are seldom the kind you’d want to hear a prophetic word from.

Compassion is the heart of Jesus.  He is the all compassionate One and the all JUST ONE as well.


The heart of Jesus is to encourage you and to love you into repentance.  He does not stand in front of me yelling at me – Not that He’s never spoken loudly or strongly to me personally.  But He seldom has anyone else do that!

HE seldom if ever will give you directions through others also.  Directions are high level prophecy and don’t usually come from others in the church except if the LORD has spoken to you first about something, and you’ve asked for confirmation.  God will call you out to speak callings and giftings on your life.

God will bless you and speak love to you in front of others.  He will speak tenderly especially to those who are merciful.  It is only with outright hard rebellion that such tactics might be used by God.  Like in the case of Ananias and Sapphira.  And that was done by an apostle.

Apostleship only comes with apostolic holiness!  So fruitfulness is another thing to look for.  Compassion is certainly a part of the fruit of a person’s life.  So are love, kindness, truthfulness, integrity, generosity, thankfulness, humility, etc..

Colossians 3:12-14 NKJV Character of the New Man
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;  bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.  But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”

God seldom motivates anyone by pummeling them with scripture.  For the hard hearted He might just do that… but it is His nature to woo.  It is His nature to love us into righteousness.  It is His nature to speak kindly and tenderly unless we are so totally rebellious that He MUST catch our attention another way, or if we haven’t been obedient and listening to Him.


The spirit of Divination will want your money!  Just as in the case of the slave girl and Paul, there are many today who love money and want to get all they can for their own purposes, but under the guise or pretense of doing right things.  Those men who owned the slave girl wanted Paul prosecuted.

I once went with a friend into a theater in Santa Ana because I heard someone preaching and though I didn’t speak much Spanish, I thought I felt the Spirit of God in the outskirts of that theater…  so we sat and listened and the guy was talking about money… also having people give testimonies of healings, then much of the sermon was on giving money for their ministry.

I was moved and went up to see after if they had a benevolence ministry that I could plug people in my neighborhood into, but he didn’t have any.  He only took money, he wasn’t into giving.  And he was not kind to me for the asking.

Later I shared with a neighbor and he told me that is a Brazilian guy who’d been exposed on Spanish speaking television for bilking the masses.  And I realized what FELT like the Holy Spirit was NOT the Holy Spirit.  WE CAN BE FOOLED BY FEELINGS.  And yet because he was preaching the Word, God healed people as He is true to His Word and to mankind that sincerely want to know Him.

This is how lying signs and wonders can happen though also so it takes some real wisdom to know and discern what is true from the false.

If you want discernment, you need to be in the WORD of God and the PRESENCE OF GOD daily.  Discernment comes from knowing the love of God for yourself and others.  That is how you get trained in it, and you ask for it.  He will show you.  Don’t just accept every word that comes at you from others.  You have to weigh it on fruitfulness of those who gave it… and on the TRUTH of the Word and asking GOD whether it is true or not, praying over it.

I was once invited to a special meeting at the church I was attending by a friend who’d met this person who was a Hebrew scholar she said.  So went and the sermon seemed okay and in the middle, I’d asked her a question, which she didn’t seem much to like.  Then at the end she prophesied over the women who’d come, { only ladies meeting }.  She gave all these wonderful and kind words till she got to me, then she suddenly screamed “ GET BACK in the DESERT!  GET BACK IN THE DESERT!“  I was in shock, but almost started laughing.  It didn’t touch me like I thought it might.

But she was angry when yelling it, and so after she finished I confronted her about it and she made some comments, and I made mine and I left… but it did not alight.  Other times I have been so weighed down over the subtle oppression of those giving words out of their own spirits, that it crushed my own.  So don’t take to heart everything you hear as it says in proverbs.

Ecclesiastes 7:20-24 AMP.
Surely there is not a righteous man upon earth who does good and never sins, [Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:23.].  Do not give heed to everything that is said, lest you hear your servant cursing you –  For often your own heart knows that you have likewise cursed others.
All this have I tried and proved by wisdom. I said, I will be wise [independently of God] –but it was far from me.  That which is is far off, and that which is deep is very deep – who can find it out [true wisdom independent of the fear of God]? [Job 28:12-28; 1 Corinthians 2:9-16].

You see we can speak out of our own heart and what did Jesus say; Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  Part of discernment is listening closely to what people say, as it detects where their heart is at the moment.  i.e.; is it in faith or doubt   If a person speaks other than from God, most often it is out of their own thinking or heart.

So going to comment on a few verses about the heart:

 OT:3820 לֵב, lêb, labe;  a form of OT:3824; the heart; also used (figuratively) very widely for the feelings, the will and even the intellect; likewise for the centre of anything: KJV – care for, comfortably, consent, considered, courag [-eous], friend [-ly], ([broken-], [hard-], [merry-], [stiff-], [stout-], double) heart ([-ed]), heed, I, kindly, midst, mind (-ed), regard ([-ed)], themselves, unawares, understanding, well, willingly, wisdom.

“Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart,  And so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding,”    Proverbs 3:3-5 NKJV.

Prophetic gifting is also commensurate with knowledge of the Word.  If you want more to hear from God then you must also LISTEN by reading the Word, listening to the Word on tape, getting it into you, like Ezekiel was told to EAT THE SCROLL.  We need to eat the Word of God.  It doesn’t mean you have to be a walking dictionary.  But be wary of misuse of scripture by those proclaiming to be prophetic.

In India once, this man walked up to me after ministering to hundred or more people in prayer for healing, and said he had a Word from the LORD for me.  Later I went and looked at it and it was definitely bizarre and off the wall and I asked Ben, about it, and it turned out this guy was an imposer and spies on the meetings.  The enemy was trying to use him to discourage me and try to stop the anointing and get me into discouragement.

“My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings.  Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart;  For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh.  Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.  Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you,”   Proverbs 4:20-24 NKJV.

As I reread this I felt that the perverse lips are lips not only speaking sexual perversion, but untruths about God or His faithfulness to us.  We all must become better to speak only what is the truth of His Word, and not doubt – Don’t just speak your feelings.  We don’t have to give into feelings, and those feelings can get us into a bad place where we speak out of our heart instead of being dependent on God for what to speak… and that is presumption.

“He who walks with integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will become known,”   Proverbs 10:9 NKJV.

In other words, your sins will find you out if you are being dishonest, you will in the end be exposed.  It behooves all of us to walk in humility when the LORD is speaking through us, and that we don’t try to gain attention for ourselves.

“The tongue of the righteous is choice silver,”  Proverbs 10:20a NKJV.

We are to use our tongues to bless and not curse… we want our words to be like apples of gold in settings of silver.  Our hearts need healing yet if they are not, and I think that includes many of us.

“Those who are of a perverse heart are an abomination to the LORD, But the blameless in their ways are His delight,”   Proverbs 11:20 NKJV.

Those who twist the word to pummel their brother or sister, to speak against them or to prophecy to them out of a wrong heart are an abomination to the LORD.  Those are strong words, and I don’t want to be one of them.  God does not like anyone misrepresenting His heart. We do it all the time when we curse others through using negative words.

How do we speak to our children for example?  Do we encourage and speak out of our spirit man, or out of our frustration?

“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad,”   Proverbs 12:25 NKJV.

Wrong attitudes of heart can stop up prophecy from being released to us.  When we are oppressed, those demons can interfere with our receptors!  So if I am in a place of healing and there is much on my heart, I don’t attempt to minister.  I keep in a receiving rather than giving mode unless the LORD is leading, I don’t want to say anything out of presumption, or my own emotions.

“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken,”   Proverbs 15:13 NKJV.

Prophecy should encourage, comfort or edify for the most part.  You should not come away from it feeling broken and in tears, unless they are tears of joy.  God speaks to set aright.  God speaks to encourage and comfort.  He will speak to the wicked in a direct and painful manner sometimes, but it is RARE for Him to speak harshly to one of His own unless provoked greatly by disobedience.

“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer,  But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil,”   Proverbs 15:28 NKJV.

This is important.  Maybe you’re praying for someone and you get the word “rebellion”.  That doesn’t mean you go telling them that!  You first WAIT ON GOD for what HE wants to say about what He showed you.  He may say. “Tell them I love them and will help change their pain into joy,” or something totally different from what you thought.

God may be testing your own heart when you hear such things.  He may want to do an inner healing for the pain that is behind the rebellion.  So LISTEN A LOT, and ask a lot of questions of the Holy Spirit as He is our Teacher.

“The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, And a good report makes the bones healthy,”   Proverbs 15:30 NKJV.

More free, and healthy is the way we should walk away from being prophesied over – not depressed and confused!  WE should feel lighter and more in love with Jesus, not heavy and discouraged.

“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirits,”   Proverbs 16:2 NKJV.

Now even though you may have been prophesied over incorrectly… the LORD may sometimes allow such things to test your heart or to teach you.  So always be quick to forgive even those whose hearts are bound and not right.

“Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished,”   Proverbs 16:5 NKJV.

Here is another good signal that the prophetic spoken over you may not be accurate… when there is much pride in the speaker.  Jesus is not prideful.  He is not in heaven going Hallelu-me like James Ryle once said.  Jesus is the example of true HUMILITY in Isaiah 53.  He was self-less, not selfish.  HUMILITY is the fruit you want to look for.

“A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones,”   Proverbs 17:22 NKJV.

God said, “a bruised reed He will not break” referring to Jesus.  He is not one to kick a man or woman when they are down already.  He is one to uplift and love and HE is KIND.  In Your presence is fullness of JOY it says.

“What is desired in a man is kindness, and a poor man is better than a liar.  The fear of the LORD leads to life, And he who has it will abide in satisfaction; He will not be visited with evil,”   Proverbs 19:22-23 NKJV.

“Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, As do stripes the inner depths of the heart,”   Proverbs 20:30 NKJV.

Again, here is a lesson in suffering.  Even at someone else’s words.  For the suffering leads to perseverance and patience and wisdom.  So even what happens outside the realm of kindness and goodness, is used to perfect us.  And for this we should also praise Him.  So if you’ve been prophesied over falsely, forgive and don’t hold on to defensiveness.  Release that person and lay the hurt at the cross.  LET GO of unforgiveness and anger.

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he,”   Proverbs 23:7 NKJV.

This admonishes us that we need to clean up our thought life, for here heart is not the physical heart, but the mental, and emotions.  We need to agree with how God sees us, and how precious we are to Him.  If we think of ourselves as higher or lower than what His Word says, then that is pride!

Yes, even lowliness, thinking we are just a worm for Jesus, is PRIDE – defensive pride and false humility.  Because it is seeing ourselves different from the way God sees us.  It is saying, NO, I’m not the head, I’m the tail.  Thereby disputing with God Himself who sees us as the head and not the tail.

“As in water face reflects face, So a man’s heart reveals the man,”   Proverbs 27:19 NKJV.

“He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife,”   Proverbs 28:25-26 NKJV.

But he who trusts in the LORD will be prospered.

I just ask for You to pour out discernment, as in this hour we really need to know the true from the false.  We need to be discerning and wise and to depend on Your wisdom rather than our own.

You see all things and you know all things.   We are SO thankful LORD for Your wisdom, for Your grace, and for the gift of prophecy that You have given us.

We are grateful for the ways You have taught us and shared Your very heart with us.

Help us to grow MORE LORD in the ability to love one another as You have loved us, that we will be able to prophesy out of a pure heart, and not from any wounds.  Heal the woundedness inside of us for the times people spoke to us out of their hearts, and not from You.

Create in us a clean heart Oh LORD, that we may love the way You love and think the way You think.  IN JESUS’ name AMEN !


~ Priscilla

Priscilla Van Sutphin of Upstream Ministriesby: PRISCILLA VAN SUTPHIN of Upstream Ministries, California www.upstreamca.org & www.blogtalkradio.com/Upstream
Email: goinupstream@hotmail.com  Donate to Upstream: via secure Paypal by sending as gift to goininupstream@hotmail.com or send to: Upstream, PMB 545, 14311 Newport Blvd, Suite G, Tustin, CA 9278

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Divination or Divine? — 2 Comments

  1. Thank you for these good article with good teaching. 

    But I must pay attention to this, which is a great misunderstanding in the Word of God, that His Word “can NOT be taken out of context“; “That is why religious people hear the Word spoken to them that may be totally out of context,” because when the Spirit reveals something in God’s Word He does not use some ‘context’ or some chapter or even whole verses.

    When revelation is given He also reveals a word or a part of a verse in one verse which immediately can open up the understanding of an other word/verse in one or several other chapters.

    This is because God’s Word has hidden secrets which is only available to understand when The Holy spirit open one’s eyes.  For this reason Words ‘can be taken out of context’.

  2. Another good one, Pris.  Thanks.  Saralou

    DIVINATION (div-I-na’-shun):

    For the outline to this article, see Divination

    1. Definition: Divination is the act of obtaining secret knowledge, especially that which relates to the future, by means within the reach almost exclusively of special classes of men.

    2. Kinds of Divination: Of this there are two main species: (1) artificial, (2) inspirational, or, as it was called in ancient times (Cicero, Lord Bacon, etc.), natural divination. Artificial divination depends on the skill of the agent in reading and in interpreting certain signs called omens. See AUGURY . In inspirational or natural divination the agent is professedly under the immediate influence of some spirit or god who enables the diviner to see the future, etc., and to utter oracles embodying what he sees. Among the Romans artificial divination prevailed almost exclusively, the other having vogue largely among the Greeks, a proof surely of the more spiritual trend of the Greek mind. Yet that great Roman, Cicero, in his memorable treatise on Divination, says he agrees with those who take cognizance of these two distinct kinds of divination. As examples of inspirational divination he instances men dreaming or in a state of ecstasy (De Divinatione, I. 18). But though Cicero arranges diviners according to their pretentions, he does not believe in any superhuman communication. Thus he explains dreams on psychological principles much as modern psychologists would (op. Cit. Ii.63 ff). As a matter of fact Cicero was an atheist, or at least an agnostic.

    The Latin word divinatio was confined almost exclusively to divination by outward signs, though its etymology (deus, “god”) suggests that it denoted originally the other kind-that due to the inspiration of superhuman beings. Chrysippus (died at Athens
    207 B.C.), though himself a Greek philosopher, defines the word in a way which would have commanded the approval of nearly every Roman, including Cicero himself who gives it. “Divination,” Cicero makes him say (op. Cit. Ii.63), is “a power in man which foresees and explains those signs which the gods throw in his way.” The Greeks were, on the other hand, a more imaginative and emotional people, and with them inspirational divination held much the larger place. The Greek (mantis) bears a close resemblance to the Old Testament prophet, for both claimed to be inspired from without and to be superhumanly informed. The Greek term for divination (he) mantike ( = he mantike techne) has reference to the work of the mantis, and it hardly ever means divination of the lower sort-that by means of signs.

    3. Fundamental Assumption in Divination: Underlying all methods of divination there lay the belief that certain superhuman spiritual beings (gods, spirits) possess the secret knowledge desired by men, and that, on certain conditions,, they are willing to impart it.

    (1) The word “divination” itself, from deus, “god,” or divus, “pertaining to god,” carries with it the notion that the information obtained came from deity. Similarly the Greek mantike implies that the message comes to the mantis from gods or spirits by way of inspiration.

    (2) Astrology, or astromancy, is but one form of divination and it rests upon the ultimate belief that the heavenly bodies are deities controlling the destinies of men and revealing the future to those who have eyes to see. According to the Weltanschauung or conception of the universe advocated by Hugo Winckler, Alfred Jeremias (see The Old Testament in the Light of the East) and others, terrestrial events are but shadows of the celestial realities (compare Plato’s doctrine of ideas). These latter represented the mind of the gods (see ASTROLOGY secs. 1,2).

    (3) On hepatoscopy, or divining from the liver, see below, 6, (2), (c).

    (4) It can be proved that among the ancient peoples (Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, etc.) the view prevailed that not only oracles but also omens of all kinds are given to men by the gods and express the minds of these gods.

    4. Legitimate and Illegitimate Divination: Among the ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans the diviner stood in the service of the state and was officially consulted before wars and other great enterprises were undertaken. But among these and other ancient peoples certain classes of diviners were prohibited by the government from exercising their calling, probably because they were supposed to be in league with the gods of other and hostile nations. The gods of a people were in the beliefs of the time the protectors of their people and therefore the foes of the foes of their proteges. It is on this account that witchcraft has been so largely condemned and punished (see WITCHCRAFT ). Necromancy is uniformly forbidden in the Old Testament (see Lev 19:31; Deut 18:11; Isa 8:19; 19:3), probably on account of its connection with ancestor worship. But among other ancient peoples it was allowed and largely practiced. Note that the Hebrew words translated (Deut 18:11) “consulter with a familiar spirit” and “wizards” denote alike such persons as seek oracles from the spirits of the dead (see the present writer’s Magic, Divination, and Demonology among the Hebrews, 85 ff). The early Fathers believed that in the divination of heathenism we have the work of Satan who wished to discredit the true religion by producing phenomena among pagan races very similar to the prophetical marvels of the chosen people. This of course rests on a view of the Old Testament prophet which makes him a “predicter” and little if anything more. See PROPHECY .

    5. The Bible and Divination: The attitude of the Bible toward divination is on the whole distinctly hostile and is fairly represented by Deut 18:10 f, where the prophet of Yahweh is contrasted with diviners of all kinds as the only authorized medium of supernatural revelation. Yet note the following:

    (1) Balaam (Num 22-24) was a heathen diviner whose words of blessing and of cursing were believed to have magical force, and when his services are enlisted in the cause of Yahwism, so that, instead of cursing he blessed Israel, there is not a syllable of disapproval in the narrative.

    (2) In Isa 3:2 diviners are ranked with judges, warriors and prophets as pillars of the state. They are associated with prophets and seers in Jer 27:9; 29:8; Ezek 22:28 (compare 13:6-9; 12:24). It is true that the prophets and diviners mentioned in these passages use utter falsehoods, saying peace where there is none; all the same the men called prophets and diviners are classed together as similar functionaries.

    Pure Yahwism in its very basal principle is and must ever have been antagonistic to divination of every kind, though inspirational divination has resemblances to prophetism and even affinities with it. Why then does the Bible appear to speak with two voices, generally prohibiting but at times countenancing various forms of divination? In the actual religion of the Old Testament we have a syncretism in which, though Yahwism forms the substructure, there are constituents from the religions of the native aborigines and the nations around. The underlying thought in all forms of divination is that by employing certain means men are able to obtain knowledge otherwise beyond their reach. The religion of Israel made Yahweh the source of that knowledge and the prophet the medium through which it came to men. We have an analogous example of syncretism resulting in the union of opposite elements in ancient Zarathustraism (Zoroastrianism) which, though in its central principle inconsistent with divination by omens, yet took on from the native Turanian cults of Persia certain forms of divination, especially that by lot (see Lenormant, La Divination, 22 ff). Nor should it be forgotten that the Bible is a library and not a book, and where so many writers, living at widely separated times, have been at work it is natural to look for diversity of teaching, though no one can deny that in fundamental matters Bible authors are wonderfully consistent.

    6. Modes of Divination Mentioned in the Bible: For modes of divination in vogue among the ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, etc., see the relevant works and dictionary articles. The species of divination spoken of in the Bible may be arranged under two heads: (1) those apparently sanctioned, and (2) those condemned in the Bible.

    (1) Methods of divination tacitly or expressly sanctioned in the Bible. – (a) The following are instances of inspirational divination:

    (a) The case of Balaam has already been cited. He was a Moabite and therefore a heathen soothsayer. His word of blessing or of curse is so potent that whether he blesses or curses his word secures its own realization. So far is his vocation from being censured that it is actually called into the service of Yahweh (see Num 22-24).

    (b) To dreams the Bible assigns an important place as a legitimate means of revealing the future. Such dreams are of two kinds:

    (i) Involuntary or such as come unsought. Even these are regarded as sent for guidance in human affairs. The bulk of the dreams spoken of in the Bible belong to this class: see Gen 20:3,6 (Abimelech); 28:2 f; 31:10-14 (Jacob); 37:5-9 (Joseph; see ASTRONOMY , II, 6); 40:5-21 (Pharaoh’s butler and baker); 41:1-35 (Pharaoh); Judg 7:9-14 (Gideon and an unnamed man); Dan 1:17 (Daniel had understanding of dreams); Dan 2 (Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its interpretation by Daniel); Matt 1:20; 2:13f, 19f (Joseph, husband of Mary the virgin); 27:19; see also Jer 23:25 ff, where the lawfulness of prophetic dreams is assumed (compare verse 32, where “lying dreams” imply genuine ones). In the document usually ascribed by modern critics to the Elohist (E), dreams bulk largely as the above examples serve to show. Among the Babylonians belief in the significance of dreams gave rise to a science (oneiromancy) so elaborate that only special interpreters called seers (singular, baru) were considered able to explain them (see Lenormant, op. cit., 143, for examples).

    (ii) The other species of dreams consists of such as are induced by what is called “incubation,” i.e. by sleeping in a sacred place where the god of the place is believed to reveal his secrets to the sleeper. Herodotus (iv.172) says that the Nasamonians, an Egyptian tribe, used to practice divination by sleeping in the graves of their ancestors. The dreams which then came to them were understood to be revelations of their deified ancestors. See Herod. i.181 for another instance of incubation in Nineveh. We have a reference to this custom in Isa 65:4 (“that sit among the graves”), where Yahweh enters into judgment with the Jews for their sin in yielding to this superstition. Solomon’s dream (1 Kings 3:5-15) came to him at the high place of Gibeon. See also DREAM , DREAMER.

    (b) But the Bible appears in some places to give its approval to some kinds of artificial or (as it may be called) ominal divination.

    Sortliege or divination by lot. The use of the lot as a means of ascertaining the will of Deity is referred to at least without expressed censure, and, as the present writer thinks, with tacit approval, in many parts of the Bible. It was by lot that Aaron decided which of the two goats was to be for Yahweh and which for Azazel (Lev 16:7-10). It was by lot that the land of Canaan was divided after the conquest (Num 26:56 ff; Josh 18-19). For other Biblical instances see Josh 7:14 (Achan found out by lot); 1 Chron 6:54 ff; 24:5 ff; 25:8 f; 26:13 f; Est 3:7 (“They cast Pur, that is, the lot”; see Century Bible in loc.); Neh 10:34; 11:1; Jonah 1:7 (“The lot fell upon Jonah”); Matt 27:35; Acts 1:26. In the URIM AND THUMMIM (which see), as explained by modern scholars, the same principle is applied, for these two words, though etymologically still obscure, stand for two objects (pebbles?), one denoting yes or its equivalent, and the other no. Whichever the high priest took from his ephod was believed to be the answer to the question asked. In all cases it is taken for granted that the lot cast was an expression and indication of the Divine will. See AUGURY , IV, 3. Hydromancy, or divination by water. In Gen 44:5 Joseph is represented as practising this kind of divination and not a word of disapproval is expressed. See AUGURY , IV, 2.

    We read in the Old Testament of other signs or omens which are implicitly approved of, thus
    Judg 6:36-40 (Gideon’s fleece); 1 Sam 14:8-13 (Jonathan decides whether or not he is to attack the Philistines by the words which he may happen to hear them speak).

    (2) Modes of divination condemned. – The following methods of divination are explicitly or implicitly condemned in the Old Testament:

    (a) Astromancy ( = Astrology). See ASTROLOGY.

    (b) Rhabdomancy, or the use of the divining rod, referred to apparently in Hos 4:12 (which may be paraphrased: “My people ask counsel of a bit of wood, and the rod made thereof answers their questions”); Ezek 8:17 (“They put a rod (EV “the branch”) to their nose”).

    (c) By an examination of the liver of animals; see Ezek 21:21. This mode of divining, hepatoscopy, as it is has been called, was very widespread among the Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, etc., of the ancient world, and it is still in vogue in Borneo, Burmah and Uganda. We have no evidence that it was practiced among the Israelites, for in the above passage it is the king of Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar) who is said to have “looked in the liver.”

    Opinions differ as to how the state of the liver could act as an omen. Jastrow says the liver was considered to be the seat of life, and that where the liver of the animal sacrificed (generally a sheep) was accepted, it took on the character of the deity to whom it was offered. The soul of the animal as seen in the liver became then a reflector of the soul of the god (see Encyclopaedia Biblica, XX, 102 f). On the other hand, Alfred Jerernias says that in the view of the ancient Babylonians the lines and forms of the sheep’s liver were regarded as reflecting the universe and its history (The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient East, I, 61). Neither of these explanations is made probable by its advocates.

    (d) By teraphim (compare TERAPHIM); see 1 Sam 15:23; Ezek 21:21; Zech 10:2.

    (e) Necromancy, or consulting the dead; see Lev 19:31; 20:6; Deut 18:11; Isa 8:19; 19:3; see above.

    (f) Divination through the sacrifice of children by burning (see Deut 18:10). The context makes it almost certain that the words translated “that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire” (EV; but read and render “that burns his son or his daughter in the fire”) refer to a mode of obtaining an oracle (compare 2 Kings 3:27). The Phoenicians and Carthaginians sacrificed their children to Kronos in times of grave national danger or calamity (Porphyry Apud Euseb. Praep. Ev. iv.64,4; Diod. Sic. xx.14).

    7. Terms Used in the Old Testament in Connection with Divination: These are examined in detail in T. Witton Davies’ Magic, Divination, and Demonology among the Hebrews and Their Neighbors. See also the article “Divination” in Encyclopaedia Biblica by the same writer. The following brief notes must suffice here.

    (1) kecem, generally rendered “divination,” is a general term for divination of all kinds. In Ezek 21:21 (26) it stands for divination by arrows while in 1 Sam 28:8 it is used of divination through the medium of an °obh (“familiar spirit”). On the derivation of the word see Encyclopaedia Biblica, article “Magic,” section 3.

    (2) me±onen, probably from a Semitic root (compare Arabic ‘anna) which denotes to emit a hoarse nasal sound such as was customary in reciting the prescribed formula (see CHARM ). For “oak of the me±onim” see AUGURS’ OAK . Some say the word means one who divines from the clouds, deriving from ±anan, “a cloud,” though nothing in the context suggests this sense, and the same remark applies to the meaning “one who smites with the evil eye,” making the term a denominative from ±ayin, “eye.” The usual rendering in the King James Version is plural “observers of times” and in the Revised Version (British and American) “them that practice augury” (Deut 18:10,14).

    (3) The verb nichesh, of which lichesh, is but a variant, is probably a denominative from nachash, “a serpent” (l and n interchange in Hebrew), denoting “to hiss,” “to whisper” (like a serpent), then “to utter divinatory formulae.” As it is used for so many kinds of divination, W. R. Smith concludes that it came to be a general term for divine. The participle of this verb is translated “enchanter” in Deut 18:10, the cognate verb, “to use enchantments” in Lev 19:26; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chron 33:6, and the corresponding noun “enchantment” in Num 23:23; 24:1.

    (4) gazerin, literally, “cutters,” i.e. such as kill (in Arab, the cognate verb = “to slaughter”) for the purpose of examining the liver or entrails as omens. Perhaps the etymology implies “sacrifice,” animals being sacrificed as an appeal to deity. The word occurs only in Dan (Dan 2:27; 4:7 (4); 5:7,11), and is translated “soothsayers.” Some think they were “astrologers,” the etymology in that case referring to the dividing of the heavens with a view, by casting the horoscope, to forecasting the future.

    (5) °ashshaph (the King James Version “astrologer,” the Revised Version (British and American) “enchanter”), occurs only in Dan in the Hebrew (Dan 1:20; 2:2) and in the Aramaic (2:10; 4:4 (7), etc.) parts of the book. The term is probably taken from the Babylonian and denotes a magician and especially an exorcist rather than a diviner.

    (6) kasda°im, the same word as the Greek (Chaldaioi) (English Verisons, “Chaldeans”), denotes in Dan (Dan 1:4, etc.) where alone it occurs, not the people so designated but a class of astrologers. This usage (common in classical writers) arose after the fall of the Babylonian empire, when the only Chaldaeans known were astrologers and soothsayers. See further, MAGIC . For “spirit of divination” (Acts 16:16) see PYTHON ; PHILIPPI .

    8. Divination and Prophecy: Inspirational divination and Old Testament prophecy have much in common. Both imply the following conditions: (1) the primitive instinct that, craves for secret knowledge, especially that relating to the future; (2) the belief that such knowledge is possessed by certain spiritual beings who are willing on certain terms to impart it; (3) such secret knowledge is imparted generally to special classes of men (rarely women) called diviners or (Bab) seers and prophets.

    Many anthropologists (Tylor, Frazer, etc.) and Old Testament scholars (Wellhausen, W. Robertson Smith, etc.) consider prophecy to be but an outgrowth and higher form of divination. The older theologians almost to a man, and a goodly number of moderns, take precisely the opposite view, that divination is a corruption of prophecy. Probably neither view is strictly true. Sometimes in human life we find evidences of progress from lower to higher. Sometimes the process is the very reverse. It is important to take notice of the differences as well as the resemblances between the diviner and the prophet.

    (1) The Old Testament prophet believes in a personal God whose spokesman he considers himself to be. When he spoke or wrote it was because he was, at least professedly, inspired and informed by Yahweh. “Thus says Yahweh,” was the usual formula with which he introduced his oracles. The Greek and Roman mantis, on the other hand, worked himself up to the necessary ecstatic state by music, drugs (intoxicants, etc.), sacrificial smoke and the like. Sometimes it has been thought a sufficient means of divination to swallow the vital portions of birds and beasts of omen. It was believed that by eating the hearts of crows, or moles, or of hawks, men took into their bodies the presaging soul of the creature (Frazer, Golden Bough, II, 355).

    (NOTE: Separation, distinction: “I will put a division (the Revised Version, margin “sign of deliverance”) between my people and thy people” (Ex 8:23). The Hebrew word here is pedhuth =” ransom,” “redemption” (compare Ps 111:9), but the reading is doubtful. The King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) follow Septuagint, Syriac and Vulgate, which render “set a distinction,” perhaps on the basis of a different reading from that of our Hebrew text.)

    (2) The mantis practiced his art as a remunerative occupation, charging high fees and refusing in most cases to ply his calling without adequate remuneration. The local oracle shrines (Delphi, Clavis, etc.) were worked for personal and political ends. The Old Testament prophet, on the other hand, claimed to speak as he was bidden by his God. It was with him a matter of conviction as to what lives men ought to live, what state of heart they should cultivate. So far from furthering his own material interests, as he could by saying what kings and other dignitaries wished to hear, he boldly denounced the sins of the time, even when, as often, he had to condemn the conduct of kings and the policy of governments.

    Look, for example, at Isaiah’s fearless condemnation of the conduct of Ahaz in summoning the aid of Assyria (Isa 7 ff), and at the scathing words with which Jeremiah censured the doings of the nation’s leaders in his day (Jer 2:36, etc.), though both these noble prophets suffered severely for their courage, especially Jeremiah, who stands out as perhaps the finest recorded example of what, in the face of formidable opposition, the religious teacher ought ever to be. Of Micaiah ben Iralab, King Ahab of Israel said, “I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.” What reward did this prophet have for his fidelity to his conscience and his God? Imprisonment (1 Kings 22:1-35). Had he pleased the king by predicting a happy, prosperous future that was never to be, he would have been clothed in gorgeous robes and lodged in a very palace.

    LITERATURE. — In addition to the references above and the full bibliography prefixed to the present writer’s book named above (Magic, etc.), note the following: Bouche-Leclercq, Histoire de la divination dans l’antiquite; E. B. Tylor, Primitive Culture 3, I, 78-81; 117-33; II, 155; J. G. Frazer, Golden Bough 2, I, 346; II, 355; III, 342, et passim, and the articles in the principal Bible dictionaries.


    (from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)