What is…

Hebrew: נָחַשׁ —transliteration: nachash

Greek: μαντεύομαι —transliteration: manteuomai —a practicer of divination or soothsaying

Divination is practiced by false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:10; 18:14; Micah 3:6-7; 3:11), of necromancers (1 Samuel 28:8), of the Philistine priests and diviners (1 Samuel 6:2), of Balaam (Joshua 13:22).

Three kinds of divination are mentioned in Ezekiel 21:21, by arrows, consulting with images (the teraphim), and by examining the entrails of sacrificed animals.

The practice of this art seems to have been encouraged in ancient Egypt.

Diviners also abounded among the aborigines of Canaan and the Philistines (Isaiah 2:6; 1 Samuel 28).

At a later period multitudes of magicians poured from Chaldea and Arabia into the land of Israel, and pursued their occupations (Isaiah 8:19; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chronicles 33:6). This superstition widely spread, and in the time of the apostles there were “vagabond Jews, exorcists” (Acts 19:13), and men like Simon Magus (Acts 8:9), Bar-jesus (ACts 13:6; 13:8), and other jugglers and impostors (Acts 19:19; 2 Timothy 3:13).

Every species and degree of this superstition was strictly forbidden by the law of Moses (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:26; 19:31; 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-11).

Some unusual ways in which God made his will known to man

  1. Lots under God’s control, not mere chance

    Lots were sometimes resorted to, with solemnity to allow God to reveal or decide important matters.

    • Achan’s guilt was solemly and accurately detected by lot.

      So the Lord said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst.

      Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the Lord, the God of Israel, has said, “There are things under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midst.”

      In the morning then you shall come near by your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the Lord takes by lot shall come near by families, and the family which the Lord takes shall come near by households, and the household which the Lord takes shall come near man by man. …’”

      …So Joshua arose early in the morning and brought Israel near by tribes, and the tribe of Judah was taken. He brought the family of Judah near, and he took the family of the Zerahites; and he brought the family of the Zerahites near man by man, and Zabdi was taken. He brought his household near man by man; and Achan, son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, was taken. Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I implore you, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him; and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me.” So Achan answered Joshua and said, “Truly, I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.”

      So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was concealed in his tent with the silver underneath it. —portion of Joshua 7 NASB

    • The land of Canaan was divided by lot (Numbers 26:55-56).

    • Saul was elected king (1 Samuel 10:20-21).

    • Matthias chosen to the apostleship, by the solem lot (Acts 1:26).

    • The scapegoat was determined by lot (Leviticus 16:8-10).

    See: lot

  2. Divine revelation through dreams (Genesis 20:6; Deuteronomy 13:1-3; Judges 7:13-15; Matthew 1:20; 2:12-13; 2:19; 2:22).

    This is illustrated in the history of Joseph (Genesis 41:25-32) and of Daniel (Daniel 2:27; 4:19-28).

  3. At God’s direction, he also revealed His will through the high priest’s use of the Thummim and Urim (Numbers 27:21), and by the ephod.

  4. God sometimes bestowed direct vocal communications to men (Deuteronomy 34:10; Exodus 3:4; 4:3; Deuteronomy 4:14-15; 1 Kings 19:12). He also communed with men from above the mercy-seat (Exodus 25:22), and at the door of the tabernacle (Exodus 29:42-43).

  5. Through his prophets God revealed himself, and gave intimations of his will (2 Kings 13:17; Jeremiah 51:63-64).

More information

Article Version: November 29, 2021