Nebuchadnezzar's Dream Church Window, Wikicommons

Science in the Bible: Magic Part 2

Continued from  Part 1:

Jesus said, “False messiahs and false prophets will come and do great miracles and wonders, trying to fool the people God has chosen, if that is possible. Now I have warned you about this before it happens.”  Matthew 24:24,25 Easy-to-read Version

Hieroglyph for “Magician”

Today it’s time to learn about “magicians” in the Bible.

The first and last mentions of magicians are really interesting (Genesis 41:8; Daniel 5:9-11), both tell about how magicians were expected to interpret dreams and couldn’t do it for real.

The strongest magicians in the Bible were those who mimicked Moses before Pharaoh.  They were able to:

  • Turn rods into snakes (Exodus 7:11,12)
  • Turn water into blood (Exodus 7:22)
  • Brought frogs up on the land (Exodus 8:7)

That last one is highly questionable since God was doing the same thing all over the land.  How would you know whether it was the magicians or God?  After that, they had to give up.  Only God could produce lice, hail and all the other terrible plagues.

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream Church Window, WikicommonsThe other magicians in the Bible served the Babylonian king.  Their job seems to have been to tell the king what his dreams meant.  But, when God really did send a dream, these men were helpless to respond.

Next, we have the word “sorcerer.”  This word is used to describe the magicians, is also mentioned in the law and here:

[King Manasseh] caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.   II Chronicles 33:6 KJV

This is almost an exact quote from Moses’ command to never do these things in Deuteronomy 18:10.  King Manasseh’s willingness to kill his own children was directly tied to the rest.  What do they mean?

  • Observed times: remember all those observatories the ancients made?  They believed that when the stars and planets were in special places it was very bad/good to do certain things.  It also can mean to watch for shapes in clouds or other nebulous things (crystal balls?)
  • Enchantments: augury: to observe signs and omens.  Black cats, comets, and other stuff would be in this catagory
  • Witchcraft: the Bible doesn’t really tell us what this means except that it is bad enough to earn you the death penalty under the law.  All dealings with unholy spirits would be included along with drug/poison use (Revelation 9:21)
  • Dealing with a Familiar Spirit: we have one clear example of this with Saul and the woman of Endor (I Samuel 28:7-25).  This tells us that people would try to talk to the dead through such people.  The amazing thing is, when the dead Samuel actually showed up, she was shocked and realized what was going on right away.  This shows that whatever usually happened, real humans weren’t involved.
  • Wizards: those who practice all of these things

All of these in themselves are a big pile of nonsense, but there is a power behind them.

And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Revelation 9:20 

The idols couldn’t walk, but there was something else there: demons.  Get yourself some good missionary stories and find out what’s going on here.  I highly recommend Otto Koning’s CD series where he came from a denomination that didn’t even believe in demons, but he learned better (and the power of Jesus over them in the 20th century).  My kids and I just finished reading Joanne Shetler’s story of translating the New Testament for the Balagao people of the Philippines, powerful and encouraging stuff.

Notice, these magical arts never helped anyone.  The best people could hope for was to be left alone so bad things wouldn’t happen.  Demons want you scared, weak, poor and eventually dead.  God is the one who loves you enough to help you in big and small things.

Parents, you aren’t doing your kids any favors pretending there isn’t a war going on in the unseen realm.  If you don’t prepare them, the Enemy will still do all he can to entice them.  Knowing that there is real power lined up against us, but our God is far stronger is the best protection we can have.  It’s how the Bible deals with these things!

“The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  I John 4:4 EtrV

 

open Bible

Science in the Bible: Magic Part 1

Magic Hat and BatonA repost, but the Bible hasn’t changed since 2012!

Someone asked what I thought about magic on facebook last week.  There was no way to fit a  response into 2 or 3 sentences, so I saved my answer for today.

The KJV Bible doesn’t even use the word “magic” or “magical.”  It does call certain people “magicians” in the Egyptian and Babylonian culture (more on them next time).  But the Bible does have a lot to say about this type of thing.

Magic, n.: 1. the art of producing illusions as entertainment by the use of sleight of hand, deceptive devices, etc.; legerdemain; conjuring: to pull a rabbit out of a hat by magic.

2. the art of producing a desired effect or result through the use of incantation or various other techniques that presumably assure human control of supernatural agencies or the forces of nature.

We’ll start with God’s power:Man doing a Card Trick

 

Can you tell me any place in the Bible where God Himself, or one of His servants did “sleight of hand” or “deceptive devices”?  The Scriptures tell us over and over that such things are completely opposed to God’s character.

In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; Titus 1:2

God doesn’t need to do anything fake to prove He’s powerful.  He IS powerful.

Colorful Ice Cream ConesAs for definition #2, I’ve heard of people who think saying “in Jesus’ name” works like a magic spell, but does it really?  If you say, “God, give me 200 ice cream cones right now, in Jesus’ name!”  Is there any hope that He will answer such a demand?  Not a chance.

God isn’t a genie in a lamp who has to give us three wishes.  There’s no way He’s going to bow to anyone and jump to obey.

There’s also the idea of using some sort of magical object to get power.  Although the church in the middle ages was obsessed with relics (bits of stone, bone, or wood) did they really help? Does God listen better when you clutch a cross or pray in front of a saint’s tomb than He does otherwise?

There is one odd thing in the Old Testament that seems like magic: the Urim and Thumim.Clickr Question Mark Graphic

And [Joshua] shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD:  Numbers 27:21

David used this unknown way of asking God questions several times.  You can see how this worked for yourself in I Samuel 23:6-12.  But all it seemed to do was say yes or no when God felt like answering.  When God was fed up with King Saul, He refused to answer with this system (I Samuel 28:6).

But this was so rare you probably never heard about it in Sunday School.  But what do we learn about God doing?  Miracles, wonders, and signs.

Yesterday, I read II Kings chapter 4.  This one chapter includes a lot of the types of miracles God does:

English: Wedding at Cana (top), Resurrecting t...

Wedding at Cana (top), Resurrecting the son of the Widow of Nain (bottom)

  • stretched existing food to meet the need (both the oil jug and the barley bread)
  • gave a woman a baby when it was naturally impossible
  • raised the dead (be sure to notice it was not any special action that made God decide to bring the boy back, it was Elisha’s passionate begging)
  • removed poison so people weren’t harmed

Other ways God showed His power:

  • Told people what cannot be known naturally (who Saul would be and where his dad’s donkeys were I Samuel 9:15,20; plus hundreds (thousands?) of future predictions throughout the Bible)
  • Hide/protected people from their enemies (Judges 7:10-15; I Samuel 26:11; II Kings 12:14-19; Acts 12:7-9)
  • Gave fire from the sky to establish God’s reality and approval (Leviticus 9:24; I Chronicles 21:26; II Chronicles 7:1; I Kings 18:38)
  • Sent plagues to punish and show His power over God’s enemies (Exodus chapters 5-12; Numbers 12:10, 16:49; I Samuel 6:19; Isaiah 37:36; Acts 5:5,10)
  • Made water do unnatural things (split: Exodus 14, Joshua 3:16, II Kings 2:8; hold people up while not frozen: Matthew 14:29)
  • Healed diseases (Numbers 12:14-16; II Kings 5:13,14; II Kings 20:7; all thru the Gospels and Acts)Whirl-fire
  • Burnt up people who were disobedient, rebellious, or servants of the wicked (Leviticus 10:2; Numbers 16:35, 26:10; II Kings 1:10,12 [note that the 3rd captain humbled himself and was spared])
  • Protected His own people from being burnt/eaten (Daniel 3, 6)
  • Rained “stones from heaven” Joshua 10:11.  This isn’t the word for hail, it’s the word for rocks.  God seems to have sent meteorites to help Joshua’s army.  But that was small compared to…
  • Made the earth stop spinning or go backwards a little (Joshua 10:12-14; Isaiah 38:8)

Oh, boy, I’m getting long.  Do you see a pattern here?  God cares about people’s needs and can supernaturally meet them, but He uses real things.  He knows the future as well as He knows the past.  He occasionally does dramatic things to prove He really is powerful, usually at the beginning of some new era.

He never does pointless, useless things just to make people’s jaws drop.

God is not under any person’s control, but He does listen when we beg Him for help.

Fear not, neither be afraid: didn’t I tell you back then, and announce it? You are my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yes, there is no other god; I don’t know of any. Isaiah 44:8