Enchantment

en-chant’-ment:



(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).


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.

For more detailed study see Divination; Astrology.

Dwight M. Pratt