Num 23:3 – Balaam [apparently] expected to mark some phenomenon in the sky or in nature, which he would be able, according to the rules of his former art, to interpret as an omen/sign, Num 23:23 w/ 24:1.
We know Balaam was a diviner based on Josh 13:22 and other verses.
Josh 13:22, “The sons of Israel also killed Balaam the son of Beor, the diviner, with the sword among the rest of their slain.”
He went off by himself; where he might practice rites and ceremonies, with a view to obtain a response of the oracle, message from God. Heathen soothsayers were accustomed to select the lonely and barren summits of mountains for their auspices. I guess they would get in touch with nature.
The first principle is: When in the presence of unbelievers, do not isolate yourself in the worship of God. Be a visible witness. Otherwise, how will they know about the Word of God. Unfortunately, in Balaam’s case, his sneaking off was to perform demonic ceremonies.
Acts 22:15, “For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.”
Ezk 21:21,“For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination; he shakes the arrows, he consults the household idols, he looks at the liver (hepatoscopy).”
Saul, the first Hebrew king, is said to have “removed from the land those who were mediums and spiritists.” 1 Sam 28:3, but even he, later sought out a necromancer, 1 Sam 28:7.
The prophet speaks under a strong impulse and from a sense of duty. The heathen diviner used his calling for money.
The true prophet believed God directly guided him.
The Greek μαντισ – mantis – “The Seer / Diviner worked himself into a state of frenzy and thought to imply inspiration by music and certain drugs.”
Divining or fortune telling was forbidden for God’s people, Lev 19:26.
Lev 19:26, “You shall not ….. practice divination or soothsaying.”
In this verse, the word “Divination” – נַ֫חַשׁ – nachash; (Enchantments). Which means to practice divination, observe signs, practice fortune telling, take as an omen. This word is also used in other scriptures to mean, “serpent.” Gen 3:1
The superstition here that is prohibited by God may be what the Greeks called Ophiomanteia or divination by serpents.
We also have the word “Soothsaying,” which is anan (aw-nan’) – עָנַן. Anan means, “to bring (clouds), practice soothsaying, conjure, to observe times, or spiritism, magic, augury, witchcraft. An enchanter, sorceress, fortuneteller.”
The Principal Signs a Diviner Deduced His Omens From Were:
- Celestial signs: lightning and thunder, the direction of lightning (right to left a good sign, and vice versa).
- Signs from the flight, cries and feeding of birds.
- Signs from the movements and audible sounds of animals, including serpents.
- Signs from the examination of the entrails, liver of animals, (hepatoscopy).
- By arrows; (belomancy).
- By lot, (sortilege).
Among the Romans as among other nations (Babylonians, etc.), a sacrifice was offered before omens were taken, so as to propitiate the gods. It’s interesting that Balaam did the same thing.
God’s word directs us to not get involved with this type of evil. Deut 18:9-14.
In Deut 18-9f, we have several words that shed more light on the “demonic practices.” They are:
Pass through the fire; – Worship of Molech – Human Sacrifices
One who uses divination; (Diviner of divinations) – General term for the types in the list that follows, “augury” and “soothsayer’s token,” or the omen that was superstitiously observed.
Terms for Diviners:
“Soothsayer” is the term applied to Balaam in Josh 13:22.
Divination is from the verb qasam, “to divide,” which means, “to give false prophecy or seek to determine the will of the gods by examining and interpreting omens.” Qasam is also used in Josh 13:22; 1 Sam 6:2; 28:8; 2 Kings 17:17; Isa 3:2; 44:25; Jer 27:9; 29:8; Ezek 13:6, 9, 23; 21:21, 23, 29; 22:28; Micah 3:6-7, 11; Zech 10:2.
One who practices witchcraft; (Soothsayer), – Practicing hidden arts.
Observer of times—מעונן meonen. One who pretends to foretell future events by present occurrences, and who predicts great political or physical changes from the aspects of the planets, eclipses, motion of the clouds, etc. The root word here is anan; to practice soothsaying: — diviners’ to cloud over; figuratively to act covertly, that is, practice magic, enchanter.
Sorcery – מְעוֹנֵ֥ן – mə·‘ō·w·nên, Deut 18:10, 14; cf. Lev 19:26; 2 Kings 21:6; Isa 2:6; Micah 5:12, “cast spells”). This is the attempt to control people or circumstances through power given by evil spirits (demons).
One who interprets omens, (Warlock) – Looking at nature and the stars for signs. To interpret omens is to tell the future based on “signs” such as the movements of birds, fire, or rain.
Enchanter —אָשַׁף ashaph, from ashshaph, and means, “to view attentively; one who inspected the entrails of beasts, observed the flight of birds, etc., and drew auguries thence.” Some think divination by serpents is meant, (Nachash = serpent) which was common among the heathen. Lev 19:26.
A Sorcerer – A practitioner of spells and occult magic.
A Witch – כָּשַׁף kashaph. Probably those who by means of drugs, herbs, perfumes, etc., pretended to bring certain celestial influences to their aid. The root word means Witchcraft (kashaph). Involves practicing magic by incantations. Ex 7:11; Dan 2:2; Mal 3:5
One who casts a spell; (Charmer of charms); One who casts spells is literally, “one who ties knots” (melachashîm), thus one who binds other people by magical mutterings.
A Charmer – חבר חבר, chober chaber: One who uses spells; the term implies, of words or things, tying knots, etc., for the purposes of divination. Psa 58:5
A Medium; One who supposedly communicates with the dead, but who actually communicates with demons (Medium of dead spirits).
A consulter with familiar spirits – שאל אוב – shoel ob, a Pythoness. One who inquires by the means of one spirit to get oracular answers from another of a superior order. Lev. 19:31
A Spiritist, (Channeler): One who pretends to know about the unseen world.
A Wizard – ידעני yiddeoni, a wise one, a knowing one. Wizard was formerly considered as the masculine of witch, both practicing divination by similar means. Lev 19:31
One who calls up the dead, (Necromancer). One who consults the dead, may mean the spiritists’ attempt to contact the dead to gain advice, information on the future, or help in manipulation.
Necromancer—דרש אל המתים – doresh el hammethim. One who seeks from or inquires of the dead. Such as the witch at Endor, who professed to evoke the dead, in order to get them to disclose the secrets of the spiritual world. 1 Sam 28
All these practices are forbidden, because they divorce life from morality.
Several factors make this clear:
- The future is “determined” by one’s choice and decisions for or against God, not by magical manipulation.
- Using magic to manipulate your circumstances is a futile attempt to flee from the Lord’s ethical laws which promote life and blessing.
- The use of magic and divination is a refusal to acknowledge the sovereignty of the LORD.
- Reliance on these practices indicated a corresponding failure to trust the LORD with your life.
The true prophet is determined by the outcome of his word having 100% accuracy. Deut 18:20-22
Even though these things are mentioned in the Old Testament, if you just look at society today, you see these very same things in use. Between TV shows with individuals who supposedly talk to the dead. or have psychic powers to talk with animals, or those who are called “Channelers,” who represent past lives, or those that tell fortunes, or read Tarot cards.
These practices from Satan are still in use today,
and they are here to deceive man away from God.