The Dangers of Divination
by Bob DeWaay

“When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations.  There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead" (Deuteronomy 18:9-11).

One of the claims I often hear from those who use techniques to gain spiritual information is this: "Methods are neutral." Another statement often made by the purveyors of new techniques for "hearing from God" is: "God cannot be limited, He can use anything." My intent is to show from Scripture that the first of these statements is false and the second is misleading.

The Bible forbids certain methods for contacting the spirit world.  The passage cited above lists several.  This is not an exhaustive list because methods for contacting the spirit world are limitless.  The term "divination" is a general term that covers any such method.  Old Testament scholar Eugene H. Meff ill comments on this: "The phrase 'practicers of divination' refers generally to the whole complex of means of gaining insight fi7om the gods regardless of any particular technique."'

The reason for the existence of divination is the fact that the spirit world is hidden from our eyes and information about it cannot be gained by normal means of learning.  The various cultures that the ancient Israelites contacted all had means of divination.  They believed that their fate and well being was in the hands of gods whose intentions were mysterious.  A good diviner, like Balaam (see Numbers 23), was adept at interpreting signs and omens. His desire was not only to learn the future, but to influence the present.  Thus Balaam was hired to curse Israel.  Diviners hope to break curses and forestall bad fate.

Why God forbids Divination

God spoke authoritatively to his chosen people through Moses.  What Moses wrote was God's revealed will.  It was the only access they had to true information about their relationship to things hidden from normal means of learning (general revelation).  Moses wrote: "The secret things belong to the Lord our God but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29).  The word "occult" means secret or hidden knowledge.  Divination is any practice not specifically ordained in scripture that seeks to gain secret knowledge (i.e. spiritual knowledge God has not revealed).  God purposely limits His people's access to such spiritual knowledge for their own good.  That which is outside of "the things revealed" is not for us.  Why?  Because there are spirit beings out there who have been practicing the art of deception for many thousands of years.  They are good at what they do.  If we dabble in their world we will be deceived.

In the same section of Scripture that forbids divination, we find this promise: "For those nations, which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so.  The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among yot4 from your countrymen you shall listen to him" (Deuteronomy 18:14,15).  The "prophet' who God was to raise up was none other than Jesus Christ (see Luke 9:35; John 5:45-47; Hebrews 1:1,2).The true prophets that came after Moses were not law-givers.  They exhorted Israel to be faithful to the Law and they predicted the future.  They did not add to the Law of Moses.  As further protection against deception, Moses declared that the prophets had to be one hundred percent accurate or they were to be dismissed as false (Deuteronomy 18-22). Also, if they made true predictions but led the people away from God they were false (Deuteronomy 13:1-3).  The next authoritative law-giver was Jesus Christ.

By limiting both the methods and the persons that were available to Ms people, God was protecting them from deceiving spirits.  Every pagan culture has had its methods of divination.  Balak would not have been willing to pay Balaam richly if Balaam had not been good at what he did.  The evil spirits that Satan uses to deceive people make these practices work.  The reason that divination is so prevalent is that it works.

Divination in the Church Today

The teachings of Jesus Christ are contained in the New Testament and constitute the further divine revelation that Moses promised when that new "Prophet" came.  These writings are authoritative and combined with the Old Testament constitute "the revealed things" (Deuteronomy 29:29) that belong to us.  This is the limit of authoritative, divine revelation.  Prophecy in the New Testament is not adding to authoritative revelation, but exhorting from it and applying it.  Just as the Old Testament prophets (except Moses) were not law­givers but law-appliers, so are the "prophesying ones' in the New Testament.  The other function of Old Testament prophets was to inerrantly predict the future of Israel and her Messiah.  Since the One to whom the prophets pointed has come and spoken in full and final revelation, that role no longer exists.  All the prophecies about the future that we are allowed are already contained in the Bible.
Using prophetic techniques to learn secret information or the future is divination.  Today it is like it was in Jeremiah's day: "Then the Lord said to me, 'The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name.  I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divinations, futility and the deception of their own minds" (Jeremiah 14:14).  For example, the "prophet" Rick Joyner went into a trance, visited heaven, and talked to the apostle Paul.  Here is what the departed "Paul" told Joyner: "If what I have written is used as a foundation, it will not be able to hold the weight of that which needs to be built on it ... You must see my teachings through the Lord's teachings, not try to understand Him from my perspective." (Joyner, The Final Quest, 133).  Necromancy (communicating with the dead) is a technique for gaining secret information that is forbidden.  When forbidden techniques are used, deception is gained.  The information from Joyner's "Paul" is contradictory to the New Testament where Paul claims that his writings are foundational and authoritative. I do not deny that various practices from guided imagery, to EMDR (a technique used by some practitioners of "Theophostic Ministry" to help people find hidden memories and gain personal revelations from God), to contemplative prayer (which uses techniques to silence the mind in the hope of hearing God's voice), and many others "work." They do. I deny that they are from God.  God has chosen the valid means by which we can hear from Him.  Those means are revealed in the Bible.  Going outside of God's ordained means is rebellion which constitutes divination.  Samuel told Saul: "For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is an iniquity and idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of the Lord He has also rejected you from being king" (I Samuel 15:23)
Using divination puts one in the realm of deceptive spirits.  Paul predicted: "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons " (I Timothy 4: 1).


I said at the beginning of this article that methods are not neutral.  That much has been proved by the fact that the Bible forbids divination, a practice which involves innumerable possible methods.  The other claim that "God can use anything," is misleading.  That God could use something if He chose to does not mean that He will.  It also does not mean that if He does use something it is a good thing.  For example, God used Balaam to prophesy of Messiah, yet Balaam is condemned through Scriptures as a wicked person who led Israel astray (see Numbers 24:17 for Messianic prophesy; Balaam is condemned - 2 Peter 2:15; Jude I 1; Revelation 2:14).  Balaam was a practitioner of divination, hired to curse Israel yet God chose to sovereignly use him to bless Israel instead.  God may indeed use things He condemns, but that does not exonerate those who are thus used.

Today divination is rampant in the church.  It is just as poisonous to the faith today as divination was to Israel's faith in the Old Testament.  It is rebellion in that it involves refusing to stay within the boundaries God has set for our own good.  Those who are thus deceived have put themselves into that horrible state because they did not receive the love of the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12). The truth is the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We need to purge divination from the church and replace it with Gospel preaching and Bible teaching.

1 Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy in The New American Commentary; (Broadman &Holman: Nashville, 1994) 271.

Bob De Waay is the pastor of:

Twin City Fellowship
P.O. Box 8060
Minneapolis, MN 55408
Phone: 612-874-7484
Pastor DeWaay produces a newsletter called: "Critical Issues Commentary." You can subscribe to this newsletter by contacting Twin City Fellowship; previous issues are archived on the Twin City Fellowship website listed above.

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