Leviticus 19:31
Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.
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(31) Regard not.—Better, Turn ye not unto, as the Authorised Version renders this very phrase in Leviticus 19:4.

Them that have familiar spirits.—This phrase represents the single word oboth in the original, and the translators of our Authorised Version by adopting it implied that those who practised this craft were supposed to be attended by an invisible spirit who was subject to their call to supply them with supernatural information. According to the authorities during the second Temple it denotes one who has a spirit speaking from under his arm-holes, or chest, with a hollow voice, as if it came out of a bottle, which is the meaning of ob in Job 32:19. They identified it with the spirit of Python, by which the ancient Chaldee Version renders it.

Neither seek after wizards.—The expression “wizard,” which in old English denotes “wise man,” “sage,” is almost the exact equivalent of the word in the original. These cunning men pretended to tell people their fortunes, where their lost property was to be found, &c. According to ancient tradition, these wizards took in their mouth a bone of a certain bird called yaduā, burned incense, thus producing fumes which sent them off into an ecstacy, and then foretold future events. Hence their name, yidonee, as it is in the original. It occurs eleven times in the Bible, and always together with the word translated “familiar spirit.”

Leviticus 19:31. Wizards — Them that have entered into covenant with the devil, by whose help they foretel many things to come, and acquaint men with secret things; see Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:11; 1 Samuel 28:3; 1 Samuel 28:7; 1 Samuel 28:9; 2 Kings 21:6.

19:1-37 laws. - There are some ceremonial precepts in this chapter, but most of these precepts are binding on us, for they are explanations of the ten commandments. It is required that Israel be a holy people, because the God of Israel is a holy God, ver. 2. To teach real separation from the world and the flesh, and entire devotedness to God. This is now the law of Christ; may the Lord bring every thought within us into obedience to it! Children are to be obedient to their parents, ver. 3. The fear here required includes inward reverence and esteem, outward respect and obedience, care to please them and to make them easy. God only is to be worshipped, ver. 4. Turn not from the true God to false ones, from the God who will make you holy and happy, to those that will deceive you, and make you for ever miserable. Turn not your eyes to them, much less your heart. They should leave the gleanings of their harvest and vintage for the poor, ver. 9. Works of piety must be always attended with works of charity, according to our ability. We must not be covetous, griping, and greedy of every thing we can lay claim to, nor insist upon our right in all things. We are to be honest and true in all our dealings, ver. 11. Whatever we have in the world, we must see that we get it honestly, for we cannot be truly rich, or long rich, with that which is not so. Reverence to the sacred name of God must be shown, ver. 12. We must not detain what belongs to another, particularly the wages of the hireling, ver. 13. We must be tender of the credit and safety of those that cannot help themselves, ver. 14. Do no hurt to any, because they are unwilling or unable to avenge themselves. We ought to take heed of doing any thing which may occasion our weak brother to fall. The fear of God should keep us from doing wrong things, though they will not expose us to men's anger. Judges, and all in authority, are commanded to give judgment without partiality, ver. 15. To be a tale-bearer, and to sow discord among neighbours, is as bad an office as a man can put himself into. We are to rebuke our neighbour in love, ver. 17. Rather rebuke him than hate him, for an injury done to thyself. We incur guilt by not reproving; it is hating our brother. We should say, I will do him the kindness to tell him of his faults. We are to put off all malice, and to put on brotherly love, ver. 18. We often wrong ourselves, but we soon forgive ourselves those wrongs, and they do not at all lessen our love to ourselves; in like manner we should love our neighbour. We must in many cases deny ourselves for the good of our neighbour. Ver. 31: For Christians to have their fortunes told, to use spells and charms, or the like, is a sad affront to God. They must be grossly ignorant who ask, What harm is there in these things? Here is a charge to young people to show respect to the aged, ver. 32. Religion teaches good manners, and obliges us to honour those to whom honour is due. A charge was given to the Israelites to be very tender of strangers, ver. 33. Strangers, and the widows and fatherless, are God's particular care. It is at our peril, if we do them any wrong. Strangers shall be welcome to God's grace; we should do what we can to recommend religion to them. Justice in weights and measures is commanded, ver. 35. We must make conscience of obeying God's precepts. We are not to pick and choose our duty, but must aim at standing complete in all the will of God. And the nearer our lives and tempers are to the precepts of God's law, the happier shall we be, and the happier shall we make all around us, and the better shall we adorn the gospel.The devotion of faith, which would manifest itself in obedience to the commandment to keep God's Sabbaths and to reverence His sanctuary Leviticus 19:30, is the true preservative against the superstition which is forbidden in this verse. The people whose God was Yahweh were not to indulge those wayward feelings of their human nature which are gratified in magical arts and pretensions. Compare Isaiah 8:19.

Familiar spirits - literally, "bottles". This application of the word is supposed to have been suggested by the tricks of ventriloquists, within whose bodies (as vessels or bottles) it was fancied that spirits used to speak. In other cases, the word is used for the familiar spirit which a man pretended to employ in order to consult, or to raise, the spirits of the dead. See 1 Samuel 28:7-8.

Wizard - A word equivalent to "a knowing man", or, "a cunning man".

31. Regard not them that have familiar spirits—The Hebrew word, rendered "familiar spirit," signifies the belly, and sometimes a leathern bottle, from its similarity to the belly. It was applied in the sense of this passage to ventriloquists, who pretended to have communication with the invisible world. The Hebrews were strictly forbidden to consult them as the vain but high pretensions of those impostors were derogatory to the honor of God and subversive of their covenant relations with Him as His people.

neither seek after wizards—fortunetellers, who pretended, as the Hebrew word indicates, to prognosticate by palmistry (or an inspection of the lines of the hand) the future fate of those who applied to them.

Them that have familiar spirits; that have entered into covenant with the devil, by whose help they foretell many things to come, and acquaint men with secret things. See Leviticus 20:27 Deu 18:11 1 Samuel 28:3,7,9 2 Kings 21:6.

Wizards; another name expressing the same thing for substance, to wit, persons in league with the devil, with some difference only in the manner of their operation,

Regard not them that have familiar spirits,.... The word used signifies "bottles", and that sort of diviners here intended go by this name, either because what they sat on when they divined was in the form of a bottle, or they divined by one, or they were swelled and inflated as bottles when they delivered out their answers, or spoke as out of a bottle or hollow place; hence they are called masters or mistresses of the bottle: they seem to be the same with the ventriloquists, and so the Septuagint version here calls them; such whose voice seemed to come out of their bellies, and even the lower parts of them; and such was the Pythian prophetess at Delphos, and very probably the maid in the times of the apostles, who had a spirit of divination, or of Python, Acts 16:16; and so the words may be rendered here, "look not to the Python" (n), or those who have the spirit of Python; so Jarchi from the Misnah (o) interprets the word here used, "Baal Ob" or the master of the bottle, this is Python, one that speaks from under his arm holes:

neither seek after wizards; such as pretend to a great deal of knowledge, as the word signifies; such as are called cunning men, who pretend to know where lost or stolen goods are, and to tell people their fortunes, and what will befall them hereafter:

to be defiled by them; for by seeking to them, and believing what is said by them, and trusting thereunto, and expecting events answerable to their predictions, they would be guilty of a gross sin, and so bring pollution and guilt on them; according to the Jewish canons (p), such sort of persons as are cautioned against were to be stoned, and they that consulted them to be reproved:

I am the Lord your God; who only is to be regarded and sought unto for advice and assistance; see Isaiah 8:19.

(n) "ne respiciatis ad Pythonas", Montanus; so Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (o) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 7. sect. 7. (p) lbid.

Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.
31. familiar spirits … wizards] Cp. ch. Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27. For the difference between the two see Driver on Deuteronomy 18:11. The former expression (’ôb) may be rendered ghost. Its oracles were uttered in a twittering voice, which, through ventriloquism, appeared to rise from the ground. Accordingly the LXX. mostly renders the word by ἐγγαστρίμυθοι, ventriloquists. See the narrative of the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28). The latter of the two appellations, lit. knowing (but Rob.-Sm. Journal of Philology, xiii. 273 ff.; xiv. 113 ff., prefers acquaintance), may fitly be rendered familiar spirit. The distinction between the two modes of divination will then be that ‘those who divine by the former profess (1 Samuel 28:11) to call up any ghost; those who divine by the latter consult only the particular spirit which is their familiar’ (Driver as above).

Verse 31. - This verse contains a prohibition of all dealings with those that have familiar spirits or are wizards. The punishment of such persons is appointed in the next chapter. Both in the Old and the New Testament, the real existence of evil spirits and their power of communicating with the human spirit is assumed. Leviticus 19:31True fear of God, however, awakens confidence in the Lord and His guidance, and excludes all superstitious and idolatrous ways and methods of discovering the future. This thought prepares the way for the warning against turning to familiar spirits, or seeking after wizards. אוב denotes a departed spirit, who was called up to make disclosures with regard to the future, hence a familiar spirit, spiritum malum qui certis artibus eliciebatur ut evocaret mortuorum manes, qui praedicarent quae ab eis petebantur (Cler.). This is the meaning in Isaiah 29:4, as well as here and in Leviticus 20:6, as is evident from Leviticus 20:27, "a man or woman in whom is an ob," and from 1 Samuel 28:7-8, baalath ob, "a woman with such a spirit." The name was then applied to the necromantist himself, by whom the departed were called up (1 Samuel 28:3; 2 Kings 23:24). The word is connected with ob, a skin. ידּעני, the knowing, so to speak, "clever man" (Symm. γνώστης, Aq. γνωριστής), is only found in connection with ob, and denotes unquestionably a person acquainted with necromancy, or a conjurer who devoted himself to the invocation of spirits. (For further remarks, see as 1 Samuel 28:7.).
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