“You shall not permit a sorceress to live.” (Exodus 22:18)
This particular command is intriguing to me for many reasons, one of which is the fact that it played an integral role in early American history. It was the basis for the execution of many who were accused of practicing witchcraft in and around Salem, Massachusetts in the 1690s. It would seem that some of the early Puritans took these words to mean exactly what they said. On the other hand, rabbinical writings consider the wording of this command to be unusual. Some commentaries argue that we would expect different phrasing, such as, “A sorceress you shall surely put to death” as opposed to how it is rendered above.
This distinction has opened the door to an alternate interpretation in some rabbinic writings. There are those who suggest the Scripture isn’t endorsing execution of those who practice sorcery but prohibiting God’s people from supporting such a practice. If you don’t support her by seeking her out, then she will not be able to profit from her practice. The fact that King Saul was told about the witch of En Dor meant she had been around for some time in spite of the fact that Saul had removed the mediums from the land. Obviously, some were continuing to support the practice by seeking her out.
Whether the command should be understood as speaking of capital punishment or as a means of denying those who practice such a way of thriving, the point is sorcery is forbidden where God’s people are concerned. It is highly contagious and extremely dangerous to a nation because, like most of the Adversary’s tactics, it is both enticing and corrosive. It isn’t so much that a sorcerer has any real power to conjure or transform physical reality but it does have the ability to undermine the sovereignty of the Creator in the minds of people. Put simply, it becomes another form of idolatry.
In Hebrew, the word for sorceress comes from a root word that means “to secure obedience through guile.” In other words, there are those who use deception as means to bring others into compliance with their wishes — which is the core of who and what the Adversary is. He is the master illusionist who, from the beginning, seduces us to look at what he is holding in one hand while he is really working with the other. He, and those he influences, employs imagery designed to mislead so that he might bring God’s people under his control. The ultimate expression of this tactic will be fulfilled when the false prophet causes an image to both speak and live.
The point today is, don’t be deceived; don’t believe the lies of the Adversary regardless of how masterfully he projects the images he wants you to believe before you. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to discern what he is doing and, by that same power, are able to overcome it. The great Deceiver is working overtime in these last days and we must be continually on guard lest we be carried away by his seduction. We must stand fast in the truth and be the light for those who are groping in the darkness.
Blessings and Shalom,