|Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia|
COMMUNION WITH DEMONS; DEVILS
I. Use of Term:
The actual expression "communion with demons" (koinonoi ton daimonion) occurs but once in Scripture (1 Corinthians 10:20) where its figurative meaning is evident, but it is implied in the English version of a number of passages by the terms "one who has" or "those who have" "familiar spirits" (Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6, 27 Deuteronomy 18:11 1 Samuel 28:3, 7, 8, 9; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Kings 23:24 1 Chronicles 10:13 2 Chronicles 33:6 Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 19:3; Isaiah 29:4). These passages seem to be somewhat incongruous with Paul's statement, but are in reality so intimately related to it as to give and receive light through the connection.
II. Teaching of Scripture.
To begin with, we may safely say, in general, that there is no ground for asserting that the Bible admits the possibility of conscious and voluntary communion with spirits. This is an essential element of popular demonology in all ages, but it is absent from Scripture. Even in the passages mentioned above which refer to necromancers and wizards, while, as we shall see, the words indicate that such practitioners professed to rely upon spirits in their divinations, the Scriptures carefully refrain from sanctioning these claims, and a number of features in the various passages serve to indicate that the true scriptural view is quite the opposite. As this is not a prevalent opinion, we should do well to examine the passages with some little care.
1. The New Testament:
(1) We may first deal with the New Testament. In the Gospels the demoniacs are consistently looked upon and treated as unconscious and helpless victims (see DEMON, DEMONOLOGY). The frequent use of this term "demonized" (daimonizomenoi) together with all that is told us of the methods of treating these eases adopted by our Lord and His apostles (see EXORCISM) indicates the belief of the New Testament writers that the control of demons over men is obtained outside of or below the region of conscious volition and that the condition of the sufferers is pathological.
(2) The same must be said of the Lydian maiden whose cure by Paul is recorded in Acts 16:16. This is the one instance in the New Testament where divination is connected with spirits. The account emphasizes the excitable neurosis of the patient; and the belief on the part of the apostles and of the writer of Acts that the girl was not the conscious accomplice of her masters, but their unfortunate victim through her mysterious malady, is clear. She was treated, as the other eases recorded in the New Testament, not as a conscious wrongdoer, but as a sick person to be healed.
2. The Old Testament:
(1) Turning now to the Old Testament, the instance which requires the most careful treatment, because it holds the key to all the rest, is the narrative of Saul's visit to the Witch of Endor in 1 Samuel 28:3-25. The Hebrew word 'obh which is usually translated "one who has a familiar spirit" (see list of passages at beginning of article) occurs in this narrative four times (verses 3, 7 twice, 8). According to the ordinary interpretation it is used in three different senses, two of which occur here. These three senses are
(a) a person who controls a spirit,
(b) the spirit controlled,
(c) the power to control such a spirit.
This meaning appears to be altogether too broad. Omitting to translate the word we have: (verse 3) "Saul had put away 'obhoth, and yidh`onim"; (verse 7), a woman, a mistress of an 'obh; (verse 8) "Divine unto me. by the 'obh." It is extremely unlikely that the same word should be used in two senses so far apart as "person who has a spirit" and the "spirit itself" in the same context. In the last passage mentioned (verse 8) there is a double indication that the word 'obh cannot have either signification mentioned. Saul says: "Divine unto me by the 'obh and bring me up whomsoever I shall name unto thee." The expression "divine by" clearly points to some magical object used in divination. Control of a spirit through some magical object is familiar enough. The rest of Saul's statement confirms this view. The result of the divination is the calling up of a spirit. A spirit would hardly be used to call up another spirit. This conclusion is confirmed by the etymology. The word 'obh is supposed to mean "one who has a familiar spirit," from its root-significance of hollow and its primary meaning of wineskin. According to this derivation the word is applied to a necromancer on the supposition that the spirit inhabits his body and speaks from within. The transference to spirit is extremely unlikely and the explanation is not consistent with primitive ideas on spirit manifestation (see Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, 'owb end).
(2) We, therefore, hold with H. P. Smith (International Critical Commentary, "Samuel" in the place cited.), though partly on different grounds, that the word 'obh has the same meaning in all the passages where it occurs, and that it refers to a sacred object or fetish by which spiritistic divination was carried on.
The significance of this conclusion is that the misleading expression "familiar spirit" disappears from the text, for Dr. Driver's interpretation of the companion word yidh`onim (see International Critical Commentary, Commentary on Deuteronomy in the place cited.) will scarcely be maintained in the face of this new meaning for 'obh. The prohibition contained in the law (Leviticus 20:27) against 'ohboth, and those using them, places them in the same catalogue of offense and futility with idol-worship in general.
(3) This opinion is confirmed by two separate items of evidence.
(a) In the Witch of Endor story Samuel's appearance, according to the idea of the narrator, was due to a miracle, not to the magic power of the feeble and cheating old woman to whom Saul had resorted. God speaks through the apparition a stern message of doom. No one was more startled than the woman herself, who for once had a real vision (1 Samuel 28:12). She not only gave a loud cry of astonishment and alarm but she described the figure which she saw as "a god coming up out of the each." The story is told with fidelity and clearly indicates the opinion that the actual appearance of a spirit is so violently exceptional as to indicate the immediate power and presence of God.
(b) In Isaiah 8:19 the 'obhoth and yidh`onim are spoken of as those who "chirp and mutter." These terms refer to the necromancers themselves (Septuagint translates 'obhoth by eggastromuthoi = ventriloquists) who practiced ventriloquism in connection with their magical rites. In Isaiah 29:4 it is said "Thy voice shall be as an 'obh, out of the ground." Here 'obh is usually interpreted as "ghost," but it is far more probable (see Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament sub loc.) that it refers as in 8:19 to the ventriloqustic tricks of those who utter their oracles in voices intended to represent the spirits which they have evoked. They are stamped in these passages, as in the Witch of Endor narrative, as deceivers practicing a fraudulent article. By implication their power to evoke spirits with whom they were in familiar intercourse is denied.
3. The Meaning of Idol-Worship:
This leaves the way clear for a brief consideration of the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:20 in connection with cognate passages in the Old Testament.
(1) He argues that since idol-worship is really demon-worship, the partaking of heathen sacrifice is a communion with demons and a separation from Christ. It is usually taken for granted that this characterization of heathen worship was simply a part of the Jewish-Christian polemic against idolatry. Our fuller knowledge of the spiritism which conditions the use of images enables us to recognize the fact that from the viewpoint of heathenism itself Paul's idea was strictly correct. The image is venerated because it is supposed to represent or contain an invisible being or spirit, not necessarily a deity in the absolute sense, but a super-human living being capable of working good or ill to men.
(2) In the King James Version the term devils is used in four Old Testament passages (Leviticus 17:7 Deuteronomy 32:17 2 Chronicles 11:15 Psalm 106:37). In the Revised Version (British and American) "devils" has disappeared from the text-the word he-goats appears in Leviticus 17:7 and 2 Chronicles 11:15, while "demons" appears in Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalm 106:37. The translation of se`irim as "he-goats" is literally correct, but conveys an erroneous conception of the meaning. The practice reprobated is the worship of Satyrs (see SATYR) or wood-demons supposed to be like goats in appearance and to inhabit lonely places. The same word is used in Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14. The word translated "demons" in the Revised Version (British and American) is shedhim, a term used only twice and both times in connection with the rites and abominations of heathen worship. It is interesting to note that the word shidu is applied to the beings represented by the bull-colossi of Assyria (Driver, Deuteronomy in the place cited.). Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament holds that the word shedhim is an Assyrian loan-word, while Briggs (ICC, Psalm 106:37) holds that shedhim were ancient gods of Canaan. In either case the word belongs to heathenism and is used in Scripture to describe heathen worship in its own terminology. The interpretation of these beings as evil is characteristic of Biblical demonism in general (see DEMON, etc.). The worship of idols was the worship of personal beings more than man and less than God, according to Jewish and Christian ideas (see Driver op. cit., 363). Septuagint translates both the above words by daimonia.
The term "communion with demons" does not imply any power on the part of men to enter into voluntary relationship with beings of another world, but that, by sinful compliance in wrongdoing, such as idol-worship and magical rites, men may enter into a moral identification with evil powers against which it is their duty to fight.
The Dictionaries and Commentaries dealing with the passages quoted above contain discussions of the various aspects of the subject. Jewish superstitions are ably treated by Edersheim, Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (8th edition), II, 771, 773.
Louis Matthews Sweet
Demons (54 Occurrences)
Matthew 4:24 The report about him went out into all Syria. They brought to him all who were sick, afflicted with various diseases and torments, possessed with demons, epileptics, and paralytics; and he healed them. (WEB ASV DBY WBS)
Matthew 7:22 Many will tell me in that day,'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?' (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Matthew 8:16 When evening came, they brought to him many possessed with demons. He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick; (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS RSV)
Matthew 8:28 When he came to the other side, into the country of the Gergesenes, two people possessed by demons met him there, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that nobody could pass that way. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS)
Matthew 8:31 The demons begged him, saying, "If you cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of pigs." (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Matthew 8:33 Those who fed them fled, and went away into the city, and told everything, including what happened to those who were possessed with demons. (WEB ASV DBY WBS)
Matthew 9:34 But the Pharisees said, "By the prince of the demons, he casts out demons." (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Matthew 10:8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Freely you received, so freely give. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Matthew 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, "This man does not cast out demons, except by Beelzebul, the prince of the demons." (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Matthew 12:27 If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Matthew 12:28 But if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Mark 1:32 At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to him all who were sick, and those who were possessed by demons. (WEB ASV DBY WBS RSV)
Mark 1:34 He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. He didn't allow the demons to speak, because they knew him. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Mark 1:39 He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out demons. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Mark 3:15 and to have authority to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons: (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Mark 3:22 The scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebul," and, "By the prince of the demons he casts out the demons." (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Mark 5:12 All the demons begged him, saying, "Send us into the pigs, that we may enter into them." (WEB WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Mark 5:15 They came to Jesus, and saw him who had been possessed by demons sitting, clothed, and in his right mind, even him who had the legion; and they were afraid. (WEB ASV DBY NIV)
Mark 5:16 Those who saw it declared to them how it happened to him who was possessed by demons, and about the pigs. (WEB ASV DBY)
Mark 5:18 As he was entering into the boat, he who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. (WEB ASV DBY RSV)
Mark 6:13 They cast out many demons, and anointed many with oil who were sick, and healed them. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Mark 9:38 John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone who doesn't follow us casting out demons in your name; and we forbade him, because he doesn't follow us." (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Mark 16:9 Now when he had risen early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Mark 16:17 These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new languages; (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 4:41 Demons also came out from many, crying out, and saying, "You are the Christ, the Son of God!" Rebuking them, he didn't allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 8:2 and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out; (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 8:27 When Jesus stepped ashore, a certain man out of the city who had demons for a long time met him. He wore no clothes, and didn't live in a house, but in the tombs. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV)
Luke 8:29 For he commanded the unclean spirit to come forth from the man, for many times it had caught him, and he was being bound with chains and fetters -- guarded, and breaking asunder the bonds he was driven by the demons to the deserts. (YLT)
Luke 8:30 Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" He said, "Legion," for many demons had entered into him. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 8:32 Now there was a great herd of swine there feeding on the hill-side; and the demons begged Him to give them leave to go into them, and He gave them leave. (WEY NAS NIV)
Luke 8:33 The demons came out from the man, and entered into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and were drowned. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 8:35 People went out to see what had happened. They came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus' feet, clothed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 8:36 Those who saw it told them how he who had been possessed by demons was healed. (WEB ASV WBS RSV)
Luke 8:38 But the man from whom the demons had gone out begged him that he might go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 9:1 He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 9:49 John answered, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he doesn't follow with us." (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 10:17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!" (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 11:15 But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of the demons." (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 11:18 If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 11:19 But if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore will they be your judges. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 11:20 But if I by the finger of God cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come to you. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Luke 13:32 He said to them, "Go and tell that fox,'Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I complete my mission. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Acts 17:18 But some also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers attacked him. And some said, What would this chatterer say? and some, He seems to be an announcer of foreign demons, because he announced the glad tidings of Jesus and the resurrection to them. (DBY YLT)
Romans 8:38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, (See NIV)
1 Corinthians 10:20 But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God, and I don't desire that you would have fellowship with demons. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
1 Corinthians 10:21 You can't both drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You can't both partake of the table of the Lord, and of the table of demons. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
1 Timothy 4:1 But the Spirit says expressly that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
James 2:19 You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe, and shudder. (WEB ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Revelation 9:20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed with these plagues, didn't repent of the works of their hands, that they wouldn't worship demons, and the idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood; which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Revelation 16:14 for they are spirits of demons, performing signs; which go forth to the kings of the whole inhabited earth, to gather them together for the war of that great day of God, the Almighty. (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Revelation 18:2 He cried with a mighty voice, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, and she has become a habitation of demons, a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird! (WEB WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Leviticus 17:7 And they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices unto demons, after whom they go a whoring. This shall be an everlasting statute unto them for their generations. (DBY NAS)
Deuteronomy 32:17 They sacrificed to demons, which were no God, to gods that they didn't know, to new gods that came up of late, which your fathers didn't dread. (WEB JPS ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Psalms 106:37 Yes, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons. (WEB JPS ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)