Magic, Witches, the Occult and The Bible

As an elementary education educator, I am frequently asked, “Should children read Harry Potter?”  My answer is, “With Care.”  I have had parents who were very concerned because of C.S. Lewis’ use of witches and magic in his children’s books.  Magic, witches, and the occult are related to power and control.  People turn to them because they want to manipulate their environment and those around them.  Children are usually those who have the least power in a society and that is why they love magical stories.  By means of a ring or a magic torch or an invisibility cloak ordinary people are shown to be capable of extraordinary feats.  This means that they have power.

In the Bible, God wishes for everyone to be subject to him and then he empowers his servants to do his will.  Those who do not rely on God turn to money, interpersonal relationships or even magic to manipulate their world.  Saul turned to God first, but God would not be manipulated.  Because of God’s seeming silence Saul turned to a witch.  The witch did not give him any news that helped him for the coming conflict with the Philistines.  In fact the news of Saul’s defeat could be seen as self-fulfilling.  Samuel telling Saul of his destruction could have led to his destruction.  Those who mess with the occult do not mess with a force that is for good.  It may offer power and influence for a while, but the forces behind witchcraft and wizardry delight in destruction.

So, why read Harry Potter at all?  Harry Potter has positive values embedded in it and the wirchcraft and wizardy are fantastical.  It is not supposed that the readers will emulate Harry in trying to fly on a broom or ‘stupefy’ an adversary.  It is supposed that they will emulate Harry in his loyalty and bravery.  To enable a child to process the occultic elements in books effectively, it is good for a parent to preview what their children read and also to model critical reading with their children.  Those who refuse to process such books with their children give their children no skills to process myth and fantasy.

1 Samuel 28

1In those days the Philistines gathered their forces to fight against Israel. Achish said to David, “You must understand that you and your men will accompany me in the army.”

 2David said, “Then you will see for yourself what your servant can do.”

   Achish replied, “Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life.”

Saul and the Medium at Endor

 3Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah. Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land.

 4 The Philistines assembled and came and set up camp at Shunem, while Saul gathered all Israel and set up camp at Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. 6 He inquired of the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. 7Saul then said to his attendants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.”

   “There is one in Endor,” they said.

 8So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. “Consult a spirit for me,” he said, “and bring up for me the one I name.”

 9But the woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?”

 10Saul swore to her by the LORD, “As surely as the LORD lives, you will not be punished for this.”

 11Then the woman asked, “Whom shall I bring up for you?”

   “Bring up Samuel,” he said.

 12When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!”

 13The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid. What do you see?”

   The woman said, “I see a ghostly figure[a]coming up out of the earth.”

 14“What does he look like?” he asked.

   “An old man wearing a robe is coming up,” she said.

   Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.

 15Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”

   “I am in great distress,” Saul said. “The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has departed from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do.”

 16 Samuel said, “Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has departed from you and become your enemy? 17 The LORD has done what he predicted through me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. 18 Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today. 19The LORD will deliver both Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.”

 20Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, filled with fear because of Samuel’s words. His strength was gone, for he had eaten nothing all that day and all that night.

 21 When the woman came to Saul and saw that he was greatly shaken, she said, “Look, your servant has obeyed you. I took my life in my hands and did what you told me to do. 22Now please listen to your servant and let me give you some food so you may eat and have the strength to go on your way.”

 23He refused and said, “I will not eat.”

   But his men joined the woman in urging him, and he listened to them. He got up from the ground and sat on the couch.

 24 The woman had a fattened calf at the house, which she butchered at once. She took some flour, kneaded it and baked bread without yeast. 25 Then she set it before Saul and his men, and they ate. That same night they got up and left.

Questions

  1. What motivated Saul to consult a medium?
  2. What did Samuel tell Saul?
  3. Do you think that Samuel was really Samuel?  What did Saul gain from consulting him?
  4. How do people dabble in the occult these days?
  5. What results do people get from the occult?
  6. Should people read Harry Potter?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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14 Responses to Magic, Witches, the Occult and The Bible

  1. Rebecca Langer says:

    1.What motivated Saul to consult a medium?
    He was stressed because Samuel was dead and he didn’t know what else to do.
    2.What did Samuel tell Saul?
    He told him that his kingdom was being ripped from him and that he and his sons would be killed.
    3.Do you think that Samuel was really Samuel? What did Saul gain from consulting him?
    I am not sure. It could easily have been a demon. He found out that he was going to die. Doesn’t seem like much of a gain to me.
    4.How do people dabble in the occult these days?
    They liked the power that they gathered from it.
    5.What results do people get from the occult?
    They get into tons of trouble, and they get a lot more than they were asking for.
    6.Should people read Harry Potter?
    I read it and it did not pervert me. I would say that for children they should be a little bit older before reading it, especially because the books get pretty grim at the end. I don’t think they should be absolutelu prohibitted though.

  2. Sokloon Dy says:

    1. When he had learned that the Lord does not answer him anymore. Also, he did not know what to do now that Samuel is dead.
    2. The counterfeit Samuel told Saul of his destruction.
    3. I don’t think that was really Samuel. I think it was an evil spirit.
    6. I agree with you that they can and should read it “with care.”

  3. Kendalle says:

    1. What motivated Saul to consult a medium?

    Saul did not have a course of action after Samuel died therefore he took it up on himself to do whatever he has felt to do.
    2. What did Samuel tell Saul?

    The told him the the Kingdom will no longer be his to rule over.
    3. Do you think that Samuel was really Samuel? What did Saul gain from consulting him?
    I don’t know if it was actually Samuel but Humans are extremely evil and compilable of anything.
    4. How do people dabble in the occult these days?

    There are many powers in Demons and people enjoy being lead by them. Even at Moody.
    5. What results do people get from the occult?
    They gain power in the center of darkness.
    6. Should people read Harry Potter?
    “With Care”

  4. Melisa Guiles says:

    1. Saul consulted a medium because every other way that he tried to hear from the Lord had failed.
    2. He told Saul that his kingdom had been given to David and that the Israelites would be defeated. In this defeat, Saul and his sons would die.
    3. I am not sure if it was really Samuel, although I think it could have been. Saul gained the information he wanted from it because he found out what would happen to the nation of Israel and to his family.
    4. There are so many ways to do this today. There are those that get into wicka and those that go around saying that they are witches and wizards.
    5. They are able to consult with spirits of sorts, but they are demons.
    6. I read Harry Potter and really enjoyed them. However, I think it depends on the maturity of the reader. They are definitely not books that should be read by a young audience. The reader needs to have the maturity to recognize that the things that seem all fun and games in the story are actually serious things in really life that have serious dangers to them.

  5. Amy Kringle says:

    1. Because God didn’t answer him/wasn’t on his side anynmore
    2. That the kingdom had been taken out of his hands b/c he didn’t fear the Lord.
    3. No.
    4. ouija boards, horoscopes, wicka, some fantasy games
    5. temporary satisfaction from having power over others or “control” over their own lives, but eventually it leads them closer to following evil instead of good, and will bring destruction on themselves
    6. Like you were saying, there needs to be critical reading going on and parental influence or a mature enough background that brings out good and evil in the books. I think it is actually helpful to engage with what much of the rest of the world is engaging in but deal with it froma biblical standpoint.

  6. Jessica Gentry says:

    1. Saul was motivated to consult a medium because the Lord had left him and he was afraid of the Philistines.
    2. Samuel said, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”
    3. I think that Samuel was possible really Samuel, becuase though God does not want us to use those “magical” ways of seeking truth, but that does not mean he cannot still come through in these ways, and I think that is what he does here. Saul gained wisdom from Samuel about what the Lord’s purposes were, and how it was wrong of him to consult him in that way.
    4. People dabble in occult these days through all sorts of stuff like vudo, and seeing a psychic, or fortune teller.
    5. Some people get real results, but it is not because of magic rather becuase of the Spiritual authorities, like demons.
    6. I think it is ok to read Harry Potter, as long as you read with care and discernment.

  7. Cassie Clark says:

    1.He was distressed and desperate because of the dire circumstances.
    2.In essence, “What did you think would happen? You disobeyed the Lord!”
    3.I am not sure if it was Samuel. His words validated the truth and what the Lord had told him. But they were not anything new; Saul should have known what was coming.
    4.It’s scary but I know people who have dabbled in the occult.
    5.It only brings destruction.
    6.I don’t it is wrong. Like everything, it should be critically assessed.

  8. Sandra Tindle says:

    1. Saul consulted a medium because God didn’t answer him in a way that he wanted.
    2. Samuel told Saul that God took the kingdom from Saul and gave it to David, since Saul did not follow God’s ways.
    3. Samuel was a spirit. Saul didn’t gain anything except reassurance that he had lost the kingdom because he didn’t follow God.
    4. People dabble with the occult by consulting mediums, witches, and all of the tools and things that they do.
    5. People usually get bad or weird results.
    6. People should read Harry Potter.

  9. Moon Jung Kim says:

    1.What motivated Saul to consult a medium? God had not answered to Saul
    2.What did Samuel tell Saul? God took the kingdom from Saul and gave it to David
    3.Do you think that Samuel was really Samuel? What did Saul gain from consulting him?…. I am not sure…. I want to say no. but i am not sure… Saul gained hopelessness
    4.How do people dabble in the occult these days? some people dabble with the occult through fortunetelling, bringing spirits…
    5.What results do people get from the occult? only God knows about the future. But about present evil spirits also can answer. because of this, people
    are manipulated as they think the spirit know even about the future, which is not true!
    6.Should people read Harry Potter? i don’t think reading Harry Potter is wrong as what we watch movies is not wrong.

  10. [ED2203-01] HyeJin Lee says:

    1.What motivated Saul to consult a medium?
    – No answers from God
    2.What did Samuel tell Saul?
    – Samuel scorned Saul for bringing him up and not obeying God until the end.
    3.Do you think that Samuel was really Samuel? What did Saul gain from consulting him?
    – I think it was Samuel because later on in this chapter, the spirit that came out of the ground was described as Samuel. (It could have been written as “A spirit”, but it was written as “Samuel”)

    4.How do people dabble in the occult these days?
    – People dabble in the occult by visiting mediums and asking their future.
    5.What results do people get from the occult?
    – typical type of future, not specific.
    6.Should people read Harry Potter?
    – Yes, with care 😀

  11. Kristin Goffinet says:

    1) the Philistines were about to fight against Isreal and Samuel was dead, so he couldn’t consult him.
    2) He told him that the Spirit of God had been taken from him, and God was going to bring the judgment he predicted and Saul and his sons would die in battle.
    3) I actually think it was Samuel. I think God allowed this medium to actually bring Samuel up to show his power and remind Saul that what He prophecied was going to take place. Saul didn’t gain much by consulting the medium.
    4) People still put thier trust in horoscopes and dabble with wigi boards and satanic things today.
    5) Satan has some power, so unfortunately they will get some results, although they may be decepive.
    6) I haven’t read Harry Potter, so I really can’t say.

  12. Kristen Patush says:

    1.What motivated Saul to consult a medium?

    God was not answering him.

    2.What did Samuel tell Saul?

    He would die in battle.

    3.Do you think that Samuel was really Samuel? What did Saul gain from consulting him?

    I think it very well could have been. God could have allowed it.

    4.How do people dabble in the occult these days?

    wigi boards, tara cards, demonic movies and music, ect.

    5.What results do people get from the occult?

    demonized

    6.Should people read Harry Potter?

    I would agree with you. Read “with care”.

  13. HeeJin,Choi says:

    1.What motivated Saul to consult a medium?
    – Saul inquired of a medium because God kept silent in answering Saul.
    2.What did Samuel tell Saul?
    – What Saul had been going through resulted from what Saul had done- disobeying the Lord.
    3.Do you think that Samuel was really Samuel? What did Saul gain from consulting him?
    – Saul gained fear by clarifying the ultimate cause of all the circumstances.
    4.How do people dabble in the occult these days?
    – In Asia people still consult mediums to foresee the future such as future spouses or dates; career and so on.
    5.What results do people get from the occult?
    – some get comforts and others get worries.
    6.Should people read Harry Potter?
    – it is fine as long as readers have a discernment of fantasy or real life.

  14. Grace Yoo says:

    1. Since God was giving no response, Paul decided to consult a medium.

    2. Samuel told Saul that God took the kingdom from Saul and gave it to David,

    3. Yes, I do believe that it was Samuel and Saul gained fear from talking to Samuel.

    4. People dabble in the occult these days with ouija boards, seeking tarot cards, and psychics.

    5. I think that it is okay to read Harry Potter as long as they don’t believe in that stuff.

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