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What the Bible says about "magic"

Some say there is "no harm" in doing a little magic "as entertainment" and that if you reveal the illusion afterward, it can be used as a "teaching moment" for God and for life, in general. But is this really true?

At a recent family dinner gathering in a local restaurant, one of the fathers performed a few simple magic tricks for the little children present. All the families at this get-together were the typical "good Christian people", and their children were being raised in good homes. But what what stuck out was God certainly wasn't being honored with this "magic" nonsense. Why? Because we are told in various ways throughout Scripture that God hates deception of any kind!

The children watching this "magician" were wide-eyed with wonder, ecstatic, totally mesmerized over this man who sat there beaming with pride as his tricks accomplished the intent - to give the impression that he had some mysterious "powers."

The result was this: Each child present, witnessing the "magic", was taken ever so slightly further away from God - even though this was not the magician's intent. Please read on and you'll see what we are trying to convey....

The dictionary defines magic as "the art of producing illusions by the use of sleight of hand, deceptive devices, etc." Another is this: "the art of producing a desired effect or result through the use of incantation or various other techniques that presumably assure human control of supernatural agencies or the forces of nature." So the magician misleads the audience into believing that he/she has some sort of control of supernatural mystical power to make things disappear and reappear, or that they can "cut a person in half" or "pull a coin from your ear". It's deception - plain and simple.

The question is: Does Yahweh, God, condone deception? Is He okay with a little "sleight of hand"? Magic, for entertainment purposes, is not expressly forbidden in Scripture. However, we are told that any form of the deceptive arts is forbidden:

Deuteronomy 18:10 There must not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through fire, a diviner, a soothsayer, an enchanter, a sorcerer, 11 a spell-caster, a consulter of ghosts or spirits, or a necromancer. 12 For whoever does these things is detestable to YAHWEH, and because of these abominations YAHWEH your God is driving them out ahead of you. 13 You must be wholehearted with YAHWEH your God.

Magic is involved in each of the deceptions listed in verses 10 and 11. True, they are particularly egregious deceptions because they involve the "dark" arts and the occult, but they are described as an "abomination" to God and this should reveal something to you about Him! Is simple "magic" as performed today to be considered "equal" to these forms of deception listed in Deuteronomy and be "forbidden"? Well, in Acts 8, there is an illustration of a man who was practicing magic:

Acts 8: 4. And they who scattered traveled and preached the Word of Elohim. 5. Now Peleepos went down to a city of the Samaritans and he preached to them concerning Meshikha, 6. And men, who when they heard his word there, heeded him and were persuaded by all that he said because they saw the signs that he did. 7. For many who seized unclean spirits, cried out in a loud voice, and they went out from them. And others, paralytics and lame were healed. 8. And a great joy was there in that city. 9. Now there was a certain man there whose name (was) Simon who lived in that city a long time. And deceived the people of Samaria by his sorcery while magnifying himself and saying, "I am great!" 10. And they were praying towards him, all of them great and small. And they said, "This is the great power of Elohim." 11. And they persuaded him, all of them, because a long time ago he had persuaded them with his sorceries.

Let's stop here for a moment to discuss this.

Simon was using magic to appear to be somebody great. This is what magic is for, even today. It provides the illusion that the magician is somebody great. David Blaine, Doug Henning, David Copperfield and many others come to mind. Magic provides the appearance of having a "power" beyond anyone else's ability. And even today, the magician develops a "following" - "because he can amaze with his magic" - just as in this story of Simon. Let's continue....

Acts 8:12. But when they believed Pileepos who had preached the Kingdom of Elohim in the name of our Master Y'shua haMashiyach, they immersed, men and women. 13. And even Simon, he believed and was immersed and adhered to Pileepos. And when he saw the great signs and miracles that occurred by his hand, he was amazed and he marveled. 14. And when the Shlichim who were in Urishlim heard that the people of Samaria had received the Word of Elohim, they sent Shimon Keefa and Yochanan to them. 15. And they went down and prayed over them that they might receive the Ruach haKodesh. 16. For it was not upon one of them yet. They were only immersed now in the name of our Master Y'shua. 17. Then they placed a hand upon them and they received the Ruach haKodesh.

18. And when Simon saw that by the placing of a hand of the Shlichim the Ruach haKodesh was given, he offered silver to them, 19. Saying, "Give to me also this authority that whomever (that) I place a hand upon, he will receive the Ruach haKodesh." 20. Shimon Keefa said to him, "Your silver will go with you to destruction because you thought that the gift of Elohim could be obtained with the goods of the world. 21. You have no part or portion in this faith because your heart is not straight before Elohim. 22. But repent of this your evil and beseech (from) Elohim. Perhaps you will be forgiven the deceit of your heart. 23. For I see that you are in bitter anger and in the bonds of iniquity."

We have Simon practicing magic so he can deceive and "claim to be somebody great", and he comes to believe in the Good News of the Kingdom of God and the name of Yeshua the Messiah! This is what the emissaries were doing in Samaria - trying to spread the Word (verse 4). We see Simon is even immersed - that is, he was baptized! But notice that he and the others in Samaria, though they had been immersed, did not receive the Ruach.

You see, the nation of Samaria was evil (as we see in verses 4-7). The nation of Samaria was known to Jerusalem and it was thought to be hopeless. If you paid attention to verse 14-15 you saw that when Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent Kefa and Yochanan to Samaria to find those who were ready for the Ruach.

We also learn from these verses, though it is not part of this discussion, that simply being immersed, or baptized, is not enough! Go back and look at Deuteronomy 18:13 which says "You must be wholehearted with YAHWEH your God!" Baptism is a pointless, outward act if the recipient is not "wholehearted with YAHWEH", and is truly ready to receive the Ruach!

Simon was not wholehearted; he instead wanted to "buy" the power to infuse people with the Ruach haKodesh at his will - clearly as part of his "show." But the Apostle Kefa recognized him for what he was - a charlatan, a deceiver only trying to use the power of God for his own gain. Kefa tells the magician, "Your heart is crooked and you are completely under the control of sin."

So in this example, can we see anything positive about magic? Did Kefa say "Aw, Simon, you are a great magician, and real good at fooling people, so here, let me touch you and give you the Ruach!" No! Instead, Kefa sent Simon on his way - remember Deuteronomy 18:10? "There must not be found among you anyone who is doing detestable things."

You see, magic is a deception, which brings glory to the magician, not God, and no deception can be wrapped in sugar and made to be good. Magic makes the magician seem powerful while at the same time allowing him to glorify himself in the eyes of others. No one deserves glory but the Creator and the Mashiyach (Messiah). And this is why today, magic should not be practiced or accepted in our communities.

Yes, we can argue that the Bible never expressly forbids magic. But if we truly understood Yahweh and his instructions on how to live via His Torah, which was given to all believers, we would recognize that magic is one of those detestable things Yahweh finds to be an abomination. And face it, though magic is defined only as a "deception" or "sleight of hand", it is actually a lie. You are lying about your abilities and misleading your audience. And if you are lying, practicing your magic, are you "wholehearted" toward YAHWEH?

Proverbs 11:20 says: "The crooked-hearted are an abomination to YAHWEH."

Proverbs 12:22 says: "Lying lips are an abomination to YAHWEH."

The bottom line is, we cannot know the truth and perform or accept magic in our midst. Magic is not something a godly person does. Consider this: Yeshua threw deceivers (the money-changers) out of the Temple. The apostles sent Simon on his way for glorifying himself and would not even consider him for receiving the Ruach....

Those practicing magic arts are "blackening their hearts" and darkening the hearts of others. In fact Paul in his letter to Rome said:

Romans 1:18-21: "For the wrath of Elohim from heaven is revealed against all the iniquity and wickedness of men who hold the truth in iniquity. Because a knowledge of Elohim is manifest in them; for Elohim has manifested it in them. For, from the foundations of the world, the hidden things of Elohim are seen by the mind in the things he created even his eternal power and divinity, so that they might be without excuse. Because they knew Elohim and did not glorify him and give thanks to him as Elohim, but became vain in their imaginings and their unwise heart was darkened." (AENT)

Return now to those "wide-eyed" children at the family dinner. The “magician” beamed with pride as he completed his tricks and indeed it presented the impression he had some “power” the children did not have. So who was glorified? Did the children grow closer to God? Did the “magician” explain that what they just saw was false and misleading and that the glory they gave him should instead be given to God? Of course not. Even if he did, would the children really understand that their wide-eyes had been deceived and that they had been tricked into glorifying the magician? No – each of them were amazed, and each wanted to learn to perform the tricks themselves. The result was this: Each child present, witnessing the “magic”, was taken ever so slightly further from God. This is what darkening of the heart means. Magic darkens hearts.