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Deuteronomy 18

Deuteronomy 18:9-14

9. When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.

9. Quum tu ingressus fueris in terram quam Jehova Deus tuus dat tibi, ne discas ad faciendum secundum abominationes gentium istarum.

10. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,

10. Non inveniatur in medio tui qui tradueat filium suum, (ad verbum, Transire faciat,) vel filiam suam per ignem, qui divinet divinationes, augur, magus, et incantator,

11. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.

11. Colligans colligationes, consulens Pythonem, prognostes, (vel, ariolus,) et qui sciscitatur a mortuis.

12. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee.

12. Abominatio enim est Jehovae quisquis facit haec, et propter abo. minationes istas evellit cos Jehova Deus tuus a facie tua.

13. Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God.

13. Integer eris cum Jehova Deo tuo.

14. For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the Lord thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.

14. Nam gentes istae quas tu obtinebis attentae sunt ad prognostas (vel, ariolos) et ad divinos: quod ad to, non ita permisit tibi Jehova Dens tuus.

9. When thou art come. It is too well known from experience how eagerly the human race lays hold of bad examples, and how prone it is to imitate them. Especially those who come into a foreign land, accustom themselves readily to its manners and customs. This is the reason why God expressly commands the Israelites to beware, lest, when they come into the land of Canaan, they should catch any infection from its inhabitants. The doctrine, indeed, is universal in its application; but there was a necessity for providing against the danger which immediately impended. Moreover, Moses explains clearly in this passage what it is to have other gods, viz., to mix up the worship of God with things profane, since its purity is only thus maintained by banishing from it all uncongenial superstitions. The sum, therefore, is, that the people of God should abstain from all the inventions of men, whereby pure and simple religion is adulterated. In general, God wished to deter His worshippers from every fallacy whereby, from the beginning, Satan has deluded and fascinated miserable men; but He enumerates certain particular points, which by usage and custom had obtained the greatest prevalence. But in order that God’s purpose may be more apparent, it is expedient to observe what it is that displeases Him in these vices which He condemns. Since men have a natural desire after knowledge, even in the superstitious this has always proceeded from a good principle, inasmuch as God has implanted it in the minds of all, when He would distinguish our race from the lower animals. Neither in this was there anything to be reprehended, that men, being conscious of their own ignorance, conceived that they were to obtain knowledge in no other way than by consulting God. Now this was the sole object of the Gentiles when they inquired of their magicians and sorcerers, to seek from heaven that knowledge of which they perceived themselves to be destitute. Thus they undoubtedly confessed themselves to be overwhelmed with darkness, and that the light of understanding was the special gift of God. Whence also came the name of divination, because they were persuaded that secret things were not within the compass of human apprehension, but that this knowledge must come from divine inspiration. But since by his machinations the devil perverts what is right in itself, these principles implanted in us, as I have said, by nature, have been corrupted by two errors, for both an immoderate desire of knowing more than is lawful has crept into our minds, and then we have had recourse to illicit means of knowledge. From these sources, viz., foolish curiosity and unrestrained temerity or audacity, all the superstitions and errors have flowed whereby the world has been assailed. Therefore does God, by forbidding magical arts, introduce a remedy for these two diseases, which arts were perversely invented that they might search out and bring to light things which He had chosen to conceal. For the best rule of knowledge is sobriety, that it may suffice us to know as much as is expedient for us. The lust of men has carried them deeper, so that they have desired to penetrate into all the most profound secrets. But the second error on which I have touched is much worse, that they should have sought by improper means to discover hidden things. We shall soon see that God also has foretold things to come by his servants; but no further than He knew to be profitable, and only with this object, to make it manifest that He exercises special care for His church. But since men’s curiosity is insatiable, they do not consider what is useful for them, but, like Adam, desire to “be as gods,” and to know all things without exception. When God indulges not these improper desires, they address themselves to the devil, the father of lies, still, however, as I have stated, under the false disguise of God’s name. This is the origin of all the vanities whereby the world has ever been entangled. I now descend to particulars.

10. There shall not be found among you. This horrible and altogether monstrous infatuation, whereby the Gentiles had been possessed, afterwards invaded the Jews also, that they should immolate and even burn their children in honor of the gods to which they had devoted themselves; although it is probable that the greater part of them were not inflamed by such an excess of madness, but satisfied their superstition more easily, by merely making their children to pass through the fire. This was with them a kind of lustration to purge away all filthiness. But their cruel zeal impelled many of them even to murder, so as not even to spare their own flesh and blood. Yet in this they pleaded the example of Abraham, as if there were any similarity between the obedience of that holy man who, led by God’s command, was ready to slay his son Isaac, and this barbarous act of violence in people who, though God prohibited and gainsaid, murdered their children. Yet in this horrible spectacle we perceive how much more fervently men engage in impious rites which their own temerity has dictated, than in efforts to worship God aright, when He openly and expressly enjoins them the thing that is good. This, indeed, ought to be the first care of parents to consecrate their children to God; but the only rite of initiation for the Jews was circumcision, and with this they should have been content. Moses then enumerates the various kinds of divination to which the heathen nations were addicted, in order to satisfy their foolish desire to know more than was lawful. I do not, however, disapprove of the view which some prefer,282282     In observing that some choose to say that Moses first uses a general term for all soothsayers, and then proceeding to describe particular classes of them, C. is following S. M’s note on קסם קסמים; where the latter has said, “Alii putant esse generale vocabulum ad omnium divinationum species.” The verb seems to be so used in 1 Samuel 28:8, where A. V. renders it divine. W. that the generic term is first used, and the various species are then subjoined. I shall explain these briefly, and not waste time in refuting particular opinions, although it is evident that even some of the rabbis are grossly mistaken about them. The word מעונן,283283     The next term, מעונן, S. M. has explained as derived from ענן, a cloud, or its radical verb. Some have chosen to regard it rather as derived from ענן, to watch; but C. must have learnt from some other source that there are critics who derive it from מעון, a place of habitation. — W magnonen, I willingly admit to be derived from (a word signifying) clouds; and therefore it may properly mean augurs, or judicial astrologers. There are some who are rather of opinion that its root is מגון, magnon, which in Hebrew means a place; and this etymology would not badly suit the fanatics who divine all things from the position of the stars, and assign their stations both to the planets and the signs of the zodiac for their respective aspects. At any rate this is fully agreed, that auguries, as well as frivolous observations of the stars, are here condemned, when men, in their preposterous curiosity, suppose all events and circumstances to be under the dominion of the stars. The word which follows מנחש,284284     מנהש. That this term here means some kind of diviner is certain; but the root is used in an inoffensive sense for making diligent search; and the best critics are now generally agreed that it ought to have been so understood and rendered in Genesis 44:5, where S. M. has acknowledged (in his note on the present passage)that it is used for sciscitari rem occultam, notwithstanding his having there rendered it auguratur. W. menachesh, means a diviner or soothsayer, (ariolum,) which sufficiently appears from Genesis 44:5, where Joseph pretends that he divined by his cup, because it was commonly believed that he possessed the art of soothsaying; and hence the name has been given to serpents on account of their subtlety. Some interpret the word מכשף,285285     מכשף. The explanation here given is from S. M. — W. mekasheph, a juggler, (praestigiatorem,) one who dazzles and deceives the eyes by optical illusions. Next follows the fifth286286     חבר חבר. The root signifies to join, or combine. How it came to mean enchanting, which it does in Syriac and Arabic, as well as in Hebrew, remains disputable. The explanation disliked by C. he had found in S. M.; that which follows is his own. — W term, which I have translated “tying knots,” (colligans colligationes,) whereby some understand enchanters, who by magic arts gather together serpents into one place. But this, in my judgment, is a poor explanation, and I, therefore, rather agree with those who conceive the calling together of evil spirits to be alluded to. But since it may be correctly translated “collecting, or gathering an assembly,” I do not altogether reject the opinion of others, that it relates to those imaginary assemblies, to which unhappy men, whom the devil has bewitched, fancy themselves to be transported to feast and dance together, and to join in wicked conspiracies, and which are commonly called “synagogues.” In the sixth word there is no ambiguity, whereby the people are forbidden to consult a spirit of Python; for thus may we properly render the Hebrew אוב,287287     שאל אוב, S.M., Consulens pythonem. By saying that the Greeks have rendered אוב, Pythonem, C. would naturally lead his readers to suppose that the LXX. had done so, whereas, both in the Pentateuch and in I Samuel 28, where the Hebrew has an interrogator of אוב, the LXX. has ἐγγαστρίμυθος, a ventriloquist. The word אוב is allowed to mean properly a water-bottle, and its gurgling sound; and, from this last, a ventriloquist. It is obvious that Luke cannot be correctly spoken of as translating a Hebrew phrase when he was relating in Greek what the Greeks said of a person possessed by an evil spirit. — W ob, as St. Luke, a faithful and competent interpreter, has done, when he relates that a spirit of Python was cast out of the damsel at the command of Paul, (Acts 16:16;) and sometimes the Scripture calls these by the name of אובות, oboth, who allure evil spirits to give replies, of which deception a remarkable example is given in sacred history, (1 Samuel 28:7,) in the case of the witch (Pythonissa) who shewed Saul Samuel, although dead. The Greeks have translated the word Python, because the delusions of Apollo Pythius were particularly famous. The seventh class (Ang., wizards) is ידעני,288288     ידעני, from ידע, he knew. This word had previously been used by Moses in Leviticus 20:27, where S. M. has said the Jews affirm that there were conjurers who put between their teeth the mouth of a certain animal called ידוע, and speak wonderful things through it. They add a wonderful fable, etc. The LXX. has ἐπάοιδος, an enchanter, in Leviticus, and its equivalent here. — W yadgnoni, which may correctly be translated gnostics, or knowers; for I make no doubt that they adopted this honorable name for purposes of deceit, which is by no means an uncommon practice with impostors. Thus the Genethliacs, and others like them, vaunted themselves to be mathematicians. This is the craft of Satan to steal the respectable names of virtues and good things, and to make them a covering for his lies, as, for instance, he gave the name of wise men to the Chaldean and Egyptian impostors; and thus, since the Prophets are called seers, he set against them the vain prognostications of false prophets, to astonish the minds of the simple. 289289     Omitted in Fr. “The Hebrews describe him thus, that ‘he put into his mouth a bone of a certain bird called Jaduaugh, and burned incense, and did other works, until he fell down as with shame, (or, modestie,) and spake with his mouth things that were to come to pass’ Maim. Treat. of Idolatry,.ch, 6, sect. 2.” Ainsworth in loco. For to derive, as some do, this word from a certain bird, is too childish a conjecture; and I wonder that in such a plain matter they have been led so utterly astray, whilst they waste their acuteness upon nothing. Finally, necromancy290290     דרש אל-המתים, one who seeks to the dead, (compare last clause of Isaiah 8:19;) a necromancer. is condemned, i.e., the deceitful and delusive science of prophesying upon the answers of the dead, which some improperly restrict to those who sleep among tombs, in order to hear in their sleep the dead speaking, because foolish men have in many ways endeavored to obtain communications from the dead. But, let us learn from this passage, with how many monstrous and ridiculous fascinations Satan, whenever God loosens the chain by which he is bound, is able to bewitch unhappy men; and how great, power to deceive the father of lies obtains from the just vengeance of God, for the purpose of blinding unbelievers. As to the notion which some conceited persons entertain, that all these things are fabulous and absurd, it arises from inconsideration and presumption, because they do not reflect how severe a judgment is merited by those who wilfully extinguish the light and enwrap themselves in darkness. For God’s truth is too precious to Him, for Him to suffer it to be rejected with impunity. Certainly it would be an impudent blasphemy to deny that magical arras were ever practiced, since thus would God be accused of inadvertency, as though He had legislated291291     “Fait des loix frivoles et superflues;” passed frivolous and superfluous laws. — Fr. respecting things which did not exist. The objection that is made of its being absurd thus too highly to extol the power of Satan, as if he had the control of prophecies, which God claims for Himself alone, and as if he could cause the living to converse with the dead and change the forms of things, admits of an easy solution. With respect to vaticinations, there is no necessity for a subtle discussion as to how Satan can foreknow secret things, (on which point, as it seems to me, Augustine troubled himself too anxiously,) for this is a labor of supererogation, if we recollect that by God’s just judgment a certain kind of vaticination is permitted to the devils, in order more and more to deceive unbelievers, as will be more fully treated of elsewhere. Meanwhile, we know that unbelievers were mocked with292292     “Par circuits et responses a deux ententes;” by circuitous and ambiguous answers. — Fr. ambiguous responses by all the oracles of false gods, and at length discovered from the event that they had been beguiled by deadly artifices; and, therefore, in Isaiah 41:23, God justly charges every idol with ignorance of futurity. Yet this does not prevent Satan from revealing certain hidden matters, by the prediction of which he may ensnare, as by a bait, the reprobate. I admit, indeed, that in progress of time the Roman augurs abandoned the study of their art, and abused the credulity of the lower orders by nothing but gross fictions; but if in former times Satan had not led even the most sharp-sighted into error by this artifice, Xenophon,293293     Homme de jugement. Fr. the disciple of Socrates, would not have so often mentioned among the chief praises of Cyrus,294294     See, for example, at the end of the 1st Book of the Cyropaedia, the advice of Cyaxares: Μάθε δὲ μς, ὦ παῖ, καὶ τάδε, ἔφη, τὰ μέγιςα· Παρὰ γὰρ ἱερὰ, καὶ οἰωνοὺς μήτ ᾿ ἐν σαυτῷ μηδέποτε μηδ ᾿ ἐν τὣ στρατιᾷ κινδυνεῦσὟς, κατανοὼν ὡς ἄνθρωποι μὲν αἱροῦνται πράξεις εἰκάβοντες, εἰδότες δὲ οὐδὲν ἀπὸ ποίας ἔςαι αὐτοῖς τἀγαθόν· κ. τ. λ. that he was devoted to augury, and had learnt to be so from his father. Finally, the experience of all ages teaches us that men of depraved curiosity have often received from Satan, by means of magicians, a knowledge of things which could not have been obtained naturally. As to the actual operations of Satan, whether he raises the dead, or bewitches men and beasts, or invests any substances with new forms through enchantment, we must consider that whatever miracles he appears to work are mere delusions; and, since he is the father of darkness, it is clear he has no power except upon unbelievers, whose minds are darkened, so as not to distinguish black from white. Yet we have already seen how Pharaoh’s magicians rivalled Moses in their miracles. Wherefore we need not wonder if, by God’s permission, he should disturb the elements, or afflict the reprobate with diseases and other evils, or present phantoms to their sight. On this account we should more earnestly implore of God to restrain from us an enemy armed against us with so many destructive arts.

12. For all that do these things are an abomination. First, he would have the authority of God act as a rein to guide them; and then sets before them that vengeance which they were soon about to see inflicted upon the heathen, nay, of which they were themselves to be the executioners and ministers. For since it could not be a matter of the slightest doubt, but that the inhabitants of the land of Canaan were rooted out from their peaceful habitations only by God’s hand, he assigns as the cause of this destruction that they had polluted themselves and their country by these blasphemous and abominable superstitions. By this striking example, then, he deters them from imitating the sins which facts themselves shewed to be thus severely punished. Thus Paul admonishes believers to seek diligently to avoid the sins which provoke God’s wrath against the disobedient. (Ephesians 5:6.)

13. Thou shalt be perfect. He refers to the mutual obligation of that holy covenant whereby as on the one side He had pledged Himself to the Jews, so on the other He had made them His debtors, not to prostitute themselves to idols, or to hanker after strange religions, whereby men’s minds are led astray. This perfectness, then, is opposed to all those mixtures or corruptions which withdraw us from the sincere worship of the one true God; because the simplicity which retains us in obedience to heavenly teaching, is that spiritual chastity which God requires in His Church. The context of the passage proves this with sufficient clearness, viz., that God would restrain the Jews from all licentiousness, so that being devoted to His service, they should not look this way or that way, nor be carried away by vanity and instability, but constantly abide in the pure worship which He had prescribed to them. For this reason Paul declares that he is jealous for Christ; and because he had “espoused” the Corinthians to Christ, he feared “lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve, through his subtlety,” so being ensnared by the wiles of impostors, they should fall “from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2.)

14. For these nations. As God had just before been setting before them the punishment He was about to inflict upon these nations, in order to alarm and warn them, so now does he admonish them that the inheritance was handed over to them on this condition, that they should be mindful of so great a benefit, and beware of all pollutions; and that they succeeded the former inhabitants of the land, with a view to their being separate from them; for whence was this change, except that God might acquire to Himself a new people, and purify the land from all its defilements? Although He only mentions two classes of superstitions, yet thus, by synecdoche, He indicates them all. The sum is, that they should not be like the nations in vices and corruptions, which had been the cause of their destruction; since God had not only exterminated the men themselves, but their abominable rites also. Some divide the latter part of the verse into two clauses, “but thou shalt not do so;” and then, “Jehovah gives you the land,” which last word they supply. But I do not hesitate to think that the pronoun אתה, athah, must be thus rendered, “But as for thee;” and then I think it must be read continuously, “God hath not suffered thee to do so,” for the word נתן, nathan, is of extensive signification. The tendency of the whole is, that the prohibition of God should be of more weight with them than the example of the nations.

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