What is Divination? Meaning and Bible Examples

Discover the biblical meaning and stories of divination as scripture warns about the consequences of seeking wisdom from spiritual sources other than God.

Christianity.com Editorial Staff
divination, divination meaning, divination definition

Divination Definition

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Divination is “the art or practice that seeks to foresee or foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge usually by the interpretation of omens or by the aid of supernatural powers.”

As defined by Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Divination is the communication with a deity for the purpose of determining the deity's knowledge, resulting in a clarification of a decision or discernment of the future. Two forms of divination developed in the ancient Near East, one using inductive manipulation of natural or human phenomena and the other taking intuitive forms of inner revelation.

Origin of Divination

The term “divination” originates from Latin divinare "to foresee, to foretell, to predict, to prophesy" related to divinus, divine, or "to be inspired by a god." Divination is the effort to obtain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic, standardized process, or ritual. To engage in divination is to reveal mysterious knowledge by supernatural practices. It is correlated with the occult and involves fortune-telling or soothsaying, as it used to be called.

Bible Meaning of Divination

The Bible provides God’s judgment of divination in Deuteronomy 18:10: “There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer.” Furthermore, 1 Samuel 15:23 likens rebellion to the “sin of divination,” saying, “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king."

Divination and Israel’s Exile

Practicing divination is noted as one of the reasons for Israel’s exile as 2 Kings 17:17 says, “And they burned their sons and their daughters as offerings and used divination and omens and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger.” Jeremiah 14:14 spoke of the false prophets of the time, saying, “They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.” Therefore, in contrast to God’s truth, divination is corrupt, dishonest, and fruitless.

The Slave Girl possessed by a Spirit of Divination

One Biblical example of a person practicing divination occurs in the book of Acts. As Luke traveled with Paul and Silas in the city of Philippi, he recorded an encounter with a sorceress:

“As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation." And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, "These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice." The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.” Acts 16:16-24

Seek Wisdom from only God

Divination in any manner is sin, as a corrupted seeking of spiritual knowledge. The practicing of divination will deceive you and separate you from the wisdom of God. Christians should avoid all endeavors related to divination, including fortune-telling, astrology, witchcraft, tarot cards, and spell-casting. The spirit realm is real, but it is not harmless. As taught by Scripture, spirits that are not the Holy Spirit or angelic beings are malevolent spirits.

Christians need not dread the spirits connected to divination; neither are Christians to inquire knowledge from them. True, benevolent wisdom comes from God as said in James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."

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Originally published May 18, 2020.