1. Methods of Soothsaying:
The forms of soothsaying mentioned in this catalogue are as follows: "One that practiceth augury" (me‘onen) is of uncertain etymology, but the tabbins connect it with ‘ayin, "an eye"; literally therefore one who ogles, or who bewitches with the evil eye.
"An enchanter" (menachesh), sometimes supposed to be a snakecharmer, is probably one who fascinates like a snake; in other words a mesmerist or hypnotist.
The word occurs in connection with Joseph’s divining-cup, and such cups were employed both in Babylon and Egypt, and their use was akin to the more modern crystal-gazing, the hypnotic state being induced by prolonged staring, as in the fascination ascribed to serpents. On this account, snakes were sometimes figured upon such cups. Thus in Talmud we read: "If one finds vessels with delineations of the sun, the moon, or of a serpent upon them, let him cast them into the salt sea" (‘Abho-dhah-Zarah, fol 42, col. 2).
"A sorcerer" (mekhashsheph) is one who mutters incantations or speaks in ventriloquial whispers, as if under the influence of the spirits of the dead.
"A charmer" (chobher chebher), is one who inflicts a spell by weaving magical knots.
"A consulter with a familiar spirit" (’obh), denotes one who is possessed of a python or soothsaying demon. Such were the woman of Endor whom Saul consulted on the eve of the battle of Gilboa (1Sa 28) and the pythoness of Philippi out of whom Paul cast the spirit (Ac 16:16-18).
The word (’obh) means "bottle" and either indicates that the medium was the receptacle of the spirit or is a relic of the old tradition that genii (jinns) might be enslaved and imprisoned in bottles by means of magical incantations.
"A wizard" (yidh‘oni) means a wise man, "a knowing one." The word in Old Testament is always used in connection with ‘obh, and denotes a man who could interpret the ravings of the medium.
"A necromancer" (doresh ‘el ha-methim) is one who calls up the spirits of the dead and has intercourse with them. "Consulting the teraphim" (Eze 21:21) may have been a form of consulting the dead, if, as is probable, the teraphim were ancestral images, raised by superstition to the rank of household gods. The manner of consultation we do not know; but as an illustration of the use of the image of a dead person, we may remember that a modern medium will often ask for a portrait of a deceased relative for the alleged purpose of entering into communication with the departed spirit.
It will be seen that these forms of soothsaying are allied to the arts which in modern times bear the names of hypnotism and mediumship. They are more briefly referred to in Isa 8:19, "When they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits and unto the wizards, that chirp and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? on behalf of the living should they seek unto the dead?" Here again mediumship and spiritism are connected with the ventriloquial whispers and mutterings, which are supposed to be characteristic of the utterances of the dead.