In ancient times there appear to be several types of individuals and groups involved in different kinds of magic.  Magic is a form of religious practice.

1. The first appearance of magic is found in the first written culture (i.e., Sumer) in its creation accounts.

a. chief deity, Ea-enki, is called "Lord of Incantation" because he killed Apsu by the aid of a spell

b. his son,  Marduk, defeats Tiamat because of his father's magic spells and potents

c. see Erica Reiner, Surpu: A Collection of Sumerian and Akkadian Incantations 

2. Magic was very prominent in Egypt, involving Thoth and Isis.  There was no distinction made between good and evil magic, as in #1 and #3. Usually it was connected to

a. healings

b. dream interpretation

c. political activity

d. passage to the realm of death

3. Magic in Anatolia (Hittite culture) was similar to #1.  There was good magic and evil magic.  The first was supported and the second condemned.  Often older women were used along with priests.  It, like all ANE peoples, saw magic as a valid part of any military campaign.

4. There is a priestly caste from Medea involved in astrology called "Chaldeans" (cf. Dan. 1:20; 2:2,10,27; 4:7,9; 5:11; Matt. 2:1,7,16).  Herodotus calls them "Medean priests."  They were involved in foretelling and controlling future events based on the movement and configuration of astral gods (i.e., planets, stars, constellations, comets).

5.There is very little surviving narrative about the magic of Canaan (i.e., Ugaritic).  Obviously El had great power and healed a Ugarit King by magic (see "The Legend of King Keret," ANET. 148b).

6. Most magical groups were made up of persons who claimed to be able to manipulate the supernatural or natural forces of nature (cf. Gen. 41:8,24; Exod. 7:11,22; 8:7,19; 9:11).  Often these forces (or gods) were seen to be in conflict with humanity and by taking the side of this force or that force the possessor of the knowledge could control the forces for personal gain (cf. the magical papyri of the third and fourth centuries a.d.). These individuals would:

a. foretell future events

b. control future events

c. interpret future events and dreams

d. curse or protect other individuals, cities, nations, armies, etc.

7. Magicians, as in Acts 8:9,11, claimed to be able to manipulate the impersonal forces of nature or the personal (demonic) forces to perform their will.  This often involved magical rites and incantation. "True" magicians often attacked other magicians who did not perform the rites and liturgies correctly.  These were called charlatans or deceivers (cf. Acts 13:6,8; 19:13).

8. The power of the gospel is seen in Paul's ministry in Ephesus where former magicians converted to faith in Christ, and publicly burned their expensive magic books (i.e., how to properly perform incantations, rites, and liturgies, cf. Acts 19:19) instead of selling them. 

9. For further reading

a. Susan Garrett, The Demise of the Devil, Fortress Press, 1989

b. Merrill Unger, Biblical Demonology, Scripture Press, 1967

c. Hendrik Berkhof, Christ and the Powers, Herald Press, 1977

d. Waller Wink, Naming the Powers, Fortress Press, 1984

e. Clinton Arnold, Three Crucial Questions About Spiritual Warfare, Baker, 1997

10. All of these magic, occultic practices are an abomination to YHWH and forbidden to His people (see notes on Deut. 18:10-14, online).

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