If you’ve ever wondered what exactly a soothsayer is according to the Bible, you’re not alone. Soothsaying is referenced numerous times in the Old and New Testaments, but what does it mean? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide a detailed explanation of the biblical soothsayer.
If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: In the Bible, a soothsayer is someone who foretells the future, often by occult, magical, or supernatural means. They were prohibited and condemned in biblical times.
Defining the Soothsayer
Occult Origins and Practices
Soothsayers have their origins in ancient occult practices like divination, astrology, spiritism and fortune telling. They would use techniques like reading omens, interpreting dreams or communing with familiar spirits to foretell the future or reveal hidden knowledge.
The Bible strictly forbids these kinds of occult practices which involve contacting the spirit realm outside of God (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).
Forbidden by God
God directly forbids His people from consulting with mediums and spiritists in passages like Leviticus 19:31 and Leviticus 20:6. The reason is that they ultimately rely on false gods and demons for their information and power.
As followers of the one true God, we are to depend on Him alone and seek His wisdom through prayer and studying Scripture by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Examples of Soothsayers in the Bible
There are a few examples of pagan soothsayers featured in the Bible. One is the servant girl in Acts 16:16-18 who had a spirit of divination and would earn money by fortune-telling. Another example is Elymas the sorcerer in Acts 13:6-11 who tries to turn an official away from faith in Christ.
In both cases, the apostles cast out the evil spirits from these soothsayers, demonstrating Jesus’ power and authority over demonic forces.
The prophet Balaam in Numbers 22 is an intriguing character – he straddles the line between genuine prophet of God and pagan soothsayer. Though he knows the Lord, Balaam allows himself to be swayed by greed and money to do what he knows is wrong and ends up nearly cursing God’s people before his donkey miraculously intervenes!
This highlights the dangers of dabbling in divination outside of God’s expressed will.
Contrast With Biblical Prophets
True Prophets Spoke God’s Word
In contrast to soothsayers, biblical prophets received direct revelation from God and conveyed His message to the people. According to GotQuestions.org, prophets “spoke the very words of God as God communicated to them.”
They acted as messengers, speaking on God’s behalf and representing His interests. Ezekiel 3:4 states, “He said to me: Son of man, go to the people of Israel and speak my words to them.”
Furthermore, true prophets lived according to God’s laws and preached repentance. Their predictions always aligned with God’s will, often calling people to turn away from sin. For example, Jeremiah warned that Judah would be destroyed if its people did not change their ways.
True prophets pointed people toward faithfulness to God.
Soothsayers Used Illegitimate Means
In contrast, soothsayers used illegitimate, forbidden means to “know” the future or gain spiritual insight. These practices included sorcery, witchcraft, omens, divination, necromancy, casting spells, and consulting the dead or spirit beings rather than God (Deuteronomy 18:10-11).
For instance, King Saul visited the Witch of Endor to call up the spirit of Samuel (1 Samuel 28). The means soothsayers used did not come from God and often led to deception.
Additionally, soothsayers provided services for payment, essentially practising divination for profit. They held no allegiance to Yahweh but followed pagan gods and spirits. Their unreliable predictions aimed to tell people what they wanted to hear, not preach repentance like God’s prophets.
So while prophets strove to turn people toward God, soothsayers used illegitimate means for worldly gain rather than spiritual truth. The methods and motives clearly differed.
Interpretations and Symbolic Meaning
Represents Pagan Religion
In the Bible, soothsayers were associated with pagan religions and represented opposition to God. They often used techniques like divination and prophecy that were forbidden by God (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). Consulting with soothsayers meant relying on sources other than God for knowledge of the future.
From a biblical perspective, this was seen as a serious offense.
Examples in the Old Testament show soothsayers being condemned and opposed by God’s prophets and kings who were loyal to Him. King Saul consulted with the soothsayer Medium of Endor and was rebuked for this (1 Samuel 28:3-20).
The prophet Isaiah pronounced judgment on the Philistines and Egyptians for relying on soothsayers (Isaiah 2:6, 19:3). So in the Bible, the practice of soothsaying is symbolic of the pagan religions that the prophets and righteous kings had to contend with.
Symbol of Deception
The Bible presents soothsaying as deceptive and unreliable. Those who consult with soothsayers are depicted as being deceived and led astray. For example, the prophet Ezekiel spoke out against the false prophecies of dishonest soothsayers (Ezekiel 13:6-9).
The book of Jeremiah says that God did not send these lying prophets, yet they prophesy in His name (Jeremiah 14:14). Micah laments that the people unwisely listen to soothsayers (Micah 3:7).
So in scripture, the practice of soothsaying represents deception and falsehood. It is something that distorts truth and misleads people. Righteous prophets and teachers in the Bible warn others not to be fooled by its claims.
They present soothsayers as untrustworthy sources of information that spread lies.
Embodiment of Occult Opposition to God
The soothsayer epitomizes occult practices that are at odds with belief in the true God. Things like divination, sorcery, and spirit contact characterized ancient pagan religions surrounding Israel. God’s repeated commands against these practices (Leviticus 19:31, 20:6) reveal their fundamental incompatibility with proper worship of Him.
While righteous prophets represent the word of God, soothsayers embody the occult activities He forbids. Stories of conflict between the two groups, like Elijah versus the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-40), symbolize the larger spiritual battle between the true God and false pagan gods.
So in scripture, the soothsayer serves as a representation of all that occult paganism that God’s people must reject.
Principles Still Apply Today
Although soothsaying is prohibited in the Bible, some of the principles surrounding it still apply in modern times. God wants His followers to rely on Him rather than looking to spiritual counterfeits for guidance and predictions about the future (Isaiah 8:19).
Christians should avoid new age practices like astrology, palm reading, and psychic mediums because they contradict Biblical teachings (Deuteronomy 18:9-14). Instead, believers can pray and seek wisdom from the Holy Spirit who reveals truth according to God’s will (John 16:13).
They can also gain insight through studying Scripture which equips people for salvation through faith in Christ (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
Soothsayers were unauthorized people who falsely claimed to speak divine revelations and predict the future in ancient times. Today, this takes the form of psychics and spiritual mediums who make similar deceptive claims.
However, Christians should reject these practices and point others to God’s word as the ultimate authority and guide for life. According to a 2018 Pew Research poll, 29% of American adults believe in psychics and 26% believe in spiritual energy in physical objects.
So guidance about the prohibition against soothsaying remains highly relevant for discernment today.
Avoiding New Age Spiritual Counterfeits
The rise of New Age spirituality and the occult has brought a renewed need for caution against modern false prophets like soothsayers. Astrology, tarot cards, palm readings, crystal healing, and psychic mediums have become increasingly popular over the past few decades.
However, the Bible clearly prohibits these practices that claim to reveal hidden knowledge or the future (Leviticus 19:31, Deuteronomy 18:10-12). Christians should reject these dangerous spiritual counterfeits and instead, rely on the Holy Spirit and God’s word to shape their beliefs and guide their steps.
Here are some ways believers can avoid deceptive New Age ideas and remain grounded in Biblical truth:
- Study Scripture regularly and pray for discernment (Psalm 119:105, Philippians 1:9-10)
- Test any teachings against what the Bible says (1 John 4:1)
- Avoid books, movies, music promoting New Age ideas contrary to Scripture (Psalm 101:3)
- Seek wise counsel from mature Christians when facing unclear guidance (Proverbs 12:15)
- Guard your heart and mind against anything that contradicts God’s will (2 Corinthians 10:5)
The Christian worldview stands in stark contrast to New Age beliefs. With its emphasis on Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation and the Bible as the ultimate source of truth, Christianity provides the sole secure foundation for spiritual discernment in confusing times (John 14:6, 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Believers must cling to Biblical principles rather than chasing after spiritual counterfeits.
In summary, biblical soothsayers were occult figures who illegitimately claimed to predict the future. Condemned and prohibited in Scripture, they serve as a representation of deceptive spiritual counterfeits.
God’s true prophets, by contrast, spoke righteous messages from the Lord which often foretold future events. Understanding the difference helps modern readers avoid unbiblical sources while staying rooted in God’s eternal truth.