The fifth speech of Moses is about Kingdom government. After speaking about the role of kings and priests in God’s government, Moses then turns his attention to unlawful ways of governing. There are spiritual boundaries that must not be crossed as kings or priests make decisions about how to govern or what course of action to take.
Detestable Canaanite Religious Government
Deuteronomy 18:9 says,
9 When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations.
There were certain practices that the Canaanites were doing, which were not lawful in the sight of God. What follows is a partial list of those practices that God finds “detestable.”
10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you.
First, the Israelites were not to sacrifice their children, as did the Canaanites. Canaanite temples were centers of sexual vice, often resulting in the firstborn son or daughter being fathered by a temple priest in the “purification” ceremony that prepared women for marriage. As the priest was said to represent their god, the child fathered by him was thought of as a “son of God,” and hence he was sacrificed for their sin.
They still possessed a vestige of truth and revelation from the beginning that the son of God would die for sin, but their religious understanding became warped in later years. Halley’s Bible Handbook says,
“So, Canaanites worshipped, by immoral indulgence, as a religious rite, in the presence of their gods; and then, by murdering their first-born children, as a sacrifice to these same gods” (p. 157).
The Israelites were given the true revelation, first that such immorality was not permitted by the law of God, and secondly that their first-born children were not to be sacrificed on behalf of their sin. Instead, they were to sacrifice animals only, which prophesied of the coming of the one True Sacrifice, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
In today’s world, where we have cast aside God’s law in favor of the spirit of Canaan, the 60’s sexual revolution established immorality as a natural right, and on its heels came the right to kill one’s children by abortion. The second naturally follows the first, because with increased pregnancy outside of marriage, abortion was then justified by calling it an “unwanted pregnancy.” The people wanted the right to be immoral without being inconvenienced by children, and after 40 years the death toll has now reached more than 55 million babies being sacrificed on the altars of Baal and Molech, which men call “abortion clinics.”
Abortion is the modern form of Canaanite worship, though doubtless, most people think of it in secular terms. Satanists know better and rejoice that their bloody religion is now mainstream practice in society.
Jeremiah 19 tells us that this practice was one of the main reasons why God hired the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple.
4 Because they have forsaken Me and have made this an alien place and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods that neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of Judah had ever known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent, 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind; 6 therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when this place will no longer be called Topheth or the valley of Ben-hinnom, but rather the valley of Slaughter.
God’s horror at this detestable practice is matched only by the lack of conscience found in the people. Even today, many who call themselves Christians have been hardened by modern propaganda, so that they are even willing to vote for political candidates who openly promote such murder and promise to perpetuate it. Obviously, such Christians are ignorant of biblical law and fall into the category that Jesus mentioned in Matt. 7:23,
23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
The Israelites—those who had accepted Christ as their King and agreed to take on His mind and way of life—were to establish the model of the Kingdom of God. They were to provide the example, the light to the nations. Unfortunately, more often than not, the Canaanites were the ones who provided the example for the Israelites to follow. It is the same today, where we see how the church follows the example of the world and “adapts” in order to be seen as “progressive” and “in tune with the world.”
Yet the word of the Lord still stands: “You shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations.”
The second thing in Deut. 18:10 that God finds detestable is “one who uses divination.” The Hebrew word for divination is qecem. It has either a positive or a negative meaning, depending on how it is used. In the negative sense it refers to witchcraft or divination, by which men sought to foretell the future apart from consulting God. We see, however, the word used in a positive sense in Prov. 16:9-10,
9 The mind of man plans his way; but the Lord directs his steps. 10 A divine decision [qecem] is in the lips of the king; his mouth should not err in judgment.
In other words, determining the future or the will of God is not something that God finds detestable. The sin is in consulting other gods or in trying to discover the future that God chooses to hide. The law of God regulates prophecy and determines His will. When men depart from God and seek other paths, it falls short of God’s standard of measure, and it is for this reason that Prov. 16:11 comes on the heels of the valid use of qecem on the lips of the king:
11 A just balance and scales belong to the Lord; all the weights of the bag are His concern.
The law of God is the standard by which all behavior is measured. Jesus Christ never sinned, never violated the law, but continually acted in accordance with it, thus fulfilling it perfectly. The mind of Christ is our standard of measure. We are to have only one standard of measure in our “bag.” We are not to act one way in church and another way in the world.
So also is it with qecem. If we consult other gods, or try to bypass Christ, or seek to know what God does not want to reveal at the time, then it is biblical divination. However, if we consult God in the proper way, as Moses and the prophets did, then God is pleased with our qecem.
Are Signs Evil?
In John D. Davis’ book, A Dictionary of the Bible, he writes under Divination,
“The attempt to read the future and utter soothsaying either by a kind of inspiration or divine afflatus (Acts xvi. 16), or else by means of signs. In the latter sense, it includes augury or foretelling the future by means of natural signs, such as the flight of birds, the disposition of the entrails (Ezek. xxi. 21); hydromancy or foretelling from the appearance of water poured into a vessel or of objects dropped into the water (Gen. xliv. 5); sorcery, in its original sense of foretelling by casting lots (Ezek. xxi. 21); and also astrology or the determination of the supposed influence of the stars on the destiny of a person (cp. Is. xlvii. 13).”
Signs are neither good nor bad in themselves. God gave many signs, including one given to King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:8-11,
8 Now Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the Lord the third day?” 9 And Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that He has spoken; shall the shadow go forward ten steps or back ten steps (on the sun dial)?” 10 So Hezekiah answered, “It is easy for the shadow to decline ten steps; no, but let the shadow turn backward ten steps.” 11 and Isaiah the prophet cried to the Lord, and He brought the shadow on the stairway back ten steps by which it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.
Earlier, Hezekiah had been given a Jubilee sign (2 Kings 19:29). In 1 Samuel 2:34 God gave a sign to Eli the high priest to foretell the end of the Phinehas priesthood. In 1 Kings 13:3 a sign was given to foretell the birth of a godly king in Judah by the name of Josiah. In 2 Samuel 5:24 God gave David a “natural sign,” saying,
24 And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then you shall act promptly, for then the Lord will have gone out before you to strike the army of the Philistines.
These signs confirmed the word of the Lord in regard to a future event. God obviously approved such signs, because God Himself gave them to bear witness to the prophetic word. It was the misuse of signs that God detested, for in such cases men sought signs outside of the boundaries and limitations of divine law.
In the quotation earlier, Davis also speaks of “sorcery,” linking it to “casting lots.” Casting lots was not a problem in and of itself. The problem was when they did so to consult false gods.
In Lev. 16:8 lots were cast to determine which goat was to be killed and which was to be released into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement.
In Joshua 18:10 Joshua cast lots to determine the land inheritances of the tribes in Canaan. The priests even cast lots to determine who was to bring wood for the sacrifices (Neh. 10:34).
It is generally agreed that the urim and thummim held by the high priests were two stones of differing colors, which were used to cast lots (Ex. 28:30). We know that these were used to inquire of the Lord (Num. 27:21; 1 Sam. 28:6). It was probably by using the urim and thummim that Achan’s guilt was uncovered (Joshua 7:16-20).
Astrology and Signs in the Heavens
Finally, astrology has been used for thousands of years to determine the future. Originally, the constellations foretold the entire plan of God from the virgin birth of Christ (Virgo) to His coming as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Leo). It foretold His dual nature as Son of God and Son of Man (Gemini) and His death as the Passover Lamb (Aries). It foretold of the church and the overcomers (Ursa Minor and Ursa Major, the two sheepfolds). It foretold of judgment to come (Libra) and the outpouring of the Spirit (Aquarius).
Unfortunately, men lost much of the original revelation of the stars and subjected them to their own gods. They used the stars to obtain prophecy apart from the mind of Christ and used it according to their own carnal purposes. Yet in spite of this God took credit for naming the stars (i.e., constellations) in Psalm 147:4,
4 He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.
In Psalm 19:1 “the heavens are telling of the glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” The constellations were signs of the twelve sons of Jacob (Genesis 37:9), and each of the tribes represented a different constellation on their banners when they came out of Egypt. Even their placement in the camp around the tabernacle was ordered according to the circle of the twelve constellations.
The wise men, too, understood the prophetic meaning of the signs in the heavens, and thus they knew when and where the Messiah had been born (Matt. 2:1, 2).
Therefore, we see that it is the misuse of the star signs that God detests, along with the misuse of signs and prophecy in general. When men peer into the future in unlawful ways and for unlawful purposes, they sin against God.
Sorcery and Witchcraft in Israel
Those who cast spells, or curse those whom God has blessed, or bless those whom God has cursed, or engage in manipulation for selfish purposes, are engaging in witchcraft.
Those who call up the dead (Deut. 18:11) to inquire of things that God has hidden from the living are engaging in spiritism and witchcraft. King Saul began in rebellion against God, and Samuel told him that rebellion was like witchcraft (1 Sam. 15:23). Saul’s rebellion eventually ripened into full-blown witchcraft when he consulted the witch of En-dor to call up Samuel from the dead (1 Sam. 28:11).
It is interesting that Deut. 18:11 outlaws spiritist mediums. The Hebrew word for “medium” is sha’al, the root of the name Sha’ul, or Saul. It means to ask or inquire. The people had “asked” for a king, so they were given a man whose name reflected this (1 Sam. 12:17). But in asking for a king, they were rejecting the direct rule of God (1 Sam. 8:7). In consulting among themselves instead of consulting God’s will, they were, in essence, engaging in witchcraft as spiritist mediums. Hence, their king reflected their own hearts, and the trouble that came of this was the consequence of their own lawlessness.
The Israelite request was not in accordance with God’s will. They were using their will to counter God’s will, or to force their will upon God—and this is witchcraft.
It is not surprising, then, that Saul started his royal career in rebellion, and it ended in witchcraft. The night before he died, he was desperate for a word from God, but the heavens were silent. This was his moment of truth. He should have repented of his rebellion, but instead, he sought a medium to conjure up Samuel. In so doing, he put the monarchy on Cursed Time, and 414 years later King Jehoiachin was sent into a Babylonian prison to pay the price of Saul’s final act of rebellion.
Witchcraft in the Church
In 1 Sam. 12:17 we learn that Saul had been crowned on the day of wheat harvest, that is, the feast of weeks, or Pentecost. He was a prophetic type of the Church under Pentecost, for though the Spirit of God came upon him and he prophesied, his heart was still lawless. And so anyone who studies Church history will see a sordid picture that runs parallel to the reign of Saul. Every year in Saul’s reign reflected the events of another Jubilee cycle in the reign of the Saul-Church.
The problem with Saul was that he reflected the heart of the people themselves, who had rejected the direct rule of God and who wanted to be ruled by men (1 Sam. 8:7). They desired only an indirect relationship with God, one that included a man placed between them and God—that is, a vicar of Christ.
This was similar to the problem that Moses Himself had faced at Mount Horeb, when the people were too afraid to hear God’s voice directly and instead demanded that Moses hear the word and tell them what God said (Exodus 20:18-21). They were unaware that an indirect relationship with God could never bring forth the inheritance that had been promised to them.
We can see, therefore, how the people were guilty of approaching God in an unlawful manner. The root of the problem was rebellion, which is as the sin of witchcraft (1 Sam. 15:23). The direct result of their rebellion was to stop their ears from hearing God’s voice directly and to demand a man to tell them what God has said.
Hearing the word of God from men is not a problem, as long as they know how to “chew the cud” according to the food laws of Leviticus 11. It is only when men swallow what men say without meditating upon it that it manifests elements of witchcraft. There is a vast difference between hearing men and hearing God through men. And when men in leadership demand that their word or teaching must be accepted without question and without a double witness from the Spirit, it is simply Christianized witchcraft.
Christians should never demand that their preachers, priests, or leaders act as mediums, as the Israelites did. Neither should the leaders demand that their commands or teachings be followed apart from the witness of the Holy Spirit. The people must always be given the right to “chew the cud.” Anything else is manipulative witchcraft.