15 million Ukrainian are displaced by Russia's war.
Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!

Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Familiar Spirit

Additional Links

( אוֹב ob, a leathern bottle or water-skins, Job 32:19; hence, the conjurer, being regarded as the vessel containing the inspiring demon), a necromancer, or sorcerer who professes to call up the dead by means of incantations, to answer questions (Deuteronomy 18:11; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6; 1 Samuel 28:3; 1 Samuel 28:9; Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 19:3). Put also specially for the python (Acts 16:16) or divining-spirit, by the aid of which such jugglers were supposed to conjure (Leviticus 20:27; 1 Samuel 28:7-8), and for the shade or departed spirit thus evoked (Isaiah 29:4). (See DIVINATION). The term is rendered by the Septuagint ἐγγαστρίμυθος, "a ventriloquist," but is rather a wizard who asked counsel of his familiar, and gave the responses received from him to others the name being applied in reference to the spirit or demon that animated the person, and inflated the belly so that it protuberated like the side of a bottle. Or it was applied to the magician, because he was supposed to be inflated by the spirit (δαιμονοληπτός ), like the ancient Εὐρυκλεῖς (εἰς ἀλλοτρίας γαστέρας ἐνδύς, Ar. Vesp. 1017, malusa spirituns per verend t naturce excipiabat; Schosl. in Ar. Plut.). The ob of the Hebrews was thus precisely the same as the pytho of the Greeks (Plutarch, De def. Or. 414; Cicero De div. 1:19), and was used not only to designate the performer, but the spirit itself, πνεῦμα Πύθωνος, which possessed him (see Leviticus 20:27; 1 Samuel 28:8; also Acts 16:16). A more specific denomination of this last term was the necromancer (literally seeker of the dead, שׁאֵל אוֹב; Deuteronomy 18:10; comp. דֹּרְשִׁין אֶל ), one who, by frequenting tombs, by inspecting corpses, or, more frequently, by help of the ob, like the witch of Endor, pretended to evoke the dead, ad bring secrets from the invisible world (Genesis 41:8; Exodus 7:11; Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:10-12).

Compare the אִטִּים whisperers ("charmers"), of Isaiah 19:3. But Shuckford, who denies that the Jews in early ages believed in spirits, makes it mean "I consulters of lead idols" (Connect. 2:395). These ventriloquists "peeped and muttered" (compare τρίζειν, Homer, Il. 23:101; "squeak and gibber," Shaksp. Jul. Caesar) from the earth to imitate the voice of the revealing 'familiar" (Isaiah 29:4, etc.; 1 Samuel 28:8; Leviticus 20:27; compare στερνόμαντις, Soph. Frag.). Of this class was the witch of Endor (Josephus, Ant. 6:14, 2), in whose case intended imposture may have been overruled into genuine necromancy (Sirach 46:20). On this wide subject, see Chrysostom ad 1 Corinthians 12; Tera tullian, adv. Marc. 4:25; De Anima, page 57; Augustine, De doctr. Christ. § 33; Cicero, Tusc. Disp. 1:16, and the commentators on AEn. 6; Critici Sacri, 6:331; Le Moyne, Var. Sacr. page 993 sq.; Selden, De Diis Syr, 1:2; and, above all, Bottcher, De Inferis, pages 101-121, where the research displayed is marvellous. Those who sought inspiration, either from the dasmons or the spirits of the dead, haunted tombs and caverns (Isaiah 65:4), and invited the unclean communications by voluntary fasts (Maimon. De Idol. 9:15; Lightfoot, Hor. Hebrews ad Matthew 10:1). That the supposed ψυχομαντεῖα was often effected by ventriloquism and illusion is certain; for a specimen of this even in modern times, see the Life of Benvenuto Cellini. (See NECROMANCER).

Closely connected with this form of divination are the two following:

(1.) חֶבֶר, che'ber, a spell or enchantment, by means of a cabalistic arrangement of certain words and implements (Deuteronomy 18:11; Isaiah 47:9; Isaiah 47:12), spoken also of serpent-charming (Psalms 58:6). (See CHARMING); (See ENCHANTMENT).

(2.) Sorcery (either wizard, יוֹדֵעִ knowing one, Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:11; 1 Samuel 28:3; 1 Samuel 28:9; spoken also of the imp or spirit of divination by which they were supposed to be attended, Leviticus 20:27; or some form of

כָּשִׁ Š, 'kashaph', to act the witch, literally by magic incantations, 2 Chronicles 23:6; Exodus 7:11; Deuteronomy 18:10; Daniel 2:2, etc.), which signifies practicing divination by means of the black art, with an implied collusion with evil spirits; applied usually to pretending to reveal secrets, to discover things lost, find hidden treasure, and interpret dreams. (See WIZARD).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Familiar Spirit'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse: