There are quite a few references to divination in the Old Testament. What is it? It is my understanding that it was not proper for God's people to practice anything involving a spiritual power not from God. Genesis, however, states that Joseph had a cup he used for divination, and later Joseph himself suggests he could use the practice to find out who had stolen from him. There is no actual record of Joseph's practicing divination, so should we assume this was part of the charade he had going for his brothers -- or maybe that it was not a problem since God had not prohibited the practice until Leviticus? -- Jason Siikarla (Madison, Wisconsin)

Interesting! Yes, Joseph does seem to be "acting" until he feels comfortable entrusting himself to his former enslavers! I am not sure we can demonstrate that he actually indulged in divination--although he did have a knack for interpreting dreams! And yes, perhaps it was less wrong for Joseph, assuming he actually did engage in this practice, since the Law of Moses was yet to be revealed. (In the same way that Jacob's marrying a woman and her sister, a practice condemned four centuries later by the Law, was not wrong for him.)

Anyway, divination is attempting to prognosticate the future, or to ascertain God's will, by interpreting signs. In antiquity, priests and priestesses examined the entrails of animals, studied the flight patterns of flocks of birds, cast dice, etc. The things closest to it in the Old Testament are the interpretation of dreams and the Levitical use of Urim and Thummim.

Divination is wrong because it is an attempt to manipulate God. And manipulation of god(s) is the essence of paganism. It might also connect us to the spiritual forces of evil.

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