on Exodus 22 :18
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live - If there had been no witches, such a law as this had never been made. The existence of the law, given under the direction of the Spirit of God, proves the existence of the thing. It has been doubted whether מכשפה mecash-shephah, which we translate witch, really means a person who practiced divination or sorcery by spiritual or infernal agency. Whether the persons thus denominated only pretended to have an art which had no existence, or whether they really possessed the power commonly attributed to them, are questions which it would be improper to discuss at length in a work of this kind; but that witches, wizards, those who dealt with familiar spirits, etc., are represented in the sacred writings as actually possessing a power to evoke the dead, to perform, supernatural operations, and to discover hidden or secret things by spells, charms, incantations, etc., is evident to every unprejudiced reader of the Bible. Of Manasseh it is said: He caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times [ועונן, veonen, he used divination by clouds] and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, [וכשף vechishsheph], and dealt with a familiar spirit, [ועשה אוב veasah ob, performed a variety of operations by means of what was afterwards called the πνευμα πυθωνος, the spirit of Python], and with wizards, [ידעוני yiddeoni, the wise or knowing ones]; and he wrought much evil in the sight of the Lord; 2 Chronicles 33:6. It is very likely that the Hebrew כשף cashaph, and the Arabic cashafa, had originally the same meaning, to uncover, to remove a veil, to manifest, reveal, make bare or naked; and mecashefat is used to signify commerce with God. See Wilmet and Giggeius. The mecashshephah or witch, therefore, was probably a person who professed to reveal hidden mysteries, by commerce with God, or the invisible world.
From the severity of this law against witches, etc., we may see in what light these were viewed by Divine justice. They were seducers of the people from their allegiance to God, on whose judgment alone they should depend; and by impiously prying into futurity, assumed an attribute of God, the foretelling of future events, which implied in itself the grossest blasphemy, and tended to corrupt the minds of the people, by leading them away from God and the revelation he had made of himself. Many of the Israelites had, no doubt, learned these curious arts from their long residence with the Egyptians; and so much were the Israelites attached to them, that we find such arts in repute among them, and various practices of this kind prevailed through the whole of the Jewish history, notwithstanding the offense was capital, and in all cases punished with death.
on Exodus 22 :18
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live - See the marginal references. and Leviticus 20:27. The witch is here named to represent the class. This is the earliest denunciation of witchcraft in the law. In every form of witchcraft there is an appeal to a power not acting in subordination to the divine law. From all such notions and tendencies true worship is designed to deliver us. The practice of witchcraft was therefore an act of rebellion against Yahweh, and, as such, was a capital crime. The passages bearing on the subject in the Prophets, as well as those in the law, carry a lesson for all ages. Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 19:3; Isaiah 44:25; Isaiah 47:12-13; Micah 5:12, etc.
on Exodus 22 :18