SynopsisIn this passage, Moses lists some “detestable practices” that the Israelites are not to partake in. It is because of actions like the ones listed here that God is driving out the nations currently living in the Promised Land, so the Israelites should definitely not “learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there” (verse 9).
The “detestable practices” that Moses lists are:
- sacrificing children in the fire (or, according to the footnote for verse 10, making children “pass through the fire.”)
- practicing divination or sorcery
- interpreting omens
- engaging in witchcraft
- casting spells
- being a medium or spiritist who consults the dead
No punishment is mentioned, in this passage, for anyone who practices such things, except that the person will be detestable to the LORD.
ThoughtsThe first item in the list doesn’t seem to fit with the other items; I know that people used to sacrifice their children to certain gods—I believe Molech was one such god, but there might have been others—but all of the other items seem to be related to trying to predict (or control) the future. Perhaps it’s included in the list because sacrificing children to these gods was a form of trying to curry favour with these gods, and thus control some aspect of the future.
Which brings us to: Why would God care about some of these practices? Sure, we can easily see why sacrificing children would be detestable, and maybe witchcraft, but why would interpreting omens, or consulting the dead, be detestable? I believe that it comes down to faith. The Israelites were to have faith that God would provide for them, that He would take care of their future, and by partaking in these activities, they would be “hedging their bets,” so to speak. “The LORD said that He would take care of me, but, just in case, why don’t I consult the dead, and find out what’s really going to happen,” or, “The LORD said that He would take care of me, but, just in case, why don’t I sacrifice a child to Molech, and see if he will protect me, too.”
Personally, I put horroscopes in this same category, for modern-day Christians. (Not that I believe that they work, but that’s not the point.) If I have faith that God will take care of me today, then why do I need to try and figure out ahead of time what that day (or week, or month) holds in store for me? I don’t. Whatever is going to happen—good or bad—He will provide for me.