Familiar spirits – What are they?

The term "familiar spirits" is used nine times in the King James Version of the New Testament in reference to demons. The idea literally refers to demons that are close or familiar to a person, such as a medium or sorcerer.

The first mention of this phrase is found in Leviticus 19:31: "Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God" (KJV). God's people were not to consult with mediums or fortunetellers. Leviticus 20:6 notes God's opposition to involvement with people who communicate with evil or familiar spirits: "And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people" (KJV).

Deuteronomy 18:10-11 offers the next mention of familiar spirits, stating, "There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer" (KJV). Again, the term is used in connection with a fortuneteller, a practice forbidden from God's people under the Law of Moses.

In 1 Samuel 28:3 and 9, we find King Saul had removed witches, wizards, and mediums from Israel. Verse 3 states, "And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land" (KJV). Yet in desperation Saul sought a medium so he could summon the spirit of Samuel for help during a difficult time. The result was a judgment that soon took the life of Saul and his sons.

In 2 Kings 21:6, King Manasseh's reign was described as evil: "And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger" (KJV). Consulting evil spirits was listed alongside witchcraft and child sacrifice. During King Josiah's reign, his reforms included removing those who consulted familiar spirits (2 Kings 23:24).

The final two times familiar spirits are mentioned in the King James Version are found in Isaiah. Isaiah 8:19 says, "And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?" (KJV). God called His people to consult Him, not other spirits. Isaiah 19:3 adds, "And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards" (KJV). God foretold of judgment upon those who consulted evil spirits.

Familiar spirits are evil spirits, or demons, that have no place in the life of a Christian. We are to live by God's Spirit and stand against the spiritual forces of evil as we seek to live for the Lord (Ephesians 6:12).

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