Tonight we head into Part 2 of “The Boy from Mt. Rhigi,” where some hair clips just might disappear. Then Jack Pearson has a story/song about “Wild Man Bill.” After that we find out what the leaders of Israel want to do with the two rotten judges.
Throughout history, people have been dealing with evil spirits, and it is no different in the pages of Scripture. Some would say that the writers of the Bible were merely mirroring their culture in the way that they dealt with demons.
Ancient Near Eastern texts contain a multitude of incantations and magical spells whose sole purpose was to protect a person from evil spirits. These types of spells are called “apotropaic spells.” For example, in the Assyrian culture, a demon named Lamashtu was thought to attack pregnant women and kidnap babies as they breastfed. To protect themselves, women would wear a special amulet (see picture above) with a pendant of the god Pazuzu.
The famous Egyptian Book of the Dead contained almost 200 spells to be used in the underworld to protect oneself from demons, monsters and traps. These spells were crucial in helping a person attain immortality.
Demons were also present in non-biblical Jewish literature. In the apocryphal book of Tobit, a woman named Sarah is plagued by a demon named Asmodeus. Seven time she marries , only to be robbed of her husband on her wedding night – Asmodeus kills each of them. In the meantime, a man named Tobias has a foot almost eaten by a fish in the Tigris River. The angel Raphael tells him to catch the fish and take out its gall, heart and liver. If he burns the heart and liver in the presence of someone afflicted by a demon, the person will go free. Raphael then tells Tobias to marry Sarah. I’m sure Tobias wasn’t too keen on the idea, but Raphael assures him that he can overcome the demon with the fish heart and liver.
So Tobias marries Sarah, burns the fish liver and heart, beats the demon and they live happily ever after. Not only that, but Tobias uses the fish gall to cure his father’s blindness. The End.
Next up is the Testament of Solomon. This is a part of something called the Pseudepigrapha [soo-deh-pig-rafa], which is a fancy way of categorizing a story supposedly written by a famous Old Testament person, but in reality written by someone else. The Testament of Solomon was written around the third century. In the story, the angel Michael gives King Solomon a magical ring to control evil spirits and deliver people from affliction. With the ring, Solomon enslaves a demon named Lix Tetrax and forces him to throw rocks up to the workers in the temple.
Any of these stories would fit very well in a Harry Potter book, but would be ill at ease in the Bible because when we look at the way the authors of Scripture handle demons, it is completely different. Demons are not warded off by magic, nor are they utilized for work. They are overcome through the power of Christ.
In Matthew 8, Jesus casts a horde of demons out of two men and into a herd of pigs just by commanding them to go. Two chapters later, Jesus sends his disciples out into the countryside to preach the good news that the kingdom of heaven was near. They were to heal the sick, raise the dead and drive out demons.
And even though the Seven Son of Sceva (Acts 19) utilized Jesus’ name in their failed attempt to cast out a demon, it doesn’t appear that they were followers of Christ, therefore they had no connection to God’s power.
The authors of Scripture did not rely on the traditions of their cultures as they wrote about overcoming demons. They had experienced something totally new and all-consuming: the power of Jesus.
“Demons and Bible” (2005) in NIV Archaeological Study Bible (p. 1572). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan