What Does the Bible Say About Mediums? (And Engaging the Dead)


Mediums are people who say they can communicate with the dead. In the Bible, those who attempt to interact with the dead are referred to as mediums, necromancers, spiritists, or sorcerers, depending on the context and translation. What does the Bible teach about mediums?

The practice of mediums is strictly forbidden in the Bible. The death penalty by means of stoning was the punishment for mediums in the Old Testament. The New Testament affirms the sinfulness of mediums. Although the consequence of their actions isn’t death by stoning, it does result in the loss of eternal life.

Why does the Bible forbid the practice of mediums? What does the Hebrew word for “medium” mean? Why did mediums get the death penalty in the Old Testament? Are mediums interacting with demons? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Also see What Does the Bible Say About Crystals? to learn more.

Holy Bible
What does the Hebrew word for medium mean? See below

Why does the Bible forbid the practice of mediums?

Leviticus 19:31 is a key verse for understanding what the Bible says about mediums. The context of the verse regards commands for holy living.

According to the chapter, the principles of holiness are loving God and loving other people. The theme of the chapter is found in Leviticus 19:2, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”

Does Leviticus 19:31 forbid the practice of mediums? Yes. The verse starts with a prohibition, translated as “do not turn to” or something similar in English translations (see table below). In the Old Testament, this Hebrew phrase sometimes describes a person who turns to God, but it’s also used to describe someone who turns to false gods.

What does “do not turn” signify? The instruction prohibits giving devotion, allegiance, and spiritual commitment to mediums and other false spiritual guides.

People should “turn to” God, but because of sin, sometimes people “turn to” false gods and ungodly practices. Furthermore, a person can’t be turned to God and mediums simultaneously. “Turning to” one is to abandon the other.

TranslationLeviticus 19:31
ESVDo not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.
KJVRegard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.
NASBDo not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.
NIVDo not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.
NKJVGive no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.
NLTDo not defile yourselves by turning to mediums or to those who consult the spirits of the dead. I am the Lord your God.

What does the Hebrew word translated “medium” mean? The Hebrew word (details below) describes a person who mutters in the practice of seeking the dead for instruction. The word “mutter” conveys that mediums often quietly mouth prayer-like utterances to conjure the spirits of the deceased.

  • Hebrew word: ob
  • Meaning: a necromancer
  • Original Word: אוֹב
  • Part of Speech: Noun Masculine
  • Transliteration: ob
  • Phonetic Spelling: (one)

Also see What Does the Bible Say About Astrology? to learn more.

Old Testament
Why is the penalty for mediums death? See below

Why did mediums get the death penalty in the Old Testament?

Attempting to consult the spirits of the dead is a serious offense in the Old Testament. One way to gauge how important a particular command is in the Bible is to know its consequences.

Leviticus 20:27 reads, “A man or a woman who is a medium or a necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them” (ESV). Death by stoning is the consequence for mediums, which signifies that it’s a grossly offensive practice to God.

Why is the consequence so severe?

The penalty is severe for two primary reasons. However, it must be understood that the ultimate consequence of any sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Therefore, the word “severe” is relative to lesser civil punishments in Old Testament Israel.

The first reason the penalty for mediums was severe is that it acts as a deterrent to people considering the practice or seeking out those who do.

While the Old Testament lists the death penalty for certain behaviors, it doesn’t always include examples or illustrations of someone actually receiving the penalty. This leads some scholars to conclude that the death penalty wasn’t commonly practiced in ancient Israel.

The second reason the penalty for mediums was severe was because of the nature of the offense. Today, especially in the Western world, mediums and necromancers, as well as ghosts, evil spirits, demons, and other non-material entities, are used for entertainment purposes in movies and books.

This can desensitize people to the real nature of such practices in the same way that thinking of Satan as a cartoonish, small person in a red costume with small horns and a toy pitchfork doesn’t do justice to the real thing.

The Bible teaches that when a person dies, they face judgment (Heb. 9:27). The spirits of the deceased do not float around in a non-material realm, waiting for someone like a medium to say the right incantation or formula so they can communicate with the living.

When it seems like such a correspondence has occurred, Bible scholars suggest that there is more happening than meets the eye.

Also see What Does the Number 5 Mean In the Bible? to learn more.

Satan and demons are deceivers

Satan and demons trick people for the purpose of keeping them from God and hiding the truth. Their nature is to fool people into believing what is false, as the following verses make clear:

  • 2 Corinthians 11:14, “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”
  • John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
  • 1 Timothy 4:1, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.”

Are mediums interacting with demons without knowing it? Many scholars believe they are. Another possibility that scholars suggest is that mediums are manifesting extreme psychological abnormalities that make them and others think their practices are legitimate.

Yet another possibility is that some mediums are simply fraudsters who are driven by greed, since the practice can be lucrative.

What should people who have sought out mediums do instead? First, they should repent and ask God for forgiveness that he freely gives through Jesus Christ. Second, they should seek God through reading Scripture, prayer that is biblically-based, and involvement in a Bible-believing, Christ-centered church.

  • Proverbs 8:17, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.”
  • Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
  • Deuteronomy 4:29, “But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Also see What Does the Bible Say About Drugs? to learn more.

New Testament
Isaiah encourages people to seek God, not mediums. More below.

Bible Verses About Mediums

  • Leviticus 19:31, “Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.”
  • Leviticus 20:6, “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.”
  • Isaiah 8:19, “And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?”
  • Leviticus 20:27, “A man or a woman who is a medium or a necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them.”
  • Revelation 21:8, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
  • 2 Kings 21:6, “And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.”
  • 2 Chronicles 33:6, “And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.”

Also see What Is A Soul Tie In the Bible? to learn more.

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see the About page for details.

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