Familiar Spirit (אוֹב ob, a leathern bottle or water-skins, Job 32:19; hence, the conjurer, being regarded as the vessel containing the inspiring demon), a necromancer, or sorcerer who professes to call up the dead by means of incantations, to answer questions (De 18:11; 2Ki 21:6; 2Ch 33:6; Le 19:31; Le 20:6; 1Sa 28:3,9; Isa 8:19; Isa 19:3). Put also specially for the python (Ac 16:16) or divining-spirit, by the aid of which such jugglers were supposed to conjure (Le 20:27; 1Sa 28:7-8), and for the shade or departed spirit thus evoked (Isa 29:4). SEE DIVINATION. The term is rendered by the Septuagint ἐγγαστρίμυθος, "a ventriloquist," but is rather a wizard who asked counsel of his familiar, and gave the responses received from him to others — the name being applied in reference to the spirit or demon that animated the person, and inflated the belly so that it protuberated like the side of a bottle. Or it was applied to the magician, because he was supposed to be inflated by the spirit (δαιμονοληπτός), like the ancient Εὐρυκλεῖς (εἰς ἀλλοτρίας γαστέρας ἐνδύς, Ar. Vesp. 1017, malusa spirituns per verend t naturce excipiabat; Schosl. in Ar. Plut.). The ob of the Hebrews was thus precisely the same as the pytho of the Greeks (Plutarch, De def. Or. 414; Cicero De div. 1:19), and was used not only to designate the performer, but the spirit itself, πνεῦμα Πύθωνος, which possessed him (see Le 20:27; 1Sa 28:8; also Ac 16:16). A more specific denomination of this last term was the necromancer (literally seeker of the dead, שׁאֵל אוֹב; De 18:10; comp. דֹּרשִׁין אֶל), one who, by frequenting tombs, by inspecting corpses, or, more frequently, by help of the ob, like the witch of Endor, pretended to evoke the dead, ad bring secrets from the invisible world (Ge 41:8; Ex 7:11; Le 19:26; De 18:10-12). Compare the אִטִּים whisperers ("charmers"), of Isa 19:3. But Shuckford, who denies that the Jews in early ages believed in spirits, makes it mean "I consulters of lead idols" (Connect. 2:395). These ventriloquists "peeped and muttered" (compare τρίζειν, Homer, Il. 23:101; "squeak and gibber," Shaksp. Jul. Caesar) from the earth to imitate the voice of the revealing 'familiar" (Isa 29:4, etc.; 1Sa 28:8; Le 20:27; compare στερνόμαντις, Soph.
Frag.). Of this class was the witch of Endor (Josephus, Ant. 6:14, 2), in whose case intended imposture may have been overruled into genuine necromancy (Ecclus. 46:20). On this wide subject, see Chrysostom ad 1 Corinthians 12; Tera tullian, adv. Marc. 4:25; De Anima, page 57; Augustine, De doctr. Christ. § 33; Cicero, Tusc. Disp. 1:16, and the commentators on AEn. 6; Critici Sacri, 6:331; Le Moyne, Var. Sacr. page 993 sq.; Selden, De Diis Syr, 1:2; and, above all, Bottcher, De Inferis, pages 101-121, where the research displayed is marvellous. Those who sought inspiration, either from the dasmons or the spirits of the dead, haunted tombs and caverns (Isa 65:4), and invited the unclean communications by voluntary fasts (Maimon. De Idol. 9:15; Lightfoot, Hor. Hebrews ad Mt 10:1). That the supposed ψυχομαντεῖα was often effected by ventriloquism and illusion is certain; for a specimen of this even in modern times, see the Life of Benvenuto Cellini. SEE NECROMANCER.
Closely connected with this form of divination are the two following:
(1.) חֶבֶר, che'ber, a spell or enchantment, by means of a cabalistic arrangement of certain words and implements (De 18:11; Isa 47:9,12), spoken also of serpent-charming (Ps 58:6). SEE CHARMING; SEE ENCHANTMENT.
(2.) Sorcery (either wizard, יוֹדֵעִ knowing one, Le 19:31; Le 20:6; De 18:11; 1Sa 28:3,9; spoken also of the imp or spirit of divination by which they were supposed to be attended, Le 20:27; or some form of
כָּשִׁŠ, 'kashaph', to act the witch, literally by magic incantations, 2Ch 23:6; Ex 7:11; De 18:10; Da 2:2, etc.), which signifies practicing divination by means of the black art, with an implied collusion with evil spirits; applied usually to pretending to reveal secrets, to discover things lost, find hidden treasure, and interpret dreams. SEE WIZARD.